The Crock of Gold

Author: James Stephens

Chapter XIV

SOME distance down the road the policemen halted. The night had fallen before they effected their capture, and now, in the gathering darkness, they were not at ease. In the first place, they knew that the occupation upon which they were employed was not a creditable one to a man whatever it might be to a policeman. The seizure of a criminal may be justified by certain arguments as to the health of society and the preservation of property, but no person wishes under any circumstances to hale a wise man to prison. They were further distressed by the knowledge that they were in the very centre of a populous fairy country, and that on every side the elemental hosts might be ranging, ready to fall upon them with the terrors of war or the still more awful scourge of their humour. The path leading to their station was a long one, winding through great alleys of trees, which in some places overhung the road so thickly that even the full moon could not search out that deep blackness. In the daylight these men would have arrested an Archangel and, if necessary, bludgeoned him, but in the night-time a thousand fears afflicted and a multitude of sounds shocked them from every quarter.

Two men were holding the Philosopher, one on either side; the other two walked one before and one behind him. In this order they were proceeding when just in front through the dim light they saw the road swallowed up by one of these groves already spoken of. When they came nigh they halted irresolutely: the man who was in front (a silent and perturbed sergeant) turned fiercely to the others-

"Come on, can’t you?" said he; "what the devil are you waiting for?" and he strode forward into the black gape.

"Keep a good hold of that man," said the one behind.

"Don’t be talking out of you," replied he on the right. "Haven’t we got a good grip of him, and isn’t he an old man into the bargain?"

"Well, keep a good tight grip of him, anyhow, for if he gave you the slip in there he’d vanish like a weasel in a bush. Them old fellows do be slippery customers. Look here, mister," said he to the Philosopher, "if you try to run away from us I’ll give you a clout on the head with my baton; do you mind me now!"

They had taken only a few paces forward when the sound of hasty footsteps brought them again to a halt, and in a moment the sergeant came striding back. He was angry.

"Are you going to stay there the whole night, or what are you going to do at all?" said he.

"Let you be quiet now," said another; "we were only settling with the man here the way he wouldn’t try to give us the slip in a dark place."

"Is it thinking of giving us the slip he is?" said the sergeant. "Take your baton in your hand, Shawn, and if he turns his head to one side of him hit him on that side."

"I’ll do that," said Shawn, and he pulled out his truncheon.

The Philosopher had been dazed by the suddenness of these occurrences, and the enforced rapidity of his movements prevented him from either thinking or speaking, but during this brief stoppage his scattered wits began to return to their allegiance. First, bewilderment at his enforcement had seized him, and the four men, who were continually running round him and speaking all at once, and each pulling him in a different direction, gave him the impression that he was surrounded by a great rabble of people, but he could not discover what they wanted. After a time he found that there were only four men, and gathered from their remarks that he was being arrested for murder—this precipitated him into another and a deeper gulf of bewilderment. He was unable to conceive why they should arrest him for murder when he had not committed any; and, following this, he became indignant.

"I will not go another step," said he, "unless you tell me where you are bringing me and what I am accused of."

"Tell me," said the sergeant, "what did you kill them with? for it’s a miracle how they came to their ends without as much as a mark on their skins or a broken tooth itself."

"Who are you talking about?" the Philosopher demanded.

"It’s mighty innocent you are," he replied. "Who would I be talking about but the man and woman that used to be living with you beyond in the little house? Is it poison you gave them now, or what was it? Take a hold of your note-book, Shawn."

"Can’t you have sense, man?" said Shawn. "How would I be writing in the middle of a dark place and me without as much as a pencil, let alone a book?"

"Well, we’ll take it down at the station, and himself can tell us all about it as we go along. Move on now, for this is no place to be conversing in."

They paced on again, and in another moment they were swallowed up by the darkness. When they had proceeded for a little distance there came a peculiar sound in front like the breathing of some enormous animal, and also a kind of shuffling noise, and so they again halted.

"There’s a queer kind of a thing in front of us," said one of the men in a low voice.

"If I had a match itself," said another.

The sergeant had also halted.

"Draw well into the side of the road," said he, "and poke your batons in front of you. Keep a tight hold of that man, Shawn."

