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Title: Fun o' the Forge - Stories
Author: O'Higgins, Brian
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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of the Digital Library@Villanova University




  _All Rights Reserved_


_Cahill & Co., Ltd., Printers, Dublin._


In addition to many other blessings, God has given to us, Gaels of the
Irish land, the priceless gift of humour, the saving grace of laughter.
May we never lose them! They have been good friends to us in the days
of darkness; let it be one of our duties to nurture and strengthen them
in the brighter day that has already dawned in Eirinn. Throughout the
land, in forge and workshop, in field and by fireside, there is many a
Ned McGrane--witty, wise and laughter-loving--who has the power to pull
aside the gloomy curtains of melancholy and moodiness and to pour into
the hearts of all who will listen to him the sunshine of merriment and
mirth, while never saying a word that would offend the most sensitive
ear or leave a bad impression on the most susceptible mind. In this,
as in a thousand other ways, we differ from the enemy that is still
within our gates. His best humour is coarse or smutty, his heartiest
laughter is jarring and hurtful, his outlook on life is very different
to that of the genial blacksmith of Balnagore. God speed the day when
the smutty wit of the Sasanach shall be heard no longer in our land,
when the laughter of the open-hearted, clean-minded Gael shall ring
from end to end of Eirinn, lighting every mind, lifting up every heart,
and softening for all who have suffered the memory of those sadder days
that they have known.

                                                     BRIAN O HUIGINN.

_Samhain, 1917._



  THE BLACKSMITH'S CHARM             9


  THE CONFISCATED BACON             35

  "BOW-WOW"                         50


  THE BEST OF A BARGAIN             71


  A GLORIOUS VICTORY                85

  ON ELECTIONS                      94

  NED'S TRIP TO DUBLIN              98


  THE FIRST PLUM PUDDING           110




The smithy in which Ned M'Grane carried on his trade was close to the
roadside, about a quarter of a mile from the head of the glen. There
was no house very close to it on any side, though old Peggy Hogan's
cottage was not so far away but that Ned could hear Peggy's shrill
"Chuck, chuck, chuck," every evening at sundown, as she called her hens
and chickens home to roost. The smithy was sheltered by the big beeches
which overhung the road from Rowan's demesne, and when the fire was in
full glow it was as fine a place for a seanchus among the "boys" as
you'd find in any corner of the broad land of Eireann; and well did the
boys know that, because there was scarcely a night during the whole
winter on which they didn't gather around the cheery fire in the forge,
and discuss in breezy fashion and with a good deal of wit, almost every
subject of interest under the sun, while they watched Ned M'Grane at
his work, and openly admired the strength of his shapely arms.

Ned was as famous for his wit as for his proficiency in all the
mysteries of the trade, and he could tell stories, old and new, that
would draw laughter from the loneliest heart that ever beat. He
was a favourite with old and young, and there wasn't a boy in the
countryside who, sometime or other, didn't make a confidant of the
genial blacksmith, and ask the advice which he was always willing to
give. To help a man out of a scrape, to stand by a comrade in distress,
to make glad a company with clean and ready wit, to resent an evil
deed or to show whole-hearted appreciation of a good one, there wasn't
in all Ireland a man who could out-match Ned M'Grane, the laughing,
jovial, generous blacksmith of Balnagore.

One night, just a week before Shrove (no matter whether 'twas last year
or the year before or ten years ago) the smithy was, for a wonder,
deserted by all its usual visitors, and the smith was alone with his
work and his thoughts, which latter found expression in the snatches of
song he sung in the intervals between placing the piece of iron upon
which he was working in the fire and the taking out of it again, to be
pounded on the anvil. He was just finishing a song, the last verse of
which ran like this:

    "No! no! across the thundering waves the answer rings full high!
    No! no! re-echoes many a heart beneath the Irish sky
    The land shall wake, her exiled sons across the sea shall sail
    Once more to set a coronet on queenly Grainne Mhaol."

and was giving the finishing touches to a new horse-shoe, when he heard
a voice at the door say, "God bless the work," and on looking up his
eyes met the open, honest, handsome face of his cousin and dearest
friend and comrade, Seumas Shanley of Drumberagh.

"An' you, too, a mhic o," answered Ned M'Grane, with a welcoming smile.
"You're the very man I was thinkin' about a few minutes ago, an' I'm
glad you're by yourself. Any change in the plan of campaign? Is Old
Crusty as determined as ever?"

"Worse than ever," said Seumas Shanley, as he picked up a piece of a
broken match-box from the floor, set it blazing at the forge fire, and
lighted his pipe with it. "Nannie says that he got into a tearin' rage
out an' out last night when she refused again to marry Jack the Jobber,
an' he won't let her leave his sight for a minute. All she could do was
to send me a note with old Kitty Malone to-day. Kitty was down in it,
washin', an' she says Larry has his mind made up that Nannie must marry
Flanagan before Shrove. I was over with Father Martin to-day."

"An' what did he say?" asked Ned M'Grane.

"He said 'twould be a cryin' shame to have a sweet little girl like
Nannie Boylan tied for life to a man like Jack Flanagan, who never
comes home sober from a fair, an' who has no thought for anythin'
only cattle, an' money, an' drink. Father Martin is dead against the
match-makin', you know, an' he said he'll marry us if we go to him,
runaway or no runaway, consent or no consent."

"Faith, then, by my grandfather's whiskers, Seumas Shanley, if that's
the case, I'll see you married--yourself an' Nannie--before Shrove
yet, an' that's only this day week!" said the blacksmith, as he flung
the hammer he held in his hand into a corner, and put the bolt on the
forge door, so that no one might enter or interrupt their conversation.
"I have the plan in my head all day," he added, "an' if it doesn't work
out all right the fault won't be Ned M'Grane's."

"What's the plan?" asked Seumas, in a tone the eagerness of which he
could not conceal, although he made an effort to suppress it. He knew
that no man in Ireland could devise a plan or carry it through, better
than Ned M'Grane, and the hope that had been ebbing out of his heart
as Shrove drew near and the danger of losing his cailin ban became
every day more apparent, that hope grew as bright as the glow of the
forge fire, and leapt into his kindly, dark eyes as he waited for the
blacksmith to speak.

"Well, 'tis a simple plan enough, an' there's no great mystery about
it at all," said Ned, "an' if you an' Nannie do your share of the work
right I give you my word that it'll be the most complete night-cap
ever was put on Old Crusty or any match-makin' miser like him. You
know the way he goes nearly mad with that old front tooth of his when
it begins to pain him for all his miserly ways an' his trickeries, an'
you know as well, I suppose, the pishrogues the women do have about
every blacksmith havin' a charm for the cure of the toothache. Well, if
Nannie can set Old Crusty's tooth tearin' mad before Sunday--let her
give him somethin' real sweet to eat an' it's off--I'll guarantee to
take him out of the way for three hours, at any rate, an' any Christian
with the head set right on him could very easy be married to the girl
of his heart in three hours--couldn't he?"

"He could, Ned--God bless you!" said Seumas, in a voice that was a wee
bit husky, as he grasped the blacksmith's hand in a firm grip. "I was
nearly in despair, an' so was Nannie, an' we couldn't think of a plan
at all. We'll not forget it to you, never fear."

"O, it's not over yet," said Ned, as if to put a check on the other's
impulsiveness. "You'll have to see Nannie some way or other, an' tell
her all you intend to do, an' have her on her guard. She must give a
sort of a promise to marry Flanagan, an' then ask Old Crusty to leave
her free until after Lent; an' she must have some grievance or other
against you. Do you understand? An' there must be nothin' done to make
the old lad suspicious, an' you must have everything ready, so that
there'll be no fluster or delay. An' above all, the tooth must be set
ragin' mad.

"Off you pop now, a mhic o, an' more power to you. It'll be as good as
a thousand pound to me to see Old Crusty's face when he finds out the
whole thing. Come over Friday night an' tell me how the game is goin'.
Good night, now, an' God speed you."

"Good night, Ned. I'll not fail, please God, an' I'll not forget it to
you as long as I live."

And Seumas Shanley went, the glow of a great hope lighting all the way
before him.


When Ned M'Grane lifted the latch of Larry Boylan's kitchen door
and walked into the spacious kitchen itself on the following Sunday
afternoon there was a look of concern on his usually jovial face, and
when Larry turned his gaze from the fire to greet the visitor, the look
of concern on Ned's face deepened very considerably and perceptibly,
and he seemed very much perturbed. Larry sat in a crouching attitude
quite close to the big fire of blazing turf-sods, a red handkerchief
covering his chin, his jaws, and his ears, and knotted on top of his
head. He held his hand over his mouth, and now and then he groaned
most miserably and lugubriously. An old woman--the same Kitty Malone
mentioned by Seumas Shanley--was working about the kitchen; no one else
was to be seen.

The blacksmith was a pretty frequent and always a welcome visitor at
Larry Boylan's. He was Nannie Boylan's godfather, and old Larry as well
claimed relationship with the M'Grane family--usually when he wanted
some work done at the forge. He was, therefore, glad to see Ned on the
present occasion.

"I'm sorry to see the enemy is at you again, Larry," said Ned, as he
seated himself on the stool placed before the fire for him by Kitty. "I
wondered when I didn't see you at Mass to-day, an' I didn't know what
was up until I met Kitty there, on the road, an' she said it was the
tooth. Is it bad? It must be a cold you got."

"Oh, it's a terror, Ned," groaned Larry, as a twinge of pain passed
over his weazened face. "I never had it as bad before. I'm nearly
cracked with it, an' the head is like to fly off me. Nannie that
brought home a curran' cake from the market yesterday, an' sweet, white
stuff on the top of it, an' we ate it with the tay, an' about an hour
after the old tooth gave one jump, an' it's at me ever since. I never
slept a wink all night with it. Nannie herself got the toothache about
a couple of hours ago, an' she's mortial bad with it, too. She had to
go to bed a while ago."

"The poor thing," said Ned M'Grane, sympathetically. "I'm sorry in
troth, for both of you, an' glad that I came down. I might as well not
be at home at all, because Seumas Shanley wanted me to go with him over
to Knockbride after Mass. He was goin' over to see some of his mother's
people that came home from America. I think they're goin' to have a
spree or a flare-up of some kind over there to-night. I was near goin'
only I knew I'd have to be up early in the mornin' to shoe the Major's

"The same bucko is no loss by goin' to Knockbride or anywhere else,"
said Larry, with a frown; and then in a whisper, and forgetting the
toothache for a moment, he said: "I'm thinkin' he's after some lassie
in that direction. When he seen I wouldn't let Nannie throw over a
well-to-do, comfortable man like Jack Flanagan for a scamp like him,
I suppose he took after some other decent man's daughter. He was
stravagin' about the market yesterday with some strange girl, an'
wouldn't even look at us. I think my lassie," jerking his thumb towards
the door of the little bedroom to which Nannie had retired, "had a wish
for him up to that, but she saw then it wasn't her, but the place, he
was after. And I'm glad she got sense, because it isn't every day she
could get married into a place like Jack Flanagan's--an' it's little
fortune he wants either. We made the match for after Lent yesterday."

"Is that a fact?" said Ned. "Well, your mind ought to be easy now."

"So it is, Ned; so it is. When it came to the finish, Nannie didn't go
against my wishes, an' all she asked was that I'd leave her free until
after Lent; an' sure there's no use in rushin' it--is there, Ned?"

"Divil a use," said Ned.

At this juncture the tooth began to ache again worse than ever, and
Larry squirmed in his seat with pain.

"I was tellin' Mr. Boylan to-day," said old Kitty Malone to Ned, "that
every blacksmith has a charm for the toothache, an' I was wantin' him
to go up to you an' see, but he said maybe you haven't it at all. Have
you it, Mr. M'Grane?"

"Well, I must be an amadán out an' out not to think of it before now,"
said Ned. "To be sure I have it. Every blacksmith in the world has it,
but it's no use to him outside his own forge. Troth it's many a one
came to me with the toothache, an' any o' them that followed my advice
hadn't the pain very long."

"Do you tell me so, Ned?" asked Larry, between his groans.

"Aye, indeed," said Ned. "But some o' them is that foolish that they
must run away to one o' them lads that pulls teeth, an' get themselves
half murdered, an' then pay dear for it. I saw on the paper where a man
died after gettin' a tooth pulled, an' I saw where a great doctor said
that if you let the pain o' the toothache go on for five days one after
the other, or get the tooth pulled wrong, you're liable to drop dead
at any minute."

"Lord bless an' save us!" said old Kitty Malone, in tones of awe and

Larry looked startled.

"An' do you have the charm always, Ned?" he asked, with evident anxiety
in his voice.

"Of course I do," answered Ned. "It's in my possession from the day I
have my trade learned until the day I die, but I can't make use of it
anywhere only in my own forge, an' with no one next or nigh me but the
person I'm goin' to cure."

"Does it hurt much, Ned?"

"That's the beauty of it entirely, Larry--it doesn't hurt at all. You
might as well be asleep when the charm is working on you, for all the
bother or pain it gives you."

"Couldn't you do it here, Ned?"

"Not if I was to get all Ireland, an' England, an' Scotland put
together, an' the Isle of Man threw on top of them. I couldn't do it
anywhere only in my own forge above.

"Do you know what you'll do, Larry? Just keep that handkerchief on your
head, an' put your overcoat on you an' come up to the forge with me,
an' I promise you that in a couple of hours' time you'll be back here,
safe an' sound, an' not as much pain or ache in that tooth as there is
in the hearthstone there."

"Aye do, Mr. Boylan," chimed in Kitty. "It's a terrible thing to think
of what'd happen if it keeps at you for five days, an' sure it's
wearin' you down already."

"An' is it no harm to work the charm on a Sunday, Ned?" asked Larry,
who was evidently giving way.

"Not the least bit o' harm in the world," said Ned. "Sunday or Monday,
night, noon or mornin', it's all the same."

"Troth, then," said Larry, as he rose, "I think I'll go. Get me that
coat, Kitty. If it sticks to Nannie until to-morrow she'll have to go,

"The bed is the best place for her at present," said Ned M'Grane, as he
passed out after Larry, "but don't let her stay too long in it, Kitty."

And Kitty's nod, in answer to the wink which accompanied this remark,
was sufficient to prove that she fully understood.


When they reached the forge it was just nightfall, but Ned lighted a
lamp or lantern which hung on the wall, bolted the door, closed the
window shutters, and then proceeded to light the fire. Larry watched
him with the greatest interest, while he himself moaned and groaned and
stamped about with the fierce pain of the big, shaking tooth.

It was one of the front teeth and very prominent. A tooth on each side
of it had long since departed, and so it stood out in bold relief, grim
and determined-looking. The pain was so constant and so annoying now
that Larry would have suffered any torture to get rid of it.

"How do you work the charm, Ned?" he asked at length, when there was
no likelihood of the mystic rite being put into practice.

"Oh that's a secret that can't be given away to any man or mortal,"
said Ned, as he divested himself of his coat and proceeded, slowly and
carefully, to roll up his shirt sleeves. "'Twould be a big risk for me
to let anyone know that; I might be on the look-out for some terrible
punishment. In fact, I hardly know myself how it works. It takes place
by some power beyond my knowledge entirely, Larry. I'm only like the
means of settin' it in motion, an' then it does all the rest itself in
a strange an' mysterious manner.

"Now, I want you, Larry, before I start at all, to give me your solemn
word that you'll wait, real patient, until the charm is ready to
work, an' that you'll make no complaint either before or after the
charm takes place. Some people get impatient an' make some complaint
or other, an' then, instead of the charm workin', the pain o' the
toothache gets worse than ever, an' sometimes they die that very night.
Do you promise, Larry?"

"I promise, Ned, that no matter how severe or how long the workin' o'
the charm is I'll not make the least complaint, because I'd suffer
anythin' to ease the pain o' this infernal tooth. Sure it'll never
annoy me again, Ned?"

"Never," said Ned M'Grane, decisively, as he took from a small box a
long, thin strand of flaxen thread, and pulled and jerked it in every
conceivable fashion to test its strength. Then he stretched it three
times along the anvil, and three times along the sledge hammer, and
three times along a bar of iron, uttering all the time in a weird,
solemn tone, strange, inarticulate sounds, which silenced Larry's
groans and made him feel awed and frightened.

"Now, Larry," said the blacksmith, when this ceremony was over, "you'll
have to suffer a little pain while I get this magic band round the
achin' tooth. Open your mouth now."

Larry did as he was directed, and in a minute the smith deftly wound
the flaxen thread round the tooth, and knotted it tightly.

"Put your hands on your knees now, like a good man, and bend down
towards the anvil here," said Ned. "That's just right. Stay that way
now for a while, an' don't stir an' don't look up. You'll be all right

Whilst speaking he was tying the two ends of the flaxen thread tightly
and securely to the horn of the anvil. When this was accomplished he
put the bar of iron into the fire, gathered the glowing embers around
it, and commenced to blow the bellows vigorously.

It was a comical picture altogether.

There was Larry, his hands resting on his knees, his head bent down
until his nose was within a foot of the horn of the anvil, a stream
of water running from his open mouth, his eyes fixed upon the floor,
while he tried to groan cheerfully, in fear lest he might be taken as

Ned now and then blew the bellows, pulled out the bar of iron, looked
at it, thrust it back again into the glowing fire, went about the forge
uttering the same inarticulate sounds that had so awed Larry at first,
and treading very softly, perhaps because he did not wish to drive away
the spirit of the charm. In one of his excursions he softly undid the
bolt, opened the door, peered out into the night, listened, and smiled.

All this went on for a full hour at least, and then the blacksmith came
over and stood beside the anvil, sledge in hand, while he commenced to
blow the bellows more vigorously than ever.

At last he broke the silence by saying that he hoped Larry was not in
very great pain, and assuring him that relief could not be very far off

Larry could only groan in reply, and then Ned went on to tell, with
evident pride, of all the wonderful cures he had effected, and all the
poor sufferers he had literally snatched from the jaws of death. And
all Larry could do was groan and moan as cheerfully as possible, while
he wondered if the time for his cure would ever come.

