McClure's Magazine/Volume 26/Number 2/The Ashes of Old Wishes
THE ASHES OF OLD WISHES
AUTHOR OF "DARBY O'GILL AND THE GOOD PEOPLE"
ILLUSTRATED BY EDMUND J. SULLIVAN
ALL day long big flakes of soft, wet snow had flurried and scurried and melted about Darby O'Gill's cottage, until, by twilight, the countryside was neither more nor less than a great white bog. Then, to make, matters worse, as the night came on that rapscallion of an east wind waked up, and came sweeping with a roar through the narrow lanes and over the desolate fields, gleefully buffeting and nipping every living thing in its way. It fairly tore the fur cap off Maurteen Cavanaugh's head, and gaily tossed that precious relic into the running ditch; it shrieked mockingly as it lifted poor old Mrs. Maloney's red-cloak and swirled that tattered robe over the good woman's bewildered head; then, after swooping madly around and around Darby O'Gill's cottage, it leaped to the roof and perched itself on the very top of the chimney, where for three mortal hours it sat shouting down boisterous challenge to the discontented man who crouched moody and silent before his own smoky hearth.
Darby heard the challenge well enough but wasted little heed. A shapeless worry darkened the lad's mind. Ever since supper, when Bridget and the children went to bed—the better to get an early start for midnight Christmas Mass — Darby and Malachi, the yellow cat, sat opposite each other in the glow of the smouldering turf.
Lately Darby had taken great comfort in talking to Malachi. The cat proved to be a splendid listener—never contradicting any statement however bold, but receiving all his master's confidences with a blinking gravity which was as respectful as it was flattering.
"This is Christmas Eve, Malachi. I suppose ye know that; and be all tokens I'd ought to be the happy man. But I'm goin' to tell ye something: I am n't. Have ye noticed anything quare about the taste of the bacon lately, Malachi? or the petaties? or the butthermilk? No, to be sure; how could ye!" Darby scratched his head and heaved a deep sigh. "As far as I'm consarned nothin' I put in me mouth has the right smack to it." The good man pointed his pipe impressively at the cat. "There's something or other I want bad, Malachi; I dunno' rightly what it is, but whatever it may be, I'll never be rale happy till I get it."
Visibly impressed by this secret, Malachi turned his back to the fire and began thoughtfully stroking his left ear. While the cat was thus engaged, the peaceful quiet of the hearth was rudely broken by a sudden shaking of the door and a rattling of the latch, as though nervous fingers were striving to lift it. Darby in alarm threw back his head to listen. Could it be a wraith? No! it was only the wind. Baffled in its attempt to open the door the ruffian gale then began flinging white dabs of soft snow at the black window-panes—for all the world like a blackguard boy. At last, with an exultant shout, it leaped to the cottage roof again and, whoop! down the chimney it came.
"Poof! bad cess to the smoke an' bad luck to the wind! if they have n't the two eyes stung out of me head. I'd wind the clock, and you and me'd go to bed this minute, so we would, Malachi, if I didn't know that Brian Connors, the King of the Fairies, would surely pay us a wisit the night."
Malachi's back stiffened immediately, and with quick switches of his tail he swept the hearthstone where he sat.
"Oh, I know ye don't like the Good People, me lad! and you may have ye 're raisons. But you must admit that the little man has never failed to bring us some token for Christmas since first I met him. Though to tell the truth," he added, a sudden scowl furrowing his face, "for a man who has the whole wurruld in his pocket the Fairy gives— Oh, be the powers, Malachi! I came near forgetting to tell ye me dhrame. I dhramed last night I was picking up goold suvereigns till me back ached. So maybe the King 'll bring me some traymendous present— Oh, millia murdher, me sight's gone entirely this time. Conshumin' to the minute longer I 'll stay up—phew! ugh! ugh! ugh!"
The great puff of bitter pungent smoke which blinded the lad's eyes also sent him off into a fit of coughing. He was still choking and gasping and sweeping the water from his swimming lids when, happening to look up, who should he spy through the blue smoke, calmly sitting on his favorite stool on the opposite side of the hearth, but the little Master of the Fairies himself. As usual the King's gold crown was tilted rakishly to one side, his green velvet cloak was flung back from his shoulders, and he sat with one short, pipe-stem of a leg dangling carelessly over the other.