"I’ll do that," said Shawn.

Just then one of them found a few matches in his pocket, and he struck a light; there was no wind, so that it blazed easily enough, and they all peered in front. A big black cart-horse was lying in the middle of the road having a gentle sleep, and when the light shone it scrambled to its feet and went thundering away in a panic.

"Isn’t that enough to put the heart crossways in you?" said one of the men, with a great sigh.

"Ay," said another; "if you stepped on that beast in the darkness you wouldn’t know what to be thinking."

"I don’t quite remember the way about here," said the sergeant after a while, "but I think we should take the first turn to the right. I wonder have we passed the turn yet; these criss-cross kinds of roads are the devil, and it dark as well. Do any of you men know the way?"

"I don’t," said one voice; "I’m a Cavan man myself."

"Roscommon," said another, "is my country, and I wish I was there now, so I do."

"Well, if we walk straight on we’re bound to get somewhere, so step it out. Have you got a good hold of that man, Shawn?"

"I have so," said Shawn.

The Philosopher’s voice came pealing through the darkness.

"There is no need to pinch me, sir," said he.

"I’m not pinching you at all," said the man.

"You are so," returned the Philosopher. "You have a big lump of skin doubled up in the sleeve of my coat, and unless you instantly release it I will sit down in the road."

"Is that any better?" said the man, relaxing his hold a little.

"You have only let out half of it," replied the Philosopher. "That’s better now," he continued, and they resumed their journey.

After a few minutes of silence the Philosopher began to speak.

"I do not see any necessity in nature for policemen," said he, "nor do I understand how the custom first originated. Dogs and cats do not employ these extraordinary mercenaries, and yet their polity is progressive and orderly. Crows are a gregarious race with settled habitations and an organized commonwealth. They usually congregate in a ruined tower or on the top of a church, and their civilization is based on mutual aid and tolerance for each other’s idiosyncrasies. Their exceeding mobility and hardiness renders them dangerous to attack, and thus they are free to devote themselves to the development of their domestic laws and customs. If policemen were necessary to a civilization crows would certainly have evolved them, but I triumphantly insist that they have not got any policemen in their republic—"

"I don’t understand a word you are saying," said the sergeant.

"It doesn’t matter," said the Philosopher. "Ants and bees also live in specialized communities and have an extreme complexity both of function and occupation. Their experience in governmental matters is enormous, and yet they have never discovered that a police force is at all essential to their wellbeing—"

"Do you know," said the sergeant, "that whatever you say now will be used in evidence against you later on?"

"I do not," said the Philosopher. "It may be said that these races are free from crime, that such vices as they have are organized and communal instead of individua1 and anarchistic, and that, consequently, there is no necessity for policecraft, but I cannot believe that these large aggregations of people could have attained their present high culture without an interval of both national and individual dishonesty—"

"Tell me now, as you are talking," said the sergeant, "did you buy the poison at a chemist’s shop, or did you smother the pair of them with a pillow?"

"I did not," said the Philosopher. "If crime is a condition precedent to the evolution of policemen, then I will submit that jackdaws are a very thievish clan—they are somewhat larger than a blackbird, and will steal wool off a sheep’s back to line their nests with; they have, furthermore, been known to abstract one shilling in copper and secrete this booty so ingeniously that it has never since been recovered—"

"I had a jackdaw myself," said one of the men. "I got it from a woman that came to the door with a basket for fourpence. My mother stood on its back one day, and she getting out of bed. I split its tongue with a threepenny bit the way it would talk, but devil the word it ever said for me. It used to hop around letting on it had a lame leg, and then it would steal your socks."

"Shut up!" roared the sergeant.

"If," said the Philosopher, "these people steal both from from sheep and from men, if their peculations range from wool to money, I do not see how they can avoid stealing from each other, and consequently, if anywhere, it is amongst jackdaws one should look for the growth of a police force, but there is no such force in existence. The real reason is that they are a witty and thoughtful race who look temperately on what is known as crime and evil—one eats, one steals; it is all in the order of things, and therefore not to be quarrelled with. There is no other view possible to a philosophical people—"

"What the devil is he talking about?" said the sergeant.

