Darby O'Gill and the Good People/The Adventures of King Brian Connors/Chapter 2
THE COUPLE WITHOUT CHILDHER
Five miles down the road from Kilmartin churchyard, and thin two miles across, lived Barney Casey with Judy, his wife—known far and wide as the Couple without Childher.
Some foolish people whuspered that this lack of family was a punishment for an ould saycret crime. But that saying was nonsense, for an honester couple the sun didn't shine on. It was only a pinance sint from Heaven as any other pinance is sint; 'twas—like poverty, sickness, or as being born a Connaught man—just to keep them humble-hearted.
But, oh, it was the sore pinance!
Many an envious look they gave their neighbour, Tom Mulligan, the one-legged ballad-maker, who lived half a mile up the road, for, twelve purty, red-haired innocents sported and fought before Tom's door. The couple took to going through the fields to avoid passing the house, for the sight of the childher gave them the heartache.
By-and-by the two began conniving how on-beknownst they might buy a child, or beg or even steal one—they were that lonesome-hearted.
Howsumever, the plan at last they settled on was for Judy to slip away to a far part—Mayo, I think—where she would go through the alms-houses till she found a gossoon that suited her. And they had the cute plan laid by which it was to pass before the neighbours as their own—a Casey of the Caseys. "Lave it to me, Barney darling," said Judy, with tears in her eyes, "and if the neighbours wondher where I am, tell them I've gone to spind a few months with my ould mother," says she.
Well, Judy stole off sly enough, and 'twas well intil the cowld weather when Barney got word that she had found a parfect angel, that it was the picture of himself, and that she would be home in a few days.
With a mind like thistle-down he ran to Father Scanlan to arrange for the christening. On his way to the priest's house he inwited the first woman he met, Ann Mulligan, the ballad-maker's wife, to be godmother; he picked bashful Ted Murphy, the bachelor, to be godfather; and on his way home he was that excited and elayted that he also inwited big Mrs. Brophy, the proud woman, to be the boy's god-mother, forgetting altogether there was sich a parson in the world as Ann Mulligan. The next day the neighbours made ready a great bonfire to celebrayte the dispositious occasion.
But ochone! Midnight before the day of the christening poor Judy came home with empty arms and a breaking heart. The little lad had died suddenly and was buried. Maybe the Good People had taken him—'twas hard to tell which.
Tare and ages, there was the throuble! For two hours the couple sat in their desolate kitchen houlding hands and crying and bawling together till Barney could stand it no longer. Snatching his caubeen, he fled from the coming disgrace and eggsposure out into the fields, where he wandhered aimless till after dawn, stamping his feet at times and wagging his head, or shaking his fist at the stars.
At that same unlucky hour who should be joulting in their cart along the high-road, two miles across, on their way home from Kilmartin churchyard, but our three hayroes, Maureen, the King, and Darby O'Gill!
Their ould white horse bobbed up and down through the sticky morning fog, Darby and Maureen shivering on the front sate. The Ruler of the Fairies, Maureen's shawl folded about him, was lying cuddled below in the sthraw. When they saw anyone coming, the fairy-chief would climb into Maureen's lap, and she'd hould him as though he were a baby.
Small blame to him to be sour and sullen!
"Here I am," he says to himself, "his Majesty, Brian Connors, King of all the Good People in Ireland, the Master of the Night Time, and having been King for more than five thousand years, with more power after sunset than the Emperor of Greeze or the Grand Turkey of barbayrious parts—here am I," he says, "disguised as a baby, wrapped in a woman's shawl, and depending for my safety on two simple counthry people—" Then he groaned aloud, "Bad luck to the day I first saw the omadhaun!"
Those were the first words he spoke. But it wasn't in the little man to stay long ill-natured. At the first shebeen house that they found open Maureen bought for him a bottle of spirits, and this cheered him greatly. The first dhrink warmed him, the second softened him, the third put a chune to the ind of his tongue, and by the time they raiched Tom Grogan's public-house, which was straight two miles across from Barney Casey's, the liquor set him singing like a nightingale.
Maureen and Darby slipped into Grogan's for a bit of warmth and a mouthful to ate, laving the Master of Sleive-na-mon well wrapped up at the bottom of the cart—his head on a sack of oats and his feet against the cart-side—and as I said, him singing.
He had the finest, liftenest way for a ballad you ever heard! At the end of every verse he eleywated the last word and hildt it high, and put a lonesome wobble into his woice that would make you cry.
Peggy Collins, the tall, thieving ould beggar-woman who used to wear the dirty red cloak, an' looked like a sojer in it, was sleeping inside the hedge as the cart came along; but when it stopped she peeped out to see who had the good song with him.
