Darby O'Gill and the Good People/The Adventures of King Brian Connors/Chapter 3


THE wee King of the Fairies sat in the dust of the road where Ann Mulligan had dhropped him. There were dents in his goold crown, and the baby's dhress he still wore was soiled and tore.

Ow! Ow! Ow! What a terrible joult agin the ground Ann Mulligan gave him when she took the covering from his head and found his own face gazing up at her instead of her baby Patsy's. He turned to shake his fist up the road, and twishted once more to shake his fist down the road.

"Be the bones of Pether White," he says, "what me and me subjects'll do to-night to this parish'll make the big wind seem like a cock's breath!"

"But," he says, again, "how'll I hide meself till dark? Wirra! Wirra! if it were only sunset—the sun has melted every power and charm and spell out of me—the power has left my four bones. I can be seen and molested by any spalpeen that comes along; what'll I do at all at all! I think I had best be getting through the fields back to Barney Casey's. It's little welcome they have for me there, but they must keep me saycret now for their own sakes."

With that he got upon his legs, and houldin' up his white dhress, climbed through the stile into Casey's field.

The first thing he saw there was a thin but jolly-minded looking pig, pushing up roots with her nose and tossing them into the air through sheer divilment.

Dark-eyed Susan was she called, and she belonged to Tom Mulligan, the one-legged ballad-maker, who had named her after the famous ballad.

Mulligan was too tindher-hearted to sell her to be kilt, and too poor to keep her in victuals, so she roamed the fields, a shameless marauder and a nimble-footed freebooter.

"Be-gorr, here's luck!" said the little King; "since 'tis in Casey's field, this must be Casey's baste. I couldn't ask betther; whinever a pig is frightened it runs to its own house; so I'll just get on her back and ride down to Casey's cabin."

The King looked inquirin' at Susan, and Susan looked impident suspicion at the King.

"Oh, ho, ye beauty, you know what's in me mind!" says he, whistlin' and coaxin' and sidlin' up to her. A pig likes a compliment if it's well tould, so Susan hung her head, grunted coquettish, and looked away. Taking adwantage of her head being turned, without another word, his Rile Highness ran over, laid hould of her ear, and with one graceful jump took an aisy saddle-sate on her back.

This was the last thing the pig expected, so with one frightened squeal from Susan both of them were off like the wind through the fields toward Mulligan's house, taking stones, ridges, and ditches like hurdle jumpers till they came in sight of a mud-plasthered cabin which stood on the hillside. A second afther the King's hair stood straight up and his heart grew cowld, for there, sitting on the thrashold, with her family in a little crowd about her, was the woman who, misconsthruing him for her own child, had fled with him from Barney Casey's, and, finding her mistake, had trun him into the high-road.

About the ballad-maker's door was gathered his whole family, listening to the wondherful tale being tould by Ann Mulligan. A frightened woman she was.

Indade, whin Ann Mulligan, afther dhropping the King in the road, raiched home she fell unconscionable in the door before her husband and her frightened childher, an' she never come to till little Pether sprinkled a noggin of wather on her; thin she opened her eyes and began telling how Ould Nick had stole the baby and had taken little Patsy's place in her own two arms.

There she sat wringing her hands and waving back and forth. The fairy-man could aisily guess the story she was telling, and his flying steed was hurrying straight toward the house and nothing could stop it. They'd both be there in tin seconds.

"Well, this time, anyhow, I'll be kilt intirely," says the King.

Mrs. Mulligan turned to pint down the road to the place where she had dhropped the King, when, lo and behold, up the boreen and through the field they saw, coming at a thraymendous pace, Dark-eyed Susan and the King, riding her like a dhragoon.

Mrs. Mulligan gave one screech and, lifting her petticoats, flew; the childher scurried off afther her like young rabbits.

Tom, not being able to run bekase of his wooden leg, stood his ground, but at the same time raymembering more prayers an' raypentin' of more mane things he'd done than ever before since he was born.

He was sure it was Ould Nick himself that was in it.

And now a new danger jumped suddenly before the King. The pig headed for her favourite hole through the hedge, and whin the King saw the size of the hole he let a howl out of him, for he knew he'd be trun. He scrooched close to the baste's back and dhrew up his legs. Sure enough he was slithered off her back and left sitting on the hard ground, half the clothes torn from his rile back.

