It was a cold blustery, rain threatening morning when Seamus Donnelly rose from his bed and looked gloomily out his one little kitchen window at all the work that wasn’t going to be done today. Great dark boils of black clouds rolled over the Ulster horizon and the sky was a leaden grey with sudden gusts of wind and occasional lashing rain. His little farm lay before him waiting for his attention and his horse drawn plough to sow the seed that would hopefully yield a crop that would allow him to eke out another year of his pitiful existence.
God, it was cold in here! He pulled on some clothes and quickly and efficiently built a fire in the kitchen stove that slowly but surely warmed the room. He quickly made his customary breakfast of porridge and whatever left-overs he could find and the sat at his little table to consider his dire situation.
He was poor. The little land and small two story cottage he had inherited from his mother just could not produce enough surplus for him to ever better his condition and it was in the depths of despair that he finally decided that he would go fishing. He grabbed his line and baits, pulled on his big heavy boots, threw his cape around him and stormed out the door into the dull grey day.
He decided he would go and fish in a nice pool he hadn't visited in a long time and he hoped he remembered his way as he trod along the narrow path that followed the line of the creek. As he walked, the more he thought about his sorry life the angrier he got, and he finally worked himself into a complete state of frustration that had to be released.
Suddenly, just there, back of those trees, appeared a perfect target for his rage. An ancient mushroom or toadstool stood alone in a small clearing. It was huge, at least four feet across, useless because it was way too big to eat, and Seamus vented his rage with a great kick from his boot that spun the cap upside down across the clearing.
As soon as the great lid flew off Seamus found himself staring down into a deep cave, all fitted out better than his cottage and face to face with three very surprised leprechauns who as soon as they sighted him grabbed up their shillelaghs? and launched an attack upon him.
One of them jammed his stick between his ankles and felled him to the ground, where the other two joined in beating him to a pulp. He was struck on his back, his head, his knees, his arms and all the while the oldest of these furious little creatures ranted
“Who do you think you are you big dumb lummox? You come stomping into our yard with your great big clodhoppers and kick off the roof to our house that has taken two hundred years to grow.
Seamus succumbed to the seemingly endless punishment and grovelled before the old leprechaun covered his head with his hands and pled
“Please sirs, cease and desist. I meant you no harm. It is all a terrible mistake. Please, I would make amends, please!!”
The blows stopped at a command from the elder and after a lengthy persuasive argument Seamus convinced them to let him try and rectify the damage he had caused.
He dragged the cap which remarkably had survived in one piece and got it roughly braced in position with supports cut from the willows with his jackknife. He went and gathered long grass and using his fishing line created a thatched roof for the cap and he sealed all the cracks with wattle he made from straw and mud from the creek.
Finally he finished and anxiously waited while the three little men inspected his work
When they were done the old man came and stood in front of Seamus and looked him sternly in the eye and said
“I am named Conán Cedric which in the Old Tongue means Wise Chieftain and I am. I make the decisions here.
This is my son named Chad which means Defender and he ensures my decisions are enforced and that our Homeland is protected by his son Aidan which means the fiery one.
I have inspected what you have done and it is good therefore I have decided that you may go but if you come this way again it is at great peril.
Seamus limped home. He was bruised all over his body and he built up a fire and patched himself up as best he could, and he made some supper and then he settled back in his chair by the fire to just sit and heal for the evening. It had been a horrible day!
Thank the Lord it was over.
Just after dark there was a loud knock at the door and when he opened it he found himself face to face with the Elder Conan who stood awkwardly twisting his hat in his hands and who asked if he would please grant him a moment of his time as he was here to see Seamus on a matter of great importance.
Somewhat fearfully Seamus welcomed the old leprechaun into his cottage, but being a good host as all Irishmen are, he settled the old man comfortably at the table, made a pot of tea, and when it was ready poured each of them a half cup of tea then filled each cup with a large shot from the jug of poteen he had been dosing his aches with.
The old man looked Seamus straight in the eye and said "My clan and myself have been considering the events of this day, and we have decided that we have done you a great injustice. Unlike most of your ilk you did not try to capture and hold one of us until we surrendered our gold to you, nor did you make the sign of the Evil Eye when you saw us. We can see you had no intent to harm and you have tried to make amends.
Seamus refilled their cups and asked the elder if he would mind if Seamus took a few minutes to consider the matter and the old man told him he could take until midnight if necessary, but then added the stipulation
"But be ye so forewarned that whatever is granted to you will be granted your neighbour in double measure."
Now this required some consideration and it took a while
Seamus was a Protestant and while he really wasn't a churchgoer he had his own little prejudices when it came to Catholics. Now Joe Reilly his neighbour was a Catholic but he seemed a nice enough fellow and they'd always got along when it came to mending fences and cutting peat and such.
Seamus decided that what he needed was farm equipment so he could increase his efficiency and cost. As far as his neighbour went, Well, you can only drive one machine at a time so a double supply would give Reilly no advantage and in fact given the size of his farm would simply be in his way. Bonus.
It took Seamus several poteen refills to clarify his thinking to come up with his wish and he told the old man:
"It was because of my poverty and my inability to get this land to yield a comfortable living that caused me to be in such a foul and angry mood when I assaulted your home. I never want to be like that again and I think that if I had sufficient farm equipment I could have a much better future."
"So be it" said the elder, and putting his right index finger beside his nose muttered strange words in the Old Tongue, strained, farted and then beamed at Seamus and said "Granted".
So to celebrate the deal Seamus proceeded to refill his poteen jug from his secret stash and by midnight the poor little leprechaun was so pissed he could not navigate. Seamus picked up his now snoring guest and carried him the two miles to his mushroom hut where he delivered his burden to the old fellow’s kin, and then made his way back to home and finally his bed.
