Darby O'Gill and the Good People/The Adventures of King Brian Connors/Chapter 1

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Did your honour ever hear how Anthony Sullivan's goat came to join the fairies?

Well, it's a quare story and a wandhering, quarrelsome story, as a tale about a goat is sure to be. Howsumever, in the home of the Good People—which, as you know, is the hollow heart of the great mountain Sleive-na-mon—Anthony Sullivan's goat lives and prospers to this day, a pet and a hayro among the fairies.

And this is the way it came about:

All the world knows how for months Darby O'Gill an' his purty sister-in-law, Maureen McGibney, were kept presners by the Good People; an' how, afther they were relaysed by the King, that same little fairy, King Brian Connors, used often to visit thim an' sit with thim colloguin' and debaytin' an' considherin' in Darby O'Gill's kitchen.

One lonesome Decimber night, when Bridget and the childher were away visiting Bridget's father at Ballingher, and the angry blast was screaming and dhrifting the first white flakes of winther around Darby's house, thin it was that Darby O'Gill, Brian Connors, the King of the Good People, and Maureen McGibney sat with their heads together before the blazing hearth. The King, being not much higher than your two hands, sat on the child's stool betwixt the other two, his green cloak flung back from his chowlders, and the goold crown on his head glistening in the firelight.

It was a pleasant sight to watch them there in the flickering hearth glow. From time to time, as he talked, the ould King patted Maureen's hands and looked smiling up into her purty gray eyes. They had been discoursing on the subject of Throubles and Thribulations.

"Arrah! You ought to be the happy man, King," Darby says, sipping his noggin of punch, "with no silly woman to ordher you or to cross you or to belittle you. Look at meself. Afther all the rayspect I've climbed into from being with the fairies, and afther all the knowledge I've got from them, there's one person in this parish who has no more riverence for me now than she had the first day she met me—sometimes not so much, I'm thinking," he says, hurt-like.

"I've seen the workings of families during more than five thousand years," says the little King, "so you needn't tell me who that one person is, me poor man—'tis your own wife, Bridget."

"Thrue for you! Whin it's the proud woman she ought to be this day to have the likes of me for a husband," says Darby. "Ah, then, you ought to be the happy man, whatever wind blows," he sighed again; "when you see a fat pig you like, you take it without so much as saying by your lave; if you come upon a fine cow or a good horse, in a twinkling you have it in Sleive-na-mon. A girl has a good song with her, a boy has a nimble foot for a jig, or an ould woman a smooth tongue for a tale, and, whisk! they're gone into the heart of the mountain to sing or dance for you, or to beguile you with ould tales until the Day of Judgment."

The King shook his head slowly, and drew a long face.

"Maybe we ought to be happy," says he. "'Tis thrue there's no sickness in Sleive-na-mon, nor worry for to-morrow, nor fret for one's childher, nor parting from friends, or things like that, but throuble is like the dhrifting snow outside, Darby; it falls on the cottage and it covers the castle with the same touch, and once in a while it sifts into Sleive-na-mon."

"In the name of goodness!" cries Darby, surprised, "is there anything in the whole world you can't have for the wishing it?"

The King took off his goold crown and began polishing it with his sleeve to hide his narvousness. "I'll tell you a saycret," he whuspered, bending over toward Darby, and speaking slow. "In Sleive-na-mon our hearts are just breaking for something we can't get; but that's one thing we'd give the worruld for."

"Oh, King, what in the livin' worruld can it be?" cried Maureen.

"I'd give the teeth out of me head if I could only own a goat," says the King, looking as though he were going to cry.

"Man alive!" says Darby, dhropping the poker, "the counthry-side is full of goats, and all you have to do is to take your pick and help yourself. You're making game of us, King."

The King shook his head. "The Good People have been thrying for years to capture one," says he. "I've been bunted into ditches by the villains; I've been trun over hedges by them; I had to leap on the back of Anthony Sullivan's goat, and with two hundred of me subjects in full cry behind, ride him all night long, houlding by his horns to kape him from getting at me and disthroying me entirely. The jumps he took with me that night were thraymendous. It was from the cow-shed to the sthraw-stack, from the sthraw-stack to the house-top, and from there down to the ground agin, and then hooraying an' hoorooing, a race up the mountain-side. But," says the King, kind o' sniffling an' turning to the fire, "we love the ground he walks upon," says he.

"Tare an' ouns!" says Darby, "why don't you put your spell on one of them?"

