Darby O'Gill and the Good People/How the Fairies Came to Ireland

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How the Fairies Came to Ireland

The most lonesome bridle-path in all Ireland leads from Tom Healy's cottage down the sides of the hills, along the edge of the valley, till it raiches the highroad that skirts the great mountain, Sleive-na-mon.

One blusthering, unaisy night, Father Cassidy, on his way home from a sick call, rode over that same path. It wasn't strange that the priest, as his horse ambled along, should be thinking of that other night in Darby O'Gill's kitchen—the night when he met with the Good People; for there, off to the left, towered and threatened Sleive-na-mon, the home of the fairies.

The dismal ould mountain glowered toward his Riverence, its dark look saying, plain as spoken words:

"How dare ye come here; how dare ye?"

"I wondher", says Father Cassidy to himself, looking up at the black hill, "if the Good People are fallen angels, as some do be saying.

"Why were they banished from heaven? It must have been a great sin entirely they committed, at any rate, for at the same time they were banished the power to make a prayer was taken from them. That's why to say a pious word to a fairy is like trowing scalding wather on him. 'Tis a hard pinnance that's put on the poor crachures. I wisht I knew what 'twas for," he says.

He was goin' on pondherin' in that way, while Terror was picking his steps, narvous, among the stones of the road, whin suddenly a frowning, ugly rock seemed to jump up and stand ferninst them at a turn of the path.

Terror shied at it, stumbled wild, and thin the most aggrewating of all bothersome things happened—the horse cast a shoe and wint stone lame.

In a second the priest had leaped to the ground and picked up the horseshoe.

"Wirra! Wirra!" says he, lifting the lame foot, "why did you do it, allannah? 'Tis five miles to a smith an' seven miles to your own warm stable."

The horse, for answer, raiched down an' touched with his soft nose the priest's cheek; but the good man looked rayproachful into the big brown eyes that turned sorrowful to his own.

With the shoe in his hand the priest was standin' fretting and helpless on the lonesome hillside, wondhering what he'd do at all at all, whin a sudden voice spoke up from somewhere near Terror's knees.

"The top of the avinin' to your Riverence," it said, "I'm sorry for your bad luck," says the voice.

Looking down, Father Cassidy saw a little cloaked figure, and caught the glint of a goold crown. 'Twas Brian Connors, the King of the Fairies, himself, that was in it.

His words had so friendly a ring in them that the clargyman smiled in answering, "Why, thin, good fortune to you, King Brian Connors," says the good man, "an' save you kindly. What wind brought you here?" he says.

The king spoke back free an' pleasant. "The boys told me you were comin' down the mountainy way, and I came up just in time to see your misfortune. I've sent for Shaun Rhue, our own farrier—there's no betther in Ireland; he'll be here in a minute, so don't worry," says the King.

The priest came so near saying "God bless ye," that the king's hair riz on his head. But Father Cassidy stopped in the nick of time, changed his coorse, an' steered as near a blessing as he could without hurting the Master of the Good People.

"Well, may you never hear of throuble," he says, "till you're wanted to its wake," says he.

"There's no throuble to-night at any rate," says the king, "for while Shaun is fixing the baste we'll sit in the shelter of that rock yonder; there we'll light our pipes and divart our minds with pleasant discoorsin' and wise convarsaytion."

While the king spoke, two green-cloaked little men were making a fire for the smith out of twigs. So quick did they work, that by the time the priest and the fairy man could walk over to the stone and sit themselves in the shelther, a thousand goold sparks were dancin' in the wind, and the glimmer of a foine blaze fought with the darkness.

Almost as soon, clear and purty, rang the cheerful sound of an anvil, and through the swaying shadows a dozen busy little figures were working about the horse. Some wore leather aprons and hilt up the horse's hoof whilst Shaun fitted the red-hot shoe; others blew the bellows or piled fresh sticks on the fire; all joking, laughing, singing, or thrickin'; one couldn't tell whether 'twas playing or workin' they were.

Afther lighting their pipes and paying aich other an armful of complayments, the Master of Sleive-na-mon and the clargyman began a sayrious discoorse about the deloights of fox hunting, which led to the considheration of the wondherful wisdom of racing horses and the disgraceful day-ter-ray-roar-ation of the Skibberbeg hounds.

Father Cassidy related how whin Ned Blaze's steeplechasin' horse had been entered for the Connemarra Cup, an' found out at the last minute that Ned feared to lay a bet on him, the horse felt himself so stabbed to the heart with shame by his master's disthrust, that he trew his jockey, jumped the wall, an', head in the air, galloped home.

The king then tould how at a great hunting meet, whin three magisthrates an' two head excises officers were in the chase, that thief of the worruld, Let-Erin-Raymimber, the chief hound of the Skibberbeg pack, instead of follying the fox, led the whole hunt up over the mountain to Patrick McCaffrey's private still. The entire counthryside were dhry for a fortnit afther.