"Monkeys are gregarious and thievish and semi-human. They inhabit the equatorial latitudes and eat nuts—"

"Do you know what he is saying, Shawn?"

"I do not," said Shawn.

"—they ought to have evolved professional thieftakers, but it is common knowledge that they have not done so. Fishes, squirrels, rats, beavers, and bison have also abstained from this singular growth—therefore, when I insist that I see no necessity for policemen and object to their presence, I base that objection on logic and facts, and not on any immediate petty prejudice."

"Shawn," said the sergeant, "have you got a good grip on that man?"

"I have," said Shawn.

"Well, if he talks any more hit him with your baton."

"I will so," said Shawn.

"There’s a speck of light down yonder, and, maybe, it’s a candle in a window—we’ll ask the way at that place."

In about three minutes they came to a small house which was overhung by trees. If the light had not been visible they would undoubtedly have passed it in the darkness. As they approached the door the sound of a female voice came to them scoldingly.

"There’s somebody up anyhow," said the sergeant, and he tapped at the door.

The scolding voice ceased instantly. After a few seconds he tapped again; then a voice was heard from just behind the door.

"Tomas," said the voice, "go and bring up the two dogs with you before I take the door off the chain."

The door was then opened a few inches and a face peered out-

"What would you be wanting at this hour of the night?" said the woman.

"Not much, ma’am," said the sergeant; "only a little direction about the road, for we are not sure whether we’ve gone too far or not far enough."

The woman noticed their uniforms.

"Is it policemen ye are? There’s no harm in your coming in, I suppose, and if a drink of milk is any good to ye I have plenty of it."

"Milk’s better than nothing," said the sergeant with a sigh.

"I’ve a little sup of spirits," said she, "but it wouldn’t be enough to go around."

"Ah, well," said he, looking sternly at his comrades, "everybody has to take their chance in this world," and he stepped into the house followed by his men.

The women gave him a little sup of whisky from a bottle, and to each of the other men she gave a cup of milk.

"It’ll wash the dust out of our gullets, anyhow," said one of them.

There were two chairs, a bed, and a table in the room. The Philosopher and his attendants sat on the bed. The sergeant sat on the table, the fourth man took a chair, and the woman dropped wearily into the remaining chair from which she looked with pity at the prisoner.

"What are you taking the poor man away for?" she asked.

"He’s a bad one, ma’am," said the sergeant. "He killed a man and a woman that were staying with him and he buried their corpses underneath the hearthstone of his house. He’s a real malefactor, mind you."

"Is it hanging him you’ll be, God help us?"

"You never know, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if it came to that. But you were in trouble yourself, ma’am, for we heard your voice lamenting about something as we came along the road."

"I was, indeed," she replied, "for the person that has a son in her house has a trouble in her heart."

"Do you tell me now—What did he do on you?" and the sergeant bent a look of grave reprobation on a young lad who was standing against the wall between two dogs.

"He’s a good boy enough in some ways," said she, "but he’s too fond of beasts. He’ll go and lie in the kennel along with them two dogs for hours at a time, petting them and making a lot of them, but if I try to give him a kiss, or to hug him for a couple of minutes when I do be tired after the work, he’ll wriggle like an eel till I let him out—it would make a body hate him, so it would. Sure, there’s no nature in him, sir, and I’m his mother."

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, you young whelp," said the sergeant very severely.

"And then there’s the horse," she continued. "Maybe you met it down the road a while ago?"

"We did, ma’am," said the sergeant.

"Well, when he came in Tomas went to tie him up, for he’s a caution at getting out and wandering about the road, the way you’d break your neck over him if you weren’t minding. After a while I told the boy to come in, but he didn’t come, so I went out myself, and there was himself and the horse with their arms round each other’s necks looking as if they were moonstruck."

"Faith, he’s the queer lad!" said the sergeant. "What do you be making love to the horse for, Tomas?"

