MCGILLVERY AND MCGILLICUDDY

TINKERS AT LARGE



Wealth

 Book 1


by

 

Ben Meyers

With

J.J. Jeshurun


Where is it to be found and what position shall one play in the final part of the game?

 

Dedicated to Everyone 

 

Foreword

A thoughtful Irish writer once wrote, “Worthwhile dreams need never die if the dreamer can find the secret that allows conversion of wishes into realities.”  Unfortunately, that secret is often as coy and as illusively shy as the brush of an angel’s wing.  The truth of the matter is that the secret, once found, lies openly available for the taking; but few persons from ancient times to present times have been able to see or to find the secret even after a lifetime of wishing, wondering, and searching.  Not too very long ago, two Irish tinkers solved this age-old riddle and made the secret their own.  The tinkers’ journey begins, as all worthwhile journeys must—within the bosom of distress.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1   A Dish of Vegetables……………………………………………………5

Chapter 2   Need and Greed………………………………………………………...16

Chapter 3   Land of Gone Forever…………………………………………………..33

Chapter 4   The Dreamer Begins…………………………………………………….42

Chapter 5    Peculiar Places………………………………………………………….58

Chapter 6    Mankind’s Pain…………………………………………………………80

Chapter 7    Black Eyes and Puppies…………………………………………………91

Chapter 8    Small Portions………………………………………………………….103

Chapter 9    Charity………………………………………………………………….139

Chapter 10   Lords and Earls………………………………………………………...143

Chapter 11   The Lions’ Den………………………………………………………...157

Chapter 12    Bribes in High Places………………………………………………….178

Chapter 13    The Wrath of Man……………………………………………………..192

Chapter 14     Rabbits on the Glen……………………………………………………221

Chapter 15     Light Breaks……………………………………………………………229

 

 

 Chapter 1

A Dish of Vegetables

 

On nights when the Irish mist is particularly deep and the moon’s fair light is quite smothered in the shadows of men’s darkened dreams, the aging tinker cart sign’s beseeching cries, rising from shadowed lanes and meadows, caused many a late lad and lassie to gather their coat’s collars in gestures reflecting anxious acknowledgement of the slim hold mortals have on life. 

Could the late travelers have seen the sign before evening’s fall as it gently swayed from the back of its dilapidated tinker’s cart, the rusty sound would have melded rather nicely with meadowlark’s song, two easy tinkers’ voices carrying over greenly gentle hills, and the patient, steady drumming of horses’ hooves as their cart pulled along winding, dirt roads.  In Irish blue on Kelley green the sign’s complimentary letters dutifully, conservatively, and genteelly proclaimed, “McGillvery and McGillicuddy, Tinkers at Large.”

It was just at the end of such a day, before the darkling hours begin laying around, that McGillvery said to McGillicuddy, “Now, I’m that much wishing we’d have been havin’ a cabbage with our potato this evenin’.”

“Aye, now,” agreed McGillicuddy a wee bit wistfully.  “The cabbages in that last garden were exceedingly fine.  ’Tis a miserable thing indeed the gentle lady of the house was so ready for callin’ her dog or we might have had the time to ask for a head or two while passin’.”  

“’Tis an even sadder thing of late that we’ve more potato on our plate than much else,” glumly observed Gilly.  “Both our breeches will hardly stay in place for our thinness this year, Cuddy.”

McGillicuddy did not reply at once for another farmhouse had loomed on the horizon.  Ever the hopeful, he said, “Cheer up, lad.  Day’s not done yet.  Yonder looks like we’ve another chance at sale or trade before evenin’ falls.  Perhaps we’ll have better than cabbage for our sup tonigh’.  A lamb chop would much surpass the cabbage as a compliment to our potato.”

As they neared the whitewashed and newly thatched cottage, McGillvery sat eagerly forward on the wagon’s stoop, “Do ye catch a whiff of soda bread and herring?  Mmmm,” he sighed.  “I’ve not tasted a piece of herring for ever so long.  Perhaps the fair lady will extend an invitation to dine.”

“I hope the teapot’s bubbling and she’s a way with marmalade and jam,” agreed McGillicuddy longingly.

McGillvery gripped McGillicuddy’s sleeve in excitement.  “I smell apples baking sure.  Look, they’ve a small orchard behind the sheep’s shed.  Ohhh,” he breathed while rolling his eyes toward heaven, “I’m thinkin’ in this ’ere ’umble cottage tonight is being set a supper fit for Ireland’s finest.  Can ye see the white napkins and plate, Cuddy?  May the Lord bless us, his country gentlemen, with a dear offer of hospitality from the good lady cook.”

McGillicuddy, too, hoped for an honest meal from the generous heart of a fellow country person as their tinker horses, Belle and Shade, automatically turned shaggy legs into the dusty lane leading through the farm’s main gate and stopped the tinker’s wagon precisely at the front of cottage door.

“Clean and neat, too, Cuddy,” whispered Gilly.  “Flowers at the door mean a dear lady who takes a little extra care in her doings.”

As McGillicuddy began to clamber down from the wagon seat, a burly, ruddy-faced man emerged from the low hung door.

“What’re ye doin’ comin’ up me lane without invitation and at supper time, too?” he asked roughly.

“No offense, kind sir,” replied McGillicuddy, hesitating in his dismount.  “We’re tinkers three generations down and are come to furnish the home with needles and pins, pans and fabric. We’ve even a horse to trade if ye’re needin’ a mare to pull or ride.”

A well-rounded woman wiping her hands against cotton toweling appeared in the cottage shadows behind the man.  The man’s suspicious eyes roamed to the back of the wagon, looking at the gray mare in tow. “’An what’s wrong with ’er?” he growled.

“I’ll not be foolin’ ye nor takin’ advantage of ye in any way.  The mare’s recovering from injury to her right hind foot,” truthfully answered McGillicuddy.  “But in another month’s passin’ she’ll be as sound as ever.”

The heavily built man looked into McGillicuddy’s unshaven face and frowned testily, “Two tinkers on a fellow’s property looks a bit unseemly.  What’s the one doing while the other’s sellin’?  Perhaps ’e’s going ’round back and shooing me best ewe out to pasture to pick up a little later in the evening, eh?  I’m not that foolish, gents.  Ye take yer mare and be off my property or I’ll be givin’ ye a taste of the lead,” and the man produced an aged gun which was soon cocked and aimed straight toward McGillicuddy’s square head.

“Nay, not so,” replied McGillicuddy in remonstration.  “We be honest lads, raised at our mother’s knee with strong respect for the commandments.  We stop at church every Sunday and read in our mother’s Book every night.  We’re not what ye’re believin’,” protested McGillicuddy weakly.

The man stepped closer to McGillicuddy observing his unshaven face and well-worn clothing.  “Don’t be hidin’ behind the Lord, laddie.  I can see for myself what ye be.  Ye best be havin’ that wagon down the road at the count of three or ye’ll not be tinkerin’ anymore on this earth.”

McGillvery pulled urgently at McGillicuddy’s sleeve, “Come now.  Sit yourself back into the wagon, Cuddy. The man’s set sure to fight and we’ve little to gain buried in this isolated spot.  Turn Belle and Shade now and let’s be quick about it.”

Long practiced in the art of turning the heavily built wagon in tight spaces, the two horses at Gilly’s urging, complacently accomplished their task with gentle ease and soon carried the two brothers far from the inhospitable cottage door.

McGillvery’s stomach growled deeply—an encouragement to begin a gentle lament to accompany his hunger pains. “The timing was so right at that house.  Smelled the bread coming hot from the oven I did.  The herring was crisp in the pan and smelled like the apples had been dipped in flour biscuit and coated in sweet syrup before she set them to bake.  Would have been a fine evening beyond compare.  After the supper, we’d have set ’round the fire showing the lady our fabrics and pans.  Ye’re well knowin’ they always buy more after a fine meal.  We may have had an invite for mornin’ sup and the master, so set at ease by our fellowship from the night before, may have traded for the gray mare.” 

Not much later, their cart passed the large stone piers raised many a year past to hold the imposing gates leading to Earl Donogough’s estate.  McGillvery took especial note and morosely said, “But for just a few different circumstances of life we would have been inside those lovely gates eatin’ finer than all Ireland this summer evening.  I’ve heard tell that the Earl Donogough eats his apple tarts with little flowers carved into their tops each with a large D engraved in light and flaky pastry crust.  This evening the serving folk will be bowing low beside him asking in a most solicitous manner, ‘An’ ’ow would ye be likin’ yer lamb this evening—with a bit of sweet mint jelly and tea?’”

McGillicuddy did not join in McGillvery’s wishful suppositions.  He let his brother ramble on for a good piece of the road before finally stopping at the edge of a lane where stood an abandoned cottage much in need of thatching and repair.  He clambered down from wagon seat, began unhitching the horses, and set the hobbles on their feet so they might more freely graze and get their drink from a stream nearby.  McGillvery had hung the harnesses to dry and was gathering a bit of fuel for night’s meal.  When the fire had died to its proper lowness, he returned to the wagon reaching for their grub sack.  In its bottom was left remaining a single medium sized potato bypassed for many a night in favor of its larger brothers.  Tonight it finally met the fate of the rest by being laid in a smallish iron covered pot which was then carefully buried beneath the fire’s coals.  That done, McGillvery looked for two flattish rocks suitable for seating and dining at fire’s edge.  Out of the two rocks found, he appropriated one, situated himself near the fire, and sank immediately into a despondent gazing toward embers’ orange glow.

When the potato was quite done, McGillvery handed it to McGillicuddy for separating into its two halves.  When his half was returned to him, he looked at the slim fare, and said a bit testily, “Hasn’t our Lord promised that honesty in business has a fair sure result in comfortable living and the respect of one’s fellows?”

“What are ye tryin’ to say, Gilly?” mumbled McGillicuddy around a mouthful of his half of hot potato.

McGillvery set his potato back into the pot while carefully observing, “We’ve a sound night’s sleep for our good consciences, but ’tis an aching affliction to be treated in so rough a fashion by our countrymen, now isn’t it?”

McGillicuddy, ever the patient, grunted and waited for McGillvery to continue.

“When the wintry mist is particularly biting, it’s damaging to one’s good nature to be refused the hospitality of a comforting cup of steaming, hot tea at cozy fireside.”

“’Tis not winter, Gilly,” replied Cuddy.

“It’s damagin’ in fair weather or foul,” argued Gilly.

“We’d best get used to the fact that the welcoming scent of soda bread wafting down the tinker’s road is not a sure promise of an invitation for a wee bite of the warm loaf,” remarked McGillicuddy philosophically.

A very disappointed Gilly looked down at his half potato with eyes growing a bit moist and said mournfully to himself, “Now I’m not complaining, mind ye, for we can’t complain at the Lord’s Great Bounty.  Still…” and he paused for a moment before continuing sorrowfully, “I’m sure wishing we had a bit of chop to go with this potato.”

McGillicuddy, the older of the two, consoled his brother, as was his life-long custom, “Now, now.  Times pass.  Maybe tomorrow we’ll have the better side of luck and be dining on fowl and summer peas.”

McGillvery made no effort of reply.

McGillicuddy, understanding his brother’s heart, quietly encouraged, “We’d best be always lookin’ for our eternal future, Gilly.  It’s what our dear mother taught us.  ’Tis a simple philosophy leading to peace and to a certain graciousness not obtained by giving in to rapacious appetite.  We’re knowin’ the future of God’s children is to be as bright and as pleasant as each and every one could ever wish.  But while we’re livin’ in the present, it’s needful for us to be content.”  Ever mindful of the importance of being thankful and counting blessings, Cuddy added, “We’ve food for the night and it’s hot sup, not cold.”

“An’ no food for the morrow I’ll be addin’,” spoke Gilly.  “T’was the last potato in the sack, Cuddy.”

“I’m knowin’ things are a mite short,” acknowledged McGillicuddy.  “But even our Lord urged us not to be worrying about our food and clothin’—that it would be provided at the time most needful.  An’ we’ve only ourselves, fine strong men, to worry about.  There’s not a wee bairn that’s havin’ to be doin’ without due to our bad fortunes.”

“Thank ’eavens for that stroke, Cuddy,” agreed Gilly.  “It would quite put my ’eart to bursting if we’d a small babe and nothin’ to feed ’im.”

Cuddy nodded and rearranged himself on the ground with his back resting comfortably on the rock.  “Gilly,” he began, “I’m for figurin’ a potato’s as good as the manna the good Lord furnished his people in the Wandering Wilderness.  If He saw in His great bountifulness that manna was sufficient for his dearest chosen ones for forty long years, then I’m supposin’ a potato on our plate is good enough for us, their brethren in spirit.”

McGillvery looked at the potato on his plate. “But the good wandering people had all they wanted of the manna and left from the side of their tables quite full in belly.  Half a potato would hardly feed a wee mouse much less a fine man such as me.”

McGillicuddy looked sadly at his brother, “Well, I’ve finished mine long before now.  Be eating your share before it takes on the cold.  Then we’d best be giving thanks and be about turning out the bed and doing some reading out of the good Book.”

McGillicuddy thought about bringing their mother’s harp from the wagon to float away some of his brother’s misery with the cheery tinker’s songs they frequently employed to fill the long hours between farmhouses.  The songs encouraged a tinker to forever look on the bright side of life and always leave behind the gift of a smile.  This evening was a good time to be reminded of those truths, yet somehow, in this lonely spot, beside a windowless cottage with little cheer and no warmth, Cuddy didn’t feel like vocalizing the ideals that bolstered the tinkering way of life. 

Instead he looked across the fire at McGillvery’s despondent demeanor and said,  “We’d best keep in form, Gilly.  Try smilin’ just a bit over that potato.  If we lose our smile and give in to fret and worry, it will soon be showing to the wives along the way.  They’ll be driven that quickly back into their doors for fear they’ll be catching the glum looks we’ve caught.  It will only make our situation worse, Brother.  A smile is the face’s little prayer.  It’s saying, ‘Here’s hoping a myriad of blessings are awaitin’ just around the corner to surprise you and me.’  Circumstances often change much for the better with just the right attitude.  We’ve proved that again and again.”

Usually McGillicuddy’s common sense and pleasant way of speaking provided quite the cure for any ill-favored circumstance which may have befallen the brothers, but tonight McGillvery would not be consoled.

“The night falls, Cuddy, with nary moon nor star to light the way,” he gloomily noted.

McGillicuddy worriedly said in great haste, “’Tis not so.”  He quickly looked toward the night sky as if endeavoring to see any invisible saint who might be passing by and overhearing their conversation.  Just as quickly he spit on two fingers of each hand which he immediately stuck to his ears while saying, “We be two good brothers.  Here’s stopping the accuser’s ears and mouth until we can right this temporary despair.”  He turned to McGillvery and urged, “Be careful what ye’re saying.  We’re belonging to a different sort than that.  Hope never dies in bosoms that belong to the Lord.  How can it, Gilly?  To think there’s no way out is to deny the power of our Holy Helper.  This little lull in our business affairs is not a matter of that much consequence that it be called impossible.  If it were impossible, we’ve every right to expect help from on high for our heavenly Father works best in the most impossible of circumstances.”

Gilly did not respond to Cuddy’s rebuff nor his encouragement.  “’Tis no use, Cuddy.  The talk won’t work this time.  All the fair words in the world will not cover the reality.  An’ the reality is we’re poor.  It seems, since we pulled into this campsite, that I’ve been besieged by all sorts of queer thoughts I’ve never thought before.  I’ve never thought of ourselves as poor.  And it’s not just the empty potato sack or the last two houses we visited that’s set me to thinking this way.  I’m remembering years back when our mum was ill.  We couldn’t buy the medicines before she passed away.”  His voice broke as he said, “What kind of a life is it, Cuddy, when those you love do without the necessaries which can prolong their sweet fellowship for a bit longer on this earth?”  His voice rose distressfully, “Nay.  The sweet words will not cover what we’ve become, Cuddy.  We’re poor and I don’t see how we’ll ever be anything else but poor.”

McGillicuddy understood his brother was in a state of great consternation, but he did not understand how deeply his brother’s feelings were running this night until Gilly suddenly stood, the heat from the newly laid, crackling branches making him appear most unearthly and quite ready to fight things visible and invisible.  Unable to see the enemy which had so beaten them, he bent to the ground, picked a rock, abruptly turned, hurled it at the stone wall of the cabin, and said vehemently, “I’m bloody tired of being poor!”

McGillicuddy was quite taken aback at the intensity of McGillvery’s feelings.  Although his brother was more highly tempered than himself, it was his usual habit to take whatever situation they found themselves in with complacence, accepting the ways of the world in which they lived.  Cuddy watched as his brother agitatedly turned his face toward the heavens.  The words poured in a rush from his heart as much as from his mouth, “We’re not bad lads and we’re living like we were the worse refuse of Dublin Town.  At the urging of farmers, we’ve the dogs on us three times this week and guns held to our heads twice.  Nary once were we asked for even a drink at their well let alone a peaceful evening meal at their firesides.”

He turned pleading eyes toward McGillicuddy. “Even a thief eats meat once in awhile, Cuddy.  I’ve not once left my mother’s upright ways nor passed the church on a Sunday nor neglected my duty to my fellowman to seek his welfare and peace in all things and yet I’ve not had a glass of milk for a fortnight, let alone the bite of meat from the worst part of the sheep in nigh on six months.”

Although McGillicuddy had been quite taken aback by his brother’s words, he at last found his tongue.  “McGillvery!” he reprimanded.  “Watch your language!  How Mother would cry to hear you say such things!”  But, for all that, McGillicuddy knew that all Gilly had said was true and Cuddy had no real answer for him.  He looked up at the moon and found it covered, as dark and unyielding as Death when he comes to snatch away the life of wee babe and old marm together.  As McGillvery had said, even the stars had fled from their sky with nary light to show a way.  McGillicuddy shivered a bit as he thought of the last several years’ business.  In truth, it was as if the sky had joined arms with the earth in a binding mutual contract to turn upon two lads for the purpose of vomiting them out of the land of good living.  McGillicuddy searched his mind and knew they’d been patient and never resorted to ill doings despite many privations and hardships.  Somewhere a grave error in justice had been made—a mistaken identity—so that two good lads were receiving a life that they wouldn’t wish upon the very bad.  McGillicuddy held his head in his hands while mightily searching for right words, but the soothing and healing words he needed so badly had quite fled away. 

Chapter 2

         Need and Greed

 

McGillicuddy need not have worried about his lack of words, for McGillvery soon supplied words quite uncommon to his usual nature.

“The last farmer needed a thorough thrashing for his uncharitable manner and his wife needed a good spanking on her ampleness for not having acted the Christian to strangers.  We might have been angels for all she knew and she missing a blessing by the turning of us away.  What kind of Christian thinking is that to not offer the sustenance of Ireland to two strangers?  For just this bit,” and he narrowed his two fingers quite close together, “I’d go back and claim my bread and apples, too.”

McGillicuddy looked at McGillvery’s rosy-hot cheeks and flaming red hair, which was now standing in undisciplined peaks all over a roundly shaped head.  He couldn’t help smiling a bit while thinking of the startle the farmer would have should McGillvery appear at his bedside in just such a manner and demand his justice.  The smile turned into a chuckle and the more he thought about eating the soda bread and apple treat in a warm kitchen while the lady dished out the proper Christian charity, the deeper the humor seemed until he was quite rolling in laughter.

McGillvery was not amused and frowned quite sourly at McGillicuddy which sent Cuddy into deeper throes of merriment at Gilly’s expense.  When he finally calmed, he turned more serious eyes to Gilly and asked, “An’ while your first plan to end our poverty may not be the best plan, what do you sincerely reckon we do about it, Gilly?  If ye’re well tired of something, then ’tis best to do something about it.  What are ye preposing we do to change our most serious circumstances?”

Gilly threw his arms outward in frustration as if wishing to gather a whole world of ideas to himself, then stood hunching his back in the manner of a hedgehog when he’s very wet and quite cold.  He finally began a pacing to and fro in front of the fire. 

“I don’t know!” he said agonizingly.  “I feel as if we were both wrong somehow.  Someway we’ve a great error inside us that needs correcting so that the outside circumstances we suffer can be corrected  But I’m just short of knowing what the error is for us to be suffering along so.”

McGillicuddy understood exactly.  It was the very thing he had been thinking.  “There’s a verse I’ve read in Mother’s Book that says the Lord is the author of adverse and favorable circumstances, Gilly.  If we were to set our mind to the possibility that perhaps the good God above is allowing these less than fortuitous times, then we would be asking our God what we were needin’ to do to walk into the sunshine of good conditions again.  Perhaps there’s a large change we’re needin’ to make just like the wandering people when they was slaves in Egypt and they had to go from bein’ slaves to bein’ a free people.  Their circumstances became just that poor before the good God sent an answer.”

“An’ they had to make tremendous big changes, Cuddy,” acknowledged Gilly.

“A whole way of life taken away and a new one learned,” agreed Cuddy.  “Their lessons weren’t easily learned and at quite some hardship to themselves and their families.”

McGillvery turned to McGillicuddy with tears near brimming along the rims of his eyes, “Is that what’s needin’ to be done then, Cuddy?  Are we needin’ to become something other than tinkers?  What do people do when all they’ve known is a tinker’s life, an’ their fathers before them, an’ their fathers before that?  Where do they go?”

“The wandering people went into the wilderness,” returned Cuddy.

“We’re already in the wilderness—a wilderness of lack,” protested Gilly.

McGillicuddy shook his head firmly, “Nay.  We’re not in the wilderness.  I’m thinkin’ we’re in the slavery of Egypt.”

McGillvery looked shocked.  “How can that be?  Our father gave this business and told us we were the luckiest sort for we were born free with the right to claim our time and our way on this earth with no one to tell us how to manage but ourselves.  We’re not the slaves of another where we must draw his wage and depend upon his success and goodwill for our own, Cuddy.”

“An’ yet we’ve found ourselves in slavery to the worse Egypt of all, Gilly.”

Gilly turned surprised eyes to Cuddy, “An’ what may that be?”

“Poverty,” replied McGillicuddy simply.  “We are in slavery to Mister Poverty.”

McGillvery did not know what to say, so taken aback was he at this revelation.

McGillicuddy explained, “We’ve not the ability to place tasty food on our plates at night nor the funds to pull into a roadside inn from time to time to lessen the rudeness of constant travel in the enjoyment of the fellowship of others.  Our items for merchandising have become just that meager and shopworn that many wives turn their nose at it for trading the least of things.  An’ even ourselves, Gilly, we’re in need of a little repair.  The funds are sorely lacking for the littlest piece of leather for the resoling of our boots.  Haven’t ye noticed on Sundays how we’re always waitin’ until the last to go in to church and quietly sitting in the shady corners and leaving before all the good people are up and out of their seats?  It’s not for politeness we do that.  We’ve humble clothin’ and rough looks about us, Gilly.  If we’d the finery of the Lords and Ladies in the balcony seats, we’d be up front with the best of them a’shakin’ the vicar’s hand when we’re in Protestant land and a’shakin’ the priest’s hand when we’re in Catholic land.  I’m thinkin’ we are in our Egypt and somehow we’ve need of cryin’ to our Lord in such a way that He can show us how to get free from it.”

McGillvery had quite shut his mouth.  It was all true.

McGillicuddy continued to hold the floor.  “Have ye noticed that tinkers are rarely along the roads like when we was small and ridin’ with our father?”

McGillvery nodded his head, “Not ever do I see one any day of the year.”

“It seems, dear Brother,” spoke Cuddy gently, “that the place left a tinker is so small a man can’t be a man and the times have grown past us.  When we can’t feed ourselves, we can’t plan for future.  We’re livin’ one day to another with barest of necessities.  Do ye know,” he continued thoughtfully, “I’ve not even the tar to patch the wagon’s roof should it begin a leak.  There’s nary a colleen in Ireland who would share our life with us even though we be young and right handsome lads.  I’ve been so busy living our life from day to day that I’ve not thought about it for ever so long, but things have changed Gilly.  Sometime between the time of our father’s passing and our dear mother’s burying, affairs changed.  The little life we’ve left would be a sin indeed to offer a new bride and a wee bairn.”  Cuddy paused for a long while and then said, “If we can’t do that,” while turning to Gilly, “what is the purpose of being?”

Gilly knew his brother quite well but was surprised to find him linking ‘being’ with a bride and child.  “Were ye that much a’wantin’ a family to be speakin’ of?” he asked in amazement.

“Aye,” answered Cuddy, surprised at the resurfacing of a deep-seated wish long buried.  “I suppose I was.  When I was the youngest of lads, I’d always planned to take Dearbháil to wife when I was of age.  Every time we traded down her way with Father and Mum I’d think I’d make the proper moves to tell her my choice in the matter,” admitted McGillicuddy.  He added as an afterthought, “She did a masterful thing by keeping the affairs in order after the passin’ of her parents and her so young, too.  Her wee sister never missed the tiniest comfort even though an orphan.  A body would never lack at any time of year with such a strong and reasonable mind as Dearbháil’s.”  He sighed a bit and said, “She’s pretty even now that she’s heading toward being a confirmed maid.”

“Aye,” remembered McGillvery.  “She always liked our Mum.  That’s to her good sense.  But I’m recalling hair flaming like a Irish goddess’ and a temper to suit.”

Cuddy grinned, “Temper puts the pepper into life so it doesn’t go stale.”

Gilly’s face took on the surprise at his brother’s response.  Cuddy had always been a man of placid manner and accepting ways.  Yet, it was fitting Cuddy be drawn to such a fiery one as that lassie.  In the tinkering business the two brothers partnered, it was Gilly who added the pepper.  McGillvery drew a slow breath, laboring in his mind for an answer to the situation the two brothers found themselves in. 

“We’re not the poor, Cuddy,” he observed while groping for ideas.  “We’ve got our potato and I do recall,” he continued, “even the Lord, while doing his work, was hungry enough to desire a fig from a tree he was passing.  Did he not be of ever so much hunger that he and his men once plucked heads of grain from a field they were walking through?”

“Aye,” responded Cuddy.  “I’m supposin’ two tinkers shouldn’t be expectin’ any much more than the Lord himself while we walk this earth.”

“I should never,” stuttered McGillvery, aghast at the thought of such presumption, “think of myself as more than He!  And, I’m well aware that if we get too roused about the matter of our material sustenance, we’ll find ourselves sinning against the Lord.  ’Tis a small step between discontent and stealing, or worse.”

“‘Contentment is a deathblow to the monster greed’…,” smiled McGillicuddy remembering.

“ ‘An’ greed is the witch-mother of many a bad child.’  T’was what our mother always taught us,” finished McGillvery.

“Her very words,” agreed McGillicuddy.  He shivered a bit and looked fearfully into the darkness.  “Perhaps ’tis best we kill these depressing thoughts now before all sorts of evil spectres are born.  Live our lives as they be and not give any more energy to thinking about changing what was meant to be.”

Gilly looked at Cuddy with pleading eyes, “Cuddy, if we should unleash evil by our desire to have more than we truly need—t’would be a great evil indeed.  But I’m believin’ our desire is pure and clean.  We’d not use the extra to do bad with.  We’ve only a use for the extra to raise our standards a bit and to provide for a future that could contain a growin’ family for each of us.”

“Aye,” returned Cuddy thoughtfully, “To be truthful about the matter, Gilly, the Lord had a different callin’ than me.  His job while on earth was quite a different one than that to which most men are called.  It would not be so appropriate for my dearie and her children to walk along through the grain fields of Ireland and pick from their heads grain for their sup.”

Gilly nodded, “And besides does not the scripture say ‘the will of God is to feed the dear widows and the orphans in their need’?  I’m just a little short of knowin’ how to do that when we can’t even feed ourselves.  I mean, ’tis different for us, Cuddy.  If the Lord were here, he could feed all the widows and orphans of the world out of this one potato forever and ever, but I could sit on yon mountaintop till I starved to death and wouldn’t know how to do it for myself and you, let alone all the starving widows and orphans of the world.  All I know is trading, Cuddy,” continued McGillvery earnestly.  “I know you’ve got to have something to trade before you can get something you want.  ’Tis the reality of living in a real world.  I’m very, very sorry,” said McGillvery burring his r’s thickly, “to speak it, Brother, but I…,” and McGillvery hung his head ever so low, “…I am not spiritual enough a man to know how to solve all these problems without real gold and real money.”

McGillicuddy was quiet for a very long time and then said reflectively, “When I left on our dear homeland’s military campaigns to lands far from here, I remember watching the foreign holy men a’beggin’ their daily food, wandering from one place to another, and wondered if what they gave in words was worth the bread they got in return.  Then I wondered what they gave the poor what had naught to give in return for their words.  Our Lord gave words, but he also gave real food and real care to the unfortunate, Gilly.”

“Aye, that’s right, Cuddy!” agreed McGillvery enthusiastically.  Then with a bit of cunning added, “Not just in foreign lands do the holy men give words alone.  I sometimes notice our own priests and vicars are more willing to give well-wishing words than part with the tithes that have been received.  I’ve also seen they are always asking for the gold and tend to live in pretty fine houses themselves for these parts of the world.”

“Shhh!  Shhhh!”  McGillicuddy urged, looking uneasily around.  “The Saints have large ears and we’ve no need of offending them.  Who are we, Gilly, to say the vicars and priests have not taken care of their funds well?  Best we tend to our personal affairs and let the Lord tend to theirs.  After all there’s a rightful order to things and we’d best be paying homage to that order.”

Gilly snorted disdainfully, “It’s that precise order I’m talking about, Cuddy!  Why is it all right for everyone else, including the vicars and priests, to be comfortable and well sustained while we suffer along so?  Would it upset the whole order of the universe if two tinkers lived as an Earl or a Baron or a Lord does for a day?”

McGillicuddy grinned, “I don’t know about the universe, but it might upset any one of those three men should one of them be traded down to our level while we occupied theirs.”

McGillvery ignored the humorous picture McGillicuddy had painted.  Thoughts were framing in his mind and he began vocalizing them in words, “Cuddy, I’ve read in Mother’s Book of folks from unpretentious and unlikely beginnings being raised from humble circumstances into places of surplus and plenty.  If such ones had their circumstances changed so drastically, why couldn’t the same happen for us also?”

“An’ who are ye thinkin’ of precisely, Gilly?”

“I was remembering the Hebrew story of David.  He was only a caretaker of sheep, but out of such small beginnings he became a leader and controlled great stores of wealth for himself and the great nation he ruled.”

McGillicuddy sat rock still.  “Are you thinking we could be a David, Gilly?”

“Nay, I’m thinkin’ we could be ourselves and receive at God’s hand the same as David received.”

“But, in the case of David that was the Lord’s will for David, Gilly,” protested McGillicuddy.  “The Lord intervened for David, you see.”

“Well, why couldn’t He intervene for us?” logically inquired Gilly.

“I don’t know,” replied Cuddy. “But the question makes me feel trembly and upset inside like maybe we shouldn’t be asking it or hoping it for ourselves.”

“Well, maybe we should, Cuddy.  I’m remembering another instance in Mother’s Book when a fellow asked and it turned out quite well for him.”

“An’ who are ye thinkin’ of this time?”

“Solomon.”

“The wise man?”

“Aye.”

“I’m recalling he asked for wisdom, not gold, Gilly,” recalled McGillicuddy. “Also, if I remember correctly Solomon was asked by the Lord to ask what he would and it would be given him,” objected McGillicuddy.  “He was asked to ask.  We’ve not been asked to ask.”

“I’m thinkin’ our sad circumstances are beggin’ us to ask,” stubbornly insisted McGillvery.  “And that’s the first clue.  From Solomon’s example we’ll ask for wisdom first and then we’ll ask for the gold.”

“Really, Gilly,” a shocked McGillicuddy responded. “I think you are not quite right in all this.  Even in David’s instance I think the Lord chose him first.  T’wasn’t David who did the choosing for his prosperous life.”

“Well, how do ye know what David was thinking and wishing for while herding his father’s sheep all those growing up years in the hills of Judea?  He may have been thinking a powerful lot o’ the gold.”

“I believe the Book says he thought a powerful lot about God, Gilly,” corrected McGillicuddy gently.

“Maybe he thought a powerful lot about his heavenly Father helping him to get that gold,” persisted Gilly.

A small smile played at the corners of McGillicuddy’s generous mouth until he finally laughed outright.  “No wonder you outsell me, Gilly.  You’ve got the gift of the Irish sons in your tongue, sure enough.”

“Would that I had the gift at the end of Irish rainbows, too,” glumly returned McGillvery.

“Aye,” agreed Cuddy and turned to the fire, poking and stirring the dying embers, all the while wondering how does a man raise himself from day-to-day subsistence to a place where there is a roomy surplus of valuable things.

Gilly hesitantly broke into Cuddy’s musing.  “I’ve thought, Cuddy, that since it is a fact one must have something to trade before getting something in return, then one must wonder where one originally gets the item to be traded.”

McGillicuddy wrinkled his forehead in perplexity and said, “I’m not understanding what ye’re tryin’ to say.”

“I’m not sure how to say it exactly,” admitted McGillvery.  “But…we’ve always lived by having something in our hand and we trade that something for something else we’re wantin’.  But if we was to go back in time ever so far, there had to be a time when one of our dear fathers had nothing in hand to trade.  Where did he get something when he had nothing?”

Cuddy furrowed his brow in bewilderment.  “We got our items from our father.  It was our inheritance….”

“Precisely.  We had someone who helped us get a start, such as it was.” McGillvery held his head in his hands.  “I feel as if my head were fair to breakin’ but it seems to me that if someone gave us a start in this poor tinker’s business then someone would have to give us a start on the road to prosperity.”

McGillicuddy was completely baffled.  “I do not understand, Gilly.  I know for a fact that if ye were to ask anyone we know for a start on the road to prosperity, ye’d be laughed out of Ireland.  Why, even those who’ve got…like Earl Donogough, would no more give you a gold piece for your pins let alone give you something while asking with an empty hand!”

McGillvery hung his head in silence knowing what McGillicuddy said was the fact of living.  Finally, he said wistfully,  “Perhaps men in all their injustice may not help poor lads such as we, but could it be our dear heavenly Father would help us be more than we are at this present moment in time?  For you see,” he continued, “’tis a most perplexing problem and not one many men would be able to answer seeing how’s most are in the same small craft at sea as we be.”

“What you’re saying is that we’ve no one on earth could or would help us and you’re thinking our dear Lord might be able to lead the way?” asked McGillicuddy.

McGillvery nodded a glum head.  “I know not what else to do seeing the situation is so grave.”

McGillicuddy said, “It is traditional that lads such as we look to a hope of better things beyond this life, laddie.  ’Tis what our betters have taught us.  To think such thoughts as ye’re thinkin’ could be spiritual ruination for simple folk such as we.  We’re most likely the little birds and rabbits of this world, Gilly, not the roarin’ lions.”

“And yet,” spoke McGillvery softly, “even the lions enjoy the little bird’s song, Cuddy.”

McGillicuddy was quiet and then handed their mother’s Book to McGillvery.  “We’ve never a night we didn’t say our prayers and read in the Book, Gilly.  Why don’t you do that now?” he suggested gently.

McGillvery cleared his throat and said, “I thank thee that our poor dear mum did not live long enough to see the pitiable situation her sons have sunk into and I thank thee for the skill of McGillicuddy’s hands in carving the last potato so fairly and I pray thee to remember how thee prospered Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and remember us, their Irish Brothers, Amen.”

“Amen,” agreed McGillicuddy. 

McGillvery opened the parlor sized, leather bound Book and read, “The meek shall inherit the earth.”  He paused and noted significantly, “I’m knowin’ two brothers who haven’t been doing much inheriting lately.”

A few pages later he read a verse that said,  ‘If I had not expected to see my reward in this life’ and he turned amazed eyes in McGillicuddy’s direction.  “Cuddy!  Did ye hear that now? I’ll read the words again.”  He slowly read, “’If I had not expected to see my reward in this life….’  Cuddy!  This was someone who wrote that he expected to see a reward in this life while here on earth.”

McGillicuddy reached over and took the large Book from McGillvery’s weather roughened hands and said, “Where did ye read that?”

McGillvery rose from his warm stone seat and stood over Cuddy’s shoulder pointing to the exact verse.

McGillicuddy looked and said excitedly, “Why, this is a portion that David himself wrote and we jus’ talkin’ about him this evening, too.”

McGillvery nodded elatedly, “And you see, Cuddy, David said he was looking for some o’ the good things in this life!  I can’t see any wrong in wishing for the same things for ourselves that David wanted.  Why he was a man after the Lord’s own heart!  The Book says so itself!”

“You know Lord,” he whispered to himself, “I would sure like to see some of that inheriting and taste a little of King David’s reward before I die.”  McGillvery paused for a moment as if reflecting, then said aloud to McGillicuddy, “You know Lord Danbury has fresh fowl every evening’s meal.”

“Aye.  Well I know it.”

“And even the high tempered lassie and her sister has a garden of fresh greens and herbs, potatoes to dig the year round.”

“Aye.”

“Then, Brother, it seems we must be doin’ something peculiarly backwards to be fightin’ so every day for the potato on our plate.”

“Aye,” finally agreed McGillicuddy halfheartedly. “If it were a famine time, it would seem more fair.  But this isn’t scarcity times in any county of Ireland—nary in the mountains nor the valleys—only in this here cottage,” he said, pointing to their tinker’s wagon.  “So what do you be supposing, Gilly?”

“I been thinking maybe we’ve been not humble enough and that’s why we ain’t got our daily victuals.”

“An’ how do ye mean?”

“Did you notice that verse last Sunday by the vicar? I marked it a’purpose.” McGillvery retrieved the Book from McGillicuddy, quickly flipped over several pages to a place specially marked with a blue silk ribbon, and read, “See here…it says, ‘first comes fear of the Lord, humility, riches, honor, and life.’ After that was read, I realized this must be the Ladder of Success.”

“A ladder?” puzzled Cuddy.

“Sure, a pattern, a road, a way to walk so a fine chap could get from one place to another more easily.  I read that verse and I thought it was tellin’ about a ladder that a discerning type could climb to get from a state of poverty to a state of plenty.  I figgered we both were standing on the first rung of the ladder because we do fear our Lord and that means there must be only one rung between us and wealth beyond our wildest imaginings.”

McGillicuddy reached over, took the Book, and read the verse, “‘Fear of the Lord, humility, riches, honor, and life’…An’ what are you trying to say, Gilly?  Are you saying that since we fear the Lord the next step is to be humble?   Somehow I’ve never thought of ourselves as too awful proud.”

“But if we was really humble then we should have our gold, Cuddy.  You see, it says right here that first one must fear the Lord, then one must have humility, and then comes riches.”

“Well,” hesitated McGillicuddy.  “Ye’re not knowing how big the space is between those rungs on your Success Ladder.  I’m thinkin’ there’s a big gap between being ’umble and bein’ rich.  I know we’re God-fearing folks.  Our mum saw to that.  We always pull into the first worship place we see every worship day.  We’ve always shown respect for priest and vicar alike.  We spend regular time in the good Book.  We’ve always tried to do onto others as we’d want to be done.  But still to be quite fair, Gilly, there’s a heap of folks that have done the same and they’re not the rich of the land so far as I can see.”

Gilly shook his head stubbornly, “This is the Ladder of Success. I know we’re standing on that first rung and now we’ve got to step up to the second rung. I’m thinking we’ve got something wrong in the humility part and we’re needin’ to fix the error.  The only reason the rest of those God-fearing folks ’aven’t got their gold is they just never understood the Ladder and even if they did, they jus’ couldn’t bring themselves to be that ’umble.  Being ’umble is a difficult thing for a man to accomplish, Cuddy.”

“Well, if that be true, how do you dispose us to recondition our dispositions?” queried McGillicuddy logically.

“I was thinking on that,” replied Gilly’s ready tongue.  “The good Book says, ‘Ask and ye’ll receive.’ So I’m thinking maybe we need to be humble enough to ask.”

“I asked for our daily needs today,” countered Cuddy.

“But maybe that’s not formal enough nor specific enough.  Maybe we ought to ask on bended knee like a knight would ask a Lord—maybe with our heads kind o’ lowered and trembly like.”

Cuddy looked thoughtful and finally said, “If that will put a potato on our plate every night, let’s do it right now, Gilly.”