It came when he least expected it. The smith was in the middle of a
wonderful story about a miraculous cure he had once been instrumental
in effecting, when suddenly he whipped the bar of iron from the fire,
placed it on the anvil, and brought down the sledge upon it with such
force and vigour, three times in rapid succession, that showers of
sparks--millions of them--flew in all directions through the forge!

Larry was taken completely by surprise. He gave one yell of terror as
he suddenly jerked backwards, and the next moment he lay stretched at
full length on the floor, the eyes almost starting from his head with
fright, and a little stream of blood trickling over his chin from his
mouth. The tooth hung from the horn of the anvil, suspended by the
strand of flaxen thread. The charm had been successful.

Ned M'Grane laughed long and heartily, as he looked at the prostrate
and terror-stricken Larry.

"Gorra, it worked the grandest ever I saw," he said, with a mischievous
twinkle in his eyes; "'twas the neatest job I ever did, an' you're a
powerful brave man, Larry."

Larry could hardly speak he was so frightened.

"Is--is it out, Ned?" he said at last, scarcely knowing whether he
ought to be vexed or pleased.

"Out!" cried Ned; "don't you see it, man? Didn't I tell you I'd give
you relief? Here, wash out your mouth with this sup o' soft water. An'
I don't think your appearance is improved very much by you lyin' there
on the floor. Now, is it?"

Larry rose and rinsed his mouth, as he had been bidden.

"Do you know what, Ned," he cried, "you're the finest doctor in
Ireland, an' that's the greatest charm I ever heard of in my life. I
dunno how you done it, but I must send up Nannie to you to-morrow."

At that moment a young lad thrust his head in at the door.

"All right--an hour ago," he cried, and disappeared as quickly as he
had come.

"What did he say?" asked Larry, as he saw a look of the utmost pleasure
come across Ned M'Grane's face.

"He said," answered Ned, as he folded his arms and leaned his broad
shoulder against the wall, "that you've got the best son-in-law in
Ireland, an' that Seumas Shanley has the purtiest an' the sweetest
little wife that ever stepped in shoe leather!"

"What do you mean, man; what do you mean?" cried Larry in an angry and
excited tone, as he gripped the blacksmith by the arm. "Are you mad,
Ned M'Grane?"

"No, Larry, my decent man; I'm not mad, an' I only mean what I say, an'
that is that the best part o' the charm that's after bein' worked is
that while you were gettin' the pain taken out o' your jaw here, your
daughter and Seumas Shanley were gettin' the pain taken out o' their
hearts by Father Martin above at the chapel--long life to them!

"The boys an' girls o' Drumberagh are dancin' at their weddin' for
the last half-hour, an' every tongue in the country is talkin' o' the
Blacksmith's Charm."


It would be very unjust to say that Ned M'Grane was insufferably vain
on account of his storytelling abilities, or that he was a bore who
insisted, whenever he could find an audience, on relating some of his
wonderful and thrilling experiences, as a goodly number of those who
pose as storytellers are in the habit of doing. That wasn't the way
with Ned at all: he had acquired all his pleasant stories, or most of
them, while he was a boy, unspoiled by travel or by contact with the
"clever" world; and it never struck him that he occupied a unique or
exalted position in the Glen on account of this, because the gift had
come to him naturally, and had been cultivated at a time when there was
a seanchaidhe by every hearth, and life and vivacity in the country to
provide plenty of material for stories. And in reference to the second
matter--the supposition or suspicion in the minds of my readers that
Ned was a bore--if such a suspicion exists, there is no foundation
whatever for it. Ned M'Grane was not a bore by any means: I never knew
him to volunteer the telling of a story, and I think that if we were to
remain in the forge for hours each evening and not ask for a story we
should never have heard one. I firmly believe that if Ned were to think
for a moment that while we listened to his stories we were under the
impression, in our own minds, that he was "showin' off" all he knew--I
firmly believe that then and there he would have made a vow never again
to tell us a story, and I know he would have kept that vow, because Ned
M'Grane was a man of his word. Whenever an occasion arose that would
suggest a story (we never asked him direct for one) we cautiously felt
our way, and then, if we saw that we were on safe ground, we asked him
as delicately as we could, to give us the pleasure of listening to one
of his stories, and I have never known him to deny us that pleasure.
He knew that we hungered for the tales, and his heart was too big and
too kind to allow him to refrain from an act that was likely to give
pleasure to anyone. There never beat a warmer, kinder heart than that
which throbbed beneath Ned M'Grane's torn and soot-stained coat.

Joe Clinton was telling us one evening about a narrow escape he and Tom
Brangan and a couple more of the boys had the night before in Rowan's
demesne when they went to set their rabbit-snares, and very nearly fell
into the hands of the police from Castletown, who had been told by the
old Major to keep a look-out for poachers.

"We were just gettin' across the wall below at the dark avenue," Joe
told us; "Tom was inside in the wood an' I was on top o' the wall, an'
Phil Geraghty an' Andy Reilly was on the road, when we heard the sprigs
cracklin' an' breakin' in the wood an' out comes a sheep, runnin' like
from the lawn as if somethin' was after frightenin' her, an' then when
the moon came out a bit from behind a cloud, didn't we see the two
boyos tryin' to steal unknownst to us, along the brink o' the wood. I'm
sure they heard me talkin' down to the lads on the road--an' Tom had
only time to climb up the wall an' jump down after me, when we heard
them tearin' in thro' the leaves an' brosna, an' sure we ran like a
go-as-you-please race, an' the dickens a one of us was to be seen when
they got as far as the wall."

"Only for the sheep you'd be nabbed," said Seumas Shanley.

"Oh, they had us as neat as could be, an' our darlin' han'ful o' new
snares along with us," said Joe, "only that they frightened the sheep
in the right time. She was a lucky sheep for us anyway."

"Sheep an' goats must be good to poachers always," said Ned M'Grane, as
he let the hammer rest on the anvil, and cast the horse-shoe on which
he had been working into the trough, "for 'twas Tim Brogan's old white
goat that nearly thumped the life out o' the Scotch game-keeper that
was in Archdale's, an' he runnin' after young Joe Magee long ago, an'
'twas a ram that saved Jimmy the Thrick when the Sojer M'Keon came at
him an' he after killin' the two hares above on the Mullagh. The sheep
an' goats must have a grâdh for the poachers, I'm thinkin'."

At the mention of "Jimmy the Thrick" we cocked our ears, because we
knew that whenever Ned spoke of Jimmy he had a story to tell about him,
and we knew that a story in which Jimmy figured was sure to be a good
one. So we cocked our ears while Joe Clinton was asking Ned how the ram
managed to save Jimmy from his enemies, and we were, I need hardly
say, delighted when we noticed that Ned took out his pipe and commenced
to fill it before he made any reply.

"There wasn't in all Ireland, I think, a poacher that had as much
darin' in him as Jimmy the Thrick when he was a young fellow. There
wasn't a hare or a rabbit in the country safe from him, an' neither
gamekeeper nor peeler could ever lay hands on him. He was within an ace
o' bein' caught as often as he has fingers an' toes on his body, an'
every time, by hook or by crook, he'd dodge the peelers an' get away
from them, an' every gamekeeper in the country 'd swear to you at the
time that if there ever was a divil in Ireland that divil was Jimmy
Malone. A hundred times they set traps for him an' failed to catch him.
He'd take the hares an' rabbits from under their very noses almost,
an' he often had a snare set above at Rowan's hall-door, but catch or
catch they couldn't do on him. He could run as fast as a hare himself,
an' he had more tricks an' dodges an' plans in his head than any hare
that ever lay in a form. Sure one day an' the huntsmen an' the beagles
in full cry after a hare below in Hoey's Bottom, didn't he watch beside
a little gap in the wall that he knew she'd go through, and had a sack
opened, with the mouth of it round the hole, an' when the poor hare
came along at full speed thro' the gap, where did she go only right
into the sack, an' Jimmy had her at home in his own house before the
huntsmen knew that the hounds were after losin' the trail. Oh, he was
a holy terror, the same Jimmy, but he was that lively an' full o'
divilment an' fun, but with no bad turn in him, that the dickens a one
in the country 'd say a word against him or give a hint o' where he'd
be to peeler or anyone else.

"Well, one summer there came home a fellow that was after bein' a sojer
out in India or somewhere--his name was Jack M'Keon, but no one called
him anythin' only the Sojer M'Keon--an' o' course none o' the young
fellows about 'd be seen in his company an' he after takin' John Bull's
shillin' an' fightin' against them that never done him or his country
any harm, so who did he get in with only Tony Smith that was gamekeeper
in Rowan's at the time, an' it seems Tony promised to get him a job
as a sort of under-gamekeeper after a while, because he used to do
anythin' Tony 'd ask him to do; an' one o' the things was to pimp after
and watch Jimmy Malone, an' to nab him in the act o' poachin' if he

"'Twas easy enough to make the Sojer do that, because he hated Jimmy
from the time they used to be goin' to school in Kilfane together, an'
had some row or other, an' along with that, too, M'Keon began skulkin'
after a girl that Jimmy was fond of--Julia Dermody, that's his wife
this thirty years nearly--an' that made the two o' them bitter enemies.
M'Keon had some money after comin' home, wherever he got it--some used
to say he robbed it, but no one was certain--an' old Hugh Dermody
was more inclined to give him Julia than he was to give her to Jimmy
Malone, because Jimmy was poor, an' old Dermody was a miser always.
Julia 'd marry no one only Jimmy, but M'Keon thought that if he got
him into jail for poachin' she'd be so much ashamed of it that she'd
give him up an' marry himself. So you might say it was a bitter bit
o' dodgin' between the peelers an' old Tony Smith an' the Sojer M'Keon
against poor Jimmy the Thrick, an' only for he was the man he was, he'd
spend many a long day in jail for his poachin'. But it was easier to
catch a hare than to catch Jimmy Malone, so it was, an' many a hard run
the Sojer M'Keon had after him for nothin', an' many a laugh there was
through the country over Jimmy an' his tricks. An' the best of it was
that the Sojer himself used to be poachin' as much as Jimmy, an' well
the peelers knew that, an' the dickens a much of a grádh they had for

"Well, one fine July mornin' about four o'clock, Jimmy went over to
the off side o' the Mullaghs to the farthest field next to Appleby's
land--'twas called the Sheep Field that time as well as now, an' the
Mullaghs belonged to the Rowans o' course--to look at a few snares he
was after settin' in it the night before, an' didn't he get two darlin'
fine hares an' they just nearly dead with the pullin' an' tuggin'
they had to get away. Jimmy wasn't long finishin' them, and he was
crossin' back next the wood again when all of a sudden he heard the
racin' up behind him, an' before he could turn round he got a bump that
lifted him off his feet, and then another, an' the next minute he was
sprawlin' on the ground an' a big black-faced ram o' the old Major's
standin' over him an' lookin' at him as much as to say, 'You're downed
at last, Jimmy Malone!' Jimmy used to tell me after that he could read
the very words in the ram's eyes the same as if he was sayin' them.

"'Your behaviour was very unfair, sir,' says Jimmy to the boyo, an' he
risin' to his feet, 'but I'll be expectin' your salute the next time,
an' I don't think you'll have the pleasure o' givin' it. Just gi'me a
fair start, an' see which of us'll be at the wood first. Now, one, two,
three, an' off we go.' An' Jimmy started to run quicker nor ever he
went before, but he wasn't two minutes runnin' when he got the thump
again an' down he had to flop a second time in spite of himself, an'
there was the ram standin' over him an' his eyes sayin', 'It's not the
Sojer M'Keon or the peelers that's in it this time, Jimmy,' an' all my
poor Jimmy could do was groan an' feel himself where he was sore.

"'This won't do for Jimmy Malone, if he doesn't want to be caught, so
you'll allow me to lead you to the ditch,' says Jimmy, catchin' hold o'
the ram's horns, an' startin' to drag him along as well as he could,
an' the bucko draggin' against him. If he got him as far as the wood he
knew he'd be all right, because he could manage to get away from him,
but in the open field there was no chance. So there was Jimmy with his
two hands grippin' the ram's horns, an' the hares tied round his waist,
an' he tryin' to coax the lad over to the edge o' the wood till he'd
get away from him.

"He was about three hundred yards from the wood, an' the ram stickin'
his feet in the ground an' refusin' to budge an inch, when who did he
see comin' across the field at full trot only the Sojer M'Keon an'
he leerin' like a monkey. Jimmy got a bit of a start when he saw him
first, because he thought the peelers 'd be with him, but when he knew
there was only the Sojer in it, he was delighted instead o' bein'

"The Sojer came up to him, an' a big stick in his hand an' he chucklin'
an' grinnin' with delight.

"'Ha, ha, Mister Malone,' says he to Jimmy, 'you're nabbed at last.
'Twasn't enough to be snarin' the Major's hares an' rabbits, but you
must turn to stealin' his mountainy sheep. Gettin' a likin' for mutton,
is that it, Mister Malone? They'll hardly give you any mutton in jail,
though, unless Julia an' myself sends you a bit o' what we'll have
at the weddin'. No girl 'd like to marry a sheep-stealer; would she,
Mister Malone?'

"Jimmy was ragin', but he knew that if it came to a fight with M'Keon
the Sojer 'd beat him, because he was a powerful big man, an' along
with that if the peelers came an' they squabblin', M'Keon 'd accuse him
o' sheep-stealin' an' poachin' an' he'd be done for. So he kept his
temper, an' says he, real quiet an' humble like:

"'You have me this time, Jack,' says he, 'but what's the use o'
tormentin' a fellow. I gave the whole lot o' you a good run for it,
anyway, an' I'm not goin' to cry over it. An' sure if Julia Dermody
doesn't want me she can have the man that caught me, an' welcome.
There's your friends, the peelers, comin', an' you can call them to
arrest me.'

"'Where?--where are they? Where are they?' says the Sojer, turnin'
round, an' he real excited an' like as if he was frightened.

"As soon as he turned round, Jimmy let go his hold o' the ram's horns
an' away with him for the wood, racin' faster than ever he went in his
life before. M'Keon got as big a surprise as the 'sheep,' as he took
Jimmy's gentleman friend to be, but as soon as he saw the dodge, off he
started after him an' he shoutin' to him to stop. He couldn't run well,
though, because he was stiff an' lazy, an' the dickens a very far he
went when he got a thump from the ram's horns that made him yell, an'
the next minute there he was stretched at full length on the grass, an'
the ram standin' over him as mild as you please. The Sojer gave him a
string of army curses an' up he jumps again an' after Jimmy--the boyo
was within a few perch o' the wood an' he runnin' for the bare life an'
never lookin' behind him--but the dickens a far Mister M'Keon went till
the ram was up with him an' had him stretched on the grass the same as
before, an' he cursin' for all he was worth.

"When Jimmy got into the shelter o' the wood he drew his breath an'
looked round, an' there he saw my brave Sojer an' he havin' a hold o'
the ram's horns the same as he was himself a few minutes before that
an' he pullin' at his best an' the ram pullin' against him, an' risin'
with every jump now an' again that nearly lifted the Sojer off his feet.

"Jimmy couldn't help laughin' if all the peelers in Ireland was in the
wood behind him, when he saw the way the ram had the life frightened
out o' the Sojer.

"'So you're goin' to have mutton at the weddin', Mister M'Keon,' says
he, 'an' you'll maybe send a bit to the sheep-stealer an' he in jail?
That's very kind o' you entirely, an' I must tell Julia when I see
her, in case you'd forget it. I'm afraid a ram 'd be middlin' tough
eatin' though--even for a sojer. Will you stay there till I go home
for my camera, an' I'll take your photograph an' show it to Julia?
Ah! can't you let the poor old ram go; sure he can't give evidence
against the notorious sheep-stealer, Jimmy Malone. Let him go, an' come
over here, an' I'll give you the hares. You won't? Well, I'll have to
be sayin' good mornin', Mister M'Keon, an' I hope you'll enjoy the
game-keepin' if you get it. If I see your friends, the peelers, I'll
send them to your assistance. Good mornin', Mister M'Keon.'

"An' off went Jimmy as fast as he could leg it, an' 'twas well for him
he did, because the peelers wasn't as far away as he thought they were.
The Major sent for them to come over early that mornin' to see where
some one tore up a lot o' young trees that he was after gettin' planted
above on the side o' the Mullagh, an' when himself an' them came into
the Sheep Field didn't they see the Sojer M'Keon an' he beatin' the
Major's prize ram with a big stick an' tryin' to drag him over to the
ditch. The Sojer was in such a temper with the ram that he never saw
them until they were up beside him, an' sure he nearly fell with the
start he got when the Major roared at him to let go the ram. Only for
the peelers the Major 'd kill him. The Sojer went to tell the story o'
catchin' Jimmy Malone, but sure they thought it was all a make-up, an'
they arrested him on the spot for abusin' the ram, an' along with that
he had a couple o' score o' snares tied round his waist an' a fine big
hare under his coat. It was found out, too, that it was him rooted up
the young trees an' sold them to a man in Castletown, an' 'gorra if he
didn't get six months in jail, an' only he was a sojer they'd give him
five years. He never came back here again, an' the dickens a one was
sorry for him, because he was a bad weed.

"An' that's how Jimmy settled the Sojer."


The coaxing of a story from Ned M'Grane, the blacksmith, was
sometimes the easiest matter in the world, and sometimes a task in
the accomplishing of which all the tact and diplomacy of a Government
Ambassador would be absolutely essential. It all depended on the humour
he was in at the time. If things had gone well with him during the day;
if he hadn't been disappointed in getting coal from the town or if
nobody had come to ask him in an aggrieved tone, "Why the blazes aren't
you doin' them wheels for me?" or if nobody had told him that another
penny in the pound had been added to the taxation of Ireland or that
some Englishman had said the Irish were only a pack of savages until
the English, out of pure charity, came over and civilised them. If none
of these things occurred to rile Ned M'Grane, we had no difficulty
whatever in getting a story from him whenever we went to the forge;
and that was almost every evening throughout the winter months, and
sometimes in the summer, too, when the ground was too wet for the

'Twas easy to know when he was in bad humour. He hardly seemed to hear
our conversation at all, but worked away in silence, broken now and
then by short and vigorous comments on the matter that had vexed him
during the day, such as "Who the dickens cares about him or his wheels?
I'd be rich if I was dependin' on his custom--heh!" or "What'll
they do next, I wonder? Make us pay rates for every time we say our
prayers?--the pack o' robbers. I wish I had some o' their heads under
this!" And then there would be a crashing blow on the anvil that shook
the forge and awakened memories of the Blacksmith of Limerick who
crushed the heads of the Williamites with his sledge, long ago. On such
occasions we never attempted to engage Ned in conversation until his
work for the day was finished, and the pipe and tobacco were called
into requisition. Even then, if we saw by his manner or his countenance
that a dark memory of the matters that had disturbed him during the day
remained in his mind, we wisely refrained from beating about the bush
for a story.