"It was all I could do to make him come in," she continued, "and then I said to him, ’Sit down alongside of me here, Tomas, and keep me company for a little while’ —for I do be lonely in the night-time—but he wouldn’t stay quiet at all. One minute he’d say, ’Mother, there’s a moth flying round the candle and it’ll be burnt,’ and then, ’There was a fly going into the spider’s web in the corner,’ and he’d have to save it, and after that, ’There’s a daddy-long-legs hurting himself on the window-pane,’ and he’d have to let it out; but when I try to kiss him he pushes me away. My heart is tormented, so it is, for what have I in the world but him?"

"Is his father dead, ma’am?" said the sergeant kindly.

"I’ll tell the truth," said she. "I don’t know whether he is or not, for a long time ago, when we used to live in the city of Bla’ Cliah, he lost his work one time and he never came back to me again. He was ashamed to come home I’m thinking, the poor man, because he had no money; as if I would have minded whether he had any money or not—sure, he was very fond of me, sir, and we could have pulled along somehow. After that I came back to my father’s place here; the rest of the children died on me, and then my father died, and I’m doing the best I can by myself. It’s only that I’m a little bit troubled with the boy now and again."

"It’s a hard case, ma’am," said the sergeant, "but maybe the boy is only a bit wild not having his father over him, and maybe it’s just that he’s used to yourself, for there isn’t a child at all that doesn’t love his mother. Let you behave yourself now, Tomas; attend to your mother, and leave the beasts and the insects alone, like a decent boy, for there’s no insect in the world will ever like you as well as she does. Could you tell me, ma’am, if we have passed the first turn on this road, or is it in front of us still, for we are lost altogether in the darkness?"

"It’s in front of you still," she replied, "about ten minutes down the road; you can’t miss it, for you’ll see the sky where there is a gap in the trees, and that gap is the turn you want."

"Thank you, ma’am," said the sergeant; "we’d better be moving on, for there’s a long tramp in front of us before we get to sleep this night."

He stood up and the men rose to follow him when, suddenly, the boy spoke in a whisper.

"Mother," said he, "they are going to hang the man," and he burst into tears.

"Oh, hush, hush," said the woman, "sure, the men can’t help it." She dropped quickly on her knees and opened her arms, "Come over to your mother, my darling."

The boy ran to her.

"They are going to hang him," he cried in a high, thin voice, and he plucked at her arm violently.

"Now, then, my young boy-o," said the sergeant, "none of that violence."

The boy turned suddenly and flew at him with astonishing ferocity. He hurled himself against the sergeant’s legs and bit, and kicked, and struck at him. So furiously sudden was his attack that the man went staggering back against the wall, then he plucked at the boy and whirled him across the room. In an instant the two dogs leaped at him snarling with rage—one of these he kicked into a corner, from which it rebounded again bristling and red-eyed; the other dog was caught by the woman, and after a few frantic seconds she gripped the first dog also. To a horrible chorus of howls and snapping teeth the men hustled outside and slammed the door.

"Shawn," the sergeant bawled, "have you got a good grip of that man?"

"I have so," said Shawn.

"If he gets away I’ll kick the belly out of you; mind that now! Come along with you and no more of your slouching."

They marched down the road in a tingling silence.

"Dogs," said the Philosopher, "are a most intelligent race of people—"

"People, my granny!" said the sergeant.

"From the earliest ages their intelligence has been observed and recorded, so that ancient literatures are bulky with references to their sagacity and fidelity—"

"Will you shut your old jaw?" said the sergeant.

"I will not," said the Philosopher. "Elephants also are credited with an extreme intelligence and devotion to their masters, and they will build a wall or nurse a baby with equal skill and happiness. Horses have received high recommendations in this respect, but crocodiles, hens, beetles, armadillos, and fish do not evince any remarkable partiality for man—"

"I wish," said the sergeant bitterly, "that all them beasts were stuffed down your throttle the way you’d have to hold your prate."

"It doesn’t matter," said the Philosopher. "I do not know why these animals should attach themselves to men with gentleness and love and yet be able to preserve intact their initial bloodthirstiness, so that while they will allow their masters to misuse them in any way they will yet fight most willingly with each other, and are never really happy saving in the conduct of some private and nonsensical battle of their own. I do not believe that it is fear which tames these creatures into mildness, but that the most savage animal has a capacity for love which has not been sufficiently noted, and which, if more intelligent attention had been directed upon it, would have raised them to the status of intellectual animals as against intelligent ones, and, perhaps, have opened to us a correspondence which could not have been other than beneficial."

