Saturday, October 13, 2007


The Crock of Gold by James Stephens

The Crock of Gold
by James Stephens
IN the centre of the pine wood called Coilla Doraca there
lived not long ago two Philosophers. They were wiser
than anything else in the world except the Salmon who
lies in the pool of Glyn Cagny into which the nuts of
knowledge fall from the hazel bush on its bank. He, of
course, is the most profound of living creatures, but the
two Philosophers are next to him in wisdom. Their
faces looked as though they were made of parchment,
there was ink under their nails, and every difficulty that
was submitted to them, even by women, they were able
to instantly resolve. The Grey Woman of Dun Gortin
and the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath asked them the
three questions which nobody had ever been able to answer,
and they were able to answer them. That was
how they obtained the enmity of these two women which
is more valuable than the friendship of angels. The
Grey Woman and the Thin Woman were so incensed at
being answered that they married the two Philosophers
in order to be able to pinch them in bed, but the skins of
the Philosophers were so thick that they did not know
they were being pinched. They repaid the fury of the
women with such tender affection that these vicious creatures
almost expired of chagrin, and once, in a very ecstacy
of exasperation, after having been kissed by their
husbands, they uttered the fourteen hundred maledictions
which comprised their wisdom, and these were
learned by the Philosophers who thus became even wiser
than before.
In due process of time two children were born of these
marriages. They were born on the same day and in the
same hour, and they were only different in this, that one
of them was a boy and the other one was a girl. Nobody
was able to tell how this had happened, and, for
the first time in their lives, the Philosophers were forced
to admire an event which they had been unable to prognosticate;
but having proved by many different methods
that the children were really children, that what must be
must be, that a fact cannot be controverted, and that
what has happened once may happen twice, they described
the occurrence as extraordinary but not unnatural, and
submitted peacefully to a Providence even wiser than
they were.
The Philosopher who had the boy was very pleased
because, he said, there were too many women in the
world, and the Philosopher who had the girl was very
pleased also because, he said, you cannot have too much
of a good thing: the Grey Woman and the Thin Woman,
however, were not in the least softened by maternity--
they said that they had not bargained for it, that the
children were gotten under false presences, that they
were respectable married women, and that, as a protest
against their wrongs, they would not cook any more food
for the Philosophers. This was pleasant news for their
husbands, who disliked the women's cooking very much,
but they did not say so, for the women would certainly
have insisted on their rights to cook had they imagined
their husbands disliked the results: therefore, the Philosophers
besought their wives every day to cook one of
their lovely dinners again, and this the women always
refused to do.
They all lived together in a small house in the very
centre of a dark pine wood. Into this place the sun
never shone because the shade was too deep, and no
wind ever came there either, because the boughs were
too thick, so that it was the most solitary and quiet place
in the world, and the Philosophers were able to hear
each other thinking all day long, or making speeches to
each other, and these were the pleasantest sounds they
knew of. To them there were only two kinds of sounds
anywhere--these were conversation and noise: they liked
the first very much indeed, but they spoke of the second
with stern disapproval, and, even when it was made by
a bird, a breeze, or a shower of rain, they grew angry
and demanded that it should be abolished. Their wives
seldom spoke at all and yet they were never silent: they
communicated with each other by a kind of physical
telegraphy which they had learned among the Shee--
they cracked their finger-joints quickly or slowly and so
were able to communicate with each other over immense
distances, for by dint of long practice they could make
great explosive sounds which were nearly like thunder,
and gentler sounds like the tapping of grey ashes on a
hearthstone. The Thin Woman hated her own child,
but she loved the Grey Woman's baby, and the Grey
Woman loved the Thin Woman's infant but could not
abide her own. A compromise may put an end to the
most perplexing of situations, and, consequently, the two
women swapped children, and at once became the most
tender and amiable mothers imaginable, and the families
were able to live together in a more perfect amity than
could be found anywhere else.
The children grew in grace and comeliness. At first
the little boy was short and fat and the little girl was
long and thin, then the little girl became round and
chubby while the little boy grew lanky and wiry. This
was because the little girl used to sit very quiet and be
good and the little boy used not.
They lived for many years in the deep seclusion of the
pine wood wherein a perpetual twilight reigned, and here
they were wont to play their childish games, flitting
among the shadowy trees like little quick shadows. At
times their mothers, the Grey Woman and the Thin
Woman, played with them, but this was seldom, and sometimes
their fathers, the two Philosophers, came out and
looked at them through spectacles which were very round
and very glassy, and had immense circles of horn all
round the edges. They had, however, other playmates
with whom they could romp all day long. There were
hundreds of rabbits running about in the brushwood; they
were full of fun and were very fond of playing with the
children. There were squirrels who joined cheerfully
in their games, and some goats, having one day strayed
in from the big world, were made so welcome that they
always came again whenever they got the chance. There
were birds also, crows and blackbirds and willy-wagtails,
who were well acquainted with the youngsters, and visited
them as frequently as their busy lives permitted.
At a short distance from their home there was a clearing
in the wood about ten feet square; through this clearing,
as through a funnel, the sun for a few hours in the
summer time blazed down. It was the boy who first discovered
the strange radiant shaft in the wood. One day
he had been sent out to collect pine cones for the fire.
As these were gathered daily the supply immediately near
the house was scanty, therefore he had, while searching
for more, wandered further from his home than usual.
The first sight of the extraordinary blaze astonished him.
He had never seen anything like it before, and the steady,
unwinking glare aroused his fear and curiosity equally.
Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will;
indeed, it has led many people into dangers which mere
physical courage would shudder away from, for hunger
and love and curiosity are the great impelling forces of
life. When the little boy found that the light did not
move he drew closer to it, and at last, emboldened by
curiosity, he stepped right into it and found that it was
not a thing at all. The instant that he stepped into the
light he found it was hot, and this so frightened him that
he jumped out of it again and ran behind a tree. Then he
jumped into it for a moment and out of it again, and for
nearly half an hour he played a splendid game of tip
and tig with the sunlight. At last he grew quite bold and
stood in it and found that it did not burn him at all, but
he did not like to remain in it, fearing that he might be
cooked. When he went home with the pine cones he
said nothing to the Grey Woman of Dun Gortin or to
the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath or to the two Philosophers,
but he told the little girl all about it when they
went to bed, and every day afterwards they used to go
and play with the sunlight, and the rabbits and the squirrels
would follow them there and join in their games with
twice the interest they had shown before.
To the lonely house in the pine wood people sometimes
came for advice on subjects too recondite for even those
extremes of elucidation, the parish priest and the tavern.
These people were always well received, and their perplexities
were attended to instantly, for the Philosophers
liked being wise and they were not ashamed to put their
learning to the proof, nor were they, as so many wise
people are, fearful lest they should become poor or less
respected by giving away their knowledge. These were
favourite maxims with them:
You must be fit to give before you can be fit to receive.
Knowledge becomes lumber in a week, therefore, get
rid of it.
The box must be emptied before it can be refilled.
Refilling is progress.
A sword, a spade, and a thought should never be allowed
to rust.
The Grey Woman and the Thin Woman, however,
held opinions quite contrary to these, and their maxims
also were different:
A secret is a weapon and a friend.
Man is God's secret, Power is man's secret, Sex is
woman's secret.
By having much you are fitted to have more.
There is always room in the box.
The art of packing is the last lecture of wisdom.
The scalp of your enemy is progress.
Holding these opposed views it seemed likely that
visitors seeking for advice from the Philosophers might
be astonished and captured by their wives; but the
women were true to their own doctrines and refused to
part with information to any persons saving only those
of high rank, such as policemen, gombeen men, and district
and county councillors; but even to these they
charged high prices for their information, and a bonus
on any gains which accrued through the following of
their advices. It is unnecessary to state that their following
was small when compared with those who sought
the assistance of their husbands, for scarcely a week
passed but some person came through the pine wood with
his brows in a tangle of perplexity.
In these people the children were deeply interested.
They used to go apart afterwards and talk about them,
and would try to remember what they looked like, how
they talked, and their manner of walking or taking snuff.
After a time they became interested in the problems
which these people submitted to their parents and the
replies or instructions wherewith the latter relieved them.
Long training had made the children able to sit perfectly
quiet, so that when the talk came to the interesting part
they were entirely forgotten, and ideas which might
otherwise have been spared their youth became the commonplaces
of their conversation.
When the children were ten years of age one of the
Philosophers died. He called the household together
and announced that the time had come when he must bid
them all good-bye, and that his intention was to die as
quickly as might be. It was, he continued, an unfortunate
thing that his health was at the moment more robust
than it had been for a long time, but that, of course, was
no obstacle to his resolution, for death did not depend
upon ill-health but upon a multitude of other factors with
the details whereof he would not trouble them.
His wife, the Grey Woman of Dun Gortin, applauded
this resolution and added as an amendment that
it was high time he did something, that the life he had
been leading was an arid and unprofitable one, that he
had stolen her fourteen hundred maledictions for which
he had no use and presented her with a child for which
she had none, and that, all things concerned, the sooner
he did die and stop talking the sooner everybody concerned
would be made happy.
The other Philosopher replied mildly as he lit his pipe:
"Brother, the greatest of all virtues is curiosity, and
the end of all desire is wisdom; tell us, therefore, by
what steps you have arrived at this commendable resolutton."
To this the Philosopher replied:
"I have attained to all the wisdom which I am fitted
to bear. In the space of one week no new truth has
come to me. All that I have read lately I knew before;
all that I have thought has been but a recapitulation of
old and wearisome ideas. There is no longer an horizon
before my eves. Space has narrowed to the petty dimensions
of my thumb. Time is the tick of a clock. Good
and evil are two peas in the one pod. My wife's face
is the same for ever. I want to play with the children, and
yet I do not want to. Your conversation with me,
brother, is like the droning of a bee in a dark cell. The
pine trees take root and grow and die.--It's all bosh.
His friend replied:
"Brother, these are weighty reflections, and I do clearly perceive that the time has come for
you to stop. I might observe, not in order to combat your views, but merely to continue an
interesting conversation, that there
are still some knowledges which you have not assimilated --you do not yet know how to
play the tambourine, nor how to be nice to your wife, nor how to get up first in the morning
and cook the breakfast. Have you learned how to
smoke strong tobacco as I do? or can you dance in the moonlight with a
woman of the Shee? To understand the theory which underlies all things
is not sufficient. It has occurred to me, brother, that wisdom may not
be the end of everything. Goodness and kindliness are, perhaps, beyond
wisdom. Is it not possible that the ultimate end is gaiety and music
and a dance of joy? Wisdom is the oldest of all things. Wisdom is all
head and no heart. Behold, brother, you are being crushed under the
weight of your head. You are dying of old age while you are yet a
"Brother," replied the other Philosopher, "your voice is like the
droning of a bee in a dark cell. If in my latter days I am reduced to
playing on the tambourine and running after a hag in the moonlight, and
cooking your breakfast in the grey morning, then it is indeed time that
I should die. Good-bye, brother."
So saying, the Philosopher arose and removed all the furniture to the
sides of the room so that there was a clear space left in the centre.
He then took off his boots and his coat, and standing on his toes he
commenced to gyrate with extraordinary rapidity. In a few moments his
movements became steady and swift, and a sound came from him like the
humming of a swift saw; this sound grew deeper and deeper, and at last
continuous, so that the room was filled with a thrilling noise. In a
quarter of an hour the movement began to noticeably slacken. In another
three minutes it was quite slow. In two more minutes he grew visible
again as a body, and then he wobbled to and fro, and at last dropped in
a heap on the floor. He was quite dead, and on his face was an
expression of serene beatitude.
"God be with you, brother," said the remaining Philosopher, and he lit
his pipe, focused his vision on the extreme tip of his nose, and began
to meditate profoundly on the aphorism whether the good is the all or
the all is the good. In another moment he would have become oblivious
of the room, the company, and the corpse, but the Grey Woman of
Dun Gortin shattered his meditation by a demand for advice as to what
should next be done. The Philosopher, with an effort, detached
his eyes from his nose and his mind from his maxim.
"Chaos," said he, "is the first condition. Order is the
first law. Continuity is the first reflection. Quietude is
the first happiness. Our brother is dead--bury him."
So saying, he returned his eyes to his nose, and his mind
to his maxim, and lapsed to a profound reflection wherein
nothing sat perched on insubstantiality, and the Spirit of
Artifice goggled at the puzzle.
The Grey Woman of Dun Gortin took a pinch of
snuff from her box and raised the keen over her husband:
"You were my husband and you are dead.
It is wisdom that has killed you.
If you had listened to my wisdom instead of to your
own you would still be a trouble to me and I
would still be happy.
Women are stronger than men--they do not die of
They are better than men because they do not seek
They are wiser than men because they know less
and understand more.
I had fourteen hundred maledictions, my little store,
and by a trick you stole them and left me empty.
You stole my wisdom and it has broken your neck.
I lost my knowledge and I am yet alive raising the
keen over your body, but it was too heavy for you, my little knowledge.
You will never go out into the pine wood in the
morning, or wander abroad on a night of stars.
You will not sit in the chimney-corner on the hard
nights, or go to bed, or rise again, or do anything
at all from this day out.
Who will gather pine cones now when the fire is
going down, or call my name in the empty house,
or be angry when the kettle is not boiling?
Now I am desolate indeed. I have no knowledge,
I have no husband, I have no more to say."
"If I had anything better you should have it," said she
politely to the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath.
"Thank you," said the Thin Woman, "it was very nice.
Shall I begin now? My husband is meditating and we
may be able to annoy him."
"Don't trouble yourself," replied the other, "I am past
enjoyment and am, moreover, a respectable woman."
"That is no more than the truth, indeed."
"I have always done the right thing at the right time."
"I'd be the last body in the world to deny that," was
the warm response.
"Very well, then," said the Grey Woman, and she
commenced to take off her boots. She stood in the centre
of the room and balanced herself on her toe.
"You are a decent, respectable lady," said the Thin
Woman of Inis Magrath, and then the Grey Woman began
to gyrate rapidly and more rapidly until she was a
very fervour of motion, and in three-quarters of an hour
(for she was very tough) she began to slacken, grew
visible, wobbled, and fell beside her dead husband, and
on her face was a beatitude almost surpassing his.
The Thin Woman of Inis Magrath smacked the children
and put them to bed, next she buried the two bodies
under the hearthstone, and then, with some trouble, detached
her husband from his meditations. When he
became capable of ordinary occurrences she detailed all
that had happened, and said that he alone was to blame
for the sad bereavement. He replied:
"The toxin generates the anti-toxin. The end lies
concealed in the beginning. All bodies grow around a
skeleton. Life is a petticoat about death. I will not go
to bed."
ON the day following this melancholy occurrence Meehawl
MacMurrachu, a small farmer in the neighbourhood,
came through the pine trees with tangled brows.
At the door of the little house he said, "God be with all
here," and marched in.
The Philosopher removed his pipe from his lips--
"God be with yourself," said he, and he replaced his
Meehawl MacMurrachu crooked his thumb at space-
"Where is the other one?" said he.
"Ah!" said the Philosopher.
"He might be outside, maybe?"
"He might, indeed," said the Philosopher gravely.
"Well, it doesn't matter," said the visitor, "for you
have enough knowledge by yourself to stock a shop. The
reason I came here to-day was to ask your honoured advice
about my wife's washing-board. She only has it a
couple of years, and the last time she used it was when
she washed out my Sunday shirt and her black skirt with
the red things on it--you know the one?"
"I do not," said the Philosopher.
"Well, anyhow, the washboard is gone, and my wife
says it was either taken by the fairies or by Bessie Hannigan--
you know Bessie Hannigan? She has whiskers
like a goat and a lame leg!"-
"I do not," said the Philosopher.
"No matter," said Meehawl MacMurrachu. "She
didn't take it, because my wife got her out yesterday and
kept her talking for two hours while I went through
everything in her bit of a house--the washboard wasn't
"It wouldn't be," said the Philosopher.
"Maybe your honour could tell a body where it is
"Maybe I could," said the Philosopher; "are you
"I am," said Meehawl MacMurrachu.
The Philosopher drew his chair closer to the visitor
until their knees were jammed together. He laid both
his hands on Meehawl MacMurrachu's knees-
"Washing is an extraordinary custom," said he. "We
are washed both on coming into the world and on going
out of it, and we take no pleasure from the first washing
nor any profit from the last."
"True for you, sir," said Meehawl MacMurrachu.
"Many people consider that scourings supplementary
to these are only due to habit. Now, habit is continuity
of action, it is a most detestable thing and is very difficult
to get away from. A proverb will run where a writ
will not, and the follies of our forefathers are of greater
importance to us than is the well-being of our posterity."
"I wouldn't say a word against that, sir," said Meehawl
"Cats are a philosophic and thoughtful race, but they
do not admit the efficacy of either water or soap, and yet
it is usually conceded that they are cleanly folk. There
are exceptions to every rule, and I once knew a cat who
lusted after water and bathed daily: he was an unnatural
brute and died ultimately of the head staggers. Children
are nearly as wise as cats. It is true that they will
utilize water in a variety of ways, for instance, the destruction
of a tablecloth or a pinafore, and I have observed
them greasing a ladder with soap, showing in the
process a great knowledge of the properties of this
"Why shouldn't they, to be sure?" said Meehawl
MacMurrachu. "Have you got a match, sir?"
"I have not," said the Philosopher. "Sparrows, again,
are a highly acute and reasonable folk. They use water
to quench thirst, but when they are dirty they take a dust
bath and are at once cleansed. Of course, birds are often
seen in the water, but they go there to catch fish and not
to wash. I have often fancied that fish are a dirty, sly,
and unintelligent people--this is due to their staying so
much in the water, and it has been observed that on being
removed from this element they at once expire through
sheer ecstasy at escaping from their prolonged washing."
"I have seen them doing it myself," said Meehawl.
"Did you ever hear, sir, about the fish that Paudeen
MacLoughlin caught in the policeman's hat."
"I did not," said the Philosopher. "The first person
who washed was possibly a person seeking a cheap notoriety.