“All right,” delightedly replied Gilly.

“You’d better say it,” urged Cuddy, “since you’d been thinkin’ on it a powerful lot longer than I have.”

So McGillvery and McGillicuddy entered the old stone cottage, got down on the worn flagstone floor with bowed heads, clasped hands, trembly hearts, and asked most properly for all the gold they’d ever wanted and more.  They stayed there until their fire burned to black and Cuddy complained of his aching, stone-cold knees.

“Be humble,” cautioned Gilly.

“If I’m any more humble, I’ll never walk again,” chided Cuddy.

McGillvery sighed, “It’s probably enough anyway.  Were you truly humble in your heart, McGillicuddy?” he inquired anxiously.

“Humble as ’umble pie,” reassured McGillicuddy.

McGillvery sighed a satisfied sigh of relief.  “Well, it should be a powerful request with a powerful answer, Cuddy.  For it says in the Book that ‘two agreed together on earth is agreed in heaven.’”

So the brothers went to sleep with hopeful hearts and slept deeply as does everyone with happy expectations.


Chapter 3

           Land of Gone Forever

 

McGillvery was not sure what had awakened him.  He lay still and listened.  There was something missing, but he wasn’t sure what it was.  He nudged McGillicuddy who quietly groaned his protest about being awakened after such a short sleep. 

“Shhh!!!  Listen fair,” whispered Gilly.

Cuddy obliged with both ears carefully tuned for a very long time and then whispered back, “What did you hear?”

“I didn’t hear any a thing.”

“Then for all the heavens above, why did you awaken me?  You awaken people when there’s danger or when you hear something,” complained McGillicuddy in a low voice.

“It’s what I don’t hear that’s bothering me,” whispered McGillvery.

McGillicuddy listened again and then laughed quietly, “You don’t hear the sign squeaking on the back of the cart.  It means the summer breeze has quite died away.”

McGillvery listened again and agreed.  “Ye’re right.  The Irish wind is resting in its bed and the sign is dead silent.”  He looked at the stars in the sky and said, “It must be around midnight, wouldn’t you say?” but McGillicuddy had already gone back to sleep and did not reply.

Cuddy was the first to rise in the morning.  His stomach was growling quite fiercely and he went to the back of the wagon to give their potato sack a short shake just to reaffirm there was nothing in its bottom.  After verifying there was nothing for breaking the night fast, he called to Gilly, “If we head down the road, we might be finding an apple tree.  Wouldn’t be bad sup on a summer morning.”

McGillvery, who had the slighter build of the two brothers, was always looking for the next meal.  He immediately retired from his bed sack and began rolling both boys’ bedding into tight rolls for storage in the cart while McGillicuddy hitched Belle and Shade to the wagon.  The gray mare was tied to the back.  Soon their sign was squeaking in time with the music of the horses’ patient hooves as they pulled their load along pleasant roads lined with greenery.

While Gilly minded the reins, Cuddy pulled their mother’s Book from within the wagon letting it open where it may, placed a roughened finger on the page, and began reading this verse:

 “For there is a mine for silver and a place for gold that they wash out, iron is taken out of earth, and one melts stone to copper.  Man has set an end to darkness, and to every extremity he ransacks stone of blackness and gloom.  An intruding people breaks into ravines that were forgotten by feet; they suffer privations, they rove from men to a country from which bread has gone out and whose underpart turns to be like fire.  A place whose stones are malachite and which has clods of gold.  A path no bird of prey knows nor has a kite’s eye glimpsed it.  Which boldest beasts have not trodden nor lion passed along it…He explores the sources of rivers and brings to light an undiscovered thing….” 

McGillicuddy began to shiver so violently that McGillvery took notice.

“What’s troubling you, Cuddy?” asked Gilly anxiously.  “Are ye getting’ a chill?”

McGillicuddy shook his head negatively and firmly shut their mother’s Book.  “Nay,” he said in a voice that quivered in quite an unmanly manner.

Gilly pulled the horses short and examined his brother’s face.  “I’m sure knowin’ there’s somethin’ wrong with you.  Are ye that hungry then?  If it comes to that, we’ll eat that gray mare before ye get ill from the starvation.  You know you won’t starve.  We’ve still resources, Brother.”

Cuddy shook his head and with shaking voice said, “Not the hunger, Gilly.”

“Then what, man?” urged Gilly.  “Ye’re lookin’ right pale and frightenin’ me some as if ye saw the Banshee for yerself or hearing her for the both of us.”

McGillicuddy looked queerly at McGillvery.  “Nay.  Not the Banshee.  It’s the verse I just read.”

“What could ever be bothering you about a verse in Mother’s Book?  It’s a Book for giving peace not upset to men.”  Gilly examined Cuddy’s face more closely and exclaimed, “Ye are frightened.”  Gilly had great admiration for Cuddy’s courage.  Cuddy had gone away when he was young on the foreign wars and come back again.  He was a well-trained military man and a fighting man as well.  It would take a great deal to frighten his brother. 

 McGillicuddy nodded his head affirmatively and said palely, “I know a place exactly like the place that was described in the Book, Gilly.”

McGillvery was quiet and said, “I was half paying attention to the words when you were reading, Cuddy.  Could you read it again?  I’ll be paying closer attention.”

McGillicuddy opened the Book flipping many, many pages for nearly a thirty- minute span and finally said, “I can’t find it.”

“Can you paraphrase what you read?” asked Gilly.  “It was something about gold, wasn’t it?” he prodded.

“Aye,” agreed Cuddy, “It was about where gold can be found.”

“An’ what’s a verse in the good Book makin’ ye shudder like ye were receiving the Devil’s own sentence at Judgment Day when it’s a verse about where to find what we most have need of?” asked Gilly.

“Didn’t ye hear what it said at all, Gilly?  It’s a place where no bird flies.  A place where the boldest of beasts refuse to go.  A place forgotten by men’s feet.  It’s the land of the Gone Forever, Gilly.”

“Ye mean the Land of Death?”

“Nay.  The Land of the Gone Forever.”

McGillvery scratched his head ponderingly.  “The only place where one can go and not come back on his own is the land where all the dead are, Cuddy.  What kind of a land are you thinkin’ of?”

“There’s a place in Ireland, Gilly, far and away above the Shannon River where men have gone and never come back.” 

McGillvery was quite dumbfounded.  “I’ve been back and forth everywhere a man can walk and ride in Ireland.  I’ve never come upon such a land as that.  There’s not a place in all our country where the lovely birdies don’t sing nor where any animal or man fears to walk.  It’s God’s own land for all living.”  He paused, trying to understand his brother’s words, and said, “However, a man can go to sea and not come back.  ’E can go to war and not come back.  Are ye talkin’ about that kind of mean situation?”

“No,” said Cuddy.  “It’s a place with a narrow path into and no path out.”

Gilly snorted in disgust, “You’re getting’ addled in your brain, Cuddy.  If there’s a path in, it serves a double purpose as a path out.”

“Not this path, Gilly.”  Cuddy explained, “This path goes into a place where you can see the footprints of men who’ve long ago gone, but there are no prints showing they ever came out.”

Gilly thought about this for a moment and then said, “Well, it’s a simple riddle then.  It’s like the mud flats when they’re fresh wet and a person walks on them and leaves a print that dries in the mud.  Later in the afternoon when coming back all the flat is dry and a body can walk right along the prints set in the ground without leaving nary a trace.  If the mud flats were a path, it would look like travelers had gone in on the path and never come out.  But of course, the travelers did come out.  It just doesn’t show because when they returned, the mud had dried and carried none of their prints.”

Cuddy shook his head, “This is not the same, Gilly.”

“Explain yourself, then.”

“The prints are set in stone.”

When Gilly had no answer, Cuddy continued, “An’ it’s a place you can never get to the bottom of.”

Gilly was beginning to feel the tickle of hairs raising on the back of his neck.  “What do you mean?”

“When a person begins to walk down the path, he begins to get fearful and trembly inside.  The feeling grows and grows until even a grown man will feel as if he’s walkin’ into the face of Death himself.  Finally, the fear becomes so unbearable that a man has no other option than to turn and run as fast as a good man from the dev’l himself past the spot where he was first settin’ his foot.  The man will ever afterward never desire under any circumstance to go back into that place.”

Gilly said, “If we were destined to go there, Cuddy, we wouldn’t act the fools.  We’re not just any two men, Cuddy.  Maybe many men would behave in that manner, but never you and me.”

Cuddy looked at Gilly a bit wild eyed and said, “The man running and leaping out of that place was me, Gilly.”

Gilly looked startled and said, “How came it you found such a devil’s place?”

“The year I was shepherding for Lord Danby above the Shannon I came upon another shepherd from the other side of the hills.  He told me he had found a place when he was a young lad—a place he’d like to show me.  He pointed the way and I began descending.  Before I’d gone ten meters I’d the fear on me so badly that I’d turned and charged back to the top like a mad bull looking for its target.  The old man told me it was the same with him.  He couldn’t advance down the path for the fear that overwhelmed him.”

“Did the old one give you a reason for the circumstances on that path?”

“He told me he thought it was the path into the devil’s own den.”

“I’m not seein’ how Ireland’s the proper place for the door to hell to be emerging,” objected Gilly.

“Who knows?” said Cuddy, “There’s been many a tale about supernatural doings at the source of the Shannon since ancient times.”

“An’ ye’re saying the description in that verse you were reading this morning exactly describes the place you tried to enter?”

“Aye, even down to the malachite stones.”

“Isn’t it an odd thing, Cuddy, that just last night we were asking for gold and just this morning Mum’s Book opened to a place about where to find the gold?  It’s even an odder coincidence that ye’re knowing exactly where such a place be.”  Gilly looked at Cuddy and continued, “Mum always said there was no such thing as chance in the lives of those belonging to the Lord and that everything makes a complete picture in its own time.  If you’re thinking closely about the matter, it could be He showed you the place long ago seeing in advance we would be needing material sustenance in these years.  When we relied upon Him by asking His assistance, He already had everything in place for us to solve our financial woes.”

Cuddy shook his head vigorously side to side, “You’re thinking we’re supposed to be going to that place to pick up the gold we prayed for.  I’m not wanting to ever go back to that place, Gilly.  Nothing is worth returning to that place.”

Gilly laid his hand upon his brother’s arm.  “Wait a minute now.  When a fellow prays for a thing, the Lord provides a way.  But then a fellow’s got to have the gumption to go forward.  What a fellow has to provide in every transaction with the Lord is the faith to act upon His direction.  Don’t you see?  We asked like ’umble pie and received an answer this very morning.  We need to be ’umble enough to walk to that place and rescue our gold.  Humility, Cuddy, humility!”

“I’m thinking of courage, Gilly.”

“We’ll be the ’umble lads and let the good Lord have the courage,” boldly charged McGillvery.

McGillicuddy turned quite pale and looked far down the road beyond Belle and Shade’s ears.  “Ye’re not understanding what it’s like,” he said.  “We’re men of flesh and blood and we’ll not be dealing with the matters of flesh and blood.  How can a man fight something unnatural?”

“All through Mum’s Book there’s stories of folks battling the unnatural, Cuddy.  Jacob wrestled with an angel and look at the reward he received for his efforts.”

“I’m not Jacob, Gilly,” returned Cuddy.  “I’m just a poor Irish tinker.”

“A hungry Irish tinker,” said Gilly pointedly.

“We could eat the gray mare and not be hungry for many a day,” suggested Cuddy.

“An’ when we’d quite finished ’er we’d be jus’ that much poorer and still lookin’ for our next meal,” said Gilly.  He stubbornly added, “The Lord never intended for his own to be doing without.”

Cuddy sighed and conceded, “The Book is overflowing with the promises he makes for His own.  He raises lowly men from impossible circumstances to places of roomy surplus.  I’ve read it in the Book and know it must be so.  But, it’s one thing to read a fair story of others’ good fortunes at the Lord’s hands and quite another to see it for oneself, Gilly.”  He sat for a moment as if ruminating on their future and then reached across Gilly’s lap, took the wagon’s reins from his hands, gave the signal to Belle and Shade, and said, “We’ve no other place to go, have we, Gilly?”

“That’s the way I’m seein’ it, Brother.  We’ve been backed as far into a corner as we can go and have no way out now except to fight it out.”

“Then, mark the date in Mother’s Book, Gilly,” said Cuddy resignedly.  “’Tis a Friday morning in Ireland when two brothers are beginning their journey with nothing but hope in their pockets and expectations grand.  Ye best be saying yer prayers.  We’ve dangers to meet and adventures to win.  May the good Lord save us in danger and bless us true.  May He set our feet firm to walk out of the land of poverty into the better land of prosperity.”


Chapter 4

The Dreamer Begins

Many a dreamer fails to begin his journey.  He fails because he forgets that the role he plays on the human stage of life is not the planner, the adviser, or the reasoner.  The dreamer has one job—to hope, to believe, to speak the dream into being.  Let the practical planner plan.  Let the advisor count the cost.  Let the reasoner dictate the journey is ill-advised for financial reasons, for health reasons, for unforeseen circumstances, for fear of failure.  The dream, a fragile thing giving to playfully teasing for the opportunity to become reality, easily fades away into nothingness if the dreamer does not stand firm for its right to live.  The dreamer hangs his future on the coat rack of hope and with his dream as company proceeds along his way.

And, that is the peg upon which McGillvery and McGillicuddy hung the success of their journey.  They had no material resources and no education upon which to make more sure decisions—no deep, lasting circles of friends from which to draw excellent advice. The only thing they had was a dream of changing their circumstances in life, hope that it could be done, and the beginning of a path to walk.  Somewhere along the way hope must undergo a transformation into a quality with substance.  ‘Faith is the assured expectation of the things hoped for,’ says the Book.  But, directions on how to transmute hope into faith are not so very clear.  Sometimes it can take a lifetime to develop and sometimes it can come in a hurry.

The brother’s journey took them to the edge of a long lane winding past a pied cottage that McGillicuddy had not forgotten nor had he visited since his mother’s death.  Belle and Shade turned the wagon into the lane as if they were finally going home.  McGillvery made no move to correct the horses’ decision and justified the delay with their need for supplies for their journey.

“We’ve need of sustenance, Cuddy.  She had respect for our mother.  At least she’ll not turn us away.”

A large, red-haired woman emerged from the cottage doorway while three shepherd dogs came loping down the lane to greet the tinker’s wagon.  Soon a young girl of about fourteen years of age appeared from the apple orchard with an apron full of summer fruit.  Both women broke into smiles and waved the wagon into the yard.

“McGillvery and McGillicuddy!  No one hereabouts has heard of neither of you for such a long time.  I’d thought you had grown so rich from tinkering in other counties that ye’d emigrated to England to keep company with the Queen,” laughed the woman.

McGillicuddy blushed and said, “Not when we could be keeping company with Ireland’s own, Dearbháil.”

“An’ ye haven’t lost the Irish tongue, I see,” she retorted archly and quickly added,  “Then if it’s company you’re caring to keep you’d best be turning the horses to pasture and showing us your wares.  We’ve apple pastries to bake and may trade you some potatoes for some fabrics before many days have passed.”

McGillicuddy had grown as deeply crimson as red morning.  McGillvery waved their thanks while urging Belle and Shade toward pasture.  They pulled the wagon into the orchard before releasing the horses and pulled a pail of water from the spring to wash and shave.

After sincere efforts to smooth the rough edges of their appearance, Gilly noted, “Ye’re lookin’ right fine, Cuddy.”

Cuddy felt his smooth cheeks while looking around at the trimness of Dearbháil’s home and pastures.  “A fellow could smell almost decent every day with such handiness about him—running water all the year.  She’s got herself a paradise of luxuries, that’s for sure.”

Gilly reached into a small wooden box kept in a chest.  “Here,” he said, handing McGillicuddy a bottle of Bay Rum.  “It’s the gentleman’s way of announcing his arrival.  A bit of the scent on your face and ye’ll be as presentable as Lord Darroughby.”

A small giggle escaped from behind the wagon and Tamara appeared with an impish gleam in her green eyes.  “What’s that awful smell?” she asked mirthfully.

McGillicuddy looked at McGillvery, “Is it smelling?”

“Nay.  Can’t ye see the child’s teasing you?”

“Don’ be listening to him, McGillicuddy.  It smells fiercesome bad,” she retorted firmly.

McGillicuddy reopened the bottle and passed it to her.  “You wouldn’t want to be trying any then, would you?”

Tamara’s eyes lighted with joy and she quickly put two fingers to the neck of the glass jar touching a bit of the Bay Rum behind her ears.  “I’ll be borrowing it for a bit, Cuddy,” she said and just that quickly ran toward the cottage with the gentleman’s scent in her hand.

“Must not have smelled too badly,” observed McGillvery.  “The child was quick to try it and quicker still to share it.”

McGillicuddy laughed and asked, “Do we still have a bit of the Lavender packed away?  Would be a fine thing if the lassies were smellin’ a bit different from the laddies.”

McGillvery got into the wagon and soon presented two small bottles on which he tied two green silk ribbons.  “They will make a superior thank you for the apple tarts we’ll be havin’ this evening.”

McGillicuddy smiled his thanks and the two brothers headed toward Dearbháil and Tamara’s cottage.  “How different it is to be among friends than strangers, Gilly.  I’m smelling the tarts and some cabbage, too.”

They knocked politely on the cottage door and Tamara flung it open.  The smell of Bay Rum hung heavily in the room nearly overpowering the lovely smell of the tarts.  McGillicuddy’s eyes roved longingly over the plaid checked tablecloth and the deep glasses filled to brim with creamy fresh milk.  Small pats of new butter lay near each plate and man-sized napkins conveniently lay to the side of the forks.  Dearbháil noted his satisfaction and nodded her head knowingly.

“Best be sitting yourselves.  The cabbage is hot and the soda bread just coming from the oven.  Tamara’s already laid by a most enticing apple jelly this year that she’s sure to be trying on you this evening.”

The boys immediately sat themselves at table and then McGillicuddy rose apologizing.  “It’s been a long time since Mother passed away and we’ve near forgot our Christian manners, Dearbháil.”  He walked toward her while reaching into his pocket for the small bottles of lavender.  “One for you and one for Tamara.  A thank you in advance for the fine evening and kindness of your hospitality.”

Dearbháil smiled while taking the two bottles from him. “An’ Irish colored ribbons, too.  They’ll look lovely in her hair, Cuddy.”  After setting the bottles on a shelf, she handed two large skillets to him and said, “Put them on table and I’ll be bringing the bread.”

Tamara was setting the new summer’s jelly on the table and took the covers from the two skillets.  One was filled with cabbage and the other with shepherd potatoes.

McGillvery’s eyes fairly watered with anticipation as Dearbháil sat three loaves of soda bread at table and began breaking them into thick, soft, hot pieces.  Without conversation the meal began while many a hungry night was forgotten at the small table covered in green plaid.  The evening passed merrily with music provided from the harp, tinker’s stories swapped about places small and grand, tea and apple tarts served at midnight, and rolls of fabric spread for the women’s viewing at candle’s glow in the wee hours of the morning. 

Three days passed in such a fashion before McGillvery finally tugged at McGillicuddy’s elbow.  “’Tis time we were going, Cuddy.  We’ve a prayer to seek the answer to and an adventure to undertake.”

McGillicuddy was greasing the cart’s rear wheel while sitting under an apple tree and did not immediately answer.

McGillvery continued pleasantly, “If the place ye’ve been telling me of is not far from here, we need not be gone for many days.”

McGillicuddy remained silent. 

McGillvery noted his brother’s reticence and quietly added, “I’ve been thinking on it a bit.  We could leave the wagon with Dearbháil and Tamara.  Would give us a reason to stop at the cottage again when we’ve become the successful gentlemen.”

 McGillicuddy finished the rear wheel and rolled it toward the wagon for remounting.

 “We can take Belle and Shade as riding horses and leave the gray mare for Dearbháil.  She’s a way with animals and could use the mare once it’s had time to heal,” continued McGillvery.

McGillicuddy looked down at the ground while wiping the sweat from his brow.  He continued with the mounting of the wheel while McGillvery planned.

“Do ye want me to tell Dearbháil we’re on our way, then?”

“Nay.  There’s no need. I’ll be tellin’ her,” reluctantly agreed Cuddy.

The next morning the two brothers rode away from the pied cottage with Dearbháil and Tamara left standing in the door.  The tinker’s wagon sat forlornly in the apple orchard, its sign strangely quiet.  They turned to wave until the hospitable property faded away into green pastures and rolling hills.  Belle and Shade patiently plodded forward while flicking ears against the occasional straying insect.

All that day they traveled along the Shannon in quiet anticipation of the rough country ahead.  When the horses began laboring to the point of stumbling, they turned them loose, tied bedrolls and supplies to their own backs, and continued their journey until finally cresting into open meadows holding the originations of the Shannon River.

McGillicuddy said, “We’re not far now from the Sinks.  An’ it’s there, Gilly, you’ll find the place described in Mother’s Book.”

“We’re that close by then?” queried Gilly.

“That close an’ already a dread coming over me.”

“Don’t be speaking so fearfully, Cuddy.  The Lord’s men walk confident and sure, with no fear, for they’ve His promises to hold and protect them.”

“I’d fight a thousand enemies of flesh and blood, Gilly, with both arms resting on my Lord for strength.  But, what lives in the Sinks is not something that assails the body, but the spirit.”

Gilly quietly ignored Cuddy’s presentiment and asked, “Is the trail into the Sinks easily found?”

“Nay, not easily found.  But it’s a trail an Irish mum could walk, it’s that broad.  Only there’s not an Irish mum in Ireland would begin the trail if she’d the good sense the Lord gave her.  Ye’ll not walk far along that trail before every fiber in your innermost essence will tell you to reverse your course.  The man who can resist his own self telling him to turn around hasn’t been born a usual man, Gilly.”

“Two are better than one for accomplishing all things,” replied Gilly in rebuttal.  “’Tis what our dear mother always told us.  It’s the wisdom for us staying together all these years.  When one of us is down, the other’s up.  We’ve made a better showing that way.  King Solomon’s proverb says, ‘A threefold cord might never be broken.’  So faith man!  There’s you and me and the good Lord—a fine threefold cord.  We two can fight the flesh and He can fight the spirit.  So what more do we need than that?  He’s leading the way and we’re just a’following.  That’s as innocent as can be.  Harm should pass us by.  ‘Tho’ ye walk through the valley of deep shadow.’  Remember the words, Cuddy?  Do ye think they have no real meaning?  No real power?  Come now, Man.  These are the words our dear mother taught us at her very knee.  The precious words will give us the light which to follow.”

Cuddy was quiet and had hung his head, half ashamed.  “You’re right, Gilly.  I’m glad our own darlin’ mother isn’t here to see my fearful set.  But faith is a gift, Gilly.   I always felt you were more deeply imbued with it than I.”

Gilly blushed with pleasurable pride.  “I did always take a heap of store by the Book, didn’t I?”

“Aye, you did.”

The boys continued their hike long until evening shadows were slinking darkened cat’s paws over and around the rocks and knarled stumps that passed for trees in this  land of ancient lore.

“Looking Glass Lake is near here, Gilly.  I’d hoped to reach it before nightfall.  There’s a spot on the east shore where the striped trout jump at evening.  I’d had my jaw set for fresh trout all smoky from campfire.  As is, we’ll be settling for cold, baked potato this evening.”

“McGillicuddy,” consoled McGillvery, “perhaps we’ll have one of those trout on the way back from our journey.”

Cuddy grimaced. “If we make it back, Gilly.”

“Now, Cuddy, faith,” warned McGillvery.

“Ahem, faith,” repeated Cuddy.

Gilly sat on a stump along the highland trail they’d been following and looked around.  “This seems as good a place as any to be making our camp seein’s how the moon’s past full already.  We’re needin’ to catch the evening light early.”

Cuddy agreed and set his pack on the ground while Gilly pulled out one of Dearbháil’s baked potatoes.  He grimaced as he accepted the half cold potato from Gilly.  But after several diligent movements of his jaw, remarked, “Did you ever notice how much finer the potatoes from the middle of Ireland taste than those from the southern shores?”

“Aye.  It’s that black soil and the mineral springs they waters their gardens with.  Gives ’em body and taste.”

“Ye know, Gilly,” said Cuddy stretching himself comfortably alongside their sleeping rolls, “It was a fine piece of hospitality Dearbháil set before us the last three days.”

“Mmmm,” sighed Gilly.  “I’m wishing we could be going to sack with a piece of her soda bread fresh and hot from oven and Tamara’s apple jelly in our middle sections.  The young lassie’s got a way with the jellies.”

“It’s a more comfortable life they lead that’s for sure.  T’would be a good thing for us to stay rather than leave them.”

“Dearbháil’s a self-sufficient lassie.  I’m not sure she’s needin’ a tinker or two staying.”

Cuddy lowered his head and said, “There’s such a thing as a man so foolish that ’e’s no sense to know when good comes to him.  Seems like the most good we’ve had in many a day came to us this week when we decided to turn in at Dearbháil’s.  Would be an imprudent thing not to recognize the good and find a way to make ourselves a part of it.”

Gilly pictured Dearbháil’s hair—red flamin’ like an Atlantic sunset.  “I’m not one to speak ill, especially when I’m lovin’ to see Dearbháil any time of the year.  But I’ll be reminding you there’s many a good to be found besides a good meal in the evening, Brother.  Forgive my lack of charity and I’m apologizing for the outspoken thought before I’m saying it, but I’m thinking her tongue could be a mite spiteful without half trying.  Somehow whenever I’m around her I think of Mother saying, ‘If a man’s wantin’ praise, he’d best die; if he’s wantin’ blame, he’d best marry.’”

McGillicuddy grinned.  “Aye.  I see it, sure.  I’m not foolin’ myself.  In the spark of her eye and the way she sets her mouth firm-like when a turnip won’t come out of the ground on the first pull is a definite sign of strong will.  But a fine, self-sufficient woman like that is somewhat of a comfort to a man.”

“You sure don’t want to be the turnip Dearbháil’s pullin’,” observed McGillvery dryly.

“Nor pushing either,” grinned McGillicuddy.  “Only a successful man could keep those firm lines melted into softness on Dearbháil’s sweet lips.”

“Maybe she might want a successful man to be a mite more successful and then a mite more successful, Cuddy.  Then you would be right back where you started from with her.”

“Maybe.  But money can cushion things, Gilly. If anything, a man can be away on business from time to time.”

“You can do that in your tinker’s wagon.”

“Aye, but Dearbháil isn’t a woman to have her man gone all the time and there’s Tamara to think of, too.  Dearbháil’s got larger plans for her sister than inheriting a tinker’s trade.”

McGillvery was silent.  Dearbháil was pretty in the morning and when laughing had the trill of a lark in her voice, but when those green eyes flashed—no—not for him.  He’d take a brown-eyed lassie like his own mother any day.  A contented, amiable female was a jewel which maybe didn’t flash with the fire of Dearbháil, but was still a worthy treasure.  Satisfied with that easy thought, Gilly soon drowsed into a deep slumber followed shortly by his brother’s peaceful and regular breathing.

Long before daybreak, Cuddy was rousing McGillvery.  “I don’t want to be walking into the Sinks in the evening, Gilly.  So, up with you now.  It’s bad enough we didn’t travel as far as the Looking Glass on the yesterday.”

They ate their potatoes along the way and long before noon passed the lake and stood at last on the edge of Blue Mountain country.

“It’s a picture,” breathed McGillvery.

“Aye.  Only here is the Emerald Isle truly blue, Gilly.”

“Who’d of thought it?  Blue as the willow on Mum’s teapot.”

“That’s why they call it the Blue Mountains, Gilly.”  Then a little anxiously, he hoisted his canvas pack.  “We’d best not be lingering too long for we’ve got to hike part way ’round the rim of the Sinks.”

“’Tis an odd name—the Sinks.  Why’d they call them the Sinks?” asked Gilly while tightening and securing his pack.

“Some things are best left in misty dreams of long ago,” hesitantly answered Cuddy.

“Nay.  We both need be prepared for what comes, Cuddy.  Tell me the story,” urged Gilly.

Cuddy replied, “Maybe as far back a time as when the large stones were laid along the sea is the age of the tale.  In those far away days, a ship of raiders landed on western shores.  It was an unexpected thing and many a village lost.  But good men rallied and sent their most courageous warriors to help their brothers along the sea.  Fierce fighters they were and successfully saved many a village from the marauders.  But on the way home the heroes were that anxious to be home for seeing their wives and families that they took a shorter way.”

“The Sinks?” queried McGillvery.

“The Sinks,” acknowledged McGillicuddy.  “You can still see the path they took into the Sinks, but no path coming out.”

This was the second time McGillicuddy had spoken of the path they were to travel in such a manner.  “How can there be a path in and no path out, Cuddy?” asked Gilly with a bit of irritation.  “That’s cat-e-cornered talk if I ever heard and a fine beginning of a fanciful leprechaun tale for smallish children!”

“No, no,” hastily assured Cuddy.  “The footprints are still there.  You’ll see them soon.”

Gilly pondered this piece of information for a moment and then asked, “An’ the warriors never came home?”

“They never came home.”

For the first time in this adventure, McGillvery’s heart quavered a bit.  For, after all, the desire for gold must be intense to cause any man to go forward when it would be easier and more comfortable to stay in familiar territory. 

In truth, the brothers’ lot in life was not much different from the majority of men the world over.  A good wife can make strong beginnings toward mending much of the comforts a man sorely lacks with her sewing, milking, and gardening ways.  Both boys, however, could not bear the thought of coming home some years down the road to a reproachful look from an ageing wife as he delivered no coin for many days labor at tinkering.  This vision of an imaginary feminine face full of utmost sadness had made them thrust aside all thoughts of marriage for many a year and now this same face made McGillvery throw aside his momentary hesitation and fear.  His chin came up with an air of determination.  

“Well, then, they must have been fairly silly to have wandered round and round in a smallish place like that and couldn’t even find the path they originally walked on when even today it is as plain for any to see.”

“Or maybe ’tis only a path in and no path out,” repeated McGillicuddy again quietly.

                Gilly hesitated in his step, “It was the old sheepherder who told you the tale, Cuddy?  You never heard the tale from another?”

           “Never heard the story anywhere else.  He had me lead the way down the path and told me afterward he wanted to see if I felt the same about the path into the Sinks as he.”

           “’An you did?” asked Gilly, wanting to hear the story once again.

           “I turned and ran clear over the top of the ole’ man without a ‘Please, get out of my way’ before we were twenty meters down the trail.”

           “Did you go that far down onto the path, then?”

           “Aye, but in truth it’s jus’ a little way.  The trail seems long as if it extends into forever.”

Gilly strode forward albeit more slowly and less willingly than before.

It was Cuddy who finally turned and urged him, “Come now, Man. We’re nearly there.”

Gilly looked ahead and saw a wide patch of clouds just skimming along the ground.  “It looks like I could near walk on top o’ them,” he wonderingly mused.

Cuddy was scanning the ground carefully while walking around the edge of the lovely white expanse floating inconsequentially alongside the edge of mountain grasses.

Finally, Cuddy motioned with his hand.  “Here.  It’s not changed.  This is the place, Gilly.  See, the stone path leading down into the clouds.”

“I can see why ye were afraid, Cuddy.  It would be hard seeing where to put one’s foot in all that cloud.  A body would be fearful of falling off the path into a deep valley or miry place where ’e couldn’t ever be found again.”

“Nay.  ’Tis not so.  As soon as ye step into the cloud, it vanishes.”

“That’s not likely, Cuddy.”

“Follow me and I’ll show you the reality of the matter.  But,” and he held his hand out to Gilly, “you must know, Gilly, you will be overpowered with the desire to return from whence you came.”

Gilly noted Cuddy’s serious blue eyes and nodded.  “Let’s make a pledge we’ll not turn back, Cuddy.  We’ve got to claim our fortune.  The Word promised it would be found in a place such as this.”

Cuddy lowered his eyes and clasped his hands.  “I’ve no words to tell you how it will be.  These many years later I still feel it.  Ye’ll just have to experience it for yourself.  But, I’ll go ahead as long as you will follow.  Our dear Lord protect us and bless us, his simple men.”

Gilly’s eyes moistened a bit.  Unlike Cuddy, this was the most adventure he had ever undertaken.  It was requiring more courage than he had ever needed in his entire life.  “Thank you for going first, Cuddy.  You being a military man and more bold than I.  If you lead, I’ll do my best to follow and may God bless the head and the tail of this most earnest party.”

Cuddy nodded, turned toward the path, and instantly disappeared.  Gilly quickly followed and true to Cuddy’s word, above them was a ceiling of brightly lit cloud and in front of them was a broad, stone path with the record of myriads of feet permanently set in stone.  The footprints descended.  No footprints came back. 

As the boys progressed down the path an increasing tightness gripped their chests while every hair on their bodies raised as does the hair on a dog when it is alerted of extreme danger.  

Finally, Gilly gasped, “Cuddy!”

“I can’t turn ‘round, Gilly, for if I do I’ll jump right over you and run all the way to the top of the Blue Mountains.”

Gilly breathed heavily.  A profuse sweating broke on his body.  He felt like a man sitting in the fiercely hot radium pots of the Southern Irish shores.

“I don’t seem to get my breath, Cuddy.”

“It’s the Dread on you, Gilly.  You need to think of the words, Gilly, or we’ll never make it beyond this point.”

“Be…of…good...courage…little flock…,” whispered Gilly.  “Fear…not…I have approved of…giving you…the kingdom.”

“Every perfect…present…comes…from above,” struggled Cuddy.

“Ask…of the Father…for wisdom…for He gives…generously…to all.”

And so the brothers marched deeper and deeper, past where no animals dared wander, following the petrified footprints of a band of long ago warriors into the black stillness of the Sinks—a place where no breeze played, no bird sang, no vulture or eagle drifted.  The trees and flowers melted away and the earth became nothing but hardened, glassy-like rock—slippery, sharp, and treacherous. 

As suddenly as the brothers stood on the floor of the smooth rock, the Dread lifted.  Gilly breathed deeply and wiped his perspiring brow.  “We made it, Cuddy.  We must say a thank you prayer for our dear Lord’s provision for our lives.”

After a short prayer, the boys looked around the unearthly landscape, and Cuddy asked, “What now?”


Chapter 5

Peculiar Places

Everywhere the boys looked, glassy, volcanic lava lay in smooth shaven shards.  Gilly shivered a bit while wondering aloud at the time of day.  “It seems midday with the bright cloud for sky.  Not knowing how the light sets in this peculiar place, perhaps we’d best be making our way to a safe place for night’s camp, Cuddy.”

Cuddy nodded.  It had occurred to him that the bright light on the path had dimmed to quite a degree at the bottom of the Sinks.  “I’ve not been seeing where the band of good men went, Gilly.  Their footprints have quite disappeared.”

Gilly looked everywhere in astonishment.  “It’s almost as if they walked into thinnish air, Cuddy.”

“Aye.  Perhaps it would be best if we could make a nest high like a bird for this evening’s rest.  Are ye seeing a ledge anywhere we might climb to for safety?”

Gilly looked carefully along the sheer face of the black cliff in front of them.  “Nay.  We’d best navigate the base of this dark mountain for a bit.  Perhaps we’ll find such a place as ye’re lookin’ for.”

Cuddy’s military training cautioned him to mark the trail out of the Sinks with a large pile of rock.  While Gilly had made fun of the silliness of the band of warriors losing their way in the Sinks, neither he nor Cuddy thought they would be any luckier than those legendary heroes when they wished to leave.

“After all,” reasoned Cuddy, “if two heads are better’n one, hundreds of minds working on a puzzle should have been that much more effective in unraveling difficult problems.  At first glance it seems their many minds were ineffectual in resolving their dilemma.” 

As an added precaution, he pulled his mother’s locket from his side pocket and hung its silver strand atop their stone pile.  “She always loved us, Gilly, and she’ll lead us back should we have any trouble.”

“The Good Lord will do the leading,” corrected Gilly and then smiled.  “But it’s a good idea.  See how it gleams against the black rock.  We’ll sure not miss it when passing this way again.”

No sooner had the boys set out along the bottom’s edge of the cliff then that quick Cuddy hollered, “There.  See.  A smallish cave midway up the cliff’s face.  An’ a few handholds for us to make it with ease.  If we can reach that, Gilly, we’ve a safe night’s sleep and can viewpoint this bottomland.  There may be water near the center of the Sinks or some other useful item for our adventure.”

The cave was smallish with enough room for a tall man to stand in.  Ten men might comfortably sleep on the floor which was made of the same material as the Sink’s base—smooth, glassy-black rock.  Surprisingly, a pool of clear water bubbled in the extreme back of the cave.  The boys stood marveling at that small wonder.

“It bubbles, but puts forth no stream, Cuddy,” observed Gilly.

“A phenomenon I’ve never seen quite the like of in any of my travels, Gilly,” agreed Cuddy.

“Is it a slight popping noise the bubbles are making?” asked Gilly.

“Aye.  I’ve heard of such waters in Normandy.  Sparkling waters. They are sought for strong ability to restore health.  Some call them life-giving waters.”

Gilly turned to walk toward the cave’s entrance for the purpose of surveying the Sinks, but a soft Irish mist had risen from the nape of the cliff to envelop all they might have seen. 

“It’s odd how with fresh water and an Irish mist there’s no greenery or bluery here,” commented Gilly.  “I’ve half a notion not to drink the water.  Maybe it boils up from some poisonous recess deep within the earth.”

“An’ maybe it’s as pure as can be.  For what could grow on this black glass, Gilly?” inquired Cuddy.

“Our Irish moss could grow anywhere there’s a mist, Cuddy, and you don’ see it growin’ now, do ye?”

“No, I don’t.  But we may discover reason enough by the morrow.  For now, let’s eat our potatoes and sleep off the Dread of the Sinks.”

While they ate, the mist raised to the level of the cave’s entrance.  It looked thick enough to walk on.

“’Tis a beautiful thing, Gilly,” said Cuddy.

“An’ sure ’tis.  Makes a fellow properly sleepy.  I’ll be saying my evening prayers and wishing you a good night, Cuddy.”

“Good night, Gilly.”

Both boys rolled into their blankets—the mist at their feet, the bubbling spring at their heads.

It must have been along toward morning when Gilly had the oddest dream of the earth shaking, groaning, and cracking.  The cave’s floor split open to reveal stair steps just neatly carved with the bubbling spring cascading down them like a regularly paced waterfall.  He seemed to feel Cuddy shaking him, telling him to get up, and look. 

Their voices echoed oddly as they engaged in a hurried conference over the open stair steps.

“Where did they come from?”

“I’m sure not knowing.  It seems an otherworldly invitation.”

“If we accept the invitation, we may not have the power to retreat should we decide the party wasn’t one to our liking,” said Gilly fearfully.  “You spoke of the Land of the Gone Forever.  This may be it.”

“We’ve come this far,” reasoned Cuddy.  “An invitation requests either a yes or a no for an answer. There is not a between response.”

“What will happen should we say no?” questioned Gilly.  “We are not in the safe keeping of our own county to know the rules and ways of saying no.”

“’Tis a good point, Gilly.  In our own land, ‘Yes’ is usually the best answer when invited.  It bespeaks of graciousness,” thoughtfully spoke Cuddy.

“Then, let’s hope graciousness is a valuable quality in this land,” said Gilly as he reached a hand toward Cuddy for the beginning of a walk into depths unknown.

They joined hands and began the treacherous walk down the steps to see what was at the bottom.  The water made the steps uncommonly slippery.  The brothers soon released their grip in order to grope slowly and carefully along the walls toward an ever increasing brightness until at last they were in a room so bright it seemed nothing could be distinguished except light.  With time’s passing the brothers became aware of shimmering yellow colors within the white light.  They strained their eyes to focus and found they were trying to see mountains of golden nuggets as abundantly present as the acres of harvested grapes in Normandy.

Gilly dropped to his knees and scooped handful after handful of the golden clusters into his cupped hands, letting them fall easily into glistening, rounded mounds.

Cuddy whispered, “By the Saints, Gilly, we’ve become the successful men.”

“It’s an answer to prayer given from true men’s hearts to a good Lord with ears to hear and a loving disposition to show where to be finding a future.  It’d be a fittin’ time to give thanks, Cuddy.”