Ned's dark moods, however, were rare, and his grand, hearty laughter
and sparkling wit and delightful stories, when in his usual form, more
than compensated for them, and never allowed us to adversely criticise
them, no matter how dark or fierce they might be; and then we, young
fellows, loved Ned M'Grane as devotedly and as warmly as he loved us.

One evening in the springtime we were gathered as usual in the forge,
after a good, long day's work in the fields, and Ned was very busy with
plough accessories and harrow pins and other farming implements, but
he was in the best of humour all the same. He joked some of us about
getting married, sang snatches of songs in his big, rich voice, and
laughed at some of the news we had brought him with the gay vivacity
of a boy. There wasn't a subject under the sun but was debated in the
forge, and Ned's witticisms remained in all our minds long after the
matters debated had been forgotten.

"I wonder how many'll take the advice Father Martin gave last Sunday
about the killin' o' the pigs," said Matty Reilly, as he fiddled with a
lot of horse-shoe nails in a box.

"It's all very fine to be talkin'," said Jim Cassidy, "but if the
people kill their own pigs, what are they goin' to pay the rent with?"

"Didn't he tell them what they could do it with?" said Jack Dunne, as
he cleared the stem of his pipe with a very fine piece of wire which
Ned always kept by him for that purpose; "didn't he tell them that
they could pay the rent with the money they give to the shopkeepers
for bad American bacon that's pisinin' their blood an' that there's no
nourishment in? An' sure he said the truth. You might as well be eatin'
roasted beech-leaves as some o' the bacon you'd get in shops. The divil
another bit of it'll come into our house, if we were never to pay the

"If you saw Peadar Byrne," said Bartle Gormley, from a corner, "when
Father Martin was talkin' about the killin' o' the pigs, an' the savin'
o' the money. He could only catch an odd word, an' he had the bothered
ear cocked in a way that I never saw it at the readin' o' the Gospel."

"Maybe," said Ned, with a comical look, "maybe he thought there was
pigs goin' for nothin', an' that he'd miss one if he didn't listen."

The discussion ended in a laugh, as all discussions usually did when
Ned M'Grane had spoken, and every man started to light his pipe. Ned
worked on in silence for a while, and after a long spell, during which
there came no remark from him, he said, in careless fashion:

"I wonder was Jimmy Malone--Jimmy the Thrick--listenin' to Father
Martin talkin' about the bacon?"

"He was then," said Bartle Gormley, "because I saw him leanin' over the
seat down near the door an' whisperin' somethin' to Andy Cregan, an'
whatever it was the two o' them was laughin' over it when they came out
on the road."

"I know what he was whisperin' about," said Ned, "an' so well he might
laugh, because the bacon he used to get above twenty years ago was
better an' cheaper than ever he ate since. He wouldn't get anyone
simple enough now to give him bacon for nothin'."

"An' how did he get it for nothin' that time, Ned?" asked Bartle, and
as he spoke all other conversation was suspended, and we gathered in
close to the anvil, apparently careless, but every mother's son of us
eager as could be for the story which we knew from experience lay at
the back of Ned's remark on Jimmy Malone's behaviour.

"Do you remember Neddy an' Phil M'Govern that died within a week of
each other, just this time two years?" asked Ned.

Of course we had all known the two old brothers and their eccentric
ways, and had often peeped in at them as they argued by the fire, and
we told Ned as much.

"Well, they were just as odd an' as comical in their ways when they
were close on fifty years of age as when eighty was drawin' near them,
an' if I could only remember them, I know as many stories about Neddy
an' Phil as would keep me talkin' for a whole week without stoppin'.
They were the queerest couple ever walked in shoe leather or bare
feet--may God be good to them this night. At the time I'm goin' to
tell you about they didn't live together, as they did when you knew
them. Phil lived with an old uncle o' his beyond at Hogan's well, where
you'll see the walls o' the house standin' still, and Neddy lived by
himself in the house on the hill there above, where they died, an'
where Tom M'Dermott, their sister's son, is livin' now. Neither one
nor th' other o' them ever got married, because I suppose no girl
'd have them (you needn't laugh)--some people 'd say because they'd
begrudge spendin' any money on the weddin', but I don't believe that,
as hard as they were--and the way they had o' livin' was as comical
as ever you knew. Jimmy the Thrick, to give him the name he was best
known by in his young days, lived over there on the hill, not far away
from Neddy--that was, of course, before he married into the wife's
place--an' he'd tell you stones about Neddy's housekeepin' that'd make
you laugh if you had the toothache. An' the best o' them all is the
story that Jimmy himself had most to do with.

"Jimmy, you must know, was a terrible playboy at that time an' nobody
was safe from his tricks. He couldn't rest at night unless he was after
makin' a fool o' somebody, or after playin' some trick durin' the day.
He was never easy, mornin', noon or night.

"The people long ago used to kill their own pigs, an' you'd never see
backs of American bacon hangin' up in country houses like you do now,
an' signs on it, everyone was twice as healthy. 'Twas the talk about
what Father Martin said last Sunday that put this story about Neddy an'
Phil an' Jimmy into my head. On account of only the two o' them an' the
old uncle bein' in it, they used only kill one pig between them every
year an' divide it. Neddy'd kill one this year, an' send the half of
it over to Phil an' the uncle, an' whatever he had too much after that
he'd give to the sister that was married in Knockbride; then the next
year Phil 'd kill a pig an' send the half of it to Neddy, an' so on.

"This year, anyway, that I'm talkin' about, it happened that it was
Neddy's turn to kill the pig, an' what do you think but one o' the
shopkeepers in Castletown said to him that if he was thinkin' o'
killin' a pig that year an' didn't want it all, that he had a customer
that wanted a piece o' home-cured bacon, an' would give the highest
price for it. Neddy wasn't very rich, an' he thought to himself when
he came home that if he could get out o' the obligation o' givin' half
the pig to Phil, he'd be all right. He could make a couple o' pound for
himself an' have enough o' bacon for the year as well. What was he to
do at all? The only thing he could think of was to pretend to sell it
along with the other pig at the fair that was near at hand. But then
Phil 'd be at the fair an' helpin' to make the bargain, an' he'd see
that only one o' the pigs was sold. He couldn't hit on a plan of any
kind that'd be good enough, an' he was goin' to give up in despair when
who comes in but my brave Jimmy Malone--'twas evenin' time--to have a
smoke an' to warm his shins at Neddy's fire.

"Neddy knew that Jimmy was never at a loss for a plan for anythin' an'
he ups an' tells him the story o' the pig an' the terrible puzzle he
was in. Jimmy listened with great attention, an' was very simple an'
solemn-lookin', but the divilment came into his head, an' says he to
Neddy, when he heard the whole story:

"'It'd be a mortial shame, Neddy,' says he, 'for you to lose the couple
o' pound an' you wantin' it so badly, an' especially when you say that
Phil's two pigs is better nor your own an' that he didn't divide fair
with you last year. It'd be a terrible shame, Neddy, an' I'm goin' to
get you out o' the hobble or know for what. I'll just tell you in a few
words the best thing for you to do. Kill the pig unknownst to Phil, an'
scrape it, an' clean it out, an' then hang it up at the gable end o'
the house, an' leave it there when you're goin' to bed. Then the first
thing in the mornin' get up before anyone else thinks o' risin' an'
bring in the pig and salt it, an' put it above in the room, an' cover
it as much as you can; an' then go round the whole townlan' from this
to Larry Boylan's beyond, an' clap your hands an' cry an' moan an' be
in a terrible state, an' tell everybody that someone took your pig down
from the gable--an' sure that'll be no lie for you--an' no matter what
Phil or your uncle or anyone else says, keep on lamentin' and cryin'
an' sayin' that your pig is gone from the gable, an' that poor Phil 'll
have to be eatin' American bacon this year; an' if that doesn't work
all right an' leave your pig with you, my name is not Jimmy Malone.'

"Neddy kep' showerin' blessin's down on top o' Jimmy's head for
half-an-hour, an' sayin' he was the cleverest man in Ireland, an' that
he ought to be a lawyer, an' there was the boyo, drinkin' it all in as
solemn as you please, an' assurin' Neddy that he'd do anythin' for a
good neighbour. At last he got up to go home an' the word he said to
Neddy an' he goin' out on the door was: 'Remember, Neddy, no matter
what anyone says to you keep on cryin' and sayin' that the pig is gone.
Don't forget that. In any case, I'll be down again to remind you of it.'

"Neddy said he wouldn't forget anythin', an' away went Jimmy the Thrick
up to his own house, an' he laughin' to himself at the way he was goin'
to hoax old Neddy M'Govern.

"Phil was away at the bog beyond for the turf the next day--the old
uncle never used to stir out o' the house, and along with that he was
bothered--an' my brave Neddy sent up for Jimmy Malone an' for Tom
Molloy, the herd that was in Rowan's, an' Tom killed the pig, an' went
off, an' then Neddy an' Jimmy cleaned it out, an' Jimmy went home,
after goin' over the instructions again to Neddy, an' puttin' him on
his guard to keep on cryin' the pig, no matter what any man, woman or
child in the townland'd say to him.

"About ten o'clock that night--the people used to go to bed early
them times--Neddy put a big holdfast the length o' your arm into the
gable end o' the house, and tied the pig's hind crubeens together,
an' histed it on his back--there wasn't a stronger man in the country
than Neddy--an' brought it out an' hung it there, with its snout just
tippin' the ground, an' back he goes an' into bed with him, leavin'
the pig hangin' there for any dog that might have a fancy for fresh

"The dogs didn't get much of a chance, though, because Neddy wasn't
half-an-hour in bed when down comes Jimmy the Thrick from his own house
an' he creepin' along the same as if he didn't want to waken the birds,
an' when he came to the gable-end o' Neddy's house he just rubbed down
the pig with his hands to see if it was dry enough, an' then got in
under it, an' histed it on his back, an' away with him up the path
along the hedge to his own house an' he staggerin' under the weight o'
the pig.

"He stayed up all that night cuttin' the bacon an' saltin' it--he was
the best hand in the whole country at doin' up a pig--an' when he had
it all cut he packed it in a big box that he had for turf in a corner
o' the kitchen, an' then he went to bed an' slept like a top.

"The daylight was only in it when up gets Neddy an' out he goes to
fetch in the pig, but it wasn't an easy job to do, because there was
no pig at the gable. He looked all round the place, thinkin' maybe
somebody took it down for a joke; but it was nowhere to be seen, an'
Neddy ran like a madman over to Phil's, an' nothin' only his shirt an'
trousers on him, an' wakened him up, an' accused him of takin' the pig.
Phil got into a tearin' rage for he sayin' that at all, an' there was
the two o' them into it at five o'clock in the mornin', bargin' away
like two old women, an' callin' each other all the names they could
think of. At last, Phil an' the uncle hunted Neddy, an' he went round
all the neighbours clappin' his hands an' tellin' about some daylight
robber stealin' his darlin' pig in the middle o' the night; an'
everyone thought Neddy M'Govern was after goin' cracked entirely, an'
they gave him no satisfaction at all, only told him to go home an' go
to bed or to put the rest of his clothes on him, an' sorra consolation
and sorra trace o' the pig Neddy could get, high up or low down; and
back he comes to his own house, an' searched round twice as sharp as
before in every hole an' corner, but dickens a sight or light o' the
pig he could see anywhere.

"Then he thought o' Jimmy Malone, an' that maybe Jimmy could help him,
an' away he went up to Jimmy's house an' he like a man out of his mind.
Jimmy saw him comin', but he never pretended he was up out o' bed at
all, and when Neddy began to knock at the door an' kick it, Jimmy
shouted from the room like as if he was only wakenin' out of his sleep:

"'Who's that?'

"'It's me, Jimmy; I want you. Get up!'

"Jimmy put his head out o' the window.

"'Oh, is it you, Neddy?' says he, as if he wasn't expectin' Neddy at
all. 'Well, did that work all right?' says he, rubbin' his eyes and

"'The pig is gone, Jimmy! Some robber stole him last night!'

"''Gorra, Neddy, you're a topper! That's the very way I wanted you to
say it. What did Phil say, or did you go to him yet?'

"'Phil the divil, man!' shouted Neddy. 'The pig was stole last night, I
tell you, an' I can't get sight or light of it.'

"'Good, Neddy, good! There's not an actor in Dublin could do it better
than that. Stick at it, my boyo, an' there's not a man in the townland
but 'll believe you lost the pig!'

"'Jimmy, will you listen to me, or are you gone mad like the rest o'
them? I'm tellin' no lie at all. The pig wasn't there when I came out
this mornin', an' tale or tidin's of it I can't find anywhere. What am
I to do at all, at all?'

"''Gorra, Neddy, that's grand! An' only I'm in my shirt I'd go out an'
clap you on the back. If you could only see your face this minute,
you'd nearly believe yourself that the pig is gone. You lost it that
didn't go with a circus when you were young, Neddy; you'd be a rich man
to-day. Only go round the townland an' your face like that, an' the
divil a bit o' the pig Phil 'll ever taste!'

"Jimmy kept on like that, an' Neddy kept fumin' an' pleadin' an'
cursin' and lamentin' outside in the yard until he saw it was no use to
stay there any longer, an' home he went again, tearin' an' swearin' an'
he nearly crazy.

"In a few hours after that, Jimmy the lad strolled down as unconcerned
as you please, an' there was Neddy with his Sunday clothes on him an'
he just ready for a journey.

"'Where are you goin', Neddy?' says he, the same as if he got a
terrible surprise.

"'I'm goin' over to Castletown to tell the peelers, an' to get them to
look for the thief that stole my pig!' says Neddy, very uncivil like,
because he wasn't at all thankful to Jimmy for his plan, when he saw
the way it turned out.

"'Ah, that's goin' too far with it, Neddy,' says the Thrick. 'Doesn't
Phil believe you yet about the stealin' o' the pig--the plan we made
up? You'll only get found out if you go as far as tellin' the peelers.'

"'But, tundher an' ouns, man,' shouted poor Neddy, 'is there any use
in tellin' you the pig was stole? See is he in the house, sure, if you
don't believe me!'

"Jimmy looked round the house an' he winkin' at Neddy all the time, as
much as to say, 'You're the king o' tricks, Neddy,' but at long last he
was convinced that Neddy did lose the pig, an' he had great sympathy
for him, by the way, an' 'twas no wonder any man to be vexed over such
a dirty, mean deed, an' if he had the thief there he'd do this, that
an' th'other to him as sure as his name was Jimmy Malone.

"'An' is it any wonder I'm goin' for the peelers, Jimmy?' says Neddy to

"'Not a bit o' wonder in the world, Neddy; but I'd advise you not to

"'An why wouldn't I go, man? How do you think I'm goin' to catch the
robber if I don't go?'

"'You oughtn't to go for the peelers,' says Jimmy, an' he lookin' about
him an' speakin' very low, 'because I think I know who took the pig!'

"'Who?' says Neddy. 'Who, Jimmy?'

"'Sh!' says Jimmy, 'don't talk that loud. I'm thinkin' 'twas the good
people--the fairies. Did you ever do anythin' to them--anythin' to vex

"'Never!' says Neddy, 'that I know of!'

"'Are you sure, now?' says Jimmy, 'because they never do anythin' to
anyone that doesn't offend them. Did you cut the grass round the lone
bush in the Fort Field above last summer, an' you mowin' the meadow?'

"'I did, sure enough!' says Neddy; 'but I didn't touch the tree.'

"'Aye, but you cut the grass, Neddy, an' they claim the grass that
grows round every lone bush in the land. It's the fairies that took the
pig, Neddy, but that was only to warn you, an' I'm sure they'll give
it back. Instead o' goin' for the peelers or anyone else, wait until
to-morrow night--it's May Eve--at twelve o'clock, an' go up to the fort
an' walk round the lone bush three times, an' you'll be sure to hear
somethin' about the bacon. But tell no one, an' let no one see you
goin' or you're done for. An' if the fairies speak to you, answer them
very respectful, an' do whatever they tell you an' you'll be all right.
It's only twice in the year they'd speak to any livin' person--at May
Eve an' at Hollantide--an' you ought to make the most of your chance,
considerin' that the fort is on your own land.'

"''Gorra, I'll chance it, anyway, Jimmy!' says Neddy, and down he sits
himself at the fire, an' says no more about the peelers or the thief.

"Well, to make a long story short, Neddy was at the fort the next
night at a quarter to twelve. As soon as Jimmy saw him goin'--for he
was watchin' him--he lifts the box o' bacon on to a wheelbarrow--he
was after greasin' the axle for twenty minutes so that it wouldn't
screech--an' down he goes with it along the path an' left it where he
got it, at the gable-end o' Neddy's house, an' then he left the barrow
back an' stole away up along the hedges till he was standin' within
half a perch o' Neddy, only that the big hedge was between them.

"When Neddy thought it was twelve o'clock he started an' walked three
times round the lone bush, an' then he stopped an' listened an' he
afraid of his life to look one side or th' other of him.

"'Neddy M'Govern!' says a queer, strange voice from the far side o' the
hedge, an' when Neddy heard it he shivered from head to foot.

"'Yes, your Majesty,' says Neddy.

"'We're displeased with you, Neddy M'Govern,' says the voice, an' Neddy
thought it was out o' the air it came this time, but he was afraid
to look up; 'we're displeased with you, because last summer you cut
the grass round this bush that's our property, an' for that reason
we confiscated your pig. Are you sorry for cuttin' the grass, Neddy

"'I am, indeed, your Majesty!' says Neddy, an' his voice shakin'.