Any fool can wash himself, but every wise man
knows that it is an unnecessary labour,for nature will
quickly reduce him to a natural and healthy dirtiness
again. We should seek, therefore, not how to make ourselves
clean, but how to attain a more unique and splendid
dirtiness, and perhaps the accumulated layers of matter
might, by ordinary geologic compulsion, become incorporated
with the human cuticle and so render clothing unnecessary--"
"About that washboard," said Meehawl, "I was just
going to say--"
"It doesn't matter," said the Philosopher. "In its
proper place I admit the necessity for water. As a
thing to sail a ship on it can scarcely be surpassed (not,
you will understand, that I entirely approve of ships,
they tend to create and perpetuate international curiosity
and the smaller vermin of different latitudes). As an
element wherewith to put out a fire, or brew tea, or make
a slide in winter it is useful, but in a tin basin it has a
repulsive and meagre aspect.--Now as to your wife's
"Good luck to your honour," said Meehawl.
"Your wife says that either the fairies or a woman
with a goat's leg has it."
"It's her whiskers," said Meehawl.
"They are lame," said the Philosopher sternly.
"Have it your own way, sir, I'm not certain now how
the creature is afflicted."
"You say that this unhealthy woman has not got your
wife's washboard. It remains, therefore, that the fairies
have it."
"It looks that way," said Meehawl.
"There are six clans of fairies living in this neighbourhood;
but the process of elimination, which has shaped
the world to a globe, the ant to its environment, and man
to the captaincy of the vertebrates, will not fail in this
instance either."
"Did you ever see anything like the way wasps have
increased this season?" said Meehawl; "faith, you can't
sit down anywhere but your breeches--"
"I did not," said the Philosopher. "Did you leave out
a pan of milk on last Tuesday?"
"I did then."
"Do you take off your hat when you meet a dust
"I wouldn't neglect that," said Meehawl.
"Did you cut down a thorn bush recently?"
"I'd sooner cut my eye out," said Meehawl, "and go
about as wall-eyed as Lorcan O'Nualain's ass: I would
that. Did you ever see his ass, sir? It--"
"I did not," said the Philosopher. "Did you kill a
robin redbreast?"
"Never,'" said Meehawl. "By the pipers," he added,
"that old skinny cat of mine caught a bird on the roof
"Hah!'' cried the Philosopher, moving, if it were possible,
even closer to his client, "now we have it. It is the
Leprecauns of Gort na Cloca Mora took your washboard.
Go to the Gort at once. There is a hole under a
tree in the south-east of the field. Try what you will
find in that hole."
"I'll do that," said Meehawl. "Did you ever-"
"I did not," said the Philosopher.
So Meehawl MacMurrachu went away and did as he
had been bidden, and underneath the tree of Gort na
Cloca Mora he found a little crock of gold.
"There's a power of washboards in that," said he.
By reason of this incident the fame of the Philosopher
became even greater than it had been before, and also by
reason of it many singular events were to happen with
which you shall duly become acquainted.
IT SO happened that the Leprecauns of Gort na Cloca
Mora were not thankful to the Philosopher for having
sent Meehawl MacMurrachu to their field. In stealing
Meehawl's property they were quite within their rights
because their bird had undoubtedly been slain by his cat.
Not alone, therefore, was their righteous vengeance
nullified, but the crock of gold which had taken their
community many thousands of years to amass was stolen.
A Leprecaun without a pot of gold is like a rose without
perfume, a bird without a wing, or an inside without an
outside. They considered that the Philosopher had
treated them badly, that his action was mischievous and
unneighbourly, and that until they were adequately conpensated
for their loss both of treasure and dignity, no
conditions other than those of enmity could exist between
their people and the little house in the pine wood.
Furthermore, for them the situation was cruelly complicated.
They were unable to organise a direct, personal
hostility against their new enemy, because the Thin
Woman of Inis Magrath would certainly protect her
husband. She belonged to the Shee of Croghan Conghaile,
who had relatives in every fairy fort in Ireland,
and were also strongly represented in the forts and duns
of their immediate neighbours. They could, of course,
have called an extraordinary meeting of the Sheogs,
Leprecauns, and Cluricauns, and presented their case
with a claim for damages against the Shee of Croghan
Conghaile, but that Clann would assuredly repudiate any
liability on the ground that no member of their fraternity
was responsible for the outrage, as it was the Philosopher,
and not the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath, who
had done the deed. Notwithstanding this they were unwilling
to let the matter rest, and the fact that justice was
out of reach only added fury to their anger.
One of their number was sent to interview the Thin
Woman of Inis Magrath, and the others concentrated
nightly about the dwelling of Meehawl MacMurrachu
in an endeavour to recapture the treasure which they
were quite satisfied was hopeless. They found that
Meehawl, who understood the customs of the Earth
Folk very well, had buried the crock of gold beneath a
thorn bush, thereby placing it under the protection of
every fairy in the world--the Leprecauns themselves included,
and until it was removed from this place by human
hands they were bound to respect its hiding-place,
and even guarantee its safety with their blood.
They afflicted Meehawl with an extraordinary attack
of rheumatism and his wife with an equally virulent
sciatica, but they got no lasting pleasure from their
The Leprecaun, who had been detailed to visit the
Thin Woman of Inis Magrath, duly arrived at the cottage
in the pine wood and made his complaint. The little
man wept as he told the story, and the two children wept
out of sympathy for him. The Thin Woman said she
was desperately grieved by the whole unpleasant transaction,
and that all her sympathies were with Gort na
Cloca Mora, but that she must disassociate herself from
any responsibility in the matter as it was her husband
who was the culpable person, and that she had no control
over his mental processes, which, she concluded, was one
of the seven curious things in the world.
As her husband was away in a distant part of the wood
nothing further could be done at that time, so the Leprecaun
returned again to his fellows without any good news,
but he promised to come back early on the following day.
When the Philosopher come home late that night the
Thin Woman was waiting up for him.
"Woman," said the Philosopher, "you ought to be in
"Ought I indeed?" said the Thin Woman. "I'd have
you know that I'll go to bed when I like and get up when
I like without asking your or any one else's permission."
"That is not true," said the Philosopher. "You get
sleepy whether you like it or not, and you awaken again
without your permission being asked. Like many other
customs such as singing, dancing, music, and acting, sleep
has crept into popular favour as part of a religious ceremonial.
Nowhere can one go to sleep more easily than
in a church."
"Do you know," said the Thin Woman, "that a Leprecaun
came here to-day?"
"I do not," said the Philosopher, "and notwithstanding
the innumerable centuries which have elapsed since
that first sleeper (probably with extreme difficulty) sank
into his religious trance, we can to-day sleep through a
religious ceremony with an ease which would have been
a source of wealth and fame to that prehistoric worshipper
and his acolytes."
"Are you going to listen to what I am telling you about
the Leprecaun?" said the Thin Woman.
"I am not," said the Philosopher. "It has been suggested
that we go to sleep at night because it is then too
dark to do anything else; but owls, who are a venerably
sagacious folk, do not sleep in the night time. Bats, also,
are a very clear-minded race; they sleep in the broadest
day, and they do it in a charming manner. They clutch
the branch of a tree with their toes and hang head downwards--
a position which I consider singularly happy, for
the rush of blood to the head consequent on this inverted
position should engender a drowsiness and a certain imbecility
of mind which must either sleep or explode."
"Will you never be done talking?" shouted the Thin
Woman passionately.
"I will not," said the Philosopher. "In certain ways
sleep is useful. It is an excellent way of listening to an
opera or seeing pictures on a bioscope. As a medium
for day-dreams I know of nothing that can equal it. As
an accomplishment it is graceful, but as a means of spending
a night it is intolerably ridiculous. If you were going
to say anything, my love, please say it now, but you
should always remember to think before you speak. A
woman should be seen seldom but never heard. Quietness
is the beginning of virtue. To be silent is to be beautiful.
Stars do not make a noise. Children should always
be in bed. These are serious truths, which cannot
be controverted; therefore, silence is fitting as regards
"Your stirabout is on the hob," said the Thin Woman.
"You can get it for yourself. I would not move the
breadth of my nail if you were dying of hunger. I hope
there's lumps in it. A Leprecaun from Gort na Cloca
Mora was here to-day. They'll give it to you for robbing
their pot of gold. You old thief, you! you lobeared,
crock-kneed fat-eye!"
The Thin Woman whizzed suddenly from where she
stood and leaped into bed. From beneath the blanket
she turned a vivid, furious eye on her husband. She was
trying to give him rheumatism and toothache and lockjaw
all at once. If she had been satisfied to concentrate
her attention on one only of these torments she might
have succeeded in afflicting her husband according to her
wish, but she was not able to do that.
"Finality is death. Perfection is finality. Nothing is
perfect. There are lumps in it," said the Philosopher.
WHEN the Leprecaun came through the pine wood on
the following day he met two children at a little distance
from the house. He raised his open right hand above
his head (this is both the fairy and the Gaelic form of
salutation), and would have passed on but that a thought
brought him to a halt. Sitting down before the two
children he stared at them for a long time, and they
stared back at him. At last he said to the boy:
"What is your name, a vic vig O?"
"Seumas Beg, sir," the boy replied.
"It's a little name," said the Leprecaun.
"It's what my mother calls me, sir," returned the boy.
"What does your father call you," was the next question.
"Seumas Eoghan Maelduin O'Carbhail Mac an
"It's a big name," said the Leprecaun, and he turned
to the little girl. "What is your name, a cailin vig O?"
"Brigid Beg, sir."
"And what does your father call you?"
"He never calls me at all, sir."
"Well, Seumaseen and Breedeen, you are good little
children, and I like you very much. Health be with you
until I come to see you again."
And then the Leprecaun went back the way he had
come. As he went he made little jumps and cracked his
fingers, and sometimes he rubbed one leg against the
"That's a nice Leprecaun," said Seumas.
"I like him too," said Brigid.
"Listen," said Seumas, "let me be the Leprecaun, and
you be the two children, and I will ask you our names."
So they did that.
The next day the Leprecaun came again. He sat
down beside the children and, as before, he was silent for
a little time.
"Are you not going to ask us our names, sir?" said
His sister smoothed out her dress shyly. "My name,
sir, is Brigid Beg," said she.
"Did you ever play Jackstones?" said the Leprecaun.
"No, sir," replied Seumas.
"I'll teach you how to play Jackstones," said the Leprecaun,
and he picked up some pine cones and taught the
children that game.
"Did you ever play Ball in the Decker?"
"No, sir," said Seumas.
"Did you ever play 'I can make a nail with my ree-roraddy-
O, I can make a nail with my ree-ro-ray'?"
"No, sir," replied Seumas.
"It's a nice game," said the Leprecaun, "and so is Capon-
the-back, and Twenty-four yards on the Billy-goat's
Tail, and Towns, and Relievo, and Leap-frog. I'll teach
you all these games," said the Leprecaun, "and I'll teach
you how to play Knifey, and Hole-and-taw, and Horneys
and Robbers.
"Leap-frog is the best one to start with, so I'll teach
it to you at once. Let you bend down like this, Breedeen,
and you bend down like that a good distance away, Seumas.
Now I jump over Breedeen's back, and then I
run and jump over Seumaseen's back like this, and then
I run ahead again and I bend down. Now, Breedeen,
you jump over your brother, and then you jump over me,
and run a good bit on and bend down again. Now, Seumas,
it's your turn; you jump over me and then over
your sister, and then you run on and bend down again
and I jump."
"This is a fine game, sir," said Seumas.
"It is, a vic vig,--keep in your head," said the Leprecaun.
"That's a good jump, you couldn't beat that jump,
"I can jump better than Brigid already," replied Seumas,
"and I'll jump as well as you do when I get more
practice--keep in your head, sir."
Almost without noticing it they had passed through
the edge of the wood, and were playing into a rough field
which was cumbered with big, grey rocks. It was the
very last field in sight, and behind it the rough, heatherpacked
mountain sloped distantly away to the skyline.
There was a raggedy blackberry hedge all round the
field, and there were long, tough, haggard-looking plants
growing in clumps here and there. Near a corner of this
field there was a broad, low tree, and as they played they
came near and nearer to it. The Leprecaun gave a back
very close to the tree. Seumas ran and jumped and slid
down a hole at the side of the tree. Then Brigid ran and
jumped and slid down the same hole.
"Dear me!" said Brigid, and she flashed out of sight.
The Leprecaun cracked his fingers and rubbed one leg
against the other, and then he also dived into the hole
and disappeared from view.
When the time at which the children usually went
home had passed, the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath
became a little anxious. She had never known them to
be late for dinner before. There was one of the children
whom she hated; it was her own child, but as she
had forgotten which of them was hers, and as she loved
one of them, she was compelled to love both for fear of
making a mistake and chastising the child for whom her
heart secretly yearned. Therefore, she was equally concerned
about both of them.
Dmner time passed and supper time arrived, but the
children did not. Again and again the Thin Woman
went out through the dark pine trees and called until she
was so hoarse that she could not even hear herself when
she roared. The evening wore on to the night, and while
she waited for the Philosopher to come in she reviewed
the situation. Her husband had not come in, the chilren
had not come in, the Leprecaun had not returned as
arranged.... A light flashed upon her. The Leprecaun
nad kidnapped her children! She announced a
vengeance against the Leprecauns which would stagger
humanity. While in the extreme centre of her ecstasy
the Philosopher came through the trees and entered the
The Thin Woman flew to him--
"Husband," said she, "the Leprecauns of Gort na
Cloca Mora have kidnapped our children."
The Philosopher gazed at her for a moment.
"Kidnapping," said he, "has been for many centuries
a favourite occupation of fairies, gypsies, and the brigands
of the East. The usual procedure is to attach a
person and hold it to ransom. If the ransom is not paid
an ear or a finger may be cut from the captive and despatched
to those interested, with the statement that an
arm or a leg will follow in a week unless suitable arrangements
are entered into."
"Do you understand," said the Thin Woman passionatelv,
"that it is your own children who have been kidnapped?"
"I do not," said the Philosopher. "This course, however,
is rarely followed by the fairy people: they do not
ordinarily steal for ransom, but for love of thieving, or
from some other obscure and possibly functional causes,
and the victim is retained in their forts or duns until by
the effluxion of time they forget their origin and become
peaceable citizens of the fairy state. Kidnapping is not
by any means confined to either humanity or the fairy
"Monster," said the Thin Woman in a deep voice,
"will you listen to me?"
"I will not," said the Philosopher. "Many of the insectivora
also practice this custom. Ants, for example,
are a respectable race living in well-ordered communities.
They have attained to a most complex and artificial
civilization, and will frequently adventure far afield on
colonising or other expeditions from whence they return
with a rich booty of aphides and other stock, who thenceforward
become the servants and domestic creatures of
the republic. As they neither kill nor eat their captives,
this practice will be termed kidnapping. The same may
be said of bees, a hardy and industrious race living in
hexagonal cells which are very difficult to make. Sometimes,
on lacking a queen of their own, they have been
observed to abduct one from a less powerful neighbour,
and use her for their own purposes without shame, mercy,
or remorse."
"Will you not understand?" screamed the Thin
"I will not," said the Philosopher. "Semi-tropical
apes have been rumoured to kidnap children, and are reported
to use them very tenderly indeed, sharing their
coconuts, yams, plantains, and other equatorial provender
with the largest generosity, and conveying their delicate
captives from tree to tree (often at great distances from
each other and from the ground) with the most guarded
solicitude and benevolence."
"I am going to bed," said the Thin Woman, "your
stirabout is on the hob."
"Are there lumps in it, my dear?" said the Philosopher.
"I hope there are," replied the Thin Woman, and she
leaped into bed.
That night the Philosopher was afflicted with the most
extraordinary attack of rheumatism he had ever known,
nor did he get any ease until the grey morning wearied his
lady into a reluctant slumber.
THE Thin Woman of Inis Magrath slept very late that
morning, but when she did awaken her impatience was so
urgent that she could scarcely delay to eat her breakfast.
Immediately after she had eaten she put on her bonnet
and shawl and went through the pine wood in the direction
of Gort na Cloca Mora. In a short time she reached
the rocky field, and, walking over to the tree in the southeast
corner, she picked up a small stone and hammered
loudly against the trunk of the tree. She hammered in
a peculiar fashion, giving two knocks and then three
knocks, and then one knock. A voice came up from the
"Who is that, please?" said the voice.
"Ban na Droid of Inis Magrath, and well you know
it," was her reply.
"I am coming up, Noble Woman," said the voice, and
in another moment the Leprecaun leaped out of the hole.
"Where are Seumas and Brigid Beg?" said the Thin
Woman sternly.
"How would I know where they are?" replied the
Leprecaun. "Wouldn't they be at home now?"
"If they were at home I wouldn't have come here
looking for them," was her reply. "It is my belief that
you have them."
"Search me," said the Leprecaun, opening his waistcoat.
"They are down there in your little house," said the
Thin Woman angrily, "and the sooner you let them up
the better it will be for yourself and your five brothers."
"Noble Woman," said the Leprecaun, "you can go
down yourself into our little house and look. I can't
say fairer than that."
"I wouldn't fit down there," said she. "I'm too big."
"You know the way for making yourself little," replied
the Leprecaun.
"But I mightn't be able to make myself big again,"
said the Thin Woman, "and then you and your dirty
brothers would have it all your own way. If you don't
let the children up," she continued, "I'll raise the Shee
of Croghan Conghaile against you. You know what
happened to the Cluricauns of Oilean na Glas when they
stole the Queen's baby--It will be a worse thing than
that for you. If the children are not back in my house
before moonrise this night, I'll go round to my people.
Just tell that to your five ugly brothers. Health with
you," she added, and strode away.
"Health with yourself, Noble Woman," said the Leprecaun,
and he stood on one leg until she was out of
sight and then he slid down into the hole again.
When the Thin Woman was going back through the
pine wood she saw Meehawl MacMurrachu travelling
in the same direction and his brows were in a tangle of
"God be with you, Meehawl MacMurrachu," said
"God and Mary be with you, ma'am," he replied, "I
am in great trouble this day."
"Why wouldn't you be?" said the Thin Woman.
"I came up to have a talk with your husband about a
particular thing."