"The top of the avenin' to ye. Darby O'Gill," piped he, "an' the complyments of the sayson to you an' yours."
At the first sound of the fairy's voice Malachi, with tail erect, trotted out of the kitchen.
"The same to yerself," coughed Darby rubbing his eyes, "an' if it is n't axing ye to go out of yer way too much, King, I 'll thank ye afther this to come in be the dure or the windy, and not be takin' thim short cuts down through the chimbley. You nearly put the two eyes out of me head, so ye did."
"Oh, faith, Darby me sowl," laughed the King good-naturedly, "the Christmas present I 've brought ye 'll put the two eyes back again, and brighter than ever."
The discontented look on Darby's face changed at once to a red glow of pleasure. He expected a bag of diamonds or a crock of gold at the very least. Still he strove hard to conceal his delight, and said as carelessly as he could:
"What is it. King darlint. I 'll go bail your present's a grand one this time at any rate."
"You may well say that, me lad, for I 've brought ye," chuckled the King, clasping his knee and leaning back comfortably against the chimney corner—"I 've brought ye a jug of the foinest potteen in all Ireland ground."
Darby's jaw dropped to his chest. If ever hope took a cropper it was then. "Th-thank-ye kindly, King," he stuttered; and to hide his bitter disappointment the poor fellow began poking viciously at the smouldering turf.
The evident chagrin of his friend was not lost on the Master of the Good People, and the quick-tempered little King flared up instantly.
"Why, thin, bad manners to you, what ails you the night—you and your sour looks? So my present is n't grand enough for you, and the loikes of you. Maybe it's the py-losopher's stone or maybe it's riches or ——"
Darby himself was thoroughly aroused. He felt slighted and belittled. Hammering out each word on the hearthstone, he replied:
"You 're right. King, it's riches I want! It's riches; an' that's the laste ye might be afther givin' me."
The fairy's eyes snapped threateningly. "Have n't I tould ye ag'in and ag'in that I'd never rune ye an' spile ye by givin' ye riches? Have n't—"
"We hear ducks talkin'! No sinsible man, King, was ru'ned or spiled be riches. Besides there's other things ye might give me."
The little King's lip curled. "Oh, ye ongrateful omadhaun! just to punish ye I've a mind to—" he hesitated and looked steadily at Darby. "By jayminie I will—I 'll give ye any three, wishes you make this night, barrin' riches. I won't break me wurrud on that score."
So great and so sudden was the offer that for a moment Darby's mind floundered helplessly. Meekly subsiding to his stool again he peered from under anxious brows, and asked doubtingly, "Do you mane it, King?" The King frowned. "I do mane it; but the consequences 'll be on your own sore head."
Darby thoughtfully regarded the fairy. Then putting the poker carefully back in the corner said:
"Don't be vexed with me, King agra; sure I 've lots of throuble. I'm a very onhappy man. I don't know why it is, but I'm feelin' turrible. So by your lave, if it's parfectly convaynient, I'll take the favors of the three wishes."
"Out with them then! What do ye want?"
"Well, first an' foremost, King, I want the he-licks-her of life, that Maurteen Cavanaugh the schoolmasther was readin' about. I want to live forever."
The old King reeled and almost fell off the stool.
"Be the four fires of Fingal, Darby O'Gill, if you don't flog the worruld. But go on man alive what 'll ye be wantin' next?"
"Well afther that, if it's not too much throuble, ye may make me as comfortable an' as well off as the rich Lord Killgobbin." By putting the wish this way Darby cleverly avoided a direct request for riches.
The King shut his lips in a grim smile, and slowly wagged his head.
"I will that! I 'll make ye as well off an' as comfortable as Lord Killgobbin—with every vein of me heart. Go on!"
"The third wish, King, is the easiest of all to grant. Make me happy."