That howl finished Tom entirely, so that whin his Majesty crawled through the hole afther the pig and came over to him, the ballad-maker wouldn't have given tuppence for his sowl's salvation. Howsumever, he put on the best and friendliest face he could undher the sarcumstances. Scraping with his wooden leg and pulling at a tuft of carroty hair on his forehead, Tom said, mighty wheedling:

"The top o' the day to your Honour. Sure, how's Mrs. Balzebub and the childher. I hear it's a fine, bright family your Lordship has. Arrah, it isn't the likes of me, poor Tom Mulligan, the ballad-maker, that your riverence'd be wanting."

Hearing them words, the King looked mighty plazed. "If you're Tom Mulligan, the ballad-maker," he says, coming over smiling, "it's proud and happy I am to meet you! I'm no less than Brian Connors, the King of the Good People," he says, dhrawing himself up and trying to look grand. "It's many's the fine ballad of yours we sing in Sleive-na-mon."

"But little Patsy," stammered Tom; "sure your Majesty wouldn't take him from us; he's our twelfth and rounds out the dozen, you know."

"Have no fear," says the fairy; "Patsy'll be here safe and sound at nightfall. If you stand friend to me this day the divil a friend you'll ever need agin as long as you live!" With that the King up and tould him all the day's happenin's and misfortunes. Tom could hardly belave his eyes or his ears. He was so happy he begun in his mind making a ballad about himself and the King that minute.

"Ow!" says the King, bending his back and houlding his head, "whin I think of the ondacencies I wint true this day!"

"Your Majesty'll go through no more," says Tom. With that he went stumping away to call back the wife and childher.

In a few minutes the ruler of the night-time was sitting on Mulligan's table ating the last petatie and dhrinking the last sup of new milk that was in the house. The King dhrained the cup an' smacked his lips. "Now sing us a ballad, Tom Mulligan, my lad," says he, leaning back against the empty milk-crock and crossing his legs like a tailor. Ann Mulligan nodded approvin' from where she sat, proud and contented on the bed, the childher smiled up from the mud floor. So Tom, who was a most maylodious man, just as his wife was a most harmonious woman, up and sang the ballad of Hugh Reynolds:

"Me name is Hugh Reynolds, I came of dacint parents;
I was born in County Cavin, as you may plainly see.
Be lovin' of a maid named Catherine McCabe,
My love has been bethrayed, she's a sore loss to me."

There's most of the time thirty-two varses to that song, and Tom sang them all without skippin' a word.

"Bate that, King Brian Connors," he says at last. "I challenge you!"

Then King Brian trew back his head and, shutting his eyes, sung another ballad of forty-seven varses, which was Catherine McCabe's answer to Hugh Reynolds, and which begins this away:

"Come all ye purty fair maids wherever you may be,
And if you'll pay attention and listen unto me,
I'll tell of a desayver that you may beware of the same,
He comes from the town of Drumscullen in the County Cavan, an' Hugh Reynolds is his name."

One song brought out another finer than the first, until the whole family, childher and all, jined in singing "Willie Reilly and His Dear Colleen Bawn."

'Twould make your heart young agin to hear them. At the ind of aich varse all the Mulligans'd stop quick to let the King wobble his woice alone. Dark-eyed Susan was standing scratching herself inside the closed door, plazed but wondherin'; so, with sweet songs and ould tales, the hours flew like minutes till at last the ballad-maker pushed back the table and tuned his fiddle, while the whole family—at laste all of them ould enough to stand—smiling, faced one another for a dance.

The King chose Mrs. Ann Mulligan for a partner.

The fiddle struck a note, the bare, nimble feet raised. "Rocky Roads to Dublin" was the tune.

"Deedle, deedle, dee; deedle, deedle, diddle um.
Deedle, deedle, dee, rocky roads to Dubalin."

The twinkling feet fell together. Smiles and laughter and jostling and jollity broke like a summer storm through the room. And singing and pattherin' and jiggering, rose and swirled to the mad music, till suddenly—"knock, knock, knock!"—the blows of a whip-handle fell upon the door and every leg stopped stiff.

"Murther in Irish," whispered little Mickey Mulligan, "'tis Father Scanlan himself that's in it!"