Their talk in that way dhrifted from one pleasant subject to another, till Father Cassidy, the sly man, says aisy 'an' careless "I've been tould," says he, "that before the Good People were banished from heaven yez were all angels," he says.

The king blew a long thin cloud from betwixt his lips, felt his whuskers thoughtful for a minute, and said:

"No," he says, "we were not exactly what you might call angels. A rale angel is taller nor your chapel."

"Will you tell me what they're like?" axed Father Cassidy, very curious.

"I'll give you an idee be comparison what they're like," the king says. "They're not like a chapel, and they're not like a three, an' they're not like the ocean," says he. "They're different from a goint—a great dale different—and they're dissembler to an aygle; in fact you'd not mistake one of them for anything you'd ever seen before in your whole life. Now you have a purty good ideeah what they're like," says he.

"While I think of it," says the fairy man, a vexed frown wrinkling over his forehead, "there's three young bachelors in your own parish that have a foolish habit of callin' their colleens angels whin they's not the laste likeness—not the laste. If I were you, I'd preach ag'in it," says he.

"Oh, I dunno about that!" says Father Cassidy, fitting a live coal on his pipe. "The crachures must say thim things. If a young bachelor only talks sensible to a sensible colleen he has a good chanst to stay a bachelor. An thin ag'in, a gossoon who'll talk to his sweetheart about the size of the petatie crop'll maybe bate her whin they're both married. But this has nothing to do with your historical obserwaytions. Go on, King," he says.

"Well, I hate foolishness, wherever it is," says the fairy. "Howsumever, as I was saying, up there in heaven they called us the Little People," he says; "millions of us flocked together, and I was the King of them all. We were happy with one another as birds of the same nest, till the ruction came on betwixt the black and the white angels.

"How it all started I never rightly knew, nor wouldn't ask for fear of getting implicayted. I bade all the Little People keep to themselves thin, because we had plenty of friends in both parties, and wanted throuble with nayther of them.

"I knew ould Nick well; a civiler, pleasanter spoken sowl you couldn't wish to meet—a little too sweet in his ways, maybe. He gave a thousand favors and civilities to my subjects, and now that he's down, the devil a word I'll say agin him."

"I'm agin him," says Father Cassidy, looking very stern; "I'm agin him an' all his pumps an' worruks. I'll go bail that in the ind he hurt yez more than he helped yez."

"Only one thing I blame him for," says the king; "he sajooced from the Little People my comrade and best friend, one Thaddeus Flynn be name. And the way that it was, was this. Thaddeus was a warm-hearted little man, but monsthrous high-spirited as well as quick-tempered. I can shut me eyes now, and in me mind see him thripping along, his head bent, his pipe in his mouth, his hands behind his back. He never wore a waistcoat, but kept always his green body-coat buttoned. A tall caubeen was set on the back of his head, with a sprig of green shamrock in the band. There was a thin rim of black whiskers undher his chin."

Father Cassidy, liftin' both hands in wondher, said: "If I hadn't baptized him, and buried his good father before him, I'd swear 'twas Michael Pether McGilligan of this parish you were dayscribin'," says he.

"The McGilligans ain't dacint enough, nor rayfined enough, nor proud enough to be fairies," says the king, wavin' his pipe scornful. "But to raysume and to continue," he says.

"Thaddeus and I used to frayquint a place they called the battlements or parypets—which was a great goold wall about the edge of heaven, and which had wide steps down on the outside face, where one could sit, pleasant avenings, and hang his feet over, or where one'd stand before going to take a fly in the fresh air for himself.

"Well, agra, the night before the great battle, Thady and I were sitting on the lowest step, looking down into league upon league of nothing, and talking about the world, which was suxty thousand miles below, and hell, which was tunty thousand miles below that ag'in, when who should come blusthering over us, his black wings hiding the sky, and a long streak of lightning for a spear in his fist, but Ould Nick.

"'Brian Connors, how long are you going to be downthrodden and thrajooced and looked down upon—you and your subjects?' says he.

"'Faix, thin, who's doing that to us?' asks Thady, standing up and growing excited.

"'Why,' says Ould Nick, 'were you made little pigmies to be the laugh and the scorn and the mock of the whole world?' he says, very mad; 'why weren't you made into angels, like the rest of us?' he says.

"'Musha,' cries Thady, 'I never thought of that.'

"'Are you a man or a mouse; will you fight for your rights?' says Sattin. 'If so, come with me and be one of us. For we'll bate them black and blue to-morrow,' he says. Thady needed no second axing.