"That I will! you won't know yerself. Wait till I'm done with ye," said the King, getting up and drawing his cloak about his shoulders. "An' we 'll lose no time about it ayther. We 've a good dale of thravellin' to do the night, so put on you're greatcoat."
Nothing loath the lad did as he was bid, and then waited expectantly.
"We 're goin' into sthrange places, me bould Trojan," the King went on, "an' I think it best we go unwisible. Come nearer to me."
With much impressiveness the little King of the Good People raised his hand and touched his companion lightly on the arm.
On the moment a strange tingling chill swept over Darby, and he began to grow invisible. First his feet faded into thin air; and even as he stared open-mouthed at the place they had been, his knees disappeared; and the next second the lad felt himself snuffed out like a tallow dip.
The King also was gone, but presently the familiar voice of the little fairy sounded from its place on the stool:
"We 're goin' out now, avourneen."
"But how can I go out," wailed Darby in great distress. "Where are me two foine legs? What's become of me I'd like to know?"
"Be aisy! man, you 'll not nade yer legs for a while. I 'll put ye asthride a horse the night loike of which you never rode afore. You 're goin' to ride the wind, Darby. Listen! D 'ye hear it callin' us?"
Darby was still looking for some traces of his vanished legs when, without realizing the slightest sense of motion, he found himself in the open. There was a flash of black sky, a glimpse of wet weather and the astonished man was three miles from home standing beside the King in old Daniel Delaney's kitchen. It was all so sudden; he could scarcely believe his eyes. And to make matters more confusing, although Darby had known old Dan'l's kitchen since childhood, there was a certain weirdness and unreality about it now that chilled the unseen intruder's blood.
The room was almost dark, and filled with fitful fire-shadows which danced and wavered and dimmed upon the walls.
"Mark well what ye see and hear, Darby O'Gill, for this is but a shadow of your first wish—the wish to live forever. This is the ashes of long life." The King's voice was so solemn that Darby cowered half-frightened from it.
Before the lonely hearth sat old Daniel Delaney and his wife Julia. Half the county knew their desolate history. Ninety-two years they had lived together as man and wife. Of all the old couples in that parish—and there were many of them—Daniel Delaney and his wife were the very oldest, and the loneliest. Twenty years ago their last child had died in America, an old man. Long before that, Teddy, Michael and Dan, soldier lads, fell before Sebastopol. And now, without chick or child, indeed without one of their blood that bore their name, the old couple waited patiently, each night mumbling the hope that maybe the morrow might bring to them the welcome deliverance.
As Darby gazed, a comprehension of the desolation, the loneliness, and the ceaseless heartaches of the old people came to him like an inspiration, and his heart melted with pity.
He understood, as never before, how utterly old Dan'l's and Julia's world was gone—faded into vague memories. The new voices and strange young faces which kept constantly crowding into and filling the old fond nooks, gave to the couple a cruel sense of being aliens in an unsympathetic land. The winding lanes, the well-remembered farms and the crowded chapel were filled, for them, with dim specters. They were specters themselves, and the quiet waiting churchyard called ever and ever, with passionate insistence to their tired, empty hearts, Darby's eyes filled with hot tears.
"Will I be like Dan'l Delaney?" he whispered fearfully to the King.
"Worse. You 'll be all alone; Bridget 'll be gone from you. Hist! Dan'l is talking. Listen!"
"Is that you, Julia machree?" an old voice quavered. "Ah, so it is; so it is! I thought it was me father sittin' there an'—an' I was a little gossoon again at his knee—just like our little Mickey. Where's Mickey? Oh, to be sure! Oh, thin was n't me father the handsome man—and grand! Six feet two in his stockin's! Six feet two. An' to think, agra, to think, that now, in all this wide, wide worruld, only you and me are left who ever set eyes on him. Is n't it a quare worruld entirely, Julia! A quare worruld! Only you and me left, all dead, all dead!" The old man's voice fell to a whimper, and he wiped a tear from his cheek with shaking fingers.