When she saw it was an infant not much longer than your two hands, "God presarve us and save us!" she gasped, and began to say her prayers. The King went on singing, clear and doleful and beautiful, the ballad of Donnelly and Cooper.
"Come all ye thrue-born Irishmen wherever you may be,
1 hope you'll pay attintion and listen unto me-e-e,
And if you'll pay attintion the truth I will declare
How Donnelly fought Cooper on the Curraah of Kildare"
Prayers were never from Peggy's heart, so as she listened to the enthrancing song she turned from praying to plotting.
"If I had that child," she says, "I could go from fair to fair and from pathron to pathron, and his singing'd fill my apron with silver."
The King turned to another ditty, and you'd think he was a thrush.
"They'll kiss you, they'll car-r-ress you," he sang.
"They'll spind your money free,
But of all the towns in Ire-eland Kilkenny for me-e-e-e."
The gray-haired ould rascal, Peggy, by this was creeping ever and ever till she raiched the cart. Up then she popped, and the first thing me poor Captain knew the shawl was slapped fast on his face, and two long, thin arms were dragging him out over the wheel. He thried to cry out, but the shawl choked him, and scrambling and kicking did him no good.
Over the nearest stile bounced Peggy, and into the nearest field she flew, her petticoat lifted, her white hair streaming, and her red cloak fluttering behind. She crunched the chief man of the fairies undher her left elbow, his head hanging behind, with as little riverence as if, saving your presence, he were a sthray gander.
Well, your honour, Peggy ran till there wasn't a breath in her before she slowed down to a walk, and then she flung the King over her right chowldher, his face on her back in that way some careless women carry childher. This set his head free.
When he saw who it was had stolen him, oh, but he was vexed; for all that he didn't say a word as they went, but lay there on her collar-bone, bobbing up and down, blinking his eyes, and thinking what he should do to her. At last he quietly raiched over with his teeth and took a bite at the back of her neck that she felt to her toes. Wow! Your honour should have heard the screech Peggy let out of her!
Well, as she gave that screech she gave a jerk at the King's legs, pulling him down. As he flopped intil her arms he took a wisp of her hair with him. For a second's time the spiteful little eyes in the ould weazened face, looking up at her own from undher the goold crown, froze her stiff with terror, and then, giving a yell that was ten times louder than the first screech, she flung his Majesty from her down upon the hard ground. Leaping a ditch, she went galloping wildly across the meadow. The King fell flat on his back with an unraysonable joult.
That wasn't the worst of his bad luck. If Peggy had dhropped him at any other place in the field he might have crawled off into the ditch and hid till sunset, but oh, asthore, there not ten rods away, with eyes bulging and mouth gaping, stood Barney Casey, the Man without Childher!
Barney looked from the little bundle on the ground to Peggy as she went skimming, like a big red bird, over the low-lying morning fog. Through his surprise a foine hope slowly dawned for him.
He said: "Good fortune folly you, and my blessing rest on you wherever you go, Peggy Bawn, for the throuble you've lifted this day; you've given me a Moses in the bull rushers or a Pharyoah's daughter, but I disremember which, God forgive me for forgetting my rayligion!"
He stood for a minute slyly looking to the north, and the south and the ayst and the west. But what he saw, when he turned to look again for the baby, would have made any other man than one in Barney Casey's mind say his prayers and go on his way.
The baby was gone, but in its place was a little ould man with a goold crown on his head, a silver-covered noggin in his hand, and the most vexed expression in the world on his face, and he thrailing a shawl and throtting toward the ditch.
'Twas a hard fall for the Man without Childher, and hard he took it.
When Barney was done with bad langwidge, he says: "A second ago, me ould lad, you were, or you purtended to be, an innocent child. Well, then, you'll turn back again every hair and every look of you; you'll be a smiling, harmless, purty baby agin, or I'll know the rayson why," he says, gritting his teeth.
With that he crept over and scooped up the King. There was the struggling and wiggling!
"Lave me down! Lave me down! You murthering spalpeen!" shouted the King, kicking vicious at Barney's chist. "I'm Brian Connors, the King of the Good People, and I'll make you sup sorrow in tay-cups for this!" cries he.
Well, Casey, his lips shut tight and his eyes grim and cowld, hildt in his two hands, out at arm's-length, the little man, who was kicking furious. For a minute Barney studied him.
"I believe in my sowl," says the Man without Childher, mighty rayproachful, "you're only a fairy! But if that's what you are, you must have charms and spells. Now, turn yourself into a purty, harmless infant this minute—have red hair, like the Mulligan childher at that—or I'll break every bone in your body!"
