Now, you must know that me uncle was an old bachelor, and by the same token was the foinest shoe-maker in Ballynahogue. Indade, the loikes of him couldn't be found in all county Roscommon, barrin' it was Michael O'Keefe, who wasn't a shoe-maker at all but a saddler and harness-maker, bedad and didn''t live in Roscommon, nayther, by rason o' bein' a Donegal man.
Now, me uncle was the broth of a boy, an' he tuk measures for more ready-made shoes in a week than he could consthruct betune Michaelmas-day and St. Pathrick's. Sure, but he was the swate timpered sowl, as meek as milk, and as quoiet as a pig, barrin' that he niver could bear conthradiction, and was moighty quick to take offinse, an' had a rough tongue of his own and a nimble shillaly, by rason of which he'd bate a man first, an' argue the quistion wid him p'aceable and frindly aftherwards.
Well, it happened one avenin' that Lanty was thraveling home to his cabin across the bog by the edge of Sheve-na-Cruish, in not the best timper in the worruld. An' moighty shmall blame to him for that same. For afther carryin' a perfectly illigant pair of brogues to a skinflint of an agent, the ould miser tould him to take em' back, beca'se they didn't fit, and hurted his feet in the bargain.
An' so poor Lanty had to thrudge home ag'in wid the brogues undher his arrum, and wid all the money the ould fellow paid him for thim, in an impty pocket. Now, as I was afther tellin' ye, he was walkin' across a piece av medder-land on the edge of the bog, an' bewailin' his bad luck, whin he had the misfortune to stub his fut agin a fairy ring by the side av the path, an' he fell at full length upon the flure. Av coorse ye know, me dears, what a fairy ring is? Then, faith, I needn't be tellin' ye that it's the big tufts av grass in the medders that the Little People dance around on moonshiny nights. Whin Lanty got up ag'in, he was in a tearin' rage. "Bad luck to the Little People," says he, "a-puttin' the tricks on a dacent poor man that's goin' home wid a load o' throuble on his heart! I'd wring their necks for um," says he, "if I had um here betune me thumb an' forefinger." Well, afther a dale av mutterin' an' blatherin', Lanty got home to his cabin, an' was soon sound aslape, an' by the nixt mornin' was as merry as a fiddler at a wake, an' had forgotten all about his troubles an' difficulties. But, poor sowl, though he had forgotten, the Little People hadn't; an' it wasn't long afore the most perplixin' an' ixtrornary circumshtances in connixion wid his perfeshun began to deplate his trisury an' bewildher his narves, to sich an ixtint that, if it hadn't 'a' bin for the comfort of the wiff at his poipe, there's no tellin' what he'd 'a' been afther doin'.
"Lanty O'Hoolahan, ye vilyun," says one oof his custhomers a day or two aftherwards, "what d'ye mane by sindin' home to me a pair av brogues like thim? They're harder to kape thegither than a drove av pigs; an' I could niver ha' worn 'em here if I hadn't 'a' carried 'em in me hands an' walked barefut. It's mesilf that doesn't know how sich tricherous brogues could ixist at all, onliss yez made 'em out av brown paper, an' shtuck 'em thegither wid pins."
"Arrah, be aisy, Patsy," says me uncle, "an' how could I be makin' a pair av black brogues out av brown paper? Sure, they're cut from as foine a bit av English calfskin as ivver was tanned."
"Then, be the powers," says Patsy, "if it ivver rains in England, the calf that worea that skin for a coverin' caught his death o'cowld, for sorra bit of wather did it turn."
"An' what's the matther wid 'em at all, at all?" says me uncle.
"Begorra, there's not enough left av 'em to make matarial for ixamination, let alone discussion," says Patsy, "and that's the throuble," says he. "Shame on ye, Lanty O'Hoolahan, for a desavin' cratur!" says he.
An' its thrue for yez, them brogues wor a sight to behowld. The welts wor a-garin' as though they hadn't bin aslape for a fortnight, an' ivvery siperate bit av the uppers was as full av cracks as Tim Maguire's head afther a faction fight at Donnybrook fair.
Now, if ye'll belave me, afore poor Lanty was over wid lamintin' the terrible misfortune that had befallen him, who should come in but Mr. Finnelay, the attorney, Colonel De Lacey's agint, alookin' moighty put out, an' as red as a beet.
"Lanty O'Hoolahan, ye spalpeen!" says he.
"Yer honor!" says lanty, wid a gentale scrape. (He see throuble a-brewin', an' was bound to smooth it over wid perliteness; for it always tickles an agint to be called "yer honor.")
"How dare ye spile me best London-made shoes," says he, "by convartin' 'em into a botch like this?" An' he held up afore him a pair av walkin'-shoes, wid the sowls hangin' to 'em by a thread or two, an' the heels clane gone intirely.