"If it's talk you want you have come to a good house,
"He's a powerful man right enough," said Meehawl.
After a few minutes the Thin Woman spoke again.
"I can get the reek of his pipe from here. Let you
go right in to him now and I'll stay outside for a while,
for the sound of your two voices would give me a pain
in my head."
"Whatever will please you will please me, ma'am,"
said her companion, and he went into the little house.
Meehawl MacMurrachu had good reason to be perplexed.
He was the father of one child only, and she
was the most beautiful girl in the whole world. The
pity of it was that no one at all knew she was beautiful,
and she did not even know it herself. At times when
she bathed in the eddy of a mountain stream and saw
her reflection looking up from the placid water she
thought that she looked very nice, and then a great sadness
would come upon her, for what is the use of looking
nice if there is nobody to see one's beauty? Beauty, also,
is usefulness. The arts as well as the crafts, the graces
equally with the utilities must stand up in the marketplace
and be judged by the gombeen men.
The only house near to her father's was that occupied
by Bessie Hannigan. The other few houses were scattered
widely with long, quiet miles of hill and bog between
them, so that she had hardly seen more than a
couple of men beside her father since she was born. She
helped her father and mother in all the small businesses
of their house, and every day also she drove their three
cows and two goats to pasture on the mountain slopes.
Here through the sunny days the years had passed in a
slow, warm thoughtlessness wherein, without thinking,
many thoughts had entered into her mind and many pictures
hung for a moment like birds in the thin air. At
first, and for a long time, she had been happy enough;
there were many things in which a child might be interested:
the spacious heavens which never wore the same
beauty on any day; the innumerable little creatures living
among the grasses or in the heather; the steep swing
of a bird down from the mountain to the infinite plains
below; the little flowers which were so contented each in
its peaceful place; the bees gathering food for their
houses, and the stout beetles who are always losing their
way in the dusk. These things, and many others, interested
her. The three cows after they had grazed for a
long time would come and lie by her side and look at
her as they chewed their cud, and the goats would prance
from the bracken to push their heads against her breast
because they loved her.
Indeed, everything in her quiet world loved this girl:
but very slowly there was growing in her consciousness
an unrest, a disquietude to which she had hitherto been
a stranger. Sometimes an infinite weariness oppressed
her to the earth. A thought was born in her mind and it
had no name. It was growing and could not be expressed.
She had no words wherewith to meet it, to exorcise
or greet this stranger who, more and more insistently
and pleadingly, tapped upon her doors and begged
to be spoken to, admitted and caressed and nourished.
A thought is a real thing and words are only its raiment,
but a thought is as shy as a virgin; unless it is fittingly
apparelled we may not look on its shadowy nakedness:
it will fly from us and only return again in the darkness
crying in a thin, childish voice which we may not comprehend
until, with aching minds, listening and divining,
we at last fashion for it those symbols which are its protection
and its banner. So she could not understand the
touch that came to her from afar and yet how intimately,
the whisper so aloof and yet so thrillingly personal. The
standard of either language or experience was not hers;
she could listen but not think, she could feel but not
know, her eyes looked forward and did not see, her hands
groped in the sunlight and felt nothing. It was like the
edge of a little wind which stirred her tresses but could
not lift them, or the first white peep of the dawn which
is neither light nor darkness. But she listened, not with
her ears but with her blood. The fingers of her soul
stretched out to clasp a stranger's hand, and her disquietude
was quickened through with an eagerness which
was neither physical nor mental, for neither her body
nor her mind was definitely interested. Some dim region
between these grew alarmed and watched and
waited and did not sleep or grow weary at all.
One morning she lay among the long, warm grasses.
She watched a bird who soared and sang for a little time,
and then it sped swiftly away down the steep air and out
of sight in the blue distance. Even when it was gone the
song seemed to ring in her ears. It seemed to linger with
her as a faint, sweet echo, coming fitfully, with little
pauses as though a wind disturbed it, and careless, distant
eddies. After a few moments she knew it was not
a bird. No bird's song had that consecutive melody, for
their themes are as careless as their wings. She sat up
and looked about her, but there was nothing in sight:
the mountains sloped gently above her and away to the
clear sky; around her the scattered clumps of heather
were drowsing in the sunlight; far below she could see
her father's house, a little grey patch near some trees--
and then the music stopped and left her wondering.
She could not find her goats anywhere although for a
long time she searched. They came to her at last of
their own accord from behind a fold in the hills, and
they were more wildly excited than she had ever seen
them before. Even the cows forsook their solemnity
and broke into awkward gambols around her. As she
walked home that evening a strange elation taught her
feet to dance. Hither and thither she flitted in front of
the beasts and behind them. Her feet tripped to a wayward
measure. There was a tune in her ears and she
danced to it, throwing her arms out and above her head
and swaying and bending as she went. The full freedom
of her body was hers now: the lightness and poise and
certainty of her limbs delighted her, and the strength
that did not tire delighted her also. The evening was
full of peace and quietude, the mellow, dusky sunlight
made a path for her feet, and everywhere through the
wide fields birds were flashing and singing, and she sang
with them a song that had no words and wanted none.
The following day she heard the music again, faint
and thin, wonderfully sweet and as wild as the song of a
bird, but it was a melody which no bird would adhere to.
A theme was repeated again and again. In the middle
of trills, grace-notes, runs and catches it recurred with a
strange, almost holy, solemnity,--a hushing, slender
melody full of austerity and aloofness. There was something
in it to set her heart beating. She yearned to it
with her ears and her lips. Was it joy, menace, carelessness?
She did not know, but this she did know, that
however terrible it was personal to her. It was her unborn
thought strangely audible and felt rather than
On that day she did not see anybody either. She drove
her charges home in the evening listlessly and the beasts
also were very quiet.
When the music came again she made no effort to discover
where it came from. She only listened, and when
the tune was ended she saw a figure rise from the fold
of a little hill. The sunlight was gleaming from his arms
and shoulders but the rest of his body was hidden by the
bracken, and he did not look at her as he went away
playing softly on a double pipe.
The next day he did look at her. He stood waistdeep
in greenery fronting her squarely. She had never
seen so strange a face before. Her eyes almost died on
him as she gazed and he returned her look for a long
minute with an intent, expressionless regard. His hair
was a cluster of brown curls, his nose was little and
straight, and his wide mouth drooped sadly at the corners.
His eyes were wide and most mournful, and his
forehead was very broad and white. His sad eyes and
mouth almost made her weep.
When he turned away he smiled at her, and it was as
though the sun had shone suddenly in a dark place, banishing
all sadness and gloom. Then he went mincingly
away. As he went he lifted the slender double reed to
his lips and blew a few careless notes.
The next day he fronted her as before, looking down
to her eyes from a short distance. He played for only
a few moments, and fitfully, and then he came to her.
When he left the bracken the girl suddenly clapped her
hands against her eyes affrighted. There was something
different, terrible about him. The upper part of his
body was beautiful, but the lower part.... She dared
not look at him again. She would have risen and fled
away but she feared he might pursue her, and the thought
of such a chase and the inevitable capture froze her blood.
The thought of anything behind us is always terrible.
The sound of pursuing feet is worse than the murder
from which we fly--So she sat still and waited but nothing
happened. At last, desperately, she dropped her
hands. He was sitting on the ground a few paces from
her. He was not looking at her but far away sidewards
across the spreading hill. His legs were crossed; they
were shaggy and hoofed like the legs of a goat: but she
would not look at these because of his wonderful, sad,
grotesque face. Gaiety is good to look upon and an innocent
face is delightful to our souls, but no woman can resist
sadness or weakness, and ugliness she dare not resist.
Her nature leaps to be the comforter. It is her
reason. It exalts her to an ecstasy wherein nothing but
the sacrifice of herself has any proportion. Men are
not fathers by instinct but by chance, but women are
mothers beyond thought, beyond instinct which is the
father of thought. Motherliness, pity, self-sacrifice
--these are the charges of her primal cell, and not
even the discovery that men are comedians, liars, and
egotists will wean her from this. As she looked at the
pathos of his face she repudiated the hideousness of his
body. The beast which is in all men is glossed by women;
it is his childishness, the destructive energy inseparable
from youth and high spirits, and it is always forgiven by
women, often forgotten, sometimes, and not rarely, cherished
and fostered.
After a few moments of this silence he placed the reed
to his lips and played a plaintive little air, and then he
spoke to her in a strange voice, coming like a wind from
distant places.
"What is your name, Shepherd Girl?" said he.
"Caitilin, Ingin Ni Murrachu," she whispered.
"Daughter of Murrachu," said he, "I have come from
a far place where there are high hills. The men and
maidens who follow their flocks in that place know me
and love me for I am the Master of the Shepherds.
They sing and dance and are glad when I come to them
in the sunlight; but in this country no people have done
any reverence to me. The shepherds fly away when they
hear my pipes in the pastures; the maidens scream in
fear when I dance to them in the meadows. I am very
lonely in this strange country. You also, although you
danced to the music of my pipes, have covered your
face against me and made no reverence."
"I will do whatever you say if it is right," said she.
"You must not do anything because it is right, but
because it is your wish. Right is a word and Wrong is
a word, but the sun shines in the morning and the dew
falls in the dusk without thinking of these words which
have no meaning. The bee flies to the flower and the
seed goes abroad and is happy. Is that right, Shepherd
Girl?--it is wrong also. I come to you because the bee
goes to the flower--it is wrong! If I did not come to
you to whom would I go? There is no right and no
wrong but only the will of the gods."
"I am afraid of you," said the girl.
"You fear me because my legs are shaggy like the legs
of a goat. Look at them well, O Maiden, and know that
they are indeed the legs of a beast and then you will not
be afraid any more. Do you not love beasts? Surely
you should love them for they yearn to you humbly or
fiercely, craving your hand upon their heads as I do. If
I were not fashioned thus I would not come to you because
I would not need you. Man is a god and a brute.
He aspires to the stars with his head but his feet are contented
in the grasses of the field, and when he forsakes
the brute upon which he stands then there will be no
more men and no more women and the immortal gods
will blow this world away like smoke."
"I don't know what you want me to do," said the girl.
"I want you to want me. I want you to forget right
and wrong; to be as happy as the beasts, as careless as
the flowers and the birds. To live to the depths of your
nature as well as to the heights. Truly there are stars
in the heights and they will be a garland for your forehead.
But the depths are equal to the heights. Wondrous
deep are the depths, very fertile is the lowest deep.
There are stars there also, brighter than the stars on
high. The name of the heights is Wisdom and the name
of the depths is Love. How shall they come together
and be fruitful if you do not plunge deeply and fearlessly?
Wisdom is the spirit and the wings of the spirit,
Love is the shaggy beast that goes down. Gallantly he
dives, below thought, beyond Wisdom, to rise again as
high above these as he had first descended. Wisdom is
righteous and clean, but Love is unclean and holy. I
sing of the beast and the descent: the great unclean
purging itself in fire: the thought that is not born in the
measure or the ice or the head, but in the feet and the
hot blood and the pulse of fury. The Crown of Life is
not lodged in the sun: the wise gods have buried it deeply
where the thoughtful will not find it, nor the good: but
the Gay Ones, the Adventurous Ones, the Careless
Plungers, they will bring it to the wise and astonish them.
All things are seen in the light--How shall we value that
which is easy to see? But the precious things which are
hidden, they will be more precious for our search: they
will be beautiful with our sorrow: they will be noble because
of our desire for them. Come away with me,
Shepherd Girl, through the fields, and we will be careless
and happy, and we will leave thought to find us when
it can, for that is the duty of thought, and it is more
anxious to discover us than we are to be found."
So Caitilin Ni Murrachu arose and went with him
through the fields, and she did not go with him because
of love, nor because his words had been understood by
her, but only because he was naked and unashamed.
IT was on account of his daughter that Meehawl Mac-
Murrachu had come to visit the Philosopher. He did
not know what had become of her, and the facts he had
to lay before his adviser were very few.
He left the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath taking
snuff under a pine tree and went into the house.
"God be with all here," said he as he entered.
"God be with yourself, Meehawl MacMurrachu," said
the Philosopher.
"I am in great trouble this day, sir," said Meehawl,
"and if you would give me an advice I'd be greatly beholden
to you."
"I can give you that," replied the Philosopher.
"None better than your honour and no trouble to you
either. It was a powerful advice you gave me about the
washboard, and if I didn't come here to thank you before
this it was not because I didn't want to come, but that I
couldn't move hand or foot by dint of the cruel rheumatism
put upon me by the Leprecauns of Gort na Cloca
Mora, bad cess to them for ever: twisted I was the way
you'd get a squint in your eye if you only looked at me,
and the pain I suffered would astonish you."
"It would not," said the Philosopher.
"No matter," said Meehawl. "What I came about
was my young daughter Caitilin. Sight or light of her
I haven't had for three days. My wife said first, that it
was the fairies had taken her, and then she said it was a
travelling man that had a musical instrument she went
away with, and after that she said, that maybe the girl
was lying dead in the butt of a ditch with her eyes wide
open, and she staring broadly at the moon in the night
time and the sun in the day until the crows would be
finding her out."
The Philosopher drew his chair closer to Meehawl.
"Daughters," said he, "have been a cause of anxiety
to their parents ever since they were instituted. The
flightiness of the female temperament is very evident in
those who have not arrived at the years which teach how
to hide faults and frailties, and, therefore, indiscretions
bristle from a young girl the way branches do from a
"The person who would deny that--" said Meehawl.
"Female children, however, have the particular sanction
of nature. They are produced in astonishing excess
over males, and may, accordingly, be admitted as dominant
to the male; but the well-proven law that the minority
shall always control the majority will relieve our
minds from a fear which might otherwise become intolerable."
"It's true enough," said Meehawl. "Have you noticed,
sir, that in a litter of pups--"
"I have not," said the Philosopher. "Certain trades
and professions, it is curious to note, tend to be perpetuated
in the female line. The sovereign profession
among bees and ants is always female, and publicans also
descend on the distaff side. You will have noticed that
every publican has three daughters of extraordinary
charms. Lacking these signs we would do well to look
askance at such a man's liquor, divining that in his brew
there will be an undue percentage of water, for if his primogeniture
is infected how shall his honesty escape?"
"It would take a wise head to answer that," said
"It would not," said the Philosopher. "Throughout
nature the female tends to polygamy."
"If," said Meehawl, "that unfortunate daughter of
mine is lying dead in a ditch--"
"It doesn't matter," said the Philosopher. "Many
races have endeavoured to place some limits to this increase
in females. Certain Oriental peoples have conferred
the titles of divinity on crocodiles, serpents, and
tigers of the jungle, and have fed these with their surplusage
of daughters. In China, likewise, such sacrifices
are defended as honourable and economic practices. But,
broadly speaking, if daughters have to be curtailed I prefer
your method of losing them rather than the religiohysterical
compromises of the Orient."
"I give you my word, sir," said Meehawl, "that I
don't know what you are talking about at all."
"That," said the Philosopher, "may be accounted for
in three ways--firstly, there is a lack of cerebral continuity:
that is, faulty attention; secondly, it might be
due to a local peculiarity in the conformation of the skull,
or, perhaps, a superficial instead of a deep indenting of
the cerebral coil; and thirdly--"
"Did you ever hear," said Meehawl, "of the man that
had the scalp of his head blown off by a gun, and they
soldered the bottom of a tin dish to the top of his skull
the way you could hear his brains ticking inside of it for
all the world like a Waterbury watch?"
"I did not," said the Philosopher. "Thirdly, it
"It's my daughter, Caitilin, sir," said Meehawl humbly.
"Maybe she is lying in the butt of a ditch and the
crows picking her eyes out."
"What did she die of?" said the Philosopher.
"My wife only put it that maybe she was dead, and
that maybe she was taken by the fairies, and that maybe
she went away with the travelling man that had the
musical instrument. She said it was a concertina, but I
think myself it was a flute he had."
"Who was this traveller?"
"I never saw him," said Meehawl, "but one day I
went a few perches up the hill and I heard him playing
--thin, squeaky music it was like you'd be blowing out
of a tin whistle. I looked about for him everywhere,
but not a bit of him could I see."
"Eh?" said the Philosopher.
"I looked about--" said Meehawl.
"I know," said the Philosopher. "Did you happen to
look at your goats?"
"I couldn't well help doing that," said Meehawl.
"What were they doing?" said the Philosopher
"They were pucking each other across the field, and
standing on their hind legs and cutting such capers that
I laughed till I had a pain in my stomach at the gait of
"This is very interesting," said the Philosopher.
"Do you tell me so?" said Meehawl.
"I do," said the Philosopher, "and for this reason--
most of the races of the world have at one time or
"It's my little daughter, Caitilin, sir," said Meehawl.
"I'm attending to her," the Philosopher replied.
"I thank you kindly," returned Meehawl.
The Philosopher continued-
"Most of the races of the world have at one time or
another been visited by this deity, whose title is the
'Great God Pan,' but there is no record of his ever having
journeyed to Ireland, and, certainly within historic
times, he has not set foot on these shores. He lived for
a great number of years in Egypt, Persia, and Greece,
and although his empire is supposed to be world-wide,
this universal sway has always been, and always will be,
contested; but nevertheless, however sharply his empire
may be curtailed, he will never be without a kingdom
wherein his exercise of sovereign rights will be gladly and
passionately acclaimed."
"Is he one of the old gods, sir?" said Meehawl.
"He is," replied the Philosopher, "and his coming intends
no good to this country. Have you any idea why
he should have captured your daughter?"
"Not an idea in the world."
"Is your daughter beautiful?"
"I couldn't tell you, because I never thought of looking
at her that way. But she is a good milker, and as
strong as a man. She can lift a bag of meal under her
arm easier than I can; but she's a timid creature for all
"Whatever the reason is I am certain that he has the
girl, and I am inclined to think that he was directed to
her by the Leprecauns of the Gort. You know they are
at feud with you ever since their bird was killed?"
"I am not likely to forget it, and they racking me day
and night with torments."
"You may be sure," said the Philosopher, "that if he's
anywhere at all it's at Gort na Cloca Mora he is, for,
being a stranger, he wouldn't know where to go unless
he was directed, and they know every hole and corner
of this countryside since ancient times. I'd go up myself
and have a talk with him, but it wouldn't be a bit
of good, and it wouldn't be any use your going either.