“Nay,” objected Cuddy suddenly.  “That’s like saying your thanks before your meal instead of after, Gilly.  How can you give thanks for something ye haven’t yet received?  Better to eat it and then give thanks.  That’s the proper way.  We’re not home with this gold yet.  Have you thought, a man can only pack so much gold because of its heaviness?  We didn’t bring a little one wheeled cart nor anything stronger than our knapsacks in which to haul our treasure, Gilly.”

Gilly stopped running his fingers through the golden nuggets for a moment.  “It seems we didn’t plan well, Cuddy.  If we had truly believed our Lord, we would have brought the tools necessary to take up what He promised.  I’m that much sorry for my lack of faithful planning.”  He stood upright and surveyed the room.  “Ah! Here’s what we’re needin’—two rucksacks of uncommon durability.”

Cuddy admitted these bags were well made for the job and, appropriating one to himself, began to fill it brimful.  It was barely all a stout man could carry, but it would do.

Gilly did the same.  “’Tis a very great shame to leave so much behind, Cuddy.”

“Aye, ’tis.  But now this will do and there’s no saying we won’t be able to come again.  What’s this now?  Seems a bit quieter in the room.”  Cuddy turned to look and said, “I’m wondering where the water went that was cascading down the steps?”

True enough the water was no longer there.  In its place a white cat of tremendous stature was slinking down the stairs as evenly and smoothly as the water had flowed before.

There were no cats to match the like of this cat in all Ireland, of that Gilly and Cuddy were certain.  But, this was the Blue Mountains beyond the Shannon, Looking Glass Lake, and deep into the Sinks.  This was a place where one might find unusual things such as roomfuls of finely clustered gold nuggets and it seemed—white cats of tremendous size.  And since this was a dream, Gilly stepped in front of the cat and addressed it firmly.

“Scat, puss.  Scat.  Begone with ye.  We’re two Irish lads a leavin’ this county for our own.”

The Cat stood erect on his hindmost feet and struck through the air with extended claws as sharp as the talons of eagles.  Cuddy had once seen a rabbit clutched in such claws.  He shivered at the thought—for he and Gilly were in proportionate size to the Cat as prey to the hunter.  Gilly was so very close to the Cat that he was looking under it’s chin and there saw a necklace of gold round its neck with a queer kind of writing engraved on the nameplate.  The room suddenly shook with a roaring sound louder than a multitude of waterfalls. Gilly found himself gazing into the pinkish depths of that white carnivore.  Past the rows of pearly sharp teeth, he saw a tongue so rough it seemed as the scales of a salmon roughed all backwards.

“Perhaps scat was not the appropriate term, Gilly,” whispered Cuddy. 

The shock of looking so close and so far down the throat of the creature quite addled Gilly’s brain for thinking what else to say.

Cuddy looked steadily at the Cat and began humming a consoling tune, “Here now, pussy.  Be a nice pussy.  Purr a little song, pussy,” to no effect.  The Cat merely swished its tail, roared again, and leapt over the boys’ heads to the far side of the room.  It began pacing back and forth, watching both boys with yellow, glittering eyes—eyes not unlike the gold it seemed to guard.

The situation the boys found themselves in, tightened its severity when the water  resumed its quiet flow over the steps assuring an ascent out of the cavern would be treacherous business loaded as they were with golden clusters of their future.

“What’ll we do, Cuddy?” whispered Gilly.

“We could start backing toward the steps and retreat slowly and carefully one by one until we’ve reached the cave’s mouth and continue a retreat to the path out of the Sinks.  Never show fear you know.  The proper sort of attitude can quite save the day in the face of danger.”

Because Gilly greatly admired Cuddy’s tactical expertise he naturally and promptly agreed it was quite the proper thing to do.

They began a backward two-step to the stairway never taking their gaze from the eyes of the Cat.  Suddenly, with the rush of a stiff breeze, the room filled with one word.

“Thieves.”

Gilly stopped.  “Who said that?  Who said ‘Thieves’?”  For even in the face of such uncertainty it was inconceivable that anyone should accuse the two brothers of such a base condition as thief.

“Tinkering thieves,” the voice repeated.

“Nay, not thieves and never thieves,” disagreed Gilly.

“And what’s your definition of thieves, McGillvery?” a husky voice whispered.

“’E knows me name, Cuddy,” whispered Gilly in astonishment. Peculiar as that would seem in the natural order of their Irish world, in a dream it could be quite proper for a cat to know such things.

“’Tis not the primary issue here,” whispered Cuddy. 

Gilly nodded in agreement.  This cat had leveled a bitter charge against McGillvery’s character and, worse yet, on the spotless reputation of McGillicuddy.  Of course, that was uncalled for in the real world or in the Sinks.  One’s name before others is more valuable than any earthly treasure.  Once sullied, a name is often in a state of dishonor for one’s entire life and therefore must be guarded and defended assiduously.

So, Gilly drew himself to his full meter and a half height, straightened his hat, and looked the Cat straight in the eye as only a man of good conscience can.

“A man can only be charged with thievery if he’s taken something not rightfully his.  And ye can see we’ve only the clothes on our backs and these rucksacks.”

“But what’s IN those rucksacks?” spat the Cat.

“Nary a thing but the gold from this room,” truthfully spoke McGillvery.

The Cat leapt across half the room toward the brothers.  He stood on his hindermost legs as bears sometimes do when ready to fight and began speaking as if standing in a court of law delivering the final charges before the judge gives sentence. 

“You don’t belong here.  You’ve no right to the gold.  I’ve no Passport of Entrance for you.  You passed the Dread without legal permission.  I’ve no Certificate of Duty Free Export for two rucksacks of gold for a McGillvery or a McGillicuddy.  Without the appropriate documentation, it is obvious to me you are both thieves and not only thieves but liars as well.  The Supreme Punishment is in order.”

Such a long charge of infractions of the Rules of the Sinks quite silenced Gilly.  But Cuddy, having been in the military and knowin’ all about infractions of rules, countered with, “Ye know as well as I that paperwork sometimes gets lost in the jungly maze of paper handlers.  The Passport of Entrance may have delayed in processing.  We gave the proper words to the Dread for we entered, didn’t we?  And as for Certificate of Duty Free Export, who is to say whether you yourself properly recognized it?  It may have been misfiled, mislaid, misjudged, or misread.”

The Cat narrowed its yellowish eyes and began a swishy twitching of its tail.  Gilly had seen his mother’s own tabby do quite the same before pouncing on unfortunate quarry.

“Even if you had all the proper documentation,” the Cat accused slowly, “you’ll both be found guilty for you’ve broken the Ultimate Law.”

At this, Gilly more than found his tongue, spluttering at the indignity of the accusation,  “Broken the Ultimate Law?  And name me this law, dear Cat.”

“You’ve broken the Ultimate Law of Plenteous Possession,” solemnly announced the Cat.

“We’re great admirers of all law,” protested Gilly.  “We’re understanding the importance of law in society.  We read our mother’s Book regularly to keep from breaking the laws peculiar to our Lord.  What are the specifics of this law you are accusing us of breaking?”

“The Law says those who do not work, shall not eat.  It also says, ‘Go to the ant, you lazy idler and observe his ways.’”

“We’ve always worked for our food and idle bread we’ve never eaten,” remonstrated Cuddy hastily.

“But you’ve not earned this gold,” purred the Cat, creamy and velvety soft words spoken with a sucking twist of satisfaction.  “Gold shall not go with the man who has not worked for it.”

Gilly looked at Cuddy and Cuddy looked at Gilly.  No more words came to them. For an Irishman whose very tongue is linked to celestial inspiration this meant only one thing—a departure of words meant the Cat could pronounce sentence and execute judgment.

“Pray, Cuddy, pray,” whispered Gilly.  “If a loosening of our tongue doesn’t come, we’re to perish amidst all these riches without ever tasting the Earl’s sweet wine and with no one ever to miss us.”

Cuddy thought of Dearbháil and Tamara.  Nay, not even Dearbháil would often wonder what had happened to the two tinkers, McGillvery and McGillicuddy.  Suddenly, help from a place far and yet near came, and Cuddy had masterful resolution grip his heart and mind.  He must have the gold to be sure, but more importantly, he had to leave this land whole and alive for he intended to obtain a place in the world where at least one person would cry over his passing.  And with that determined resolve, his tongue was loosened.

“Wait, Cat.  You charge us with not earning the gold, but now we’ve done something a bit better.  We’ve asked.  ’Tis that same thing if you’ve a rich Uncle and you ask and he gives you some of the gold, you see.  We asked the Owner of all the gold.”

Gilly looked in amazement at Cuddy.  How well he spoke!  It was true.  They’d asked the Owner of all the gold in the material universe for some of His gold.  Gilly sighed a deep sigh.  How true it was—two heads were better than one.

But the Cat advanced toward them extending one talon and then another reminding Cuddy all for the world like a first sergeant he once knew who flexed his fingers before announcing a particularly punishing march.

“Asked, did you?” sneered the Cat, seeming to smile. “And what did the Owner of the gold say?  I’ll warrant He didn’t answer you, yea or nay.  For I know all matters must go through proper channels.  The paperwork must be done correctly and little unimportant tinkers like yourselves do not have access to The Owner of the Gold.” 

The Cat licked his lips, “I think you’re presumptuous.  That’s what you’ll be—two Irish crocks full of presumption a’walking on two legs and if that weren’t enough, you’re greedy, voracious, and audacious.  You know what those evil passions cause old men, young men, kings, and peasants—a peck of troubles and an untimely death.  That’s what it’ll lead to boys—a premature and unholy demise.  Now leave the rucksacks and back up the steps.  I’ll turn and let this all be a misunderstanding.  Forgive and forget I will if you’ll set for home.”

Gilly hitched his rucksack a little higher on his back and whispered to Cuddy, “If we set the gold down now, we’d be admitting the Cat was right in all its accusations.  But we’re honest lads who came all this way on faith, belief, and hope in our hearts.  We took leave of our business to do this business and we’re duty bound to finish this business.  Besides, Cuddy, we made it past the Dread.”

Cuddy was half listening to Gilly, all the while watching the Cat, but he seemed to come alive at Gilly’s last words, “That’s right!  We made it past the Dread.  The fact we made it is a kind of passport and we’re a’standing in this room, Gilly, and that’s a kind of passport and I’m thinking maybe some of the things happening to us right now are a kind of test, Gilly.”

Cuddy stood as still as stone, then leapt at the Cat and shouted, “Boo!”

The Cat screeched like a tabby with its tail run over by a cart and vanished into thin air.

“Why, Cuddy!” Gilly marveled.  “However did you know what to do?”

Cuddy grinned.  “I remembered a little sergeant who was all the time huffing and puffing while accusing folks of this and accusing folks of that.  One day a young woman, half his size, shook her finger in his face and told him he ought to be ashamed of the way he was carrying on.  Somehow I seemed to see that sergeant’s face on that cat and I remembered how that sergeant melted right into the floor as easily as ice on summer day when that tiny woman took him to task.  That cat was all meow, Gilly.  I guess our way has been cleared of all obstacles.”  He looked around him wistfully. “My, how I hate to leave all o’ this.”

“Seems to me we’re not leaving it, Cuddy,” observed Gilly.  “We’re the only lads in the whole world who know where the Lord’s gold is.  We’re just leavin’ it in His keepin’ until we’re needin’ more of it.”

Cuddy surveyed the room.  “Aye,” he said thoughtfully.  “If we could take it all, we would get the indigestion just trying to keep it from thieves and predators outside the Sinks.” 

Gilly smiled.  “Perhaps the Dread won’t be so fearsome the next time we endeavor to pass.”

“An’ maybe the Dread won’t even be showing himself since we vanquished him so squarely.”

“Maybe so.  At all points of view, this here’s a secure place in which to leave our inheritance.”

“Then, we’ve need to be going home, Gilly,” said Cuddy and then corrected himself.  “Or to a place we’d like to call home for the rest of our days.”

The brothers climbed the stairs to the cave’s floor, gathered their bedrolls, and quickly clambered down the face of the cliff with the Irish mist lowering its table in perfect harmony with their descent.  They followed round the base of the cliff until they arrived at the place where they were sure they had marked the trail out of the Sinks.  After a diligent search, they stopped with great consternation showing on their faces.

“Sure ’twas here,” spoke Gilly.

“Nay, the silver locket would be shining atop the pile of rocks we made.  I’m seeing no trail,” contradicted Cuddy.

“Perhaps was a bit further on,” said a voice.

Startled, the boys turned to see a Father most properly dressed in black robes with a hint of rosary beads hanging from his pocket.

“Why, Father!” exclaimed Cuddy aghast. “An’ I was thinking we were alone and here we are with a materialization of profound spiritual guidance in front of our innocent eyes.  Now, did ye come down the same path we came in on, then?”

The Father ignored Cuddy’s question.  “Ye seem to have a heavy load to carry, boys.  Are ye needing some help with it?”

Cuddy and Gilly sat their packs on the volcanic glass and said, “No,” in unison.

The Father stepped forward quickly and lightly kicked the rucksacks.  “An’ what would ye be wanting to be taking from this land to the land above the clouds?  Are ye involved in an undertakin’ not to our Lord’s liking?  Perhaps taking something not rightfully yours?”

“We’ve always been lads of the church and do truly love our Lord in common,” protested Cuddy.  “We’ve paid for what’s in those bags with faith, dear Father, and not a smallish bit of it neither.”

“Aye,” joined Gilly.  “This whole undertaking should be most to our Lord’s liking for it was a prayed for thing and a worked for thing.  It cost us our tinker’s inheritance to make this journey.  McGillicuddy,” he encouraged, “let’s be showing hospitality to our guest—share a potato with the dear Father.”

McGillicuddy reached into his pocket and carefully cut a potato into three pieces being sure to noticeably offer the Father the larger share.  The Father moved forward and sat down on the two bags biting into the cold potato with a grimace.  “I’ve come to give ye good advice which I hope you’ll take, Brothers.  Gold was never made for man.  Many more a curse has gone with a pot of gold than a blessing.”

“An’ why would ye be saying such a thing, Father?” incredulously asked Gilly.  “We’re well knowing what a blessing a pot of gold could be for fellows such as we.”

“An’ are ye asking the question from your heart due to not really knowing, Gilly?”

Gilly was quite surprised to find the Father knew his name, but answered truthfully, “Aye, from a pure heart.  We’re not able to see how gold could ever be anything but a blessing.”

“Then I’ll answer so’s you’re understanding well.  You see, not many a man’s so careful and disciplined of his actions that he’ll procure blessings for his soul while in the presence of opulent abundance.  In fact, boys, did ye know now that many a wealthy man has said, ‘great wealth is a curse rather than a blessing’?”

McGillvery answered, “In the company we walk in, dear Father, no one’s ever had the opportunity to find out for themselves whether that be true or not.”

“Believe me, lads, it’s true, it’s true,” said the old one shaking his head sadly.  “Ahhh! But how little prepared be a man for the handling of so much fiscal responsibility as ye both are carting away here.  Much evil has occurred when wealth was gotten and this,” he indicated the bags, “ill-gotten—all at once.  Fellows, money’s a thing you need to be growing into, little by little.  ’Tis always the best way.”

McGillvery had on his forehead a wrinkle or two of deep concern.  “Father, never would McGillicuddy nor I wish to compromise our standards of trueness and fair dealin’ with other folks just because we was more prosperous.  It would be an unthinkable thing on our part to return evil to anyone when ’tis in our power to do good.  With the gold, seems like we’d be better set up to do good than other folks would be.  And as far as coming into prosperity all of a sudden-like, well, we’ve been un-prosperous for many a year now.  In fact by most standards I suppose even when we were wee little ones, prosperity walked around the corner from us and never bothered casting a glance behind.  So we’ve had many a year to prepare for this day.”

The Father listened quietly and said, “Don’t be overmuch righteous, lads.  What ye think ye plan to do before ye’re sprinkled with gold dust and what ye actually do after  being sprinkled with the dust…well…let me tell you about Gingus McQuee.”  And the Father began a story which would jerk the tear out of the hardest eye.

“Gingus McQuee had a digging up on the high side of a mountain.  He’d dug and he’d scraped for many a year with no such luck as Ireland bestows upon true lads and lassies.  And in fact if it weren’t for the bonnie Ellen, his wife, who grew the gardens and saved the food, McQuee would have had nothing to eat for most of his life.  And then, by the sweet angel’s whispering promise, McQuee came running out of his mine shaft one day leaping and shouting for joy and swinging the dear Ellen round and round for he’d at long last found a most sumptuous pocket of gold.  Ellen cried a colleen’s tears of happiness.  Her patience, loyalty, belief, and love had at long last been rewarded.  She urged Gingus to go to town and trade for his needs and asked but one thing for herself.  ‘Would ye bring me a red dress, Gingus?’  As Gingus set out for the town far below, he grandly cried, ‘Ellen, not just one dress but a hundred all in the Queen’s velvets and satins.’  A month went by and then another month and another.  Poor Ellen was that frantic with worry.  One day she spied Gingus trudging up the mountain bareheaded, barefooted, and empty handed. ‘Why, Gingus!’ her loyal lips cried. ‘Come in, my dearie.  Whatever misfortune has befallen you?’  Gingus told her his tale of woe—card gamblers who had cheated him and wild women who had plied him with drink. ‘Ah, Ellen, I was bamboozled and befuddled out of me whole pot o’ gold.’  Ellen sat and thought for a long while, bravely covering her disappointment.  Finally, she said, ‘Gingus, there’s but one thing to do.  There’s still the vein of gold.  We’ll work as before and perhaps for our diligence, luck will shine on us again.  Next time we’ll not be so foolish.’  So Ellen went back to tending her garden and Gingus to following the vein and by God’s unfathomable favor he shortly dug another pocket of gold from the mine’s interior.  ‘A hundred red velvet dresses for Ellen,’ Gingus cried, once again, as he left the mountain’s side for the city.  ‘No, but one will do, Gingus,’ sweet Ellen urged.  ‘And do be careful, my love.  Remember to fear God and be true.’”

The ancient Father looked intently at McGillvery.  “Now what do you think happened?”

McGillvery beamed.  “Providence provided good fortune twice so must have been an honest mistake on the part of Gingus McQuee—not being wise to the wiles of the world, he naturally could have fallen the first time, but the second time—not ever Father.”

The Father looked at McGillvery for a long moment.  McGillicuddy, who had also been listening to this great moral lesson, gave a start of surprise.  What was it he saw on the old man’s face?  There was something there that reminded him of someone.  He felt a touch of uneasiness—that indescribable feeling that begins in your middle as a churning and spreads to your outer parts causing goose bumps to rise.  McGillvery, however, totally lost in the spiritual oneness he felt with the Father was urging, “Go on.  What really did happen?”

“It’s so sad I don’t know quite if I can finish the story.”

“Oh,” replied a saddened Gilly.  “Gingus did not resist the temptations of evil?”

“He did not,” spoke the Father.

“And what about poor Ellen alone on the hillside waiting for her red dress?”

“She waited for one month, two months quietly, but long into the third month the roses began to leave her cheeks and the brightness of her eyes became as the dullness of the earth she worked in.”

“And?” queried Gilly.

“The poor lass in weakness of a deeply hurt spirit took to her bed not eating or drinking and at last died…alone…of a pitiably broken heart.  For she realized you see, she had loved her all for someone who loved not her.”  The Father paused for a long moment and then quietly added, “Dear Ellen’s goodness was so pure that even to her last breath she did not call upon the Saints to curse Gingus McQuee.  Not a sigh of reproach passed those sweet lips.”   The Father clasped his hands and slightly bowed his head at the finish of his tale.

McGillvery spoke out in a rage,“This Gingus McQuee should have been stripped and hung by his thumbs for to let England’s black crows tweak off his flesh by day and the Leprechaun King’s owls by night.  By the Saints above it’s an awful story ye tell!”

The Father waited just a bit allowing Gilly to calm so he would be sure and hear the lesson of the story.  “But Gilly, the real point of the story is: It could be you.”

“Not ever, Father!” exclaimed Gilly in horror.  “Be ye cursing me now?  Not ever would I do such a thing.”  Gilly turned to Cuddy, “Speak up, Man.  This is an awful story of deceit and wickedness.  Never have we two brothers, all the time of our living, done anything to hurt our fellow man.  We’ve always turned the other cheek when being spited and we’ve humbled our heart in every instance in order to be at peace with all those we meet.”

Cuddy raised a hand, “Hush, Gilly.  We’ve no wife or children.  We’ve only ourselves.  The story’s no application to our situation.  Quit your sad stories now, Father.”

“I know.  I know,” placated the Father.  “But it is something to wonder about now isn’t it?  How would Gingus McQuee ever explain to the Most High Judge above when he’s standing before the Great Judgment seat and the High Judge shows sweet Ellen’s tears, the darkest circles under her pale eyes—eyes of famine, Gilly.”

Now Cuddy, who had been watching the Father, said, “Father, I see a lovely silver strand ’round your neck.  Would you bring it out now and we’ll be saying a prayer for God’s good graces to be extended unto our souls and for a special saint to be sent as a watch-guard against an unholy heart.  Then with your blessing, and a point in the right direction, we’ll be taking our leave.”

The Father ignored McGillicuddy and spoke directly to McGillvery, “Sons, leave it be.  I plead with you.  Only evil can possibly come of it—even the good teacher said to be content with each day’s sustenance.”

McGillvery, eyes moistened with tears, turned to McGillicuddy, “It’s true.  Often I’ve read it in the Book, Cuddy.  Perhaps it’s best to leave the bags now—for why should we bring evil down on our heads?”

“Why, now McGillvery,” countered McGillicuddy, “the Book says the Lord owns all the silver and the gold.  Isn’t He a fair friend of ours?  Then He wouldn’t be a’mindin’ if we took our fair share.”

The Father moved a bit to catch McGillvery’s eye, “The Book says money is the root of all evil.”

McGillicuddy spoke quickly, “It also says, McGillvery, that wealth is a stronghold in a day of distress and in those bags is our stronghold.  The good Lord has seen us this far and we’d better not be disappointing Him by leaving our gold behind—t’would mean all His help thus far went to a couple of spineless fellows who don’t know how to carry through on a plan.  Now we’ve never been that sort, Gilly.  Let’s have the dear Father take the silver strand from around his neck and pronounce a blessing, Gilly.  After all, one can look for the doom, gloom, and evil in every situation.  But we’re at the bottom of the stairs and this Father’s doing a fair job of telling us there’s no use trying to climb them because we’ll fail and fall to the bottom in a heap again.  It’s a true story that we may fail at certain points and not be all we should be in every situation.  For a time we may even be too proud with all our gold.  But Gilly, we’ve got to at least try.  Wasn’t that one of the reasons we loved the Book’s story of old King David?  He sinned a mighty, mighty sin when he was wealthy; but when he realized what he’d done, he begged forgiveness, got forgiveness, and didn’t repeat the action again.  Why couldn’t we be like King David, Gilly?  An error is an error whether one’s rich or poor.”

“Tsk, tsk, Gilly,” spoke the Father.  “What your Cuddy doesn’t realize is that wealth gives you much more latitude to error.  You can affect many more people and do ever so much more harm.  Now if you’d been born to it, you’d have had the training, my son, and would handle the responsibility in a much more worthy manner.”

Cuddy was growing red round his neck. “What you’re saying, Father, is that all rich men were rich forever back to the beginning of time.  But I’m a’telling you the lines of those ‘born and trained to it’ all began with someone who wasn’t born and trained to it.  Someone had to start out just like Gilly and me—poor and of no account, no education, no potato on their plate—and they had to go asking the good Lord for a favor and the Lord had to put his ear down and listen and show them a way.  That’s how those lines got started.  This very day Gilly and I are getting ready to start our line of future prosperous progeny ‘born to it’ with these two bags.  So, Father,” and Cuddy stepped up to the old man, “I’ll be taking this and taking your blessing, too.” 

McGillicuddy tore the silver strand from around the old man’s neck as McGillvery began to protest. “No! Cuddy!  Mind your…,” and stopped.  In McGillicuddy’s hands was their own mother’s silver locket.

“He’s a fraud, Gilly—just like the Cat.  He was sent here to persuade us we were not worthy of the gold, but we ARE, Gilly—as much as anyone else and we have to believe we’ll do the right thing, Gilly, ’cause just as belief in the good Lord is important, belief in oneself is important, too.  And,” he said turning to the Father, “if ye’ll be stepping away from our gold, Father, I’m betting the path with our stones marking the way leaving the Sinks will appear behind you.  I think, Father, you cast a maze upon us and we would be walking right past the exit and wasting our energies on foolish meanderings if your purposes were to succeed.”

The Father scowled.  “Ye’ll not be free yet to enjoy the gold.  You know not what you bit into lads.  In those two bags are ulcers, jealousy, and murder.  You’re liable to meet with all three and be glad to cast those bags away and go back to being the tinkers ye are and ever shall be.  Whoever heard of a tinker raising himself in the world?” he sneered.  “It can’t be done.”

McGillicuddy hoisted McGillvery’s pack onto Gilly’s back and helped himself into his.  “Nothin’s impossible with the Lord and He’s a loyal one to help His friends.  We’ll be bidding you good day, Father.”

The piles of rocks were behind the ancient priest.  McGillicuddy and McGillvery began the long ascent out of the Sinks not noticing the permanent prints they were leaving behind.  But the old Father noticed and frantically began scuffing at the prints, trying to obliterate the fact that two persons had not only come into the Sinks but were successfully leaving the Sinks.

                                                                        Chapter 6

                   Mankind’s Pain

McGillicuddy and McGillvery weren’t long out of hearing range when the Father cried, “Cat!  Come quickly.  Look what’s happening.  Their footprints leaving have become as permanent as the ancient band of warriors’ footprints coming.  Oh, Cat,” he moaned, “others will find this place and when they see someone, and two someones at that, went down and came back, they’ll gather the courage to follow and soon Cat, all our gold will be gone.  There’ll be none left, Cat.  We’ll no longer be Keepers of the Treasure for the treasure will be nonexistent.  O’ Cat, DO something!”

The Cat looked at the old Father.  “There’s not much I can do.  Didn’t you see what bags they carried the gold in?”

“No.”

“The Ever Filling Bags from the treasury room.”

“What does it mean?”

“It means whenever McGillvery and McGillicuddy come to the bottom of their sacks, they will magically refill to the top again.  They’ll never be out of gold, old one.”

“And the gold comes from…?”

“From our treasury rooms,” spoke the Cat grimly.

The Cat was facing a twofold dilemma.  First, it is natural for man, once in possession of gold, to increase consumption to match income.  Over time, the Cat could foresee exceedingly large piles of treasure transferring into circulation in the land above the Sinks via McGillvery and McGillicuddy’s efforts to live comfortably and do well.  The Ever Filling Bags made steady depletion of the treasury rooms that much easier for the two brothers.

The second dilemma was McGillvery and McGillicuddy’s successful entrance and exit into the Sinks could be duplicated by other humans.  It was conceivable that the ancient treasury rooms would be completely depleted to the point of emptiness as others found the means to enter and leave the Sinks.

The Cat padded softly back and forth analyzing its problem before deciding upon action.  It seemed the second problem was not the immediate threat.  He knew the ways of men.  It is true that an obstacle—such as the Sinks—becomes much easier for humans to surmount and to conquer once one of the species has accomplished the difficult task.  Humans are, after all, great imitators.  But the Cat understood at a primal level a great deal about the queer chemistry of heaven’s potion for success.  All successful action depends on the exercise of faith, hope, courage, and love.  Like tinctures of medicine in small bottles lined in tidy rows in heaven’s pharmaceutical shop, these four elements combine infinitely to form prescriptions unique for each seeking individual.  The precise recipe necessary for the situation at hand can be difficult to find indeed.  It is usually revealed in stages—quietly and obtusely appearing and disappearing through many years of diligent searching.

The Cat knew future adventurers must journey into arenas at the edge of material realities.  The journey requires groping into the unknown while maintaining firm ties to dogged endurance, courage, and hope.  The hope must never fail even in the face of impossible circumstances and the courage is often difficult to accumulate in the necessary large doses.  The adventurer must steadily step forward into the unknown even when seeming to be in possession of courage less than the measure needed for the situation at hand.  Within the unknown are large enemies needing to be vanquished.  These enemies are not those of flesh and blood; but of the mind—flooding streams of doubt and of unanswerable questions.  The traveler must meet the enemy with humility.  It is the only way to conquer. 

Such struggling souls are few.  The Cat understood the human masses, even with a wealthy McGillvery and McGillicuddy in their midst, would wish, want, and dream their lives away without actually doing something to reproduce the actions that turn desire into reality.  Some would envy the boys while imagining themselves in the brothers’ shoes.  Only a few would decide yes—“It will be me”—and do it.

After such thoughts the Cat gently lay aside the second problem of those who would follow to concentrate on the first problem.  It was very real and at hand.   McGillvery and McGillicuddy had its personal refilling bags with unlimited access to the treasury rooms.  The Cat knew the farther up the trail Gilly and Cuddy went—the nearer the goal they got—the more assured and confident the boys would become.  That confidence alone would be more difficult to deal with.  The Cat needed to make another attempt to dissuade them. 

The Cat paced back and forth switching its tail.  “Fear did not work.  The Power of the Word did not work.  What else can one use on mortal man?”

“If I may suggest, Cat, punishment works quite well.”

The Cat paused, turning golden-glitter eyes toward the Father.  “Punishment? It’s against the rules to kill or to physically harm them.  We can do neither.”

“True, but a sort of pain can be inflicted on man.  If you think a bit, you’ll realize how little man likes sustained effort.  He’s not very good at it and some are so poor at it that their mortality rate is greatly increased when under the strain of consistent, persistent effort.”

“What are you plotting, Ancient Man?”

“It crossed my mind that we’ve little and few ways to stop McGillvery and McGillicuddy from reaching the top of the Blue Mountains, and then home.  But you have the power to place a rule on their use of the gold.  If they go beyond the bounds of the rules, then their right to the treasure will be forfeited.”

“Speak on, wise one,” urged the Cat.

The old priest laid out a devious scheme which caused the white Cat to roll over and over on the black glass chortling his extreme pleasure.  “How wise old one! We’ve sure a hand at success!” And to himself he promised, “And I’ve a little something extra to add to the old one’s plan.”

All this while, McGillicuddy and McGillvery labored up the hill.  When they finally crested the top, McGillvery panted, “Let’s take a bit of rest here, Cuddy.  I’m wondering so at your wisdom.  How was it ye knew the Father was after our gold?  He spoke right fair words, Cuddy.”

“I watched him while you listened, Gilly.  I got a feeling there was a conniving cat behind those eyes.  I knew he’d outcat us if we’d not be most careful.  And…,” McGillicuddy started.  “What’s this now—speaking of cats, Gilly.”

Before the two brothers had appeared the white Cat.  It wasn’t threatening as before and seemed to hum, but somehow the vibrations didn’t seem pleasurable, soothing, or comforting as a sweet tabby’s purr should.

McGillvery stood and McGillicuddy also, each placing a foot firmly on their golden packs.  “None of your sassy ways, Cat.  We’ll buy none of the foolishness about returning the gold.”

“Oh?” asked the Cat in surprise.  “I’d no intention of asking you to return it.  Once you’ve gone this far, there’s really no turning back.  I’ve come only to give you a final word or two, then ye both shall be on your way.”

“Careful, Cat, about that word or two.  It may not be a word or two we’d be wanting,” said Cuddy.

“But a word you’ll be needin’.”

“Usually when folks say you need something its them that needs it,” observed Cuddy.

“You’ve made a grave error in coming to my country,” purred the Cat.

“We’ll let the Lord be the judge o’ that,” countered Gilly.  “He’s brought us out of a terrible drama with nary a scratch.”

The Cat’s talons extended a mite as if willing to share a scratch with Gilly, but remembering anger is best kept simmering when one speaks one’s mind, the Cat merely said, “That may or may not be, McGillvery, but I do have the right as Keeper of the Treasure to speak a word over it.  I’ll speak it now.  The gold is going with you, to be sure; but it will only stay with you if you spend all that is in the bags by evening’s fall each day.  In the morning the bags will be full again, completely replenished; but again, you must spend it in one day by evening’s fall.  If there’s just one round nugget left in the bottom of one of the bags, then bags and gold shall return to their rightful keeper.”

McGillvery and McGillicuddy quickly inhaled their breath at this fantastic revelation of unbelievably good fortune.  It was like being given a lifetime of rooms full of golden nuggets.  They were about to speak, when the Cat warned, “But, mark my words, ye’ll never have it long for no mortal is wise enough to have gold and the happiness meant to go with it.  For ’tis a great secret none can find,” and the Cat began rumbling a little purring tune.  “While in their eyes the golden glint gleams and in their hands the lustrous metal sheens, a slave they’ll be to a ruler cold, for few shall govern as well as Gold.”

The Cat narrowed his eyes and sneered, “And, I’ll be reminding ye both this ruler is a sovereign who changes its slaves as easily as ye change your clothing.”

McGillvery had heard nothing past the fact that their bags would be forever replenished.  Enthralled to the core of his soul and with face aglow he was about to say “Thank You!” when McGillicuddy put a finger to his lips. 

Without another word, the Cat disappeared.

“Be careful to whom ye say thank you.  I think the Cat meant those words as a curse not a blessing.”

“A curse?  However can that be?” sputtered Gilly.  “Why Cuddy! The Saints have smiled on us today.  The bags are to refill whenever they are empty.  Our only obligation is to spend the gold!  After a lifetime of lack and ill-fortune!  What a glorious end to our sad story!  How good our Lord is!”

“Ye may think so, Gilly.  But it seemed an ominous speech rather than a blessing speech to me.  Did ye not hear all the words?  We’re a long way from anywhere to spend our gold this day and have ye looked at the sun’s positioning in the sky?”

Gilly looked overhead and his heart sank like a ship with all its masts broken at stormy seas.  “Cuddy,” he whispered, “however can we spend the gold in time?  It took a whole day and part of another to come here and we’ve not hardly a day to go home and spend the gold.”  He held his head despairingly in his hands.  “What a cruel joke, Cuddy.  After all we’ve been through.”

Cuddy looked thoughtfully at Gilly for a moment.  “Ye remember the story in the Book about a man who cursed good people whom God had decided to bless?  Every time the curses turned to blessings.  It may be this situation could spin the same.  We’ve God’s blessings on our efforts.  He evidently has chosen to see us as worthy men for He has allowed us to be successful up to this point.  Despite the Cat’s words, I believe we should stay by our Lord’s words.  He raises lowly men to high positions.  We’ll have to sit and think awhile before taking action, Gilly.”

Gilly didn’t believe they had time to think with the sun’s position being so far gone into the day.  But he was a loyal brother and dutifully sat and thought.  Suddenly, he sat upright, “Here we’re thinking about spending the gold because the Cat told us we must.  What if it lied to us, Cuddy?  What if the spending of the gold will not replenish the gold at all?  Wouldn’t it be like the Cat to have us spend our hard-earned gold and the bags never refill at all?”

Cuddy nodded.  “This could be.  It is a very devious cat.”  He rested his head in his hands for a moment and then said, “One takes action in life by believing words one chooses to believe.  We must decide what we shall believe—either the Cat told the truth about the everlasting refilling of the bags or it spoke a trick and once spent, the bags shall never refill.”

“This is a most perplexing problem,” worried Gilly.

“Maybe not,” asserted Cuddy.  “If we do not believe it, we do not spend the gold.  If it spoke the truth, we will lose all the gold at sunset including the gold in the present sacks and we will have nothing for our efforts.  If we chose to believe it, we will have spent the gold and at sunset will at least have something in hand even if the bags refuse to refill.  So you see, a simple solution has presented itself.  We shall spend the gold.”

“Well,” marveled Gilly, “however did you reason that out so cleverly?”

Cuddy, just as surprised, answered, “I don’t know myself.  It was quite a masterful piece of thinking now wasn’t it?”

Gilly agreed and said, “If we should fail in spending the gold this day, not from lack of trying mind you, and the Cat’s words prove true, t’will be all right anyway, won’t it, Brother?  For we can return to the treasury rooms and fight for our chance at success again, can’t we?”

Cuddy shuddered queerly.  “When we were at the bottom of the Sinks it was easy to imagine going back.  But now we’re at the top o’ the mountain…well…even though we’ve done it once, somehow I’m thinking it will be harder next time or…,” Cuddy groped for the words before continuing.  “Everything the Lord does proceeds in precisely defined orders and rhythms.  We’ve often marveled at the regularity of His seasons and the timing of the lands’ and the seas’ cycles.  When we were in the Sinks we may have been standing in Fortuitous Time—a special time that does not often occur for lads such as we be.  The stairs in the Sinks may open only once for a singular instant—a sole opportunity presented to the seeking man to become more than he is.  If one doesn’t slip through the opened door with faith and sure action, the door may never present itself again.”

Gilly shivered unexpectedly, “Then we may not have a second opportunity should this one be lost.”

Cuddy wrinkled his forehead in deep thought, “Or, it may be some time before we’re given another opportunity…maybe when we are old men near to die.”

“O! Cuddy!” Gilly cried, “If we lose these bags, we’ll have lost the whole world and our lives will be sadder than ever before.”

“Careful, lad.  This is a situation where we need place our feet carefully now.  Even our Lord rejected the whole world. That’s a tempting dangle from the other side and we’re too smart to be nibbling in those fishing waters, aren’t we?”

Gilly nodded in humble acquiescence and began thinking seriously about the Cat’s last words.  “I think ye’re correct that the Cat was cursing rather than blessing our dear efforts.  It t’would be near impossible to spend all the gold every day.  It’s a frantic pace that’s been set.  ’Tis apparent a goodly, stout man could die trying to spend this much gold every single day for the rest of his life.”

“That may have been the Cat’s plan all along,” agreed Cuddy. “We’ll just have to trust the Lord is more powerful than any scheming that may be done against his true friends.  The Book says good ideas are stored up for those who fear Him.  I’ll reckon the Cat doesn’t understand how our Father, and I’m not meaning the one in the black robe, can give us an overflowing of good ideas so that spending the gold will be no trickier than eating our daily potato.”

Gilly nodded quietly.  “Two men praying are a powerful tonic, Cuddy.  An’ ye’re right, of course.  It would be best to take a deepish breath and do a bit more thinkin’.”

“Yes,” solemnly noted Cuddy.  “The facts are:  We know we’ve no chance to be making it back to an Irish village on our side of the mountain by evening.  Even if we did—we’ve not been gone three days and had bare enough to trade bonny Dearbháil for potatoes when we left.  A woman like Dearbháil is too quick with the questions, being of a highly suspicious mind as she is.  She’d be wantin’ to know how we come by properties and valuables so sudden that we are buying a whole village and of course that could lead to all kinds of troubles from her more jealous and covetous neighbors like the Earl, for instance.  However, if we was gone for a whole half year, say, and then come home as wealthy gentlemen, we could excuse it as a bit of Irish luck in trading, now couldn’t we?  An’ only a few questions asked and we could be about our business without all the hubbub.  Gold rushes are started from men who wish riches in three days, but rarely are they started from riches resulting from many months and years of labor.” 

Cuddy paused and added thoughtfully, “I’m remembering a village on the western side of this mountain from many years back.  I’m thinking we could easily walk into its fair lanes before evening falls.”

McGillvery, half listening to Cuddy’s soliloquy, perked up immediately.  “There’s a plan then.  Is there enough in the village to spend two whole bags of gold?”

“It’s a hard town to sell, Gilly.  Those hard to sell are usually most happy to sell to you.  They like the jingle of gold in their own pockets, you see.”

“Not willing to part with it, but more than willin’ to get it.  Mother always said two heads are better than one and well you’ve proved her right this day, Cuddy.  It sounds a good strategy to me.”

Once agreed, the brothers immediately hoisted their packs to their backs and set a brisk pace for Ireland’s western shores.  As they walked, Gilly said, “You know, Cuddy, the Lord sees all and He knows what a predicament we’re in.  If we keep our eyes open, we may find an opportunity along the way to spend some of this gold.  T’would lighten our load some.”

