Darby O'Gill and the Good People/Chapter I

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Darby O'Gill and the Good People by Herminie Templeton Kavanagh
Chapter I: Darby O'Gill and the Good People

This history sets forth the only true account of the adventures of a daring Tipperary man named Darby O'Gill among the Fairies of Sleive-na-mon.

These adventures were first related to me by Mr. Jerry Murtaugh, a reliable car-driver, who goes between Kilcuny and Ballinderg. He is a first cousin of Darby O'Gill's own mother.

Although only one living man of his own free will ever went among them there, still, any well-learned person in Ireland can tell you that the abode of the Good People is in the hollow heart of the great mountain Sleive-na-mon. That same one man was Darby Gill, a cousin of my own mother.

One night the Good People took the eldest of Darby's three fine pigs. The next week a second pig went the same way. The third week not a thing had Darby left for the Balinrobe fair. You may aisily think how sore and sorry the poor man was, an' how Bridget his wife an' the childher carried on. The rent was due, and all left was to sell his cow Rosie to pay it. Rosie was the apple of his eye; he admired and rayspected the pigs, but he loved Rosie.

Worst luck of all was yet to come. On the morning when Darby went for the cow to bring her into market, bad scrans to the hoof was there; but in her place only a wisp of dirty straw to mock him. Millia murther! What a howlin' and screechin' and cursin' did Darby bring back to the house!

Now Darby was a bould man, and a desperate man in his anger, as you soon will see. He shoved his feet into a pair of brogues, clapped his hat on his head, and gripped his stick in his hand.

"Fairy or no fairy, ghost or goblin, livin' or dead, who took Rosie'll rue this day," he says. With those wild words he bolted in the direction of Sleive-na-mon.

All day long he climbed like an ant over the hill, looking for a hole or cave through which he could get at the prison of Rosie. At times he struck the rocks with his blackthorn, cryin' out challenge.

"Come out, you that took her," he called. "If ye have the courage of a mouse, ye murtherin' thieves, come out!"

No one made answer - at laste, not just then. But at night, as he turned, hungry and footsore, toward home, who should he meet up with on the crossroads but the ould fairy doctor, Sheela Maguire. Well known she was as a spy for the Good People. She spoke up: "Oh, then, you're the foolish, blundherin'-headed man to be saying what you've said, and doing what you've done this day, Darby Gill," says she.

"What do I care!" says he fiercely. "I'd fight the divil to-night for my beautiful cow."

"Then go into Mrs. Hagan's meadow beyant," says Sheela, "and wait till the moon is up. By-an'-by ye'll see a herd of cows come down from the mountain, and yer own'll be among them."

"What'll I do then?" asked Darby, his voice thrembling with excitement.

"Sorra a hair I care what ye do! But there'll be lads there, and hundreds you won't see, that'll stand no ill words, Darby Gill."

"I thank you kindly," says Darby, "and I bid you good-evening, ma'am." He turned away, leaving her standing there alone, looking after him; but he was sure he heard voices talkin' to her, and laughin' and tittherin' behind him.

It was dark night when Darby stretched himself on the ground in Hagan's meadow; the yellow rim of the moon just tipped the edge of the hills. The time passed mortal slow; and it was an hour later when a hundred slow shadows, stirring up the mists, crept from the mountain way toward him. First he must find was Rosie among the herd. To creep quiet as a cat through the hedge and reach the first cow was only a minute's work. Then his plan - to wait till cock-crow - with all other sober, sensible thoughts, went clean out of the lad's head before his rage; for, cropping eagerly the long sweet grass, the first baste he met was Rosie.

With a leap Darby was behind her, his stick falling sharply on her flanks. The ingratitude of that cow almost broke Darby's heart. Rosie turned fiercely on him, with a vicious lunge, her two horns aimed at his breast. There was no suppler boy in the parish than Darby, and well for him it was so, for the mad rush the cow gave would have caught any man the laste thrifle heavy on his legs, and ended his days right there. As it was, our hayro sprang to one side. As Rosie passed, his left hand gripped her tail. When one of the Gills takes hould of a thing, he hangs on like a bull terrier. Away he went, rushing with her.

Now began a race the like of which was never heard of before or since. Ten jumps to the second, and a hundred feet to the jump. Rosie's tail standing straight up in the air, firm as an iron bar, and Darby floating straight out behind; a thousand furious fairies flying a short distance after, filling the air with wild commands and threatenings.