He has power over all grown people so that they either
go and get drunk or else they fall in love with every person
they meet, and commit assaults and things I wouldn't
like to be telling you about. The only folk who can go
near him at all are little children, because he has no
power over them until they grow to the sensual age, and
then he exercises lordship over them as over every one
else. I'll send my two children with a message to him
to say that he isn't doing the decent thing, and that if he
doesn't let the girl alone and go back to his own country
we'll send for Angus Og."
"He'd make short work of him, I'm thinking."
"He might surely; but he may take the girl for himself
all the same."
"Well, I'd sooner he had her than the other one, for
he's one of ourselves anyhow, and the devil you know is
better than the devil you don't know."
"Angus Og is a god," said the Philosopher severely.
"I know that, sir," replied Meehawl; "it's only a way
of talking I have. But how will your honour get at Angus?
for I heard say that he hadn't been seen for a hundred
years, except one night only when he talked to a
man for half an hour on Kilmasheogue."
"I'll find him, sure enough," replied the Philosopher.
"I'll warrant you will," replied Meehawl heartily as
he stood up. "Long life and good health to your
honour," said he as he turned away.
The Philosopher lit his pipe.
"We live as long as we are let," said he, "and we get
the health we deserve. Your salutation embodies a reflection
on death which is not philosophic. We must
acquiesce in all logical progressions. The merging of
opposites is completion. Life runs to death as to its
goal, and we should go towards that next stage of experience
either carelessly as to what must be, or with a good,
honest curiosity as to what may be."
"There's not much fun in being dead, sir," said Meehawl.
"How do you know?" said the Philosopher.
"I know well enough," replied Meehawl.
WHEN the children leaped into the hole at the foot of
the tree they found themselves sliding down a dark, narrow
slant which dropped them softly enough into a little
room. This room was hollowed out immediately under
the tree, and great care had been taken not to disturb any
of the roots which ran here and there through the chamber
in the strangest criss-cross, twisted fashion. To get
across such a place one had to walk round, and jump
over, and duck under perpetually. Some of the roots
had formed themselves very conveniently into low seats
and narrow, uneven tables, and at the bottom all the
roots ran into the floor and away again in the direction
required by their business. After the clear air outside
this place was very dark to the children's eyes, so that
they could not see anything for a few minutes, but after
a little time their eyes became accustomed to the semiobscurity
and they were able to see quite well. The first
things they became aware of were six small men who
were seated on low roots. They were all dressed in tight
green clothes and little leathern aprons, and they wore
tall green hats which wobbled when they moved. They
were all busily engaged making shoes. One was drawing
out wax ends on his knee, another was softening pieces of
leather in a bucket of water, another was polishing the
instep of a shoe with a piece of curved bone, another was
paring down a heel with a short broad-bladed knife, and
another was hammering wooden pegs into a sole. He
had all the pegs in his mouth, which gave him a widefaced,
jolly expression, and according as a peg was
wanted he blew it into his hand and hit it twice with his
hammer, and then he blew another peg, and he always
blew the peg with the right end uppermost, and never
had to hit it more than twice. He was a person well
worth watching.
The children had slid down so unexpectedly that they
almost forgot their good manners, but as soon as Seumas
Beg discovered that he was really in a room he removed
his cap and stood up.
"God be with all here," said he.
The Leprecaun who had brought them lifted Brigid
from the floor to which amazement still constrained her.
"Sit down on that little root, child of my heart," said
he, "and you can knit stockings for us."
"Yes, sir," said Brigid meekly.
The Leprecaun took four knitting needles and a ball
of green wool from the top of a high, horizontal root.
He had to climb over one, go round three and climb up
two roots to get at it, and he did this so easily that it did
not seem a bit of trouble. He gave the needles and wool
to Brigid Beg.
"Do you know how to turn the heel, Brigid Beg?" said
"No, sir," said Brigid.
"Well, I'll show you how when you come to it."
The other six Leprecauns had ceased work and were
looking at the children. Seumas turned to them.
"God bless the work," said he politely.
One of the Leprecauns, who had a grey, puckered face
and a thin fringe of grey whisker very far under his
chin, then spoke.
"Come over here, Seumas Beg," said he, "and I'll
measure you for a pair of shoes. Put your foot up on
that root."
The boy did so, and the Leprecaun took the measure
of his foot with a wooden rule.
"Now, Brigid Beg, show me your foot," and he measured
her also. "They'll be ready for you in the morning."
"Do you never do anything else but make shoes, sir?"
said Seumas.
"We do not," replied the Leprecaun, "except when
we want new clothes, and then we have to make them,
but we grudge every minute spent making anything else
except shoes, because that is the proper work for a Leprecaun.
In the night time we go about the country
into people's houses and we clip little pieces off their
money, and so, bit by bit, we get a crock of gold together,
because, do you see, a Leprecaun has to have a crock of
gold so that if he's captured by men folk he may be able
to ransom himself. But that seldom happens, because
it's a great disgrace altogether to be captured by a man,
and we've practiced so long dodging among the roots
here that we can easily get away from them. Of course,
now and again we are caught; but men are fools, and we
always escape without having to pay the ransom at all.
We wear green clothes because it's the colour of the
grass and the leaves, and when we sit down under a bush
or lie in the grass they just walk by without noticing us."
"Will you let me see your crock of gold?" said Seumas.
The Leprecaun looked at him fixedly for a moment.
"Do you like griddle bread and milk?" said he.
"I like it well," Seumas answered.
"Then you had better have some," and the Leprecaun
took a piece of griddle bread from the shelf and filled
two saucers with milk.
While the children were eating the Leprecauns asked
them many questions-
"What time do you get up in the morning?"
"Seven o'clock," replied Seumas.
"And what do you have for breakfast?"
"Stirabout and milk," he replied.
"It's good food," said the Leprecaun. "What do you
have for dinner?"
"Potatoes and milk," said Seumas.
"It's not bad at all," said the Leprecaun. "And what
do you have for supper?"
Brigid answered this time because her brother's mouth
was full.
"Bread and milk, sir," said she.
"There's nothing better," said the Leprecaun.
"And then we go to bed," continued Brigid.
"Why wouldn't you?" said the Leprecaun.
It was at this point the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath knocked on the tree
trunk and demanded that the children should be returned to her.
When she had gone away the Leprecauns held a consultation, whereat it
was decided that they could not afford to anger the Thin Woman and the Shee of Croghan
Conghaile, so they shook hands with the children and bade them
good-bye. The Leprecaun who had enticed them away from home brought
them back again, and on parting he begged the children to visit Gort na Cloca Mora
whenever they felt inclined.
"There's always a bit of griddle bread or potato cake, and a noggin of
milk for a friend," said he.
"You are very kind, sir," replied Seumas, and his sister said the same
As the Leprecaun walked away they stood watching him.
"Do you remember," said Seumas, "the way he hopped and waggled his leg
the last time he was here?"
"I do so," replied Brigid.
"Well, he isn't hopping or doing anything at all this time," said
"He's not in good humour to-night," said Brigid, "but I like him."
"So do I," said Seumas.
When they went into the house the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath was very
glad to see them, and she baked a cake with currants in it, and also gave them both stirabout
and potatoes; but the Philosopher did not notice that they had
been away at all. He said at last that "talking was bad wit, that women were always making a
fuss, that children should be fed, but not fattened, and that bedswere meant to be slept in."
The Thin Woman replied "that he was a
grisly old man without bowels, that she did not know what she had married him for, that he
was three times her age, and that no one would believe what she had to put up with."
PURSUANT to his arrangement with Meehawl MacMurrachu, the Philosopher
sent the children in search of Pan. He gave them the fullest instructions as to how they
should address the Sylvan Deity, and then, having received the
admonishments of the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath, the children departed
in the early morning.
When they reached the clearing in the pine wood, through which the sun
was blazing, they sat down for a little while to rest in the heat. Birds were continually darting
down this leafy shaft, and diving away into the dark wood. These birds always had
something in their beaks. One would have a worm, or a
snail, or a grasshopper, or a little piece of wool torn off a sheep, or a scrap of cloth, or a
piece of hay; and when they had put these things in a certain place they flew up the sunshaft
again and looked for something else to bring
home. On seeing the children each of the birds waggled his wings, and made a particular
sound. They said "caw" and "chip" and "twit" and "tut" and "what" and "pit"; and one, whom
the youngsters liked very much, always said "tit-tittit-
tit-tit." The children were fond of him because he was so all-of-asudden.
They never knew where he was going to fly next, and they did not believe he
knew himself. He would fly backwards and forwards, and up and down, and
sideways and bawways--all, so to speak, in the one breath. He did this
because he was curious to see what was happening everywhere, and, as something is
always happening everywhere, he was never able to fly in a straight line
for more than the littlest distance. He was a cowardly bird too, and
continually fancied that some person was going to throw a stone at him from behind a bush,
or a wall, or a tree, and these imaginary dangers tended to make his journeyings still more
wayward and erratic. He never flew where he
wanted to go himself, but only where God directed him, and so he did not fare at all badly.
The children knew each of the birds by their sounds, and always said
these words to them when they came near. For a little time they had difficulty in saying the
right word to the right bird, and sometimes said "chip" when the
salutation should have been "tut." The birds always resented this, and
would scold them angrily, but after a little practice they never made any mistakes at all.
There was one bird, a big, black fellow, who loved to be talked to. He used to sit on the
ground beside the children, and say "caw" as long as
they would repeat it after him. He often wasted a whole morning in talk, but none of the
other birds remained for more than a few minutes at a time. They
were always busy in the morning, but in the evening they had more leisure, and would stay
and chat as long as the children wanted them. The awkward thing was that in the evening all
the birds wanted to talk at the same moment, so that the youngsters never knew which of
them to answer. Seumas Beg got out of that
difficulty for a while by learning to whistle their notes, but, even so, they spoke with such
rapidity that he could not by any means keep pace with them. Brigid could only whistle one
note; it was a little flat "whoo" sound, which
the birds all laughed at, and after a few trials she refused to whistle any more.
While they were sitting two rabbits came to play about in the brush.
They ran round and round in a circle, and all their movements were very quick and twisty.
Sometimes they jumped over each other six or seven times in
succession, and every now and then they sat upright on their hind legs,
and washed their faces with their paws. At other times they picked up a blade of grass,
which they ate with great deliberation, pretending all the time that it was a complicated
banquet of cabbage leaves and lettuce.
While the children were playing with the rabbits an ancient, stalwart
he-goat came prancing through the bracken. He was an old acquaintance of theirs, and he
enjoyed lying beside them to have his forehead scratched with a piece of
sharp stick. His forehead was hard as rock, and the hair grew there as
sparse as grass does on a wall, or rather the way moss grows on a wall--it was a mat
instead of a crop. His horns were long and very sharp, and brilliantly
polished. On this day the he-goat had two chains around his neck--one was made of buttercups
and the other was made of daisies, and the children wondered to
each other who it was could have woven these so carefully. They asked the he-goat this
question, but he only looked at them and did not say a word. The
children liked examining this goat's eyes; they were very big, and of
the queerest light-gray colour. They had a strange steadfast look, and had also at times a
look of queer, deep intelligence, and at other times they had a
fatherly and benevolent expression, and at other times again, especially when he looked
sidewards, they had a mischievous, light-and-airy, daring, mocking, inviting and terrifying
look; but he always looked brave and
unconcerned. When the he-goat's forehead had been scratched as much as
he desired he arose from between the children and went pacing away lightly through the
wood. The children ran after him and each caught hold of one of
his horns, and he ambled and reared between them while they danced
along on his either side singing snatches of bird songs, and scraps of old tunes which the
Thin Woman of Inis Magrath had learned among the people of the
In a little time they came to Gort na Cloca Mora, but here the he-goat
did not stop. They went past the big tree of the Leprecauns, through a broken part of the
hedge and into another rough field. The sun was shining gloriously. There was scarcely a
wind at all to stir the harsh grasses. Far and near was
silence and warmth, an immense, cheerful peace. Across the sky a few light clouds sailed
gently on a blue so vast that the eye failed before that horizon. A few bees sounded their
deep chant, and now and again a wasp rasped hastily
on his journey. Than these there was no sound of any kind. So peaceful,
innocent and safe did everything appear that it might have been the childhood of the world
as it was of the morning.
The children, still clinging to the friendly goat, came near the edge
of the field, which here sloped more steeply to the mountain top. Great boulders, slightly
covered with lichen and moss, were strewn about, and around them the bracken and gorse
were growing, and in every crevice of these rocks
there were plants whose little, tight-fisted roots gripped a desperate, adventurous
habitation in a soil scarcely more than half an inch deep. At some time these rocks had been
smitten so fiercely that the solid granite surfaces had shattered into fragments. At one place
a sheer wall of stone, ragged and battered, looked harshly out from the thin vegetation. To
this rocky wall the he-goat danced. At one place there was a hole in the wall covered by a
brush. The goat pushed his way behind this growth and disappeared. Then the children,
curious to see where he had gone, pushed through also. Behind the
bush they found a high, narrow opening, and when they had rubbed their
legs, which smarted from the stings of nettles, thistles and gorse prickles, they went into the
hole which they thought was a place the goat had for sleeping
in on cold, wet nights. After a few paces they found the passage was
quite comfortably big, and then they saw a light, and in another moment they were blinking
at the god Pan and Caitilin Ni Murrachu.
Caitilin knew them at once and came forward with welcome.
"O, Seumas Beg," she cried reproachfully, "how dirty you have let your
feet get. Why don't you walk in the grassy places? And you, Brigid, have a right to be
ashamed of yourself to have your hands the way they are. Come over
here at once."
Every child knows that every grown female person in the~world has
authority to wash children and to give them food;that is what grown people were made for,
consequently Seumas and Brigid Beg submitted to the scouring for which
Caitilin made instant preparation. When they were cleaned she pointed
to a couple of flat stones against the wall ofthe cave and bade them sit down and be good,
and this the children did, fixing their eyes on Pan with the cheerful gravity and curiosity which
good-natured youngsters always give to a
Pan, who had been lying on a couch of dried grass, sat up and bent an
equally cheerful regard on the children.
"Shepherd Girl," said he, "who are those children?"
"They are the children of the Philosophers of Coilla Doraca; the Grey
Woman of Dun Gortin and the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath are their mothers, and they are
decent, poor children, God bless them."
"What have they come here for?"
"You will have to ask themselves that."
Pan looked at them smilingly.
"What have you come here for, little children?" said he.
The children questioned one another with their eyes to see which of
them would reply, and then Seumas Beg answered:
"My father sent me to see you, sir, and to say that you
were not doing a good thing in keeping Caitilin Ni Murrachu
away from her own place."
Brigid Beg turned to Caitilin--
"Your father came to see our father, and he said that
he didn't know what had become of you at all, and that
maybe you were lying flat in a ditch with the black crows
picking at your flesh."
"And what," said Pan, "did your father say to that?"
"He told us to come and ask her to go home."
"Do you love your father, little child?" said Pan.
Brigid Beg thought for a moment. "I don't know,
sir," she replied.
"He doesn't mind us at all," broke in Seumas Beg,
"and so we don't know whether we love him or not."
"I like Caitilin," said Brigid, "and I like you."
"So do I," said Seumas.
"I like you also, little children," said Pan. "Come
over here and sit beside me, and we will talk."
So the two children went over to Pan and sat down
one each side of him, and he put his arms about them.
"Daughter of Murrachu," said he, "is there no food
in the house for guests?"
"There is a cake of bread, a little goat's milk and some
cheese," she replied, and she set about getting these
"I never ate cheese," said Seumas. "Is it good?"
"Surely it is," replied Pan. "The cheese that is made
from goat's milk is rather strong, and it is good to be
eaten by people who live in the open air, but not by those
who live in houses, for such people do not have any appetite.
They are poor creatures whom I do not like."
"I like eating," said Seumas.
"So do I," said Pan. "All good people like eating.
Every person who is hungry is a good person, and every
person who is not hungry is a bad person. It is better
to be hungry than rich."
Caitilin having supplied the children with food, seated
herself in front of them. "I don't think that is right,"
said she. "I have always been hungry, and it was never
"If you had always been full you would like it even
less," he replied, "because when you are hungry you are
alive, and when you are not hungry you are only half
"One has to be poor to be hungry," replied Caitilin.
"My father is poor and gets no good of it but to work
from morning to night and never to stop doing that."
"It is bad for a wise person to be poor," said Pan,
"and it is bad for a fool to be rich. A rich fool will think
of nothing else at first but to find a dark house wherein
to hide away, and there he will satisfy his hunger, and he
will continue to do that until his hunger is dead and he is
no better than dead but a wise person who is rich will
carefully preserve his appetite. All people who have
been rich for a long time, or who are rich from birth,
live a great deal outside of their houses, and so they are
always hungry and healthy."
"Poor people have no time to be wise," said Caitilin.
"They have time to be hungry," said Pan. "I ask no
more of them."
"My father is very wise," said Seumas Beg.
"How do you know that, little boy?" said Pan.
"Because he is always talking," replied Seumas.
"Do you always listen, my dear?"
"No, sir," said Seumas; "I go to sleep when he talks."
"That is very clever of you," said Pan.
"I go to sleep too," said Brigid.
"It is clever of you also, my darling. Do you go to
sleep when your mother talks?"
"Oh, no," she answered. "If we went to sleep then
our mother would pinch us and say that we were a bad
"I think your mother is wise," said Pan. "What do
you like best in the world, Seumas Beg?"
The boy thought for a moment and replied:
"I don't know, sir."
Pan also thought for a little time.
"I don't know what I like best either," said he.
"What do you like best in the world, Shepherd Girl?"
Caitilin's eyes were fixed on his.
"I don't know yet," she answered slowly.
"May the gods keep you safe from that knowledge,"
said Pan gravely.
"Why would you say that?" she replied. "One must
find out all things, and when we find out a thing we know
if it is good or bad."
"That is the beginning of knowledge," said Pan, "but
it is not the beginning of wisdom."