"You don't know them," says the King. "We can't put the black spell on thim—they're not Christian bastes, like pigs or cows. Whin it comes to animals, we can only put our come 'ither on cattle and horses, and such as are Christian animals, ye know. In his mind and in his heart a goat is a pagen. He wouldn't ask any betther divarsion than for me to thry and lay me hands on him," says the King, wiping his eyes.

"But," says he agin, standing up on the stool and houlding his pipe over his head, "Anthony Sullivan's goat is the gallusest baste that roams the fields! There's more fun in him, and no more fear in him, than in a yallow lion. He'd do anything for sport; he'd bunt the King of Russia, he'd ba-a at a parish priest, out of pure, rollicking divilment," says the King. "If the Good People had a friend, a rale friend," says he, looking hard at Darby, "that wouldn't be afeard to go into our home within the mountain once more, just once, and bring with him that goat——"

"Say no more," says Darby, hoarsely, and turning white with fear—"say no more, Brian Connors! Not all the goold in Sleive-na-mon would tempt me there agin! It's make a presner of me for ever you would. I know your thricks."

The look of scorn the little man flung at Darby would have withered the threes.

"I might have known it," he says, sitting down disgusted. "I was a fool for hoping you would," says he. "There's no more spirit in ye nor sinse of gratichude than in a hin. Wait till!—" and he shook his fist.

"Don't blame the lad," cried Maureen, patting the King's head, sootheringly; "sure, why should the like of a wondherful man, such as you, who has lived five thousand years, and knows everything, compare your wit or your spirit or your sinse with the likes of us poor crachures that only stay here a few hours and thin are gone for ever?" This she cried, craftily, flatthering the ould man. "Be aisy on him, King, acushla!" says she, coaxing.

Well, the little man, being soothered, sat down agin. "Maybe I was too hard," he says, "but to tell the truth, the life is just bothered out of me, and my temper is runed these days with an omadhaun[1] we've taken lately; I don't know what to do with him. Talk of throuble! He mopes and mourns and moothers in spite of all we can do. I've even tould him where the crocks of goold are hid——"

"You haven't tould me that," cries Darby, quickly.

"No," says the King, looking at him sideways.

"At laste not yit," says Darby, looking sideways at the King.

"Not yit, nor will I fer a long time yitter, you covetous, ungrateful spalpeen!" snapped the fairy.

"Well," said he, paying no more attention to Darby, "this young omadhaun is six feet high in his stockings, and as foine a looking lad as you'll see in a day's walk. Now what do you think he's mourning and crooning for?"

"Faix, I dunno," answered Darby. "Maybe it's a horse or a dog or a cow, or maybe a pair of pigs."

"You've not hit it," said the Ruler of the Good People; "it's a colleen. And him having a college education, too."

"Troth, thin," said Darby, with a knowledgeable wag of his head, "some of them larned students are as foolish in that way as ignorant people. I once met a tinker named Larry McManus, who knew the jography from cover to cover, and still he had been married three times."

"Poor gossoon! Who is the omadhaun?" asked Maureen, not minding Darby.

"He's no less," said the King, "than Roger O'Brien, a son of ould Bob O'Brien, who was the richest and proudest man in the County Tipperary. Ould Bob thraces his ancestors for five hundhred years, and he owns a mile of land and has forty tenants. He had no child but this omadhaun."

"And who is the colleen? Some grand Princess, I suppose," said Maureen.

"There was the whole throuble," answered the little man. "Why, she's no one at all, but a little white-cheeked, brown-eyed, black-haired girl named Norah Costello, belonging to one of his own tenants on the domain. It all came from eddicatin' people above their station."

"Faix," Darby says, "there's Phelem Brady, the stonecutter, a fine, dacint man he was till he made up his mind to larn the history of Ireland from ind to ind. When he got so far as where the Danes killed Brian Boru he took to dhrink, and the divil a ha'porth's good he's been ever since. But lade on with your discoorse, King," says he, waving his noggin of punch.

At this the King filled his pipe, Maureen threw fresh turf on the fire, and the wind dhrew the sparks dancing up the chimney. Now and thin while the King talked, some of the fairies outside rapped on the window-panes and pressed their little faces against the glass to smile and nod at those within, thin scurried busily off agin intil the darkness. Once the wail of a child rose above the cry of the storm, and Maureen caught the flash of a white robe against the window-pane.