"'Will you promise never to cut it again, Neddy M'Govern, an' will you
give us your solemn word of honour to carry out all the commands an'
conditions we're pleased to impose on you now?'

"'I will, your Majesty!' says Neddy, 'I'll do anything your Majesty

"'Very well, Neddy M'Govern, we'll give you back your pig on three
conditions. You're to divide the bacon as usual with your brother,

"'Yes, your Majesty.'

"'There's a decent, honest, respectable man livin' near you, called
James Malone. You're to give him the biggest an' best ham off this pig
an' off every pig you kill in future!'

"'Yes, your Majesty.'

"'An' you're never to open your lips to anybody about your visit here
to-night, nor to tell livin' man or mortal anythin' we're after sayin'
to you.'

"'No, your Majesty.'

"'That'll do, Neddy M'Govern. Now, walk round that bush three times
again, an' then straight across to the gap an' down the boreen to your
own house, an' look neither up in the air, nor behind you, nor to
either side o' you, an' when you go home you'll find your pig in the
place it was when we confiscated it. It's cut an' salted an' packed,
an' will be fit for use in ten days an' ten nights. Remember your
promises, Neddy M'Govern!'

"'Yes, your Majesty,' says Neddy again, an' then he done what he was
told, an' when he went back there was the bacon at the gable-end o'
the house where 'his Majesty,' Jimmy the Thrick, was after leavin' it.
Neddy, of course, was delighted, an' he shared the bacon with Phil,
an' gave the biggest ham to Jimmy--there was one ham cut very big--an'
from that until he died there wasn't a pig he killed but Jimmy got a
ham off it, an' no one knew anythin' about it until Jimmy himself told
Father Martin about it the day o' Neddy's funeral, an' I dunno how they
settled the matter between them. An' that's the whole story about Jimmy
Malone an' the bacon."


Nobody could listen to Ned M'Grane's laughter and refrain from laughing
himself; it was so airy, so wholehearted, so pleasant, that it became,
after the initial explosion, contagious, and if the forge were full of
young fellows--as it generally was--the smith's hearty "Ha, ha, ha-ah!"
set them all in tune, and there would be a chorus of laughter under
that old roof fit to rouse the most despondent heart that ever made its
owner believe he was in the blues, and that caused passers-by to stand
for a moment on the road and listen, and they usually murmured, as they
wagged their heads and walked on, "Ned must be after tellin' a good one
now." It was, I think, the most cheering and exhilarating thing I have
ever heard--the laughter of Ned M'Grane, the blacksmith of Balnagore.

No wonder, then, that we chimed in with Ned's more than usually
vigorous "Ha, ha, ha-ah!" when Andy Murtagh was telling the smith about
the "tallyvangin'," as he called it, that old Maire Lanigan, of the
Red Bog, had given to Larry Boylan of our own townland, at the inquiry
in Castletown, under the Old Age Pensions Act. The smith, as Andy
proceeded with the story, had laid down the hammer on the anvil, had
taken off his cap and wiped his perspiring brow with the back of his
hand, and had laughed until we caught the contagion, and were obliged
to join him, though as to the real cause of his merriment we were at
the time ignorant.

"What else did she say?" he inquired, the tears which the laughter
had called forth streaming down his dust-covered cheeks. "I'm sure
Old Crusty was sweatin', an' divil mend him! What's the likes of him
wantin' with a pension anyhow?"

"She said 'twas a ticket for the next world he ought to be lookin' for
an' not an old age pension," said Andy, "an' when she had everyone
laughin' at him she said somethin' like the way an old dog'd bark, an'
went off with herself, an' whatever it was it made Larry twice as mad
as all the tallyvangin' o' the tongue she gave him. He was ragin'."

"Ha, ha, ha-ah!" shouted Ned M'Grane again, and of course we had to
join in, though we couldn't see that there was very much to laugh at in
Andy's story after all.

When Ned had laughed in boisterous fashion for a minute or two he
resumed his work, but every now and then he would give a short chuckle
of delight to himself, as he made the sparks fly in showers from the
burning iron upon which he was working.

"It's not the first time she set Old Crusty mad," he said at length,
more to himself than to us, as he gave the finishing short, sharp taps
to the article he was shaping, and cast it from him into the trough
beside the anvil to cool. We were beginning to guess from this remark
and from his behaviour while Andy was telling him of the encounter
between the old pair at the inquiry, that there was a story in Ned's
head which we had not yet heard, and as he proceeded to fill his pipe,
after donning his coat, I ventured to say:

"Why, what did she do to him before to-day, Ned?"

"What didn't she do to him?" Ned asked, in return. "She made him the
maddest man I ever saw in my life, an' as small as--as that bit o'
tobacco. I don't wonder what she said an' she goin' off to-day left him
vexed enough; it put him in mind o' when she made him a laughin'-stock
for the whole county--that's what it did."

"When was that, Ned?" we all asked, in a breath. "Was it long ago?"

"'Twas long ago, sure enough, but not long enough to make Larry forget
it," said Ned, as he teased the tobacco in the hollow of his hand, and
then packed his pipe.

"Gi' me a match, some o' you, an' when I have a few draws o' this I'll
tell you all about it."

Everybody fumbled in all his pockets for matches, and soon Ned had a
supply sufficient to last for a week. He carefully lighted his pipe,
took a few pulls, and then seated himself on a box in which there had
been horse-shoe nails--the only easy-chair the forge contained.

"Let me see," he said, as he took the pipe from his mouth for a minute
and gazed intently into the bowl, as if his inspiration lay therein.
"It's nearer to thirty years ago than it is to twenty, an' the oldest
o' you here was only toddlin' from the fire to the dresser an' back
again. I was a lump of a gossoon at the time, an' I remember it as well
as yesterday, an' good reason I have to remember it, because every
man, woman, an' child in the country was talkin' about it, an' laughin'
at Larry, as well they might.

"Maire Lanigan, you must know, was a bigger play-actor of a woman when
she was younger than she is now. She was as tricky as a fox, an' no one
could match her in every kind o' cleverness, though you'd think to look
at her that she was only a gom. She an' old Charley the husband--God
be good to him!--had that little farm o' the Lynches at that time, an'
were middlin' well off, havin' neither chick nor child to bother about.
They used to rear calves an' pigs an' sell them at good prices, but the
dickens a one o' them ever Charley sold, because he was too shy an'
quiet an' easy-goin' always. Maire is the one that could thrash out a
bargain an' haggle an' wrangle an' dispute until she'd have the whole
fair lookin' at her an' laughin' at her; an' there wasn't a jobber ever
came into the fair o' Castletown but knew her as well as they knew a
good beast or a bad one.

"Well, one May fair--the biggest fair that ever was in Castletown, the
old people 'll tell you--Charley an' Maire had a fine lump of a calf to
sell that they reared themselves from he was calved, an' they brought
him out brave an' early in the mornin' to get rid of him, if they could
come across a buyer. They weren't long in the fair, anyway, when who
comes up to them but Mickey Flanagan--God rest him!--Jack the Jobber's
father, an' begins to make the bargain with Maire. After a lot o'
disputin' an' squabblin' an' dividin' o' this crown an' that half-crown
an' a lot o' shoutin' on Maire's part, Mickey bought the calf, an' says

"'Meet me at Kennedy's, below near the railway, at three o'clock, an'
I'll pay you, along with the rest.'

"'No, but you'll pay me this minute,' says Maire, 'or you'll not get
the calf at all. I have my rent to pay at twelve o'clock, an' if you
don't gi' me the money now I'll have to sell him to some one that will.'

"Mickey Flanagan saw that the calf was a good one, so he paid for it at
once, because he was afraid that if he made any delay Maire might sell
to some other jobber. When all was settled says he:

"'Drive him down an' put him into Kennedy's yard, an' tell the gossoon
to keep an eye to him till I go down myself with a few more.'

"He forgot with the hurry he was in to mark the calf, an' away he went.
Whatever divilment put it into Maire's head, instead o' bringin' the
calf to Kennedy's yard what did she do only go stravagle it off to the
far end o' the town, an' made Charley go with her an' say nothin'--the
poor man was afraid of his life of her always--an', by the powers, if
she didn't sell the calf again in less than half an hour to a jobber
from the North of Ireland, who sent it off on the eleven o'clock train,
an' paid Maire just the same amount she was after gettin' from Mickey

"Maire made away home as fast as she could make Charley step out,
an' she laughin' to herself at the way she done Mickey Flanagan, an'
she was just after puttin' the pan on the fire with a bit o' meat on
it that she brought home, when who comes up to the door but my brave
Mickey himself, an' he in a tearin' temper.

"'Where's my calf?' he shouted, as soon as he saw Maire in the middle
o' the floor.

"'What do I know where he is?' answered Maire, just as loud, an' a lot
sharper, 'didn't I sell him to you? Do you think I ought to stay in
the town all day watchin' him for you, an' that poor unfortunate man
there, that was up out of his bed at four o'clock this mornin', nearly
fallin' out of his standin' with the hunger. Do you think I'm a fool,
Mickey Flanagan? I sold you the calf, an' if you can't find him now,
you needn't blame anyone but yourself.'

"'You're a darin' woman, that's what y'are,' says Mickey, the eyes
nearly jumpin' out of his head with madness, 'an' if you don't tell me
where the calf is, or give me back my money, I'll make you remember
this day as long as you live.'

"'Faith, if you don't leave that, quick, an' quit your bargin',' cried
Maire, as she caught hold o' the pan on the fire, 'I'll make you
remember it longer than you live, because I'll give you a taste o' what
the Old Boy 'll be givin' you yet for annoyin' an' tryin' to cheat an
honest, decent woman! G'long! you cripplin' old rogue! or I'll scald
the tongue in your head!'

"An' Mickey had to fly for his life, but he found out, some way or
other, about the sellin' o' the calf a second time, an' what do you
think but he sends a summons to Maire for the Quarter Sessions in
Castletown, chargin' her with defraudin' him out o' the price o' the

"Well, here's where Larry Boylan comes in. There wasn't many lawyers
or solicitors in the country places at that time--an' sure, maybe we
were as well off without them--but knowledgeable men used to give
their opinion about points o' the law, an' used to settle disputes an'
the like, an' any o' them that was graspin' or miserly used to charge
somethin' for their advice--a couple o' rolls o' butter, or a sack o'
praties, or maybe a few shillin's.

"Larry Boylan set up for bein' a knowledgeable man, not because he was
extra wise, but because he wanted to make somethin' out of his poorer
neighbours whenever he could get the chance.

"To Larry Maire went with the summons, an' asked what 'd be the best
thing for her to do, an' if there was any chance of her beatin'
Flanagan in the law.

"Larry considered, an' considered, an' pretended to be very wise, an'
looked very solemn, an' asked Maire a lot o' questions that he knew the
answer to long before that, an' at last says he:

"'Mrs. Lanigan,' says he, 'you're a woman I have a great respect for,
an' your husband is one o' the decintest men in the parish, an' on that
account,' says he, 'I'll bring all my long experience into the case an'
do the best I can for you, an' it isn't for everyone I'd do it, an' it
isn't in every case I'd give the advice I'm goin' to give now. But I
want to say a word first. On account of it bein' a very delicate case,
an' one that everybody is lookin' forward to, an' because my reputation
'll suffer if it goes against us, I'll have to charge you a fee, an'
that fee 'll have to be a pound. Are you willin' to pay it, ma'am?'
says Larry.

"'Well, indeed an' I am an' welcome, Mister Boylan,' says Maire, 'I'll
give the pound, an' two pound, if you only mention it, as soon as the
case is over. Make your mind easy on that point, Mister Boylan.'

"'Well, ma'am,' says Larry, 'the only way you can get the upper hand o'
Mickey Flanagan is by makin' out you're a little bit gone in the head,
an' if you do what I tell you there isn't a judge or a jury or a lawyer
in Ireland can prove that you're responsible for the price o' the calf,
or for anythin' that took place the day o' the fair.'

"'Musha, more power to you, Mister Boylan,' says Maire.

"'What I want you to do is this,' says Larry; 'when the court day comes
just let your hair hang down about your face an' shoulders, an' wear
your cloak upside down on you, an' be laughin' an' puttin' out your
tongue at everyone you meet. An' when you go into the court, no matter
who asks you a question, just laugh and put out your tongue, an' say
"Bow-wow" like a dog. Will you do that?' says he.

"'Indeed, an' I will, Mister Boylan,' says Maire, as thankful as you
please. 'Wait till you see but I'll do it better than you expect. May
God bless you an' prosper you, an' lengthen your days; you're the
clever, knowledgeable man!'

"An' off she went in the best o' humour, an' she blessin' Larry all the

"Well, at any rate the Quarter Sessions came at long last, an' there
was hardly a man, woman, or child in the country but was in the town
that day, watchin' an' waitin' for the case against Maire Lanigan, an'
when the time for the case came on the courthouse was packed with
people. Mickey Flanagan had a lawyer down from Dublin, an' everyone was
sure he'd win the case, because Maire had no one at all to speak for

"When the case was brought on, an' when Maire stepped up to be
examined, you'd think 'twas a circus or somethin' was in the courthouse
with the way the people laughed, an' the old judge himself had to
laugh, too, when he saw the get-up of her. Everyone was laughin' only
Mickey Flanagan an' his lawyer.

"Maire's old grey, greasy-lookin' hair was all hangin' down about her
face, an' there was little red an' yalla ribbons tied on it here an'
there, like what you'd see on girshas o' ten or twelve; an' her cloak
was turned inside out an' she was wearin' it upside down, with the tail
of it round her shoulders an' the hood streelin' at her heels; an'
there she was, grinnin' an' caperin', an' puttin' out her tongue at
everyone. I never saw anythin' like her in my life, an' I laughed after
the judge commanded silence. I thought he'd tell some one to put me out.

"The lawyer from Dublin got up to question Maire, an' he fixed his
specs on him, an' frowned an' put on a grand air, an' says he:

"'Are you the person who sold a calf to this man, my client, Michael

"Maire grinned at him, an' put out her tongue, an' all the answer she
gave him was:


"You could hear the laughin' o' the people all over the town, but
the judge said in a loud voice--though I think he was laughin' to
himself--that he'd clear out the court if there was any more noise,
an' the lawyer put a blacker frown on him, an' says he:

"'Remember, madam,' says he, 'that you're in her Majesty's Court o'
Justice, an' give me a straightforward, honest answer, or learn the
consequences. Did you, or did you not, sell a calf to this man?'

"'Bow-wow,' says Maire again, an' she puttin' out her tongue at him,
an' you'd think she didn't know a word he was sayin'. Everyone laughed
again, except Mickey an' his lawyer, an' the judge gave a pull to his
wig an' snuffled, an' says he:

"'This woman is a fool! Put her down,' says he; 'I dismiss the case.
It's only makin' a humbug o' the court.'

"'She has it,' says Larry Boylan to my father--God rest him!--an' out
we all went to the street after Maire, an' sure everyone in the whole
place was round her, laughin' an' talkin' an' goin' on.

"Larry wanted to show himself off as the great man o' the day, an' says
he, goin' over an' shakin' Maire's hand:

"'You done it the best I ever saw! There's not the beatin' o' you on
Ireland's ground. Have you the pound, Mrs. Lanigan?' says he, in a
lower tone o' voice, but plenty of us heard him all the same.

"Maire shook his hand, an' Larry was feelin' proud of himself, when she
just looked him straight in the face, an' grinned like a monkey an' put
out her tongue down to her chin, an' says she, at the top of her voice:

"'Bow-wow, Larry Boylan! Bow-wow!'

"An' with that she made a run through the crowd, an' away home with
her, an' Charley after her as fast as he could trot, an' the poor man
ashamed of his life. If ever any man got laughed at that man was Larry
Boylan. He couldn't go out anywhere, to fair or market or meetin' for
long an' long after, but every gossoon in the country'd shout 'Bow-wow'
at him till they'd have him ragin'. An' that's what old Maire said to
him to-day, that Andy Murtagh was tellin' us about, an' it's thinkin'
o' the law case made Larry so mad."

And as Ned M'Grane closed the door of the forge after we had left we
heard him laugh softly to himself.


The forge in Balnagore was a sort of library of reference to all the
young fellows of the district. No matter what information was sought
for regarding events of importance that had occurred in Ireland during
the past couple of hundred years (we had not much access to books down
there) the one and only thought of the seeker after knowledge was to
repair at once, or as soon as his work was finished, to the smithy in
which Ned M'Grane reigned, and to ask the same Ned a few questions on
the matter which puzzled himself; and Ned, to his credit let me say it,
was never, in my recollection, found wanting on any such occasion. His
mind was a well-stocked storehouse of local and national history, as
well as of humour, which he was ever willing to impart to "the risin'
generation," as he called us.

He could remember every droll occurrence that had taken place in the
parish for at least forty years, and every stirring event of national
importance that had taken place in the country during the same period,
and along with all this he had, in his young days, set himself the task
of acquiring knowledge of events of an earlier period from the people
who were old when he was a boy, so that when I state that he could
bring us back over the happenings of a couple of hundred years I do not
by any means overstep the mark. He often told us that in his young days
he had a veritable thirst for old stories and for knowledge of every
kind, and he used to make a round of the neighbours' houses night after
night to hear the tales the old people told about the "ould times" and
the "good people," and of the far-off days in an Ireland that was free.
And if the news was conveyed to him that a "poor scholar" was staying
at any farmer's house within a radius of seven miles, he used tramp
across the country to hear the learned man talk about his travels, and
to hear him read out of the books which he carried with him on his

"From all the goin' about I used to have, an' the way I used to be
askin' questions o' the old people, an' the way I used to have the wits
worried out o' Master Sweeney o' Kilfane," said Ned to us more than
once, "what do you think but some o' the playboys put the nick-name o'
'the poor scholar' on myself, an' every one o' the youngsters used to
be jibin' at me about it. I didn't care tuppence as long as I was a
gossoon, but it was stickin' so tight to me an' I growin' up a big lad
that I gave over my stravagin' a good bit, an' they forgot it after a
while. I didn't mind at that time, because the old people were gettin'
feeble an' bothered, an' a lot of them dyin' away, too, an' them that
came after them didn't care a wisp o' straw for the stories or anythin'
only cattle, an' money, an' land. An' signs on it, they're all old men
an' women at fifty, with their worryin' over grass land and con-acres,
an' calves, an' things you'd think they could bring to the grave with
them. God be with the old times! when the people knew somethin' about
Ireland, an' had life an' spirit in them, an' weren't always breakin'
their necks runnin' after the world, an' never catchin' up with it,
like them we see round us every day. Aye! God be with the old times,
when it's not backbitin' each other they'd be round the fire at night,
or makin' up law cases against each other. I wish it was the old times

I reproduce the above speech of Ned's, which was delivered partly to
us and partly to himself many a time when the retrospective mood held
possession of him--I reproduce it, I say, to show that Ned M'Grane's
outlook on life was neither narrow nor sordid, but that there was in
his mind and heart a great deal of the old-world philosophy of life,
viz., that it was better to be rich intellectually than materially;
that was Ned's firm opinion and belief, and he was never done
impressing upon us the foolishness of seeking after wealth and worldly
emoluments, and of neglecting at the same time to enrich and beautify
the mind with the lore of the years gone by. Whether he was right or
wrong I leave to my readers to decide.