"Aye, they 're all gone from us, Dan'l, me lad. I was just thinkin', your father's father built this house and sthrangers 'll have it soon—I could n't sleep last night for worrying over it. All me foine boys and tendher beautiful colleens! All, all gone. An' one gray day follys another gray day, an' nothing happens, nothing ever happens for us. Isn't this Christmas Eve, Dan'l? Little Norah's birthday?"
The old man lifted his trembling hands in an agony of regret. "Christmas Eve! Oh, Mother of Heaven! Oh, the merrymakin' an' the happiness of the childher! Marcyful Father, why can't we go to them?"
"Hush, Dan'l! For shame, man. Think how good God has been to us. Has n't He kept us together! Might n't He have taken you an' left me here alone? See how gentle He is with ould people. First, He crowds Heaven with their friends to prepare a welcome; then He fills the worruld so full of pains, an' aches, an' sorrow, that 'tis no throuble at all to lave it. No throuble at all."
God help them, thought Darby. The bitterness of their sorrows filled his own heart, and the weight of all their years pressed down on him.
"King," he asked, "is n't it quare that we can't always be young and live forever?"
"It's bekase you've no knowledge of Heaven that you ax so foolish a question as that," sighed the King.
Meanwhile old Dan'l would not be comforted, but was fretting, and whimpering, like a child three years old.
"Come away, come away, King," urged Darby hoarsely. "When Bridget an' the childher are in the churchyard I want to lie with them. Yez may keep the he-licks-her, King. I want none of it."
"I thought so. Now for your second wish," said the King.
The words were n't out of his mouth till Darby found himself standing with the fairy in the window recess of a large, and brilliantly lighted bedroom in Killgobbin Castle. Soft, moss-green carpets an inch thick covered the floor. Slender shepherds and dainty shepherdesses, beautiful dames and stately knights smiled and curtsied from the priceless tapestries on the wall. In a far corner of the room stood a canopied mahogany bed. lace-draped and with snowy pillows. Gilded tables and luxurious easy-chairs were scattered here and there, while a great tiger skin, which gleamed yellow and black from the center of the floor, gave Darby a catch in his breath. It might have been the bedchamber of a king. No sound of the storm reached here.
Before a bright, hot fire of fine sea-coals, sat the rich and powerful Lord Killgobbin, grayhaired and shaggy-browed. His lordship's right leg, bandaged and swollen, rested upon a low chair piled high with cushions. On a fur rug near him lay Fifi, her ladyship's old spaniel—the fattest, ugliest dog Darby had ever seen.
"Darby," whispered the King, "yonder is Lord Killgobbin, and remember I was to make you as comfortable, and as well off as he!"
The fairy was still speaking when the nobleman let a roar out of him that rattled the fire-irons. "My supper! Where's my supper? Get out of that you red-legged omahdaun," he bellowed to a crimson liveried servant who waited cowering just inside the door. "Bring up my supper at once or I 'll have your heart's blood. No puling bread and milk, mind you, but a rousing supper for Christmas Eve. Be off!"
The footman disappeared like a flash, leaving the room door ajar. Sweet sounds of flute, violin and harp, mingled with gay laughter, floated up the wide staircase. Lord Killgobbin's only son was giving a Yule party to his young friends. At the sound of the music the old nobleman uttered a moan that would wring one's heart. "Oh, dear, oh, dear, will ye listen to that. Dancing and cavorting an' enjoying themselves down there, an' me sitting up here suffering the torments, an' nobody caring a ha'porth whether I'm living or dead. Oh my, oh my! Sitting here trussed up like an ould roosther—" His lordship's eye roved around the room in a vain quest for sympathy; alas! the smug-faced Fifi was the only living thing to be seen.
"Bad scran to you! You 're as hard-hearted as your misthress." Lord Killgobbin threatened the dog with his cane. But as if to show her disdain Fifi yawned in a bored way, turned wearily over and went to sleep again. It was the last straw. His lordship boiled with furious resentment, and leaning far over made a savage stroke at the dog with his cane. That was the unlucky blow! Instead of hitting the placid, unconscious Fifi, the furious old lord lost his balance, missed his aim, and gave himself a terrific whack on the gouty leg. There was the row!