"What is the beginning of wisdom?"
"It is carelessness," replied Pan.
"And what is the end of wisdom?" said she.
"I do not know," he answered, after a little pause.
"Is it greater carelessness?" she enquired.
"I do not know, I do not know," said he sharply. "I
am tired of talking," and, so saying, he turned his face
away from them and lay down on the couch.
Caitilin in great concern hurried the children to the
door of the cave and kissed them good-bye.
"Pan is sick," said the boy gravely.
"I hope he will be well soon again," the girl murmured.
"Yes, yes," said Caitilin, and she ran back quickly to
her lord.
WHEN the children reached home they told the Philosopher-
the result of their visit. He questioned them minutely
as to the appearance of Pan, how he had received
them, and what he had said in defence of his iniquities;
but when he found that Pan had not returned any answer
to his message he became very angry. He tried to persuade
his wife to undertake another embassy setting
forth his abhorrence and defiance of the god, but the
Thin Woman replied sourly that she was a respectable
married woman, that having been already bereaved of
her wisdom she had no desire to be further curtailed of
her virtue, that a husband would go any length to asperse
his wife's reputation, and that although she was married
to a fool her self-respect had survived even that
calamity. The Philosopher pointed out that her age,
her appearance, and her tongue were sufficient guarantees
of immunity against the machinations of either Pan or
slander, and that he had no personal feelings in the matter
beyond a scientific and benevolent interest in the
troubles of Meehawl MacMurrachu; but this was discounted
by his wife as the malignant and subtle tactics
customary to all husbands.
Matters appeared to be thus at a deadlock so far as
they were immediately concerned, and the Philosopher
decided that he would lay the case before Angus Og and
implore his protection and assistance on behalf of the
Clann MacMurrachu. He therefore directed the Thin
Woman to bake him two cakes of bread, and set about
preparations for a journey.
The Thin Woman baked the cakes, and put them in a
bag, and early on the following morning the Philosopher
swung this bag over his shoulder, and went forth on his
When he came to the edge of the pine wood he halted
for a few moments, not being quite certain of his bearings,
and then went forward again in the direction of
Gort na Cloca Mora. It came into his mind as he crossed
the Gort that he ought to call on the Leprecauns and
have a talk with them, but a remembrance of Meehawl
MacMurrachu and the troubles under which he laboured
(all directly to be traced to the Leprecauns) hardened
his heart against his neighbours, so that he passed by
the yew tree without any stay. In a short time he came
to the rough, heather-clumped field wherein the children
had found Pan, and as he was proceeding up the hill, he
saw Caitilin Ni Murrachu walking a little way in front
with a small vessel in her hand. The she-goat which she
had just milked was bending again to the herbage, and
as Caitilin trod lightly in front of him the Philosopher
closed his eyes in virtuous anger and opened them again
in a not unnatural curiosity, for the girl had no clothes
on. He watched her going behind the brush and disappearing
in the cleft of the rock, and his anger, both
with her and Pan, mastering him he forsook the path of
prudence which soared to the mountain top, and followed
that leading to the cave. The sound of his feet brought
Caitilin out hastily, but he pushed her by with a harsh
word. "Hussy," said he, and he went into the cave
where Pan was.
As he went in he already repented of his harshness and
"The human body is an aggregation of flesh and sinew,
around a central bony structure. The use of clothing is
primarily to protect this organism from rain and cold,
and it may not be regarded as the banner of morality
without danger to this fundamental premise. If a person
does not desire to be so protected who will quarrel
with an honourable liberty? Decency is not clothing but
Mind. Morality is behaviour. Virtue is thought-
"I have often fancied," he continued to Pan, whom he
was now confronting, "that the effect of clothing on mind
must be very considerable, and that it must have a modifying
rather than an expanding effect, or, even, an intensifying
as against an exuberant effect. With clothing
the whole environment is immediately affected. The air,
which is our proper medium, is only filtered to our bodies
in an abated and niggardly fashion which can scarcely be
as beneficial as the generous and unintermitted elemental
play. The question naturally arises whether clothing is
as unknown to nature as we have fancied? Viewed as a
protective measure against atmospheric rigour we find
that many creatures grow, by their own central impulse,
some kind of exterior panoply which may be regarded as
their proper clothing. Bears, cats, dogs, mice, sheep and
beavers are wrapped in fur, hair, fell, fleece or pelt, so
these creatures cannot by any means be regarded as being
naked. Crabs, cockroaches, snails and cockles have
ordered around them a crusty habiliment, wherein their
original nakedness is only to be discovered by force, and
other creatures have similarly provided themselves with
some species of covering. Clothing, therefore, is not
an art, but an instinct, and the fact that man is born
naked and does not grow his clothing upon himself from
within but collects it from various distant and haphazard
sources is not any reason to call this necessity an instinct
for decency. These, you will admit, are weighty reHections
and worthy of consideration before we proceed to
the wide and thorny subject of moral and immoral action.
Now, what is virtue?"-
Pan, who had listened with great courtesy to these
Remarks, here broke in on the Philosopher.
"Virtue," said he, "is the performance of pleasant
The Philosopher held the statement far a moment on
his forefinger.
"And what, then, is vice?" said he.
"It is vicious," said Pan, "to neglect the performance
of pleasant actions."
"If this be so," the other commented, "philosophy has
up to the present been on the wrong track."
"That is so," said Pan. "Philosophy is an immoral
practice because it suggests a standard of practice impossible
of being followed, and which, if it could be followed,
would lead to the great sin of sterility."
"The idea of virtue," said the Philosopher, with some
indignation, "has animated the noblest intellects of the
"It has not animated them," replied Pan; "it has hypnotised
them so that they have conceived virtue as repression
and self-sacrifice as an honourable thing instead
of the suicide which it is."
"Indeed," said the Philosopher; "this is very interesting,
and if it is true the whole conduct of life will have
to be very much simplified."
"Life is already very simple," said Pan; "it is to
be born and to die, and in the interval to eat and drink,
to dance and sing, to marry and beget children."
"But it is simply materialism," cried the Philosopher.
"Why do you say 'but'?" replied Pan.
"It is sheer, unredeemed animalism," continued his
"It is any name you please to call it," replied Pan.
"You have proved nothing," the Philosopher shouted.
"What can be sensed requires no proof."
"You leave out the new thing," said the Philosopher.
"You leave out brains. I believe in mind above matter.
Thought above emotion. Spirit above flesh."
"Of course you do," said Pan, and he reached for his
oaten pipe.
The Philosopher ran to the opening of the passage and
thrust Caitilin aside. "Hussy," said he fiercely to her,
and he darted out.
As he went up the rugged path he could hear the pipes
of Pan, calling and sobbing and making high merriment
on the air.
"SHE does not deserve to be rescued," said the Philosopher,
"but I will rescue her. Indeed," he thought a moment
later, "she does not want to be rescued, and, therefore,
I will rescue her."
As he went down the road her shapely figure floated
before his eyes as beautiful and simple as an old statue.
He wagged his head angrily at the apparition, but it
would not go away. He tried to concentrate his mind on
a deep, philosophical maxim, but her disturbing image
came between him and his thought, blotting out the latter
so completely that a moment after he had stated his
aphorism he could not remember what it had been. Such
a condition of mind was so unusual that it bewildered
"Is a mind, then, so unstable," said he, "that a mere
figure, an animated geometrical arrangement can shake
it from its foundations?"
The idea horrified him: he saw civilisation building
its temples over a volcano. . .
"A puff," said he, "and it is gone. Beneath all is
chaos and red anarchy, over all a devouring and insistent
appetite. Our eyes tell us what to think about, and our
wisdom is no more than a catalogue of sensual stimuli."
He would have been in a state of deep dejection were
it not that through his perturbation there bubbled a
stream of such amazing well-being as he had not felt
since childhood. Years had toppled from his shoulders.
He left one pound of solid matter behind at every stride.
His very skin grew flexuous, and he found a pleasure in
taking long steps such as he could not have accounted
for by thought. Indeed, thought was the one thing he
felt unequal to, and it was not precisely that he could
not think but that he did not want to. All the importance
and authority of his mind seemed to have faded away,
and the activity which had once belonged to that organ
was now transferred to his eyes. He saw, amazedly, the
sunshine bathing the hills and the valleys. A bird in the
hedge held him--beak, head, eyes, legs, and the wings
that tapered widely at angles to the wind. For the first
time in his life he really saw a bird, and one minute after
it had flown away he could have reproduced its strident
note. With every step along the curving road the landscape
was changing. He saw and noted it almost in an
ecstasy. A sharp hill jutted out into the road, it dissolved
into a sloping meadow, rolled down into a valley
and then climbed easily and peacefully into a hill again.
On this side a clump of trees nodded together in the
friendliest fashion. Yonder a solitary tree, well-grown
and clean, was contented with its own bright company.
A bush crouched tightly on the ground as though, at a
word, it would scamper from its place and chase rabbits
across the sward with shouts and laughter. Great spaces
of sunshine were everywhere, and everywhere there were
deep wells of shadow; and the one did not seem more
beautiful than the other. That sunshine! Oh, the glory
of it, the goodness and bravery of it, how broadly and
grandly it shone, without stint, without care; he saw its
measureless generosity and gloried in it as though himself
had been the flinger of that largesse. And was he
not? Did the sunlight not stream from his head and
life from his finger-tips? Surely the well-being that was
in him did bubble out to an activity beyond the universe.
Thought! Oh! the petty thing! but motion! emotion!
these were the realities. To feel, to do, to stride forward
in elation chanting a paean of triumphant life!
After a time he felt hungry, and thrusting his hand
into his wallet he broke off a piece of one of his cakes
and looked about for a place where he might happily
eat it. By the side of the road there was a well; just a
little corner filled with water. Over it was a rough stone
coping, and around, hugging it on three sides almost from
sight, were thick, quiet bushes. He would not have noticed
the well at all but for a thin stream, the breadth of
two hands, which tiptoed away from it through a field.
By this well he sat down and scooped the water in his
hand and it tasted good.
He was eating his cake when a sound touched his ear
from some distance, and shortly a woman came down
the path carrying a vessel in her hand to draw water.
She was a big, comely woman, and she walked as one who
had no misfortunes and no misgivings. When she saw
the Philosopher sitting by the well she halted a moment
in surprise and then came forward with a good-humoured
"Good morrow to you, sir," said she.
"Good morrow to you too, ma'am," replied the Philosopher.
"Sit down beside me here and eat some of my
"Why wouldn't I, indeed," said the woman, and she
did sit beside him.
The Philosopher cracked a large piece off his cake
and gave it to her and she ate some.
"There's a taste on that cake," said she. "Who made
"My wife did," he replied.
"Well, now!" said she, looking at him. "Do you
know, you don't look a bit like a married man."
"No?" said the Philosopher.
"Not a bit. A married man looks comfortable and
settled: he looks finished, if you understand me, and a
bachelor looks unsettled and funny, and he always wants
to be running round seeing things. I'd know a married
man from a bachelor any day."
"How would you know that?" said the Philosopher.
"Easily," said she, with a nod. "It's the way they
look at a woman. A married man looks at you quietly
as if he knew all about you. There isn't any strangeness
about him with a woman at all; but a bachelor man looks
at you very sharp and looks away and then looks back
again, the way you'd know he was thinking about you and
didn't know what you were thinking about him; and so
they are always strange, and that's why women like
"Why!" said the Philosopher, astonished, "do women
like bachelors better than married men?"
"Of course they do," she replied heartily. "They
wouldn't look at the side of the road a married man was
on if there was a bachelor man on the other side."
"This," said the Philosopher earnestly, "is very interesting."
"And the queer thing is," she continued, "that when I
came up the road and saw you I said to myself 'it's a
bachelor man.' How long have you been married,
"I don't know," said the Philosopher. "Maybe it's
ten years."
"And how many children would you have, mister?"
"Two," he replied, and then corrected himself, "No,
I have only one."
"Is the other one dead?"
"I never had more than one."
"Ten years married and only one child," said she.
"Why, man dear, you're not a married man. What
were you doing at all, at all! I wouldn't like to be telling
you the children I have living and dead. But what
I say is that married or not you're a bachelor man. I
knew it the minute I looked at you. What sort of a
woman is herself?"
"She's a thin sort of woman," cried the Philosopher,
biting into his cake.
"Is she now?"
"And," the Philosopher continued, "the reason I
talked to you is because you are a fat woman."
"I am not fat," was her angry response.
"You are fat," insisted the Philosopher, "and that's
the reason I like you."
"Oh, if you mean it that way . . ." she chuckled.
"I think," he continued, looking at her admiringly,
"that women ought to be fat."
"Tell you the truth," said she eagerly, "I think that
myself. I never met a thin woman but she was a sour
one, and I never met a fat man but he was a fool. Fat
women and thin men; it's nature," said she.
"It is," said he, and he leaned forward and kissed her
"Oh, you villain!" said the woman, putting out her
hands against him.
The Philosopher drew back abashed.
"Forgive me," he began, "if I have alarmed your
"It's the married man's word," said she, rising hastily:
"now I know you; but there's a lot of the bachelor in you
all the same, God help you! I'm going home." And,
so saying, she dipped her vessel in the well and turned
"Maybe," said the Philosopher, "I ought to wait until
your husband comes home and ask his forgiveness for
the wrong I've done him."
The woman turned round on him and each of her eyes
was as big as a plate.
"What do you say?" said she. "Follow me if you
dare and I'll set the dog on you; I will so," and she
strode viciously homewards.
After a moment's hesitation the Philosopher took his
own path across the hill.
The day was now well advanced, and as he trudged
forward the happy quietude of his surroundings stole
into his heart again and so toned down his recollection
of the fat woman that in a little time she was no more
than a pleasant and curious memory. His mind was exercised
superficially, not in thinking, but in wondering
how it was he had come to kiss a strange woman. He
said to himself that such conduct was not right; but this
statement was no more than the automatic working of a
mind long exercised in the distinctions of right and
wrong, for, almost in the same breath, he assured himself
that what he had done did not matter in the least.
His opinions were undergoing a curious change. Right
and wrong were meeting and blending together so closely
that it became difficult to dissever them, and the obloquy
attaching to the one seemed out of proportion altogether
to its importance, while the other by no means justified
the eulogy wherewith it was connected. Was there any
immediate or even distant, effect on life caused by evil
which was not instantly swung into equipoise by goodness?
But these slender reflections troubled him only
for a little time. He had little desire for any introspective
quarryings. To feel so well was sufficient in itself.
Why should thought be so apparent to us, so insistent?
We do not know we have digestive or circulatory organs
until these go out of order, and then the knowledge torments
us. Should not the labours of a healthy brain be
equally subterranean and equally competent? Why have
we to think aloud and travel laboriously from syllogism
to ergo, chary of our conclusions and distrustful of our
premises? Thought, as we know it, is a disease and no
more. The healthy mentality should register its convictions
and not its labours. Our ears should not hear the
clamour of its doubts nor be forced to listen to the pro
and con wherewith we are eternally badgered and perplexed.
The road was winding like a ribbon in and out of the
mountains. On either side there were hedges and bushes,
--little, stiff trees which held their foliage in their hands
and dared the winds snatch a leaf from that grip. The
hills were swelling and sinking, folding and soaring on
every view. Now the silence was startled by the falling
tinkle of a stream. Far away a cow lowed, a long, deep
monotone, or a goat's call trembled from nowhere to nowhere.
But mostly there was a silence which buzzed
with a multitude of small winged life. Going up the
hills the Philosopher bent forward to the gradient,
stamping vigorously as he trod, almost snorting like a
bull in the pride of successful energy. Coming down the
slope he braced back and let his legs loose to do as they
pleased. Didn't they know their business--Good luck
to them, and away!
As he walked along he saw an old woman hobbling
in front of him. She was leaning on a stick and her hand
was red and swollen with rheumatism. She hobbled by
reason of the fact that there were stones in her shapeless
boots. She was draped in the sorriest miscellaneous rags
that could be imagined, and these were knotted together
so intricately that her clothing, having once been attached
to her body, could never again be detached from it. As
she walked she was mumbling and grumbling to herself,
so that her mouth moved round and round in an indiarubber
The Philosopher soon caught up on her.
"Good morrow, ma'am," said he.
But she did not hear him: she seemed to be listening
to the pain which the stones in her boots gave her.
"Good morrow, ma'am," said the Philosopher again.
This time she heard him and replied, turning her old,
bleared eyes slowly in his direction--
"Good morrow to yourself, sir," said she, and the
Philosopher thought her old face was a very kindly one.
"What is it that is wrong with you, ma'am?" said he.
"It's my boots, sir," she replied. "Full of stones they
are, the way I can hardly walk at all, God help me!"
"Why don't you shake them out?"
"Ah, sure, I couldn't be bothered, sir, for there are so
many holes in the boots that more would get in before I
could take two steps, and an old woman can't be always
fidgeting, God help her!"
There was a little house on one side of the road, and
when the old woman saw this place she brightened up a
"Do you know who lives in that house?" said the
"I do not," she replied, "but it's a real nice house with
clean windows and a shiny knocker on the door, and
smoke in the chimney--I wonder would herself give me
a cup of tea now if I asked her--A poor old woman walking
the roads on a stick! and maybe a bit of meat, or an
egg perhaps. . "
"You could ask," suggested the Philosopher gently.
"Maybe I will, too," said she, and she sat down by the
road just outside the house and the Philosopher also sat
A little puppy dog came from behind the house and approached
them cautiously. Its intentions were friendly
but it had already found that amicable advances are
sometimes indifferently received, for, as it drew near, it
wagged its dubious tail and rolled humbly on the ground.
But very soon the dog discovered that here there was no
evil, for it trotted over to the old woman, and without
any more preparation jumped into her lap.
The old woman grinned at the dog-
"Ah, you thing you!" said she, and she gave it her
finger to bite. The delighted puppy chewed her bony
finger, and then instituted a mimic warfare against a
piece of rag that fluttered from her breast, barking and
growling in joyous excitement, while the old woman
fondled and hugged it.
The door of the house opposite opened quickly, and a
woman with a frost-bitten face came out.
"Leave that dog down," said she.