"Keep your eyes out for that gap in the trees, Shawn," said the sergeant.

"I’m doing that," said Shawn.

The Philosopher continued:

"Why can I not exchange ideas with a cow? I am amazed at the incompleteness of my growth when I and a fellow-creature stand dumbly before each other without one glimmer of comprehension, locked and barred from all friendship and intercourse—"

"Shawn," cried the sergeant.

"Don’t interrupt," said the Philosopher; "you are always talking.—The lower animals, as they are foolishly called, have abilities at which we can only wonder. The mind of an ant is one to which I would readily go to school. Birds have atmospheric and levitational information which millions of years will not render accessible to us; who that has seen a spider weaving his labyrinth, or a bee voyaging safely in the trackless air, can refuse to credit that a vivid, trained intelligence animates these small enigmas? and the commonest earthworm is the heir to a culture before which I bow with the profoundest veneration—"

"Shawn," said the sergeant, "say something for goodness’ sake to take the sound of that man’s clack out of my ear."

"I wouldn’t know what to be talking about," said Shawn, "for I never was much of a hand at conversation, and, barring my prayers, I got no education—I think myself that he was making a remark about a dog. Did you ever own a dog, sergeant?"

"You are doing very well, Shawn," said the sergeant, "keep it up now."

"I knew a man had a dog would count up to a hundred for you. He won lots of money in bets about it, and he’d have made a fortune, only that I noticed one day he used to be winking at the dog, and when he’d stop winking the dog would stop counting. We made him turn his back after that, and got the dog to count sixpence, but he barked for more than five shillings, he did so, and he would have counted up to a pound, maybe, only that his master turned round and hit him a kick. Every person that ever paid him a bet said they wanted their money back, but the man went away to America in the night, and I expect he’s doing well there for he took the dog with him. It was a wire-haired terrier bitch, and it was the devil for having pups."

"It is astonishing," said the Philosopher, "on what slender compulsion people will go to America—"

"Keep it up, Shawn," said the sergeant, "you are doing me a favour."

"I will so," said Shawn. "I had a cat one time and it used to have kittens every two months."

The Philosopher’s voice arose:

"If there was any periodicity about these migrations one could understand them. Birds, for example, migrate from their homes in the late autumn and seek abroad the sustenance and warmth which the winter would withhold if they remained in their native lands. The salmon also, a dignified fish with a pink skin, emigrates from the Atlantic Ocean, and betakes himself inland to the streams and lakes, where he recuperates for a season, and is often surprised by net, angle, or spear—"

"Cut in now, Shawn," said the sergeant anxiously.

Shawn began to gabble with amazing speed and in a mighty voice:

"Cats sometimes eat their kittens, and sometimes they don’t. A cat that eats its kittens is a heartless brute. I knew a cat used to eat its kittens—it had four legs and a long tail, and it used to get the head-staggers every time it had eaten its kittens. I killed it myself one day with a hammer for I couldn’t stand the smell it made, so I couldn’t—"

"Shawn," said the sergeant, "can’t you talk about something else besides cats and dogs?"

"Sure, I don’t know what to talk about," said Shawn. "I’m sweating this minute trying to please you, so I arm. If you’ll tell me what to talk about I’ll do my endeavours."

"You’re a fool," said the sergeant sorrowfully; "you’ll never make a constable. I’m thinking that I would sooner listen to the man himself than to you. Have you got a good hold of him now?"

"I have so," said Shawn.

"Well, step out and maybe we’ll reach the barracks this night, unless this is a road that there isn’t any end to at all. What was that? Did you hear a noise?"

"I didn’t hear a thing," said Shawn.

"I thought," said another man, "that I heard something moving in the hedge at the side of the road."

"That’s what I heard," said the sergeant. "Maybe it was a weasel. I wish to the devil that we were out of this place where you can’t see as much as your own nose. Now did you hear it, Shawn?"