Never since that day at Ballinrobe fair, when Teddy McHale cracked his poor old father over the head with a blackthorn (mistaking the old gentleman for Peter Maloney, the family foe), had Darby heard such deafening roars, and such blood-curdling maledictions. Whether by accident or in an effort to drown Lord Killgobbin's voice the orchestra down-stairs played with redoubled vigor.
In the midst of the tumult, hurrying footsteps were heard upon the stairs, and presently, three wild-eyed footmen entered the room each bearing a silver tray. The first servant carried a bowl of thin gruel, the second a plate of dry toast and the salt, while the third footman stepped cautiously along bearing aloft a small pot of weak tea, without cream or sugar. The quiet, grim look which Lord Killgobbin threw at his terrified servants sent a shiver down Darby's back.
With eyes half shut his lordship spoke slowly and deliberately through clenched teeth:
"What's that ye have in the bowl, ye divil's limb ye?"
"The docthor, your Lordship—an'—her ladyship, sir, seein' as it's ChristmasEve, thought that you'd like—that you'd like a—a little change, so instead of bread an'—an' milk, they sent ye a little thin gruel, sir."
Lord Killgobbin grew ominously quiet. "Bring it over to me, my good man, don't be afraid," he said.
The three footmen each keeping a wary eye on his lordship's stick, advanced timidly in a row. Nothing was said or done until the gruel was within easy grip of him, and then in one furious sweep of his left arm, his lordship sent the tray and gruel half way up to the ceiling, while with his right hand he managed to bring the cane down with a resounding whack on the head of the unfortunate footman who carried the toast and salt.
Instantly all was confusion. While the frightened servants were scrambling after the scattered trays and dishes. Lord Killgobbin reached quickly around for the coal-scuttle which stood near his hand, and began a furious bombardment. Two of the footmen managed to escape from the room. The third, however, by an unlucky stumble over the rug went to the floor on his back in the corner. There he lay cowering, and with the tray, shielding his head from the furious rain of coal.
"The curse of the crows on ye all," shouted Killgobbin, "you'd starve me, would yez?"
"Yes, sir—I—I mane no, your Lordship!" roared the terrified servant.
"Christmas Eve and a bowl of gruel!" (Bang, bang, bang rattled the coals on the tray.) "Christmas Eve with a sliver of toast and tay." (Bang, bang, bang.)
"Yes, sir" (bang). "Oh, me head, sir! Ow! wow! I'm kilt entirely, sir!"
"Me wife'd starve me—"
"Yes, sir, ow! ouch! I mane no, sir."
"Me son's in conspiracy with the docthor — —"
"Yes, sir" (bang, bang, bang).
"Take that! Beef tay and dhry toast. I have n't had a meal fit for a dog in six weeks; six weeks, d 'ye hear me, ye sniveling rapscallion?"
"No, sir—I—I mane yes, sir!"
"You 're killing me by inches, so ye are! Ye murdherin' ringleaders ye."
"Yes, sir. Ouch! I mane no, sir!"
Darby turned a disappointed face to the Master of the Fairies. "Thanks be we 're unvisible. King. I would n't have that leg of Killgobbin's for all the money in the four provinces."
"Bah! Everybody's bread is butthered with trouble to about the same thickness. This is the ashes of foine living. His lordship 'd thrade his castle an' all his grandeur for your pair of legs. But you 've seen only his gout. The rale botherin' trouble is comin' up the stairs now." Even as the King spoke. Darby heard the rustle of a lady's dress upon the landing.
"Come away, come away, King," he urged excitedly. "It is n't dacint to be listening to family saycrets. I forgive ye me first two wishes, an' I 'll ax only for the third: Make me happy—it's all I 'll ax."
"Oh, aye, the happiness! Sure enough! Truth I almost forgot the happiness. But never fear it 'll have ye dancin' an' jumpin' along the road before ye raich home."
One may get a good idea of how quickly the pair shifted from place to place that night when one learns, that this last saying of the King was begun in Lord Killgobbin's bedchamber and finished so far away down the road that all which remained of the castle was a faint twinkle of lights on the distant hill.