“More’n likely it will spend easy enough,” agreed Cuddy.  “I’ve never had a piece of gold that ever liked to stick around the likes o’ me for very long.  Seems any I got developed run-away feet and fled every which way here ’n there.”

“Aye, it’s been a sad story to tell, Cuddy,” sighed Gilly.

Before Cuddy could agree, the two brothers heard a flute playing a lively, tuneful melody that is accompanied by the bleating of a thousand sheep.  Around the corner of their trail came a young lad of ruddy cheek and honest eye.


Chapter 7

Black Eyes and Puppies

Fortuitous circumstances have a way of finding those possessing sweet hearts.  McGillvery and McGillicuddy were presented with an opportunity to overcome the Cat’s curse in a most handy and ready manner.

“Ho! Lad!” hailed Gilly.

“Ho! To you,” cheerfully responded the boy.

“Where do ye be coming from and where do ye be headed?”

“I’m coming from my father’s pastures and I’m heading for the grazing at the top of this mountain.”

Cuddy looked at the sun’s distance from the horizon, squinted his eye and whispered to Gilly, “Do ye think this might be our opportunity, Gilly?”

“P’rhaps so.  But you’ll not be able to dicker with the lad.”

“And is your father bringing up the rear, lad?”

“Aye, he is.”

The brothers grinned their thanks and hurried up the high side of the path.  Presently they spied a short, bow-legged, middle-aged man hollering and pointing his crook for the dogs to edge the flock forward.

“May we follow along with you a bit?”

The man looked at them from under bushy brows.  “Just so you be up to good and not harm.”

“Harmless men.  We be interested in doing a bit of business.”

“Speak.”

“Would ye be interested in selling your flock now?”

“Selling?  It’s me bread and butter.  I’d be ashamed to sell—why, what would I do with me days?  What would I have to pass on to my son?  What would I tell my poor wife when I got home—that I’d sold our living out from under us?”

McGillvery quite taken aback at the man’s quick and odd reply, followed along quietly by his side for several minutes.  He, as every good salesman should, gave some thought to the fellow’s objections and after some moments received delivery of a bit of celestial inspiration.

“Nay.  We’re not here to buy your living out from underneath you.  Now listen a bit.  We’ve a proposition for you and your bounteous family, may God bless them all.  We would like to buy your flock at the best prices. You’ll have your price in advance, you see.  You can continue to herd it, care for it, and do as you’ve always done.  At the end of the year we’ll take half the profits and you can have the other half.”

The man stopped and looked at them.  “Are ye daft or are ye highway robbers?  Now why would I want half the profits for the rest of me life when I get all of the profits now?”

“But ye’ll be getting two bags of gold, man.”

“Two bags of gold that’ll be gone in a twelve month and then I’ll be left with one half the profits on my sheep to carry me through me old age.  Ye scamps, begone with ye.  Ye’re thieves an’ robbers trying to take what my father and my father’s father before him toiled and built for those to follow.” 

The man shook his crook at Gilly and Cuddy.  “Hey, dogs,” he called.

McGillvery looked alarmed.  “No need for that, Sir.  We’re on our way.  May our Lord prosper and bless you.”

But the dogs were already on the way.  By the glint of the man’s eye, both boys knew he wouldn’t call the dogs back before he’d seen blood.

There was no tinker’s wagon seat to hop to and the bags of gold were a cumbersome burden, but McGillvery and McGillicuddy had had much experience in games of this sort and ran like runners for the ancient kings of a long ago Ireland.  When they’d rounded the bend, they heard the man call for the dogs’ retreat and they allowed themselves to regain a brisk walk.

“Now then, that took some time now.  I say, we didn’t handle that very well, Gilly,” panted Cuddy.

“Cuddy, that man’s one who’ll never see opportunity when it’s hit him smack in the face,” gasped Gilly.  “Why, a man would be addled in the mind to refuse such an opportunity.  He could have bought another thousand sheep with the bags of gold and managed our thousand for fifty per cent of the profit.  He’d have had one hundred fifty per cent profit for the rest of his life and his son’s life.  It was an opportunity to grow his wealth that will not soon come again.   A small mind, Cuddy.  A verrry small mind not able to see the blessings coming his way.”

“I wish you had rehearsed those facts to our man,” observed Cuddy. “Sometimes its only one small bit of information that may sell the reluctant customer.  Salesmen that we are, you know it’s important to point all the angles to a prospective buyer of the goods.”

McGillvery shook his head in disbelief.  “Who would have thought you’d have to be selling to get rid of two bags of gold?  Seems everyone would be as interested in receiving it as we were to get it.”

“Mmmm…maybe we’ve a bit more of the privileged world to learn about, Gilly.  Wouldn’t it be funny now if a wealthy man’s plight was more severe than a poor man’s blight?”

“We’ll know the answer to that question soon because we’re wealthy lads with money to spend,” observed Gilly dryly.  “Perhaps the village will reinstate our faith in golden sheen’s ability to expend.”

Cuddy looked at the sun’s positioning in the sky.  “We’d best be setting a marching pace to the village.  We’ll walk fifty paces and run fifty paces, Gilly.”

“’Tis a good idea.  In the event we’ve no easy takers of our gold, t’will give us a bit more time to look over our best opportunities.”

At last the brothers reached the final winding road into the seashore town of MacKenay on the Shore.

“In time, Cuddy,” said a puffing Gilly.

“In time,” gasped a profusely sweating Cuddy.  “We’d best head for the pub and see if we’ve any takers for our gold.”

The boys quickly surveyed the smallish, quiet village sitting on the curve of a wide bay.  One building alone displayed the activity one should expect of an inviting pub.    It lay closest to the ships in harbor and it was toward its door the brothers quickly hurried.  The wooden signature declared the pub’s name—The Bay of MacKenay.  Such a hubbub of Irish laughter was coming out of the inn that even McGillvery’s heart was uplifted.  “The best time of day, too,” he whispered to Cuddy.  “They’ll be in a mood to bargain for what we’ve got.  Say your prayers for a blessing.”

The boys stopped for a moment, spit on their hands, clasped them, wished for all the luck in the world, and solemnly marched into the pub of MacKenay on the Shore.

These were fishing men mostly—bronzed, muscularly built, and loving a good brawl or a rowdy laugh equally well.  They were not the farming folk McGillvery and McGillicuddy were most used to selling; but business is business, so shoulders were squared, and they marched up to the bar. 

Cuddy pounded on the waxed surface.  “We’ve need of your attention.  We’ve some gold to spend and lookin’ for land to buy.”

There was a sudden hush in the room as all eyes turned toward McGillvery and McGillicuddy.  “That’s right, men.  We’ve gold to spend and looking for land to buy.”

A few sniggers were heard in the back of the room and suddenly a man was pushed to the center of the floor. “McDougal’s got property.  Now haven’t ye, McDougal?”

“Now, boys, leave me alone,” the man protested.  “Ye know I’ve got property all right.”

“Then, be talkin’ to the strange gents about cutting a sweet trade,” suggested a mirthful voice at the front of the room.

An ‘Aye’ all around caused the young man’s face to redden considerably.

“I’ve got property all right,” stubbornly insisted the young man with a lowering of his neck into his shoulders as does a bull before getting ready to fight.

“Ye mean ye’re wife’s got property,” merrily shouted a red-haired, middle-aged man in the back.  The whole roomful of men roared gleefully.

McDougal’s face reddened to the color of a coastal, red sky at morning tide.

Another voice hollered, “McDougal’ll assist you, boys, soon as he can wean his dearie from her father’s sage advice.”

McDougal was not one to hang his head in shame as McGillvery and McGillicuddy could see by his swelling neck and bulging eyes.  Gilly thought this McDougal looked like Dearbháil’s youngest bull before the ring was placed in his nose. 

“There’s sure to be a fight,” whispered Gilly.

“Not to our advantage,” agreed Cuddy looking worriedly toward the window’s framing of a setting sun.

Gilly stepped forward, “Now, now, Gentlemen.  It’s forever Ireland, isn’t it?  All good friends together here now.  Let’s have a drink to peace, goodwill, and the blessings of our Lord on all.”

McDougal’s fighting posture did not change, but he was pushed and shoved by the good-natured shoulders of his friends as they surged forward to claim Gilly’s offer of a free drink. 

McDougal’s eyes sought Gilly’s.  In a loud voice reminding one of the roar of a enraged bull, he said, “Ye’re a stranger here.  It seems in front of all me friends ye’ve accused me of being less than a man.”

Gilly quickly shook his head, “Nay, nay.  No such thing.  Remember it was only a piece of land I was asking to buy.”  He opened his mouth to reason peaceably with the young fellow but found himself at the end of McDougal’s arm, feet dangling several centimeters from the floor.

McDougal was shaking his head slowly back and forth.  “Nay, but you did make me little in front of me countrymen.”

McGillvery’s eyes, a pale blue of innocence, swept to the ceiling in an earnest unspoken prayer for heavenly assistance.  A man jostled the elbow of McDougal and McDougal grabbed the man by the kerchief around his neck.  “Don’t jostle me when I’ve an important matter to be discussing with my friend here.”

The man on his third pint of McGillvery and McGillicuddy’s generosity answered with a tongue not inclined toward peace.  McGillvery found himself thrown across the crowd as McDougal released him and took a masculine swing at the jostler’s face.  McGillvery landed square on the pub’s bar splashing ale and spirits on all persons pressed there for refreshment.  A free-for-all ensued with mugs and short glasses hurling through the air as freely as fists and kicks.

McGillicuddy had ducked behind the bar and was sitting on his bag of gold, hands covering his head in a protective manner while waiting for the brawl to subside.  And, fierce fighters that these men were, it took no time for the scrap to have simmered to a few groans and moans.

As suddenly as the fight stopped, someone cried, “It’s those two strangers what has done this to friends all together.  Throw them out!”

The boys barely managed to gather their bags before finding themselves seat first on the dusty road which passed before the pub.

The pub’s keeper, a man with portly belly, came out wiping hands on an apron much in need of washing, and said,   “In Ireland, there are three things about the nip—to tipple it well, to hold it better, and to pay for it before the day is done.”  He reached down and emptied one of the bags of gold into his own satchel and tossed the empty bag to McGillicuddy.

McGillicuddy, shocked at the quick disposal of his fortune, was only able to gasp, “May God maintain the bounty of your heart always.”

The pub keeper checked Cuddy closely, “Are ye being cheeky with me lad?  Let me give you a piece of advice fine, Sirs.  ‘Distant hills are green, but the home fireplace is the best fireplace.’  I’d suggest you be looking for your own fireplace.  MacKenay on the Shore doesn’t need folks like you.”

Gilly opened his mouth and shut it promptly at Cuddy’s quick nudge to his bruised ribs. 

“Sure ’tis a fine piece of wisdom you’ve given and one we’re sure to heed,” agreed Cuddy in careful mildness.

The innkeeper hesitated, looking for a note of scorn in Cuddy’s voice or face.  Cuddy looked as innocent as the Christ child despite his rapidly swelling eye.  Satisfied, the portly innkeeper returned to his customers and neighbors.

Gilly picked himself up, groaning.  “Life doesn’t get easier, Cuddy.”

Cuddy agreed.  “I’m feeling older than the Hag of Beare right now, Gilly.”  He looked down at the empty sack in his hand and grinned wryly.  “However, one bag is neatly spent.”

“That much gold could rebuild the entire town, Cuddy.  Not that I’d be questioning the man’s judgment about the cost of the damage to his pub,” hastily assured Gilly as he ruefully felt his chin.  “It seems McDougal got off a most masculine shot despite property and wife being controlled by a father-in-law.” 

Cuddy gingerly felt his eye while agreeing. “Not saying it was the most noble way to spend it either, Gilly.”

“Aye, an’ I’m that much glad we’ve not a Mum to go home for explaining ourselves this night.  Would be a hard effort that.  And,” he pointed to the ocean before them, “There’s that ball of flame setting to hurl itself over the edge in under ten minutes.  The Lord better be seeing the predicament we’re in, Cuddy.  Our fortune’s just been halved.  We’ve not one thing to show for it.  If the Cat lied, we’ll not be seeing that bag again.”

“Hush now and keep your eyes open.  We’ll stick to our plan and spend the gold.  Look for a business transaction we can initiate and finish on the spot.”

About that time a lad with freckled face and engaging smile came into the street with arms wrapped tightly around a sack filled to the brim with a fat brown puppy of dubious lineage.

Gilly leapt at the single show of opportunity in this most quiet and eventless town.  “Say laddie, would you like to sell your puppy?”

The smallish boy looked at Gilly with solemn, earth-brown eyes.  “I was taking him to the pub to do just that, Sir.”

“Well, then, ye’ll not need travel any further.  We will buy your puppy on the spot.”

The lad had evidently rehearsed the sales talk he felt he would need to sell the dog and immediately launched into all the reasons why this particular puppy was a bargain at any price.  “This pup is out of my father’s dog, Aishling—she’s famous hereabouts—my father’s finest dog.  This pup’s special because it is the largest and friendliest of the litter.  We don’t know who the father is but it should be no account anyways ’cause Aishling’s so fine.  My father’s figgering to drown ’em all. But I figure one half Aishling is one half famous.  So the puppies, and especially this one,” he assured the brothers while holding it high for them to see, “should be worth something now.”

McGillvery looked at Cuddy and McGillicuddy looked at Gilly.

“Son, you are entirely correct.  We will buy Aishling’s fine puppy,” said McGillvery. He reached down and took the puppy out of the boy’s sack and quickly poured their last rucksack of gold into the boy’s bag.  The lad drew a sharp breath at sight of the gold.  “Sure thing, Mister.  Aishling’s got ten more.  For all this, I’ll bring the rest in under ’alf an hour.”

Gilly waved his hand, “No, laddie.  This one’s all we’ve a use for.  Just enjoy your good fortune.”

“Yes, Sir.”  A freckly face burst into a toothless grin.  “Yes, Sir.”  He turned, dragging the load—much too heavy for a small boy—slowly, an inch at a time, up the street.  Frequently stopping to rest, he finally succeeded in struggling around the last bend in the village road with his bag of fortune.  Cuddy looked at the sun.  The last tip was just setting itself into the ocean for its evening bath.

He shook his head sadly and slung his empty sack over his shoulder.  “Well, we did it and in time, too.”

“Surely not the best trading we’ve ever done,” said Gilly wryly.

“And not the worst either,” noted Cuddy.

“I’m not seeing how ye’ve reached that conclusion,” replied Gilly.

“’Tis not like we’ve no gain at all.  I’m countin’ one very outstanding black eye, a puppy one half famous hereabouts, and a story to tell around every fireside in Ireland that will set men, women, and children on the edge of their seats every time we’re tellin’ it.”  A slight grin played around Cuddy’s mouth.

“An’ a cat a’laughing itself silly at the joke it’s played if these bags do not refill,” noted Gilly sourly, refusing to be beguiled into humor so easily.  “Don’t forget that part of this whole affair.”

“When things go wrong whether in the use of time or money one can always think of it as tithe to the Lord.  Who’s knowin’?  Perhaps the pub keeper has a child who’s been kissed by an angel and the Lord’s intending its keep with our gold.  The smallish lad may have a mother or sister needin’ medicines and our gift ensured her life. We’ll keep our peace by sending our blessings on both bags and ask that the best be done in both instances with the gold.  It’s the only way to be free of the matter.  After all, the circumstances were not of our choosing, Gilly.”

“A tithe as large as that should buy a lifetime of Irish luck of the best sort,” observed Gilly dourly.

“Aye.  ’An who’s not needin’ all the luck ’e can get?”  asked Cuddy peacefully.  “’Tis the only way we can think and be done so there’s no regrets.  At the least we’ll get a whole night’s rest tonight and many nights after. And now I find I’m hungry enough to eat an entire flank of sheep.”

“Let’s find a sheep and eat then,” agreed a resigned Gilly.

The boys had no sooner turned their steps in the direction of the inn than they stopped.  “Cuddy….”

“Don’t say it, Brother,” woefully returned Cuddy.  He pulled out his empty bag.  “Mine is empty down to the cording.  Did you not save one gold piece?”

“Nay, not one.”

“Hunger is a good sauce,” philosophically spoke Cuddy.

Gilly sighed, “Best be casting our eyes toward humble lodgings for this night, Cuddy.”

 

 


Chapter 8

Small Portions

They soon found the stable and the grain bags kept for the horses.  Gilly dipped his hand into the sack and apportioned a small handful to Cuddy.  “Small portions are tasty,” he encouraged.

A disappointed Cuddy replied, “T’was good enough for our Lord.”

On slightly empty stomachs they began to settle in for the night, read their mother’s Book, and dutifully say their prayers.  Sleep came quickly, gently.

When the moon passed between clouds and the night birds took wing, an angry man came stomping down the mountain to the door of the stable, the door was thrust open, and McGillvery and McGillicuddy roughly torn from their beds.

 “Corrupters of children and instigators of malice between neighbors!  I’ve heard all about ye and have come to punish ye for your ungodliness.”

McGillvery still mostly asleep and partly in dream cried, “Sir, we’ve surely slept in heaven tonight and are ye telling us we should have been in hell?”

From an enormous height the man reached giant sized fists to shake the boys. “Are you or are you not the men who purchased a worthless puppy of no good breeding for an unholy sum of money from my son?”

The puppy whimpered from the manger where Gilly had placed him earlier in the evening.  McGillvery looked nervously in the direction of the dog.  “We did indeed buy a puppy from a small boy heading for the pub earlier in the evening.  But sure we meant no harm by the payment of gold to the child.”

“No harm?!  That much money the MacKenay’s themselves do not pay for the wages of a hundred men for an entire year.  No harm?  I swear by St. Patrick I will beat you both into a St. Paddy’s mash unfit for walking thru Zion’s gates.  You’ll be most fortunate to crawl from this village on the morrow.”  Making true his words he swung a crushing blow to McGillvery’s head.

McGillvery fought bravely but half-heartedly, having always believed in turning the other cheek, while McGillicuddy, a stalwart champion of fairness in all things, politely waited his turn feeling slightly embarrassed that the man would be fighting him while not fresh.  Neither brother offered much resistance and therefore received a sound beating for the second time in MacKenay on the Shore. 

The last thing the man did was fling down the bag of gold, “There’s your filthy lucre.  May it stick to you as the cockleburs in MacKenay’s Meadows!”

McGillvery looked unbelievingly at the pile of glistening gold.  “Nay, Mister, we can not keep it.  You must take it back.  We are honorable men, you see.  We have your puppy and we must pay for it.”

“The puppy goes for the beating,” the man snarled and left as quickly as he’d come.

A glumness settled over McGillvery far deeper than his bruises and cuts. “Cuddy,” said he, “what is it about this gold?  Is that why rich men stay rich?  They can’t get rid of their gold?  Could it be now that gold acts differently when there is plenty compared to when one is scrapping for it every day of one’s life?  Perhaps with poor men it develops feet and runs away but with rich men it clings like sticky paper to a cottage wall.”  He raised despairing eyes to McGillicuddy.

McGillicuddy, one eye swollen completely shut, his garments strewn with hay, a bleeding cut at his hair line dribbling life’s own blood and drying about the region of his nose, shook a perplexed head.  “I’ve never seen anything like it, Gilly.  We seem to be visiting a knot headed land if ever there was.”

“If the bags refill, we’ve three bags to carry around,” noted McGillvery.  “If this keeps happening, we’ll be drowning in our own treasury rooms.”

“It won’t happen,” purred a voice behind them.

McGillvery and McGillicuddy jumped in fright.  It was the Cat.

“It won’t happen because you’ve not followed the rules.  You were to dispose of two bags of gold every day before sunset and I see,” it said, smacking its lips as if over a succulent oiled cod, “I see…,” it continued, “a pile of glistening gold at your feet.”

McGillvery stuttered, “See here, Cat, we did spend the gold.  We spent it fairly and squarely.  It just came back to us, that’s all.”

“Nevertheless there should be no bags of gold in this stable tonight with two lads named McGillvery and McGillicuddy.”

McGillicuddy, praying fervently, took a step forward in the Cat’s direction.  “Cat,” said he.  “We cannot help the Lord’s generosity.  He gives his loved ones the same in sleep as others receive in great toil.  It’s a fact that some can toil and labor all the day and receive a tenth of their dues while others can trod lightly the grapes and receive barrels of financial rewards.  You need to understand lads such as we have had our fortunes greatly changed and we belong in that category of lightly treading the grapes.  We did abide by the rules.  I cannot help it if the good Lord decided to pour back into our laps the gold and more for our efforts.  You would not try to put rules upon the Lord’s bounty now would you?”

The Cat spat a loud, “Phhht!”  He reared onto his hind paws.  “I will not cross the lines of the Supreme Owner of the gold if that be the case.  I will check the proper channels to see if that was the Owner’s intention.”

“Oh, no need to do that,” spoke a reawakened Gilly’s tongue.  “The proof is right here.  Why else would we have the gold if it had not been authorized?  Even you can be as wise as that.  The fact of it lies in front of your whiskers, Cat.”

The Cat screeched a howl of midnight fury as it vanished into the darkness.

“Sometimes I wonder at its white color, Cuddy,” spoke Gilly.  “Seems its devious nature would leak through its very fur to give it quite another color.  Seems not fittin’ that it appropriated the pure color of the Lord’s own angels.”

 “The white outside surely covers a heart as black as the coals which fuel hell,” agreed Cuddy.

In the morning McGillvery and McGillicuddy were overjoyed to find, in addition to the returned gold, two additional sacks of gold replenished to over-brimming. 

“Ah, ’tis a fine life we lead, Cuddy,” smiled Gilly.  “We’d best be appropriating a one wheeled cart for all our abundance.”

“Hungry chaps for supper, but a full belly for breakfast,” grinned Cuddy.

The boys purchased a small barrow for the three bags of wealth they now possessed and headed for the Molly B’s with Gilly towing the puppy along on a long string.

“Mmmm. I can taste it now, Cuddy.  A bit of Irish brown bread with honey jam, a pint o’ buttermilk, a herring to the side, and a steaming pot of tea.”

“Two pots, Gilly,” murmured Cuddy.

Gilly tied the pup to a short bush.  The boys pushed open the door to the eatery and sat themselves quietly at tables near the window.  They had a fine view of morning over the Atlantic Ocean—a blue-green watery floor starkly contrasted against a brilliantly blue sky studded with puffs of white so bright one could hardly bear to gaze on such cleanness.

A smallish woman, dressed in gray dress and permanently pursed lips, came to wait on them.  Hair tightly pulled back from a forehead too high, an apron starched too carefully, little wrinkle lines making long-lasting settlements around a mouth puckered in a rather judgmental way—somehow she reminded Cuddy of an old farmer’s wife who would at a moment’s provocation grab a scythe and cut a fellow’s breeches off at the knee.  His eye wandered to the beckoning promise of plenty that the swelling ocean seemed to proclaim and waited for Gilly to complete his order.

“And the same for me except a bit o’ peas with my herring and if ye’d be havin’ a little cabbage, too.”

The woman looked sharp at Cuddy and returned abruptly to the kitchen.

Cuddy spent the next half hour admiring the dishes hung on the walls, tracing the pattern on the linen cloths at the table, and noting the cobwebs in the ceiling corners.

When at last their meal was set, Cuddy looked up in surprise.  “Seems a sparse table you set, Ma’m.”

The pursed lips parted just a bit and the gray dressed woman said, “Small portions are tasty,” and departed for the kitchen.

Gilly looked in astonishment at his half piece of brown bread thinly sliced, the half pint of buttermilk.   “Cuddy, she’s served us our herring with the head end.  Why, the tail end’s gone!”

“And as bold as a pig she served that!” gasped Cuddy.

The woman did not reappear, so Gilly looked at Cuddy and said, “’Tis better than we had last night.”

“Our portions have been rather small as of late. Small bellies relish small portions,” agreed Cuddy.

“’Tis quite true heavy eating dulls the brain and we’ve important work to be about today for disposing of the gold by evening.”

“Righto, Gilly,” agreed Cuddy, holding a fork with a goodly portion of cod attached to its tines.  “Here’s to a brain with plenteous ideas due to the wisdom of lads not overfilling the stomach.  Eat up then and thank the good Lord for our bounteous blessings.”

The boys ate quickly and heartily as if the meal were plenteous, paid the woman, and walked into the sunshine, easier able to wheel their cart.  Gilly tossed a piece of herring to the pup while Cuddy looked toward the harbor for ships that may have just docked with wares for sale.  Three ships lay anchored with their sails furled to the spars and yardarms.  Cuddy motioned to Gilly, he nodded, handed the pup to Cuddy, and bent to the barrow.  Looking east and then west, they took a step in the direction of the harbor while wondering at the quietness of the village on this early morning.  At this moment a small, raggedy child came mincing down the street.  She was oddly shaped, thin, almond-eyed, and seemed quite uncomfortable walking.  Both Gilly and Cuddy were immediately absorbed in this misshapen figure’s approach.

“Such a furtive look, Gilly.”

Cuddy whispered, “Aye, but not mean, Cuddy.”

He looked a bit closer at her narrowly fashioned face, “No. Definitely not mean.”

“Be ye the lads with gold to spend, now?”

“Aye, that we be.”

“I’ve a place where ye can spend all ye have an’ more.”

Gilly looked at Cuddy and Cuddy looked at Gilly in astonishment. “Perhaps that would be a fine thing—but what are ye selling child?”

“Oh, ’tis not me that’s selling,” she hastily assured them.  “’Tis not me!”  Then she giggled at the seeming absurdity that she would have any possession whatsoever to sell.  “Mairin’s got nothing, Mister.  But I knows someone what has plenty, Mister, and is plenteously looking for more.”

She looked at Gilly and Cuddy a bit queerly, “There’s folks who has you see and whoever has, gets.  That’s the way of it.  But poor Mairin, no, now never has and never gets.”

Gilly raised his eyebrows in wonderment while Mairin motioned for them to follow.  Cuddy shrugged.  They’d no better idea for the day’s business. This might be just the lead they’d looked for.  They turned to follow the child.  She pointed a small, thin finger and said, “Not with that.”

Cuddy looked to where the finger was pointing.  It was directed at the small pup. “We’ve not a place to leave ’im,” he protested.

“The Madam doesn’t like ’em,” the child stated flatly.

Cuddy shrugged and raised questioning eyes to Gilly.

“Perhaps we could leave him at the Molly B’s.”

“’E would starve to death before noon at that woman’s place,” protested Gilly.

“Then, perhaps the pub,” suggested Cuddy.

“’An ye didn’t get enough of the beatings last evening so ye’re wanting to go back for more?”

“Nay, not much,” remarked Cuddy wryly.

Gilly looked at the small child before them and said,  “We’ve truly not a place to leave the pup.”  He added, “We’re new to this locality, you see.”

The child stood firm. “Madam does not like ’em.”

The brothers looked toward the ships in the bay. 

“Sometimes a captain is in need of a good pup for the ship,” suggested Gilly.

“If ye’ll wait here with the child, I’ll take the pup down and ask around,” said Cuddy.

Within a few moments, Cuddy came back with a look of wonderment on his face.  “T’was the easiest thing done ever,” he said.  “The young lad came out from one of the alleys and asked if we still wanted the pup.  I told him we didn’t feel right about keeping it since we hadn’t paid for it.  The laddie said he didn’t want us to have the bad conscience and took the pup just that easily.”

“Well, was a stroke of luck for us, Cuddy,” Gilly said.

Cuddy shouldered one bag, Gilly barrowed the other two, and they slowly began following Mairin.  She led them down the road and along a broad path which followed the tops of the sea cliffs.  Soon a black, foreboding castle came into view.  Mairin pointed to the castle and said, “MacKenay.  It’s MacKenay.”

Mairin ran straight through the main gates, up the castle steps, motioned for them to hurry, opened the massive entrance doors, and waved them triumphantly into the rooms beyond.

McGillvery and McGillicuddy cautiously peered around the last door into the interior chambers and were astonished to see a very old woman sitting upright in a chair fashioned as the old Ireland kings had frequently used.  Behind her a fireplace large enough to roast two oxen roared.  Above the fireplace were the colors of red and gold, crossed swords to the side. 

“Come in, come in,” she said imperiously.  She turned to Mairin.  “Be gone now.  Ye’ve done your business.  Be at your work.”

Mairin curtsied and vanished from the room.

The old woman was stroking the silk coverings lining her regal chair and motioned Gilly and Cuddy to sit.

“I hear you’ve gold to spend.”

“Aye,” admitted Cuddy.

“And what are you looking to buy?”

“Land.”

“Land?” she asked.

“To be sure.  ’Tis a good way to spend one’s money.”

“There’s only so much land, Sir,” she objected.  “What good is land to you if it is all stone and won’t grow anything else?  Where is the investment sense in land?”

McGillvery quickly divining the conversation may reveal knowledge of great value to themselves, pretended to think for just a second before saying, “Cuddy, she’s right.  If we bought all of the world’s land, what would we have now?”  He looked at the woman, “You live in a fine castle, Ma’m.  Perhaps you can tell us how ye’ve managed so well and could give two poor lads such as we be some keen advice.”

She smiled a tiny smile and said, “Investments, Sir.”

“Investments?” queried Gilly.

“Yes,” she murmured, “investments.”

Gilly drew his chair a bit closer to the throne of wisdom and urged the old one to continue.

“Could ye go on about the investments, now?”

“There’s many investments, young man.  The Molly B’s an investment for Molly.  The Bay of MacKenay is an investment for our fine innkeeper.  All the little shops along the way are investments, but investments which own the man.  The man does not own them.”

“By Jove, Cuddy.  The old woman’s right.  Our little tinker business—an investment—but we were a slave to it as sure as can be.”

A large cat jumped into the old woman’s lap.  Cuddy noted its sapphire collar and the lovely rings on the wrinkled, thin fingers which gently stroked it.  Somehow, he got a queer shaky feeling inside as if he were a very large mouse and the old woman was an even larger cat.

“Yes, investments.  They can free you of worry, of menial living, and can give you power and stature in the world.”

Gilly was quite transported.  It was exactly what he’d always hoped for—a  freedom from the daily struggle for bread.  Why, that was the reason he and Cuddy had dared brave the Sinks—the hopes they’d find freedom—freedom from want, freedom from care and—Gilly looked around the luxurious room.  Freedom to be the kind of man you knew you could be if you weren’t always fighting so for the daily bread.  There was a word for it:  a Gentleman.  Yes, time to be a gentle man.  A man of finesse and even temper.  For whatever could cause a temper to go awry in such a place as this?  In such surroundings it would be ever so much easier to be a man of quality fibers, quality thinking, and quality actions.  He could see a fine, large library beyond this room.  Seems he was so busy running from guns, dogs, and angry farmers he’d been able to read very little of the great thoughts others had entertained before him.  Investments.  Was that how it was done then?

McGillicuddy asked, “What kind of investments would ye be thinking of Ma’m?”

“Investments come in a variety of sized packages.  There are small investments and large investments.”

“That size is dependent upon the cost?”

“Quite so,” she agreed.  “Of course, the larger the investment, the larger the returns.  The MacKenays have always gone for the larger investments and as you can see it has paid off handsomely.”  She waved her bejeweled hand around the room to illustrate her wise use of investments.

Gilly impetuously poured his bag of gold onto the rug.  “An’ would this buy a large investment, Ma’m?”

The old woman put the hand that was stroking the cat to her neck with a short intake of breath, “Why, that would do nicely.”

  McGillvery impulsively grabbed Cuddy’s bag and the bag which had purchased the puppy.  “Then we’ll triple what will do nicely,” he grandly proclaimed.

The woman fingered the diamonds at her throat.  “Yes, that will do very nicely.  Very nicely,” she repeated.  Then with a clearing of her throat, she called, “Sean!”

An elderly man in black appeared.  “Sean, it seems we have investors.  Could you please draw the legal documents for me?”

Sean disappeared for a moment and returned with a leatherbound case.  He carefully arranged the contents on a table near the window, setting a quill pen and ink in a strategic location to paper.  “Proceed, Madam.”

Quickly the old woman dictated the terms of the investment and then turned to McGillvery and McGillicuddy.  “Gentlemen, all that is necessary to secure your future is your signature affirmation.  Please sign where Sean indicates.”

McGillvery and McGillicuddy quickly did as requested lest their golden opportunity fly away quickly.

The old woman clapped hands.  Out of nowhere appeared several small waifs.  “Gather the gold, children.  You know where to put it.”

McGillvery cleared his throat.  “Ma’m, if we should happen to have more gold to invest, would you be able to place it for us?”

The old woman’s eyes seemed to widen in surprise and then narrowed calculatingly.  “Of course.  The MacKenay’s offer a wide variety of investments.  There is no end to the number of investments one can make at MacKenays.  We have several enterprises which are begging for backers of the well-heeled sort.  Gentlemen, perhaps you would like to spend an evening at MacKenay’s?  In the morning, we could discuss the potential profits of investments?”

McGillvery beamed at McGillicuddy.  “T’would be the best night’s peace we’ve had in several days, Ma’m.  Yes, we graciously accept the hospitality of MacKenay’s Castle.”

After a sup of beef richly marbled with fat accompanied with all the tidbits and delicacies an Irish mind could raise in delicious contemplation, the boys retired to the library, a roaring fire, and deeply padded, leather cushioned lounges.  Cuddy stretched his feet to the fire.  “Ah, Gilly.  To think what we’ve been missing all these years.  This is how it should be.  A full stomach, warmth, comfort.”  He waved to the books around the room.  “A whole evening which may be spent in the company of history’s finest minds.”

McGillvery casually walked along the shelved, red leatherbound volumes while running a callused, weather beaten finger along the gilt labelings.  “What a marvel, Cuddy.  Do ye realize this must be what heaven is?  Would you like to be with Marcus Aurelius this evening or Plato or Aristotle?”  His finger stopped at a particularly large volume, “How about Josephus?”

McGillicuddy chuckled.  “You know, McGillvery, we’ve spent many an evening in the company of the wisest man, Solomon, the holiest of men, Moses, the military strategist, King David, and the best man, Jesus.  If ye think of it—for poor men with only one Book, we didn’t go too badly.”

McGillvery grinned, too.  “No, not too badly, Cuddy.  Thanks to our dear mother, we weren’t really poor, were we?”

“No.  I reckon this fireplace doesn’t burn any hotter than our campfires did, but the cushions certainly feel better to the bones than our wooden stumps.”

“And the walls keep the wind from howling and whistling down our neck like an unwanted friend.”

McGillicuddy slapped his leg and laughed, “I’d like to see that old farm dog down on South Shore try to get me now behind this big castle wall.” 

Gilly walked to the window overlooking the ocean.  “Looks to be a storm coming, Cuddy.”

Cuddy smiled and sank deeply into the cushions of his lounge.  “Life is good,” was his last thought as he fell into a deep slumber.

Long about midnight, Cuddy was awakened by an extremely excited Gilly.  “Wake and be up.  Wake and be up.  Come here quickly.  Quickly, Cuddy,” he implored as Cuddy struggled through layered mounds of slumber to the land of awakeness.

The urgency in Gilly’s voice encouraged the stumbling of Cuddy’s steps to become steadier.  McGillvery grabbed his arm, pulling him to the ocean’s window.  Some time elapsed before he could accurately focus on the ground below.  When his eyes became awake, it took effort to find the long line of small moving shapes which seemed to move away from the castle and to the castle in two continuous lines.

“What are they, Gilly?” asked Cuddy wonderingly.

“I know not, Cuddy.  I had found a book on investments and thought since we were now involved in investments that I’d best be finding out about such things.  Truth to tell, Cuddy, the reading was so dull I couldna’ get through the book.  When I came to put it away, I saw this long line of…well, what do they remind you of, Cuddy?”

McGillicuddy shuddered.  “I don’t know, McGillvery.”  He looked a little closer.  “You know,” he said slowly, “In faith, they remind me of children rather like the waif that brought us to this great castle at the first.  But what would children b’doing at such an hour as this?  What parent would allow children to be out and about among the Irish mists at midnight?  May our Lord and His sweet messengers protect them and their souls,” he softly whispered.

The last of the children had disappeared along the rocky beach.  McGillvery turned to McGillicuddy, “This black castle has a few secrets to tell, Cuddy.”

“Aye,” agreed a troubled Cuddy.  He continued standing at the window watching the storm gathering clouds over a now roiling ocean.  “Talking about secrets, how are we to explain the constant supply of gold we have for ‘investments’ to the Madam?”

“I was thinking on that very problem this evening,” admitted Gilly.  “I’m for suggesting we make a trip into town every day and appear to return with the gold.”

“’Tis a small village,” objected Cuddy.  “Small, discrete questions will uncover our secret in less’n two days.”

“Then we’ll walk away into the mountains every day and come back with our gold.”

“Are ye so foxy ye’ll be able to outwit her hounds?  She will surely send scenters after us to discover our source of supply,” noted Cuddy.  Then seeing the growing worry on Gilly’s face, he added with a philosophical grin, “But will not be the first time we’ve been wily as foxes and succeeded, too.”

Early the next morning the boys emptied the refilled gold from their sacks and hid it under their beds.  They walked to town on an ‘errand’ with empty bags over their shoulders and returned midmorning with heavy bags in their barrow—bags filled with sand.  When in their room, they poured the sand through their window over the castle wall.  They refilled their bags with the gold hidden under their beds and proceeded to Madam’s apartments.

The Madam sat ready with investments.  Sean sat with his quill pen ready to write her instructions and limitations for these investments.  McGillvery and McGillicuddy dutifully signed the agreement and exchanged two bags of gold for the paper Sean had drawn.  After all processes had been properly followed, McGillvery in boldness stated, “You must keep a great many servants for all the children I see here.”

Madam was quiet. “Yes,” she finally stated. “A castle of this size requires a great many workers.”

“It must be very expensive to keep,” observed McGillvery.

“One must be frugal.  Wealth is not for generations to come if one does not watch what is at hand.”

McGillvery cleared his throat and said, “I believe, Madam, that we shall take our leave today.  We’ve opened account in the village to receive dividends from our investments.”

Madam began stroking her cat.  “No more investing, McGillvery?”

“One only has so much to invest, Madam.  Ye’ve fair seen four bags plus one of our gold.  One mustn’t put all one’s pretties in one place.”

Madam fairly purred.  “But if you have more, Gentlemen, this is a most convenient medium to dispose of your burden.  Besides you need to stay at least another day for I’ve someone for you to meet.”

McGillvery looked uneasily at McGillicuddy.  They had need of this day to plan for the disposal of new bags of gold which would be appearing sometime after sundown.

“In fact,” noted the Madam, rising, “I think I hear a carriage now.”  She swept from the room, leaving McGillvery and McGillicuddy time for an urgently whispered conference.

“We must leave today, McGillvery,” urged McGillicuddy.  “She’ll believe we had four bags of gold plus one.  The one we lost in town is surely of no news to her.  Why else did Mairin come so quickly to bring us to this castle?  If we stay another day longer, she’ll think it quite queer we always have two new bags of gold to invest.  We must leave or we’re lost.”

At the moment their whisperings had nearly reached the level of excitedly spoken discourse, a cold breeze swept the room.  The boys both looked up to see the loveliest creature they had ever laid eyes upon.  A maid, if she could be called such, which symbolized the very breath of Ireland—highly colored cheeks; red golden hair piled in curled mounds; eyes emerald green as the ocean on a summer’s day; skin as white and appealing as soft, cotton lace; figure as willowy as the saplings growing along river’s edge.  She, without care for the life of a man, in one moment took the breath of McGillvery and McGillicuddy and their hearts along with it.  Sean was unfastening her velvet green cloak while she awaited Madam’s introduction.

“This is Catlin,” was all the Madam said.

Catlin swept forward, bejeweled fingers soft as curdled milk reaching for their own weather roughened hands.  “I’m pleased.”

She spoke in a voice of golden sweet wild bee’s honey. “My aunt tells me you are in investments.”

McGillicuddy quickly spoke.  “Yes.  Investments.”

Madam was ushering them toward the dining room where the rest of the afternoon was spent in pleasant conversations about trifles of the day.  McGillvery watched quietly as Catlin became increasingly focused on McGillicuddy.  Like moths that flap round and round a camp lantern, McGillicuddy became entranced by the green orbs which were Catlin’s eyes.  McGillvery moved uneasily as he watched Madam.  The bejeweled cat was sitting on her lap with unblinking eyes turned on McGillicuddy.