"It's a child we've taken this night from one Jude Casey down in Mayo," says King Brian Connors. "But fill my noggin with fresh punch, Maureen, and dhraw closter till I tell you about the omadhaun." And the Master of the Good People crossed his legs and settled into telling the story, comfortable as comfortable could be.

"The way the throuble began was foine and innocent as the day is long," said the King. "Five or six years ago—it was on the day Roger was first sent to college at Dublin—Misther and Misthress O'Brien, mighty lonesome an' down-hearted, were dhriving over the estate whin who should they spy standing, modest and timid, at her own gate, but purty little Norah Costello. Though the child was only fourteen years old, Misthress O'Brien was so taken with her wise, gentle ways that Norah next day was sint for to come up to the big house to spind an hour amusing the Misthress. There was the rock they all split on.

Every day afther for a month the little girl went visiting there. At the end of that time Misthress O'Brien grew so fond of her that Norah was brought to the big house to live. Ould Bob liked the little girl monsthrous well, so they put fine clothes on her until in a couple of years one couldn't tell her from a rale lady, whether he met her in the house or at the cross-road.

Only every Saturday night she'd put on a little brown poplin dhress and go to her father's cottage, and stay there helping her mother till Monday or maybe Chewsday. 'For I mustn't get proud-hearted,' she'd say, 'or lose the love I was born to, for who can tell whin I'll need it,' says she.

"A wise girl," says Darby.

"A dear colleen," says Maureen.

"Well, every summer me brave Roger came home from college, and the two rode together afther the hounds, or sailed his boat or roved the woods, and the longest summer days were too short entirely to suit the both of them.

"Although she had a dozen young fellows courting her—some of them gentlemen's sons—the divil an eye she had for anyone except Roger; and although he might pick from twinty of the bluest-blooded ladies in Ireland any day he liked, Norah was his one delight.

"Every servant on the place knew how things were going, but the ould man was so blind with pride that he saw nothing at all; stranger than all, the two childher believed that ould Bob guessed the way things were with them an' was plazed with them. A worse mistake was never made. He never dhramed that his son Roger would think of any girl without a fortune or a title.

"Misthress O'Brien must have known, but, being tendher-hearted and loving and, like all women, a trifle weak-minded, hoped, in spite of rayson, that her husband would consint to let the childher marry. Knowing ould Bob as she knew him, that was a wild thought for Misthress O'Brien to have; for if ever there was a stiffer, bittherer, prouder, more unforgiving, boistherous man I haven't seen him, and I've lived five thousand years."

Darby, scowling mighty important, raised his hand. "Whist a bit," he says; "you raymind me of the ballad about Lord Skipperbeg's lovely daughter and the farmer's only son." Stretching his legs an' wagging his head, he sang:

"Her cheeks were like the lily white,
Her neck was like the rose."

"Oh, my! oh, my!" said the King, surprised, "was her neck as red as that?"

"By no manes," said Darby. "I med a mistake; 'twas this away:

"Her neck was like the lily white,
Her cheeks were like the rose,
She quickly doffed her silk attire
And donned a yeoman's clothes.

"'Rise up, rise up, my farmer's son,
Rise up thrue love,' says she,
'We'll fly acrost the ragin' main
Unto Amer-i——'"

"Have done you're fooling, Darby," says Maureen; "you have the King bothered."

"I wisht you hadn't shtopped him, agra," says the King. "I niver heard that song before, an' it promised well. I'm fond of love songs," he says.

"But the omadhaun," coaxed the colleen.

"I forgot where I was," the King says, scratching his head. "But, spaking of ould Bob," he wint on, "no one ever thought how evil and bitther he could be, until his son, the foolish lad, a few days before the ind of his schooling, wrote to the father that he wanted to marry Norah whin he came home, and that he would be home in a few days, he thought. He was breaking the news aisy to the family, d'ye see!

"'Whew! Hullabaloo! Out of the house with her—the sly, conniving hussy!' shouted ould Bob, whin he read the letter. 'Into the road with all we've given her! Pull the roof off Costello's house and dhrive off the place his whole brood of outraygeous villians!'

"So they packed Norah's boxes—faix, an' many a fine dhress was in them, too—and bade her begone. The Misthress slipped a bag of goold sovereigns with a letther into one of the chests. Norah took the letther, but she forbade them sending so much as a handkerchief afther her.

"She wouldn't even ride in the coach that the Misthress had waiting for her outside the grand gate; and all alone, in her brown poplin dhress, she marched down the gravel path, proud, like a queen going to be crowned. Nor did she turn her head when the servants called blessings af ther her; but oh, asthore, her face was marble white; and whin she was on her way down the lonely high-road how she cried!