"Musha, then," says me uncle, "but it's the pathriotic sowls they are, to be sure. It's ivident they dispise to be bound to the Saxon toyrant or anny of his worruks," says he. "Ould Oireland needn't despair av freedom, whin even inanimate nature rebels ag'in the furrin yoke. It on'y confurrums me opinion that there's nothin' like leather."
"'Tis a true word ye're spakin," says Misther Finnelay. "I'll go bail," says he, "there's nothin' that 's annythin' at all like leather in them shoe-soles, more shame to ye, ye rogue."
"Hark to the improvin' discoorse av him!" says me uncle, admirin'ly. "See how he catches up me own words in a twinklin', an' bates me wid 'em. Sure 't is Parliament's the place for a gintleman av ready spache like yer honor, an' its mesilf as would enj'y hearin' ye trate the Tories wid the rough edge o' yer tongue," says he. "Git out wid yer blarneyin'" says the agint, but he was plazed, for all that. "But what ails ye, annyway?" says he.
"Sorra bit do I know," says Lanty, "barrin' it is that ould Kitty Flanagan has been overlookin' me shoes in rivinge for the illigant batin' I gave her ould man, the toime he broke me head, an' laid me up for the wintther," says he.
Howsomdever, after this, things went from bad to worse wid him, so that he grew as thin as a shavin' ;off the hide as a skinned rabbit, an' as sad as a wathery pratie, until wan night, as he sat aslape in his cabin, a-watchin' the imbers av the pate fire, an' a-thinkin' over his desprit condition, he heard the quarest little "he-he" av a giggle that ivver a man clapt eyes on, comin' out av the other corner av the room. 'T was just as though a Jersey muskater had become a Christian, an' was thryin' his hand on an Irish laugh.
"The saints betune us an' all harrum!" says me uncle to himself, but so low that he had to watch the movements av his mouth to tell what is was he was afther sayin',--"but that's a strange soight, so it is," says he. An' he was just ;on the sthroke av jumpin' up an' hollerin' "murtther an' thaves," whin he heard tha laugh ag'in, an' lookin' beyant, where his bench stood, he saw a shmall head near the soize av a middlin' pratie (be way av makin' sure that the coast was clear) a-papin' out av the lig av one av Squire Kelly's new top boots, which Lanty was afther finishin' that avenin' ready for takin' to the Hall the nixt mornin'.
Whin the little man saw that all was quoiet an' shtill, "All right!" says he, an' quick as a wink, the binch an' the flure wor covered wid a hustlin' crowd av little people, as bis as me hand or littler, barrin' the dirrt, a-lapin an' tumblin' an' dancin' about like parched pays in a fryin'-pan, wid a shprinklin' av red-hot gunpowther thrown in to ballast 'em an' kape 'em stiddy. Some av "em wor drissed in green, an' some in red, an' the lave av 'em had little chisels an' saws an' knoives in their hands, wid little baskets to hould the chips.
Prisintly one av 'em wid a big feather in his cap, an' a coat all ablaze wid gould an' di'monds, says; "Ordher," says he, an' at onct the little folks wor a-stannin in rows loike a corps av Fanians a-drillin' on the green.
"To worruk!" says he.
An' at it they went, helter skelter, hammer an' tongs, wid chisels an' files, an' knoives an' spoke-shaves, butcherin' an' slahterin' the new top boots. Twwo av 'em wid a shmall cheese-cutter were a-nickin' the sti'ches around the sowls, while the others went to chisellin' grooves on the inside av the uppers, an' shavin' the leather so thin yez could see daylight through 'em down a coal-mine wid the lamps out.
An' all the toime me poor uncle was a-lookin' at the little felluhs, wid his eyes shut for fear they'd see him a-watchin' 'em, an' quakin' an' thrimblin, while the cowld sweat poured down his back till he hadn't a dry rag on him, barrin' his night-cap, which was a-soakin' wid the lave av his linen in the tub ready ag'in the nixt wash-day.
"Bad luck to 'em!" says he. "There goes two pound an' the intherest for ivver! Be jabers!" says he, "there's one comfort, the boots wont hould thegither long enough fur the squoire to kick me out o' the house when I take 'em home."
"Lanty O'Hoolahan," says he, still a-talkin' to hisself, "if it takes ye three days to mak them boots, lavin' out Sunday an' workin' two days more to even it, an' these thavin' little blaggyuards desthroy thim in the coorse av an hour or so, how long will it be afore y' are clatterin' down the road to ruin, wid yer joints greased for the occasion, an' wid the help av a convaynient landshlip ordhered exprissly to expedite the ixcursion?"
"Wirra, wirra," says he, "what have I done to the Little People that they should thrate me so, wasthin' me substhance, an' desthroyin' me carackther, an' wearin' out the ligimints av me heart wid grief!" When jist then he remembered the misfortunate night when he shtumbled over the fairy ring, an' forgot his good manners, an' gave the Little People bad names, an' thritened their p'ace an' dignity. "That's it!" says he in terror. "'T is all over wid me!" says he. "If I come out av this shcrape wid me head on me showldhers, it 'll be by the mercy av Providence an' the help av me own wit, an' not from any good-will or lanience of the fairies."