Suddenly the sky opened for a crash of lightning that shivered the hills, and a roar of thunder that turned out of their beds every man, woman, and child in four counties. Flash after flash came the lightning, hitting on every side of Darby. If it wasn't for fear of hurting Rosie, the fairies would sartenly have killed Darby. As it was, he was stiff with fear, afraid to hould on and afraid to lave go, but flew, waving in the air at Rosie's tail like a flag.

As the cow turned into the long, narrow valley which cuts into the east side of the mountain, the Good People caught up with the pair, and what they didn't do to Darby, in the line of sticking pins, pulling whiskers, and pinching wouldn't take long to tell. In troth, he was just about to let go his hould, and take the chances of a fall, when the hillside opened and - whisk! The cow turned into the mountain. Darby found himself flying down a wide, high passage which grew lighter as he went along. He heard the opening behind shut like a trap, and his heart almost stopped beating, for this was the fairies' home in the heart of Sleive-na-mon. He was captured by them!

When Rosie stopped, so stiff were all Darby's joints, that he had great trouble loosening himself to come down. He landed among a lot of angry-faced little people, each no higher than your hand, everyone wearing a green velvet cloak and a red cap.

"We'll take him to the king," says a red-whiskered wee chap. "What he'll do to the murtherin' spalpeen'll be good and plenty!"

With that they marched our bould Darby, a prisoner, down the long passage, which every second grew wider and lighter, and fuller of little people.

Sometimes, though, he met with human beings like himself, only the black charm was on them, they having been stolen at some time by the Good People. He saw Lost People there from every parish in Ireland, both commoners and gentry. Each was laughing, talking, and divarting himself with another. Off to the sides he could see small cobblers making brogues, tinkers mending pans, tailors sewing cloth, smiths hammering horseshoes, everyone merrily to his trade, making a divarsion out of work. Down near the center of the mountain, was a room twenty times higher and broader than the biggest church in the world. As they drew near this room, there arose the sound of a reel played on bagpipes. The music was so bewitching that Darby, who was the gracefullest reel dancer in all Ireland, could hardly make his feet behave.

At the room's edge Darby stopped short and caught his breath, the sight was so entrancing. Set over the broad floor were thousands and thousands of the Good People, facing this way and that, and dancing to a reel; while on a throne in the middle of the room sat ould Brian Conners, King of the Fairies, blowing on the bagpipes. The little king, with a goold crown on his head, wearing a beautiful green velvet coat and red knee breeches, sat with his legs crossed, beating time with his foot to the music.

There were many from Darby's own parish; and what was his surprise to see there Maureen McGibney, his own wife's sister, whom he had supposed resting dacintly in her grave in holy ground these three years.

There she was, gliding back and forth, ferninst a little gray-whiskered, round-stomached fairy man, as though there was never a care nor a sorrow in the world.

As I told you before, I tell you again, Darby was the finest reel dancer in all Ireland; and he came from a family of dancers, though I say it who shouldn't, as he was my mother's own cousin. Three things in the world banish sorrow - love and whisky and music. So, when the surprise of it all melted a little, Darby's feet led him in to the thick of the throng, right under the throne of the king, where he flung care to the winds, and put his heart and mind into his two nimble feet. Darby's dancing was such that purty soon those around stood still to admire.

Backward and forward, sidestep and turn; cross over, then forward; a hand on his hip and his stick twirling free; sidestep and forward; cross over again; bow to his partner, and hammer the floor.

It wasn't long till half the dancers crowded around admiring, clapping their hands, and shouting encouragement. The ould king grew so excited that he laid down the pipes, took up his fiddle, came down from the throne, and standing ferninst Darby began a finer tune than the first.

The dancing lasted a whole hour, no one speaking a word except to cry out, "Foot it, ye divil!" "Aisy now, he's threading on flowers!" "More power to you!" "Play faster, king!" "Hooroo! Hooroo! Hooray!"

Then the king stopped and said:

"Well, that bates Banagher, and Banagher bates the world! Who are you, and how came you here?" Then Darby up and tould the whole story.

When he had finished, the king looked sayrious. "I'm glad you came, an' I'm sorry you came," he says. "If we had put our charm on you outside to bring you in, you'd never die till the end of the world, when we here must all go to hell. But," he added quickly, "there's no use in worrying about that now. That's nayther here nor there! Those willing to come with us can't come at all, at all; and here you are of your own free act and will. Howsomever, you're here, and we daren't let you go outside to tell others of what you have seen, and so give us a bad name about - about taking things, you know. We'll make you as comfortable as we can; and so you won't worry about Bridget and the childher, I'll have a goold sovereign left with them every day of their lives. But I wish we had the come-ither on you," he says, with a sigh, "for it's aisy to see you're great company. Now come up to my place an' have a noggin of punch for friendship's sake," says he.