There were in the forge, now and then, what I may call "impromptu"
evenings--that is, there were times when Ned, reminded of past episodes
through hearing some name casually mentioned in our conversation,
drew at random from his well-filled storehouse of stories one of
the delightfully droll occurrences which he himself remembered to
have happened in the neighbourhood long years before, and told it
to us while he worked, without calling upon any of the aids, such
as a well-filled pipe and a comfortable seat, which he called into
requisition when relating one of the longer tales to which he treated
us now and then. On such occasions, too, he often gave out riddles to
us that set our brains hard at work, and sang for us some of the fine
songs he had learned from the old people and from the "poor scholars"
in the happy evenings of the past, which he designated the "old times."

I remember one of those impromptu evenings in particular, because I
thought, and think so still, that the story he told us about Johnnie
Finnegan's "Degree" was as good as I had ever heard. He had just
finished singing a favourite song of ours about a young Wexfordman who
escaped from the Yeos in '98, and we were bestowing upon him our hearty
praise and applause, when an old grumpy farmer from Knockbride, called
Johnnie Finnegan, but who was best known by the nick-name of "Johnnie
the Doctor," came to the forge door and asked Ned to tighten one of
the hind shoes on his mare, as he was afraid 'twould fall off before
he should reach home. Ned performed the task, and when he returned to
the work which he had in hand before Johnnie appeared upon the scene,
some of us asked him the reason why "Johnnie the Doctor" was the name
everybody had for Johnnie Finnegan.

"Did I never tell you how Johnnie got his degree?" asked Ned, with a
merry twinkle in his eye.

"No, you never told us that, Ned; but now's the time for it," a couple
of us answered, and the eager faces of the others signified their
whole-hearted approval of our suggestion.

"Troth, you'll hear it, boys, an' welcome," said Ned, as he went on
with his work. "An' it doesn't take long in the tellin', though if I
told it to you while Johnnie was here you'd see him in a flarin' fine
temper an' the dickens a nail I'd ever get the chance o' drivin' in
a shoe, or a sock I'd put on a plough for Johnnie again, because you
might as well roll him in a heap o' nettles an' his clothes tore, as
mention 'Johnnie the Doctor' an' he listenin'.

"The way it was is this. Old Jimmy Finnegan, his father, was as poor as
a rat in an empty barn, an' so were all his people before him, but one
day--Johnnie was the only child, an' he was no more than nine years old
at the time--up comes a postman from Castletown to Jimmy Finnegan's and
hands in a letter, an' when they got Master Sweeney up to read it, they
found out that it was from a lawyer in America to say that a brother
o' Jimmy's--Phil Finnegan--was after dyin'--a rich man--in Boston, an'
that he left all his money to Jimmy, an' the letter went on to say
that after the cost o' settlin' up the will 'd be took out of it, the
legacy'd amount to somethin' like four thousand pounds.

"They could hardly believe the story was true, because they were nearly
on the road for rent, but sure enough a cheque came to Jimmy for that
whole four thousand pounds in a couple o' months after that. Well,
you never saw anythin' in your life like the way Jimmy and the wife
made fools o' themselves. They began to try to talk grand, an' dressed
themselves up like gentry, an' bought a car like Father Fagan's, an'
wouldn't talk to the people that knew them all their lives, an' that
often gave them a helpin' hand when they wanted it an' they in debt.

"Everyone, of course, was laughin' at them, an' some o' the playboys
used to salute Jimmy for fun when they'd meet him on the road, an'
Jimmy used to think they were in earnest, an' he used to put up his
hand to his hat, the same as Father Fagan 'd do, an' the lads puttin'
out their tongues at him behind his back. He wouldn't let Johnnie go to
school the same as other gossoons, but paid Master Sweeney ten pound a
year to come up an' teach him at the house, an' sure if the Master--God
rest him--was alive still an' goin' up to teach Johnnie every day
since, he wouldn't be a bit better nor he was when the poor Master gave
him up in despair; because Johnnie was as thick as the post of a gate,
every day ever, an' he's that yet.

"Well what do you think but when Johnnie was a big, soft lump of a lad
of seventeen or eighteen, didn't Jimmy bring him over to old Doctor
Dempsey that lived beyond near the chapel o' Kilfane, an' asked him to
make a doctor o' the bucko, an' offered the doctor a fee o' so much a
year while Johnnie 'd be learnin' the trade. Doctor Dempsey knew be
the look o' the lad that he'd never be a doctor as long as there was a
bill on a crow, but he was hard up for money at the time, an' didn't
he take Johnnie; an' old Jimmy went home as proud as a peacock an' he
boastin' an' blowin' out of him to everybody that the next doctor for
the district 'd be no other than 'Doctor John Finnegan.' He used to
drive over on the car every mornin' to Doctor Dempsey's an' call for
him again in the evenin', an' he havin' him dressed up like a young
lord or somethin'. An' sure the whole country was laughin' at them more
than ever.

"Johnnie was with Doctor Dempsey for a few years, anyway, an' sure he
knew as much then as he did the first day; the doctor used to bring
him about the country with him on some of his visits, to give him
experience, he used to tell Jimmy, but I think 'twas mostly for holdin'
the horse he had him.

"One day they went to see a rich old lady that lived beyond in
Moylough, an' when Doctor Dempsey was after lookin' at her tongue for
awhile, an' feelin' her pulse, says he:

"'You ate oranges, ma'am,' says he.

"'I did then, sure enough, doctor,' says she.

"'Well, don't eat them again,' says he, 'an' you'll be in the best o'

"Johnnie was listenin', an' his mouth opened wide with wonder, an' when
they were comin' home says he to Doctor Dempsey:

"'How did you know, sir,' says he, 'that Miss Hamilton was after eatin'

"'Oh, 'twas easy enough to know that, John,' says the doctor to him,
'because,' says he, 'when I was feelin' her pulse I looked under the
bed, an' I saw the heap o' skins.'

"Johnnie kep' wonderin' all the way home at the cleverness o' the
doctor, an' wonderin', too, if he'd ever get a case all to himself,
so that he could show his father an' mother an' the whole country how
clever he was.

"Well, anyway, in a couple o' weeks after that a gossoon came up to
Doctor Dempsey's one mornin' to tell him that old Peadar Mullen o'
the Bog was bad with the pains, an' wanted him to call over an' see
him. Peadar used to get pains about every fortnight, an' he was on the
point o' dyin' with them--accordin' to his own opinion--about twenty
times, an' he had the poor old doctor plagued sendin' for him every
other week. Doctor Dempsey was a big-hearted sort of a man that was
never hard on the poor, an' Peadar was that cranky an' conceited that
he thought the doctor ought to be always runnin' over to see him, no
matter about anyone else in the district. That was the sort o' Peadar.

"The doctor wasn't on for goin' near him this day, anyway, an' what do
you think but he sends Johnnie, an' never said a word to him about what
complaint Peadar had or anythin' only left him to find out for himself.
Johnnie starts off an' the doctor's boy along with him on the car, an'
it's him that was proud to think that he had a case all to himself at
last, an' that he could be boastin' about it to his father an' mother
that evenin' when he'd go home.

"They went down the old boreen to Peadar's house--'twas a long way in
in the bog by itself, an' not a soul he had livin' with him--an' when
they got over to it, Johnnie left the servant boy mindin' the horse,
an' in he goes, an' sure dickens a much he could see with all the smoke
that was in the house. Old Peadar was lyin' in bed in the room, an' he
groanin' an' moanin' as hard as he could when he heard the doctor's car
comin', because Doctor Dempsey used to give him a couple o' shillin's
now an' again.

"'Doctor Dempsey can't come to-day, my good man,' says Johnnie, when he
went into the room, an' he lookin' very grand an' severe an' solemn.
'He's not extra well, an' he sent me in his place to see what's the
matter with you.'

"'Musha, may God bless your honour for comin', Doctor Finnegan,' says
Peadar, thinkin' he'd knock a few shillin's out o' Johnnie, 'an' sure
maybe he sent a gentleman every bit as good as himself.'

"Johnnie didn't know what to do, but he asked Peadar to put out his
tongue, an' then he felt his pulse, an' all the time he was tryin' to
get a peep under the bed, the same as he saw the doctor doin' with
the lady that was after eatin' the oranges. At long last he spied
the straddle an' winkers belongin' to old Peadar's ass, an' says he,
shakin' his head an' lookin' at Peadar as much as to say, 'You're done

"'My good man,' says he, 'my good man, you ate an ass!'

"'What's that you're after sayin'?' says Peadar, lettin' a shout out
o' him, an' he jumpin' up out o' the bed. 'What's that you're after

"'You--ate--an--ass,' says Johnnie, again, an' he shakin', when he saw
the way Peadar made a grab at the big crookey stick that was lyin'
across the bed.

"'G'long! you upstartin' imp o' the divil,' says Peadar, with a roar,
an' he jumpin' out o' the bed. 'Is it a son o' Shameen Finnegan's to
come into my own house an' tell me I'm a cannaball? I'll soon give you
a chance o' curin' yourself instead o' comin' in to make a fool o'
me an' I lyin' helpless on my bed with the pains! There's a doctor's
degree for you!' an' old Peadar drew a whack o' the stick at Johnnie
that made him roar an' run for the door as fast as his legs 'd carry

"Out went Peadar after him an' not a fligget on him only his shirt an'
breeches, an' across the bog with them as hard as they could run until
Johnnie tripped an' fell, an' old Peadar on top of him, into a dry
drain. Peadar began flailin' him, an' with every thump o' the stick
he'd give to poor Johnnie he'd shout, 'There's a doctor's degree for
you! There's a doctor's degree for you!' an' only for Doctor Dempsey's
boy tied the horse to a bush an' came runnin' over, it's Johnnie that
'd be bad with the pains, an' not Peadar.

"He was bad enough, in troth, when they brought him home, an' he didn't
stir out o' the house for three months, but everyone said 'twas shame
was on him more than the pains after Peadar's stick. That was the end
of his doctorin' anyway; he never went back to Doctor Dempsey, an' the
flailin' he got in the bog knocked a lot o' the nonsense out o' him
an' put sense in its place, because he gave up the foolish ways, an'
settled down to workin' and lookin' after the bit o' land old Jimmy
was after buyin'. But from that day to this if you wanted to set him
tearin' mad all you'd have to say is 'doctor,' and he'd roar like a
ragin' bull.

"An' that's the way Johnnie Finnegan got his 'doctor's degree' from
Peadar Mullen o' the Bog."


'Twas the evening of the Christmas Fair of Castletown, and the forge
in Balnagore was almost full of men and boys. A fine, frosty night it
promised to be, and the roads getting every moment more slippery, some
of the men who had made long journeys were waiting for their turn to
get their horses' shoes sharpened, as a precaution against accidents.
The majority, though, of those who stood or sat around the fire, where
Ned M'Grane was working at his best, were the young fellows of the
neighbourhood, who, as usual, had dropped in to smoke or chat, and
mayhap, if their lucky star happened to be in the ascendant, to hear
one of his entertaining stories from Ned o' the Forge.

Well, one by one those who had far to travel were attended to and took
their departure and then, with a big sigh of relief, Ned threw down the
hammer, drew on his coat and took his pipe from his pocket.

"What sort was the fair, boys?" he asked, when the first wreath of
smoke from his pipe had ascended towards the ceiling.

"'Twas good, Ned," answered Joe Clinton; "but, indeed, everybody was
sayin' on the way home that Castletown Christmas Fair is nothin' now to
what it used to be."

"I remember the time," said Ned, "when the whole town, from where the
new Post Office is now to the railway gates, used to be so full o'
people an' cattle an' trick-o'-the-loops an' everythin', that you'd
have to fight your way through them."

"I heard my father sayin' to James Clancy an' we waitin' to be paid by
the jobber," said Bartle Nolan, "that bacon isn't as dear now as the
day Jimmy the Thrick doubled the grain of oats on the Belfast jobber,
an' they were laughin' over it. What was that about, Ned?"

We became as mute as mice after this last question of Bartle's, and
Ned M'Grane was silent also for a moment or two. Then when we saw him
folding his arms and leaning back against the bellows we knew that a
story was coming, and that Bartle had played a trump card.

"It's many's the trick Jimmy played in his day," said Ned, with a
smile, "but the doublin' o' the grain of oats was one of his best, an'
one that brought him a bit o' money, too. The way it happened was this:

"It was a plan o' Jimmy's sometimes at fairs an' markets to let on
that he was a bit of an amadán, an' he'd talk so simple an' queer an'
foolish that strange jobbers that didn't know him or his ways used to
take great delight in talkin' to him, an' havin' a laugh at him, an' in
the heel o' the hunt Jimmy used to knock out the best penny in the fair
for whatever he'd be sellin'. But he was caught nappin' one day, an' in
revenge for that he doubled the grain of oats.

"He was at the Christmas Fair o' Castletown (it's well over twenty year
ago now) tryin' to sell two pigs--a white one an' a black one--an',
of course, as usual, he was playin' the fool an' crackin' jokes with
every jobber that came the way, an' seemed in no hurry to sell the pigs
at all. At last up comes a quiet, tidy bit of a man, an' says he, nice
an' easy, an' seemin' to care little whether he got an answer or not:

"'What do you want for the white pig there along with the black one?'
says he.

"'Troth then, the sorra much, sir,' says Jimmy; 'all I'm askin' is
three pound.'

"'All right, you can have that,' says the jobber, as quick as you
please, an' he pullin' out his knife, an before Jimmy had time to say a
word the two pigs were marked as plain as if there was a label on them.

"'Take your time there, my good man,' says Jimmy, throwin' off his
fool's face, when he saw the jobber walkin' away, 'take your time
there,' says he, 'you're only after buyin' the white pig.'

"'Oh, I beg your pardon,' says the jobber, mighty polite, 'I'm after
buyin' the white pig _along with the black one_ for three pounds. A
bargain is a bargain. Am I right or wrong?' says he to Bartle Nolan's
father an' a few more o' the neighbours that were listenin' to the
whole thing.

"There wasn't a man among them could deny that he was after buyin' the
two pigs, an' they told Jimmy that he might as well give in at once,
that the bargain was made, an' that the law 'd be again him if he
brought the jobber into court. So my brave Jimmy had to leave his two
darlin' pigs go for next to nothin', an' see himself made a fool of in
real earnest, but he swore that if it was to be in twenty years he'd
have revenge on the boyo from Belfast.

"Well, a year went by and the big Christmas Fair came round again,
an' Jimmy had two fine pigs to sell, the same as usual, for he was a
great man for the pigs. He was about an hour in the fair when who does
he see comin' towards him but the same Belfast jobber that diddled
him the year before. Jimmy never pretended he knew him at all, an'
began leerin' an' lookin' more like a fool than he looked that day
twelvemonths. The jobber let on he didn't know Jimmy either, an', says
he, very nice an' quiet:

"'What do you want for the pigs, my good man?'

"'Och, the sorra much then, sir,' says Jimmy, an' the amadán's laugh
with him. 'All I ask is one grain of oats, only the doublin' of it to
be left to myself for half an hour.'

"The jobber laughed, an' winked at the men standin' round; an' says he,
'I'll take them at the price, an' maybe I'd give you a pound or two for
yourself as well, because you're a decent-lookin' man. The sorra much
doublin' you can do on a grain of oats in half an hour,' says he.

"'Maybe not, maybe not,' says Jimmy, an' a twinkle in his eye; 'but
we'll see,' says he.

"'Bring them to the railway station,' says the jobber, an' he markin'
the pigs, 'an' I'll pay you along with the rest at one o'clock.' An'
off he went, chucklin' an' laughin' to himself.

"Well, there was a big crowd waitin' in a shed in the railway yard to
be paid at one o'clock, an' my brave Jimmy was there, movin' about
among the neighbours, tellin' them he was goin' to have his revenge on
the Belfast jobber, an' they to be all near by to hear an' see the fun.

"The jobber came at last an' emptied out a big pile o' notes an' gold
an' silver on to his white overcoat, an' himself an' his partner began
payin' away as fast as they could hand out the money. Jimmy was kept
till the last, but the neighbours all waited because they knew that my
boyo was up to some mischief or other. Anyway, when all was paid that
was due the jobber turned round an' called over Jimmy, an' says he:

"'Here's a man that sold me two fine pigs to-day for a grain o' corn,
an' all he asked was that he might be let double it for half-an-hour,
an' that that 'd be the price o' the pigs. Start now, my good man, an'
double your grain of oats, because the train 'll be goin' in forty
minutes, an' there's no time to lose.'

"The people crowded in closer an' cocked their ears. Jimmy walked in
quietly in front o' them an' faced the jobber. There was no sign o' the
amadán on him by this time, but there was a bit of a smile comin' an'
goin' round his mouth, an' a sparkle in his eye.