McGillvery lowered his eyes from the scene before him and thought, why did he feel like he and Cuddy were on a stage?  It was odd they could not get rid of the gold profitably.  The first bag lost for a pub brawl.  A pub brawl!  What a ludicrous circumstance! Two boys who were never involved in such doings!  The rest of the bags had been exchanged for pieces of paper with their own signatures on them.  But after all, what was there in hand for the spending of the gold?  Would they ever see the principle returned or any profits on that principle?  He felt as if they were on a never-ending treadmill—walking and walking, but never arriving.

McGillvery looked again at Catlin.  McGillicuddy might as well have had his head in her lap for the look in his eyes.  A web had been woven and Cuddy was caught.  Madam was smiling ever so slightly all the while stroking her cat.  Suddenly, McGillvery knew that Madam knew there was more gold.  She knew and Catlin had been introduced because she knew.  She, through Catlin, would ensnare at least one of the boys and one of the bags of gold.  McGillvery observed her narrowed slit of eye, her calculating face.  If McGillicuddy was so easily disposed of in the space of an afternoon, what plan did she entertain for himself?  How foolish he was.   Suddenly, the words of the waif, Mairin, floated to him, ‘I know someone what has plenty and is plenteously looking for more.’  How foolish he had been to think that investments with Madam would ever pay dividends.  Why, hadn’t she herself said, ‘Wealth is not for generations to come if one does not watch what is at hand?’  Whose wealth was Madam interested in building?  Gilly looked around the immense dining room, the roaring fire, the silver laden tables.  He sickened.  The Madam, like generations before her, was interested in building her own wealth.  And the generations after Madam?  Gilly looked at Catlin’s green eyes and smiling lips.  The lips smiled with disciplined carefulness.  Suddenly, Dearbháil and Tam’s faces flashed before McGillvery.  He thought of the impetuous freedom of Dearbháil’s laughter and anger.  When Dearbháil laughed it was with no pre-calculating thoughts of gain.  She laughed out of sureness and simple-ness of heart.  Even in her anger she was…real.  Catlin on the other hand was not…real.  Catlin was not simple.  And he had deep premonitions she was far from pure.  Gilly instinctively knew her carefully manicured exterior of beauty and grace hid a black, cunning heart and a mind of hurtful intrigue.  Abruptly, Gilly knew they must leave this place.

“McGillicuddy.”  He cleared his throat before proceeding, “McGillicuddy, we’d best be thinking of retiring.  We’ll be a day late on our journey now.  We’ve need of an early start if we’re to do all we need to do.”

Cuddy seemed barely to hear him and Catlin swerved green eyes toward McGillvery.  “I was telling McGillicuddy about a splendid ride along the ocean.  He might enjoy an early morning run.  We’ve a magnificent stable.”  Turning to McGillicuddy she lured, “Wouldn’t you like to ride with me in the morning?”

McGillvery wasn’t surprised to see a foolish nod of affirmation from McGillicuddy.

McGillvery took the opportunity.  “That’s settled then.  An early morning ride means an early retirement.  Come, Cuddy, let’s allow the ladies to prepare for their evening’s rest.”

Madam stopped stroking the cat and smiled at McGillvery, “The evening’s young.  Perhaps McGillicuddy would like to explain to Catlin about his investments?”

McGillvery reached for McGillicuddy’s arm and pulled him to his feet, “Cuddy has promised me to do some work this evening on our investments.  I do not want to disappoint you ladies, but surely you understand the necessity of watching one’s wealth.”  McGillvery congratulated himself on his wise choice of words for they parroted Madam’s own words and she could not very well disagree.

McGillvery pulled McGillicuddy into the hall and up the stairs to their assigned room.  Cuddy seemed half hypnotized—a man in a dream.

When in their room, McGillvery snapped his fingers in front of McGillicuddy’s face.  “Wake up, man.  Wake up!”  He clapped his hands.  Cuddy still had a silly smile and far off look in his eyes. 

Finally, Gilly said, “Forgive me, old chap,” and hauled off a resounding slap to Cuddy’s right cheek followed by an equally forceful slap to Cuddy’s left cheek.  “Wake up man!  Reality’s hitting you in the face.  See if you feel it.”

Cuddy reached to his cheeks, feeling the blistering skin.  He turned wonderingly to Gilly,  “Now, Brother of mine, why did you see fit to slap me as if I were a brawler in a pub house?”

McGillvery breathed a deep sigh, “I thought you were lost.”

“Lost to what?”

“Lost to Catlin.”

“Catlin?”

“The girl, the girl who’s been bewitching you these past four hours.”

“Fie, man.  She’s not bewitching me.  I’ve charmed her as only a man can a maid.  She’s lovely now, isn’t she?”

“Cuddy, we must get away.  We must get away tonight.  The Madam knows, Cuddy.”

“The Madam knows what, Gilly?”

“She knows we have new bags of gold everyday and she’s planned that she’ll get them all everyday.”

Cuddy shook his head, “You are surely imagining that, Gilly.”

“No. Not imagined, Cuddy.  It is the truth.  Catlin is here to capture you so you’ll stay.”

Cuddy thrust a rather weak Irish chin forward.  “If ever an Irish lad were to be conquested, I can think of no better land to surrender to than that green-eyed lass.”

McGillvery was silent and looked down at his feet.  He shuffled them a bit and looked up at Cuddy.  “You used to think Dearbháil and Tamara would be a fine land to own.  I recall you thought of conquesting Dearbháil.  Have you so fickle a heart, McGillicuddy?”

McGillicuddy grew red to the roots of his hair.  “Not fickle.  But p’rhaps far-seeing.  Men with investments must have certain finer things than the common man, Gilly.  Dearbháil is…well…earthy.  Catlin is…regal…a proper escort to a man of means.”

“You mean,” snorted Gilly hotly, “she’s decided at advice from Madam to be an escort to your bag of gold!”

Cuddy flushed red, “Watch your tongue, Brother.”

Gilly interrupted, “Catlin’s used to the cream from the cow, Brother.  As for you all the world cannot make a racehorse from an ass.”

Cuddy uttered an imprecation and bellowed like an enraged bull while taking a wide swinging blow at Gilly’s head.  Gilly stepped back and in doing so tumbled over their tinker’s packs spilling their mother’s Book onto the floor. 

Cuddy began a step forward to pursue Gilly when he saw the Book lying open.  Slowly he reached down to retrieve it.  Gilly picked himself up while simultaneously dusting his tinker’s breeches.  “Read it, Cuddy.  You know how Mother always said to read where it falls open in times of trouble.”

Cuddy slowly read, “For they bind heavy burdens grievous to be borne and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their little fingers.”

McGillvery looked at McGillicuddy.  “We’ve always been free men, Cuddy.  The Lord’s law is for liberty to all men.  Are those who live in these walls free?”

A gong sounded downstairs.  “Midnight, Cuddy.  Come look.”

Walking to the window the brothers peered down to see the huddled black shapes weaving a slow line away from the Castle MacKenay.  “Do ye think in the end we’ll be any more than they, Cuddy?  Look, we’re still in our tinker’s clothes.  Would a woman such as Catlin have stopped a carriage for us just one week ago?  Why is she smiling at us now?  Ask yerself and be true, Cuddy.”  He paused, letting the words go deep into Cuddy’s heart.

Cuddy nodded his head in intense shame and without another word began quietly gathering their bags.  The boys crept down the darkened stairs through the side entrance of the castle and mingled with the small ones.  When outside the castle walls, McGillvery touched one of the creatures.  “Do you know a place where we can spend the night?”

A pinched face looked at him.  “Not where ye’ll be warm and well fed.”

“Do you not go home to Fathers and Mothers?”

“Nay.  We be the orphans of MacKenay’s Castle.”

McGillvery and McGillicuddy looked at the long procession of children.  “Do you all work in the castle?”

The child answered not for he had rejoined his place in line winding its way to the sea.

As the last child came from the castle McGillvery and McGillicuddy got into line and followed along the foaming surf and cold, wet sand about a mile to the north of the castle and up steep, rocky cliffs along a narrow trail which led to caves elevated above the ocean’s highest tides.

There, in large, darkened caverns, hundreds of children quietly wrapped themselves in their raggedy black cloaks and huddled for warmth beside one another—the youngest in the middle, the oldest on the cooler outer ends.  McGillvery looked wonderingly at the rows and rows of children.  “Cuddy, have you ever seen so many children?”

“Nay.  Never in all my days.”

“Did you see them eat anything?”

“Nay and no fire neither.  But p’rhaps they had the scraps from our meal at the castle, Gilly.”

“The scraps could not have gone far with so many small mouths asking for food, Cuddy.”

A child coughed.  Another whimpered in its sleep.  “Not an eye in Ireland could smile could they see this blight on our nation’s fair reputation.”

“This is an evil place, Cuddy,” whispered Gilly.

“Our sacks will be filled in the morning,” suggested Cuddy.

Picking up the cue, Gilly agreed, “We could buy the cargoes of the ships in the harbor to feed the wee children.”

“Aye, an’ p’rhaps hire a tailor to fashion clothes.”

“A shoemaker to fashion shoes.”

“We’ll go now so we can barter at first light.”

McGillvery and McGillicuddy quietly crept out of the cave’s entrance following the sea back to the village called MacKenay on the Shore.

Five ships now lay quietly at anchor in the harbor.  Bales of wool lay on the docks ready for loading.  As the eastern light dawned red, sailors began loading and unloading cargo—crates of oranges from the islands, leather, silks and satins.  McGillicuddy and McGillvery, long used to barter and trade as tinkering merchants, well knew how to bargain with these men.  It was not long before they had purchased supplies and food to feed hundreds more children than those in the caves.

“Well, Gilly, our bags are half-empty and ’tis not noon yet.”

“There’s no money returned on what we’ve spent,” said Gilly.

“Nay, no return at all!” chuckled Cuddy cheerfully, “excepting a full heart and a good night’s sleep.”

Gilly looked out of the corner of his eye at Cuddy.  “When you put it that way, ’tis most likely far more than we’ll get on the investments with the Madam.”

Cuddy looked at Gilly, “The money’s been rather a bother so far, hasn’t it?  It’s not spent very well.”

“No, not well until today.  Today it’s spending quite well I’d say.”

Much cheered by his brother’s mutual feeling about their endeavor, Cuddy suggested going to the pub a second time.  “Let’s see if we can hire wagons and men from the village to take our merchandise to the caves.  ’Tis time for the noon meal. There should be quite a crew for hiring gathered at this time of day.”

Gilly felt his chin.  “Only if we can hire McDougal—not fight with him.”

Cuddy laughed. “We’re not asking to buy his land this time, just to hire his brawn.  Hopefully his father-in-law doesn’t control that, too.  Let’s go.”

The pub was filled to overflowing.  McGillvery and McGillicuddy walked to the bar and slapped it for attention.  The hubbub quieted.

McGillvery cleared his throat importantly, “My brother and I are in need of wagons for hire with men for drivers.  We’ll pay a day’s wage for half a day’s work.  We’ll hire all that will labor today.  Any men’s wives who like to sew and weave, we’ve jobs for them.  If any fancy yourselves cooks and want occupation, come to the bar.”  Gilly pulled out several gold pieces and held them to the light.  “We pay in gold at the start of the task.”

A man laughed from the back of the room.  “I’ll work for someone that foolish.  How do you know we’ll not drive the wagons halfway and leave with your gold?”

Gilly spoke assertively, “Because I know good Irish blood when I see it and there’s not a man in this room who would do such a thing to his fellow countrymen.”

The man hung his head.  Another man raised a mug, “Name’s Seamus.  I’ll work for you—cook.”

“Ronan—wagon and driver,” spoke another.

“Pa’draing,” came an Ulster accent, “wife will sew.  I’ll drive and haul.”

The men formed a line and came forward to receive their gold.  Cuddy gave directions while Gilly returned to the docks.  Soon a long line of wagons stood ready for loading, a handful of peasant women waited for leather and fabric goods.  “Children’s clothing, all sizes, Madams.  Woolen blankets.  Don’t have to be pretty…must be serviceable.  Is there a shoemaker in the village?”

An old man stood forward and received leather goods.  Pa’draing loaded shoe nails to his shoulder and followed the shoemaker back to the village.

The little boy who had sold McGillvery and McGillicuddy the puppy stood by the side of his father.

Cuddy pointed to him, “Lad, would ye like some honest work now?”

“By the saints, yes,” affirmed the boy.

“Then run to the bakers and buy all his bread.  Load it into one of the last wagons.”

Cuddy threw the boy several gold pieces.  The boy turned a questioning smile to his father.  The smile was returned with his father’s blessing.

“We’re buying old clothes, shoes, and old blankets today,” shouted Gilly.  “We’ll take all ye’ve got.  Spread the word.”  By two o’clock the last bag of gold was empty.  The wagons started out along the shoreline toward MacKenay’s Castle.   As they passed under the shadow of the castle, Gilly prayed for safe passage and keeping.  By six o’clock in the evening the wagons were empty and on their way back to the village.  The goods they had carried were safely stored in the empty caves.  Huge pots of lamb stew were bubbling over roaring fires which defied the cold of the ocean’s spray.  McGillvery and McGillicuddy looked at their empty sacks and smiled.  “’Twas fair simple to spend it with no burden attached,” said Cuddy.

“Aye,” agreed Gilly.  “And now it must be midnight for I see the small ones coming along the beach.”

Cuddy looked out, “The rich and the poor meet together. The Lord is the Maker of them all.”

“Proverbs, Cuddy?”

“Proverbs, Gilly.”

The children straggled in one by one looking dully at the fire, the bedrolls, the food.  Gilly and Cuddy began ladling the hot stew into bowls of all shapes and sizes.  The children took their bowls, ate, and wrapped themselves in the woolen blankets with nary a word.  Gilly and Cuddy kept the fires roaring all through the night and gave each child a piece of bread as they left for the castle before break of day.  None looked up.  No word was spoken.  McGillvery and McGillicuddy watched the strange little procession as it wound its way back to the castle.

“It will take a very long time for them to feel the effects of the nourishment.”

“They need not be working these long hours, Cuddy.  Why the littlest lassie—what could she possibly do of any worth at the castle?”

Gilly and Cuddy looked at their bags of gold.

“Back to the village we go.  Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

Cuddy returned the question with a nod.  “T’won’t be hard to spend this day’s gold either.”

“Carpenters?”

“Yes, I think it is time to speak to McDougal’s father-in-law about some land.”

As the boys walked along shoreline’s edge past the shadow of the castle, it seemed they could see small figures looking briefly over the parapets.  Smallish, catlike faces that disappeared as quickly as they appeared.  “If we give all of them a home, Gilly, we’ll have the wrath of the Madam.  It’ll not go well for her pockets to hire workers to keep the castle.”

“Safety is of the Lord,” blithely replied Gilly.  “We’ll do the right thing and let her worry about doing the wrong thing.”

Cuddy felt pleased. “You know, Gilly, before we ever stepped out upon this venture I felt sad to think of our mother’s poor eyes seeing us as two failures—no more in life than two starving tinkers.  But now I’d feel proud if she could see us.”

Gilly was quiet for some time and then slowly asked, “Was it the bags of gold that made the difference, Cuddy?”

Cuddy thought for the space of several meters walking and replied, “Nay.  ’Tis not the gold, but the doing of good with it that I would like Mother’s eyes to see.  That would make her happy, you see.  The goodness of it.”

“The Madam has not been a very good shepherd to all her little lambs, has she?”

“No.  They’ve been skinned and knocked about.  She’s fed herself and prepared for her future generations on the backs of starving children.  ’Tis not a very firm foundation upon which to build, Gilly.”

“Then the Castle MacKenay will not last, Cuddy.”

“Nay.  T’will not last, Gilly.”

Somberly the boys passed beyond the shadow of the castle’s wall into the village whose quiet character had been greatly disturbed by the brothers’ lavish outlay of gold.  A bustling and scurrying was occurring on every street corner.  So hastily did persons move they barely had the time to nod quick hellos to McGillvery and McGillicuddy.

The brothers made their way to the pub where customers who formerly spent the greater part of their days in the pub’s corner shadows were animatedly talking and speculating at the bar.

“Innkeeper,” called Cuddy.

“Aye, Mister McGillicuddy.  An’ what would be your favor this day?”

“I’m needing to speak to McDougal’s father-in-law.”

A red-faced bull of a man turned toward the brothers.  “I’m McDougal’s father-in-law.  An’ what would ye be wanting with me?”

“We’ve heard tell ye have land and we’re in need of a wee piece of land.  Not a great deal big and not a goodly piece.  Just a corner you’ve not much interest in.  We’ve gold and we’ll pay this day for it.”

The man’s eyes narrowed speculatively.  “You’re the boys who’ve disrupted so the economy.  MacKenay on the Shore is beginning to remind me of the gold field towns in the southeast.  No good’s ever come from free spending of gold.  It has a way of corrupting God-fearing towns and attracting evils and vices of the worst kinds.  By asking to buy me land, ye are asking to disturb the hopes and dreams of all my ancestors before me who’d hoped to keep that for which they’d labored.  Is that the tricks you’re up to boys?”

“May God ever increase your store,” gasped a surprised Gilly at the man’s rebuff.  “Never such a curse would we wish on any Irish village.  For the blessings of St. Patrick must surely rain on us all as plenteously as the dew on the heather glens.”

Cuddy nodded his head in agreement.  “The Saints preserve us not before we would bring a curse upon any Irish soul.”

The red-faced man relaxed a bit.  “Then ye be God-fearing lads?” he inquired.

Cuddy reached into his pack and drew out his mother’s Book.  “By our dear departed mother’s Book, we’ve traversed Ireland from north to south from east to west always relying on its good advice for all we do.  By asking for land and being willing to pay, we are not aware of transgressing against any of our nation, Sir.”

“I’ll be supposing that is no transgression,” smiled the man quite mollified by the boys’ words.  “Come, we’ll talk to my daughter.  She’s the title to all I have.”

A short walk up the hill behind MacKenay on the Shore found a comfortable home at the edge of huge meadows of grassland.  Small wrens flitted along an oak grove. Sheep grazed alongside hills of emerald green color.

At the stone cottage door, a young woman stood briskly sweeping pied colored flagstones which had been so long used they were gently shallowed in the middle where many a generation’s foot had passed.  The thatch on the cottage was fresh this year and a cowbell’s tinkle could be heard not far off.  Three dogs came, wagging tails to the man, and walking the three of them to the cottage.

“Eibhlin, we’ve visitors now.”

Eibhlin swept dark hair back into pins and said, “I’ll make tea.  Take them into the parlor, Father.”

The tea was good. The cups dainty.  Gilly surveyed the room.  Neat and tidy.  It easily could be the gatehouse of MacKenay’s Castle and its inhabitants, the castle’s Keepers of the Woods, he thought.  But of course, keepers did not own land.  Gilly cleared his throat, “My brother and I came for the purpose of purchasing land, Mistress Eibhlin.”

Eibhlin looked quickly at her father, eyebrows raised in question.  He nodded approving her voice in this matter.  Eibhlin said, “So now, what have ye got to trade that would be of more value than me own land?”

Gilly, having learned several hard lessons about the inhabitants of this country valuing their possessions above all else, hung his head as if in shame, before replying meekly,  “I’m that sorry to say Mistress that we’ve naught of more value than two bags of gold.”

He hoisted the bags to the table and carefully spilled the contents into one heaping pile of glittering wealth.

Eibhlin looked incredulously at the pile of gold.  “An’ where would men get ever so much gold?” she gasped.

“We choose to think it a gift from our Lord,” said McGillicuddy.

“Gold’s never a gift from the Lord,” snapped Eibhlin.  “More’n likely you made a bargain wi’ the dev’l.”  She turned to her father, “Father, ye’ve taught me well—gold is easily spent and land’s well kept.”

Her father nodded his head sagely without adding to her words.

She cocked her head to look well at the beckoning sheen of the gold.  It seemed Gilly could hear the thoughts of her head as they ran pell-mell one into the other.  He saw the corners of her mouth downturn and knew their affairs had been suddenly concluded.

“Did ye notice, Father, how these boys poured these sacks upon me table?  ’Tis luring me with my eyes they’re after and wishing I would follow suit with me eyes by touching it with me hands.  I’d be that much caught.  These lads are here in an effort to lure me into greedy and covetous action.”  She looked intently at her father.  “Would ye have me part with my grandparents and their grandparents’ holdings before them for this mere trifle?”  She waved toward the mound of gold while raising eyebrows in her father’s direction.

Her father wrinkled his forehead as if deeply contemplating what his daughter had said.  Then he slowly shook his graying curls and said, “It’s all belonging to you now, girl.  Ye must make the decision based upon all your teaching.”  

Eibhlin set her jaw firm and said curtly, “Father, I demand ye do your duty.  These men are betrayers of the faith and have drunk my tea!”

The red-faced bull of a man wrinkled his brow and thought for a bit more.  He began nodding his head as if coming to a conclusion. It took some few minutes, but he finally seemed to reach a decision because the nodding stopped as he unfolded his massive arms from across his chest.  Without looking at McGillvery or McGillicuddy, he leaned back in his chair and cried, “Glory! Eanna!”

It took a moment for the boys to gather the meaning of the old man’s actions.

“He’s summoning his dogs,” warned Gilly to Cuddy, starting from his chair.

“The gold, Gilly,” Cuddy gasped.  They hurriedly swept the gold back into their bags not stopping to get the few coin that rolled into the corners of the room.

“For the tea and your hospitality, Ma’am,” gasped Gilly as he pointed to the coin on the floor.  “The window, Cuddy,” he yelled. 

Cuddy had already seen the window, was jumping through it, and seeing himself more than many miles distant from this place.  Gilly soon followed, hearing the scraping of the dog’s claws behind him as the nimble animals endeavored to clear the window’s ledge after him.  A half hour later both boys stopped at edge of town, gasping for precious breath. 

“She and her father are surely mad, Cuddy,” panted Gilly.

“Perhaps we’d feel the same if we were them, Gilly.  Let’s not judge harshly.  Different lands have different ways.”  He looked at the afternoon sun.  “Two bags of gold still needs to be disposed.  If no lands are to be had, we’d best do what we can at the caves.”

Gilly and Cuddy spent the rest of the day purchasing at high prices beds, rockers, tables, benches, washtubs.  Wagons again made their heavy trek to the caves, fires were started, food cooked. 

By midnight the cooks, drivers, and haulers from the village were gone.  The boys again watched the black procession of waifs wind themselves from the castle along the side of the cliffs to the caverns.

Gilly and Cuddy ladled each child large bowls of lamb rich stew.  No words were spoken as the children ate, crept to woolen blankets now laid neatly on beds, and wrapped themselves for sleep with heads on downy pillows for comfort’s sake.

Gilly looked tiredly at the rows and rows of children.  “Cuddy, we’ve had no sleep ourselves.  A man with no sleep soon becomes dull-minded.  We’ll need our wits about us for tomorrow’s work.  New bags of gold will need spending soon enough.”

Cuddy agreed and built the fire high while Gilly laid out the children’s morning bread along with the few pairs of new shoes which the shoemaker had fashioned that day.  Soon both boys were fast asleep on empty gold bags for pillows.

In the morning, the fires were out.  The bread, shoes, and children were already gone.  McGillvery and McGillicuddy arose and sat at the cavern’s entrance.

“In all of Ireland have ye ever seen a place where there is no land to be had?”

“Nay.”

“If there’s no land to be had here, Cuddy, little can be done for the children’s improvement.  Conditions are some better, but not proper until we can place them in a suitable home with a fittin’ roof over their wee heads.  We can’t very well spend the rest of our days minding fires and ladling soup in these caves under the shadow of MacKenay’s Castle.”

Cuddy sighed, “I know.  It seems we’ve been ensnared in a trap.  Perhaps there’s homes in town which we may refurbish and rent for a fair price.”

“Aye,” agreed Gilly.

“And then, there’s another idea,” began Cuddy.

Gilly looked expectantly at Cuddy, “Speak if ye’re having an idea.  I’ve none better than the one ye just uttered.”

“If we can’t buy land for the children somewhere in MacKenay on the Shore, is it possible we could take the children to a place where there is land for the buying?”

Gilly thought seriously before answering, “This be their home area.  I’m not sure it would be in the best interests of the younger ones to be leaving a place they are familiar with.”

“An’ maybe it would be better for them to leave behind all these memories and begin entirely anew.  If we took them away, they’d never have need to return to the castle again.  Old habits are difficult to break.  We’ve more than enough income to provide for them until each and everyone is quite grown.”

Gilly grinned all over his entire face and slapped his knee in excitement.  “May God increase the bounty of your heart always, Cuddy. ’Tis a splendid idea.  We can buy one of the ships in the harbor, load her with provisions, and within one day be at any harbor in Ireland filled with more sensible folk than these, with a chance for the children to grow in environments more charitable and hospitable.”

“Let’s buy the ship today.  We’ll load the supplies and the children in the morning,” suggested Cuddy.

 


 

Chapter 9

Charity

One captain was more than eager to sell his ship at the stupendous prices McGillvery and McGillicuddy offered.  The boys hired the villagers to load supplies which were to be paid for on the morrow. Late in the day the brothers retired to the cave to prepare food for their wards for another evening. 

When the children came to eat their bowls of stew, McGillvery and McGillicuddy began talking to them about the ship and going away to a better land where they could have lamb stew, bread, warm clothes, and a castle of their own to live in.  The children seemed not to hear and rolled into their blankets and slept.

“Will they come?” whispered Cuddy.

“I don’t think they understand,” whispered Gilly.  “The ship is ready.  We’ll have to lead them there in the morning.”

In the morning several of the children put on the new shoes the shoemaker had made the day before, reached for their bread, and began winding down the path to the castle.

“No, children, no.  Not today,” hollered Gilly.

“Children,” cried Cuddy, running in front of them. “Follow me, this way.  This way, children.”

The brood of children seemed confused.  They tried to push past Cuddy to the path leading to the castle.

“No. No, children.  Hurry, Gilly.  This way!  Follow Gilly.  He’ll show you the way to go.”  Cuddy began pushing the children toward Gilly and Gilly began a prancing dance toward the village.  “Sing, Gilly.  Catch their attention.”

“By the bonny glens of Fenwood Green…,” sang Gilly.

The children milled confusedly.  Cuddy pushed them.  “Follow him.  Follow Gilly.  Listen to the music and follow it.”

Mairin pushed forward from the back of the group.  “They’s got nothin’, Mister.  They’s got nothin’.  They’s that got nothin’ don’t understand how to gets somethin’.”

Cuddy grasped Mairin’s shoulders, “Then you show them, Mairin.  You lead just like you’ve led them to the castle.  Lead them to something better, Mairin.”

Mairin shook her head.  “Only them that’s got, gets.  It’s the rules.  Ye cain’t be breakin’ the rules, Mister.  Even you.  You ain’t got and you ain’t gettin’.  All that’s here belongs to the Madam.  She’s the Keeper of the Treasure.”

Cuddy looked closer at Mairin’s face.  “Why—why you’re….”

He grabbed her and turned her upside down.  A cat’s squeal came out of her.  He threw her up into the air and she twisted around and came down on all fours.  “All of you—you’re not children! You’re…,” and he grabbed two of the black dressed creatures beside him only to be greeted with scratches and feline screeches.

“Gilly!  It’s an illusion.  They aren’t children!  All of this.  It’s an illusion!”

Gilly quit his singing and watched as the creatures meowing, scrambled toward the castle.

“Where are we, Cuddy?” he asked in bewilderment.

“It seems, my brother, that we’ve never left the Sinks.”

 A slow dawning horror came over McGillvery’s face.  “But we walked over the top, Brother.  We spoke with the sheep herding lad and his father.”

“We walked nowhere.  The Cat created an illusion of our leaving, but we did not leave.  The stone steps going down into the Sinks did not come out, Gilly.  The Cat has no intention of letting anyone leave prints which show the way out.”

“Are we here forever then?”

“No. Not forever.  We prayed for a prospering, Gilly.  The Lord is faithful.  A prayer answered will come only with a blessing attached, not a bag of tricks.  This is the Cat’s doing I’ll warrant.  It may control the land, let’s see if it controls the sea.  We’ve two bags of gold to spend.  Let’s spend them quickly and set sail.”

“If this is an illusion, then all our gold has returned to the Cat, hasn’t it, Cuddy?”

“Yes, it has.  That is why we’ve seen no profit from it.  Even the profit of a heart full of peace from well doing was a cheat and a lie.  We were not helping children at all, but merely stoking and replenishing the Cat’s treasure.”

“This is a bitterness that goes deep into the vitals, Cuddy.”

“Aye, but those who do good out of simple hearts true will win in the end, Gilly.”

“Some saints did not win all their lives, Cuddy.  It’s only in death that they hope for their reward,” spoke Gilly, a mite fearfully.

“Then if that be the only way for us, we’ll fulfill our destiny with courage, but never shall we give up doing what is right,” grimly spoke McGillicuddy.  “Dearbháil and Tamara are somewhere beyond this world and I’ve plans for that Irish lassie’s future, Gilly.”

By now the brothers had reached their dearly priced ship.  Villagers were gathered at the docks pushing against one another in their eagerness to procure goodly sums of Gilly and Cuddy’s gold.  Gilly and Cuddy bought any and all of the items offered and quickly emptied their sacks.  The items were loaded into the hold of the vessel and by very late afternoon the brothers finally set sail into waters unknown.

“Sail south, Cuddy,” directed Gilly.  “Sail into warmer and friendlier seas.”

As Cuddy steered the ship into the wide ocean a clap of thunder crashed overhead—lightnings zigzagged around the ship, a huge cloud looking like a cat rolled toward their vessel spitting and clawing in dark anger.  For many hours Gilly fought to steer while the storm grew increasingly fierce.  The ocean’s waves grew higher and higher and, in a place where none could ever be—between two heaven-high walls of water—a huge whirlpool appeared.

“We’re lost, Cuddy,” screeched Gilly.

“Hang on to your bag, Gilly. ’Tis nearly midnight.  Into the foaming mass we go, into the depths of the ocean just as Jonah was swept into the great fish’s mouth so long ago.”

“O’Lord, preserve our souls in life or death,” cried Gilly and the ship tipped bow first into the swirling abyss below.


 

Chapter 10

Lords and Earls

 

A warmth covered McGillicuddy’s back.  He felt he was being caressed by the sun’s own golden rays.  A heaviness caused him to lie very still, eyes closed.  From a long distance away, he seemed to hear Gilly’s voice.  It wasn’t worth the effort to awaken.  He passed back into a deep sleep.  Then he felt the familiar rumble of a tinker’s wagon beneath him and he turned his head to view bags full of laces, thread, and needles; pans and pots swinging overhead; sweet candies for children tucked into fabric bolts of plain homespun suitable for the daily necessities of laboring farmers and their wives.

“Gilly,” he called weakly.  The wagon kept pulling straight ahead; but, a dear Gilly, familiar and beloved, climbed from the front seat into the box behind.

“Cuddy! You’re awake.  Finally.  You’ve been gone such a long time.”

Cuddy smiled wanly and nodded.   Then he fell back into unconsciousness.  It must have been a great while later he thought, for he seemed to hear Dearbháil’s voice and he smelled potatoes baking over the coals. 

“Irish manna,” he smiled.

“Why, Cuddy,” Dearbháil cried.  “You’re awake at last.  Tamara, get the soup and we’ll spoon-feed Ireland’s tinker.  Such a great man as you, McGillicuddy, lying a’purpose abed like a wee infant.  ’Tis time you were awake and about.”  She spoke in laughter.  A twinkle in her green eyes and the dimple in her cheek did more to heal Cuddy than ever all the bowlfuls of potato soup should ever do. He breathed deeply of the cleanness of Dearbháil’s kitchen.  Fresh air scented with good honest lye soap and the constant baking of potatoes.

The soup was thick, rich with butter and homegrown onions.  Dearbháil had pushed small pieces of brown bread into the broth.  Cuddy ate the entire bowl and fell asleep.

Long toward evening he again awoke with more strength and alertness of mind.  He lay listening to Dearbháil and Tam’s quiet chatter.  His mind registered that there was something in this room that was missing, something he needed to attend to…Gilly!

“Dearbháil!” he cried, sitting up.  “I need to speak with Gilly.  Get Gilly!”

Dearbháil hurried to his side.  “Cuddy—lie down immediately.  Tam, get a dressing for Cuddy’s head—it’s broken open again.”

Cuddy grabbed Dearbháil’s arm. “I must see Gilly.  Dearbháil, all is lost if I do not see Gilly!”

“Now Gilly’s been gone these three weeks, Cuddy, and I’d like to know why you’re so fired up to see him right at this very minute when it mattered not a bit for the last three weeks!”

“Three weeks?” Cuddy asked.

His grasp on Dearbháil’s arm relaxed.  “Three weeks,” he whispered.

His heart sank to the depths of despair.  Eyes closed, he asked, “An’ ye’ve not seen anything of him these past weeks?”

Dearbháil snorted.  “A fine brother ’e’s turned out to be.  Came in, got the tinker’s wagon, brought you in here one mornin’ ’alf dead, and gave me—a friend of your dear mum—gold for the care of you and ran off just that fast.  ’E hasn’t even been back to see if you’re dead or alive and what I’ll do with his filthy gold pieces when I see him is not politeness to tell.”

Cuddy was quiet.  He’d not heard half what Dearbháil said for the racing of his mind.  The bags, the gold, the Sinks, how could Gilly possibly manage two bags of gold per day?  “What can I do?” moaned Cuddy.

“Do?” snapped Dearbháil.  “Why you’re more foolish than my mare in heat, McGillicuddy.  You’ll lie there and do nothing till you’re well.”

McGillicuddy lay absolutely still while Dearbháil and Tam redressed his head wound.  “Our Father in heaven,” prayed Cuddy silently, “I’m not knowing where my dear brother is nor the devilment he may have fallen into.  You’ll be needing to send your sweet angels to keep him from harm.”

Meanwhile, McGillvery sat in a suit of silk brocade in deep conversation with the Earl of Donogough.  Between them lay two heaps of new glistening gold.  The Earl was running fingers through the gold, half listening to McGillvery.

“This is the first payment for your lands.  Every seventh day, you’ll receive the same until your price is met.  You’re welcome to carry on as you are—the only thing which changes is the paper of ownership.”

“It’s a tempting offer, Lord McGillvery.  It is Lord, isn’t it?”

McGillvery cleared his voice, “Er, yes.”  Then with more confidence, “Yes.  Lord McGillvery.”

The Earl took his hand away from the pile.  “I’ve never made a decision in haste, McGillvery.  Neither have I made a decision without advisors.”

McGillvery quietly asked, “How long do you need Earl Donogough?”

“A fortnight will do.”

McGillvery began putting the gold back into bags while saying carefully.  “Would you p’haps have some friends who might be interested in a similar offer?”

“Not if it hampers my ability to take advantage of this opportunity.”

“Nay, nay,” hastily assured McGillvery.  “I’ll be buying seven estates in Ireland before I’m done.”

“In that case, here’s my card of introduction to the Earl of Worshire.  He’s located south of here, lands connecting to mine.”

“Thank you.” McGillvery bowed over Earl Donogough’s hand as he accepted the card.  “I’ll present myself to you in a fortnight for your decision.  Ah,” he remembered, presenting a packet of papers to the Earl, “my list of references should you decide to need further assurance of my good intentions.”

McGillvery left the Earl’s interior apartments and entered a richly fashioned carriage complete with driver and matched sets of four bay geldings.

“Back to the village and be quick about it,” he ordered.

Within the carriage confines of velvet draperies and fur-lined floors, McGillvery smiled to himself.  Even though he’d had little sleep for three weeks and this late in the day he still had two bags of gold to dispose of before evening’s setting, he was not worried or pressed for time.  He had enterprises in place for spending the gold at a moment’s notice.  In the last three weeks, he had bought a Lord’s title.  He had been privately tutored in the proper deportment of a Lord.  He continuously employed an accountant, a lawyer, a private doctor, a secretary, and had surrounded himself with all the accouterments of a man of means. 

He had, in full time employment, advisors who had drawn the necessary paperwork for a money house which lent monies and invested the profits from his recent holdings.  He even had auditors who made the rounds of businesses he bought in small villages along the way.  Everything he purchased was managed by the original proprietors who in turn paid two per cent of monthly profits to McGillvery and McGillicuddy, Ltd., the money house McGillvery had started.  His head, it seemed, had ideas which never stopped.  This new plan was the topper of them all.  By the time he’d purchased seven castles and their holdings, he would at last have involved the daily flow from the Everfilling bags so fully he not only could sleep, but also could go back to Dearbháil’s and see about McGillicuddy’s welfare without the daily necessity of finding ways to expend the gold.

It was the rough cobblestones under rapidly moving carriage wheels that roused him from his contemplations as his driver pulled the travel weary horses to a quick stop in front of an elaborate and richly adorned private residence.  McGillvery, as was his wont in the last three weeks, raced up the mansion’s widely pretentious stairs lined with potted and carefully manicured shrubbery, threw his cloak, hat, and gloves to the waiting butler while walking swiftly through the ornately furnished foyer.

“Rachel, bring the Doctor and Stebbins.”  McGillvery tossed his coat and tie onto a leather-backed chair.  As the Doctor and Stebbins appeared, McGillvery said, “I’ve decided to build a hospital.  Stebbins, draw the paperwork immediately.  Doctor, you are to supervise the entire operation—the finest equipment, the best materials.”

McGillvery emptied the gold onto the table.  “Weigh it, Rachel.  Make me a receipt for the down payment on a hospital.”

Rachel began weighing.  Stebbins began writing.  The Doctor began listing all the items a good hospital would need.

Within the hour, Rachel gave him a receipt.  “Rachel, have the accountant come in the morning to set the proper books for a hospital and deposit the monies into a hospital fund.  Where’s James?  There you are.  I need a fresh team and driver and fresh clothing.  I’m on my way to the Earl of Worshire.”

At the door a basket of cold potatoes, eggs, and herring were handed him.  He stepped into his carriage, covered himself with a woolen throw, and turned to sleep with the two empty bags under his head.  “McGillicuddy would be proud,” he thought as he drifted into an unconsciousness that was oblivious to the rumbling wheels carrying him to his next appointment.

So passed the next fortnight until McGillvery had offered every major landowner in Southern Ireland an opportunity to sell their hereditary estates at a handsome price and continue living their same lifestyle on their ancestral lands with two per cent of the annual profits returned to McGillvery and McGillicuddy, Limited.

It was with lightness of heart that he began again this same circuit to close the offers made to the Earls and Lords.

The Earl Donogough seemed pleased to see him and invited him into the library where a barrister was comfortably seated before a quiet summer’s fire.

“Now Lord McGillvery, would you please repeat your offer of a fortnight ago?”

“With pleasure,” said McGillvery, repeating his offer.

Earl Donogough turned to the barrister. “Well?”

The barrister cleared his throat with an important ‘Ahem.’  He placed gold-rimmed glasses at the end of his nose, picked up a sheaf of papers, and said, “The papers are quite in order.  There are a few points I wish clarified.  Specifically, I’ve questions about the term of the contract.  When Lord McGillvery passes from this life, who shall benefit from the income and for how long?”

“I believe the contract is quite specific on that point, Sir.  My heir is one—my brother, McGillicuddy.  The contract stands in force for the term of my life and then the term of his life.  The contract ends at my brother’s death with all properties reverting to the original owners.”

“And, the two per cent interest rates?”

“They no longer need be paid.”

“And, the principle originally lent?  It seems you’ve not required repayment of the principle.”

“That is correct.  I am merely asking a solid, monetary return on my monies for the duration of my and my brother’s lifetime.”

“In a contract, Sir, there must be a gift in kind to make the contract valid.  It seems you’ve received little gift for the value for your gold.  I’m exceedingly perplexed at the exceptionally low interest rate you’ve charged for the use of your monies.” 