That's how Darby Gill began his six months' stay with the Good People. Not a thing was left undone to make Darby contented and happy. A civiler people than the Good People he never met. At first he couldn't get over saying, "God keep all here," and "God save you kindly," and things like that, which was like burning them with a hot iron.

If it weren't for Maureen McGibney, Darby would be in Sleive-na-mon at this hour. Sure she was always the wise girl, ready with her crafty plans and warnings. On a day when they two were sitting alone together, she says to him:

"Darby, dear," says she, "it isn't right for a dacint man of family to be spending his days cavortin', and idlin', and fillin' the hours with sport and nonsense. We must get you out of here; for what is a sovereign a day to compare with the care and protection of a father?" she says.

"Thrue for ye!" moaned Darby, "and my heart is just splittin' for a sight of Bridget an' the childher. Bad luck to the day I set so much store on a dirty, ongrateful, threacherous cow!" "I know well how you feel," says Maureen, "for I'd give the whole world to say three words to Bob Broderick, that ye tell me that out of grief for me has never kept company with any other girl till this day. But that'll never be," she says, "because I must stop here till the Day of Judgment, and then I must go to-" says she, beginning to cry, "but if you get out, you'n bear a message to Bob for me, maybe?" she says.

"It's aisy to talk about going out, but how can it be done?" asked Darby.

"There's a way," says Maureen, wiping her big gray eyes, "but it may take years. First, you must know that the Good People can never put their charm on any one who is willing to come with them. That's why you came safe. Then, again, they can't work harm in the daylight, and after cock-crow any mortal eye can see them plain; nor can they harm anyone who has a sprig of holly, nor pass over a leaf or twig of holly, because that's Christmas bloom. Well, there's a certain evil word for a charm that opens the side of the mountain, and I will try to find it out for you. Without that word, the armies of the world couldn't get out or in. But you must be patient and wise, and wait."

"I will so, with the help of God," says Darby.

At these words, Maureen gave a terrible screech.

"Cruel man!" she cried, "don't you know that to say pious words to one of the Good People, or to one under their black charm, is like cutting him with a knife?"

The next night she came to Darby again.

"Watch yerself now," she says, "for to-night they're goin' to lave the door of the mountain open, to thry you; and if you stir two steps outside they'll put the come-ither on you," she says.

Sure enough, when Darby took his walk down the passage, after supper, as he did every night, there the side of the mountain lay wide open and no one in sight. The temptation to make one rush was great; but he only looked out a minute, and went whistling back down the passage, knowing well that a hundred hidden eyes were on him the while. For a dozen nights after it was the same.

At another time Maureen said:

"The king himself is going to thry you hard the day, so beware!" She had no sooner said the words than Darby was called for, and went up to the king.

"Darby, my sowl," says the king, in a sootherin' way, "have this noggin of punch. A betther never was brewed; it's the last we'll have for many a day. I'm going to set you free, Darby Gill, that's what I am."

"Why, king," says Darby, putting on a mournful face, "how have I offended ye?"

"No offense at all," says the king, "only we're depriving you."

"No depravity in life!" says Darby.

"I have lashins and lavings to ate and to drink, and nothing but fun an' divarsion all day long. Out in the world it was nothing but work and throuble and sickness, disappointment and care."

"But Bridget and the childher?" says the king, giving him a sharp look out of half-shut eyes. "Oh, as for that, king," says Darby, "it's aisier for a widow to get a husband, or for orphans to find a father, than it is for them to pick up a sovereign a day."

The king looked mighty satisfied and smoked for a while without a word.

"Would you mind going out an evenin' now and then, helpin' the boys to mind the cows?" he asked at last.

Darby feared to thrust himself outside in their company.

"Well, I'll tell ye how it is," replied my brave Darby. "Some of the neighbors might see me, and spread the report on me that I'm with the fairies, and that'd disgrace Bridget and the childher," he says.

The king knocked the ashes from his pipe. "You're a wise man besides being the hoight of good company," says he, "and it's sorry I am you didn't take me at my word; for then we would have you always, at laste till the Day of Judgment, when - but that's nayther here nor there! Howsomever, we'll bother you about it no more."

From that day they thrated him as one of their own. It was one day five months after that Maureen plucked Darby by the coat and led him off to a lonely spot.

"I've got the word," she says.

"Have you, faith! What is it!" says Darby, all of a thremble.