"'A grain an' a grain,' says he, 'that's two grains, four grains, eight
grains, sixteen grains, thirty-two grains--that's a pinch. A pinch
an' a pinch, that's two pinches, four pinches, eight pinches, sixteen
pinches, thirty-two pinches--that's a fistful.'

"'A fine price for two pigs,' says the jobber. An' the people round
about began to laugh, but Jimmy never let on he heard them, and off he
started again:

"'A fistful an' a fistful, that's two fistfuls, four fistfuls, eight
fistfuls, sixteen fistfuls, thirty-two fistfuls--that's a sheaf. A
sheaf an' a sheaf, that's two sheaves, four sheaves, eight sheaves,
sixteen sheaves, thirty-two sheaves--that's a stook.'

"'A fine big one 'twould be,' says the jobber, 'bigger nor ever I saw
in a cornfield.' And he began to laugh an' to jingle money in his
pocket. Jimmy made him no answer.

"'A stook an' a stook,' says he, 'that's two stooks, four stooks, eight
stooks, sixteen stooks, thirty-two stooks--that's a stack.'

"Faith, the neighbours began to give up grinnin' at Jimmy, an' they
gathered in closer to him, an' nodded their heads at one another, but
the sorra word they had to say; an' the smile was fadin' out o' the
jobber's face. Jimmy kept on countin':

"'A stack an' a stack, that's two stacks, four stacks, eight stacks,
sixteen stacks, thirty-two stacks--that's a haggard.'

"The jobber began to look uneasy, but Jimmy saw nothin' or nobody.

"'A haggard an' a haggard,' says he, 'that's two haggards, four
haggards, eight haggards, sixteen haggards--that's a townland.'

"You could hear the people breathin', an' the jobber was gettin' pale,
but Jimmy kept on:

"'A townland an' a townland, that's two townlands, four townlands,
eight townlands, sixteen townlands, thirty-two townlands--that's a

"'A barony----'

"'Eh! hold on, my good man,' says the jobber, 'I'm afraid I'll be late
for my train. I was only jokin'. I'll give you five pound apiece for
the pigs.'

"'The time isn't half up yet,' says Jimmy, 'stay where you are,' an' on
he went.

"'A barony an' a barony, that's two baronies, four baronies, eight
baronies, sixteen baronies, thirty-two baronies--that's a county.'

"'Listen here!' says the jobber; but Jimmy wouldn't listen.

"'A county an' a county, that's two counties, four counties, eight
counties, sixteen counties, thirty-two counties--_that's Ireland!_'
says Jimmy, with a shout, an' he gave the jobber a slap on the back
that made him jump.

"'You owe me all the oats in Ireland, my fine clever fellow, an' not
more than half the time's up yet. If I kep' on countin' it's the oats
o' the whole world you'd have to be givin' me at the end of half an
hour. You met a fool last year, but he isn't at all, at all as soft as
he looks. When are you goin' to pay me?'

"The poor jobber was shakin' an' shiverin' like a man in a fit. He was
afraid, I think, that the neighbours 'd back up Jimmy, an' give him a
taste o' their sticks if he failed to pay.

"'Oh, sir!' says he, 'don't be too hard on me. Sure I haven't the price
of one haggard let alone all the haggards in Ireland. There's all I
have in the world--fifty pound--an' you can have it an' welcome for
your two pigs.'

"'Well,' says Jimmy, 'as it's Christmas times an' I'm a soft-hearted
man, I'll let you off easier than you deserve. Give me a twenty pound
note, an' I'll forget that you owe me the rest!'

"The jobber was glad to get off so cheap, an' from that day to this he
was never seen at the fair o' Castletown.

"An' that's how Jimmy the Thrick doubled the grain of oats."


_Adapted from the Irish of "An Seabhac" in "An Baile Seo 'Gainn-ne."_

"Bad cess to it for tay," said Ned M'Grane, as he came into the forge,
wiping his lips after his evening meal, in which the much-abused
beverage in question had been, and always was, a potent factor. "The
people were healthier an' hardier, an' the country was better off when
the good wholesome food was goin' an' there was little talk o' tay. Now
we can't do without it for more than half-a-day, bad cess to it!"

He took a piece of tobacco from his capacious vest pocket and proceeded
to fill his pipe, while we eagerly and anxiously scanned his face in
the hope of reading there indications that would lead us to expect a
story, for we always knew by a close but seemingly careless scrutiny of
Ned's face whether we might venture to suggest his drawing upon that
wonderful store of yarns for the possession of which he was famous
throughout the length and breadth of the three parishes.

"I wonder how was it people took to the tay at all at first," said
Bartle Nolan, carelessly, as he fingered a couple of horse-shoe nails
and looked thoughtfully away into the shadows; "you'd think they were
wise enough in them times to know what was good for them."

It was a fine bait, that innocent remark of Bartle's, and we waited
with drawn breath to see what its result would be on Ned.

"Well," said the latter, as he teased the tobacco between his fingers,
while a far-away look that was hopeful came over his face and into his
eyes, "there was many a reason, Bartle. The praties began to get bad,
an' bad seasons left the meal for the stirabout sour an' heavy an'
ugly, an' then people goin' to Dublin an' places like that began to get
notions, an' the women began to think they weren't able for the strong
food an' that tay would put more heart in them. But maybe the men, or
most o' them, were like Denis M'Cann--God be good to him!--an' took the
tay because they couldn't stand the other thing any longer."

"Is it Denis o' the Hill that died last year?" said Joe Clinton, his
voice trembling with eagerness, and before Bartle Nolan could give us a
warning sign four or five of us had blurted out:

"What about Denis, Ned?"

"The very man," said Ned, in reply to Joe's question, and apparently
paying no attention to us. "It wasn't any wonder poor Denis took to the
tay after all the heart-scald he got from the stirabout--not a wonder
in the world."

We sat silent, hardly daring to breathe.

"When I was a gossoon about the size o' Jimmy Tully there, in all the
three parishes there wasn't a harder-workin' family than the M'Canns,
an' the best woman in the barony was Peg M'Cann herself. She was a
good wife to Denis an' a good mother to Patsy an' Molly an' Nell, an'
she never stopped workin' from daylight till dark; but there was one
thing Denis was always grumblin' about, an' that was the stirabout.
Poor Peg, no matter how many warnin's or threats or reminders she got,
could never think o' puttin' salt on the stirabout, an' on that account
there never came a mornin' or a night--except once in a blue moon now
an' again when Peg 'd think o' the salt--that there wasn't a shindy in
the house over the same thing, an' no amount o' jawin' an' ragin' an'
warnin' from Denis could make poor Peg think o' puttin' salt in the
pot every time she started to make the stirabout. An' whenever a thing
wasn't to anybody's likin' from one end o' the parish to the other end
the word was 'That's like Denis McCann's stirabout.'

"Well, everythin' comes to an end some day or other, an' Peg M'Cann's
stirabout pot got a rest at last. An' this is the way it happened out.

"One day Denis an' Patsy an' the girshas were out in the long field
plantin' praties, an' when it was comin' on to the evenin' time Peg
took the stirabout pot an' scoured it an' wiped it an' put it on the
fire with water enough in it to make the stirabout. When the water came
to the boil she put in the meal, an' then for a wonder, whatever struck
into her head, she put a good handful o' salt in the pot, an' says she
to herself: 'He can't be sayin' anythin' about it to-night,' says she.

"The stirabout was simmerin' an' singin' away when Denis an' the
childre came home, an' when Peg saw them comin' up the boreen she went
out to the byre to milk the cow, an' she was smilin' to herself at the
surprise Denis 'd get, an' the quietness there 'd be in the house on
account o' the salt bein' in the stirabout.

"Denis left Patsy an' the girshas to take the harness off the jennet
an' put up the spades an' shovels an' things, an' he went into the
house himself with a couple o' stone o' the seed that was left over
after the day's work. He spied the pot on the fire, an' over he went to
the salt-box an' took up a good big fistful o' the salt an' put it in
the stirabout, an' gave it a stir or two, an' says he an' he lickin'
his lips:

"'It'll be right to-night, anyway,' says he, an' down he goes to shut
the gate at the end o' the boreen.

"In a few minutes in comes Molly an' goes over to the fire to warm her
hands, an' the sound o' the stirabout in the pot reminded her o' the
ructions there used to be every night, an' 'I'm sure she didn't think
of it to-night, no more than any other night,' says Molly, an' up she
jumps an' rams her hand into the salt-box an' takes out a big fistful
an' puts it in the pot an' gives it a couple o' stirs an' goes out to
see what was keepin' her mother.

"Denis wanted the lantern to look after the young lambs, and Patsy went
into the house to get it for him. The smell o' the stirabout brought
him to the fire, an' the sight o' the pot made him think o' the shindy
every night an' 'For fear o' the worst,' says he an' took as much as he
could lift in his hand of salt an' put it in the pot. Then he gave it a
stir an' darted out with the lantern, for Denis was callin' to him to

"Peg was in the byre, milkin' away at her ease, an' says she to Nell,
when she saw her passin' the door: 'Nell,' says she, 'run in quick an'
stir the pot or the stirabout'll be burned to nothin'. I'll be in in a
minute myself,' says she.

"Nell went in an' gave a rousin' fine stirrin' to the supper, and she
was just goin' out again to see was Molly ready when she stopped. 'As
sure as I'm alive,' says she, 'my mother never put a grain o' salt in
it,' an' of course when she thought o' that she went to the salt-box
an' done what the rest o' them were after doin' an' says she: 'My
father won't have anythin' to say about it to-night,' an' she lightin'
the candle.

"Then Peg came in an' put milk in the noggins an' lifted the pot off
the fire an' gave it the last stir, an' Denis came in, an' Patsy an'
Molly, an' they all as hungry as huntsmen, an' each o' them thinkin' o'
the fine, tasty stirabout there was for the supper that night anyway.

"Denis sat down in his own place in the corner an' spread out his hands
over the fire an' says he:

"'Give us a noggin o' that, Peg. I'm as hungry as Callaghan's cow when
she ate the hay rope off Tom the Tramp's leg an' he asleep.' An' Peg
filled up the noggin an' handed it over to him. 'That's the stuff for
a hungry man,' says Denis, an' he dug his spoon into the noggin an'
lifted a spoonful out of it that would nearly make a meal for a man
nowadays, an' stuffed it into his mouth, an'----

"'Ugh! Ach! O Lord, I'm pisened!' yelled poor Denis springin' to his
feet, an' he tryin' to get rid o' the stirabout, an' as soon as he
could get his tongue into shape for talk he did talk, an' the abuse he
gave poor Peg was terrible. He never said anythin' half as strong in
his life before, an' that's sayin' a lot.

"'Musha! sorrow's on it for stirabout!' says poor Peg, an' she cryin'
like the rain, 'it has my heart broke in two, so it has. When I don't
put salt on it nobody can eat it, an' this evenin' when I put salt on
it an' thought I had it right, it's worse than ever. Bad cess to it for
stirabout!' An' indeed 'twas no wonder the poor woman 'd cry!

"'Arrah! don't be botherin' us with your cryin' an' wailin', an' you
after makin' the stirabout like, like;---- An' then Denis thought o'
the fistful o' salt he put in the pot himself an' he stopped. 'As true
as I'm a livin' man,' says he, in his own mind, ''twas myself that made
a lad o' the stirabout. But, sure, one fistful would never pisen it
like that!' But he cooled down an' sat lookin' into the fire.

"Patsy thought it was himself that ruined the supper an' Molly thought
'twas she that settled it, an' Nell said to herself she was the rascal
that was after doin' it, but they were all afraid to speak, an' they
were so troubled an' knocked about, that they didn't even think of
askin' for anythin' else to eat. Denis was thinkin' an' thinkin' for a
long time, an' he lookin' into the fire an' at last says he:

"'There's no use in talkin', says he, 'there's some misfortune or bad
luck on this house above every house in the parish. The stirabout is
never the same with us as it is with any o' the neighbours no matter
how it's made. Let us have done with it, once an' for all, an' have
peace an' quietness in the house--what never was in it yet!'

"An', indeed, Peg was only too glad to hear him talkin' like that, for
the same stirabout had her heart nearly broke. She bought two ounces
o' tay in the shop the next mornin', an' from that day out there never
was a bit o' stirabout made under Denis McCann's roof. An', sure, maybe
that's the way the tay got into many another house as well, though I
suppose if you said so to the women they wouldn't be over thankful to

"Bad cess to it for tay!"


_Adapted from the Irish of "An Seabhac" in "An Baile Seo 'Gainn-ne."_

There had been a big week's work in the forge, and Ned M'Grane, the
blacksmith, had got a present of a whole pound of tobacco from his
nephew in Dublin, and on account of these two happenings he was in the
very best of humour, so we decided that the time was ripe for a story.
We hadn't had such a treat from Ned for weeks past, so there was an
edge on our appetite for one of his unrivalled stories that pleasant
evening as we sat and smoked in the smithy.

"The like of it was never known in history before," said Joe Clinton,
suddenly, with a challenging glance towards Bartle Nolan, who started
as if he didn't expect the statement, and as if it hadn't been
carefully planned beforehand at the Milking Field gate!

"Ach, nonsense, man!" said Bartle, with a withering look at Joe. "D'ye
mean to say that there ever was an age or a century or a period o'
history that women weren't kickin' up their heels about somethin' or
other an' wantin' to boss the whole show. Why, the thing is out of all
reason!" finished Bartle, with a fine show of indignation.

"All the same I think Joe is right," said Tom M'Donnell. "I don't
believe they ever carried things as far as to want to have votes an'
seats on public boards, an' to be equal to the men in everythin'. I
don't think anyone ever heard before of a woman goin' that far with the

"What's that, Tom?" said Ned, who had just thrust about two ounces of
his store of tobacco into old Phil Callaghan's hand in a covert sort of
way, and was now quietly teasing a pipeful for himself. "What is it you
were talkin' about?"

"O, we were just discoursin', Ned, about them suffragettes an' the row
they're makin' about gettin' votes an' the like o' that. Joe was sayin'
that such a thing as a rumpus about equal rights between man an' woman
was never known of in history before in any country in the world, an'
some of us didn't agree with him. What do you say yourself, Ned?"

Ned teased the tobacco for a few moments in a dreamy manner that seemed
hopeful, and then he looked thoughtfully at Joe Clinton.

"Would it surprise you to hear, Joe," he said at last, "that such
a rumpus an' such a row as you speak about took place in this very
townland o' Balnagore?"

We all laughed at Joe's confusion as he said sheepishly, "It would,
indeed, Ned," and then Ned's eyes twinkled triumphantly.

Then we knew that we had carried our little scheme to success, and we
waited as patiently and as quietly as we could while Ned filled and
lighted his pipe. At last he spoke:

"It's forty year ago an' more since it happened, Joe, an' indeed it
wasn't the woman was to blame at all, but the crankiest, contrariest,
crossest old codger of a man that ever sat on a stool, and that was
Dickey Moran that lived there below in the hollow, where Jimmy Kearney
is livin' now. An' if every woman conducted her fight for a vote as
cleverly as Peggy Moran conducted hers for peace an' quietness there 'd
be a lot more respect an' support for them than there is. But what 'd
be the use of advisin' a woman? You might as well be tryin' to catch
eels with a mousetrap.

"Dickey an' Peggy were only a couple o' years married when she began
to find out that he wasn't altogether as sweet as he used to be, an'
from that time on until she played her trump card she never had an
easy day with him. This wasn't done right, an' that was all wrong, an'
who showed her how to boil a pig's pot, an' where did she learn to
make stirabout, an' forty other growls that nearly put the poor woman
out of her wits. An' what used to annoy her the most of all was that
Dickey (he was fifteen years older than her) never stopped complainin'
about all he had to do in the fields an' on the bog, an' about the
little Peggy had to do in the house--a child buildin' a babby-house 'd
have more to do, he used to say, an' then he'd put a whinin' rigmarole
out of him about the way men had themselves wore to nothin' to keep a
bit an' a sup with lazy women, an' so on, an' so on, until poor Peggy
couldn't stand it any longer, an' she'd turn on him an' say things
that 'd make Dickey twist like an eel an' feel when the shindy 'd be
over that he was after gettin' more than he bargained for, an' a few
rattlin' fine sharp wallops o' Peggy's tongue thrown in for luck.

"Well, it had to get worse or stop altogether, and the surprisin' part
was that the two things happened at the same time.

"It happened one mornin' that Dickey was in an odious bad humour
entirely, an' he goin' about the house with a face on him as long as a
late breakfast an' as sharp as a razor, an' every growl out of him like
a dog over a bone or a fox in a trap. He was tryin' to light the fire,
but the turf was too wet, an' the draught was comin' the wrong way, an'
accordin' as his temper got strong his tongue turned on poor Peggy,
who was givin' a bottle to the child in the cradle--it was only seven
months old at the time--an' she was sayin' nothin' at all, but there
was a quare sort of a look in her eye that all as one as said that her
mind was made up. Dickey was gettin' worse an' worse with his growlin'
about all that men had to do an' the lazy ways of women an' what not,
but all of a sudden, when he wasn't mindin', Peggy caught a grip of his
arm in a way that made him jump, an' says she, in the voice of a County
Court Judge givin' sentence, says she:

"'Let there be an end to this comparin' an' growlin' an' grumblin' once
an' for all, Dickey Moran! You say men are run off their feet an' that
women have nothin' to do. Well, here's the way to settle that. You stay
here in the house an' do what's to be done in it, an' I'll look after
the turf an' the praties an' oats an' things out in the fields, an'
we'll soon see who has the most to do. That's the only way to put an
end to your aggravatin' talk forever an' a day.'

"An' Dickey bein' in the temper he was in, agreed on the minute, an'
they took their bit o' breakfast without another word, an' when it was
down, Peggy tied her shawl round her shoulders an' gripped hold of an
old reapin' hook that was hangin' on the wall an' started off to cut
the bit of oats in the far field, an' Dickey sat down at the fire to
have a pull o' the pipe before startin' the child's play, as he called
the work that had to be done in the house.