"'Twas a bitther time entirely, the night young Roger came home, and, hearing of all this, rushed up the stairs to face his father. What happened betwixt them there no one knows, only they never passed aich other a friendly look nor gave one to the other a pleasant word from that good hour to this.

"To make matthers worse, that same night young Roger wint and axed Norah Costello to marry him. But all the counthry-side knows how the girl rayfused him, saying she wouldn't beggar and rune the man she loved.

"Well, he took her at her word, but disbelieved and mocked at the raysons she gave—the omadhaun!

"He wasn't much good afther that, only for galloping his horse over the counthry like a madman, so I said to meself , says I, that we might as well take him with us into the Sleive-na-mon. I gave the ordhers, and there he is."

"Oh, the poor lad!" says Maureen; "does ould Bob suspect the boy is with the fairies?"

"Not in the laste," says the King. "You know how it is with us; whinever we take a person we lave one of our own in his place, who looks and acts and talks in a way that the presner's own mother can't tell the differ. By-and-by the fairy sickens and purtends to die, and has his wake and his burial. When the funeral's over he comes back to us hale and spiling for more sport. So the lad the O'Briens put into their tomb was one of our own—Phadrig Oge be name.

"Many a time Phadrig has taken the place of the genthry and quality in every county of Ireland, and has been buried more than a hundhred times, but he swears he never before had a dacinter funeral nor a rattliner wake."

"And the girl!" cried Maureen—"Norah, where is she?"

"Faith, that's strange, too," says the King. "She was the first person ould Bob axed for afther the funeral. He begged her to come back to them and forgive him, and the poor girl went agin to live at the big house."

"He'll get her another good husband yet," said Darby.

"Oh, never!" says Maureen, crying like a child. "She'll die of a broken heart."

"I've seen in me time," says the King, "people die from being pushed off houses, from falling in wells, and every manner of death you can mention, and I saw one ould woman die from ating too much treacle," he says, "but never a person die from a broken heart."

This he said to make light of what he had been telling, because he saw by Maureen's face that she was growing sick with pity. For Maureen was thinking of the black days when she herself was a presner in Sleive-na-mon.

For an answer to the jest, the girl, with her clasped hands held up to the King, moaned, "Oh, King, King, lave the poor lad go! lave him go. Take the black spell off him and send him home. I beg you lave him go!"

"Don't bother him," says Darby; "what right have we to interfere with the Good People?" Though at the same time he took the pipe from his mouth and looked kind of wistful at the little man.

But Maureen's tears only fell faster and faster.

"I can't do what you ask, avick," says the King, very kindly. "That day I let you and Darby go from us the power to free anyone was taken away from me by my people. Now every fairy in Sleive-na-mon must give his consent before the spell can be taken away entirely from anyone; and, well, you know they'll never consent to that," he says.

"But what I can do, I will do. I can lift the spell from the omadhaun for one hour, and that hour must be just before cock-crow."

"Is that the law now?" asked Darby, curiously. Maureen was sobbing, so she couldn't spake.

"It is," says the Master of the Good People. "And to-night I'll sind our spy, Sheelah Maguire, to Norah Costello with the message that if Norah has love enough and courage enough in her heart to stand alone at her thrue lover's grave in Kilmartin churchyard, to-morrow night an hour before cock-crow, she'll see him plain and talk with him. And let you two be there," he says, "to know that I keep me word."

At that he vanished and they saw him no more that night, nor until two hours afther the next midnight, whin as they were tying the ould horse and cart to the fence outside Kilmartin church, thin they heard him singing. He was sitting on the wall, chanting at the top of his woice a sthrange, wild song, and houlding in his hand a silver-covered noggin. On a fallen tombstone near by lay a white cloth, glimmering in the moonlight, and on the cloth was spread as fine a supper as heart could wish.

So beside the white rows of silent tombs, under the elm-trees and willows, they ate their fill, and Darby would have ate more if close to them they hadn't heard a long, deep sigh, and caught a glimpse of a tall man, gliding like a shadow into the shadows that hung around the O'Briens' family vault.

At the same time, standing on the top of the stile which led into the graveyard, a woman's form was seen wavering in the moonlight.