Ochone mavrone! what a change from merry-making and happiness to fright and scandalation was there! The Master of the Fairies, sure that Father Scanlan had the scent of him, tried to climb up on to the settle-bed, but was too wake from fear, so Mrs. Mulligan histed him and piled three childher on top of the King to hide him just as Father Scanlan pushed open the door.

The priest stood outside, houlding his horse with one hand and pintin' his whip with the other.

"What are you hiding on that bed, you vagabone?" he says.

"Whist!" says Tom Mulligan, hobblin' over and going outside, with the fiddle undher his arrum, "'tis little Patsy, the baby, and he ain't dressed dacint enough for your riverence to see," whuspered the villain.

"Tom Mulligan," says the priest, shaking his whip, "you're an idle, shiftless, thriftless man, and a cryin' shame and a disgrace to my flock; if you had two legs I'd bate you within an inch of your life!" he says, lookin' stern at the fiddler.

"Faith, and it's sorry I am now for my other leg," says Tom, "for it's well I know that whin your riverence scolds and berates a man you only give him half a shilling or so, but if you bate him as well, your riverence sometimes empties your pockets to him."

'Twas hard for the priest to keep an ill-natured face, so he smiled; but as he did, without knowing it, he let fly a shot that brought terror to the heart of the ballad-maker.

"God help me with you and the likes of you," says the priest, thrying to look savare; "you keep me from morning till night robbing Pether to pay Paul. Barney Casey, the honest man, gives me a crown for baptising his child, and tin minutes afther I must give that same money to a blaggard!"

Well, whin Mulligan heard that his own little Patsy had been baptised agin at the instigation of that owdacious imposthure, Barney Casey, the ballad-maker's neck swelled with rage. But worse was to come. Gulping a great lump down his throat he axed:

"What name did your riverence give the baby?"

There was a thremble in the poor man's woice.

"Bonyface," says the priest, his toe in the stirrup. "To-day is the feast of St. Bonyface, a gr-r-reat bishop. He was a German man," says Father Scanlan.

The groan Tom Mulligan let out of him was heart-rendering. "Bonyface! Oh, my poor little Patsy; bad scran to you, Barney Casey! My own child turned into a German man—oh, Bonyface!"

The priest was too busy mounting his horse to hear what the ballad-maker said, but just before starting the good man turned in his saddle.

"I came near forgetting my errant," he says. "There's a little ould man—dwarves they call the likes of thim—who has been lost from some thravelling show or carawan, or was stole by ould Peggy Collins this morning from some place—I don't rightly know which. Sind the childher looking for him and use him kind. I'm going up the road spreading the news. Ignorant people might misthrate him," says his riverence, moving off.

"You'll find no ignorant person up this road," called Tom, in a broken woice, "but Felix O'Shaughnessy, and he's not so bad, only he don't belave in ghosts," cried Mulligan.

Even as the ballad-maker turned to go in the door the sun, shooting one red, angry look at the world, dhropped below the western mountains. The King jumped from the bed.

"The charms have come back to me. I feel in my four bones the power, for 'tis sunset. I'm a greater man now than any king on his trone," says he. "Do you sind word to Barney and Judy Casey that if they don't bring little Patsy and my green velvet cloak and the silver-topped noggin and stand ferninst me on this floor within half an hour, I'll have the both of thim presners in Sleive-na-mon before midnight, to walk on all-fours the rest of their lives. As for you, my rayspected people," he says, "a pleasanter afthernoon I seldom spint, and be ready to get your reward."

With thim words he vanished. Their surprise at his disappearance was no sooner over than the Mulligans began hunting vessels in which to put the goold the fairy was going to give them.

Ann Mulligan was dragging in from outside an empty tub when shamefaced Judy Casey passed in, carrying little Patsy Mulligan. Behind her slunk Barney, her husband, houlding the green cloak and the silver-topped noggin.

"I had him for one day, Ann Mulligan," says Judy, handing little Patsy to his mother, "and though it breaks my poor, withered heart to give him up, he's yours by right, and here he is."

Whilst she was speaking those words the ruler of the fairies sprung over the threshold and laid a white bundle on the table. The household crowded up close around.

Without a word the fairy dhrew the cover from the white bundle, an' there, like a sweet, pink rose, lay sleepin' on its white pillow the purtiest baby you ever set your two livin' eyes on.

Judy gave a great gasp, for it was the identical child the fairies stole from her down in the County Mayo.