"When Peggy was gone a couple o' minutes she came back an' put her head
in at the door, an' says she in a quiet an' easy way, as if she was
only biddin' her man good mornin':

"'Listen here,' says she, 'the cow is in the byre still, an' it's time
she was milked. An' don't forget to take every drop from her or it's
milk fever she'll be havin' one o' these days. An' put a few handfuls
o' poreens on the fire for the pigs an' give them to them soon because
they're screechin' with the hunger. An' keep an eye to that black hen
for fear she'd lay out, because if she does the dickens an egg you'll
get to-morrow mornin'. Scald that churn well an' do the churnin' as
soon as you can, because there's not a bit o' butter in the house an'
this is Friday. An' make a cake o' bread, too, for if you don't there
won't be a pick to eat with the colcannon; an' mind that you don't burn
it. An' spin that pound o' wool over there that I have to make your
socks out of for the winter, an' mind that you don't have it too thick
or lumpy. An' wash up the delph, an' put a drop o' milk on the fire
in that black saucepan for the child, an' give it to him at eleven
o'clock. An' don't make it too hot for him, or you'll hear about it.
An' sweep the floor, an' make the bed, an' get a couple o' cans o'
water from the well, an' peel the praties for the dinner,' says Peggy,
and she out o' breath, an' off she went to the far field.

"'Troth, then, I'll do that an' more, an' it won't trouble me much,'
says Dickey, with a grunt, an' he fillin' the pipe for a good smoke,
'it's easier than breakin' one's back bendin' over a reapin' hook.' An'
he reddened the pipe an' pulled away at his ease.

"The first thing he started into was the washin' o' the delph, an' he
got along middlin' well till he caught hold o' Peggy's darlin' cup that
belonged to her mother's aunt's great-grandmother, an' was as precious
to her as gold. There was a crack in it down one side, an' half-way
round the bottom, an' whatever the dickens happened Dickey, his fingers
were too clumsy or somethin', he never felt till he had a piece o'
the cup in each hand, an' there was another bit on the floor. He just
looked at it an' said nothin', but he thought a lot.

"It couldn't be helped anyway, so he took the gallon can an' out with
him to the byre to milk the cow. You'd think Peggy an' the cow had it
made up between them, with the look that was in her eye when she saw
Dickey comin' with the can, but she stood as quiet as you please an'
chewed the cud, an' seemed to be terrible pleased with the song Dickey
sang while he milked. An' the work was goin' on so grand that he forgot
all about the cup he broke an' was wonderin' to himself was Peggy
repentin' yet, an' was givin' a chuckle or two an' he drawin' the
last drop o' milk into the can, when all of a sudden, without 'by your
leave' or 'here's at you,' the rogue of a cow lifted her right hind leg
an' gave one kick that sent Dickey an' the can o' milk sprawlin' all
over the place. The milk was spilled over him, of course, an' the can
was made a pancake of, an' he had a pain in his chest like lumbago, but
what could he do only curse the cow an' go into the house without can
or milk, an' I may tell you he wasn't chucklin'.

"Well, the pigs were yellin' like mad lions, an' nearly breakin' down
the sty with the hunger, an' Dickey put the pot on the fire an' boiled
a feed for them as fast as he could. An' when it was ready he went to
the sty with it, but whatever misfortune was on him that mornin', an'
the place bein' purty dark where the pigs were, he bumped his nose
against the sharp corner of a board an' the blood began to come like
as if there was somebody after it, an' Dickey flung the feed, bucket
an' all to the pigs, an' ran into the house an' lay on the broad of
his back tryin' to stop the blood an' it runnin' down his neck an'

"He got it stopped at last, but he was as weak as a cat, an' then he
thought o' the churnin', an' he started to do it as best he could,
which wasn't much of a best. It's no joke to do a churnin' without help
an' keep a child from cryin' at the same time, an' when Dickey was
finished, I tell you, he didn't feel like runnin' a race or jumpin'
over a stone wall. He was sweatin' like a fat pig at a fair on a
summer's day.

"Then when the churnin' was finished, he went to the well for a can o'
water, an' he brought the child with him as it was cryin' fit to lift
the roof off the house, an' what do you think but when he was stoopin'
to lift the water didn't he lose his footin' an' fall into the well,
child an' all, an' only it wasn't too deep, Dickey's housekeepin' days
were over. He was all wet anyway, an' the child was wet an' bawlin',
which was no wonder, an' the water was runnin' out o' the two o' them
an' they goin' back to the house.

"When he got to the door there was a stream o' fresh buttermilk runnin'
out to meet him, an' nice little lumps o' butter floatin' on it, an'
there was the churn upset in the middle o' the floor, an' the black pig
drinkin' away at her ease, an' givin' a grunt o' contentment every now
an' then, as much as to say, 'that's the stuff for puttin' a red neck
on a pig.'

"For one full minute Dickey didn't know what to do he was that mad an'
wet an' disappointed an' tired all at the one time, but when the minute
was up he threw the wet child--an' it roarin' all the time, the poor
thing--into the cradle, an' grabbed a new spade that was standin' at
the cross-wall, an' made one lunge at the black pig as she darted out
on the door, knowin' well there was trouble comin'. It caught her just
at the back o' the ear, an' with one yell she staggered an' stretched
out on the yard as dead as a door-nail.

"An' that's the way things were when Peggy came up from the far field
a few minutes later--Dickey nearly dead with fright, an' the child on
the borders of a fit, the churnin' all through the house, the gallon
can all battered up an' not a drop o' new milk to be seen, the fire
out an' no sign of a dinner, the cow in the byre an' she ragin' with
the hunger, one pig dead an' the other rootin' up the winter cabbage in
the garden, an' the whole place like a slaughterhouse or a battlefield,
with milk an' pig's blood an' well-water flowin' in all directions; an'
to crown it all, Dickey sat down in the corner an' began to cry.

"Well, it was a nice how-d'ye-do sure enough, but Peggy was a sensible
woman, an' she just figured it all out there in a second or two, an'
she said to herself that peace was cheap at the price, an' she knew by
the look o' Dickey that there was goin' to be peace, an' she just held
her tongue, an' set about fixin' up the child an' Dickey an' the place
as best she could. An' then she went for Andy Mahon, the herd over in
Moyvore, an' got him to scrape the pig, an' salt the bacon an' pack
it, an' before night you'd never know that anythin' strange was after
takin' place about the house at all, at all. An' Dickey was as mute as
a mouse.

"From that day out there was peace an' quietness an' comfort in that
house, an' Dickey Moran was as kind an' cheerful a man as you'd meet in
a day's walk. An' the only thing Peggy regretted was her darlin' cup
that belonged at one time to her mother's aunt's great-grandmother.

"Boys, O boys, it's eleven o'clock!"


Ned M'Grane was reading the paper as Denis Monaghan came into the
forge, with a hearty, "God save all here."

"God save you kindly, Denis," said Ned, "an' keep you from ever
aspirin' to be a candidate at an election."

"What's your raison for sayin' such a thing as that, Ned?"

"Well, Denis, I was just turnin' over in me mind all the lies that
does be scattered around an' all the trickery an' deceit an' humbug
that comes into the world durin' election times, an' I was just sayin'
to meself, 'I hope an' pray, Ned M'Grane, that neither you nor any of
your friends or relations or dacint neighbours 'll ever be tempted be
the divil to go up as candidate for election, either as a Poor Law
Guardian, District Councillor, County Councillor, Mimber o' Parliament,
or anythin' else that has to be voted for, because as sure as ever you
do you'll have to turn on the tap o' the keg where every man keeps his
store o' lies in case the truth ever fails him, an' let it flow like
the Falls o' Niagara after a flood.' An' that's the raison, Denis, I
put that tail on to 'God save you kindly,' because I don't want to see
an old friend like yourself ever fallin' as low as that."

"I don't think there's much fear o' me, Ned."

"You never can tell, Denis; you never can tell. I seen sensibler men
than Denis Monaghan--because, as you are well aware, you have a streak
o' th' amadán in you, the same as meself--an' you'd think they'd never
set the few brains they had trottin' an' twistin' about election
honours, as they're called, an' then some fine day or another when
th' Ould Boy finds it too hot to be at home an' takes to prowlin' an'
meandrin' about the world he comes along an' shouts in a whisper into
me honest man's brain box that it'd be a grand thing for him to have
his name in the papers an' on big strips o' paper as wide as a quilt on
every old wall an' gate post, an' to be elected as a councillor or a
guardian an' be able to gabble round a table every week an' have people
lookin' up to him an' thinkin' him a great fella, an' expectin' him
to make the country a plot out o' the Garden of Eden, the same as is
promised in every election address, and so me poor man, bein' maybe not
on his guard, an' a bit seedy or sick or somethin' finds th' Ould Boy's
palaver sweeter than the screechin' o' three hungry pigs, an' with his
teeth waterin' he makes up his mind to go forward as a candidate. An'
that's how the whole thing happens, Denis.

"You know yourself the blathers an' the humbugs dacint men make o'
themselves when they set out on the road to a Council seat or to be
a chip o' the Board o' Guardians or an M.P., or anythin' else that
has to be voted for, an' you know all the lies an' tomfoolery that's
pelted about like clods at such a time. One fella says that he'll cut
the taxes across in the middle, the same as if you got a splash-hook
at them, an' another fella promises to mend all the broken backed
bridges in the barony, an' another is goin' to get a pound a week an'
a two story house an' a farm o' land for every labourin' man that he's
fond of, an' another is goin' to revive th' old ancient language of
Ireland, although he doesn't know a word of it himself, an' another
playboy 'll make it his business to see that every child gets a vote as
soon as he's in short clothes an' weaned off the bottle, an' they go on
romancin' out o' them an' makin' up lies that'd lift the skin off your
head, let alone the hair, if you started to consider an' ponder over
them, and there you have quiet, honest next-door neighbours callin'
each other names an' tryin' to clip th' ears off each other with their
ash poles for sake o' puttin' one or th' other o' the tricks I was
talkin' about at the head o' the list on the day the election is on.
An' when they get in the bridges may mend themselves an' the houses
for the labourers may grow like mushrooms or daisies, an' the fairies
may bring back th' old ancient language an' the women may go about
breakin' the world up into little bits lookin' for votes, but the boyo
that was goin' to do everythin' takes a sudden fit of forgettin' an'
never gets over it until the next election whistles to say it's comin'.
Every time I see an election, Denis, I can't help thinkin' that there's
a terrible lot o' knaves an' goms in the world still, in spite o' the
free libraries an' everythin'.

"Did I ever tell you about the election that was over in the West--I
think it was in Galway--a few years ago? It showed that there was one
sensible man left in the world. There was a lot o' fellas up for
election an' 'twas goin' to be a close fight, as close as a circus
tumbler's shirt. One boyo hit on a plan of advertisin' himself, so
he got up a big competition, as he called it, an' offered a ham to
be won be the man that could give the best raison why he was to vote
for this candidate above all th' others. Well, there was a terrible
hub-bub an' hullabuloo over it, an' the night came to decide about
the ham, an' every man for five miles around was packed into the town
hall, an' everyone o' them wantin' to get his lie in first, an' the
teeth waterin' with everyone o' them an' they lookin' up at the ham
that was hangin' over the platform. An' when th' examination started
every mother's son o' them had a raison as long as your arm, an' some
o' them wrote down on paper--one fella said it was because he knew the
country 'd be the better of it, an' another because he had a longin'
after truth an' honesty, an' another because his conscience said it
was the right thing to do, and so on, till it came to a little man
that was that tight squeezed against the door at the far end o' the
hall that his tongue was out, an' his face red, an' he twistin' like
an eel in a cleeve. When it came to his turn: 'Well, me friend,' says
the candidate, 'what's your raison for sayin' I ought to be elected?'
'Because I want that ham,' the little man squeaked out of him, an' it's
all he was able to say on account o' bein' jammed so tight. But he got
the ham."


"Well, Ned, how d' you feel after your visit to Dublin, an' how did you
like the city?"

"I feel very thankful that I'm alive at all," said Ned M'Grane, "that's
how I feel; an' I may as well tell you straight out, 'ithout puttin' a
gum in it--because I haven't a tooth--that I didn't like the city at
all, good, bad or indifferent, an' I didn't feel aisy in me mind from
the first minute I set foot in it, until the train whistled leavin'
Amiens Street on the way back."

"An' how is that, Ned?"

"It's the quarest place you ever seen in your life, Denis, an' if
you're wise you'll never see it. I can't make out why people are
always trippin' over other runnin' up to Dublin an' half o' them 'd
be better off at home if they 'd only work hard an' keep sober an'
let other people's business alone. What they can see in the city to
get fond of passes my understandin'. You'd want to keep one hand on
your nose nearly all the time an' th' other in the pocket you had the
few shillin's in, because the smell o' cabbage an' fish an' oranges
an' things like that, that's qualified for th' old age pension, 'd
nearly bid you the time o' day it's that strong, an' there's a lot o'
professional pocket cleaners goin' about from mornin' till night, an'
as soon as they get to know you're from the country--I don't know how
they guess at it--they remember all of a sudden that they're sixth
cousin to your mother-in-law's step-uncle, or some other relation that
you never seen or heard about, an' if you open your mouth to spake to
them they'll know your past history from cover to cover in five minutes
an' your business an' all about you, an' if you once make friends with
them the dickens a shillin' you'll have in your pocket when they get a
sudden call to see a man on business outside in the street. Oh, I can
tell you, 'shut your eyes and open your mouth' would not be much use to
a man in Dublin.

"They don't walk at all up there--it 'd hurt their corns an' wear out
their boots; but they're always runnin' after trams, an' then payin'
money to be let sit in them to draw their breath. I didn't know what
they were at the first time I seen them doin' it. I was walkin' down
from me cousin's house to the chapel one mornin', an' not payin' much
heed to anythin', when a fella darted out of a gate an' nearly knocked
me down with the bump he gave into me. I was just goin' to grab hould
of him or give him a kick when he muttered somethin' about bein' sorry,
an' off he wint like forked lightnin' an' his hat in his hand an' he
wavin' his arms like a tumblin' rake, an' he wasn't three perch runnin'
when a lassie in a hobble skirt started to take buck jumps after him,
like a lad in a sack race, an' then an old fat woman an' a middle-aged
lad with a rheumatic hop joined in the race an' five or six more made
after them as fast as they could leg it, an' they all flingin' their
arms about the same as the first fella. 'Is it for a wager'? says I
to a man that was walkin' in the same direction as meself. 'Is what
for a wager?' says he. 'The race,' says I, pointin' to the crowd that
was runnin'. He began to laugh an' looked at me in a way that said as
plain as could be, 'You're a softy, anyway,' an' says he: 'Oh, they're
only runnin' to catch the tram.' 'An' why wouldn't they wait for this
other one that's comin' up now?' says I. 'They never wait for a tram
in Dublin,' says he; 'they always run after the one that's ahead o'
them, an' then if they can't catch it they spend the rest o' the day
writin' letters to all the papers complainin' o' the rudeness o' the
tram boys that wouldn't wait for them.' An' some o' the same people,
when they were at home in the country two or three year ago wouldn't
think a traneen about walkin' five mile to a football match an' five
back, or trampin' into the town on a fair day or a market day, an' the
dickens a bunion or a corn or a welt on their feet they had that time
no more than there'd be on the leg of a creepy stool or on the spout
of a kettle. I suppose if there were trams down here the women 'd want
to go in them to milk or to cut nettles for the ducks an' the men 'd
be runnin' after them on their way to the bog or to the hay field, an'
they 'd be all writin' letters to the papers if the tram man wouldn't
wait for them till they 'd be after aitin' their dinner or gettin' a
drink o' buttermilk.

"You won't get a hand's turn done in Dublin 'ithout payin' for it.
If you send a lad for a farthin' box o' matches you must give him a
ha'penny for goin' an' maybe his tay when he comes back, an' if you
haven't any change till the next day he'll charge you interest on
it, an' if you don't pay him he'll make it hot for you the next time
you go out, unless you ask a peeler to go along with you an' give him
half-a-crown for mindin' you.

"Quare is no name for it. It bates out all that ever came across me,
an' I seen some strange holes an' corners in me day. Why, the town over
there, the biggest fair day ever it seen, or the finest day of a races
'd be no more to Dublin any day in the week than a tin whistle 'd be
to the double-barrelled bugle of a brass band! You'd think that every
man, woman an' child in Dublin took a pledge every mornin' to make
somebody bothered before night with the fair dint o' noise, or die in
the attempt. Such screechin' an' yellin' an' creakin' an' groanin' from
old women an' young childre an' dogs an' cats an' drays an' fowls an'
motors an' trams an' everythin' was never heard this side o' London or
the place beyond it, where Ould Nick keeps his furnace in full blast
night an' day. Why, a whisper in Dublin 'd call a man home from the
bog to his dinner down here, it has to be that loud, an' if you don't
screech for anythin' you want you won't get it at all. I don't wonder
that the half of them up there is hoarse, an' th' other half bothered
in both ears, an' that not one in every hundred has an inch o' win'
to blow out a candle with. I suppose that's why they have the gas an'
electric light an' keep the win' for blowin' them out under tap. I
think if a man in Dublin had to quench six candles every night he'd die
of heart disease in less than a week.

"The looks o' the peelers that they have for keepin' up the corners o'
the streets in Dublin 'd make you laugh only you wouldn't like to be
seen makin' a fool o' yourself in a crowd. They're for all the world
like packs o' wool tied in the middle, an' whenever they have to run
after a bould gossoon or a mad dog or a flyin' machine or anythin'
like that, you'd see them shakin' like a movin' bog or a dish o' that
flip-flop stuff they do have at weddin's an' dinners an' parties an'
places like that--I think it's jelly they call it. I suppose the poor
fellas never get anythin' to eat an' less to drink, an' the win' comin'
round the corners gets into them an' blows them out like the bladder
of a football. If a man was comin' to after sickness it'd put him to
the pin of his collar to walk round one o' them. I'd like to see them
wheelin' turf on a bog one o' these hot days. You could catch as much
ile as 'd grease your brogues an' the' axle o' th' ass's dray for a
twelve-month. It must take a quare lot o' stuff to make a suit o'
clothes for one o' them.