“And you’ve surely not forgotten the ways of money,” replied McGillvery smoothly.  “Over a lifetime its face may whimsically change many times.  Sometimes it presents a face of value and sometimes its face makes a poor showing.  Interest rates fluctuate.  I am content with a lifetime of fair showings—neither excellent nor poor.  By playing a moderate game, I save myself palpitation of heart and gain a certain security knowing I have a comfortable, guaranteed two per cent income for life without further investment of my time or my energies.  I am satisfied with that.  I am not a greedy man,” said McGillvery.  In a further effort to reassure, he said, “I highly value practicality in all things as a prudent measure to follow.”

“Then, your brother after you benefits from the contract at those same terms and with those same values?”

“Precisely.”

“And what is the age of your brother, Sir?”

“We’re nearly twins.”

The barrister appraised McGillvery.  “Well, Donogough, you’ve the price of your castle and lands at a cost of a two per cent per year interest for the lifetime of this chap and then his brother.  After their demise, the lands return to your heirs.  You’ve no need to repay the principle.  ’Tis all in your favor and little in his.  Do as you will.  You’ll not procure monies so cheaply at current money house rates.”

The Earl Donogough nodded his head.  “So thought I.  Would you supervise the reading of the agreement and my signature?”

“To be sure.”

The agreement was read.  No changes were made as it had been written forthrightly and honestly.

McGillvery poured the bags of gold on the table. It was counted.   A receipt was made.

“I take your leave, Gentlemen,” he said as he bowed and left the room.

With very little difference, the contracts were agreed to and signed by the rest of the largest landowners in Southern Ireland.  McGillvery now found himself, in this life at least, the owner of nearly half of Ireland with a handsome two per cent annual earnings from its profits—earnings which could be allowed to grow in a money house without the necessity of spending it as the bags required.  Most importantly the bags were fully spent for many days. McGillvery could now return to McGillicuddy’s side.  Not for many a day or night had he dared think of his brother.  Now that he had time for reflection, a deep anxiety entered his heart.  He wondered if McGillicuddy was still alive.

McGillvery traded the coach and four for his tinker’s wagon thirty miles from Dearbháil’s village.  His gloves, top hat, and velvet breeches were soon rolled and packed in the bottom of a wooden chest having been quietly exchanged for the much patched tinker’s tweeds he had worn for many a year.  T’would never do for Dearbháil to see the grand manner in which he traveled.  Too many questions too soon would greatly disturb the few days of peace he had bought for himself at the hands of Southern Ireland’s Lords and Earls.  He leaned restfully back in his wagon’s seat, tipped his hat forward, and allowed his tinker horses free rein to follow the only western road leading toward Dearbháil’s cottage.

A day later toward mid afternoon, McGillicuddy, sitting before the fire scrubbing the dirt from Dearbháil’s potatoes, suddenly held the bristle brush very still.  He turned a little and listened harder.  “Is it a tinker’s wagon I be hearing, Tamara?”

The young woman bent a bit at the waist and peeked below the window’s opening.  She pointed a finger toward the hill on the east side of Dearbháil’s house and said, “I’m thinking that cart looks very much like your own.” 

McGillicuddy scrambled to his feet and bent to look out the low window.  “It’s Gilly!” he cried.

He ran out the door through the gate to meet McGillvery.  Dearbháil stood up from the garden, earth caked hands at her waist.

McGillvery, awakened at McGillicuddy’s yelp of joy, leapt from the seat of the cart, and ran down the rest of the hill to meet his brother.

“Hah!” he cried and grasped Cuddy.  “Hah!  Hah! The Lord’s granted ye rosy cheeks and a bright eye, Cuddy.”  Gilly threw back his head laughing and pulling Cuddy around in a circle, first clapping him heartily on back and shoulders and then hugging him with the intensity of a she-bear.

Tears rolling down his cheeks, Cuddy cried, “I’d been a’worrying and a’frettin’ for ye all these days, Brother.  I did nae know if the Cat had got you or a robber by the wayside.”

“Neither a cat nor a robber,” laughed Gilly.  “All’s well.”

Dearbháil had washed her hands at the trough kept by the garden’s gate.  Her chin was set firmly as if she had something to say, but would bide her time.

“Your horses and wagon have made the house before you, McGillvery,” she called.  “We’re ready to set the potatoes on the fire.  Best come and tend your animals so you’ll have time to wash before you eat.”  She turned to pick up her basket of garden vegetables and entered the house.

Gilly clutched Cuddy’s shoulders.  “How I’ve longed to catch word of you, Cuddy; but for the awful responsibility we’ve undertaken, I could not even until now see you without risking the bags.”

Cuddy looked incredulously at Gilly, “Ye still have the bags?”

“To be sure.  I’ve arranged with the Lords and Earls of South Ireland for a bit of a respite from the daily chore of spending the gold.  ’Tis all spent for nigh on two month.”

“All?” asked Cuddy wonderingly.

“All,” assured Gilly.  “An’ there’s time to pack you up from here and take you to town to live as you should.  I’ve a fine house, all the potatoes and herring you’d ever desire.”

Cuddy grinned, gripping Gilly’s arms tightly.  “How can words tell the gladness I’ve in me ’eart to see you and to know you’re safe.”

“An’ the same, Brother,” agreed Gilly.  The brothers turned toward the cottage with McGillicuddy helping unhitch Belle and Shade for turning to pasture.  Nothing more was said that evening about their affairs, for the cottage was small, and both McGillvery and McGillicuddy wished to keep Dearbháil and Tamara protected from their adventures.

In the wee hours of early morning, Gilly left to make payment on one of the castles at the nearest money house and returned by noon.  Cuddy met him just beyond the cottage gate.

“Ye’ve already taken care of it?” whispered Cuddy.

“Aye, and didn’t break a sweat doing it,” smiled Gilly.

“Then, even tho’ our mother always said two’s better’n one, you’ve managed quite well, Gilly.”

“Better with you, Cuddy.  For the little reprieve will soon end and we’ll be right back where we started.”

Cuddy nodded, “Two month, ye said.”

“Aye, but best not be staying here two month.  The lady of the house will be wondering shortly at my leaving early every morning and will be accusing me of becoming a highway robber or worse,” Gilly grinned.

Cuddy nodded and made no reply.

Gilly noted the slight slumping of his brother’s shoulders.  It was a habit Cuddy had ever since he was small—disappointment, sadness, or dejection showed in the set of his shoulders more than his face.  Gilly looked past Cuddy to the cottage and lush summer garden.  The emerald fields beyond the thatched roof were dotted with white fluffs of sheep grazing.  Dearbháil’s milk cow was being nuzzled by a calf while grazing under three apple trees fitted for small boys to climb.  Within two months, boxes of those small green apples would be large, reddish-gold orbs sitting in her cellar.   It wasn’t hard to imagine deep linings filled to overflowing with fruit sweet goodness bubbling to well done when winter mist was hard on cottage walls.  He heard Dearbháil singing and Tamara’s laughter coming from the cottage’s comfortable interior.  His face softened and he soothed, “I know.  You’re my brother an’ how could I not know, Cuddy?  It’s about Dearbháil, isn’t it?”

“Aye.”

“You’re wantin’ to stay and not go.  It’s natural, Cuddy.  You’ve always loved her.”

“Aye, but perhaps I’d best remember we’re tinkers free an’ until we can properly care for the gold, what kind of a life would it be for her and Tamara?  Besides I’m your brother true, Gilly, and ye’ve carried my share of the burden for this long.  ’Tis my duty to carry my half the rest of the way.”

“I’m needin’ your help sure, Cuddy.  We’ve only a little more to do to set a firmness to our future.”  He looked to the cottage again noting the redness of the roses blooming against its neatly whitewashed, stone walls.  “What will ye tell Dearbháil?”

“I don’t know what I can tell her with the future so uncertain.  Funny when we were starvin’ I had no promises I could give her and now we’re the richest lads in the world and our life less sure than before.  Odd now isn’t it, Gilly?”

“Yes.”  He thought for a while and then said, “Cuddy, I could buy you more time by going to the landholders in the North of Ireland and offering them the same opportunity to sell their lands as the Southern landholders were given.  I’ve a fine way about me with the Lords and Earls now.  ’Tis not hard and a business best done alone.  What say you to resting here for a few more months and I’ll be about that business?”

“It’s very tempting, Gilly, but what would be the difference of leaving her now or later?  It would be just as painful anytime.”

McGillvery looked sadly at his brother.  “Wish I could take the hurt for you.”

McGillicuddy nodded.

“I know what you could do, Cuddy!” burst out Gilly.  “Ask her for a year—if she’ll wait.  By then, we’ll have begun realizing the profits on our South Ireland holdings—those profits are set for the rest of our lives, Cuddy.  You can come back and live on that.  In the meantime, I’ll sew up Northern Ireland—in a year’s time we’ll both be free and hang the Cat’s bags.”

“The Lord’s bags,” corrected Cuddy.  “Don’t you see,” he pleaded, “we’re no longer free men, Gilly.  We prayed for wealth and we got what we prayed for.  We can’t ‘hang’ the bags or let them go.  Somehow, someway, we’ve got to find a way to be free of this daily task—a way that will benefit us and others as well.”

“Remember the good Lord’s people when they wanted to eat and the Lord sent them all they could hold and a sickness besides?  I’m feelin’ sick ’o me blessing, Cuddy.”

“Nay.  Don’t be lookin’ at it so.  It’s the glasses you choose to wear, Gilly, that frame your world.  We’ve always chosen to see clearly by framin’ our world with the old timing rules that worked well for generations of men. The scripture says that God’s blessing makes rich and adds no pain with it.  He’s not one to victimize, Gilly.  He’s always been our Friend in Need.  A loyal friend does not hold out a hand with a snake in it when one has asked for bread.  Don’t let our hardships now be causing us to be giving a smirch to the Name.  Remember the seer of the Psalms said he would never tell a tale false about his Creator.  We’ll just have to think a little harder, be a little more prayerful, believe the best is yet to come, and that we’re fair friends of the King.”

Gilly bent his head, “Pray it be so, Cuddy. I spoke out of weariness and I apologize before you for the slip of my faithless tongue.”

“O’ Gilly.  It would not happen except ye’ve been carrying the manly load of two men for too long.  I know my responsibility and it is first with you until we have discharged our duties properly.”

So it was that Cuddy left dear Dearbháil and Tamara at cottage door and followed Gilly to the city.

 

 


 

Chapter 11

The Lions’ Den

“My Lord,” said James as he helped Gilly with his coat.  “It seems the Earls and Lords of South Ireland wish to hold a feast in your honor. I’ve been putting them off; but now you’ve returned, should I schedule a visit for you?”

“Hold them a fortnight, James.  I’ve business to attend in the North and then I’ll meet with them in full gladness.  My brother, McGillicuddy, needs to be introduced and rehearsed in our routine here.   He shall carry on while I’m gone.”

“Yes, Sir.”

As James disappeared, Cuddy looked around the room.  “You’re living in fine style, Gilly,” he observed.  “’Tis a wonder you’ve not grown fat and gouty.”

“You’ll not wonder when you’ve been here ’ere long, Brother.  In truth, since we last parted until meeting again at Dearbháil’s I’ve not had one hot meal or full night’s sleep.  Most of my days and nights have been spent in a swiftly moving carriage bundled as best I could for slight slumber.  You know,” he continued, “seems little different than conditions in our tinker’s wagon except everything moves faster and I know I’ll always have whole potatoes even though they’re cold.”

Cuddy looked around at the lovely trappings of the room in which they stood.  “Very handsome,” he said as he stroked a velveteen drapery.

Gilly started up the stairs undressing as he went, “I’ve never had the time to be in any room of this house save this one and a dressing room.”

Cuddy thoughtfully followed Gilly up the stairs.

“What are you planning after this next piece of work?”

Gilly turned and sat heavily in a chair.  “Cuddy, can you honestly imagine spending our whole life like this?  What do I have in mind?   Racing at heart speed to England and then to France, Prussia, Spain, Africa….”

“What then?” quietly asked Cuddy. 

Gilly threw his arms in the air.  “Then we’ll own the whole world, Cuddy.  What else do we need?”

“We’ll still have the bags, Gilly.”

“Perhaps we’ll begin a money house solely devoted to buying the stars, Cuddy.  Two bags per star.  That should take us way beyond this lifetime.”

“Have ye read Mother’s Book lately?”

Gilly hung his head in shame.  “In truth, Cuddy, we always did it together and without you I’ve not taken the time.”

“It’s occurred to me that advice from the Book gave us the bags.  It got us this far.  Perhaps there are answers yet to be had.”

“Would you search, Cuddy?” earnestly asked Gilly.  “Search while I’m gone.”

The Earls and Lords of the North were as willing as the Lords and Earls of the South to enter into the lucrative venture McGillvery proposed.  Not surprisingly, seven of the largest landholders signed Gilly’s document and Gilly found himself with nearly two months free time.  For the first time in many weeks, the carriage with the ‘M’ emblazoned on each of its side doors, rolled sedately to the front door of McGillvery and McGillicuddy’s town residence.  McGillvery did not run up the steps while throwing his coat and hat to James nor did he call for Rachel to quickly make a receipt for the spending of bags of gold.  He leisurely walked through the main floor rooms stopping to admire unusual statuary and lush floral arrangements placed on handsome marble topped tables backed with man-sized gilded mirrors.  He eventually found the library where McGillicuddy, seated at an intricately carved mahogany desk, was pouring over papers from McGillvery’s many transactions of the past month.

“Ho, Brother!  A successful trip,” gladly greeted Gilly.  “We purchased nearly two months time—time to sit at table and eat hot meals, time to sleep in soft beds with small fires to keep off the chill of evening air, time to bathe properly in hot tubs of lime and soda.”  He stopped and looked around the room.  “Time to enjoy rooms such as these,” he said while running fingers across the backs of gilt and leatherbound volumes.   He walked to one of the library’s windows. “And a lovely garden!  ’Tis the first I’ve seen it, Cuddy.”

Cuddy shook his head, “No small wonder, Gilly.  Ye accomplished a prodigious amount of work in such a wee space of time.  I’ve the figures for the profits ye’re turning on your business and land purchases.  They come to a right handsome sum.”

Gilly grinned.  “Whatever that amount is, double it, for I’ve done the same in the North as in the South.”

Cuddy turned surprised eyes to Gilly.  “In a manner of speaking, then, we own all of Ireland.”

“In a manner of speaking, Cuddy, we are the new Kings of Ireland.  We receive a tax of two per cent on all the profits of nearly any business of consequence for the rest of our lives from both the gentlemen and the merchants of the North and the South.”

Cuddy wonderingly replied, “Did you ever think it would turn so grand?”

“In all my imaginations, I could not have hoped for better than this,” agreed Gilly.  “And, now, I’m for enjoying a true Lord’s hot meal prepared by our cook and served by our own maids in a room of soft chairs and warm fires.  Will you join me to dine, McGillicuddy?”

“Aye, I will,” he enthusiastically replied and the two boys headed for the kitchen to place an order for a sup that the Lord Darroughby himself would have admired and coveted.

McGillicuddy, still on the mend from their frightful voyage through The Sink’s whirlpool, recommended they both rest late for the first few weeks of this much needed reprieve and devote some time to reading their mother’s Book. 

“Routine is best kept when all else is changing,” allowed McGillvery.  “It’s a healing thing to keep old ways.”

“And, it will give us time to focus on our next action.  Will not be time ill spent, Gilly,” agreed Cuddy.

Thus, for the first time since possessing the bags McGillvery and McGillicuddy were able to enjoy leisurely rides in their carriage, long and full breakfasts served in bed, evenings reading plays and comedies of finest strain, and many a day of gluttonous mid-day meals with every type of luxurious beef, fowl, and pastry.

Toward the beginning of the third luxurious week of living such as the boys had dreamt of and never before experienced, came another invitation from the Lords and Earls of the South.  They insisted on a meeting with Lord McGillvery and bluntly stated they would be put off no longer.

“Cuddy, they were wishing to fete me before I left for the North.  We’ve fair banqueted for nearly three weeks and truth be I’ve no real taste for another feast of any proportion.  For the first time in my life, I can say with genuine feeling that small portions are indeed tasty.”

Cuddy laughed uproariously. “Then you’ll be having the finest of table manners at their banquet, dear Brother.  Best keep the peace and take your short jog.”

McGillvery smiled, and light of heart, boarded his carriage and soon turned onto lands previously held by the Earl Donogough.

“Gentlemen,” he said expansively as he walked up the steps toward Ireland’s former seven largest land proprietors, “It’s good to see you again and all together, too!”

Dour faces of Ireland’s finest greeted him.

“Come inside, Sir,” they said.

Gilly swept into the hallway noting satisfiedly the sheen of the marble foyer.  He was ushered into the library and not asked to sit down.  The men formed a half circle around him giving Gilly an uncomfortable, trapped feeling.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “I’ve come a long journey at your invitation and I’ve not been asked to remove cloak nor gloves.”

“An’ you’ll not be asked either,” growled the Lord of Danshire.

Gilly raised his eyebrows and panned a look of innocence long practiced in his tinker’s trade.  “It seems I somehow have a room of dissatisfied customers.”

“You’re bloody well right about that,” spoke an Earl.

McGillvery looked around at the bulging waistcoats and thought, ‘Well, at least I’ll easily outrun them if it comes to that.  But we’d best put on our most ingratiating manner and see if we can balm the troubles first.  After all I’m supposed to be a Lord and it doesn’t seem fitted that a Lord should vault through the window over the box hedges now does it, Gilly?  Have peace, Man—whatever’s coming, keep your wits about you.’

He smiled agreeably and helped himself with his coat.  “Gentlemen, what could possibly be wrong?”  He feigned an anxious look, “Not a missing payment I hope?”

“You’ve seen well that we got your cursed gold.”

Gilly began to seat himself and two Earls gripped his arms and raised him to a standing position.  “Not in my castle, McGillvery,” said Donogough.  “You’ll hang from my trusses before you sit on my chairs.”

Gilly ran a finger around his shirt neck, ignoring the word ‘hang’.  “Gentlemen, if there is any wrong I’ve dealt you, I’ll truly try to rectify it.  Surely, it can’t be as bad as you’re all making out.”

“It’s worse than bad,” grimly spoke the Lord Danshire.  “An’ we’ve already voted what to do about it.  Without discussion with you, you’re a dead man, McGillvery.”

“Gentlemen, Gentlemen,” chided Gilly.  “Whatever have I done? Let’s be reasonable, sit, and talk about it.”

“Silence! You scum of a peat bog.  No money will buy you out of this.  When a King plots and plans as you’ve done—not all his treasury will buy his life—much less what paltry sums you may lay hand to.”

“But Gentlemen,” remonstrated McGillvery, “I’m not a man of limited resources.  There’s surely a way I can fix whatever ails the South of Ireland.”

“Aye, buy all the North of Ireland, too!  What a treacherous piece of business!  Without a war, you’ve established yourself as owner of our entire country!  Careful men, he’ll be selling your own precious daughters to the African Kings.”

“Enough talk.  We’ve decided.  He’s here. Dispatch him.”

Each Earl and Lord drew a small dagger from his shirt and closed the circle around McGillvery.

McGillvery cried out, “Whatever ails you, Gentlemen, will not be cured by my demise for the contract stated I’ve a brother to carry on after me.”

“Wait. He’s right,” spoke the Earl of Donogough.  “In our anger we forgot there is an heir.”

“Dispatch this one and we’ll travel to the other one,” a harsh voice replied.

“Nay, nay.  Tie him and let’s think wisely over this matter.  Many counselors we have in this room. Let’s use the experience we all share in common before making too hasty a decision.”

Gilly, mouth now tied with monogrammed silk kerchiefs, listened to their plotting with heart sinking like an Irish elk in quicksand.

“We could invite his brother as we invited McGillvery.”

“Nay.  We know him not and t’would be an invitation unaccepted.”

“The motto of Danshire House is ‘Strike now the enemy before he is on guard’,” spoke Lord Danshire.  “I suggest we send a party ahead of the swift running feet of rumor for the express purpose of dispatching the brother immediately.”

To the sound of voices raised in approbation arose one negative vote.  “Nay,” rejected Earl of Worshire.  “’Tis not the throne sent on the errand.  I do not believe Lord McGillvery is the throne.  I believe he is merely the errand boy of a grander intelligence.  That intelligence may be the brother.  If it is, he is surrounded with those wisest to counsel and protect.  Just as a throne is not overthrown in a day, the brother will not be easily dispatched by a disorderly and rowdy group of Lords and Earls.”

“Gentlemen, that is true,” spoke one of the Earls.  “The real power here may be in the other brother.  Such a political plot that has caught all Ireland off guard could not have been achieved without a great deal of intrigue.  Who knows what or who we’re against?”

“Such a takeover—so quickly done and without bloodshed never has been done in history before this.”

“Not so, Gentlemen,” spoke Lord Danshire.  “In Egyptian history there is a story of a ruler, second in command, who bought all Egypt for the Pharaoh while leaving the populace landless and powerless.”

“I remember that history.  The scheme succeeded because the populace was under duress of famine.”

“We were not under duress of famine when we fell for a similar plot.”

“It’s true we’ve no excuse except our own greed and have nearly lost our nation as a result,” said Lord Darroughby.  “Even so, you need not be reminding us of our lack of guardedness,” he complained without humor.

The Earls had been quietly conferring in a corner and rejoined the circle of men.  They presented one of McGillvery’s contracts to the group of men.  “The contract plainly states there is no other heir except the brother, McGillicuddy.  It would seem, therefore, that this coupe was accomplished by two men not a whole nation of men.  We suggest we follow through on the idea of luring the other brother here by means of invitation to join his brother in a royal fete.  If he comes, so much the better for us.  If he refuses, then we shall have to organize and spy out the situation over a longer range of time.”

Several nods of approval followed this suggestion with a final “Aye,” all around.

“Then McGillvery needs write a note encouraging his brother to come swiftly to enjoy the South’s hospitality.”

“Aye and by the edge of a knife at your throat, you’ll oblige, my Lord McGillvery,” threatened the Lord of Danshire with a menacing nod in his direction.

McGillvery, with threatening Lords and Earls in tight circle around him, reluctantly and sadly wrote the invitation.  Lord Darroughby sealed it with wax and sent the letter by means of McGillvery’s coach and four.

As soon as the letter was dispatched, the Lords and Earls had a hurried conference after which McGillvery was blindfolded and roughly hustled down several long corridors, winding passages, and unused, darkened stairwells.  At the bottom of one such stair well, he found himself listening to iron scraping stone.  Shortly afterward, a rough thrust forward landed him face down into a darkly foul stench that seemed to originate from the very stone of the floors upon which he lay.  The sound of iron scraping stone again reached his ears with the simultaneous realization that he had been thrown into the castle’s dungeon.  He crawled toward the direction of that sound and lay for a moment near the iron bars.

“Prudence dictated I should have cleared the box hedge the first moment I thought about it.  A little money and a man loses all common sense.  Why is it a man feels less like running when he’s got satin breeches next to his skin than when he’s clothed in ragged tweeds?  Such a small thing should not affect his ability to make rational decisions promptly,” lamented Gilly while raising himself to his knees.  He heard a slight rustling behind him.  “Rats,” he moaned. “Lord, my blessed Irish luck has put me in a prison cell with rats.”

“Not rats, mister.  I done et them all long ago,” chortled a raspy voice.

“I can’t see you, but I hear you,” said McGillvery rising to his feet.

The shuffling got closer.  Claw-like fingers gripped his sleeve.  “Ye’ll get used to the darkness, mister.  My, my, an’ what have we here?  A man o’ means I’d say.  A man o’ means.  Mmmm, and well-fed too.”  The claws were pinching McGillvery’s waist.  “Ye haven’t missed many meals now have ye lad?”

Gilly felt like a rat about to be eaten. “What be your name, Sir?” he asked shakily.

  The fingers were still poking and prodding him like old women press geese at market before buying them for supper.

The fellow seemed not to hear Gilly.  Gilly felt the chap’s weight shift a little.  He ducked and ran as something hard and steel-like hit the dungeon bars just where his head had been.

“Why, Sir,” he panted, “are ye settling for such a meal as me when I’ve a brother to join me in a short time?”

“I’ll et you and then I’ll et him,” chortled the voice.

“By Jove, it’s like Daniel and the Lions’ Den.  I’m Daniel and for the life of me I can’t remember what he did to seal the Lions’ mouths.”

“He most likely prayed and relied on his Lord,” spoke a quiet voice beside him.

“Two lions then?” gasped Gilly.  “An’ how many more be there here that wants me for supper?”

“Enna, put the bar down. Down! I say!”  The quiet man spoke sharply to the rustling sound that was again creeping toward McGillvery.  What sounded like a steel bar dropped to the ground and then was drug scraping along stone flooring into the darkness beyond.

“We’ve not had visitors for awhile.  Our manners are in need of some repair, I daresay.  Allow me.  I’m Father Ciaron of Donogough Abbey.”

“Are you visiting the prisoners today, Father?” incredulously asked McGillvery.

“Would that it were so, but I’m a permanent fixture at least as long as the vermin and our water supply doesn’t end.  Come.  I’ll take you along a passage where you’ll feel more at ease.  It’s difficult to adjust to darkness when you’ve always walked by light.”

Gilly was led along a stone lined passage and up a series of stairs until they came at last to a small room with a window.  “There ’tis better now, isn’t it?”

Gilly felt vastly relieved and looked about him.  “However did you find it?”

“Enna.”  The Father pointed to the creature crouching in the corner.

McGillvery surveyed the living thing that should have grown into a man.  “How long has he been here?”

“As near as I can understand—since he was a child.”

“Why ever would men consign a child to such a place?  What could his offense have been that he was forgotten in such a situation as this?”

“Who knows?” shrugged the Father.  “He probably does not know himself. I’m certain those who live above the dungeon may not be aware that he still lives.  The depths of the dungeon are not on noblemen’s social visiting schedules, you see,” he explained.

“No one brings food or drink?”

“From the skeletons around the dungeon door, it seems most men die within a few meters of the bars waiting for succor that never comes.  We find the remains of prisoners in passageways far from those bars once in awhile, but not often.  If it hadn’t been for Enna, I would have been one of the casualties of Donogough’s Castle.”

At McGillvery’s surprised look, the Father added, “You see, creatures like Enna are very close to their natural survival instincts.  Without guidance and socialization his natural instincts were not subjugated.   Civilized peoples’ intuitions are dampened to the point where, if needed in basic existence situations, adequate decision-making abilities are often unable to surface properly.  Civilization teaches us a way to live in society but rather drowns our natural instinctive protective gear for basic survival, you see.”  The Father smiled and said, “Enna, so close to those primal instincts, saved my life.  For he did not think beyond the fact that he had to eat and to drink.”

“Why didn’t he eat you?” inquired Gilly.

The Father reached into his robe and pulled out a large golden crucifix.  He held it in front of Enna.  Enna crouched and cowered against the wall.  The Father replaced the cross within the folds of his garment.

“I see,” murmured McGillvery, feeling deep compassion for the hapless creature cowering on the floor.  “I suppose I didn’t introduce myself properly.  Name’s McGillvery.”

“Just McGillvery?” asked the Father, eying McGillvery’s richly brocaded sleeve and velveteen trimmed pants.

“Since I’m here, I suppose McGillvery’s more than enough,” ruefully replied Gilly.  “I have a brother named McGillicuddy who will be joining us soon, I fear.”

“Ah, an’ for misdeeds or deeds of valor?”

“To be truthful, Father, I’ve no understanding of the reason for my presence in this place.  I’m a God-fearing man and have done nothing to the Earls and Lords of Southern Ireland ’cept help them out of a pure heart and this is how I’ve been repaid.”  Gilly looked at the Father, “And you?  How did the Father of Donogough Abbey become the chief resident of Donogough’s dungeon?”

“By having the wrong politics and giving unwanted advice,” spoke the Father.

“Cheer up, Father,” spoke Gilly wryly, “I’ve no politics, rarely give advice, and we’re both wearing the same leather boot with its toe out.”

Not many days later Enna sprang from the floor like a surprised wild thing and cocked his head sideways as if listening.  Then he leapt down the passageway as if he were to be freed this day.

The Father scrambled to his feet. “Hurry,” he said.  “It means another prisoner or a very large rat.”

McGillvery endeavored to follow; but the darkness, after several twists and turns, seemed impenetrable.  His hand was reaching along the wall when it came in contact with a sconce holding an ancient torch.  He felt further and found every seven meters a torch attached to the wall.  Greatly delighted with the discovery, he returned to the room with the window by a careful retracing of his steps.

As he rounded the last corner, he heard the Father saying, “Yes, he’s quite well as you’ll see in but a moment.”  The Father raised his head as McGillvery re-entered the room and said, “Aah, here he is and quite soon.  Come, Enna,” he motioned.  “We will give two brothers privacy for confidential talk.”  Enna immediately rose and followed the lead of the Father as he left by a lower passageway.

McGillicuddy was standing in the middle of the room with the barred window to his back.  His eyes had not yet adjusted to the light in the room.  “McGillvery?” he asked.

“I’m here,” replied McGillvery.

“Not a boisterous welcome, Brother.”

“Because I’m so ashamed, Cuddy.”

“When they threw me in the dungeon, I knew you’d sent the note because of a knife at your throat or worse.”

“It was a knife,” admitted Gilly.

“Then what else could you do?”

“I could have died at their hands and allowed you freedom.”

“Nay.  They would have forged an invitation which I would have responded to in the same manner.  It was the prudent choice, Gilly.  See, we are both alive at this instant.  It’s proof you chose the wisest action under the circumstances.”

“Thank you for that,” said Gilly forlornly.

“Two heads are better than one,” encouraged Cuddy.  “It seems the Lord’s put the two heads together again.” 

He looked around the close quarters.  “The walls are thick and made of good quality stone.  That being the case, we need to put on our thinking caps and fair figure how to get out of here.”  Cuddy lowered his voice, “And before morning, Gilly, because I brought the bags and they’ll need spending by tomorrow’s evening just as always.”

“It seems the bags are the least of our worries now, Cuddy,” reproved Gilly.  “If it hadn’t been for those cursed things, we’d not be here in the first place.”

Cuddy reminded Gilly, “Oh, I don’t know.  The way we spent our last year running from dogs and leaping for the tinker wagon’s seat, it may not have been long before some villager pinned a serious misdeed to us and we’d been swinging from the crossbeam at the center roads. Has happened before, Gilly.  Poor innocents hanging for another’s wrong.”

Gilly knew it was true and ruefully noted, “All the bags allowed us was to work with a little higher class of inhospitable people.”  He added glumly, “We’re not the poor innocents, though.  We be the rich innocents hanging for another’s misdeeds.”

“But whose?” asked Cuddy.  “That’s what I can’t figure.”

“O’ ’tis not hard to figure.  It’s the gents themselves.  Fat paunches sport thankless hearts.  I’d supposed the generous offer I made would be satisfactory and honored.  I misjudged their greed.  Why pay two per cent per year when one can pay nothing and have their lands free and clear this year rather than thirty years hence?”

Cuddy sighed, “Well, we should have listened to Mother’s advice.  Rub sleeves with a rich man and you’ll end with a hole in your shirt.”

“Aye, we put our fortune’s trust in the hands of nobles.  We’ll need a better plan by and by, Cuddy, with a foundation more sure than the fickle ways of man.”

Cuddy grinned.  “Seems we’re getting a mighty education right soon, Gilly.  We’ll come across a plan that will work, one day shortly.  But for now, time’s wasting and we’re in right sore need to find a way out.”

“Do ye happen to have a strike, Cuddy?  The passage below us is lined with torches the entire length.  A little light would greatly aid our purpose.”

A noise along the lower passageway startled the boys, but it was only the Father and Enna returning.  They were immediately included in the boys’ conversation.

“Father, Gilly and I must be out of Donogough’s Dungeon this day.  Have you explored anything other than the length of the passages from the dungeon’s cell door to this room?”

“Nay, not many.  Enna brings rats to eat and the deep hollows in the window’s sill catches the rain for our drink.  He most likely knows all the ways, but if there’s one to the outside I would suppose he’d have long left this hole.  A fresh peach is a sight better fodder than raw rat.”

Cuddy looked at Enna.  “To some perhaps, Father.  To some.”  He leaned toward Enna, “Can you show us a way out, Enna?”

But Enna shrank back into the corner and groveled as a dog does before a harsh master.

Cuddy shrugged and reached into his pocket, “Well, I’ve the strike, Gilly.  Best show me the torches.”

Gilly walked forward and began feeling along the right of the wall until his hands finally reached the first torch.  Cuddy struck the flint and the torch sputtered.  He struck again and the torch blazed, weirdly playing over hand hewn stones set hundreds of years before and scattering a glow over the multitudinous cobwebs stringing the ceilings far above them as thickly as clouds on a wintry day.

“Gather the torches as you go, Gilly,” said Cuddy, “and we’ll use them as we need.  Father, stay close behind and mark along the walls with this stone so we’ll be able to get back should we use all the torches and be far from the windowed room.”

“How big do you suppose this labyrinth to be?” asked Gilly.

“The castle building itself covers an acre of ground in its entirety,” supplied the Father.  “It’s likely to suppose the underground passages run at least its length.”

“Do you know where we are in relation to the cooking rooms?”

“Nay,” apologized the Father.  “I’m sorry lads, but little I know of Donogough Castle excepting the rooms for dying and birthing.”

“Seems odd a Father wouldn’t know something of the wine cellars,” chided Gilly gently.

Father grinned, “You may misunderstand, McGillvery. My abbey serves the poor of Donogough Village.  I am not the Father for the castle.”

Gilly appraised the Father, “That would explain your raiment I suppose.  If we get clear of this, I’ll be needin’ a Father for keepin’ my affairs straight before our Lord in common.  You may come with me and I’ll see you properly clothed and fed as befits your station before God and man.”

The Father shook his head quietly.  “Do not wish to disappoint you, McGillvery, but my calling is to the poor.  Tempting as it would be to serve in a higher capacity ’tis not to be in this life.”

Gilly shrugged.  “We’ve been poor all our life, Father.  ’Tis hard to serve the poor when you yourself are poor.”  He appraised the Father quietly.  “We’ll talk of the matter again,” he concluded as Cuddy, who had walked farther ahead, came back with an urgency in his voice.  “Look there—high up—is it a door I’m seeing?”

The men walked forward searching the wall above them until they verified Cuddy’s find.  Far above, in the stone, was the appearance of a square tunnel.

“Enna, come here,” said the Father.  “Up you go.”

After a boost from the Father, Enna disappeared into the tunnel just as the first torch began to die.  McGillvery used it to light a second torch.  They waited patiently for Enna's return.  When he came back, he was covered with cobwebs and dust.

“Enna,” said Father, “was there a way out?”

Enna shook his head negatively.  He dropped to the floor and the group quietly proceeded on its way.

After using a third and a fourth torch, they at last came to a bricked in wall—a dead end, no way to go left or right or forward.

Gilly kicked at the wall in frustration.  “What an odd set of thinking dominated these lower dungeons.  Why should one build such a long tunnel, only to have it end like this?”

Cuddy held the torch closer to the wall.  “Perhaps it did not always end here, Gilly.  Look.  This part of the wall is much newer than the rest—made of red brick rather than stone.  I’m supposin’ it may have been put here to keep prisoners from entering the upper reaches of the house.”

Gilly ran his hand carefully over the brick.  “’Tis not kiln-fired brick.  If we had a heavy tool, the brick could be smashed.  It is very old and crumbly.”

Enna pushed forward and drew a heavy iron bar from his clothing.  He motioned for everyone to stand back and began swinging at the most deteriorated spot in the brick wall.  A hole soon appeared.  By taking turns prying the rod up and down, an aperture large enough for a man to pass was made.  Enna crawled through first, then Cuddy, Gilly, and lastly the Father.  A torch was held high.  The four escapees had entered the house’s wine cellar.

Gilly reached for an ancient bottle of a fine liquer quite covered with cobwebs and dust.  “I think I’ll have a toast to Lady Freedom courtesy of the gracious hospitality of the Lords,” he said mirthlessly.

“We’re not free yet,” reminded the more practical minded Cuddy.

“That can be rectified soon enough,” said Gilly, heading immediately for the cellar stairs.

“Wait,” called the Father quietly.  “Prudence first, McGillvery.  Wait till we believe the maids to have retired for the evening,” urged the Father.

Gilly hesitated, the torch showing a plainly impatient face.  “Aye,” he finally agreed reluctantly.  “We’ve a better chance of traveling distance if we could leave without detection.”

The Father walked quietly to the bottom of the cellar steps and stood listening carefully.  “Sounds as if they’re in the preparation for the main supper.  Let’s block the hole we’ve made.  If we leave this room as we found it, they’ll most likely never look for us again.”

“I’m more for using the time we’re waiting for the breaking of their fine bottles of drink one by one to give them a long remembrance of our visit to their dungeons,” spoke Gilly.

The Father grinned.  “Why waste good drink?  Who knows?  Perhaps sometime in the future we may yet enjoy some of it in the upstairs rooms.”

“I wouldn’t drink the finest of it in their company,” replied Gilly.

“Well, circumstances can change in the space of a day, Gilly.  Perhaps you’ll be drinking it in the company you’ve chosen.  I will for it always to be good company.”  The Father added, “Here now, Enna.” He motioned with his right hand, “Help me.  I’ve a mind to move that chest just a bit farther to the right.  It’s relocation will be so small that it’ll not be noticed and will do quite nicely for covering the wall’s hole.”

Enna pointed to a pile of unused bricks to the left of the hole.

“No,” said the Father as the last torch died out, “we’ve no mortar and now we’ve no light.”

  The blackness was soon filled with the sound of wood moving over an earthen floor.

“Enna, you see best in this blackness.  Can you feel and tell me if the hole in the wall is completely covered?”

The boys heard no sound from Enna, but the Father was soon saying, “Thank you for your strength.  You’ve preserved my life many times, Enna.  Now, hold my hand and we’ll wait for the house to quiet.”

Many hours passed before Cuddy felt Enna grasping his hand to place in Gilly’s hand.  Gilly’s hand was placed in the Father’s hand and the boys felt themselves pulled forward behind the Father as Enna led them around the last row of wine shelves toward the bottom of the stairwell.  They stood, ears large against the darkness to hear any sound from the upper floors.

At last the Father nudged Gilly’s arm and whispered, “It’s time to go.  Follow my lead.”  Gilly grasped Cuddy’s hand and they followed the Father up the stairs through the cellar door into the kitchen beyond.  A low cooking fire was still burning, permitting an orange glow to show the way to the servant’s entrance.  The men ducked through the back door into the servant’s yard, crept under the clothes’ lines and around the washing tubs without incident and after a quick conference at the hedgerows parted company.  McGillvery and McGillicuddy headed toward the village to rent riding horses while the Father and Enna began their trek to the village orphanage.

“What are you going to do, Gilly?” asked Cuddy over the saddle as he adjusted the stirrups in the earliest light of morning.

“They’ve got me goodwill money, they same as took my life, and the life of my brother.  I judge them cheats and thieves, Cuddy, and I’ll deal with them accordingly.”

Cuddy did not comment and each boy rode home, as if alone, each deeply involved in his own private thoughts.

 

 


 

Chapter 12

                                                     Bribes in High Places

Mid-morning allowed the arrival of the brothers at their town residence.  “Perhaps it’s best to rest a bit before starting the day,” suggested Cuddy.

Gilly ignored the suggestion and called loudly, “James!  Rachel!”

As soon as Rachel appeared, Gilly poured the newly refilled bags onto the table.  “The payment on North Ireland’s holdings.  Disburse it through the money house, please.  James, I want to gather information on standing armies willing to battle mercenarily.  I need a list of the finest.”

James turned startled eyes toward McGillvery, “Sir?” he questioned. 

“You heard me the first time,” gruffly replied McGillvery.

“Yes, Sir. Also, Sir, the Earls and Lords of the North are desiring a meeting with you.”

“Really! Now I wonder is it for peace they wish a convention?” sarcastically asked Gilly.  “I’ve had a most interesting reunion with the Earls and Lords of the South.  I’m speculating it’s on a similar vein of hospitality that the North wishes an assembly.”

“Gilly,” cautioned Cuddy.  “It may not be what you’re thinkin’.  You don’t want to go into a meeting with a mind preconditioned.  It’s best to assume the best until one finds otherwise.”