And now the east wind, weary of mischief, had traveled on out over the sea leaving behind flattened hedge-rows, twisted thatches, and desolate highways.
To Darby's great surprise he found himself and the King huddled together under the dripping eaves of a low, thatched building which crouched by the wayside.
"By Gar, King, that was a long jump we med. I'm only half a mile from home. This is Joey Hooligan's smithy."
"Thrue for ye, Darby me bouchal," answered the King. "I 've brought ye here to show ye the only ralely thruly happy man in this townland. Ye may take a look at him, he's sittin' within." Darby drew back thoughtfully. This was to be the last of the three wishes; and the fate of the other two made him hesitate.
"Tell me first, King, before I look; is he a married man? I dunno."
"He is not," said the King.
"Of course," sighed Darby, "careless and free. Well, is he rich? But sure I nade n't ax. He must be—very."
"He has n't a penny," replied the King, "nor chick nor child. He cares for nobody, an' nobody cares for him."
"Well, now look at that! Isn't that quare! What kind of a man is he? I'm almost afeard to look at him."
"Sthop yer blatherin' man alive, an' come over to the windy and do as I bid ye."
As he was bidden, Darby took a peep through the grimy panes, and there on a pile of turf, alone before the dying forge-fire, sat an old man. His head was bare and he swayed back and forth as he nodded and gabbled and smiled to the graying embers. With an exclamation of deep disgust Darby jumped back.
"Why," he spluttered indignantly, "you 're making game of me. King! That's only Tom the child—the poor innocent who never had an ounce of wit since the day he was born!"
"I know it," said the King, "that's the rayson he's perfectly happy. He has no regret for yesterday nor no fear for to-morrow. He's had his supper, there's a fire ferninst him, a roof over his head for the night, so what more does he want."
For a moment Darby could n't answer. He stood humped together ready to cry with vexation and disappointment.
"There goes the last of me three grand wishes," he complained bitterly. "I'm chated out of all of them, an' all you 've left me for me night's throuble, is the ashes of me wishes, a cowld in my chist from me Wet brogues, an' a croak in me talk, so that I would n't know me own voice if I was in the next room. If you 've done wid me now, King, I 'll thank ye to make me wisible ag'in so that I can go home to me own dacint fambly."
There was no reply. Darby waited a moment in silence, and then the horrible realization flashed over him that he was alone. Doubtless the quick-tempered little fairy had taken offense at his words and had left him to his fate, invisible and helpless, on the highroad. The poor fellow groaned aloud:
"Ochone mavrone, have n't I the misfortune!" he wailed. "I'm fairly massacreed, so I am. What 'll Bridget say to have a poor, hoarse voice goin' croaking about the house instid of the foine lookin' man I was. Oh, vo! vo!" he roared. "I wondher if I can ate me vittles! What 'll I do with the new shuit of clothes ? What'll I say to——"
"Hould on to what ever's botherin' ye, Darby me friend. Don't be afeard, I'm comin' to ye!" It was the King's voice high in the air above Darby's head. The next instant our hero felt a touch upon the arm, and he and the King popped into clear visibility again.
Darby heaved a chest-splitting sigh of relief. "I thought you'd desarted me, King."
"Foolish man," piped the fairy, "I was loathe to have ye go home disappointed and empty-handed, but to save me life I did n't know what ye naded that'd do you any good. So I flew off with meself to your house, and Malachi, the cat, tould me that ye naded something; ye did n't know exactly what it was, but whatever it was ye'd never be happy till ye got it!"
"It's thrue for ye, thim were me very worruds."
"Well, I 'll lave ye here now, Darby," the king went on, seriously but not unkindly, "and do you hurry along your way. Look nayther to the right nor to the left an' somewhere on the road betwixt this, an' your own thrashol', the thing that 'll do ye most good in the worruld 'll catch up with ye. I'm off."
"Good-night, King," and Darby left alone sploshed along the slushy road toward home. The lad whistled anxiously a bit of a tune as he went, all the time keeping wary eyes and ears strained for the first glimpse or sound of the expected gift.