"'I'll go with ye, Sattin, me dacent man,' cried he. 'Wirra! Wirra! To think of how downthrodden we are!' And with one spring Thady was on Ould Nick's chowlders, and the two flew away like a humming-bird riding on the back of an aygle.

"'Take care of yerself, Brian,' says Thady, 'and come over to see the fight; I'm to be in it. And I extind you the inwitation,' he says.

"In the morning the battle opened; one line of black angels stretched clear across heaven, and faced another line of white angels, with a walley between.

"Everyone had a spaking trumpet in his hand, like you see in the pictures, and they called aich other hard names across the walley. As the white angels couldn't swear or use bad langwidge, Ould Nick's army had at first in that way a great adwantage. But when it came to hurling hills and shying tunderbolts at aich other, the black angels were bate from the first.

"Poor little Thaddeus Flynn stood amongst his own, in the dust and the crash and the roar, brave as a lion. He couldn't hurl mountains, nor was he much at flinging lightning bolts, but at calling hard names he was aquil to the best.

"I saw him take off his coat, trow it on the ground, and shake his pipe at a thraymendous angel. 'You owdacious villain,' he cried. 'I dare you to come half way over,' he says.

"My, oh my, whin the armies met together in the rale handy grips, it must have been an illigent sight," says Father Cassidy. "'Tis a wondher you kep' out of it," says he.

"I always belayved," says the King, "that if he can help it, no one should fight whin he's sure to get hurted, onless it's his juty to fight. To fight for the mere sport of it, when a throuncin' is sartin, is wasting your time and hurtin' your repitation. I know there's plenty thinks different," he says, p'inting his pipe. "I may be wrong, an' I won't argyfy the matther. 'Twould have been betther for myself that day if I had acted on the other principle.

"Howsumever, be the time that everybody was sidestepping mountains and dodging tunderbolts, I says to myself, says I, 'This is no place fer you or the likes of you.' So I took all me own people out to the battlements and hid them out of the way on the lower steps. We'd no sooner got placed whin—whish! a black angel shot through the air over our heads, and began falling down, down, and down, till he was out of sight. Then a score of his friends came tumbling over the battlements; imagetly hundreds of others came whirling, and purty soon it was raining black wings down into the gulf.

"In the midst of the turmile, who should come jumping down to me, all out of breath, but Thady.

"'It's all over, Brian; we're bate scandalous,' he says, swinging his arms for a spring and balancing himself up and down on the edge of the steps. 'Maybe you wouldn't think it of me, Brian Connors; but I'm a fallen angel,' says he.

"'Wait a bit, Thaddeus Flynn!' says I. 'Don't jump,' I says.

"'I must jump,' he says, 'or I'll be trun,' says he.

"The next thing I knew he was swirling and darting and shooting a mile below me.

"And I know," says the King, wiping his eyes with his cloak, "that when the Day of Judgment comes I'll have at laste one friend waiting for me below to show me the coolest spots and the pleasant places.

"The next minute up came the white army with presners—angels, black and white, who had taken no side in the battle, but had stood apart like ourselves.

"'A man,' says the Angel Gabriel, 'who, for fear of his skin, won't stand for the right when the right is in danger, may not desarve hell, but he's not fit for heaven. Fill up the stars with these cowards and throw the lavin's into the say,' he ordhered.

"With that he swung a lad in the air, and gave him a fling that sent him ten miles out intil the sky. Every other good angel follyed shuit, and I watched thousands go, till they faded like a stretch of black smoke a hundred miles below.

"The Angel Gabriel turned and saw me, and I must confess I shivered.

"'Well, King Brian Connors,' says he, 'I hope you see that there's such a thing as being too wise and too cute and too ticklish of yourself. I can't send you to the stars, bekase they're fun, and I won't send you to the bottomless pit so long as I can help it. I'll send yez an down to the world. We're going to put human beans on it purty soon, though they're going to turn out to be blaggards, and at last we'll have to burn the place up. Afther that, if you're still there, you and yours must go to purdition, for it's the only place left for you.

"'You're too hard on the little man,' says the Angel Michael, coming up—St. Michael was ever the outspoken, friendly person—'sure what harm, or what hurt, or what good could he have done us? And can you blame the poor little crachures for not interfering?'

"'Maybe I was too harsh,' says the Angel Gabriel, 'but being saints, when we say a thing we must stick to it. Howsumever, I'll let him settle in any part of the world he likes, and I'll send there the kind of human beans he'd wish most for. Now, give your ordher,' he says to me, taking out his book and pencil, 'and I'll make for you the kind of people you'd like to live among.'

"'Well,' says I, 'I'd like the men honest and brave, and the women good.'

"'Very well,' he says, writing it down; 'I've got that—go on.'

"'And I'd like them fun of jollity and sport, fond of racing and singing and hunting and fighting, and all such innocent divarsions.'