The old woman grinned humbly at her.
"Sure, ma'am, I wouldn't hurt the little dog, the
"Put down that dog," said the woman, "and go about
your business--the likes of you ought to be arrested."
A man in shirt sleeves appeared behind her, and at him
the old woman grinned even more humbly.
"Let me sit here for a while and play with the little
dog, sir," said she; "sure the roads do be lonesome--"
The man stalked close and grabbed the dog by the
scruff of the neck. It hung between his finger and thumb
with its tail tucked between its legs and its eyes screwed
round on one side in amazement.
"Be off with you out of that, you old strap!" said the
man in a terrible voice.
So the old woman rose painfully to her feet again, and
as she went hobbling along the dusty road she began to
The Philosopher also arose; he was very indignant but
did not know what to do. A singular lassitude also prevented
him from interfering. As they paced along his
companion began mumbling, more to herself than to
"Ah, God be with me," said she, "an old woman on a
stick, that hasn't a place in the wide world to go to or a
neighbour itself.... I wish I could get a cup of tea, so
I do. I wish to God I could get a cup of tea.... Me
sitting down in my own little house, with the white tablecloth
on the table, and the butter in the dish, and the
strong, red tea in the tea-cup; and me pouring cream into
it, and, maybe, telling the children not to be wasting the
sugar, the things! and himself saying he'd got to mow the
big field to-day, or that the red cow was going to calve,
the poor thingl and that if the boys went to school, who
was going to weed the turnips--and me sitting drinking
my strong cup of tea, and telling him where that old
trapesing hen was laying.... Ah, God be with me!
an old creature hobbling along the roads on a stick. I
wish I was a young girl again, so I do, and himself coming
courting me, and him saying that I was a real nice little
girl surely, and that nothing would make him happy or
easy at all but me to be loving him.--Ah, the kind man
that he was, to be sure, the kind, decent man.... And
Sorca Reilly to be trying to get him from me, and Kate
Finnegan with her bold eyes looking after him in the
Chapel; and him to be saying that along with me they
were only a pair of old nanny goats.... And then me
to be getting married and going home to my own little
house with my man--ah, God be with me! and him kissing
me, and laughing, and frightening me with his goingson.
Ah, the kind man, with his soft eyes, and his nice
voice, and his jokes and laughing, and him thinking the
world and all of me--ay, indeed.... And the neighbours
to be coming in and sitting round the fire in the
night time, putting the world through each other, and
talking about France and Russia and them other queer
places, and him holding up the discourse like a learned
man, and them all listening to him and nodding their
heads at each other, and wondering at his education and
all: or, maybe, the neighbours to be singing, or him making
me sing the Coulin, and him to be proud of me . . .
and then him to be killed on me with a cold on his chest.
. . . Ah, then, God be with me, a lone, old creature on
a stick, and the sun shining into her eyes and she thirsty
--I wish I had a cup of tea, so I do. I wish to God I
had a cup of tea and a bit of meat . . . or, maybe, an
egg. A nice fresh egg laid by the speckeldy hen that
used to be giving me all the trouble, the thing! . . . Sixteen
hens I had, and they were the ones for laying,
. . It's the queer world, so it is, the queer
world--and the things that do happen for no reason at
all.... Ah, God be with me! I wish there weren't
stones in my boots, so I do, and I wish to God I had a
cup of tea and a fresh egg. Ah, glory be, my old legs
are getting tireder every day, so they are. Wisha, one
time--when himself was in it--I could go about the
house all day long, cleaning the place, and feeding the
pigs, and the hens and all, and then dance half the night,
so I could: and himself proud of me...."
The old woman turned up a little rambling road and
went on still talking to herself, and the Philosopher
watched her go up that road for a long time. He was
very glad she had gone away, and as he tramped forward
he banished her sad image so that in a little time
he was happy again. The sun was still shining, the birds
were flying on every side, and the wide hill-side above
him smiled gaily.
A small, narrow road cut at right angles into his path,
and as he approached this he heard the bustle and movement
of a host, the trample of feet, the rolling and creaking
of wheels, and the long unwearied drone of voices.
In a few minutes he came abreast of this small road, and
saw an ass and cart piled with pots and pans, and walking
beside this there were two men and a woman. The
men and the woman were talking together loudly, even
fiercely, and the ass was drawing his cart along the road
without requiring assistance or direction. While there
was a road he walked on it: when he might come to a
cross road he would turn to the right: when a man said
"whoh" he would stop: when he said "hike" he would
go backwards, and when he said "yep" he would go on
again. That was life, and if one questioned it, one was
hit with a stick, or a boot, or a lump of rock: if one continued
walking nothing happened, and that was happiness.
The Philosopher saluted this cavalcade.
"God be with you," said he.
"God and Mary be with you," said the first man.
"God, and Mary, and Patrick be with you," said the
second man.
"God, and Mary, and Patrick, and Brigid be with
you," said the woman.
The ass, however, did not say a thing. As the word
"whoh" had not entered into the conversation he knew
it was none of his business, and so he turned to the right
on the new path and continued his journey.
"Where are you going to, stranger," said the first
"I am going to visit Angus Og," replied the Philosopher.
The man gave him a quick look.
"Well," said he, "that's the queerest story I ever
heard. Listen here," he called to the others, "this man
is looking for Angus Og."
The other man and woman came closer.
"What would you be wanting with Angus Og, Mister
Honey?" said the woman.
"Oh," replied the Philosopher, "it's a particular thing,
a family matter."
There was silence for a few minutes, and they all
stepped onwards behind the ass and cart.
"How do you know where to look for himself?" said
the first man again: "maybe you got the place where he
lives written down in an old book or on a carved stone?"
"Or did you find the staff of Amergin or of Ossian
in a bog and it written from the top to the bottom with
signs?" said the second man.
"No," said the Philosopher, "it isn't that way you'd
go visiting a god. What you do is, you go out from your
house and walk straight away in any direction with your
shadow behind you so long as it is towards a mountain,
for the gods will not stay in a valley or a level plain, but
only in high places; and then, if the god wants you to see
him, you will go to his rath as direct as if you knew
where it was, for he will be leading you with an airy
thread reaching from his own place to wherever you are,
and if he doesn't want to see you, you will never find out
where he is, not if you were to walk for a year or twenty
"How do you know he wants to see you?" said the
second man.
"Why wouldn't he want?" said the Philosopher.
"Maybe, Mister Honey," said the woman, "you are a
holy sort of a man that a god would like well."
"Why would I be that?" said the Philosopher. "The
gods like a man whether he's holy or not if he's only
"Ah, well, there's plenty of that sort," said the first
man. "What do you happen to have in your bag,
"Nothing," replied the Philosopher, "but a cake and
a half that was baked for my journey."
"Give me a bit of your cake, Mister Honey," said the
woman. "I like to have a taste of everybody's cake."
"I will, and welcome," said the Philosopher.
"You may as well give us all a bit while you are about
it," said the second man. "That woman hasn't got all
the hunger of the world."
"Why not," said the Philosopher, and he divided the
"There's a sup of water up yonder," said the first
man, "and it will do to moisten the cake--Whoh, you
devil," he roared at the ass, and the ass stood stock still
on the minute.
There was a thin fringe of grass along the road near
a wall, and towards this the ass began to edge very
"Hike, you beast, you," shouted the man, and the ass
at once hiked, but he did it in a way that brought him
close to the grass. The first man took a tin can out of
the cart and climbed over the little wall for water. Before
he went he gave the ass three kicks on the nose, but
the ass did not say a word, he only hiked still more which
brought him directly on to the grass, and when the man
climbed over the wall the ass commenced to crop the
grass. There was a spider sitting on a hot stone in the
grass. He had a small body and wide legs, and he wasn't
doing anything.
"Does anybody ever kick you in the nose?" said the
ass to him.
"Ay does there," said the spider; "you and your like
that are always walking on me, or lying down on me, or
running over me with the wheels of a cart."
"Well, why don't you stay on the wall?" said the ass.
"Sure, my wife is there," replied the spider.
"What's the harm in that?" said the ass.
"She'd eat me," said the spider, "and, anyhow, the
competition on the wall is dreadful, and the flies are
getting wiser and timider every season. Have you got
a wife yourself, now?"
"I have not," said the ass; "I wish I had."
"You like your wife for the first while," said the
spider, "and after that you hate her."
"If I had the first while I'd chance the second while,"
replied the ass.
"It's bachelor's talk," said the spider; "all the same,
we can't keep away from them," and so saying he began
to move all his legs at once in the direction of the wall.
"You can only die once," said he.
"If your wife was an ass she wouldn't eat you," said
the ass.
"She'd be doing something else then," replied the
spider, and he climbed up the wall.
The first man came back with the can of water and
they sat down on the grass and ate the cake and drank
the water. All the time the woman kept her eyes fixed
on the Philosopher.
"Mister Honey," said she, "I think you met us just
at the right moment."
The other two men sat upright and looked at each
other and then with equal intentness they looked at the
"Why do you say that?" said the Philosopher.
"We were having a great argument along the road,
and if we were to be talking from now to the dav of
doom that argument would never be finished."
"It must have been a great argument. Was it about
predestination or where consciousness comes from?"
"It was not; it was which of these two men was to
marry me."
"That's not a great argument," said the Philosopher.
"Isn't it," said the woman. "For seven days and six
nights we didn't talk about anything else, and that's a
great argument or I'd like to know what is."
"But where is the trouble, ma'am?" said the Philosopher.
"It's this," she replied, "that I can't make up my mind
which of the men I'll take, for I like one as well as the
other and better, and I'd as soon have one as the other
and rather."
"It's a hard case," said the Philosopher.
"It is," said the woman, "and I'm sick and sorry with
the trouble of it."
"And why did you say that I had come up in a good
"Because, Mister Honey, when a woman has two men
to choose from she doesn't know what to do, for two
men always become like brothers so that you wouldn't
know which of them was which: there isn't any more
difference between two men than there is between a
couple of hares. But when there's three men to choose
from, there's no trouble at all; and so I say that it's yourself
I'll marry this night and no one else--and let you
two men be sitting quiet in your places, for I'm telling
you what I'll do and that's the end of it."
"I'll give you my word," said the first man, "that I'm
just as glad as you are to have it over and done with."
"Moidered I was," said the second man, "with the
whole argument, and the this and that of it, and you not
able to say a word but--maybe I will and maybe I won't,
and this is true and that is true, and why not to me and
why not to him--I'll get a sleep this night."
The Philosopher was perplexed.
"You cannot marry me, ma'am," said he, "because
I'm married already."
The woman turned round on him angrily.
"Don't be making any argument with me now," said
she, "for I won't stand it."
The first man looked fiercely at the Philosopher, and
then motioned to his companion.
"Give that man a clout in the jaw," said he.
The second man was preparing to do this when the
woman intervened angrily.
"Keep your hands to yourself," said she, "or it'll be
the worse for you. I'm well able to take care of my
own husband," and she drew nearer and sat between the
Philosopher and the men.
At that moment the Philosopher's cake lost all its
savour, and he packed the remnant into his wallet. They
all sat silently looking at their feet and thinking each
one according to his nature. The Philosopher's mind,
which for the past day had been in eclipse, stirred faintly
to meet these new circumstances, but without much result.
There was a flutter at his heart which was terrifying,
but not unpleasant. Quickening through his apprehension
was an expectancy which stirred his pulses into
speed. So rapidly did his blood flow, so quickly were an
hundred impressions visualized and recorded, so violent
was the surface movement of his brain that he did not
realize he was unable to think and that he was only seeing
and feeling.
The first man stood up.
"The night will be coming on soon," said he, "and we
had better be walking on if we want to get a good place
to sleep. Yep, you devil," he roared at the ass, and the
ass began to move almost before he lifted his head from
the grass. The two men walked one on either side of the
cart, and the woman and the Philosopher walked behind
at the tail-board.
"If you were feeling tired, or anything like that, Mister
Honey," said the woman, "you could climb up into
the little cart, and nobody would say a word to you, for
I can see that you are not used to travelling."
"I am not indeed, ma'am," he replied; "this is the
first time I ever came on a journey, and if it wasn't for
Angus Og I wouldn't put a foot out of my own place for
"Put Angus Og out of your head, my dear," she replied,
"for what would the likes of you and me be saying
to a god. He might put a curse on us would sink us into
the ground or burn us up like a grip of straw. Be contented
now, I'm saying, for if there is a woman in the
world who knows all things I am that woman myself,
and if you tell your trouble to me I'll tell you the thing
to do just as good as Angus himself, and better perhaps."
"That is very interesting," said the Philosopher.
"What kind of things do you know best?"
"If you were to ask one of them two men walking
beside the ass they'd tell you plenty of things they saw
me do when they could do nothing themselves. When
there wasn't a road to take anywhere I showed them a
road, and when there wasn't a bit of food in the world I
gave them food, and when they were bet to the last I put
shillings in their hands, and that's the reason they wanted
to marry me."
"Do you call that kind of thing wisdom?" said the
"Why wouldn't I?" said she. "Isn't it wisdom to go
through the world without fear and not to be hungry in
a hungry hour?"
"I suppose it is," he replied, "but I never thought of
it that way myself."
"And what would you call wisdom?"
"I couldn't rightly say now," he replied, "but I think
it was not to mind about the world, and not to care
whether you were hungry or not, and not to live in the
world at all but only in your own head, for the world is
a tyrannous place. You have to raise yourself above
things instead of letting things raise themselves above
you. We must not be slaves to each other, and we must
not be slaves to our necessities either. That is the problem
of existence. There is no dignity in life at all if
hunger can shout 'stop' at every turn of the road and
the day's journey is measured by the distance between
one sleep and the next sleep. Life is all slavery, and
Nature is driving us with the whips of appetite and
weariness; but when a slave rebels he ceases to be a slave,
and when we are too hungry to live we can die and have
our laugh. I believe that Nature is just as alive as we
are, and that she is as much frightened of us as we are
of her, and, mind you this, mankind has declared war
against Nature and we will win. She does not understand
yet that her geologic periods won't do any longer,
and that while she is pattering along the line of least
resistance we are going to travel fast and far until we
find her, and then, being a female, she is bound to give
in when she is challenged."
"It's good talk," said the woman, "but it's foolishness.
Women never give in unless they get what they want,
and where's the harm to them then? You have to live
in the world, my dear, whether you like it or not, and,
believe me now, that there isn't any wisdom but to keep
clear of the hunger, for if that gets near enough it will
make a hare of you. Sure, listen to reason now like a
good man. What is Nature at all but a word that
learned men have made to talk about. There's clay and
gods and men, and they are good friends enough."
The sun had long since gone down, and the grey evening
was bowing over the land, hiding the mountain
peaks, and putting a shadow round the scattered bushes
and the wide clumps of heather.
"I know a place up here where we can stop for the
night," said she, "and there's a little shebeen round the
bend of the road where we can get anything we want."
At the word "whoh" the ass stopped and one of the
men took the harness off him. When he was unyoked the
man gave him two kicks: "Be off with you, you devil,
and see if you can get anything to eat," he roared. The
ass trotted a few paces off and searched about until he
found some grass. He ate this, and when he had eaten
as much as he wanted he returned and lay down under a
wall. He lay for a long time looking in the one direction,
and at last he put his head down and went to sleep.
While he was sleeping he kept one ear up and the other
ear down for about twenty minutes, and then he put the
first ear down and the other one up, and he kept on doing
this all the night. If he had anything to lose you
wouldn't mind him setting up sentries, but he hadn't a
thing in the world except his skin and his bones, and no
one would be bothered stealing them.
One of the men took a long bottle out of the cart and
walked up the road with it. The other man lifted out a
tin bucket which was punched all over with jagged holes.
Then he took out some sods of turf and lumps of wood
and he put these in the bucket, and in a few minutes he
had a very nice fire lit. A pot of water was put on to
boil, and the woman cut up a great lump of bacon which
she put into the pot. She had eight eggs in a place in the
cart, and a flat loaf of bread, and some cold boiled potatoes,
and she spread her apron on the ground and arranged
these things on it.
The other man came down the road again with his big
bottle filled with porter, and he put this in a safe place.
Then they emptied everything out of the cart and hoisted
it over the little wall. They turned the cart on one side
and pulled it near to the fire, and they all sat inside the
cart and ate their supper. When supper was done they
lit their pipes, and the woman lit a pipe also. The bottle
of porter was brought forward, and they took drinks
in turn out of the bottle, and smoked their pipes, and
There was no moon that night, and no stars, so that
just beyond the fire there was a thick darkness which one
would not like to look at, it was so cold and empty.
While talking they all kept their eyes fixed on the red
fire, or watched the smoke from their pipes drifting and
curling away against the blackness, and disappearing as
suddenly as lightning.
"I wonder," said the first man, "what it was gave you
the idea of marrying this man instead of myself or my
comrade, for we are young, hardy men, and he is getting
old, God help him!"
"Aye, indeed," said the second man; "he's as grey as
a badger, and there's no flesh on his bones."
"You have a right to ask that," said she, "and I'll tell
you why I didn't marry either of you. You are only a
pair of tinkers going from one place to another, and not
knowing anything at all of fine things; but himself was
walking along the road looking for strange, high adventures,
and it's a man like that a woman would be wishing
to marry if he was twice as old as he is. When did either
of you go out in the daylight looking for a god and you
not caring what might happen to you or where you
"What I'm thinking," said the second man, "is that
if you leave the gods alone they'll leave you alone. It's
no trouble to them to do whatever is right themselves,
and what call would men like us have to go mixing or
meddling with their high affairs?"
"I thought all along that you were a timid man," said
she, "and now I know it." She turned again to the Philosopher--"
Take off your boots, Mister Honey, the way
you'll rest easy, and I'll be making down a soft bed for
you in the cart."
In order to take off his boots the Philosopher had to
stand up, for in the cart they were too cramped for freedom.
He moved backwards a space from the fire and
took off his boots. He could see the woman stretching
sacks and clothes inside the cart, and the two men smoking
quietly and handing the big bottle from one to the
other. Then in his stockinged feet he stepped a little
farther from the fire, and, after another look, he turned
and walked quietly away into the blackness. In a few
minutes he heard a shout from behind him, and then a
number of shouts and then these died away into a plaintive
murmur of voices, and next he was alone in the greatest
darkness he had ever known.