There was blazing anger in the King's eye and withering scorn in his woice.
"Ignorant man," he cried, "don't you know that betwixt cock-crow in the morning and sunset the Good People can work no spell or charm. If you don't lave me down I'll have a mark on you and on all your relaytions the world'll wondher at!"
But the divil a bit frightened was Casey.
He started in to help the charm along as one would thry to make a watch go. He shook the King slowly from side to side, thin joggled him softly up and down, mutthering earnestly betwixt his teeth, "Go on, now, you little haythen, change this minute, you scorpion of the world; come, come, twisht yourself!"
What the little King was saying all this time you must guess at, for I'm not bitther-tongued enough to repayt it.
Seeing that not a hair changed for all his work, Barney wrapped Maureen's shawl about the King and started for home, saying: "Hould your whist! It's a child I must have to be baptised this day. It'll be hard to manage, but I have a plan! You came as a child, and you'll be thrated as such—and look, if you don't quit kicking me in the stomach, I'll strangle you!"
As you know, to say pious words to one of the Good People is worse than cutting him with a knife, to show him pious pictures is like burning him, but to baptise a fairy is the most turrible punishment in the whole worruld.
As they went along, the King argyed, besought and threatened, but he talked to stone.
At last, although he had but the strength of a six-year-old child, the Captain of the Good People showed what high spirit was in him.
"Set me down, you thief," he says. "I challenge you! If you have a dhrop of your mother's blood in you, set me ferninst you with sticks in our hands, so we can fight it out like men!"
"No, it's not needful," sa ys Barney, cool as ice; "but in a few minutes I'll shave every hair from your head, and afther that make a fine Christian out of you. It's glad and thankful for it you ought to be, you wicious, ugly little pagan scoundhrel!"
Well, the King let a roar out of him: "You bandy-legged villain!" he cried—and then whirled in to abuse the Man without Childher. He insulted him in English, he jeered him in Irish, he thrajooced him in Latin and Roosian, but the most awful crash of blaggarding that was known in Ireland since the world began was when the King used the Chinayse.
Casey looked wonder and admiraytion, but made no answer till the little man was out of breath, when he spoke up like a judge.
"Well, if there's any crather within the earth's four corners that needs baptising it's you, little man. But I'll not thrajooce you any more, for you're me own little Romulus or Raymus," he says, scratching his head. Then of a sudden he broke out excitedly, "Now may four kinds of bad luck fall on your proud head this day, Mrs. Brophy, and four times heavier ones on you, Ann Mulligan, and may the curse of Cromwell light on you now and for ever, Ted Murphy, the bachelor, for pushing yerselves here at this early hour in the morning!"
For the sight that met his eyes knocked every plan out of his head.
Long before the time she was expected, sailing down the road to his own house, happy and slow, came Ann Mulligan, carrying in her arms her two-weeks-old baby, Patsy Mulligan. With motion like a two-masted schooner, tacking in her pride from side to side, up the road came big Mrs. Brophy, the proud woman, carrying her little Cornaylius; behind Mrs. Brophy marched bashful Ted Murphy, the bachelor, his hands behind his back, his head bent like a captive, but stepping high. Not with the sheep-stealing air men are used to wear at christenings and weddings did Ted Murphy hop along, but with the look on his face of a man who had just been thried, convicted, sentenced, and who expects in few minutes to be hung for sheep-stealing.
They were come an hour before the time to bring the child to the church.
Beside the door stood Judy, straining her eyes to know what Barney had hiding in the bundle, and with an awful fear in her heart that he had robbed some near neighbour's cradle.
Well, Barney at once broke into a run so as to get inside the house with the King, and to close the door before the others got there, but as luck would have it, the whole party met upon the threshold and crowded in with him.
"Oh, the little darling; give us a sight of the poor crachure," says Mrs. Mulligan, laying Patsy on the bed.
"He's mine first, if you plaze," says Mrs. Brophy, the proud woman.
"He's sick," says Barney—"too sick to be uncovered."
"Is he too sick to go to church?" broke in Ted Murphy, eagerly, hoping to get rid of his job.
"He is," says Barney, catching at a chance for delay.
"Then," says Ted, with joy in his woice, "I'll run and bring Father Scanlan to the house. I'll be back with him in tunty minutes," says he.
Before anyone could stop the gawk, he was flying down the road to the village. Casey felt his bundle shiver.
"I'll have your life's blood for this!" the King whuspered, as Barney laid him on the bed betwixt the two childher.
"Come out! come out!" cries Casey, spreading his arms and pushing the three women over the threshold before they knew it.