"'You'll have no complaint about that,' says he.

"'And,' says I, 'I'd like them poor and parsecuted, bekase when a man gets rich, there's no more fun in him.'

"'Yes, I'll fix that. Thrue for you,' says the Angel Gabriel, writing.

"'And I don't want them to be Christians,' says I; 'make them Haythens or Pagans, for Christians are too much worried about the Day of Judgment.'

"'Stop there! Say no more!' says the saint. 'If I make as fine a race of people as that I won't send them to hell to plaze you, Brian Connors.'

"'At laste,' says I, 'make them Jews.'

"'If I made them Jews,' he says, slowly screwing up one eye to think, 'how could you keep them poor? No, no!' he said, shutting up the book; 'go your ways; you have enough.'

"I clapped me hands, and an the Little People stood up and bent over the edge, their fingers pointed like swimmers going to dive. 'One, two, three,' I shouted; and with that we took the leap.

"We were two years and tunty-six days falling before we raiched the world. On the morning of the next day we began our sarch for a place to live. We thraveled from north to south and from ayst to west. Some grew tired and dhropped off in Spain, some in France, and others ag'in in different parts of the world. But the most of us thraveled ever and ever till we came to a lovely island that glimmered and laughed and sparkled in the middle of the say.

"'We'll stop here,' I says; 'we needn't sarch farther, and we needn't go back to Italy or Swizzerland, for of all places on the earth, this island is the nearest like heaven; and in it the County Clare and the County Tipperary are the purtiest spots of all.' So we hollowed out the great mountain Sleive-na-mon for our home, and there we are till this day."

The king stopped a while, and sat houldin' his chin in his hands. "That's the thrue story," he says, sighing pitiful. "We took sides with nobody, we minded our own business, and we got trun out for it," says he.

So intherested was Father Cassidy in the talk of the king that the singing and hammering had died out without his knowing, and he hadn't noticed at all how the darkness had thickened in the valley and how the stillness had spread over the hillside. But now, whin the chief of the fairies stopped, the good man, half frightened at the silence, jumped to his feet and turned to look for his horse.

Beyond the dull glow of the dying fire a crowd of Little People stood waiting, patient and quiet, houlding Terror, who champed restless at his bit, and bate impatient with his hoof on the hard ground.

As the priest looked toward them, two of the little men wearing leather aprons moved out from the others, leading the baste slow and careful over to where the good man stood beside the rock.

"You've done me a faver this night," says the clargyman, gripping with his bridle hand the horse's mane, "an' all I have to pay it back with'd only harry you, an' make you oncomfortable, so I'll not say the words," he says.

"No faver at all," says the king, "but before an hour there'll be lyin' on your own threshold a faver in the shape of a bit of as fine bacon as ever laughed happy in the middle of biling turnips. We borryed it last night from a magisthrate named Blake; who lives up in the County Wexford," he says.

The clargyman had swung himself into the saddle.

"I'd be loath to say anything disrayspectful," he says quick, "or to hurt sensitive feelings, but on account of my soul's sake I couldn't ate anything that was come by dishonest," he says.

"Bother and botheration, look at that now!" says the king. "Every thrade has its drawbacks, but I never rayalized before the hardship of being a parish priest. Can't we manage it some way? Couldn't I put it some place where you might find it, or give it to a friend who'd send it to you?"

"Stop a minute," says Father Cassidy. "Up at Tim Healy's I think there's more hunger than sickness, more nade for petaties than for physic. Now, if you sent that same bit of bacon——"

"Oh, ho!" says the king, with a dhry cough, "the Healy's have no sowls to save, the same as parish priests have."

"I'm a poor, wake, miserable sinner," says the priest, hanging his head; "I fall at the first temptation. Don't send it," says he.

"Since you forbid me, I'll send it," says the king, chucklin'. "I'll not be ruled by you. To-morrow the Healy's'll have five tinder-hearted heads of cabbage, makin' love in a pot to the finest bit of bacon in Tipperary—that is, unless you do your juty an' ride back to warn them. Raymember their poor sowls," says he, "an' don't forget your own," he says.

The priest sat unaisy in the saddle. "I'll put all the raysponsibility on Terror," he says. "The baste has no sowl to lose. I'll just drop the reins on his neck; if he turns and goes back to Healy's I'll warn them; if he goes home let it be on his own conscience."

He dhropped the reins, and the dishonest baste started for home imagetly.

But afther a few steps Father Cassidy dhrew up an' turned in the saddle. Not a sowl was in sight; there was only the lonely road and the lonesome hillside; the last glimmer of the fairy fire was gone, and a curtain of soft blackness had fallen betwixt him an' where the blaze had been.

"I bid you good night, Brian Connors," the priest cried. From somewhere out of the darkness a woice called back to him, "Good night, your Riverence."