They watched her coming down the walk betwixt the tombs, her hand on her breast, clutching tight the cloak. Now and thin she'd stand, looking about the while, and shivering in mortal terror at the cry of the owls, and thin she'd flit on and be lost in the shadows; and thin they'd see her run out into the moonlight, where she'd wait agin, gathering courage. At last she came to a strip of soft light before the tomb she knew. Her strength failed her there, and she went down on her knees.

Out of the darkness before her a low, pleading woice called, "Norah! Norah! Don't be frightened, acushla machree!"

Slowly, slowly, with its arm spread, the dim shape of a man glided out of the shadows. At the same instant the girl rose and gave one cry, as she flung herself on his breast. They could see him bending over her, thin, pouring words like rain into her ears, but what he said they couldn't hear—Darby thinks he whuspered.

"I wondher, oh, I wondher what he's telling her in this last hour!" says Maureen.

"It's aisy to know that," says Darby; "what should he be telling her but where the crocks of goold are hid."

"Don't be watching them, it ain't dacint," says the King; "uncultayvation or unpoliteness is ojus; come over here; I've a pack of cayrds, Darby," says he, "and as we have nearly an hour to wait, I challenge you to a game of forty-five."

"Sure we may as well," says Darby. "What can't be cured must be endured."

With that, me two bould hayroes sat asthride the fallen stone, and hammering the rock hard with their knuckles, played the game. Maureen went and, houlding on to the ivy, knelt at the church wall—it's praying an' cryin', too, I think she was. Small blame to her if she was. All through that hour she imagined the wild promisings of the two poor crachures over be the tomb, and this kept burning the heart out of her.

Just as the first glow of gray broke behind the hills the King stood up and said: "It's your game, Darby, more be good luck than be good shooting; 'tis time to lave. You know if I'm caught out afther cock-crow I lose all me spells for the day, and besides I'm wisible to any mortal eye. I'm helpless as a baby then. So I think I'll take the omadhaun and go. The roosthers may crow now any minute," says he.

The omadhaun, although he couldn't hear, he felt the charm dhrawing him. He trew a frightened look at the east and held the girl closer. 'Twas their last minute.

"King! King!" says Maureen, running up, "if I brought Sullivan's goat into Sleive-na-mon, would ye swear to let me out safe agin?"

"Troth, I would indade, I swear be Child Nick!" ('Tis be him the Good People swear.) "I'll do that same."

"Then let the omadhaun go home. Get the Good People's consent and I'll bring you the goat," says Maureen,

The King thrembled all over with anxiety and excitement. "Why didn't you spake sooner? I'm afeard I haven't time to go to Sleive-na-mon and back before cock-crow," he stutthered, "and at cock-crow, if the lad was undher the say or in the stars, that spell'd bring him to us, and then he could never agin come out till the Day of Judgment. Howsumever, I'll go and thry," he says, houlding tight on to his crown with both hands; and with thim words he vanished.

Be this and be that, it wasn't two minutes till he was back and wid not a second to spare, ayther.

"Phadrig Oge wants Mrs. Nancy Clancy's nanny-goat, too. Will ye bring the both of them, Maureen?" he screamed.

"You're dhriving a hard bargain, King," cried Darby. "Don't promise him, Maureen."

"I will!" cried she.

"Then it's a bargain!" the fairy shouted, jumping to the top of a headstone. "We all consent," he says, waving the noggin.

He yelled to the omadhaun. "Go home, Roger O'Brien! Go back to your father's house and live your life out to its natural ind. The curse is lifted from you, the black spell is spint and gone. Pick up the girl, ye spalpeen; don't ye see she's fainted?"

When O'Brien looked up and saw the Master of the Fairies he staggered like a man that had been sthruck a powerful blow. Thin he caught up the girl in his arms and ran with her down the gravelled path and over the stile.

At that minute the sorest misfortune that can happen to one of the Good People came to pass. As the lad left the churchyard every cock in the parish crowed, and, tare and 'ounds! there on a tombstone, caught by the cock-crow, stood the poor, frightened little King! His goold crown was far back on his head, and his green cloak was twisted behind his back. All the power for spells and charms was gone from him until the next sunset.

"I'm runed entirely, Darby!" he says. "Trow your shawl about me, Maureen alannah, and carry me in your arms, purtending I'm an infant. What'll I do at all at all?" says he, weakly.

Taking him at his word, Maureen wrapped the King in her shawl, and carrying him in her arms to the cart, laid him in the sthraw at the bottom, where he curled up, still and frightened, till they were on their way home.

  1. Omadhaun, a foolish fellow.