Then he stood outside, holding the door shut against the three women, thrying to think of a plan, and listening to more blisthering talk than he ever heard on any day before that day, for the three women talked at the same time, aich striving to be more disagreeable than the other. What dhrove him crazy was that his own wife, Judy, was the worst. They threatened him, they wheedled, and they stormed. The priest might ride up at any minute. The sweat rained from Barney's forehead.
Once in desperaytion he opened the door to let the women pass, but shut it quick agin whin he saw the King standin' up on the bed and him changing his own clothes for those of little Patsy Mulligan.
Well, the women coaxed till Mrs. Mulligan lost all patience and went and sat sullen on the bench. At that Mrs. Brophy suddenly caught Barney around the waist, and whirling him aside, she and Judy rushed in. Barney, with the fierceness of a tiger, swung shut the door to keep Mrs. Mulligan at bay.
The other women inside were hopping with joy. Dhressed in Maureen's shawl, but divil a thing else, lay on the outside edge of the bed poor little Patsy Mulligan. The King, almost smothered, dhressed in Patsy's clothes, was scrooged in to the wall with a cloth about his head wrapped round and round.
"Oh, the little jewel," says Mrs. Brophy, picking up little Patsy Mulligan, and setting herself on the bed; "he's the dead cut of his father."
In that quare way women have Judy already had half a feeling that the child by some kind of magic was her own. So she spoke up sharp and said that the child was the image of her brother Mike.
While they were disputing, Mrs. Brophy turned her head and saw the legs of the King below the edge of little Patsy's dhress—the dhress that he'd stole an' put on.
"For the love of God, Mrs. Casey!" says she, laying her hand on Judy's chowlder, "did you ever before see feet on a child of two weeks old like them on Patsy Mulligan?"
Well, at this they laughed and titthered and doubled backward and forward on the bed, sniggering at the King and saying funny things about him, till, mad with the shame of the women looking at his bare knees, and stung be the provoking things they said, he did a very foolish thing;—he took a pin from his clothes and gave Mrs. Brophy so cruel a prod that, big as she was, and proud as she was, it lifted her in three leaps across the floor. "Whoop! whoop!" she says, as she was going. Now, though heavy and haughty, Mrs. Brophy was purty nimble on her feet, for, red and indignant, she whirled in a twinkling. "Judy Casey," says she, glowering and squaring off, "if that's your ideeah of a good, funny joke, I'll taiche you a betther!" she says.
When Barney, outside listening with his heart in his mouth, heard the angry woices within, a great wakeness came into his chist, for he thought everything was over. Mrs. Mulligan pushed past him—he lost the power to prevent her—and he follyed her into the house with quaking knees. There was the uproar!
While the three was persuading the furious Mrs. Brophy that it must have been a pin in the bed-clothes, Ted Murphy, breathless, flung open the door.
"Father Scanlan wants to know," he cried, "what ails the baby that you can't bring it to church," he says.
All turned questioning eyes to Barney, till his mind flutthered like a wounded parthridge. Only two disayses could the unfortunate man on the suddint raymember.
"It's half maysles and a thrifle of scarlet faver," he says. He couldn't aisily have said anything worse. Seeing a turrible look on Mrs. Mulligan's face, he says agin, "But I don't think it's ketching, ma'am."
The fright was on. With a great cry, Mrs. Brophy dived for and picked up little Cornaylius and rushed with him out of the door and down the road; Mrs. Mulligan, thinking she had little Patsy, bekase of the clothes, snatched up the King—his head still rowled in the cloth—and darted up the road. She was clucking curses like an angry hen as she went, and hugging the King and coddling him, and crying over him and saying foolish baby langwidge, till he was so disgusted that he daytermined to give her a shock.
"Oh, me poor little darling!" she sobbed, pressing the King's head to her bosom—"oh, Patsy, me jewel, have they kilt you entirely?"
At that the King spoke up in a clear, cowld woice.
Misdoubting her ears, Mrs. Mulligan stopped and bent her head, listening to her baby.
"Don't worry for me, ma'am, thank you kindly," says the baby, polite and sthrong. "Don't throuble yourself about the general state of my robustness," it says, "it's thraymendous," says the child—"in fact, I never was betther."
As cautiously as if she was unwrapping a rowl of butther Mrs. Mulligan began to unwind the cloth from about the King's head.
When this was done she flung up her face an' yelled, "Ow! ow! ow!" and then came right up from the ground the second hard joult the King got that day.
As he lay on his back fastening his strange clothes and thinking what he would do next, he could hear Mrs. Mulligan going down the road. She was making a noise something like a steam whustle.
"Be-gorr," says the King, sitting up and feeling of his back, "to-day, with the women, I'm playing the divil entirely!"