The next morning he woke to a cold cottage again but when he looked out the window the rain was gone. It was a beautiful day for working the field and there all along his left fence was every conceivable type of farm machine a man could desire One huge and one small tractor, John Deere no less, McCormick plows, harrows, and seeders, a Massey Ferguson combine and a threshing machine, why there even was a potato picker to gather his poteen ingredients.
Just on the other side of the fence was a duplicate line of farm equipment that matched his to the smallest detail. There sure was a lot of it but Seamus didn't begrudge Reilly his good fortune because they were still even. He spent the rest of his day accomplishing what had previously taken him a week. It was a wonderful day and he finished it off with another atrocious porridge and gruel meal, and then settled himself for a well earned rest beside the fire. Once again there was a knock on the door just as night fell.
There stood Chad the Defender smiling benignly and asking for audience as his father had. Seamus could not refuse after the good fortune that had been bestowed, so he once again made his guest comfortable at the table and produced another supply of tea and poteen adequate for an evening, and once again settled himself to hear what was coming?
"Sir, you were a real gentleman, a good and generous host, and a good guardian for me Da after he drank himself into the shameful state you brought him home with, and we surely appreciated your leaving some of that excellent poteen that you make just so he could relieve the hangover we expected him to have this morning. I am pleased to report that he is feeling much better; in fact, we all are, since what you left was enough for me and the boy to warm the cockles of our hearts.
In appreciation of your courtesy and care I too have the power to grant a wish and it was decided in conference that another be fulfilled. What will it be? but once again
"Be ye so forewarned that whatsoever is granted to you will be granted your neighbour in double measure."
Again this required a great deal of thought, but then Seamus remembered that the worst point of this day had been waking up in this cold, damp, cottage and that damned slop he ate for breakfast.
He imagined himself waking up when the stove had warmed the room, smelling the smell and hearing the crackle of bacon cooking and why not a nice female voice calling him to a breakfast fit for a king. With his new equipment he could afford it so why not a wife?
He thought about what this double benefit would mean for his neighbour and he began to find merit in the idea that even made him chuckle, why the man had double housekeepers but that meant he in fact had to work harder to feed another mouth, and from what his mother had taught him about two women under the same roof and the disastrous consequences then he was doing the man no favour by ruining his home life and for a brief moment he almost felt sorry for his neighbour. He had gained a real advantage in the competition to succeed.
He refilled the poteen jug and the told Chad his wish for a wife and laid down a lengthy list of requirements during the following evening. Before Chad left with his gift of a jug of poteen for their house, he faced Seamus looked him straight in the eye,
"So be it" said the Chad and putting his right index finger beside his nose muttered strange words in the Old Tongue, strained, farted and then beamed at Seamus and said "Granted".
The next morning Seamus rose to a warm house just as he had imagined and he soon heard a soft female voice call
"Breakfast is ready, Seamus, my dear!"
So he ventured downstairs and she was everything that he had expected. She was pretty with red curls that peeped from under a lace cap and shy blue eyes that looked at him adoringly. She wore a long full skirt but showed small feet and dainty ankles, and the straining against the front of her blouse gave great promise of secrets yet to be revealed.
She fed him a breakfast fit for a king, spicy sausages and Colcannon just dripping with butter and she sent him out the door to work with a kiss on the cheek and a look that promised adventure when he returned.
He was in high spirits thinking about that return home and what might occur, until he got up on the top of his tractor and a high point of land that overlooked his neighbour’s farm. There was one blond girl with long hair beating out a rug on a clothesline. That was alright and there was O'Reilly ploughing his back field, but what the devil, there was the second wife, a stunning brunette, on the second big tractor harrowing away in another field. This was not good.
He had lost his competitive edge in his imaginary contest with his neighbour and had just doubled the mans production force.
He brooded all day and came to the realization that things were actually worse than that. He remembered the promising look he had received from his new wife and what he had imagined was going to happen on his return home. He could just imagine what his neighbour was coming home to. Those were two good looking young women he had waiting for him.
Even after supper, when his wife had retired upstairs, Seamus sat and considered a very black future. The future survival of the Donnelly clan was at stake. His children would be in competition for survival with that Papist bastards offspring and not like it or not the prick had a real advantage now. Everybody knew those Catholic bastards didn't practice any form of birth control. That asshole, from what Seamus had heard from the village gossips, was in dire deep shit with the local priest for his frequent inclusion in the confessions of wild sexually explicit act involving one Mary Maguire, widow. That randy bastard was going to breed the Donnelly’s out of existence and there wasn't much he could do about it
Suddenly there was a loud knocking on the door and he opened it to find young Aidan the fiery, on his door step and there was a replay of the previous night’s poteen provision as a pain killer and pacifier before he was once again seated across from a wee leprechaun with something to say:
“Me Granda and Da and I checked out the repairs you made to our house and we have found that it is much better than before. There are no drafts to bother Granda and he’s warmer, and the chimney you put in works a charm and Da’s eyes are almost back to white because all the smoke can get out, and my cough’s much improved and Granda has decided that this deserves a thank you for a job well done. I have been sent here to grant to you the last of our wishes, mine own and thank you very much kind sir, would you care to tell me your wish?
"Be ye so forewarned that whatsoever is granted to you will be granted your neighbour in double measure."
Again the evening was lost in copious consumption of medicinal alcohol to keep his thinking clear, and contemplating the outrageous sexual improprieties being performed next door while his wife was plaintively calling him to bed. The hour approached midnight and young Aidan pressed him for an answer.
Seamus slowly raised his glass of poteen and sighted across its levelled rim right directly into the young leprechauns eyes an quietly asked
“Now tell me truly young feller,
Would you be hurting me too much
if I asked you to remove
of me testicles?”