He put on his boots and walked onwards. He had
no idea where the road lay, and every moment he stumbled
into a patch of heather or prickly furze. The
ground was very uneven with unexpected mounds and
deep hollows: here and there were water-soaked, soggy
places, and into these cold ruins he sank ankle deep.
There was no longer an earth or a sky, but only a black
void and a thin wind and a fierce silence which seemed to
listen to him as he went. Out of that silence a thundering
laugh might boom at an instant and stop again while
he stood appalled in the blind vacancy.
The hill began to grow more steep and rocks were lying
everywhere in his path. He could not see an inch
in front, and so he went with his hands out-stretched like
a blind man who stumbles painfully along. After a time
he was nearly worn out with cold and weariness, but he
dared not sit down anywhere; the darkness was so intense
that it frightened him, and the overwhelming,
crafty silence frightened him also.
At last, and at a great distance, he saw a flickering,
waving light, and he went towards this through drifts of
heather, and over piled rocks and sodden bogland. When
he came to the light he saw it was a torch of thick
branches, the flame whereof blew hither and thither on
the wind. The torch was fastened against a great cliff
of granite by an iron band. At one side there was a dark
opening in the rock, so he said: "I will go in there and
sleep until the morning comes," and he went in. At a
very short distance the cleft turned again to the right,
and here there was another torch fixed. When he turned
this corner he stood for an instant in speechless astonishment,
and then he covered his face and bowed down upon
the ground.
CAITILIN NI MURRACHU was sitting alone in the little
cave behind Gort na Cloca Mora. Her companion had
gone out as was his custom to walk in the sunny morning
and to sound his pipe in desolate, green spaces whence,
perhaps, the wanderer of his desire might hear the guiding
sweetness. As she sat she was thinking. The last
few days had awakened her body, and had also awakened
her mind, for with the one awakening comes the other.
The despondency which had touched her previously when
tending her father's cattle came to her again, but recognizably
now. She knew the thing which the wind had
whispered in the sloping field and for which she had no
name--it was Happiness. Faintly she shadowed it forth,
but yet she could not see it. It was only a pearl-pale
wraith, almost formless, too tenuous to be touched by her
hands, and too aloof to be spoken to. Pan had told her
that he was the giver of happiness, but he had given her
only unrest and fever and a longing which could not be
satisfied. Again there was a want, and she could not
formulate, or even realize it with any closeness. Her
new-born Thought had promised everything, even as
Pan, and it had given--she could not say that it had
given her nothing or anything. Its limits were too
quickly divinable. She had found the Tree of Knowledge,
but about on every side a great wall soared blackly
enclosing her in from the Tree of Life--a wall which
her thought was unable to surmount even while instinct
urged that it must topple before her advance; but instinct
may not advance when thought has schooled it in
the science of unbelief; and this wall will not be conquered
until Thought and Instinct are wed, and the first
son of that bridal will be called The Scaler of the Wall.
So, after the quiet weariness of ignorance, the unquiet
weariness of thought had fallen upon her. That travail
of mind which, through countless generations, has throed
to the birth of an ecstasy, the prophecy which humanity
has sworn must be fulfilled, seeing through whatever
mists and doubtings the vision of a gaiety wherein the
innocence of the morning will not any longer be strange
to our maturity.
While she was so thinking Pan returned, a little disheartened
that he had found no person to listen to his
pipings. He had been seated but a little time when suddenly,
from without, a chorus of birds burst into joyous
singing. Limpid and liquid cadenzas, mellow flutings,
and the sweet treble of infancy met and danced and
piped in the airy soundings. A round, soft tenderness of
song rose and fell, broadened and soared, and then the
high flight was snatched, eddied a moment, and was
borne away to a more slender and wonderful loftiness,
until, from afar, that thrilling song turned on the very
apex of sweetness, dipped steeply and flashed its joyous
return to the exultations of its mates below, rolling an
ecstasy of song which for one moment gladdened the
whole world and the sad people who moved thereon;
then the singing ceased as suddenly as it began, a swift
shadow darkened the passage, and Angus Og came into
the cave.
Caitilin sprang from her seat Frighted, and Pan also
made a half movement towards rising, but instantly sank
back again to his negligent, easy posture.
The god was slender and as swift as a wind. His hair
swung about his face like golden blossoms. His eyes
were mild and dancing and his lips smiled with quiet
sweetness. About his head there flew perpetually a ring
of singing birds, and when he spoke his voice came
sweetly from a centre of sweetness.
"Health to you, daughter of Murrachu," said he, and
he sat down.
"I do not know you, sir," the terrified girl whispered.
"I cannot be known until I make myself known," he
replied. "I am called Infinite Joy, O daughter of Murrachu,
and I am called Love."
The girl gazed doubtfully from one to the other.
Pan looked up from his pipes.
"I also am called Love," said he gently, "and I am
called Joy."
Angus Og looked for the first time at Pan.
"Singer of the Vine," said he, "I know your names--
they are Desire and Fever and Lust and Death. Why
have you come from your own place to spy upon my pastures
and my quiet fields?"
Pan replied mildly.
"The mortal gods move by the Immortal Will, and,
therefore, I am here."
"And I am here," said Angus.
"Give me a sign," said Pan, "that I must go."
Angus Og lifted his hand and from without there came
again the triumphant music of the birds.
"It is a sign," said he, "the voice of Dana speaking in
the air," and, saying so, he made obeisance to the great
Pan lifted his hand, and from afar there came the
lowing of the cattle and the thin voices of the goats.
"It is a sign," said he, "the voice of Demeter speaking
from the earth," and he also bowed deeply to the mother
of the world.
Again Angus Og lifted his hand, and in it there appeared
a spear, bright and very terrible.
But Pan only said, "Can a spear divine the Eternal
Will?" and Angus Og put his weapon aside, and he said:
"The girl will choose between us, for the Divine Mood
shines in the heart of man."
Then Caitilin Ni Murrachu came forward and sat between
the gods, but Pan stretched out his hand and drew
her to him, so that she sat resting against his shoulder
and his arm was about her body.
"We will speak the truth to this girl," said Angus Og.
"Can the gods speak otherwise?" said Pan, and he
laughed with delight.
"It is the difference between us," replied Angus Og.
"She will judge."
"Shepherd Girl," said Pan, pressing her with his arm,
"you will judge between us. Do you know what is the
greatest thing in the world?--because it is of that you
will have to judge."
"I have heard," the girl replied, "two things called
the greatest things. You," she continued to Pan, "said
it was Hunger, and long ago my father said that Commonsense
was the greatest thing in the world."
"I have not told you," said Angus Og, "what I consider
is the greatest thing in the world."
"It is your right to speak," said Pan.
"The greatest thing in the world," said Angus Og, "is
the Divine Imagination."
"Now," said Pan, "we know all the greatest things
and we can talk of them."
"The daughter of Murrachu," continued Angus Og,
"has told us what you think and what her father thinks,
but she has not told us what she thinks herself. Tell us,
Caitilin Ni Murrachu, what you think is the greatest
thing in the world."
So Caitilin Ni Murrachu thought for a few moments
and then replied timidly.
"I think that Happiness is the greatest thing in the
world," said she.
Hearing this they sat in silence for a little time, and
then Angus Og spoke again-
"The Divine Imagination may only be known through
the thoughts of His creatures. A man has said Commonsense
and a woman has said Happiness are the greatest
things in the world. These things are male and female,
for Commonsense is Thought and Happiness is Emotion,
and until they embrace in Love the will of Immensity
cannot be fruitful. For, behold, there has been no marriage
of humanity since time began. Men have but
coupled with their own shadows. The desire that sprang
from their heads they pursued, and no man has yet
known the love of a woman. And women have mated
with the shadows of their own hearts, thinking fondly
that the arms of men were about them. I saw my son
dancing with an Idea, and I said to him, 'With what do
you dance, my son?' and he replied, 'I make merry with
the wife of my affection,' and truly she was shaped as a
woman is shaped, but it was an Idea he danced with and
not a woman. And presently he went away to his labours,
and then his Idea arose and her humanity came upon her
so that she was clothed with beauty and terror, and she
went apart and danced with the servant of my son, and
there was great joy of that dancing--for a person in the
wrong place is an Idea and not a person. Man is
Thought and woman is Intuition, and they have never
mated. There is a gulf between them and it is called
Fear, and what they fear is, that their strengths shall be
taken from them and they may no longer be tyrants. The
Eternal has made love blind, for it is not by science, but
by intuition alone, that he may come to his beloved; but
desire, which is science, has many eyes and sees so vastly
that he passes his love in the press, saying there is no
love, and he propagates miserably on his own delusions.
The finger-tips are guided by God, but the devil looks
through the eyes of all creatures so that they may wander
in the errors of reason and justify themselves of
their wanderings. The desire of a man shall be Beauty,
but he has fashioned a slave in his mind and called it
Virtue. The desire of a woman shall be Wisdom, but she
has formed a beast in her blood and called it Courage:
but the real virtue is courage, and the real courage is
liberty, and the real liberty is wisdom, and Wisdom is
the son of Thought and Intuition; and his names also are
Innocence and Adoration and Happiness."
When Angus Og had said these words he ceased, and
for a time there was silence in the little cave. Caitilin
had covered her face with her hands and would not look
at him, but Pan drew the girl closer to his side and peered
sideways, laughing at Angus.
"Has the time yet come for the girl to judge between
us?" said he.
"Daughter of Murrachu," said Angus Og, "will you
come away with me from this place?"
Caitilin then looked at the god in great distress.
"I do not know what to do," said she. "Why do you
both want me? I have given myself to Pan, and his
arms are about me."
"I want you," said Angus Og, "because the world has
forgotten me. In all my nation there is no remembrance
of me. I, wandering on the hills of my country, am
lonely indeed. I am the desolate god forbidden to utter
my happy laughter. I hide the silver of my speech and
the gold of my merriment. I live in the holes of the
rocks and the dark caves of the sea. I weep in the morning
because I may not laugh, and in the evening I go
abroad and am not happy. Where I have kissed a bird
has flown; where I have trod a flower has sprung. But
Thought has snared my birds in his nets and sold them
in the market-places. Who will deliver me from
Thought, from the base holiness of Intellect, the maker
of chains and traps? Who will save me from the holy
impurity of Emotion, whose daughters are Envy and
Jealousy and Hatred, who plucks my flowers to ornament
her lusts and my little leaves to shrivel on the
breasts of infamy? Lo, I am sealed in the caves of nonentity
until the head and the heart shall come together
in fruitfulness, until Thought has wept for Love, and
Emotion has purified herself to meet her lover. Tir-nanOg
is the heart of a man and the head of a woman.
Widely they are separated. Self-centred they stand, and
between them the seas of space are flooding desolately.
No voice can shout across those shores. No eye can
bridge them, nor any desire bring them together until the
blind god shall find them on the wavering stream--not
as an arrow searches straightly from a bow, but gently,
imperceptibly as a feather on the wind reaches the ground
on a hundred starts; not with the compass and the chart,
but by the breath of the Almighty which blows from all
quarters without care and without ceasing. Night and
day it urges from the outside to the inside. It gathers
ever to the centre. From the far without to the deep
within, trembling from the body to the soul until the
head of a woman and the heart of a man are filled with
the Divine Imagination. Hymen, Hymenaea! I sing
to the ears that are stopped, the eyes that are sealed, and
the minds that do not labour. Sweetly I sing on the hillside.
The blind shall look within and not without; the
deaf shall hearken to the murmur of their own veins, and
be enchanted with the wisdom of sweetness; the thoughtless
shall think without effort as the lightning flashes,
that the hand of Innocence may reach to the stars, that
the feet of Adoration may dance to the Father of Joy,
and the laugh of Happiness be answered by the Voice of
Thus Angus Og sang in the cave, and ere he had
ceased Caitilin Ni Murrachu withdrew herself from the
arms of her desires. But so strong was the hold of Pan
upon her that when she was free her body bore the marks
of his grip, and many days passed away before these
marks faded.
Then Pan arose in silence, taking his double reed in
his hand, and the girl wept, beseeching him to stay to be
her brother and the brother of her beloved, but Pan
smiled and said: "Your beloved is my father and my son.
He is yesterday and to-morrow. He is the nether and
the upper millstone, and I am crushed between until I
kneel again before the throne from whence I came," and,
saying so, he embraced Angus Og most tenderly and went
his way to the quiet fields, and across the slopes of the
mountains, and beyond the blue distances of space.
And in a little time Caitilin Ni Murrachu went with
her companion across the brow of the hill, and she did
not go with him because she had understood his words,
nor because he was naked and unashamed, but only because
his need of her was very great, and, therefore, she
loved him, and stayed his feet in the way, and was concerned
lest he should stumble.
WHICH is, the Earth or the creatures that move upon it,
the more important? This is a question prompted solely
by intellectual arrogance, for in life there is no greater
and no less. The thing that is has justified its own importance
by mere existence, for that is the great and
equal achievement. If life were arranged for us from
without such a question of supremacy would assume importance,
but life is always from within, and is modified
or extended by our own appetites, aspirations, and central
activities. From without we get pollen and the refreshment
of space and quietude--it is sufficient. We
might ask, is the Earth anything more than an extension
of our human consciousness, or are we, moving creatures,
only projections of the Earth's antennae? But these matters
have no value save as a field wherein Thought, like
a wise lamb, may frolic merrily. And all would be very
well if Thought would but continue to frolic, instead of
setting up first as locum tenens for Intuition and sticking
to the job, and afterwards as the counsel and critic of
Omnipotence. Everything has two names, and everything
is twofold. The name of male Thought as it faces
the world is Philosophy, but the name it bears in Tirna-
nOg is Delusion. Female Thought is called Socialism
on earth, but in Eternity it is known as Illusion; and this
is so because there has been no matrimony of minds, but
only an hermaphroditic propagation of automatic ideas,
which in their due rotation assume dominance and reign
severely. To the world this system of thought, because
it is consecutive, is known as Logic, but Eternity has written
it down in the Book of Errors as Mechanism: for life
may not be consecutive, but explosive and variable, else
it is a shackled and timorous slave.
One of the great troubles of life is that Reason has
taken charge of the administration of Justice, and by
mere identification it has achieved the crown and sceptre
of its master. But the imperceptible usurpation was recorded,
and discriminating minds understand the chasm
which still divides the pretender Law from the exiled
King. In a like manner, and with feigned humility, the
Cold Demon advanced to serve Religion, and by guile
and violence usurped her throne; but the pure in heart
still fly from the spectre Theology to dance in ecstasy
before the starry and eternal goddess. Statecraft, also,
that tender Shepherd of the Flocks, has been despoiled
of his crook and bell, and wanders in unknown desolation
while, beneath the banner of Politics, Reason sits howling
over an intellectual chaos.
Justice is the maintaining of equilibrium. The blood
of Cain must cry, not from the lips of the Avenger, but
from the aggrieved Earth herself who demands that
atonement shall be made for a disturbance of her consciousness.
All justice is, therefore, readjustment. A
thwarted consciousness has every right to clamour for
assistance, but not for punishment. This latter can only
be sought by timorous and egotistic Intellect, which sees
the Earth from which it has emerged and into which it
must return again in its own despite, and so, being selfcentred
and envious and a renegade from life, Reason is
more cruelly unjust, and more timorous than any other
manifestation of the divinely erratic energy--erratic, because,
as has been said, "the crooked roads are the roads
of genius." Nature grants to all her creatures an unrestricted
liberty, quickened by competitive appetite, to
succeed or to fail; save only to Reason, her Demon of
Order, which can do neither, and whose wings she has
clipped for some reason with which I am not yet acquainted.
It may be that an unrestricted mentality would
endanger her own intuitive perceptions by shackling all
her other organs of perception, or annoy her by vexatious
efforts at creative rivalry.
It will, therefore, be understood that when the Leprecauns
of Gort na Cloca Mora acted in the manner about
to be recorded, they were not prompted by any lewd
passion for revenge, but were merely striving to reconstruct
a rhythm which was their very existence, and which
must have been of direct importance to the Earth. Revenge
is the vilest passion known to life. It has made
Law possible, and by doing so it gave to Intellect the first
grip at that universal dominion which is its ambition. A
Leprecaun is of more value to the Earth than is a Prime
Minister or a stockbroker, because a Leprecaun dances
and makes merry, while a Prime Minister knows nothing
of these natural virtues--consequently, an injury done
to a Leprecaun afflicts the Earth with misery, and justice
is, for these reasons, an imperative and momentous necessity.
A community of Leprecauns without a crock of gold
is a blighted and merriless community, and they are certainly
justified in seeking sympathy and assistance for the
recovery of so essential a treasure. But the steps
whereby the Leprecauns of Gort na Cloca Mora sought
to regain their property must for ever brand their
memory with a certain odium. It should be remembered
in their favour that they were cunningly and cruelly encompassed.
Not only was their gold stolen, but it was
buried in such a position as placed it under the protection
of their own communal honour, and the household of
their enemy was secured against their active and righteous
malice, because the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath belonged
to the most powerful Shee of Ireland. It is in
circumstances such as these that dangerous alliances are
made, and, for the first time in history, the elemental
beings invoked bourgeois assistance.
They were loath to do it, and justice must record the
fact. They were angry when they did it, and anger is
both mental and intuitive blindness. It is not the beneficent
blindness which prevents one from seeing without,
but it is that desperate darkness which cloaks the within,
and hides the heart and the brain from each other's
husbandry and wifely recognition. But even those mitigating
circumstances cannot justify the course they
adopted, and the wider idea must be sought for, that out
of evil good must ultimately come, or else evil is vitiated
beyond even the redemption of usage. When they were
able to realize of what they had been guilty, they were
very sorry indeed, and endeavoured to publish their repentance
in many ways; but, lacking atonement, repentance
is only a post-mortem virtue which is good for nothing
but burial.