Then she whispered a word so blasphemous, so irreligious, that Darby blessed himself. When Maureen saw him making the sign, she fell down in a fit, the holy emblem hurt her so, poor child.

Three hours after this me bould Darby was sitting at his own fireside talking to Bridget and the childher. The neighbors were hurrying to him, down every road and through every field, carrying armfuls of holly bushes, as he had sent word for them to do. He knew well he'd have fierce and savage visitors before morning.

After they had come with the holly, he had them make a circle of it so thick around the house that a fly couldn't walk through without touching a twig or a leaf. But that was not all. You'll know what a wise girl and what a crafty girl that Maureen was when you hear what the neighbors did next. They made a second ring of holly outside the first, so that the house sat in two great wreaths, one wreath around the other. The outside ring was much the bigger, and left a good space between it and the first, with room for ever so many people to stand there. It was like the inner ring, except for a little gate, left open as though by accident, where the fairies could walk in.

But it wasn't an accident at all, only the wise plan of Maureen's; for nearby this little gap, in the outside wreath, lay a sprig of holly with a bit of twine tied to it. Then the twine ran along up to Darby's house, and in through the window, where its end lay convaynient to his hand. A little pull on the twine would drag the stray piece of holly into the gap, and close tight the outside ring.

It was a trap, you see. When the fairies walked in through the gap, the twine was to be pulled, and so they were to be made prisoners between the two rings of holly. They couldn't get into Darby's house, because the circle of holly nearest the house was so tight that a fly couldn't get through without touching the blessed tree or its wood. Likewise, when the gap in the outer wreath was closed, they couldn't get out again. Well, anyway, these things were hardly finished and fixed, when the dusky brown of the hills warned the neighbors of twilight, and they scurried like frightened rabbits to their homes.

Only one amongst them all had courage to sit inside Darby's house waiting the dreadful visitors, and that one was Bob Broderick. What vengeance was in store couldn't be guessed at all, at all, only it was sure that it was to be more terrible than any yet wreaked on mortal man.

Not in Darby's house alone was the terror, for in their anger the Good People might lay waste the whole parish. The roads and fields were empty and silent in the darkness. Not a window glimmered with light for miles around. Many a blaggard who hadn't said a prayer for years was now down on his marrow bones among the dacint members of his family, thumping his craw, and roaring his Pather and Aves.

In Darby's quiet house, against which the cunning, the power, and the fury of the Good People would first break, you can't think of half the suffering of Bridget and the childher, as they lay huddled together on the settle bed; nor of the sthrain on Bob and Darby, who sat smoking their dudeens and whispering anxiously together.

For some rayson or other the Good People were long in coming. Ten o'clock struck, then eleven, afther that twelve, and not a sound from the outside. The silence and the no sign of any kind had them all just about crazy, when suddenly there fell a sharp rap on the door.

"Millia murther," whispered Darby, "we're in for it. They've crossed the two rings of holly, and are at the door itself."

The childher begun to cry and Bridget said her prayers out loud; but no one answered the knock.

"Rap, rap, rap," on the door, then a pause.

"God save all here!" cried a queer voice from the outside.

Now no fairy would say, "God save all here," so Darby took heart and opened the door. Who should be standing there but Sheelah Maguire, a spy for the Good People. So angry were Darby and Bob that they snatched her within the threshold, and before she knew it they had her tied hand and foot, wound a cloth around her mouth, and rouled her under the bed. Within the minute a thousand rustling voices sprung from outside. Through the window, in the clear moonlight, Darby marked weeds and grass being trampled by invisible feet, beyond the farthest ring of holly.

Suddenly broke a great cry. The gap in the first ring was found. Signs were plainly seen of uncountable feet rushing through, and spreading about the nearer wreath. Afther that a howl of.madness from the little men and women. Darby had pulled his twine and the trap was closed, with five thousand of the Good People entirely at his mercy.

Princes, princesses, dukes, dukesses, earls, earlesses, and all the quality of Sleive-na-mon were prisoners. Not more than a dozen of the last to come escaped, and they flew back to tell the king.

For an hour they raged. All the bad names ever called to mortal man were given free, but Darby said never a word. "Pick-pocket," "sheep stayler," "murtherin' thafe of a blaggard," were the softest words trun at him.

By an' by, howsomever, as it begun to grow near to cock-crow, their talk grew a great dale civiler. Then came beggin', pladin', promisin', and enthratin', but the doors of the house still stayed shut an' its windows down.