Purty soon the Little People finished their job for the noight, an' wor packin' up their traps to be off, when Lanty could stan' it no longer; an' casthin' away all considherations av fear or danger, he le'pt into the middle av the flure an' made a grab fur the crowd. Sure, he might as well have clutched the slippery end av a moonbeam, for they slid through his fingers like a shtream av ice wather wid the chill off, an' were gone in a flash. But, as luck would have it, the little chap wid the feathers an' di'monds in makin' a spring fur the chimney shtumbled over a lump av cobbler's wax on the edge of the binch, an' went souse into a pot av glue that was simmerin' be the side av the foire. Afore he could gather hisself thegither fur anither lape, me uncle had him be the neck.
"I've got ye, at last!" says Lanty.
"Ye have," says the little chap.
"Good-avenin' to ye!" says ne uncle, politely.
"Good-avenin'!" says the little chap.
"Ye dispicable scoundhrel!" says Lanty; "what d' ye mane be thryin' to ruin a dacent thradesman as nivver did ye anny harrum?"
"What did ye mane by thramplin' over my domain wid yer clumsy brogues, an' blatherin' an' threatenin' me paple aftherwards?" says the little chap. "D'yez know who I am?" says he.
"Ye're a rogue that's jist rached the ind av a career av croime." says Lanty.
"I'm the king av the fairies," says the midget.
"An' I'm the king av the cobblers," says Lanty. "An' when two kings come as close thegither as mesilf an' yersilf it's loike to be purtty uncomfortable fur one av 'em."
"Sure, an' ye would n't demane yersilf be takin' the rivinge out o' me fur a harrumless joke!"
"Faith, an' the laugh that follows that joke'll be mighty onpleasant," says Lanty, "an' amazin' unhealthy fur the throat," says he.
"What'll ye be for doin'?" says the little chap.
"Wringin' yer neck!" says Lanty.
"We'll l'ave ye alone for the future," says he.
"I'll go bail that one av yez will," says Lanty.
"We'll make ye rich," says the little chap.
"The man that has his hands on the neck av his worst enimy 'ud be grady to ask for betther fortune than that same," says Lanty.
"We'll worruk for ye," says the little chap.
"Thrue for you," says Lanty. "'The dilicate attentions ye've paid to me worruk 'll recave in the past as in the future the grateful acknowlidgmint av me pathrons,' as Barney Muldoon, the milk dealer, said in his last circilar to his custhomers,--more power to his pump!" says Lanty.
"I'm in airnest," says the little chap.
"Ye'll be in glory in a few minnits," says Lanty.
Well, not to repate the whole av the conversation, by the way av makin' a long shtory out av it, the discushion indid by the King av the Faities promisin', in considheration av his relase, that his paple should do all Lanty's worruk for him, so that he cud live the loife av a jintleman. An' niver was bargain betther kipt. In the daytoime Lanty sat down at his aise an' tuk his measures, an' cut out his leather, an' ivvery noight a busy crew av fairy cobblers was sprawlinfffff' all over his cabin flure, a-plyin' their elbows loike the drivin' rods av a stame-ingine, a-makin' Lanty's brogues and his fortune at the same toime. Afther a whoile, what wid the good-will av the fairies an' the increase av his business, Lanty kem to be the richest man in the counthry, an' kep his carridge, an' had a change av brogues for ivvery day in the week, wid a pair av red morocco tops for Sundays an' saints' days. Sure, the paple kem from all over Oireland to settle in those parts, to be in the way av buyin' Lanty's wondherful brogues, ontil they ran rents up so high that the agint was obliged to go rouond collectin' em wid a laddher.
"Now," says you to me, "if yer uncle bekem so rich, Phalim, how is it that ye left sich prosperity as that, an' kem to Ameriky to be a gardener?" says you, "which, although it's a respictable an' gentale profeshun," says you, "is hardly comminsurate wid yer prospicts as the relative av a gintleman av yer uncle's wealth an' importance."
An' it's precoisely the pint I'm in process av elucidatin'. Ye see, the family grew so powerful in riches an' inflooence, an' so excited the mane invy an' jealousy av an illiterate an' onrasonable pesintry, that it wor thought betther that some av us should l'ave the counthry, temporairily, to aquilize the aquilibrium.
"An', in the nixt place," says me uncle to me, "Phalim," says he, "your janius is too ixpansive fur a conthracted shpot like Oireland. Ameriky is the place for you, an' I'll be buyin' you a steerage ticket to go," says he. An' sure, I had to sell me pig and me bits av shticks av furniture to scrape thegither enough money to pay for it. "A steerage passage," says me uncle, "'ll tache ye aquality, an' instil raal ginuine Demmicratic sintimints into ye," says he, "an' be the toime ye've bin in the Shtates long enough to be nathralized, they'll be afther makin' a Prisident or a police capt'in out av ye!" says he.