When the Leprecauns of Gort na Cloca Mora found
they were unable to regain their crock of gold by any
means they laid an anonymous information at the nearest
Police Station showing that two dead bodies would be
found under the hearthstone in the hut of Coille Doraca,
and the inference to be drawn from their crafty missive
was that these bodies had been murdered by the Philosopher
for reasons very discreditable to him.
The Philosopher had been scarcely more than three
hours on his journey to Angus Og when four policemen
approached the little house from as many different directions,
and without any trouble they effected an entrance.
The Thin Woman of Inis Magrath and the two children
heard from afar their badly muffled advance, and on discovering
the character of their visitors they concealed
themselves among the thickly clustering trees. Shortly
after the men had entered the hut loud and sustained
noises began to issue therefrom, and in about twenty
minutes the invaders emerged again bearing the bodies
of the Grey Woman of Dun Gortin and her husband.
They wrenched the door off its hinges, and, placing the
bodies on the door, proceeded at a rapid pace through
the trees and disappeared in a short time. When they
had departed the Thin Woman and the children returned
to their home and over the yawning hearth the
Thin Woman pronounced a long and fervid malediction
wherein policemen were exhibited naked before the
blushes of Eternity. . .
With your good-will let us now return to the Philosopher.
Following his interview with Angus Og the Philosopher
received the blessing of the god and returned on his
homeward journey. When he left the cave he had no
knowledge where he was nor whether he should turn to
the right hand or to the left. This alone was his guiding
idea, that as he had come up the mountain on his first
journey his home-going must, by mere opposition, be
down the mountain, and, accordingly, he set his face
downhill and trod lustily forward. He had stamped up
the hill with vigour, he strode down it in ecstasy. He
tossed his voice on every wind that went by. From tne
wells of forgetfulness he regained the shining words and
gay melodies which his childhood had delighted in, and
these he sang loudly and unceasingly as he marched.
The sun had not yet risen but, far away, a quiet brightness
was creeping over the sky. The daylight, however,
was near the full, one slender veil only remaining of the
shadows, and a calm, unmoving quietude brooded from
the grey sky to the whispering earth. The birds had
begun to bestir themselves but not to sing. Now and
again a solitary wing feathered the chill air; but for the
most part the birds huddled closer in the swinging nests,
or under the bracken, or in the tufty grass. Here a faint
twitter was heard and ceased. A little farther a drowsy
voice called "cheep-cheep" and turned again to the
warmth of its wing. The very grasshoppers were silent.
The creatures who range in the night time had returned
to their cells and were setting their households in order,
and those who belonged to the day hugged their comfort
for but one minute longer. Then the first level beam
stepped like a mild angel to the mountain top. The
slender radiance brightened and grew strong. The grey
veil faded away. The birds leaped from their nests.
The grasshoppers awakened and were busy at a stroke.
Voice called to voice without ceasing, and, momently, a
song thrilled for a few wide seconds. But for the most
part it was chatter-chatter they went as they soared and
plunged and swept, each bird eager for its breakfast.
The Philosopher thrust his hand into his wallet and
found there the last broken remnants of his cake, and the
instant his hand touched the food he was seized by a
hunger so furious that he sat down where he stopped and
prepared to eat.
The place where he sat was a raised bank under a
hedge, and this place directly fronted a clumsy wooden
gate leading into a great field. When the Philosopher
had seated himself he raised his eyes and saw through
the gate a small company approaching. There were four
men and three women, and each of them carried a metal
pail. The Philosopher with a sigh returned the cake to
his wallet, saying:
"All men are brothers, and it may be that these people
are as hungry as I am."
In a short time the strangers came near. The foremost
of them was a huge man who was bearded to the
eyelids and who moved like a strong wind. He opened
the gate by removing a piece of wood wherewith it was
jammed, and he and his companions passed through,
whereupon he closed the gate and secured it. To this
man, as being the eldest, the Philosopher approached.
"I am about to breakfast," said he, "and if you are
hungry perhaps you would like to eat with me."
"Why not," said the man, "for the person who would
refuse a kind invitation is a dog. These are my three
sons and three of my daughters, and we are all thankful
to you."
Saying this he sat down on the bank and his companions,
placing their pails behind them, did likewise.
The Philosopher divided his cake into eight pieces and
gave one to each person.
"I am sorry it is so little," said he.
"A gift," said the bearded man, "is never little," and
he courteously ate his piece in three bites although he
could have easily eaten it in one, and his children also.
"That was a good, satisfying cake," said he when he
had finished; "it was well baked and well shared, but," he
continued, "I am in a difficulty and maybe you could advise
me what to do, sir?"
"What might be your trouble?" said the Philosopher.
"It is this," said the man. "Every morning when we
go out to milk the cows the mother of my clann gives to
each of us a parcel of food so that we need not be any
hungrier than we like; but now we have had a good
breakfast with you, what shall we do with the food that
we brought with us? The woman of the house would
not be pleased if we carried it back to her, and if we
threw food away it would be a sin. If it was not disrespectful
to your breakfast the boys and girls here might
be able to get rid of it by eating it, for, as you know,
young people can always eat a bit more, no matter how
much they have already eaten."
"It would surely be better to eat it than to waste it,"
said the Philosopher wistfully.
The young people produced large parcels of food from
their pockets and opened them, and the bearded man
said, "I have a little one myself also, and it would not
be wasted if you were kind enough to help me to eat it,"
and he pulled out his parcel, which was twice as big as
any of the others.
He opened the parcel and handed the larger part of
its contents to the Philosopher; he then plunged a tin
vessel into one of the milk pails and set this also by the
Philosopher, and, instantly, they all began to eat with
furious appetite.
When the meal was finished the Philosopher filled his
tobacco pipe and the bearded man and his three sons did
"Sir," said the bearded man, "I would be glad to
know why you are travelling abroad so early in the morning,
for, at this hour, no one stirs but the sun and the
birds and the folk who, like ourselves, follow the cattle?"
"I will tell you that gladly," said the Philosopher, "if
you will tell me your name."
"My name," said the bearded man, "is Mac Cul."
"Last night," said the Philosopher, "when I came
from the house of Angus Og in the Caves of the Sleepers
of Erinn I was bidden say to a man named Mac Cul--
that the horses had trampled in their sleep and the
sleepers had turned on their sides."
"Sir," said the bearded man, "your words thrill in my
heart like music, but my head does not understand them."
"I have learned," said the Philosopher, "that the head
does not hear anything until the heart has listened, and
that what the heart knows to-day the head will understand
"All the birds of the world are singing in my soul,"
said the bearded man, "and I bless you because you have
filled me with hope and pride."
So the Philosopher shook him by the hand, and he
shook the hands of his sons and daughters who bowed
before him at the mild command of their father, and
when he had gone a little way he looked around again
and he saw that group of people standing where he had
left them, and the bearded man was embracing his children
on the highroad.
A bend in the path soon shut them from view, and
then the Philosopher, fortified by food and the freshness
of the morning, strode onwards singing for very
joy. It was still early, but now the birds had eaten their
breakfasts and were devoting themselves to each other.
They rested side by side on the branches of the trees and
on the hedges, they danced in the air in happy brotherhoods
and they sang to one another amiable and pleasant
When the Philosopher had walked for a long time he
felt a little weary and sat down to refresh himself in the
shadow of a great tree. Hard by there was a house of
rugged stone. Long years ago it had been a castle, and,
even now, though patched by time and misfortune its
front was warlike and frowning. While he sat a young
woman came along the road and stood gazing earnestly
at this house. Her hair was as black as night and as
smooth as still water, but her face came so stormily forward
that her quiet attitude had yet no quietness in it.
To her, after a few moments, the Philosopher spoke.
"Girl," said he, "why do you look so earnestly at the
The girl turned her pale face and stared at him.
"I did not notice you sitting under the tree," said she,
and she came slowly forward.
"Sit down by me," said the Philosopher, "and we will
talk. If you are in any trouble tell it to me, and perhaps
you will talk the heaviest part away."
"I will sit beside you willingly," said the girl, and she
did so.
"It is good to talk trouble over," he continued. "Do
you know that talk is a real thing? There is more power
in speech than many people conceive. Thoughts come
from God, they are born through the marriage of the
head and the lungs. The head moulds the thought into
the form of words, then it is borne and sounded on the
air which has been already in the secret kingdoms of the
body, which goes in bearing life and come out freighted
with wisdom. For this reason a lie is very terrible, because
it is turning mighty and incomprehensible things to
base uses, and is burdening the life-giving element with
a foul return for its goodness; but those who speak the
truth and whose words are the symbols of wisdom and
beauty, these purify the whole world and daunt contagion.
The only trouble the body can know is disease.
All other miseries come from the brain, and, as these belong
to thought, they can be driven out by their master
as unruly and unpleasant vagabonds; for a mental trouble
should be spoken to, confronted, reprimanded and so
dismissed. The brain cannot afford to harbour any but
pleasant and eager citizens who will do their part in
making laughter and holiness for the world, for that is
the duty of thought."
While the Philosopher spoke the girl had been regarding
him steadfastly.
"Sir," said she, "we tell our hearts to a young man
and our heads to an old man, and when the heart is a
fool the head is bound to be a liar. I can tell you the
things I know, but how will I tell you the things I feel
when I myself do not understand them? If I say these
words to you 'I love a man' I do not say anything at all,
and you do not hear one of the words which my heart
is repeating over and over to itself in the silence of my
body. Young people are fools in their heads and old
people are fools in their hearts, and they can only look
at each other and pass by in wonder."
"You are wrong," said the Philosopher. "An old
person can take your hand like this and say, 'May every
good thing come to you, my daughter.' For all trouble
there is sympathy, and for love there is memory, and
these are the head and the heart talking to each other in
quiet friendship. What the heart knows to-day the head
will understand to-morrow, and as the head must be the
scholar of the heart it is necessary that our hearts be
purified and free from every false thing, else we are
tainted beyond personal redemption."
"Sir," said the girl, "I know of two great follies--
they are love and speech, for when these are given they
can never be taken back again, and the person to whom
these are given is not any richer, but the giver is made
poor and abashed. I gave my love to a man who did not
want it. I told him of my love, and he lifted his eyelids
at me; that is my trouble."
For a moment the Philosopher sat in stricken silence
looking on the ground. He had a strange disinclination
to look at the girl although he felt her eyes fixed steadily
on him. But in a little while he did look at her and spoke
"To carry gifts to an ungrateful person cannot be
justified and need not be mourned for. If your love is
noble why do you treat it meanly? If it is lewd the man
was right to reject it."
"We love as the wind blows," she replied.
"There is a thing," said the Philosopher, "and it is
both the biggest and the littlest thing in the world."
"What is that?" said the girl.
"It is pride," he answered. "It lives in an empty
house. The head which has never been visited by the
heart is the house pride lives in. You are in error, my
dear, and not in love. Drive out the knave pride, put a
flower in your hair and walk freely again."
The girl laughed, and suddenly her pale face became
rosy as the dawn and as radiant and lovely as a cloud.
She shed warmth and beauty about her as she leaned forward.
"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
at him."
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 roadway.
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 friendship."
And, so saying, he threw himself down on the
"Do you work in that big house?" said the Philosopher.
"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 unpleasant
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
from, sir?"
"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 trailing
bushes and stretched away in mounds and hummocks
beyond the far horizon. There was a deep silence everywhere,
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 creeping
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 direction.
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 Philosopher.
"Because," he replied, "I am bringing you your dinner.
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 anxiously.
"I have," said the boy: "I ate my own dinner at home,
and I put your dinner in my pocket. I thought," he explained,
"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
and cheese.
"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
leaped away.
In a few moments he came back holding his cap tenderly,
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 pleasant,
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 yonder
that floats over our cottage."
The Philosopher looked but could see nothing.
"My eyes are not as good as yours are," said he, "because
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, laughing,
"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 Philosopher,
"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 Philosopher.
"For no reason at all," said the boy.
"That," said the Philosopher triumphantly, "is the difference
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 message.
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 meanings
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 descended.
The Thin Woman of Inis Magrath met him as he
entered, and was about to speak harshly of his long absence,
but the Philosopher kissed her with such unaccustomed
tenderness, and spoke so mildly to her, that,
first, astonishment enchained her tongue, and then delight
set it free in a direction to which it had long been
a stranger.
"Wife," said the Philosopher, "I cannot say how joyful
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 proclaimed
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
was angry.
"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 speaking,
but during this brief stoppage his scattered wits began
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 unable
to conceive why they should arrest him for murder
when he had not committed any; and, following this, he
became indignant.
"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 without
as much as a mark on their skins or a broken tooth
"Who are you talking about?" the Philosopher demanded.
"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 animal,
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 somewhere,
so step it out. Have you got a good hold of that
man, Shawn?"
"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
a little.
"You have only let out half of it," replied the Philosopher.
"That's better now," he continued, and they
resumed their journey.
After a few minutes of silence the Philosopher began
to speak.
"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 extraordinary
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 exceeding
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 republic--"
"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 individua1
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 national
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 condition
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 copper
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 sergeant.
"Monkeys are gregarious and thievish and semi-human.
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 thieftakers,
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 darkness.
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 seconds
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
peered out-
"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
a sigh.
"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 something
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 continued,
"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 darkness?"
"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 darling."
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 astonishing
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 observed
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 received
high recommendations in this respect, but crocodiles,
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 intelligent
ones, and, perhaps, have opened to us a correspondence
which could not have been other than beneficial."
"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 always
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 information
which millions of years will not render accessible
to us; who that has seen a spider weaving his labyrinth,
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 profoundest
"Shawn," said the sergeant, "say something for goodness'
sake to take the sound of that man's clack out of
my ear."
"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 myself
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 hundred
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 enthusiasm.
"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 ferociously
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
of it!"
"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
bent forward.
"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 yourself,
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 reluctant
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
it myself."
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
on that."
The sergeant struck the match, shading it for a moment
with his hand, then he turned it on their new prisoner.
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, shouting
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 Leprecaun.
"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
like automata.
"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 murderer
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
you hurted?"
"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 whisper--"
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
me now--!"
"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, marching
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 beyond
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 Philosopher
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 Leprecauns.
"Let us sit down here and talk about what should
be done."
"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 circuit
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
my shawl--"
"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 punishment
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 always
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
got at."
"I would like to dance, indeed," returned the Philosopher,
"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
of it?"
"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 arrested
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 Ireland
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 captured
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 Philosopher,
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 backyard
and informed he could walk about there and that
he might smoke until he was black in the face. The policemen
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 nasturtiums,
and on this plant, in despite of every discouragement,
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 together
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 wonderfully
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 admitted
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 Philosopher
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 unwavering
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 melancholy
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 Philosopher
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 compelled
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?"
said he.
He strove desperately to regain his intellectual freedom,
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 captured,
and he knew he was, indeed, in gaol.
It was with a great start that he heard a voice speaking
from the silence--a harsh, yet cultivated voice, but
he could not imagine which of his companions was speaking.
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 selfpity
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 educated,
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 surprising,
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 individuality,
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 mesmerized,
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 himself
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 scattering
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 minutes,
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 furniture,
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 frightened.
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 knowledge
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 children
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 middleaged,
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 people
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 evening
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 terrified
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, warehouses,
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 advance.
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
he spoke-
"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 everywhere.
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
the silence-
"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 worried
for the rest of the day. Her face was as bright as
a sunbeam, and her lazy, careless ways, big, free movements,
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 whatever
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
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 something
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 ordinary
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 explained
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 spaciousness:
I did not analyse it; but I know now that it
was her youth. I remember that when we were out together
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 account
of advancing age, and it hoped for my future welfare
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 looking
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 faintness
awakened me to myself. I did not allow my mind
to think, but now and again a word swooped from immense
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 impact,
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 something
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 wisdom
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 redemption
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 forgiving
the individuals who had but acted in obedience to
the pressure of their infernal environment, which pressure
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 occurrence.
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 captivity.
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 lightningflash.
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 carried
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 separated
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 became
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 hidden
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, letting
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 virtue,
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 punishment;
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 children
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 subject;
for, as she said, the things which a boy must learn
are not those which are necessary to a girl. It is particularly
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 attention.
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 between
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 battle
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 infected
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 being
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 husbands
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 became
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 thinking
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 angrily,
"for a more bad-natured, cross-grained, cantankerous
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, children,
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 behind
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 commands.
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 another
so easily that at no moment were they unoccupied.
But as the day wore on to evening the immense surrounding
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 comfort
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 benignantly
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 yourself."
"We all have our troubles," said the fly in a melancholy
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 suppose
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 admitted
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 infrequent
stars could also be seen with spacious, dark solitudes
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 ancestors
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 expelled
from the sweet dawn, and therefore their midnight
revels are only ceremonies to remind them of their
happy state in the morning of the world before thoughtful
curiosity and self-righteous moralities drove them
from the kind face of the sun to the dark exile of midnight.
It is strange that we may not be angry while
looking on the moon. Indeed, no mere appetite or passion
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 something
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 perfect,
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 loveliness
which is modesty and righteousness. Every extreme
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 children
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 observed
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 perturbation
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 wonderment.
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 protruding
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 abasement
of which humanity is capable came upon her: a
fascination which would have drawn her to him in screaming
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, therefore
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 manifestation
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, terrified
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 always
you will choose your own paths and walk with me
in freedom and contentment and beauty."
"All things," said the Thin Woman, "must act according
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 children.
Come then to me who gives protection and happiness
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 repulsion
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 itself.
"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, saying-
"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 torments
of the mind may not be renounced for any easement
of the body until the smoke that blinds us is blown
away, and the tormenting flame has fitted us for that immortal
ecstasy which is the bosom of God. Nor is it
lawful that ye great ones should beset the path of travellers,
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 forward
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 freewill
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 Angus
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 mdividual
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 Happiness,
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 enjoyment.
This cannot be until there are no more fools living,
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 today."
"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 sparkling
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 messengers
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 descended
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, Tinnel
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 multitude,
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, following
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 morning,
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 everlasting.
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 selfhood.
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 distance,
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 everywhere;
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 companionably
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 bewildered
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 lowliness
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! Believe
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 enchanted
thee? . . . Come away! for the dance has begun
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 sidewards.
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 people
of the Fomor . . . and then they returned again,
dancing and singing, to the country of the gods....

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