"I did so," said Shawn; "there’s some one in the hedge, for a weasel would make a different kind of a noise if it made any at all."

"Keep together, men," said the sergeant, "and march on; if there’s anybody about they’ve no business with us.

He had scarcely spoken when there came a sudden pattering of feet, and immediately the four men were surrounded and were being struck at on every side with sticks and hands and feet.

"Draw your batons," the sergeant roared; "keep a good grip of that man, Shawn."

"I will so," said Shawn.

"Stand round him, you other men, and hit anything that comes near you."

There was no sound of voices from the assailants, only a rapid scuffle of feet, the whistle of sticks as they swung through the air or slapped smartly against a body or clashed upon each other, and the quick breathing of many people; but from the four policemen there came noise and to spare as they struck wildly on every side, cursing the darkness and their opposers with fierce enthusiasm.

"Let out," cried Shawn suddenly. "Let out or I’ll smash your nut for you. There’s some one pulling at the prisoner, and I’ve dropped my baton."

The truncheons of the policemen had been so ferociously exercised that their antagonists departed as swiftly and as mysteriously as they came. It was just two minutes of frantic, aimless conflict, and then the silent night was round them again, without any sound but the slow creaking of branches, the swish of leaves as they swung and poised, and the quiet croon of the wind along the road.

"Come on, men," said the sergeant, "we’d better be getting out of this place as quick as we can. Are any of ye hurted?"

"I’ve got one of the enemy," said Shawn, panting.

"You’ve got what?" said the sergeant.

"I’ve got one of them, and he is wriggling like an eel on a pan."

"Hold him tight," said the sergeant excitedly.

"I will so," said Shawn. "It’s a little one by the feel of it. If one of ye would hold the prisoner, I’d get a better grip on this one. Aren’t they dangerous villains now?"

Another man took hold of the Philosopher’s arm, and Shawn got both hands on his captive.

"Keep quiet, I’m telling you," said he, "or I’ll throttle you, I will so. Faith, it seems like a little boy by the feel of it!"

"A little boy!" said the sergeant.

"Yes, he doesn’t reach up to my waist."

"It must be the young brat from the cottage that set the dogs on us, the one that loves beasts. Now then, boy, what do you mean by this kind of thing? You’ll find yourself in gaol for this, my young buck-o. Who was with you, eh? Tell me that now?" and the sergeant bent forward.

"Hold up your head, sonny, and talk to the sergeant," said Shawn. "Oh!" he roared, and suddenly he made a little rush forward. "I’ve got him," he gasped; "he nearly got away. It isn’t a boy at all, sergeant; there’s whiskers on it!"

"What do you say?" said the sergeant.

"I put my hand under its chin and there’s whiskers on it. I nearly let him out with the surprise, I did so."

"Try again," said the sergeant in a low voice; "you are making a mistake."

"I don’t like touching them," said Shawn. "It’s a soft whisker like a billy-goat’s. Maybe you’d try yourself, sergeant, for I tell you I’m frightened of it."

"Hold him over here," said the sergeant, "and keep a good grip of him."

"I’ll do that," said Shawn, and he hauled some reluctant object towards his superior.

The sergeant put out his hand and touched a head.

"It’s only a boy’s size to be sure," said he, then he slid his hand down the face and withdrew it quickly.

"There are whiskers on it," said he soberly. "What the devil can it be? I never met whiskers so near the ground before. Maybe they are false ones, and it’s just the boy yonder trying to disguise himself." He put out his hand again with an effort, felt his way to the chin, and tugged.

Instantly there came a yell, so loud, so sudden, that every man of them jumped in a panic.

"They are real whiskers," said the sergeant with a sigh. "I wish I knew what it is. His voice is big enough for two men, and that’s a fact. Have you got another match on you?"

"I have two more in my waistcoat pocket," said one of the men.

"Give me one of them," said the sergeant; "I’ll strike it myself."

He groped about until he found the hand with the match.

"Be sure and hold him tight, Shawn, the way we can have a good look at him, for this is like to be a queer miracle of a thing."

"I’m holding him by the two arms," said Shawn, "he can’t stir anything but his head, and I’ve got my chest on that."