"If you seen the houses that some o' the swanks o' lads live in on th'
edge o' the city you'd have nightmares for a week. When one o' them
goes idle there's a notice about it in the papers to catch th' eye o'
some lad that wants to change out o' the place he's in, an' you'd think
by readin' it that it wasn't a house but a mansion that was waitin'
for a tenant. You'll always read in the notices that there's a 'garden
front an' rere,' but you'd want a telescope or somethin' like that to
see the gardens. You could lift the front one on a good wide shovel,
an' a goat couldn't turn round in the big one at the back 'ithout
puttin' her feet up on the wall! An' then if you were to see the size
o' the rooms in the houseen that you'd have to pay the rent of a farm
o' land for. If you were sittin' in the middle o' the kitchen eatin'
a pig's crubeen, an' if you came to a rale grizzly bit that wanted a
good chuck to get it away from the bone, you'd soon get a whack o' the
wall that 'd show you a beautiful movin' picture o' the whole sky on
a starry night. An' it wouldn't do to have a dream about tumblin' the
wild-cat an' you in bed in any o' them rooms, as they call them, or the
same thing 'd happen you, or maybe you'd be out on top o' your head
through the French winda with the Venetian blind and the Manchester
curtains. An' then they call rows o' huts like that Prince o' Wales'
Terrace, or Dreadnought Villa, or Empire Avenue, or somethin' like
that, an' the poor foolish lads that has plenty o' room to walk an'
sit an' sleep down here in the country think they'll never get away
quick enough to Dublin to live in villas or terraces or avenues, and be
swanks, God bless the mark!

"I could tell you a lot more about Dublin, boys, an' maybe I would,
too, sometime, but you're after hearin' enough to know that it's the
dickens own quare an' comical place out an' out."


_Adapted from the Irish of "An Seabhac" in "An Baile Seo 'Gainn-ne."_

One St. Patrick's Night the Gaels were gathered together in their own
special corner of Heaven (Ned McGrane told us on a certain evening in
the Forge), and were having a glorious time of it. They were there in
tens of thousands--Fionn and the Fianna, Brian Boru, the O'Neills and
O'Donnells and O'Sullivans and MacCarthys, and every other O and Mac
who ever looked upon Ireland as the one and only small nationality that
claimed his heart and hand.

They were all clustered round a fine-looking, white-haired old man,
who was nearly worn out acknowledging their congratulations and
felicitations and hearty words of cheer and greeting. It was because
of him the diversion had been set on foot, for he was none other than
Padraig, the Patron Saint and Apostle of Ireland, but the poor man
looked as if he hoped it would soon be at an end. For no sooner had he
recovered from the shock given to his nerves by the handshake of some
big, tall chieftain of the North than his limp arm was wrung almost to
wrenching point by a towering Gael from some of the other provinces,
until in the end he didn't know whether he was in Heaven or on the
summit of Cruach Padraig.

At last, to his great relief, a bout of dancing was arranged for
between Goll MacMorna, one of the famous Fianna of Fionn, and a
celebrated Feis prize-winner, who had only arrived from Ireland a few
days previously. Fifty fiddlers and fifty pipers played for them and it
was a surprise to the new arrival to see that all the musicians were in
perfect agreement, and that all had the same version of the tune. There
was terrific excitement as the dance progressed, and Goll MacMorna,
carried away by the enthusiasm, finished up with such a jump and a
clatter that he broke a piece out of the floor, and sent it hurtling
down among the stars. He nearly went after it himself, and was only
just saved by being gripped in time by the Blacksmith of Limerick, who
was nearest to him at the moment.

The skelp out of the floor kept falling and falling until it vanished
from sight altogether. And you'll be surprised to hear where it landed.

Just at that very moment a young son of Belzebub--I forget what the
little devil's name was, but it doesn't matter--was playing with a
heap of recruiting posters down on the floor of--of--the other place,
you know. The nurse was talking to a peeler at the gate and was just
telling him about the latest novelette when the yelling and roaring and
the noise were heard inside. In she dashed and found the young master
flattened out like a pancake on the floor, and a big lump of a rock
resting itself on top of him. Then the row started, and the talk that
went about and the curses that careered around in column formation
would make this book smell of brimstone if I were to set them down.

"Who threw the stone?" asked Belzebub for the twentieth time, "that's
the question."

"It was down it came," says a man standing near him. He had no horns
and no hoof, but he was well scorched.

"How do you know?" says Belzebub.

"I have a way of knowing all such things," says the man. "As you may
remember, I used to be a Crown witness in Ireland before I came here."

"This stone," says another man exactly like the last speaker, "this
stone came a long way. It came as far as it could come. It didn't grow
in this country or near it--the heat is too great. I know the sort of
stone it is, because I used to be a Department expert in Ireland long
ago. It grew in no other place than in Heav--I mean where the goo--I
beg your pardon, I mean the--the--the place where people go who don't
come here."

"It was Peter killed my child!" shouted Belzebub, as he switched his
tail and blew clouds of brimstone smoke from his nostrils.

"Wait a moment," says another well-scorched man--a sleek-looking fellow
with a rogue's eye and a hangdog appearance, "I know who the culprits
are. I used to be a felon-setter in Ireland before my services were
transferred here, and I ought to know. This is St. Patrick's Night.
The Irish crowd up in the other place are always allowed to hold
demonstrations on this night--a most illegal and seditious gathering
it usually is, too--and it's their unruly conduct that has sent this
missile flying down here. If you get into communication with the
_Freeman_ over the private wire, you'll find----"

"But it's in Peter's place they are," shouted Belzebub, "and Peter is
responsible for their actions. Will you bear witness to it?"

"We will, certainly," they all shouted, "but to what?"

"To the fact that Peter is responsible for my son's death."

"We're ready to take twenty oaths on it."

"Is there any lawyer here who is willing to take up the case?" asked

"There is!" came the shout from thousands of throats, and every corner
in the place echoed back the roar of it.

"Count them," said Belzebub to his confidential clerk, who had once
been Chief Secretary in Ireland, and was well up in figures. The clerk
began, but when he had used up all the paper in the place and all the
figures he knew, he came to Belzebub and said there were still ten
divisions and a battalion of lawyers to be counted.

"Shut your eyes and pick out any one at all," says Belzebub, "they're
all the same. Is there a bailiff here?"

There came an immense crowd of them.

"Go," says Belzebub to one fellow, "and serve a writ on Peter."

The bailiff did as he was ordered, and when the writ reached poor St.
Peter he was perturbed. He brought it to St. Patrick.

"See the mess you people have landed me in," he said, "the night you
had the ceilidh--your feast night--the piece that your champion dancer
knocked out of the floor fell on Belzebub's son and killed him." The
Gaels weren't the least bit sorry. The only comment was made by Conan

"Pity it wasn't on the father it fell," says he.

"O dear, O dear," says St. Peter, with a sigh, and off he went to look
for legal advice.

Everybody noticed that for the next few days he was terribly troubled,
that he was searching for something or somebody, high up and low down,
going here, there and everywhere.

The court day came. Belzebub and his big staff of lawyers and witnesses
were in attendance, but St. Peter wasn't up to time.

They waited for him a long time. They were impatient. Then came a

"He'll be here shortly," says the messenger. "He seems to be looking
for something. He has the whole place above nearly turned upside down."

They waited on and waited on, but there was no sign of St. Peter. The
judge was getting vexed. At last they saw somebody coming, running,
perspiration dropping from him, his face and figure showing signs of
haste and worry. It was St. Peter. He only put his head in at the door.

"Wait a few minutes longer, if you please," says he to the judge, "I
may be able to do it yet." And away he raced again.

A half hour passed, then an hour, then two hours, but there was no sign
of St. Peter. A messenger was sent out to watch for him. At long last
the messenger shouted in through the open window:

"Here he comes!"

They all looked out and saw him coming. But it was a slow-moving,
dispirited, disappointed-looking St. Peter they saw. You'd think that
everyone belonging to him had just died or that he had heard some
sorrowful tidings. He stopped at the door and looked sadly at the
judge. Everyone was silent. St. Peter spoke.

"I give it up," says he, shaking his head, "there's no use in going on
with it. I've searched Heaven seven times over, from top to bottom,
from end to end and from side to side, here, there and everywhere, but
in any part or portion of it I couldn't find lawyer of any description
that I might ask to plead my case for me."

Then he turned on his heel and walked back as he had come.


It was drawing near Christmas and we were gathered one night in the
Forge, joking and laughing and smoking, and discussing various matters
of no importance with Ned M'Grane, the jovial and kindly blacksmith of
Balnagore. After a time the talk naturally turned on the great festival
that was near at hand, and all the old and new observances that came
with it as sure as sparks came when the smith's sledge hit the heated
steel or iron on the anvil. And Ned, who was in his best form, was
willing to talk in his own humorous fashion about everything connected
with Christmas, from three-foot high candles to penny bugles, and from
plum puddings to holly and ivy.

"I wonder who invented the sort of a Christmas we have nowadays?" said
Ned, as he lighted his pipe and laid the sledge on the anvil. "I'm
told that in the big towns an' the cities they start buyin' Christmas
presents in the middle o' summer, so as to get them cheap, an' that
some people go near losin' their mind tryin' to think o' what to give
this person an' that an' strivin' to figure out what they're goin' to
get themselves from their friends. Long ago the people thought it good
enough to give an' get a Christmas greetin' at the fair or market or
comin' home from Mass or goin' the road, but now you have to go to the
town or send away to Dublin or London or somewhere for a bit of a card
with a green robin redbreast on it, an' holly berries, an' about five
feet o' snow, an' you must put it in a letter an' stamp it an' post it
to the man or woman that lives next door to you, an' that you'll be
talkin' to five minutes before an' after he gets it. An' he must do the
same thing for you, an' if his card looks cheaper than yours, although
you're after sendin' him a printed verse about good-will an' eternal
friendship an' charity an' peace, you won't stop talkin' about his
meanness for a month o' Sundays. I don't know what Christmas is comin'
to at all."

"I wonder who thought o' the first plum puddin'," said Joe Clinton, as
he looked meditatively into the big turf fire that Ned kept burning in
a huge open grate for our special benefit. "Whoever he was, he didn't
think he'd sicken so many people before the end o' the world. Some o'
the things they call plum puddin's are a holy terror. An' the fun of it
is that they never put as much as the skin of a plum in one o' them."

"Well, Joe," answered Ned, "I don't know who took out the plum puddin'
patent first in the world, but I know who was the first who tried to
make one in Balnagore, an' I know what happened to it, an' how often it
was laughed over for many a long day after." And Ned chuckled softly
as he coaxed mighty clouds of blue and white smoke from his veteran
pipe. We saw at once that there was a story behind his remark, for
Ned's brain was a storehouse for yarns, and our hearts thumped with
excitement as we waited breathlessly for Joe Clinton to say the word
that would set Ned's tongue working.

"Who was that, Ned--I never heard of it," said Joe at last.

"It was Judy Connell," Ned answered, as he looked away into the shadows
as if his gaze was fixed on a cinematograph picture that had suddenly
appeared on the far wall of the forge, "an' I remember it the same as
if 'twas only yesterday, though it's a good twenty-five years since
it happened. In them times the only sort of a puddin' people had at
Christmas was a bit o' rice an' a few currants in it, an' it was a
bigger luxury than you'd imagine, because it's little o' sweets or
dainties the old people bothered their heads about: an' signs on it
there wasn't a fellow for pullin' teeth an' stuffin' teeth at every
fair an' market, nor bottles by the score in every 'pothacary's shop
window for the cure o' constipation an' twenty other 'ations' an'
'isms' that the people o' them days knew nothin' about. An' sure nearly
every man brought a full set o' teeth to the grave with him an' left
them there to be dug up when some other man was goin' down on top of
him. Nowadays every second man you meet has teeth made out o' melted
lead or somethin' tied on to his gums with wire, an' some people have
plum puddin' for their tay every time a friend or relation comes to
see them, an' they have to keep on the dresser a bottle o' somethin'
or other to shift the plum puddin' out of their stomach the next day.
That's how things has changed in this country since I was a gossoon.

"But I'm ramblin' away from Judy Connell's plum puddin'.

"Judy was as plain an' simple a little woman as ever went under a
shawl, an' had no more airs or notions than any of her neighbours,
an' it wasn't conceit or a wish to be better than the next that made
her think o' makin' the puddin'. But the lady she was at service with
before she married Mickey Connell, used to make her a present o' some
little thing every Christmas, an' this year that I'm talkin' about
didn't she take it into her head to send Judy a parcel o' raisins an'
currants an' spices an' candy peel an' all the other queer things they
mix up together, and wrote down all the rules an' regulations for
makin' the things grab on to each other an' turn out a plum puddin'.
Mickey wanted to give the things to the pigs instead o' goin' on with
any foolishness, as he said, but the childre coaxed an' coaxed until
they got the soft side o' the mother, as the like o' them will, an'
she said that on account o' them that sent the things an' the times
that were in it, she'd try her hand, come death or glory, at makin' the
first plum puddin' that ever was smelt in Balnagore.

"So she read the directions over an' over an' up an' down until she had
them off like a song an' used to be singing them out in her sleep, an'
the childre thinkin' Christmas would never come, an' Mickey prayin'
with the wrong end of his tongue for Judy's old mistress that didn't
send the makin's of a flannel petticoat or somethin' sensible instead
of all that rubbish that was only fit for the pigs' pot; an' mornin',
noon, an' night Judy kept dinnin' into every one o' their ears that
they mustn't talk about it to anybody or she'd be a standin' disgrace
in the parish forever an' a day. An' the childre were only too glad to
promise they wouldn't say anythin' about it, because they were afraid
o' their lives anyone would get a taste o' the puddin' only themselves.
It was five gossoons Judy had an' every one o' them as wild as a hare.

"Well, Christmas Eve came at last an' Judy was up before the sun
thought of openin' his eyes, an' as soon as the breakfast was over
she started in to make the plum puddin', and she had every one o' the
childre helpin' her an' they grabbin' a raisin or a couple o' currants
every time she turned her back, an', sure, before she had it finished
an' in the big calico cloth she was after buyin' for it she was as
white as a miller from head to foot with flour, an' she sweatin' like
a damp wall, though the weather outside would nearly freeze a furnace.
An' when she had it tied up an' all, she put it in a pot o' boilin'
water over the fire, an' as she an' Mickey had to go into Castletown to
buy the Christmas things, she left word with the lads to keep a good
fire to the pot an' to put water into it now an' again from a kettle
that she had beside the hearth. An' off she went along with Mickey, an'
she thinkin' o' the nice, tasty puddin' she would put up on the table
along with the bit o' Christmas meat the next day.

"It was all very well until the boyos got hungry, an' the smell from
the puddin' bag began to make their teeth water, an' then they began
to look at the puddin' to see was it near done, an' to take a little
bit out of it here an' another little bit there, an' at last, they had
such a hole in it that one o' them said the water would get into it,
an' that it would be no good, an' he proposed that they put it away in
their insides for safety an' say the dog stole it, or that it boiled
away or somethin'. They all agreed with him, only the second youngest,
Larry, who was the mother's pet, an' he wanted not to stir it until the
mother came home, but the majority carried the day, an' made short work
o' the puddin'. An' I'm afraid Larry lowered a lump of it, too.

"Judy an' Mickey were in Cassidy's big shop in Castletown, scrooged up
among all their neighbours tryin' to get their few things an' be on the
road home before night, when Judy thought she heard a voice she knew,
an' when she looked round there was my brave Larry at the door an' he
makin' signs like a showman tryin' to get her to look at him. An' as
soon as her eye opened on the door--

"'Mother!' says he, in what he thought was a whisper, 'the lads ate the
plum puddin'.'

"Judy was jammed up in the crowd that filled the shop, an' she couldn't
stir hand or foot, but she began to threaten Larry with her head an'
made all sorts o' faces at him to try an' make him keep his mouth shut
an' not let out the secret, but Larry thought she wasn't believin' him
or didn't hear him, or somethin', so the whisper went up another step
or two:

"'Mother!' says he again, 'the lads took up the plum puddin' out o' the
pot, an' they're after eatin' every bit of it!'

"Judy knew that some o' the people near him were after hearin' Larry,
an' she felt herself gettin' weak with shame an' she'd give all the
plum puddin's that were ever made if the gossoon would only keep quiet
or go home. She made more faces at him than ever an' wagged her head
until she knocked off Mickey's hat, but it was all no use.

"'Mother!' says the lad at the door again, 'they're after eatin' the
plum puddin'--an' if you don't believe me, there's the bag!'

"Old Corney Macken, that was as contrairy as a cleeve o' cats, was
standin' at the counter with his big Caroline hat on him, an' he
contendin' with Martin Cassidy tryin' to get a bigger Christmas box
than anybody else, when down came the big wet puddin' bag, plastered
over with clammy boiled flour an' the butter Judy put on it to keep
the puddin' from stickin'; an' it just settled over the Caroline an'
over Corney's head an' face an' shoulders the same as one o' them motor
veils the women do be wearin', an' he began runnin' this way an' that
way an' his head goin' up an' down under the bag an' everybody laughin'
the same as if poor old Corney was a clown at a circus. An' poor Judy
got out o' the shop as fast as ever she could an' made away home before
she'd die with shame.

"Mickey had a little drop in, an' when Corney started to jaw, he let
the cat out o' the puddin' bag, an' the whole parish knew about it
before the stars were up that night. An' there was more hearty laughin'
over Corney's share o' the puddin' than you'd hear now over all the
comic Christmas cards that people spend a little fortune on.

"An' that's what happened the first plum puddin' that ever was boiled
in Balnagore."

Transcriber's Notes:

Italics are represented using _underscores_.

Inconsistent accent marks (e.g. "grâdh" vs. "grádh") have been retained
from the original.

Inconsistent hyphenation (e.g. "gamekeeper" vs. "game-keeper") has been
retained from the original.

Adaptation notes following some story titles were formatted as
footnotes in the original text; they have been moved up and italicized
to improve readability.

Page 66, added missing apostrophe to "An' sure."

Page 76, added missing open single quote before "A barony an' a barony."

Page 90, corrected double quote to single quote before "says Dickey,
with a grunt."

Page 106, corrected single quote to double quote before "says another
well-scorched man."

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Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.