"You don't desarve much from me," says the King, "but because Ann Mulligan—fine woman—asked it, I'll do you a favour. You may take back the baby or I'll give you a hundhred pounds. Take your choice, Barney Casey."

Barney stood a long time with bowed head, looking at the child and thinking hard. You can surely see what a saryous question he had. One's own child is worth more than a hundred pounds, but other people's childhren are plenty and full of failings. Mulligan's family peered up into his face, and his wife Judy sarched him with hungry eyes. At last he said, very slow:

"My mind has changed," says he. "Though people always tould me that childher were a throuble, a worry and a care, yesterday I'd give the County Clare for that little one. After this day's work I know that sayin's thrue, so I'll take the hundhred pounds," he says.

"Divil a fear of you takin' the hundhred pounds!" snapped his wife, Judy, grabbing up the child. An' thin the two women, turning on him, fell to abusin' and ballyraggin' the Man without Childher, till sorra bit of courage was left in his heart.

"I promised you yer choice, and they'll lave you no choice," says the King, looking vexed. "Well, here's the hundhred pounds, and let Judy keep the child."

Whin the fairy turned to the ballad-maker the hearts of all the Mulligans stopped still.

"Now, my grand fellow, me one-legged jaynious," he says, "you're goin' to be disappinted. You think I'll give you riches, but I won't." At that Tom's jaw dhropped to his chist, and the littlest Mulligans began to cry.

"I'll not make you rich bekase you're a born ballad-maker, and a weaver of fine tales, and a jaynious—if you make a jaynious rich you take all the songs out of him and you spile him. A man's heart-sthrings must be often stretched almost to the breaking to get good music from him. I'll not spile you, Tom Mulligan.

"Besides," he says, "as you are a natural-born ballad-maker, you'd kill yourself the first year thryin' to spind all your money at wanst. But I'll do betther for you than to make you rich. Ann Mulligan, do you clear the table an' put my silver-topped noggin on the edge of it," says he.

When Ann Mulligan did as she was bid the King put the green cloak on his chowlders and, raising his hand, pointed to the silver-covered noggin. Everyone grew still and frightened.

"Noggin, noggin, where's your manners?" he says, very solemn.

At the last word the silver lid flew open, and out of the cup hopped two little men dhressed all in black, dhragging something afther them that began to grow and grow amazing. So quickly did they work, and so swiftly did this thing they brought twirl and change and turn into different articles that the people hadn't time to mark what form it was at first, only they saw grow before their astonished eyes taycups and dishes and great bowls, an' things like that.

In a minute the table was laid with a white cloth like the quality have, and chiny dishes and knives and forks.

"Noggin, noggin, where's your manners?" says the King again. The little men dhragged from the noggin other things that grew into a roast of mutton and biled turnips, and white bread an' butther, and petaties, and pots of tay.

"Noggin, noggin, where's your manners?" says the King, for the last time.

At that the little black men, afther puttin' a silver shillin' beside every plate at the table, jumped into the noggin an' pulled down its lid.

Whin the ating and drinking and jollity were at their hoight the King arose, drew tight his crown on his head, and pointing once more to the silver-covered noggin, said:

"This is my gift to you and your reward, Tom Mulligan, maker of ballads and journeyman worker in fine tales. 'Tis more than your wish was. Nayther you nor anyone who sits at your table, through all your life, will ever want a bite to ate or a sup to dhrink, nor yet a silver shilling to cheer him on his way. Good luck to all here and good-bye!" Even as they looked at the King he was gone, vanished like a light that's blown out—and they never saw him more.

But the news spread. Musicianers, poets, and story-tellers, and jayniouses flocked to the ballad-maker's cabin from all over Ireland. Any fine day in the year one might see them gather in a dozen knots before his door and into as many little crowds about the stable. In each crowd, from morning till night, there was a chune being played, a ballad sung, or a story being tould. Always one could find there blacksmiths, schoolmasters, and tinkers, and all trades, but the greater number be far, av coorse, were beggarmen.

Nor is that same to be wondhered at, bekase every jaynious, if he had his own way and could folly his own heart's desire'd start to-morrow at daybreak with the beggarman's staff and bag.

But wherever they came from, and whatever their station, Tom Mulligan stumped on his wooden leg from crowd to crowd, the jovial, happy master of them all.