Purty soon Darby's old rooster, Terry, came down from his perch, yawned, an' flapped his wings a few times. At that the terror and the screechin' of the Good people would have melted the heart of a stone.

All of a sudden a fine, clear voice rose from beyant the crowd. The king had come. The other fairies grew still, listening.

"Ye murtherin' thafe of the world," says he king grandly, "what are ye doin' wid my people?" "Keep a civil tongue in yer head, Brian Connor," says Darby, sticking his head out the window, "for I'm as good a man as you, any day," says Darby.

At that minute Terry, the cock, flapped his wings and crowed. In a flash there sprang into full view the crowd of Good people - dukes, earls, princes, quality, and commoners, with their ladies, jammed thick together about the house; every one of them with his head thrown back bawling and crying, and tears as big as pigeons' eggs rouling down his cheeks.

A few feet away, on a straw pile in the barnyard, stood the king, his goold crown tilted on the side of his head, his long green cloak about him, and his rod in his hand, but thremblin' allover.

In the middle of the crowd, but towering high above them all, stood Maureen McGibney in her cloak of green an' goold, her purty brown hair fallin' down on her shoulders, an' she - the crafty villain - cryin, an' bawlin', an' abusin' Darby, with the best of them.

"What'll you have an' let them go?" says the king.

"First an' foremost," says Darby, "take yer spell off that slip of a girl there, an' send her into the house."

In a second Maureen was standing inside the door, her both arms about Bob's neck, and her head on his collarbone.

What they said to aich other, and what they done in the way of embracin' an' kissin' an' cryin' I won't take time in telling you.

"Next," says Darby, "send back Rosie and the pigs."

"I expected that," says the king. And at those words they saw a black bunch coming through the air; in a few seconds Rosie and the three pigs walked into the stable.

"Now," says Darby, "promise in the name of Ould Nick" ('tis by him the Good People swear) "never to moil nor meddle again with anyone or anything from this parish."

The king was fair put out by this. Howsomever, he said at last, "You ongrateful scoundhrel, in the name of Ould Nick, I promise."

"So far, so good," says Darby, "but the worst is yet to come. Now you must ralayse from your spell every soul you've stole from this parish; and besides, you must send me ten thousand pounds in goold."

Well, the king gave a roar of anger that was heard in the next barony.

"Ye high-handed, hard-hearted robber," he says, "I'll never consent!" he says.

"Plase yerself," says Darby. "I see Father Cassidy comin' down the hedge," he says, "an' he has a prayer for ye all in his book that'll burn ye up like wisps of sthraw ef he ever catches ye here," says Darby.

With that the roaring and bawling was pitiful to hear, and in a few minutes a bag with ten thousand goold sovereigns in it was trun at Darby's threshold; and fifty people, young an' some of them ould, flew over an' stood beside the king. Some of them had spent years with the fairies. Their relatives thought them dead an' buried. They were the Lost Ones from that parish.

With that Darby pulled the bit of twine again, opening the trap, and it wasn't long until every fairy was gone.

The green coat of the last one was hardly out of sight when, sure enough, who should come up but Father Cassidy, his book in his hand. He looked at the fifty people who had been with the fairies standin' there - the poor crathures - thremblin' an' wondherin', an' afeared to go to their homes.

Darby tould him what had happened. "Ye foolish man," says the priest, "you could have got out every poor prisoner that's locked in Sleive-na-mon, let alone those from this parish."

"Would yer Reverence have me let out the Corkoniens, the Connaught men, and the Fardowns, I ask ye?" he says hotly.

"When Mrs. Malowney there goes home and finds that Tiril has married the Widow Hogan, ye'll say I let out too many, even of this parish, I'm thinkin'."

"But," says the priest, "ye might have got ten thousand pounds for aich of us."

"If aich had ten thousand pounds, what comfort would I have in being rich?" asked Darby again. "To enjoy well being rich, there should be plenty of poor," says Darby.

"God forgive ye, ye selfish man!" says Father Cassidy.

"There's another rayson besides," says Darby. "I never got betther nor friendlier thratement than I had from the Good People. An' the divil a hair of their heads I'd hurt more than need be," he says.

Some way or other the king heard of this saying, an' was so mightily pleased that next night a jug of the finest poteen was left at Darby's door.

After that, indade, many's the winter night, when the snow lay so heavy that no neighbor was stirrin', and when Bridget and the childher were in bed, Darby sat by the fire, a noggin of hot punch in his hand, argying an' getting news of the whole world. A little man, with a goold crown on his head, a green cloak on his back, and one foot thrown over the other, sat ferninst him by the hearth.