"I wondher what it 'll be like," he said to himself over and over again. He had reached the tall hedge of Hagan's meadow and was already laughing and chuckling to himself over a sudden remembrance of Lord Killgobbin's butler roaring in the corner, when suddenly, something happened which brought him to a dead stop in the road.
Swift as lightning there darted through the lad's jaw a pain like the twang of a fiddlestring. At first Darby could n't understand the agony, for never until that unhappy hour had one of the O'Gills been afflicted with the toothache. However, he was not left long in doubt as to its character, for the next twang brought him up to his tiptoes with both hands grasping the side of his face.
"Oh-h murdher in Irish, what's come over me! Be the powers of Moll Hagan's cat 'tis the toothache." He danced round and round in his tracks, groan following groan; but whichever way he turned there was neither pity nor comfort in the dark sighing hedges, nor in the gloomy starless canopy.
Then a fiercer twang than all the others put together took the lad up into the air. Faster and faster they came, throb, throb, throb, like the blows of a hammer. At last the poor man broke into a run as if to escape from the terrible pain, but as fast as he went the throb m his jaw kept time and tune to his flying feet.
"Oh, am n't I the foolish man to be galivantin' around this blessed night pryin' into other people's business. It's a punishment. I wish I had that rapscallion of a King here now," he moaned as he reached the stile leading into his own field.
"That wish is granted at any rate, Darby asthore! What's your hurry?"
There on the top of the stile, quizzical, cheery and expectant, waited the little fairy.
"Ow—um! Is this pain in the tooth the bliggard present you promised me, Brian Connors?"
"It is. I came to the conclusion that you wor actually blue-molded for want of a little rale throuble, so I gave it to ye. Ye naded a joult or two to make ye appreciate how well off ye wor before."
"Well, small thanks to ye for your present, King. If a man nades throuble he don't have to go thrampin' round all night lookin' for it with the loikes of you."
"You are like all the rest of the worruld, Darby O'Gill. You never appreciate what you have till you lose it. A man spinds his happiest days, grunting and groaning, but tin years afther they 're over an' gone, he says to himself, 'Oh, wer' n't thim the happy, happy times?' If I take away the toothache will ye be raisonably happy, Darby? I dunno."
The persecuted man's spirit rose in unreasoning rebellion. "No, I won't," he shouted.
"Thin kape it. Please yerself. Good-night." And the place where the friendly little king had been sitting was empty. He had vanished utterly.
"Come back, come back, King!" howled Darby. "I was a fool. Ouch! Oh, the top of me head went that time. If you 'll only take away this murdherin' pain. King, I 'll be the happiest man in Ireland ground, so I will."
The appeal was no sooner uttered than the pain left him, and a soft, friendly laugh floated down through the darkness.
"You 'll find the jug of potteen snug be the dure, avick, and all the happiness any mortal man's entitled to waiting for ye beyant the thrashol'—an' that's nothing more nor less than peace and plenty, and a warm-hearted, clear-headed woman for a wife and eight of the purtiest childher in the country of Tipperary. Go in to thim. Don't be fretting yourself any more over aymayaginary throubles; for as sure as ye do, the toothache 'll take a hammer or two at your gooms just to kape ye swate-minded an' cheerful. The complyments of the sayson to you an' yours. I'm off."
The King's voice, lifted in a song, floated farther and farther away:
"If you 've mate whin you 're hungry.
And dhrink whin you 're dhry,
Not too young whin you 're married,
Nor too ould whin you die—
Thin go happy, go lucky;
Go lucky, go happy;
Poor happy go lucky.
Bould happy go lucky
The song died away like a sigh of the wind in the hedges. Then clear and sweet broke the chapel bell across the listening fields, calling the parish, young and old, to midnight Mass. As Darby turned he saw every window in his cottage ablaze with cheerful light, and his own face glowed in warm response. With his hand on the door he paused and murmured:
"Why thin, afther this night I 'll always say that the man who can't find happiness in his own home nade n't look for it elsewhere."