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Three Leprechauns

Thomas Keightley

Mrs. L. having heard that Molly Toole, an old woman who held a few acres of land from Mr. L., had seen Leprechauns, resolved to visit her, and learn the truth from her own lips. Accordingly, one Sunday, after church, she made her appearance at Molly's residence, which was—no very common thing—extremely neat and comfortable. As she entered, every thing looked gay and cheerful. The sun shone bright in through the door on the earthen floor. Molly was seated at the far side of the fire in her arm-chair; her daughter Mary, the prettiest girl on the lands, was looking to the dinner that was boiling; and her son Mickey, a young man of about two-and-twenty, was standing lolling with his back against the dresser.

The arrival of the mistress disturbed the stillness that had hitherto prevailed. Mary, who was a great favourite, hastened to the door to meet her, and shake hands with her. Molly herself had nearly got to the middle of the floor when the mistress met her, and Mickey modestly staid where he was till he should catch her attention. "O then, musha! but isn't it a glad sight for my ould eyes to see your own silf undher my roof? Mary, what ails you, girl? and why don't you go into the room and fetch out a good chair for the misthress to sit down upon and rest herself?" "'Deed faith, mother, I'm so glad I don't know what I'm doin'. Sure you know I didn't see the misthress since she cum down afore."

Mickey now caught Mrs. L.'s eye, and she asked him how he did. "By Gorra, bravely, ma'am, thank you," said he, giving himself a wriggle, while his two hands and the small of his back rested on the edge of the dresser.

"Now, Mary, stir yourself, alanna," said the old woman, "and get out the bread and butther. Sure you know the misthress can't but be hungry afther her walk."—"O, never mind it, Molly; it's too much trouble."—"Throuble, indeed! it's as nice butther, ma'am, as iver you put a tooth in; and it was Mary herself that med it."—"O, then I must taste it."

A nice half griddle of whole-meal bread and a print of fresh butter were now produced, and Molly helped the mistress with her own hands. As she was eating, Mary kept looking in her face, and at last said, "Ah then, mother, doesn't the misthress luk mighty well? Upon my faikins, ma'am, I never seen you luking half so handsome."—"Well! and why wouldn't she luk well? And niver will she luk betther nor be betther nor I wish her."—"Well, Molly, I think I may return the compliment, for Mary is prettier than ever; and as for yourself, I really believe it's young again you're growing."—"Why, God be thanked, ma'am, I'm stout and hearty; and though I say it mysilf, there's not an ould woman in the county can stir about betther nor me, and I'm up ivery mornin' at the peep of day, and rout them all up out of their beds. Don't I?" said she, looking at Mary.—"Faith, and sure you do, mother," replied Mickey; "and before the peep of day, too; for you have no marcy in you at all at all."—"Ah, in my young days," continued the old woman, "people woren't slugabeds; out airly, home late—that was the way wid thim."—"And usedn't people to see Leprechauns in thim days, mother?" said Mickey, laughing.

19th century leprechaun illustration. A small man with a bushy red beard and pipe wears a green suit and hat, black shoes, and white knee socks.

—"Hould your tongue, you saucy cub, you," cried Molly; "what do you know about thim?"—"Leprechauns?" said Mrs. L., gladly catching at the opportunity; "did people really, Molly, see Leprechauns in your young days?"—"Yes, indeed, ma'am; some people say they did," replied Molly, very composedly.—"O com' now, mother," cried Mickey, "don't think to be goin' it upon us that away; you know you seen thim one time yoursilf, and you hadn't the gumption in you to cotch thim, and git their crocks of gould from thim."—"Now, Molly, is that really true that you saw the Leprechauns?"—"'Deed, and did I, ma'am; but this boy's always laughin' at me about thim, and that makes me rather shy in talkin' o' thim."—"Well, Molly, I won't laugh at you; so, come, tell me how you saw them."

"Well, ma'am, you see it was whin I was jist about the age of Mary, there. I was comin' home late one Monday evenin' from the market; for my aunt Kitty, God be marciful to her! would keep me to take a cup of tay. It was in the summer time, you see, ma'am, much about the middle of June, an' it was through the fields I come. Well, ma'am, as I was sayin', it was late in the evenin', that is, the sun was near goin' down, an' the light was straight in my eyes, an' I come along through the bog-meadow; for it was shortly afther I was married to him that's gone, an' we wor livin' in this very house you're in now; an' thin whin I come to the castle-field—the pathway you know, ma'am, goes right through the middle uv it—an' it was thin as fine a field of whate, jist shot out, as you'd wish to luk at; an' it was a purty sight to see it wavin' so beautifully wid every air of wind that was goin' over it, dancin' like to the music of a thrush, that was singin' down below in the hidge. Well, ma'am, I crasst over the style that's there yit, and wint along fair and aisy, till I was near about the middle o' the field, whin somethin' med me cast my eyes to the ground, a little before me; an' thin I saw, as sure as I'm sittin' here, no less nor three o' the Leprechauns, all bundled together like so miny tailyors, in the middle o' the path before me. They worn't hammerin' their pumps, nor makin' any kind of n'ise whatever; but there they wor, the three little fellows, wid their cocked hats upon thim, an' their legs gothered up undher thim, workin' away at their thrade as hard as may be. If you wor only to see, ma'am, how fast their little ilbows wint as they pulled out their inds! Well, every one o' thim had his eye cocked upon me, an' their eyes wor as bright as the eye of a frog, an' I cudn't stir one step from the spot for the life o' me. So I turned my head round, and prayed to the Lord in his marcy to deliver me from thim, and when I wint to luk at thim agin, ma'am, not a sight o' thim was to be seen: they wor gone like a dhrame."—"But, Molly, why did you not catch them?"—"I was afeard, ma'am, that's the thruth uv it; but maybe I was as well widout thim. I niver h'ard tell of a Leprechaun yit that wasn't too many for any one that cotch him."—"Well, and Molly, do you think there are any Leprechauns now?"—"It's my belief, ma'am, they're all gone out of the country, cliver and clane, along wid the Fairies; for I niver hear tell o' thim now at all."

Mrs. L. having now attained her object, after a little more talk with the good old woman, took her leave, attended by Mary, who would see her a piece of the way home. And Mary being asked what she thought of the Leprechauns, confessed her inability to give a decided opinion: her mother, she knew, was incapable of telling a lie, and yet she had her doubts if there ever were such things as Leprechauns.

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