The sergeant struck the match, shading it for a moment with his hand, then he turned it on their new prisoner.

They saw a little man dressed in tight green clothes; he had a broad pale face with staring eyes, and there was a thin fringe of grey whisker under his chin—then the match went out.

"It’s a Leprecaun," said the sergeant.

The men were silent for a full couple of minutes— at last Shawn spoke.

"Do you tell me so?" said he in a musing voice; "that’s a queer miracle altogether."

"I do," said the sergeant. "Doesn’t it stand to reason that it can’t be anything else? You saw it yourself."

Shawn plumped down on his knees before his captive.

"Tell me where the money is?" he hissed. "Tell me where the money is or I’ll twist your neck off."

The other men also gathered eagerly around, shouting threats and commands at the Leprecaun.

"Hold your whist," said Shawn fiercely to them. "He can’t answer the lot of you, can he?" and he turned again to the Leprecaun and shook him until his teeth chattered.

"If you don’t tell me where the money is at once I’ll kill you, I will so."

"I haven’t got any money at all, sir," said the Leprecaun.

"None of your lies," roared Shawn. "Tell the truth now or it’ll be worse for you."

"I haven’t got any money," said the Leprecaun, "for Meehawl MacMurrachu of the Hill stole our crock a while back, and he buried it under a thorn bush. I can bring you to the place if you don’t believe me."

"Very good," said Shawn. "Come on with me now, and I’ll clout you if you as much as wriggle; do you mind me?"

"What would I wriggle for?" said the Leprecaun: "sure I like being with you."

Hereupon the sergeant roared at the top of his voice.

"Attention," said he, and the men leaped to position like automata.

"What is it you are going to do with your prisoner, Shawn?" said he sarcastically. "Don’t you think we’ve had enough tramping of these roads for one night, now? Bring up that Leprecaun to the barracks or it’ll be the worse for you—do you hear me talking to you?"

"But the gold, sergeant," said Shawn sulkily.

"If there’s any gold it’ll be treasure trove, and belong to the Crown. What kind of a constable are you at all, Shawn? Mind what you are about now, my man, and no back answers. Step along there. Bring that murderer up at once, whichever of you has him."

There came a gasp from the darkness.

"Oh, Oh, Oh!" said a voice of horror.

"What’s wrong with you?" said the sergeant: "are you hurted?"

"The prisoner!" he gasped, "he, he’s got away!"

"Got away?" and the sergeant’s voice was a blare of fury.

"While we were looking at the Leprecaun," said the voice of woe, "I must have forgotten about the other one—I, I haven’t got him—"

"You gawm!" gritted the sergeant.

"Is it my prisoner that’s gone?" said Shawn in a deep voice. He leaped forward with a curse and smote his negligent comrade so terrible a blow in the face, that the man went flying backwards, and the thud of his head on the road could have been heard anywhere.

"Get up," said Shawn, "get up till I give you another one."

"That will do," said the sergeant, "we’ll go home. We’re the laughing-stock of the world. I’ll pay you out for this some time, every damn man of ye. Bring that Leprecaun along with you, and quick march."

"Oh!" said Shawn in a strangled tone.

"What is it now?" said the sergeant testily.

"Nothing," replied Shawn.

"What did you say ’Oh!’ for then, you block-head?"

"It’s the Leprecaun, sergeant," said Shawn in a whisper—"he’s got away—when I was hitting the man there I forgot all about the Leprecaun: he must have run into the hedge. Oh, sergeant, dear, don’t say anything to me now—!"

"Quick march," said the sergeant, and the four men moved on through the darkness in a silence, which was only skin deep.


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Chicago: James Stephens, "Chapter XIV," The Crock of Gold, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Curtin, Jeremiah, 1835-1906 in The Crock of Gold Original Sources, accessed May 26, 2024,

MLA: Stephens, James. "Chapter XIV." The Crock of Gold, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Curtin, Jeremiah, 1835-1906, in The Crock of Gold, Original Sources. 26 May. 2024.

Harvard: Stephens, J, 'Chapter XIV' in The Crock of Gold, ed. and trans. . cited in , The Crock of Gold. Original Sources, retrieved 26 May 2024, from