Gilly took a deep breath, “I’ve got me ire up, Cuddy. Ye well know I’m a patient and longsuffering man up to a point.  My peak’s long been reached.  I’m feeling mean and righteous.  It’s the exact combination that won the Crusades, Cuddy. I’ve got me a holy mission to punish the godless men who’ve stolen me money and tried to kill me besides!”

Cuddy looked at Gilly and said quietly, “I don’t think anyone won the Crusades, Gilly.”

Gilly had not heard.  Still fuming, he charged on, “We’ll meet the Northern Irelanders, but I won’t go with a smile on my face expecting a feast in my honor for a generous nature.  I’m suspecting Lords and Earls are men all alike—devious, treacherous, greedy sons of Beelzebub!”

Cuddy said, “But we’re rich men, Gilly, and we’ve always liked to think ourselves innocent, clean, and loved of God.  Anyway, that’s how we’ve always tried to live our lives.”

“An’ what good did it do us?  Harassed by bags of gold to spend everyday, half Ireland looking to kill us, and we don’t even know why!”

“Gilly, you mustn’t speak of the gold as a harassment or a curse,” remonstrated Cuddy.  “It was a prayed for thing and as a prayed for thing—a gift.  A workman must never abuse his tools.  We must find a way to make our tool a blessing.  As for half Ireland wanting to kill us, perhaps we’ll find answers to our questions in the North.”

Gilly calmed somewhat and said, “Aye.  One must take care with words spoken and those words were spoken in haste and in anger.  I’m sorry, Cuddy, and you’re right, of course.  ’Tis best to go into every meeting without preconceived notions so one doesn’t color the outcome.  But by the Saint’s, Cuddy, one hates to play the fool!”

“We won’t play the fool, Gilly.  We’ll be ever so careful.”

Urgent affairs were settled.  Within hours McGillvery and McGillicuddy found themselves barreling along a northerly route within the comfortable confines of their carriage.  McGillvery found himself a bit more settled in mind as they rounded the last knoll leading to Darbury Castle.  He leaned forward, eagerly seeking the first view of Darbury-on-the-Moor.

“’Tis my favorite of the lot, Cuddy.  The turrets are especially well-proportioned and set in a pleasing manner to the eye.  I have imagined it to be a place of many pleasantries and have hoped we both might be a welcomed and honored part of those activities in our old age.” 

However, as they walked the steps leading to the interior of the house, they found dour faces peering from the library’s windows.  McGillvery hesitated in his steps.  “I recognize the look, Cuddy.  The best time to vault is before the dogs are sic.”

McGillicuddy hesitated, too.  “We’re not the tinkers, to be vaulting over the hedges, Gilly.”

“Tinkers or Lords will vault when it’s necessary to preserving their body parts.  I’m for doing the prudent thing and leaving our dignity at their steps, Cuddy.”

“It will make us look guilty, McGillvery.  We’ve done nothing for which to hang our heads.  Courage.  Let’s meet it head-on and talk sweet if need be.”

The boys were ushered into the library and with faint hearts observed unanimously portly body postures indicating their presence was viewed as an unfavorable circumstance.  The Northern Lords’ facial demeanors were unwelcoming and downright inhospitable.  Their words and their actions soon verified McGillvery and McGillicuddy’s intuitive premonitions.  Standing in the middle of the powerful men was a local magistrate and several well-muscled neighboring youth. 

“And for what purpose are we brought and with legal officials present, too?” queried McGillicuddy.

“We’ve no need to explain to thieves and liars their offenses or their charges,” retorted Lord Darbury.  “The magistrate has heard our testimonials and before God and man we stand today agreed to the morrow’s hanging of McGillvery and McGillicuddy in Hundstone’s Square at half day.”

All the Lords nodded in dour agreement; the magistrate iron-locked McGillvery and McGillicuddy’s hands and feet while the young men made a ring around McGillvery and McGillicuddy to herd them toward the rear of the castle where a prison wagon stood waiting.  The boys were quickly and rudely aided into the wagon’s interiors and the door most forcefully shut before the wagon began its lumbering plod toward the village jail.

Gilly looked through the iron bars at the back of Darbury Castle.  “I’d never seen the back of the castle before,” he noted.  “It’s really not a pretty place after all.  To be a truly pretty thing, an article should be attractive from all sides, don’t you think?”

Cuddy frowned and maintained silence until they had been transferred to the local jail.

“The party turned a little sour,” noted Cuddy while surveying their new surroundings.

“At least we’ve been apprised of the lay of our Lords and Earls,” said Gilly.

“By the Saints, seems we’re spending more time paying for other people’s sins than our own and now it looks like we’ll die for them, too,” said Cuddy, looking out the window at the very tip of the aged hangman’s gallows.

“It seems our adventures of late have led to one distress after another,” agreed McGillvery.

“Distress can lead to endurance,” suggested McGillicuddy mildly.

“And, endurance leads to positive expectation,” added McGillvery.

“Positive expectation leads to hope,” continued McGillicuddy.

“Hope, when kept surely, leads to good ideas,” ended McGillvery.

“T’was what our mother taught us,” agreed McGillicuddy while looking around at their less than agreeable quarters.  He quietly removed a scented silk kerchief from his pocket and tied it around his nose.  “Helps the air,” he suggested as Gilly looked at it questioningly.

The odiferous perfume of urine and unwashed bodies seemed to permeate the very stones of this unpleasant room, a smell much the same as the dungeons of Donogough’s Castle in the south.  Gilly pushed the single, half cot under the high, narrow window set in the cell’s outer wall, stood on it with his face pressed to the bars while endeavoring to breath the fresher country air.  “’Tis not much better for breathin’ at the window,” he said and reached into his pocket for his own kerchief.  “What are we to do, now?” he asked Cuddy while turning to sit on cot’s edge.

“We could thank God for showing himself great in our behalf,” said Cuddy

“Done,” said Gilly.  He lowered his head and said a quick prayer.  “Now that’s done, we’d best get some sleep so we’ll be rested for the idea when it comes.”

“The idea?” questioned Cuddy.

“The idea from our Lord that will tell us how to miss the morrow’s hanging,” replied Gilly.

 Sometime during the wee hours of earliest morning, McGillvery gently prodded McGillicuddy.  “Do ye remember the story of David and how the great King Saul had him surrounded in an arroyo and at the last minute when David and all his men were nigh on being captured a messenger came and Saul retreated on another errand?  David walked free.”

“Aye, ’tis a good story to remind one never to lose hope even when all seems lost.”

“T’was what I was thinking.  Just thought I would remind you of that story if you were lending your mind to worry.”

“I was bringing to mind how Joseph was lying in a prison cell and in one day the Lord raised him from a prisoner to the right hand of a Pharaoh.”

“Aye,” agreed Gilly.  “Those stories were written to give men courage in the face of imminent disaster, Cuddy.”

“It’s reliance on those stories that can turn a regular man into a canny man.  The Lord looks to see a canny man who relies on Him.”

“We do rely on Him, Cuddy.”

“Aye. Always have and always will, Gilly.”

Gilly was very, very quiet.  “We’re in a jolly bad predicament this time, Cuddy.”

Cuddy stuck a brave chin forward, “Oh, I don’t know—the whirlpool was quite the challenge.”

Gilly laughed and gently jibed, “But Dearbháil took a great deal of the hurt out o’ that.”

“Aye—Dearbháil.” Cuddy sighed and stood at the edge of the cot to look at the gallow’s shadows on the moonstruck lawn.  “She’ll never know what happened.  I wonder if she’ll die an old maid.  I promised her a year, Gilly.”

Gilly’s chin was resting on both hands.  “A God-fearing man’s got to do the best he can to keep his promises, Cuddy.”

“Aye,” sadly agreed Cuddy.

“A canny man looks for answers in a canny place,” stated Gilly.

Cuddy turned to Gilly.  “Well, do you have it?”

“Yes, when you don’t, I do.”

“It gave us the answers to get the gold.  It has to have the answers on how to get us out of the terrible situation we’re in.”

“Where two or more are gathered….”

“Aye, and He stands ready to grant the wishes of those who fear Him and rely on His name.”

“Then we’ll pray ever so humble and have faith, Cuddy.”

The two brothers bowed their heads and prayed earnestly for guidance, took a deep breath, opened their mother’s Book and began reading, “‘A bribe in high places does much good.’”

“Why, Cuddy,” gasped Gilly.  “Our very prayers were heard and answered within seconds!  Of course!  Why didn’t we think of it ourselves?  And right from the Proverbs, too!  Bless King Solomon’s words of wisdom!  We’ve got the bags!  They’ve filled again and need spending.  Call the magistrate, Cuddy!”

McGillicuddy shook the iron bars and hollered, “Gaolkeeper!  We’ve business with the magistrate!”

The keeper sleepily shuffled into the room stifling a magnificent yawn.  “The magistrate’ll not be seeing you boys at this hour of day.”

McGillvery threw a handful of golden coin on the floor of the jail and began slowly picking the coin one by one from the floor.  “I’ve three handfuls just like the one I’m picking from the floor for the man who’s brave enough to roust the magistrate and bring him to the gaol.”  He held the handful of coin through the bars of the door.  “Here, hold them awhile and think of all the comforts these coin will buy.”

The goalkeeper, now much alert, cautiously picked a few of the coin from McGillvery’s hand.  He bit them with his side teeth and grunted in satisfaction.  “Let me see the rest.”

McGillvery held out two double handfuls of coin.  “When you bring the magistrate, I’ll give you the coin.”

The man pocketed his first handful and hurried into the cloudless night.  He was back in short order with the magistrate.  McGillicuddy wondered what the keeper had said to the magistrate to cause him to hurry so, but smiled.  After all, he and Gilly had the Word behind them and with that kind of power all was bound to go well.

“I’m an important man and you’ve interfered with my sleep and therefore my day’s performance.  This had better be important or I’ll hang you twice tomorrow and throw your corpses along the ocean for seafowl’s food.”

McGillicuddy quietly handed the gaolkeeper his handfuls of coin and smiled cheerfully at the magistrate.  “Good morning, Sir!  Yes, we do have something of the utmost urgency to talk about and we wish to speak in privacy.”  He raised his eyebrows in the direction of the gaolkeeper who was trying to decide his new worth with the coins now jingling in his pockets.

The magistrate quickly dismissed the man and turned a glowering face on the two boys.  “Make haste.  I’ve a bed coolin’ and wife waiting.”

“Well,” began McGillvery, “it seemed to us a shame the Earls and Lords of Northern Ireland had got so much of our money and a poor man such as yourself had got none.”

“Yes,” agreed McGillicuddy.  “Seemed not quite fair seein’ how they’ve got so much already and you’d not been able to benefit from their gain.”

“So,” went on McGillvery, “we’ve decided how it would be to your advantage if we shared a little of our bounteous blessings with you,” and McGillvery dragged his bag of gold forward and poured it in a glinting, enticing pile in front of the magistrate.  Gilly reached down and picked up a handful of the gold and casually poured it from one hand to another.  “Magistrate,” said he, “you’ve a great deal in common with the Lords and Earls of this land.  A paltry amount of gold such as this would close any gaps you may feel now exist due to a…ah…shall we say ‘lack of fiduciary backing?’”

“Sir, how much do ye suppose is there?” queried McGillicuddy.  “Would it be enough do ye suppose?”

The magistrate cleared his throat visibly moved by the gold and all the possibilities it presented.  After a brief moment of struggle, he said, “When money’s present, someone always wants something.”  He paused significantly.

McGillvery obliged.  “We’re all responsible men present, magistrate.  One bag of gold for one life.  Two bags of gold for two lives.”

The magistrate cleared his throat again.  “I need live among the Lords and Earls once you’ve gone.  They’ll not give me my life should you escape.”

McGillvery nodded, “Of course.”

“This is what we have in mind, Sir,” said McGillicuddy and bent his head close to the magistrate’s ear and began urgent whisperings.

That night the magistrate became richer by two bags of gold while McGillvery and McGillicuddy sat waiting for the noon hanging.  Crowds began to gather at ten.  A few luncheon hampers were spread under the larger trees at the edge of the common.  Small lads ran in and about under the gallows.  Larger lads pretended to hang themselves at the top of the gallows.  Flower girls began to drift into the crowd along with merchandise hawkers, a pieman, and a juggler.  At gallow’s edge a minstrel struck a new ballad dedicated to the hanging of McGillvery and McGillicuddy.

McGillvery looked through the bars and gloomily observed, “T’would be a good investment for Ireland if we’d build actor’s stages in every hamlet and glen, Cuddy.  For then the Irish would have their fill of entertainment and not be so anxious to watch the gladiators’ arena on the commons.”

“Would be a good cause, Gilly.  Indeed, the whole nation’s morality would be greatly improved.”

“Do you suppose the magistrate will be fair and keep to the plan, Cuddy?”

“He hasn’t raised to the position he has without learning the value of playing both hands well, Gilly.  I’ll safely say he will be clever enough to understand the value of being friends with persons in high places and having a steady cash flow from persons in low places.”

Gilly looked at the crowd again.  A boisterously drunken marm was waving arms toward the cell window.  A small crowd gathered round her and began laughing and hooting.  She grew red of face, redoubling her efforts to communicate her liquor inspired ideas to the audience.

The laughter continued until she finally took a wide armed swing at nearest laughing face.  The crowd’s laughter doubled as the woman singled a particularly jovial, young man for a downpouring rain of her quite manly blows.  The young fellow madly ducked this way and that, endeavoring with all his might to escape the now closed ring of fellow neighbors whose not ungentle hands continually thrust him back to face the now raging bull of a woman.

Giggling a bit, McGillvery said, “The woman would indeed be funny if we were out there, Cuddy.”

“Gilly, we are the same as out there for we’ve a balcony seat view of the whole proceedings.”

McGillvery looked at McGillicuddy.  McGillicuddy looked at McGillvery.  A little smile played at the corners of their mouths and soon they were slapping each other and laughing with all the tears and gulps of breath as the freest of men.

It was at this moment the gaolkeeper came to deliver McGillvery and McGillicuddy to the hangman.

“I’ve delivered many a man to the rope,” he noted sourly, “but never have I delivered one smiling.”

“Why,” jovially replied Gilly, “All God’s children got hope and when you’ve got hope, Sir, you’ve got everything.”

“You see,” added Cuddy, “for fellows such as we be, no matter how this day ends, it will end well.”

The gaolkeeper glowered, “When you’re dead, you’re dead.  Religious or not they all hang the same.”

“Why, Sir,” innocently asked Gilly, “do we seem religious to ye now?”

“I see your mither’s Book and how you keep poring over it.”

“Then you surely know the story of Elijah and how a chariot came down from heaven and whooshed him away into clouds of invisibility?   The Lord’s a’saving Lord.  He’s an active defender of the right, Sir.  When e’s on your side, forces of evil have no chance of carrying forth their misguided plans.”

“Hmpf,” snorted the keeper and led McGillvery and McGillicuddy forth into noonday sun.

“’Tis odd no Lords or Earls are present this day,” observed Cuddy, looking out over the crowd.  “Seems they would wish a front row seat at a performance orchestrated by themselves.”

“Would be beneath their dignity, Brother.  They’ve a taste for entertainment above the popular strain. The news will reach them soon enough.”

Someone in the crowd cried, “Here they come.”  Necks strained to see McGillicuddy’s rich satin breeches and velvet coat.  Fathers hoisted sons to shoulders for a better ’vantaged view of the two well-kempt brothers.

As Gilly and Cuddy had no reputation as murderers—no person drew back in horror.  The faces were oddly curious, wondering, the thoughts the same—‘What if it were me?’

The drunken marm was in restraint, arms held by two farmers.  The children under the gallows were fleeing to sister’s and mother’s sides.

Gilly and Cuddy walked the gallows’ steps, smiling and nodding to each and every eye they happened to catch in passing.  McGillvery waved to the crowd and tipped his hat as one does when soliciting for public office.  For all the world the boys looked like folks ready for a wonderful trip.

At the gallows’ top, Cuddy turned and faced the crowd.  “Gentlemen, my farewell address to you is to rely on God in all things so that by honest acts and pure hearts you may experience His salvation.”

A rough voice broke out of the crowd.  “If this is the kind of salvation you’re wanting for us—no thanks!  Keep your religion to yourself, stranger.”

Gilly opened his mouth to match Cuddy’s statement when a canon roared at the far common’s edge.

A woman screamed.  The crowd began shoving and running from the common with children crying and women stumbling under the feet of their fellow villagers.  Gilly poked Cuddy and they both leapt backward from the gallows onto the soft turf behind.

“The alley,” whispered Cuddy.

“Aye,” agreed Gilly.

The crowd’s entire attention had been actively diverted by the canon’s roar. Gilly and Cuddy made a safe escape to the alley, then the livery.  Two horses stood ready.  The boys mounted and were off.

 

 


Chapter 13

The Wrath of Man

When a man allows his mental powers to become overpowered with fervent emotion, great errors can be made, errors which often are not easily retracted.  Gilly had become deeply angry over life threatening injustices returned for his generosity and practical kindnesses.  He did not comprehend nor understand the reasoning behind the fear and outrage of the leaders of Ireland over his innocent coupe of receiving a tithe from every business of consequence in Ireland.  The Lords saw him as a threat to Ireland’s independence while Gilly saw the Lords and Earls as irascible men of little principle and character.  Throughout his adventure he had relied upon his brother and his mother’s good Book to guide his decisions.  Now he was to make a decision without guidance from his brother or from his mum’s Book.  A multitude of counselors allows a kingdom to stand.  Without knowing it, Gilly was to make a decision which would threaten the very roots of the kingdom he and Cuddy had endeavored to build.

No words were spoken as the brothers made their trip home by a long way round.  They entered the doors of their richly appointed townhome early the next morning with two bags of gold needing spending and privately held thoughts not shared.

“James,” asked Gilly, around the time of mid-afternoon buffet.  “Whose armies are the best for hire in all the world?”

“The African armies have a fearsome reputation, Sir, and are not at present totally engaged.”

McGillvery poured two bags of gold on the table.  “They are now engaged.  I will confer with their Chieftains on the shores at the South of Ireland.”

“Sir?” questioned James.

“Yes?” asked McGillvery.

“I’m begging your pardon for my forwardness; but I feel I must state that all your funds have been used for the good for those less fortunate than yourselves—the hospital, the schools, the….  It seems at odds with your purposes in life to hire mercenary soldiers.”

McGillvery interrupted brusquely, “Sometimes to continue doing good, it is necessary to fight evil.”

James hesitated as if to ask a question, thought better of it, and merely said, “Yes, Sir.”

“Every day for ten days we will send two bags of gold in ships bound for Africa,” instructed Gilly.  “The ships are to return loaded with African warriors.  The highest African Chieftain is promised two bags of gold for every day his army’s feet march Ireland’s earth and two bags of gold every day of their journey home.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Later that evening, Gilly sat in the library’s handsomest leather chair looking at the fireplace’s full-bodied flame.  At that moment a cold breeze fanned the fire and he shivered a bit. When one shivers, the red-hot flames of anger burn not so warmly and decisions made in the heat of the moment appear shaky indeed.  Gilly drew the large chair nearer the fire to regain the lost warmth.  He soon felt more comfortable and with the warmth returned the feeling of righteousness.  He had made the decision.  Justice must be served.  Corrupt and selfish masters, ruling without good principle, are a cankerous sore to a nation’s well-being.  It is a truism long understood by those who are ruled and who have suffered at the hands of a dishonest ruling class.  He would remove the morally diseased Lords and Earls and replace them with men of high character who had a deep love for the people’s welfare.  With this plan firmly in mind, McGillvery entered the next several months with much time spent coolly deliberating over the future of Ireland’s upper classes.

Within a short time, Gilly’s plan gained form and substance, ready for greeting a new breed of man who stepped onto the rocky shores of Southeast Ireland.  McGillvery and McGillicuddy, there to meet them, trembled in their souls at the sight of these ferocious warriors. 

“Gilly,” whispered Cuddy, “it looks like you called up the demons of hell.”

Gilly nodded apprehensively as he watched hundreds of warhorses plunging from ships into the sea.  “The men wear armor, Cuddy.  They’re as well equipped as England’s own.  James gave quite the best advice I’d say.”

“Perhaps the Lords and Earls will be as awed by this display of military might as we,” spoke Cuddy hopefully, “and will have the decency to admit their error in dealing with us.”

“Aye,” agreed a daunted Gilly.

The Chief of the African warriors, as large as a Goliath, broad black face set with unreadable dark eyes, neither saluted nor greeted Cuddy or Gilly.  He merely surveyed the shore as if it belonged to him alone and waved for his warriors to form rank.  Those with horses, mounted.  In unison the black-faced men began a shrill, screaming, hooing.  Gilly turned green while Cuddy turned white, shaking inside his boots.  The African riders then whirled their horses in a fierce charge toward the boys, stopping and spraying sand from horses’ hooves onto the brothers’ cloaks.  This display was repeated several times with Cuddy and Gilly growing increasingly anxious while feeling as if their hearts had lost substance and power.

At last the Chieftain stepped forward without smile or bow. Gilly, not sure of proper protocol and not wanting to seem inferior to those he was to command, stepped forward, chin held high.  The Chieftain advanced.  Gilly advanced.  This continued until the Chieftain and Gilly were quite eye-to-eye. Gilly remembered an Irish jig that began in much the same manner and heartily wished that were the purpose of this meeting; but the occasion was far beyond the lightsome frolics of Irish lads and lassies at play.  This was adult work with serious consequences if not carried out correctly.  His mind raced wildly.  He must do the correct thing before these men or all would be lost.  At that moment his eye rested on the red feathers of the Chieftain’s headdress.  He reached up, removed the headdress, and replaced it with his own tam-o-shanter.  Then he reached down, pulled off his two brown, leather dress boots and handed them to the Chieftain.

Ireland awaits you, King of Warriors,” he said while bowing deeply.  “You have both my head and my feet behind you and in front of you.”

The Chieftain bowed his head slightly and held up two fingers.  The warriors began the shrilling hooing again while circling in a tearing eight columned run around Gilly and the Chieftain.  Cuddy, who had retired to a nearby hillock, observed with heart in hand.  “Ah, Gilly,” he whispered.  “You handled the whole affair remarkably well.”

By noon next day, the band of warriors had traveled in a westwardly direction the distance to Earl Donogough’s estate.  McGillvery sat astride Ireland’s finest mounting stock with McGillicuddy slightly behind and at his right.  The African Chieftain sat at McGillvery’s left.  When the Castle of Donogough came into view, there was visible stir within the ranks.

“This is the fortress, McGillvery?” queried the African Chieftain.

“Yes,” replied McGillvery.  “First we must parlay.”

“I do not understand ‘parlay’,” returned the Chieftain.

“It means to talk,” answered McGillvery.

“Talk?”  The African Chieftain swung his horse around in a tight circle.  “No talk.  Talk gives the enemy advantage.  Talk allows adversaries time in which to plot the killing of my warriors.”  He raised his finger and the warriors began a hooing which raised in volume and shrillness.

McGillvery looked in the direction of the castle.  There were no servants walking the grounds.  He could see no sign of life at the windows.  The castle appeared deserted.

He did not flinch a jaw muscle nor did his mount move.  He calmly replied, “I have paid you to fight for me.  My decision is to talk first.”

The African Chieftain challenged him with the black eyes of a world class fighting man.

McGillvery said, “I will risk my life first before I risk your warriors.  Wait for my signal.”

The Chieftain’s nostrils flared as if daring McGillvery to set the pace for his army.  McGillvery waited.  After many minutes, the Chieftain lowered his fingers.  The hooing stopped.

McGillvery nodded solemnly at the Chieftain while urging his mount forward.  His horse’s hooves echoed hollowly on the flagstone paving—a lonely sound enhanced by the gray sky and the wetness of the trees and grass.  The horse neither pranced nor tossed his head, but walked forward in a stately manner much befitting McGillvery’s frame of mind.

McGillicuddy watched his brother’s advance and reached over to the flag bearer’s pole, took it into his own hand, spurred his horse alongside McGillvery’s, and began tying a white kerchief to the top of the pole.  This signal Cuddy held high and steady.

Gilly looked at Cuddy riding by his side.  “By code our flag seeks peace first, Cuddy?”

Cuddy did not reply.  “Perhaps we’d best stop here,” suggested Cuddy.  “’Tis within hailing distance and yet safe from the bowmen lined along the top wall.”

“Bowmen?  Where do you see bowmen?” urged Gilly.

Cuddy pointed.  “There.  There.  See, be quick about it, or the eyes will not see.  Also, behind the draperies on the second and third levels—surreptitious movements.”

“I see,” noted Gilly.  “They’ve pre-anticipated our advance and prepared accordingly.  I suppose I was a fool to think we may talk the Lords into seeing our viewpoint.”

“No, not a fool for that, Gilly,” objected Cuddy.  “We’re both fools if we think ones who’ve had power so long shall abdicate their positions without a bloody good row.”

“I expected first an apology for our treatment and perhaps a reimbursement of our investments.”

Cuddy looked sideways at McGillvery.  “Now, really, Gilly, when they’ve as much as they have, do ye really think they got that way by giving it away to every wandering tinker that passed and held out his hand?  When even the orphans under the dear Father are looking for bread in the shadow of Donogough’s Castle—do ye think he’s a heart to ask our forgiveness and bestow a gift of gold on us besides?”

“I’d rather hoped the Earl Donogough would remember a higher Lord to whom he is accountable and would remember well his lessons from his nanny’s knee ‘to do good unto others.’”

“Perhaps those that live in such castles do not employ nannies of that disposition, Gilly.”

Gilly looked quite surprised.  “I’m sure there’s not a nanny in all Ireland who would fail in her duty to teach her little nippers the basic truths of living!”

Cuddy shrugged.  “I think Donogoughs are known for nannies of the imported sort.”

Gilly looked quite aghast.  “You mean nannies who have no fear of God?  Godless nannies!?  Ohhh,” he breathed with a shocked whistle.  “I’d no idea, Cuddy.  No wonder their foul treatment of us, their fellow countrymen.  What wickedness must reside within those castle walls.”

“Aye,” agreed Cuddy.  “After all, where did they have the Father now?  Trapped like a rat in the darkling dungeon.  Shouldn’t they have had him elevated to the right hand of the master eating the dainties and drinkin’ the finest as befits a holy man?  But nay, not they.  See to yourself, Gilly.  Ye’ve already shared their dungeon once.  The next coming to foul of Earl Donogough may not be so lenient a punishment.”

Gilly appraised Cuddy quietly.  “Ye’ve thought about it a bit deeper than I, Brother.  Ye’ve had the military experience.  Perhaps you should take the lead from here on out.”

Cuddy shook his head.  “No, Gilly.  I was never to be a leader of men.  It takes a certain presence to do that—you have more of that presence than I.  I saw it when you were speaking with the African Chieftain.  No, my part in this affair is to watch first and fight as needed.”

“Then onward, Cuddy!” urged Gilly as he put firm heel to his mount.  Ere the willing steed took two prancing steps forward, a canon roared, plopping iron ball not five meters from Gilly’s left.

“By the Hag of Beare,” he cried.  “Parlay’s done.  Fight’s begun.”

With Cuddy following closely behind, Gilly charged the main castle gates.  He heard the fear inspiring hooing of the African hordes as they followed in a black sweeping swarm over the hills and moat toward the castle walls. 

“An’ what should we tell dear Mother now?” whispered Cuddy as he gave a second spur to his mount, unsheathed a long unused sword, and headed straight for the main gate.

Donogough Castle had been well fortified for many a bitter siege in years long gone.  But a century of peace encouraging more frivolous practices had precluded those employed during military duress.  The moat had long since gone dry.  Grass had over-grown its entirety.  The current Lady had sewn Bluebells and Yellow Bonnets in the soft, emerald green grass. The African warriors long used to scaling walls of cliff-like structures with thorns and briers sewn ankle deep in front of fortified walls had already mounted the castle’s second floor and were entering windows long unbarred.

As Gilly charged the main gate, he was astonished to see it open as magically as if an angel himself had extended a personal invitation to enter.  “By Saint Patrick’s feast!  Donogough’s shall fall as easily as Jericho—for the asking of it!” he said to himself.

He swept into the castle along with hundreds of warriors.  The pounding hooves crashed against stone.  Far above shrieks and cries of servants could be heard along with crashings of furniture and weaponry.

“Earl Donogough,” he cried.  “For injustices rendered to honest men, I now stand in your castle and I claim it for myself and my brother beside me in God’s name.”  With that pronouncement he tore the Donogough colors from the entranceway, drug them along the stone paving to the fireplace, and hurled the woven tapestry into the licking flames.  Still mounted, his horse jumping nervously at the shrill cries all around him, Gilly surveyed the room—the same room where he had been tied and led to the dungeon.  How sweet to be astride in this very room!

Cuddy and the African Chieftain came striding through the doorway.  “Earl Donogough nor his family nor his chief servants are on the grounds.  ’Tis only the kitchen maids and a few gardeners.  The bowmen are nowhere to be found.”

“Question the servants.  Perhaps they’ve overheard where their fine plumed Earl has fled.  Then leave them be.  They’ll serve our needs well this evening should they be promised their positions and their lives.”

The night was spent in the castle.  The warriors ate well from the castle larders and drank equally well from the Earl’s wine cellars.

McGillvery and McGillicuddy stood at fireside recounting the day’s events.  “Now did you see the way the door opened for us, Cuddy?  It’s like taking the Promised Land.  The first city Jericho fell for a shout and seems the hand of God was with us in the same manner.”

“I believe the Lord’s Hand was helped by the hand of Enna,” observed Cuddy. 

“Enna?  What do you mean Enna?”

“Only that some outside the castle were more than willing to lend a hand inside the castle to bring Earl Donogough to his knees.”

“Do you mean to say Enna raised the doors?”

“Aye.”

“Well, ’tis not a small matter to be thankful for.  And where is he now?”

“He is lighting torches in the dungeon.”

“I say, that’s an odd thing to do.”

“Perhaps not.  After all he’d spent many a year in the darkness of that dungeon.  Seems natural he’d want to shed light where none was shed before.”

“Mmmm,” murmured Gilly thoughtfully.  “’Tis a night many men will do as they please.  I wonder, should we not turn this castle over to the Father for his orphaned children?  Would be a fine thing to do, Cuddy.”

“Fine until Donogough came back to claim his own.”

“’Tis not his anymore, Cuddy.  We shall hunt him and take him for his treachery.  No more will he be allowed a life wherein he may ill-treat a priest and ignore the cries of the poor and needy of heart.”

Cuddy smiled a bit ruefully, “The deed is well on its way to being done.  So I will say—it is good.  Now is best to slumber, Gilly.  The whole of the castle is beginning to quiet.”

Gilly had already slipped into deep, satisfied sleep.  All had gone well and he foresaw no real troubles ahead.

Sun shone bright the following day with birds singing, rabbits darting from one bush to another.  All in all, it was the most perfect of days to besiege another castle.  Warriors waking, grumbling, their Chieftain ordering, organizing, packing valuables into wagons, hitching Earl Donogough’s finest stable mounts to pull the plundered goods, receiving Gilly and Cuddy’s two bags of gold for the army’s daily hire.  Yes, it was an entirely satisfactory morning.

McGillvery rubbed hands together briskly.  “Fetch Father from the village, Enna.  We’ll conclude business with him and be off.”

It was nearly the ninth hour before the Father came.  Gilly, now a recognized leader among all present, strode with confidence to meet the Father on castle green.

“An’ happy we are to see you, Father.”

“May God bless you,” returned the Father.  “We meet in the light of day at last.”

“Aye.  We’ve punished the misdeeds of the Earl of Donogough and claimed that which we’ve bought and paid for in acts of valor in the name of our God.  We’re donating the spoils of war to the orphans and widows of Donogough village.  It’s leaving it in your care and keeping to manage in a way that would best suit our Lord that we’re doing, Father.”  Gilly stepped back allowing Cuddy to step forward.

“The keys to Donogough Castle and a better life for Ireland’s homeless and bereaved,” he said simply, proffering the keys with outstretched hand.

“Oh, McGillvery, McGillicuddy,” said the Father quietly.  “What have you done ‘in the name of God’?  Good intentions I can see on my lads’ faces and know I well they spring deeply from good hearts all around, but how can poor men such as we reach out and occupy a place so grand as this?  Don’t you see, McGillvery?  ’Tis one thing for one such as yourself to ride in and occupy a castle so grand for you’ve a splendid military to keep it, once gained.  But I and my flock of little ones are peaceful without reliance upon worldly strength. Can’t you see the way of it, my boys?  My people—they’ve nothing anyone wants—they may hunger and need, but they can sleep.  They have no fear of someone coming to take what they have for they’ve nothing anyone desires.  How can sheep such as they live in a castle such as this—a place whose very walls speak of another spirit than theirs?  Why surely they would be vomited out of this place within the fortnight.”  The Father’s chin trembled as he spread his palms to them in a manner most beseeching.

McGillicuddy motioned to McGillvery.  “Wait but a moment, Father,” he said.  To one side, Cuddy spoke in a whisper.  “Why is it folks are so unwilling to accept their blessings?  Wouldn’t you now if we were in our tinker’s wagon and someone fought, bought, and paid for a home such as this be more’n willing to step inside and take ownership?”

Gilly thought for a moment. “Perhaps he is feeling,” he said thoughtfully, “that ’e’s got to have earned it before he can be receiving it and with the principles he holds he cannot justify earning it or receiving it.”

Cuddy snorted, “That’s a lie of the Devil himself.”

Gilly looked surprised, “How do ye mean?”

“Well, whatever did Adam do to ‘earn’ the Garden of Eden?  A baby doesn’t ‘earn’ the luxuries of his crib.  It is a gift of parents who are able to give and the more able they are, the more luxurious the crib.  Whoever ‘earned’ the gift of our Lord, Cuddy?  A gift is to be taken, thanked for, received, and used, Gilly.  No more.  No less.  I’m sure the Father of us all wants us to have all the gifts in the world but if we keep saying no, no, no, we have to earn them first, then we shan’t have anything at all—why there’s not enough daylight to ‘earn’ all we’d like to have.  It must come in the form of gifts just as our bags did, Gilly.”

“Then you must educate the Father, Cuddy.”

“Aye, I will.”  Cuddy moved back toward the Father’s side.  “Seems Father, you are pre-anticipating problems with this gift.  It is as if you feel that in accepting this gift you may have to fight for it someday and being a peaceful man, you do not want to fight for your gift.  Now that is the basic problem here, is it not?”

The Father looked sheepish, “’Tis rather a bald way of saying it, Cuddy.”

“Would I need remind you, Father, of the Psalms which says God shoots the arrows for a righteous man?  All we need do is abide under his wing.”

“Abide under his wing we might, McGillicuddy, but does not lessen the fact that David raised a sword, Joshua fought and battled, Elijah called fire down out of heaven—I know a great deal about my Lord, boys, but I know not how to call fire down to consume my enemies.”

McGillvery raised his hands to heaven in exasperation, “Then we’ll be your Joshua and David, Father.  You accept the gift and we’ll raise the sword in our Lord’s name.”

The Father looked surprised and McGillvery repeated, “My promise as well as God allows me to carry it through is to keep you safe within these castle walls throughout all the time you serve Donogough village, its widows, and orphans.”

“Then all is well,” spoke the Father.  “Thank you, my friends,” and reaching forward took the keys to Donogough’s Castle.

As McGillvery and McGillicuddy rode away, McGillvery muttered, “There’s something wrong with a ‘peaceful fellow’ who isn’t willing to fight for what’s been given him.”

“Now, now,” chided McGillicuddy.  “We’ve all been given different gifts of the spirit.  Some are kings given to fighting and gathering, and some are priests given to encouraging and dispersing.  Rarely is one given the king-priest personality.  ’Tis a rare blend indeed, McGillvery.”

“’Tis a better one to my way of thinking,” grunted McGillvery.  “A bit better balanced that—to fight as a king does and to accept and live in peace when one can as a priest does.”

McGillicuddy did not reply as he was deep in thought about the battle that lay before them.  They were a short hour’s distance from the next castle. But, he needn’t have worried.  The next castle was abandoned.  Word had long reached the inhabitants of the fate of Donogough’s estate.  The Lords and Earls, long used to peace, poorly equipped to do battle for their own inheritances, resorted to the only alternative they possessed—flight and retreat.

“The problem lies in knowing where they’ve gone and what plans they’re entertaining for a return,” noted McGillicuddy.  He turned to the African Chieftain and waved toward the castle calling out, “The castle is yours for the plunder.  McGillvery and I shall ride ahead to the next village.  We’ll gather information from the villagers.  They will not have had the wherewithal to flee and will perhaps know where our plumed carrion have flown.  We will meet you here in the morning.”

The Chieftain nodded and motioned his warriors to make camp.

The boys reached the village in short order and found all shops closed, shutters down, and doors barred.  McGillvery rode the length of the village square and finally raised his voice with,  “Can I raise no one without pillaging the entire village?”

A woman’s sob was heard, a door cracked, and a young man stepped timidly from a doorway.

“Are ye all that’s left?” asked McGillvery in astonishment. 

The young man braced himself against the doorpost while giving McGillvery a mute nod.

Cuddy came behind McGillvery and took careful note of the lad’s whiteness of  face, trembling of limbs, and felt surprise.  Always it was he and Gilly who felt afraid.  To see someone other than themselves in such stark terror was a startle.  “Son,” he said compassionately. “Whatever are you afraid of?  If those Lords and Earls have threatened you in any way, you may look upon us as your saviors and protectors.”

The young man looked as if he may fair faint away.  The trembling increased until the poor fellow’s teeth rattled.

McGillvery surveyed the situation, dismounted, and approached the man whereupon the young man moaned a dying sound, leaned backward, and fell into his house.  McGillvery walked forward and leaned over the fellow.  “Why ’e’s fainted dead away,” he said in surprise.  “Hello!” he added, looking at a wee lassie near the fire.  “Is this your daddy, then?”  The child, too young to know of the significant events occurring in her native land, nodded while sticking four pudgy fingers into an un-talkative mouth.

A moan issued from the room beyond the main room.  McGillvery walked across the space which served as kitchen, living quarters, workshop, and play area to push aside tattered curtains of red and green plaids leading to a smallish room beyond.

“Hello, what have we here?  Cuddy, come quickly.”  A woman near giving birth was lying against the wall on a peasant’s bed not unlike the one Gilly and Cuddy had often slept upon.  “Cuddy, your help will be needed,” urged Gilly.  Cuddy was already looking for toweling and soap.  

McGillvery, wondering at the young man’s long unconsciousness, turned and bent down to feel the man’s neck.  “A heart beat, strong,” he muttered.  “But for deeds of valor…,” he shook his head woefully.  “Your small miss has more courage than thee.  And yet, I must be fair, for ye could have run away from your woman with all the rest.  Ye stood your ground this much and it is a commendation to your loyalty and love of ’er.”

Feeling better at this homely assessment, Gilly looked around the room.  “But why should a young fellow be afraid of the likes of me or Cuddy?   This is an odd turn of circumstance.  One day we’re tinkers running for the top of our wagon, dogs licking our heels, and the next we’re mounted astride ponies with the householders fainting in the doorways at the sight of us.”

McGillvery noted a small piece of mirror over the fireplace.  He picked it up to survey his face from side to side.  “I don’t look different—so why should I inspire such fear in this peasant?”

A movement caught the corner of his eye.  He turned in time to see the young peasant raise himself from the floor onto an elbow while putting the other hand to his forehead.  “Here, I’ll help you, man,” offered McGillvery as he stepped across flagstone toward the youthful fellow.  “There, now.  You’ve had quite a scare.  Come here.  I’ll heat you a broth and you can gather your sense by the fire.”

The man turned toward the curtain.  Gilly steered him toward the fire and a short stool at fire’s edge.  “She’s all right.  McGillicuddy’s helping her.  He’s the one for birthing living things.  You needn’t worry the tiniest of a feather about ’er.”

The young man, finding his tongue, whispered, “McGillicuddy—a good Irish name.  Thank God for the Irish,” he added fervently.

McGillvery noted the returning color in the man’s cheeks.  “How be it you’re alone in this village?”

The man looked up in surprise and waved toward the curtain.  “Couldn’t leave ’er.  What kind of a man would I be to leave ’er?  Everyone else tho’, they’re gone and won’t be back.  No.”

“Why? Why has everyone fled?” queried Gilly.

“Why?  Where have you been, Man?  Don’t you know the ill fate that has swept Ireland’s shores?”

McGillvery, not yet divining the young man’s concern, dumbly shook his head in negative directions. 

“Then you must have been hidden away in a mossy cave,” ejaculated the man.  “How could you be foolish as to the woes that have befallen our dear motherland?”

Gilly, still thick of mind as to the concern of the young man, with genuine concern urged, “Speak, Man—speak.  What has happened so grim to cause one of Ireland’s own to faint in his doorway?”

“Demon hordes have swept the land. They’ve so much power the Saints themselves have been bound.  No more good shall our green shores see.  Even our protectors and ensamples unto fidelity have fled.”

Realization spread across Gilly’s face.  The young man was speaking about the African armies, Cuddy, and himself.  In dismay, Gilly protested, “These hordes be not interested in the poor of the land.  They’ve only eyes for the gluttonous…,” and stopped.  The young man’s last words had just caught up with Gilly’s mind.  “Protectors and ensamples unto fidelity?  And…who might they be?” carefully inquired Gilly.

“Our Lords and Earls,” simply answered the young man.

“Mmmm,” snorted Gilly.  “Poor protectors they be if they flee at the first sign of a demon horde.  An’ where did they flee to?”

“North.  There are castles more strongly fortified than these.  They are raising an army to protect our fair land.”

“An army of peasants, I suppose,” spoke Gilly grimly.

“Of course.  There are only a few of them and a great many of us.  ’Tis only right we help defend what is ours.”

“What is theirs, you mean.”

The young man looked puzzled.

“Never mind, lad.  We’ll stay until the lass is delivered of child and be on our way.  You’ve nothing to fear from us.  Ye’ll not be harmed in any way.”

McGillvery stepped from the young man’s small cottage into the village streets and looked toward the millions of stars in the sky.  “’Tis a cruel joke to have the peasants’ blood run for the noblemen’s sins.  The peasants know not, dearest Father, but the nobles know full well.”

This was an unexpected and most unpleasant development.  McGillvery began pacing.  About midnight, McGillicuddy joined him.

“’Tis a laddie, a fine strong one with lusty lungs.”

McGillvery nodded without taking notice of Cuddy’s words.  “A strange turn in our affairs, McGillicuddy.”

“Aye.  I heard.”

“I’d never meant to punish the innocent for the misdeeds of a few.”

McGillicuddy nodded.

“If we pursue this any farther, we’re likely to meet the new wee laddie’s father eye to eye on battle field.  Where would we stand with our Lord to cut down a small laddie’s father and him having to grow up an orphan with a widowed mother?”

“T’would sentence them to a poverty worse than death.”

“They wouldn’t even have the potato on their plates most nights that I so complained of.”

“The young man thinks he’s fighting for his home and his family.”

“How little he owns of it!” cried McGillvery bitterly. “An’ what am I to do then?  What am I to do in this instance?”

“We could do what we’ve always done and go back to the Book, Gilly.”

Gilly felt extreme reluctance to read in the Book.  He shook his head negatively.  “No.  I’m not much caring to read in it now.  We’ve got ourselves into this fine mess and we best be figuring a way out.”

“Mother always said when one least feels like reading in the Book, that is when they most needs to read it.”

Gilly’s reluctance increased and he firmly shook his head.  “No,” he replied.  “I do not wish to read this evening.”

The boys bedded down for a short nap in the deserted village square.  In a short few hours they would meet the African Chieftain for a sweep to the North.  Gilly tossed and turned for a long while until he finally changed his mind and decided to pick the Book from the back of his knapsack and retire to the fireside for a bit of reading.

He turned many pages, paying little attention to the multitude of words he passed over, until a verse seemed to leap from a page and capture his attention.  He read, “‘The hope of an irreligious man comes to nothing.  God breaks up an ungodly man’s plan.’”  He mumbled to himself, “The Earls and Lords needed their ungodly plans broken up and Cuddy and I are helping our Lord do it with a mighty arm of justice.”

Cuddy, unknown to Gilly, was listening in the shadows and agreed.  He, himself, had been on many a military campaign whose purpose was to correct injustices occurring on national scales.

Gilly read for some time until fatigue urged him to retire for the last of the morning hours.  He started to close the Book when his eye caught these words, “‘The man of peace has a future.’” 

Through half-closed, sleepy eyes, Cuddy had been watching Gilly’s face and body posture by the dying flames of their campfire.  Gilly’s change of posture as he had been about to close the Book, caused him to alert and speak, “What are you readin’ now, Gilly?”

Gilly read the verse and Cuddy immediately rose from his bedroll to sit near his brother.  Gilly handed the Book to Cuddy.  “Why don’t you read aloud for me, Cuddy?”

He read, “‘Turn over the course of your affairs to Jehovah, and rely on Him, and He will act.  He will bring your rightness out like the light and the justice of your case like noonday.  Leave it silently to Jehovah and wait for Him; do not lose your temper at one who comes off successfully, a man who executes deep-laid plots.’”

Gilly’s shoulders slumped despondently.  “Are you thinking it’s meaning me in this instance?  If it’s meaning me, then I’m terribly in the wrong, Cuddy.”

Cuddy had no answer for they were deeply involved in an undertaking from which he could see no extraction.

“Cuddy, a good and wise man, who had been wronged, would have sent ambassadors first to the Lords and Earls for a parlay, wouldn’t he?  And, only after talk, would he dare bring war down on their heads and even then with a proper warning first to allow them to repent of their misdeeds and to right the wrong.  That’d be the fair and Godly way of doin’ it, wouldn’t it?”

“Aye,” answered Cuddy.  “’Tis the way its done by the great nations.  A great deal of talk on both sides and a great deal of compromising.”

“Oh, Cuddy!  What have I done?” cried Gilly.  “I’ve invited myself from the tinker’s seat to the seat reserved for leaders of men—kings and generals.  With a tinker’s thoughts I acted hastily—giving no time for peaceful negotiations.  All we wanted was a potato on our plate and a bit of chop to go with it.  How did that simple desire lead us into a war with all our countrymen?”

Cuddy thought deeply and then said slowly, “I can’t see the error was that we wanted too much.  It is the basic needs of every man we were longing for and I’m not sure it was that desire that led us into this awful predicament.  I’m remembering the Lords themselves acted hastily without giving us much time to address ourselves in their presence.  They invited us to a meal, if you remember accurately, and threw us in prison both in the North and in the South without the benefit of the meal.  Little questions did they ask before putting us in those dark places away from the light of men.”

“Yet,” returned Gilly, “perhaps our Lord would have required us to parlay one more time before acting.”

“Perhaps we should have explained ourselves, but they didn’t really give us much time for explanations of the simplest sort, did they?”

“Nay, ‘tis what made me so angry,” admitted Gilly.

“It’s a sad, but great truth that once men have made their minds to a bent and have taken action on that bent, it’s not soon they’ll be listening to the persuasion of mere words.  Persuasion is best done before the action starts.”

“Aye,” replied Gilly lowering his head, “more’n likely a good rap with a sound stick is the only listening they’ll be doing now until they’re so broken, they’ve nothing else except to comply.”

“Even then, the stick only convinces them against their will.  Breaking never lasts long.  ‘Tis why generations later, descendants will fight to right perceived wrongs suffered by their elders hundreds of years before.  Ye’ve seen it in the lines of the Kings and the Queens.”

The eastern sky was dawning red and gold.  Cuddy placed his arm around Gilly’s shoulders and said, “Our story has become uncommonly complicated.  We be not the wise of the land, Gilly.  It’s why we always relied so on the Book for advice—to keep a little free of error against our Lord and against our fellows.  Perhaps we need to step under that umbrella again.  It would be the course of humility.”

Gilly looked quickly at Cuddy with dawning comprehension in his face and eyes. “Humility!  Yes, Cuddy, yes!  The ladder, remember the ladder?  The Ladder of Success!  It had four steps:  first, was ‘fear of the Lord’; second, was ‘humility’; third, was ‘riches’; fourth, was ‘honor.’  We’re standing on the third rung, Cuddy.  We got our riches.  The final step is to acquire honor.  How could a rich man become honorable?”

Cuddy said slowly, “By carrying out honorable actions with his riches.”

“Aye,” enthusiastically agreed Gilly.  “An’ since our gold is a gift from our King, if we weren’t to act as honorably and as wisely and as obediently as we could with our riches, then our King would have just that much right to take it away.  We’ve been poor lads for a great long while, Cuddy.  I’ve no wish to be losing the potato and the chop on our plate that we’ve come to rely upon.  ’Tis a fact that money in the hands of haughty men could do no good and much harm.  We’ve acted the haughty men.  ’Tis good for us to listen to the advice of the Book as we understood it this day and rely on the Lord for the rest.”

Cuddy closed his eyes in quiet prayer and nodded in agreement.

Gilly stood up quickly and decisively from the side of their dying fire.  “We must send the African Chieftain and his armies home, Cuddy.”

Cuddy smiled, “For Ireland and its eternal peace, then,” and raised a stiff, smart military salute.

Gilly tipped his hat and returned, “To Ireland’s mountains and valleys.  May God ’ere smile on her lightness of heart and carefree days.”

Decisions, even when made with great sincerity of heart, are often difficult to carry through and extricating oneself from a false misstep is tricky indeed.  Many a fine man with good intentions has wound himself into quicksand that would as readily suck him down with all his excellent ambitions as a dumb beast of the mountain who lives not by good intent but by animal instinct alone.

The African Chieftain had finished the pillaging of the second Irish castle and had begun to believe the entire country lay exposed before him without a military force to protect its possessions.  It was unbelievable that such a land could exist and his heart had swelled with thoughts of easily obtained wealth and great plunder.  He knew all creatures maintain fighting defenses for times of trouble.  Even the smallest ants retain and sustain their warrior classes to preserve their territories and species.  It was beyond comprehension that a land could so flaunt the natural laws that it lay exposed and unprotected from foreign invasion.  Ireland, he judged, had not even the tiniest bit of natural wisdom in matters of self-preservation.  The country, for its lack of understanding, was, therefore, his for the taking and he said as much to McGillvery.

“Nay.  ’Tis not so,” protested McGillvery.  “There is a great Lord living in heavenly places whose purpose is to put fear into ungodly men’s hearts.  He used your forces to accomplish His will—to discipline those who owned these two castles  ’Tis why it was so simple a battle won.  But the lesson has been finished.  He is no longer with us and has returned to the people of this land.  He no longer agrees that we shall be successful in any war against His people.”

The African Chieftain raised his head, “What is the Name of the God of this land?”

“His name is Jehovah—one greatly to be feared—a warrior wreaking great vengeance on those not obeying His wishes.”

“I know no such one.”

“But you need know Him, mighty one,” spoke McGillicuddy.  “He controls the rains, the storms, the sun, the seas.  It is most important that you listen in this matter because even if you should pursue the castles and their wealth to the North, you shall have to go home by the sea.  He may let you take some of Ireland’s wealth aboard your vessels, but never shall He allow the sea to safely carry you home.”

“Perhaps,” the Chieftain suggested, “this One was not with you in the first instance either.  Perhaps you imagined He was with you.  Perhaps you imagined He will not be with you now.  Perhaps I and my warriors already have His backing. Perhaps that is why we stand where we are today.” 

“If you return to your country, we will pledge the two bags of gold you’ve received each day for an additional four hundred days.  It would mean as much wealth as you could possibly take in the whole of Ireland,” returned Gilly.  “You would not risk your men’s lives and can live in peace in your home territories.  Wisdom decrees that to be your best course of action.”

The African Chieftain disagreed,  “In four hundred days my warriors would be soft and fat like women.  The gold would be gone and they would no longer be in condition to fight and regain their wealth.  Soldiers are meant to fight.  We came to fight and we shall fight!”

McGillvery looked him full in the face, “Then you’ll not go with my blessing nor my two bags of gold each day.”

The African Chieftain reached out and grabbed Gilly by the neck, raising him from the ground by a full meter.  “Our agreement was to take the North and the South with two full bags of gold per day to be delivered to my tent.  My soldiers were to pillage and plunder what they wished with no hindrance.  You shall go with us and you shall perform your part of the bargain until we have done with this land.” 

He sat Gilly back to the ground.  “Warriors!” he commanded and raised his fingers.  The shrill hooing began.  “We march!”

McGillvery and McGillicuddy were not tied but allowed to ride in their same positions with a second chieftain riding between.  It was a day of gloom and despair unlike any Gilly or Cuddy had ever imagined could be their own.

“So this is what desire comes to then?” bitterly asked Gilly.  “What I do not wish is about to happen and upon my soul will rest all the innocent children of Ireland’s souls.  O’ Cuddy,” moaned a stricken Gilly.  “What do I do now?”

Cuddy, always the thoughtful, spoke, “Gilly, while it’s true we gave the wheel a push, we did not run down the hill with it to keep it spinning to its final goal.  I perceive that this affair is out of our hands and we must silently watch its conclusion.”

Gilly turned in hot anger at Cuddy’s philosophical attitude.  “How can you live and say such a thing?  ’Tis like saying because we were lazy lads and our dear old mother was starving for our laziness that tho’ we  had started  the wheel in motion we are no longer responsible and are obliged to continue standing by in laziness till she starves to death.  What a godless outlook that, Cuddy!  In fact,” he said fiercely, “it makes me so angry I should strike you!”

McGillicuddy reined his mount short.  “The trouble with you, McGillvery, is you’ve always reached your hand out to muddy the waters before using the good mind God’s given you.  If you weren’t so eager to run ahead and would wait a bit to see the lay of the land, so to speak, we wouldn’t be in ’alf the trouble we are!”

“So ’tis my fault then?  I, the one who loads the tinker’s wagon, hitches the horses, and waits every morning for his majesty, McGillicuddy, to join me on top?”

“If you would wait a bit, you wouldn’t be left to do more than you need!”

“An’ if I didn’t, every day we wouldn’t be off till noon.  You are a lazy rascal with no initiative.  I’m sick of you being my brother.  In fact,” shouted McGillvery, “You are no longer my brother and I shall eradicate you from the earth!”  With that, he leapt from his horse, pulled Cuddy to the ground and began choking him about the neck.

The dust was in McGillicuddy’s nose.  His tongue felt as if it would come loose from its roots and pop out his mouth like a cork from an Irish bottle.  His eyes swam between blackness and stars.  The roaring in his ears became as the surf on the rocks at Clough’s Cliffs.  Their mother’s Book lay in the road, spilled from Cuddy’s sack, its pages slowly turning in the wind.

The African warriors, black faces showing no emotion, made a neat circle around the brothers.  It looked a fight to the death—the end of Ireland’s last tinkers.

As swiftly as the disagreement had begun, it was over.  McGillvery stood wiping his hands across bloodied lip while encouraging McGillicuddy to his feet.  “It’s you,” he cried pointing a finger at the African Chieftain.  “It’s you—not us.” 

He leapt with the power of a tinker horse’s rear haunches, pulled the Chieftain from his mount, wrested the saber from the Chieftain’s belt, held it to his throat, and looked fiercely at the warriors.  “You will return.  You will return from whence you came or your Chieftain shall die upon this soil never to lead you again into profitable ventures.”

The warriors, long steeped in the superstitions of their Chieftain’s supernatural connections and earthly right to a power of unchallengeable authority were aghast at the prospect of losing one they were schooled from infancy to revere, honor, protect, obey, and enrich.  All mounts were pulled back leaving an open road to the sea.  McGillvery, not lessening his hold, began that arduous march, saber held tightly to the Chieftain’s throat.  He marched the rest of that day.  He marched all night, past Donogough’s Castle, back to the beaches where the warriors had first madly chased round him in the sand. 

The men who guarded the ships put hands to hilts of weapons, but the Chieftain shook his head.  “Warriors, home,” he said, his broad, black face showing little emotion. 

McGillvery waited while all warriors loaded mounts and gear into the holds of their ships before releasing the African Chieftain.  The Chieftain looked McGillvery squarely in the eye.  “I will return,” he promised.

McGillvery shook his head firmly.  “No, this land does not belong to you nor Gilly nor I nor the Lords and Earls.  It is guarded by One more powerful than any of us. He will not let Irish blood be shed at your hands or ours.”

“I accept your payment of two bags gold for this day’s work and two bags every day for four hundred days.”

McGillvery nodded in agreement while Cuddy brought the bags forward. 

The African Chieftain boarded the last ship and stood facing them while the sails were set.  By day’s end the African warriors had disappeared over the horizon.

McGillvery, who had stood at rigid attention all the while they were in sight,

collapsed to the sand quivering with exhaustion.  McGillicuddy began a small fire and rummaged through his pockets.  “Ahhh!” he grinned.  “One of Earl Donogough’s potatoes.  I believe part of the skin has been scuffed, but it’s large enough to share.”

McGillvery sank into a deep sleep at fire’s edge while McGillicuddy tended the baking of their supper.

 


 

Chapter 14

                                                     Rabbits on the Glen

As the potato baked McGillicuddy nodded until he, too, was fully asleep.  It was the popping of a last dying ember and a fearful dream that caused McGillicuddy to awake.  With a small cry of alarm, he scrambled to his feet.

“Gilly!  Awake!” he urged, his voice rising in pitch.  “We’ve forgotten our promise to the Father!  We told him to occupy Donogough’s Castle and we would protect him.  Now we’ve sent our warriors home, we’ve no way to protect him.  The Earls will hang the Father sure, Gilly.  Up! We must be up!”

McGillvery struggled through layers of exhaustion, McGillicuddy finally hauling him to his feet in exasperation.  “Have you no heart, Man?  The Earls will have already heard of the African departure.  It’s only a day’s good ride for them to be returning to their lands.  Their anger will be hotter than summer’s sun looking for flesh to scorch.  They’ve no heart for orphans in the best of times let alone in these worst of times and it’s the orphans and their father who’ll be sitting in the way of Earls’ blaze.”

“Let’s go then,” urged an awakened Gilly.  “Quit your forever muttering and ride that horse if ye know how,” he yelled as he slipped a noose around the first horse he reached.  He swung onto the mount and gave sharp heel thrusts to its flanks.  With short leaps the horse cleared the sand bank breaking into a galloping run toward Donogough’s Castle.  McGillicuddy caught and mounted a second horse just as quickly.  His horse, of heavier haunches and longer legs, soon caught McGillvery’s.  The two horses settled into a distance-eating lope.  “You’ll have to pace them,” cried McGillicuddy, “or they’ll windbreak an’ we’ll not reach the Father before Donogough does.”  Even at such a pace it was the midnight hour before the boys sat on the hillock overlooking Donogough’s.

“Nary a light showing in the entire eerie place.”

McGillvery shivered.  “Forgive my cowardice, Cuddy, but I cannot bear to go in at this hour by candle and look upon slaughtered children.”

McGillicuddy agreed, “Nor I—but, dear Brother, it could be Donogough has not yet arrived and the children’re asleep in their beds.  If we do not go in to see, we may stand aside and watch Earl Donogough’s actions when he does arrive.”

McGillvery, nauseated to the core of his being from the fear of what he may find, urged his mount forward.  The gates of the castle were barred.  The boys rode round to the servant’s entrance.  This door, whose lock had been torn from its hinges, was neatly pulled shut, tied securely with a leather thong.  McGillicuddy feeling more sure than his brother, pushed in front, untied the thong, and passed into the kitchen.  A lantern, which McGillvery lit, displayed a neat, orderly room.  The boys passed into the main entrance and beyond to the entertaining rooms.  Every room had been set to order, draperies re-hung, firewood neatly laid in each fireplace.

“No dead bodies of orphaned children lying wastin’ on this floor,” spoke a relieved Gilly.

 “Up the stairs then,” rejoined Cuddy. 

The upper floors were in the same order with beds neatly laid, bureaus dusted, and garments on their proper hooks.

“To the servant’s quarters?” queried Cuddy.

“Aye,” nodded Gilly.

Things were the same there with no sign of life anywhere.  Cuddy passed a hand over his eyes.  “Did we not sack and ruin this castle, Gilly?” 

“I’m ashamed to say we did.”

“Then why isn’t it sacked and ruined?”

“Perhaps because my orphans have learnt well how to sweep, repair, and mend.”

Gilly turned swiftly.  “Father! How glad we are to see you! And yet,” he paused. “Not glad to see you.”

The Father raised his eyebrows slightly in question.

Cuddy grew crimson of face while explaining the turn of events. “So you’re surely seeing, Father, you must leave at once.  We’d promised you protection for the castle and we’ve none to give ye now!”

“Please, Father, for the little children, you must leave at once!” urged Gilly.

The Father looked surprised.  “Why, Gilly, I’ve no need to leave.”

Several of the village’s orphans walked into the room carrying scrub buckets.

Gilly moaned, “Father, ye don’t understand!  Earl Donogough’s sure to be quite soon back.  Our warriors have departed.  Donogough has clapped you in prison once, when he finds you in his castle and living here, he’ll turn on you and your orphans like a raging wolf.”

Father looked puzzled, and then threw his head back while laughing in comprehension.  “Oh, Gilly, Cuddy!  Do ye lads think I would be audacious enough to move into a place I’d not earned? Or had the permission of the owner to live in?”

Gilly looked a bit offended.  “You mean you didn’t accept our gift to you?”

“Why, Gilly,” objected the Father, “’Twas not yours to give.”

“’Twas spoils of war!  We were the owners,” sputtered Gilly.

The Father smiled and asked softly, “Gilly, are ye one moment urging me to leave and the next angry I didn’t stay?”

Gilly blushed, “No, of course not.”  Then looking around, “But if you weren’t staying, what are you doing here at this late hour and keepin’ the orphans out of their beds, too?”

“We are replacing, repairing, and putting things to order,” quietly stated the Father.

“You’re helping the ones who’ve starved your orphans,” ejaculated Gilly.

“We are doing what our Lord would have done. ‘Do good unto them that persecute you’.”

“It will be like ‘heaping coals of fire upon their heads’!” piped one of the many children who were now crowding the room.

Cuddy shook his head, “I do not think you truly understand the person of the Earl, Father.  You see, he will not thank you for all you’ve done.  He sees it as his divine right to be served by such as you.”

“I do not do it for his eyes,” spoke the Father quietly.

“Oh,” acknowledged Cuddy, ashamed.  “Of course.”

“Perhaps you’d help us?  If you could straighten this last room, I could take the children back to the village to gather the remaining furniture, which they’ve repaired, to return to the castle.”

Cuddy looked across the room at Gilly.  “Yes, Father.  We will help.”

Not many hours later the boys surveyed their assigned room with satisfaction.  It looked tidy and well kempt.

Gilly sat on a bed near a small window, mop in hand.  “I suppose it’s us who must be fleeing now.”

Cuddy walked to the window where Gilly sat.  “Aye.  We’ll be hunted as enemies of Ireland by all the North and the South.”

Gilly sighed deeply as he looked out the servant’s window.  “Even at midnight, Ireland’s the most beautiful country the world over.  I’ll be hating to leave ’er, but there’s no hope that we’ve a place to live peaceably on any of her shores or in any of her valleys after what we’ve done.”

“How can it be that in trying to defend oneself one becomes a traitor to one’s own country?”

“It’s an agonizing question, Gilly.  From the rise of Egypt to England we’re not the first who’s had to ask it and flee before answering it.”

“I’ll not know how I can be leaving my own motherland,” said Gilly as he looked at Cuddy.

“In all my travels, I’d never wished to be anywhere else,” agreed Cuddy.  “But, we’re not the first who have need to immigrate and start a new life.  All we’re really needin’ is a place to be welcome in.” 

Gilly grimaced.  “There’s nothing more welcoming than the scent of soda bread and tea and the sight of our own emerald green hills.”

Cuddy’s eyes traveled again over the moonlit terrain.  “Look well and fill your eyes, Gilly.  You’re high enough to see it as an angel does.  ’Tis the last time for we must be going.”

Gilly looked and gripped Cuddy’s arm.  “Cuddy!  Look carefully.  What is it you see now?”

Cuddy looked and his heart turned to stone.  “O’ for the merciful love of God, no,” he breathed.  “No, no, no.”

Marching through the moonlight from the east was the African Chieftain with his black-faced warriors.  From the west marched Earl Donogough and his Irish peasants.  From the south in the valley between the two armies came Father and his band of orphans.  The larger children were carrying small tables and chairs on their backs, the younger were leading the oxen pulling carts of the castle’s repaired furniture.

“Oh, Gilly,” whispered Cuddy.  “The angels weep in Ireland tonight.”

At the precise moment the African Chieftain crested the eastern hillock, Earl Donogough crested the western hummock.  The Father in the valley between looked up in surprise.  The Africans began a shrill hooing.  Earl Donogough held up a hand—his peasants and villagers spread along the hillside.  Father began trying to lead the oxen into a small circle.  The older children were piling mended chairs and tables alongside the carts.  Father attempted to tie the oxen’s heads to the end of the carts while older children lifted younger children into the circle the carts created.

The shrill hooing stopped.  Cuddy gripped the edge of the window.  Earl Donogough sharply dropped his arm at the same moment the Africans screamed and streamed down the hillside.  The armies met in the bottom of the narrow valley.  The Africans, trained in military technique, cut through row after row of peasant farmers.  Bodies lay two and three thick with the hooves of horses trying to gain foothold on dead and dying men.

The African Chieftain sat surveying the situation below his station and signaled his last rank to round the hill and charge into the southern end of the valley.  Then he lighted a torch, raced to the carts piled high with furniture and threw his blazing brand onto the varnished woods.  A crackle, then a blaze.  Cuddy’s knuckles gripped white on the windowsill as he saw the Father endeavor to push the now blazing furniture away from his orphans.  Wood, centuries old, long kept from its warming purpose, gave itself readily to flame.  Gilly sobbed as he saw the engulfing blaze overwhelm the living bundles vainly struggling to push their way through the rubble only to run a few meters and fall to the ground in melted heaps of human flesh.

It seemed the Africans would win, for their skill was such that fifty peasants would die for their African one.  But Earl Donogough and the Lords had propagandized well.  The Irish were fighting for their homes and families, their established way of life, such as it may be.  From tip to tip, from shore to shore, they had come.  On that night in Donogough’s Glen, the valley ran red with blood and no one won.  When daybreak came, a smoky stench arose from the blackened circle where the orphans had been alive and well in their performance of good deeds only a few hours before.  The African Chieftain lay with sword buried to its hilt through his chest.  Earl Donogough had been cut in half by a saber.  Peasants lay twisted and torn between horses and African warriors.

No rabbits played on the glen. Gilly looked at the shining sun.  “How could you be so blasphemous as to show your face on a day such as this?” he cried.  “Even the rabbits know when blackness has passed over a land.”  He turned from the servant’s window to walk the castle’s steps to the out of doors.  Cuddy followed.

The silence of death is complete. Its stench allows no comment.  At edge of glen a young peasant, body grotesquely twisted, mouth permanently set in death’s grimace, eyes open in blank stare, caught Cuddy’s attention.  “Gilly, the young man.  The new wee laddie’s father from the next village.”

Gilly turned and began retching as if his very soul wished to vomit itself onto the ground.  He walked and stumbled all through that day’s morning to the edge of the cliffs of Donge’s Sea.

 

 


Chapter 15

Light Breaks

Cuddy, gray of face, sick at heart, stood, head bowed beside Gilly, looking into the dreary, foaming mass below.  “’Tis a place no ship comes, Gilly.”

Gilly dug at his face with fingers desirous of tearing life away from its covering of flesh.  “Ye know what I must be doin’, Cuddy,” he cried wretchedly.  “I’m sorry for it; but I cannot face the rest of the days filled as they’ll be with the ghosts of my countrymen.  The orphaned children would come whispering and dancing in flames of fire with battle cries low and loud to torment all my days and my nights. I’m not man enough to face their thunderous accusations for the rest of my time.”

Cuddy nodded in aching understanding, tears streaming down his sorrow filled face.

Gilly, without the release of wet grief his brother so freely employed, asked,  “Will ye be putting the bags of gold on my back now?  I’ll be taking them to the hell’s depths from which we brought them.”

“Aye,” granted Cuddy and lifted the two heavy bags to Gilly’s back.  He stepped forward to secure their leather bands and then clasped his brother’s arms tightly.

Gilly shook his head, trying to clear it from throes deeper than Misery’s Sorrow.  “Isn’t it an incomprehensible thing that a prayed for thing could have caused so much hurt, Cuddy?”

Cuddy’s mouth worked to bear words, but none came forth. 

Gilly turned toward cliff’s edge and Cuddy’s tongue released to tearfully cry, “Brother, what am I to do?  I’ve not the courage to follow you and alone I’ve not the courage to continue.”

Gilly hesitated.  He turned pain-racked eyes to Cuddy’s quivering shoulders and lowered head.  Cuddy, near to collapsing on the ground, had pathetically positioned his hands as if pleading for a reprieve from the cruelest and most heartless of prison masters. 

“Oh, Brother,” Gilly moaned, voice breaking in most profound sorrow, “two heads are better than one.”  And he grasped Cuddy in his arms and cried until his soul’s source contained no sustenance for continued well-being.

Some time passed before Cuddy was able to smudge Gilly’s grief-stricken, freely pouring tears.

Gilly hung his head in terrible unhappiness and said, “We’ve lost our honor, Cuddy.”

Cuddy nodded his head in troubled agreement and yet, even in that most regretful of moments, felt an inobtrusive something brushing lightly and yet insistently against the back of his mind, quietly endeavoring to wind itself through and past the blackened, tangled masses of bitter and seemingly bottomless sorrow overflowing from its depths.  After a long while he could feel the light brushing as if angel’s wings were tickling the edges of his tongue, urging smallish words, words just dancing at mouth’s opening, to spring forth ably into fruitful life.  Cuddy opened his mouth, endeavoring to birth the words, trying to make a beginning at the ideas formulating in his head by saying, “When something’s lost, a body usually goes looking for it, Gilly.”

“And, in what land does one find an honor lost?” bitterly inquired Gilly.

“Perhaps,” Cuddy faltered, “it’s not found, but regained.”

“How so can honor, reputation, and a good name be ever regained once lost?  They be of such fragile materials t’would take an angel’s breath to sew the seams once they’ve been rent.”

Cuddy wavered timidly and then said, “We’ve not an angel’s breath to do our sewing, Gilly.  But, we could begin mending through right doing made regular and consistent deeds of valor replacing deeds of shame.  What good would it be, Gilly, to look on a great wrong and then take the one thing we have at hand to right that wrong and destroy it?”

Gilly was exceedingly puzzled, “I do not understand what ye’re tryin’ so to say.”

“We have our life,” stumbled Cuddy.  “It is the single most valuable asset we possess which can be used to correct the great wrong we have had a hand in perpetrating.  Courage requires no less of us than to live and to try to use the rest of that life correctly.  After a lifetime of courageous, honorable acts we may find that we, in some small way, were able to compensate for our wrong actions.  In that compensation, we may, when we are very old men, once again find ourselves in possession of a semblance of honor.”

 “If I should die a thousand deaths every day for the rest of my life, it would not compensate for the lives of all those people, Cuddy.”

“No, it would not be enough,” agreed Cuddy.  “There is nothing that will ever be enough.  But, it is a moot point, Gilly, for it is not in your or my power to die every day a thousand deaths as compensation for our deeds.  We can give our life once in death for the dead as a guilt offering or…,” he paused waiting for the words to form.  “Or,” he continued, “we can give our life over and over again as each day begins new, for the living, as a blessing.” The words were beginning to rush now.  “Your death will do nothing for the dead, Gilly.  But a lifetime of good deeds and honorable actions could do much for the living.  If you’re bound set to die for your sins, if ye think about it, by the nature of things, ye’ll come to death soon enough, as all of us will.  Why not let the Lord choose when that shall happen?  He may yet have a plan for our lives.” 

Cuddy paused and took a deep shaking breath.  “On that field of battle what was the last thing we saw before coming to this cliff?”

“The wee bairn’s poor father.  The one who wouldn’t leave his young wife.”  Gilly’s voice cracked with emotional tension.

Cuddy let him cry and then gently wiped Gilly’s forehead.  “There was something we should have seen after we saw his face, Gilly.”

Gilly strained to think.  “I don’t remember anything after that, Cuddy.”

“But there was something, Gilly, think.”

“I can’t.”

“What about the wee bairn’s face?”

“The wee bairn!” dumbly repeated Gilly.

“The wee bairn’s mother’s face and the wee bairn’s sister’s face.”

“Oh, Cuddy, I did see all of them—in my thoughts.  It was what hurt so at seeing the peasant’s face.”

“Gilly, we can do nothing for all the Father’s orphans nor all the men left on the field of battle—but the two bags, Gilly, could do a great deal every day for putting at least a potato on the plates of all those men’s wives and children—their orphans they’ve left behind until those orphans could grow to be men big enough to fill their father’s shoes and rebuild the Ireland that has been lost on Donogough Glen.”

Gilly slumped to the ground at cliff’s edge and looked into the foaming surf far below.  “Even if we helped them all their lives t’would not compensate for the loss of their fathers.”

“No, and we should not spend the bags as compensation nor as a payment for our guilt, Gilly.  We still have a responsibility to Ireland—what’s left of her.  The gold could be used to fulfill that responsibility at least until the bairns’ are grown.  Then I’m sure, if we’re still alive, there will be other issues which will present themselves as worthy things upon which to expend the gold. After all, Gilly, our dear mother always said that earth has no sorrows heaven can’t heal.  We could use our lives to be a bit of heaven’s blessings to what is left of the shattered lives of all the widows and orphans.”

Cuddy reached over and pulled the bags from Gilly’s back.  “You know it would suit the Cat’s purposes well to have the gold buried at the bottom of the abyss, but it would suit the Lord’s purposes better to have gold in the hands of men sustaining widows and orphans in the real world where the real problems of sickness and hunger will be a daily factor in such lives as theirs.”

Gilly stood and walked away from the cliff’s edge and said sadly,  “But it will never compensate for what I’ve done.”

“No.  For what we’ve done.  The unfortunateness of ignorance is the legacy of mistakes it leaves behind.  Perhaps the only just compensation is to not repeat the mistakes nor allow ourselves to lapse again into that particular ignorance.”

“Yes,” agreed Gilly.  “We shall not do that again!  Shall we?” he asked earnestly, looking deeply into Cuddy’s blue eyes.

“Two heads are better than one,” replied Cuddy firmly.  “I’ll endeavor to keep you from it and you endeavor to keep me from it.”

Both boys were walking away from the cliff’s edge as a darkness began to spread over the land.  Suddenly, looming in front of them was the Cat much larger than ever they had seen it.

The Cat sneered and laughed and chortled and snickered.  “Fools, fools, fools, fools,” it purred.  “You’ve let darkness come and you have not spent the bags.  By the Law of the Sinks the bags return to my treasury at this hour.”

Horrified, Gilly cried, “No!  No!  Oh, dear God.  We must have the bags.  Not for ourselves but for the wee ones and their mothers.  Oh, God, help us poor lads or our souls shall be lost in darkness forever unending and so much suffering on the land that not one of Your eyes could bear to look upon it.  As You did for Gideon of old let the light spread over this land—for the sake of Your orphans and widows.  Be showing Yourself great in our behalf.”

A clap of thunder split the darkness and a majestic voice rolled over the earth, “And your righteous cause shall go before you, McGillvery and McGillicuddy.”  With that, the darkness began to roll backward.  The Cat screeched a scream of unearthly sound and began disappearing as the sound of thousands upon thousands of hands acting in applause filled the air.  A magnificently slendiferous voice pealed, “After the darkling hours comes light.”

The Cat’s dying shriek filled the air as the darkness rent like a curtain and in the tear of the dark curtain was a stream of light which Gilly and Cuddy, bags of gold over their shoulders, began running toward as if it were the seat on their tinker’s wagon.  As they got to the edge of the light they saw a white stairway winding up into sunshine and blue sky. 

“Go, Cuddy,” urged Gilly.  “Go.  The tear is trying to close.”

Gilly scrambled through the narrowing slit nearly tumbling over Cuddy in his haste to breathe the excitingly fresh air of life, air seemingly scented with the delicate perfume of millions of flowers.  Heaven’s sweet melodies chorused, surged, and undulated around and into the brothers’ yearning ears, trickling down to bathe aching, tired hearts with sustaining, healing waves. 

“Oh, Gilly,” Cuddy breathed.  “Hold my hand and let’s walk these glorious stairs.”

As the boys walked, faces began appearing on each side of the stairway, then hands, and then bodies dressed in white.  The hands were throwing rose petals, daisy petals, tulips, and daffodils along the stairs.  Somehow the faces seemed so familiar.  And then, one cried out, “I couldn’t leave her, Gilly,” and laughed.

For a moment the creature’s face had looked like the peasant father of the wee bairn.

“Ye feel plump and juicy, Gilly,” chortled another raspy voice.  For a moment this one looked and sounded like Enna.

The boys continued up the steps looking first left and then right.  One creature cried like a newborn baby and transformed himself into the momentary semblance of a newborn male child and snickered mischievously.

“I don’t understand,” whispered Gilly.

“Nor I,” returned Cuddy, “but I know it is good and I feel so utterly happy.”

Another creature said, “I will not risk my warriors,” and then fell down to the side of the steps, sword buried to the hilt in his chest.  It looked for a moment like the African Chieftain.

Cuddy saw dozens of the luminous creatures turn into the orphans and then gently laugh and blow soft kisses in his and Gilly’s direction.

Another turned into the shepherd boy and the villagers and somewhere in the background the Cat seemed to be pacing back and forth.

“They’re all here,” whispered Gilly.

“Yes.  Earl Donogough, James, the Lords, the magistrate.  All.”

“All but the Father.  Where’s the Father?” asked Gilly turning round and looking down the long stairway lined with all the beautiful, beautiful shining faces.  The luminous ones, with one accord, turned and pointed both left and right arms toward the top of the stairway.  There, on a throne made of the streamings of an infinite number of brilliant lights, sat the benevolent Father crowned in gold encrusted rubies.

McGillvery and McGillicuddy at one cried, “Father!  Oh, Father!  What does it all mean?”

“McGillvery and McGillicuddy,” he said tenderly, “Do you not yet understand?  You prayed for a very big thing, my sons.  It is a difficult thing to take a tinker and make him into a prince.”

“But we did not pray to be princes,” objected Gilly.

“No, you prayed for the gold.  How could one have gold without the heart of a prince?  With gold comes power.  With power comes the ability to do much evil or much good.  The evil a poor man does affects only a few.  The evil a rich man does affects whole nations of men.  How could I answer your simple prayer in wisdom?  How could I turn loose, in the real world, a man with tinker’s abilities as yet unproved and untried with such power as the gold would buy?  I could not, Gilly and Cuddy.  Before you were let go with your gift you had to understand what such a gift could do and what you would do with your gift.  Lovingkindness on earth is that which is most valued in heaven.  You have proved yourselves not lacking in that most valuable quality.”

Cuddy said, “You mean,” hesitantly, “this was all a dream?”

“A theatrical stage, Cuddy,” corrected the Father kindly.  “Everyone played a part with you and Gilly as the leading men.”

“Then,” queried Gilly hopefully, “No one really died…the orphans…the warriors…the peasants, Lords and Earls?”

“Turn around, Gilly.  Look to the left and right of you.  They are all here.”

“Then we can go home.  We can go home not as traitors and with no burdens on our hearts!”

“Yes, go.  Turn and go in joy, peace, and happiness.  Walk onto Ireland’s stage and sow all the goodness you can, Gilly and Cuddy.”

One of the luminous beings stepped forward.  “Listen,” he said.  “Someone’s calling you.”

From far above the stairs, deeply beyond the white clouds, Cuddy heard, “Gilly, Cuddy.  Gilly, Cuddy.”

“It’s Dearbháil and Tamara!” he cried joyfully.  Grabbing the bags and Gilly’s arm he began running up the stairs laughing, jumping, and gamboling as a newborn four-legged creature in the warmth of noonday sun.  “Dearbháil, wait, wait, we’re coming!  We’re coming!”

The Father smiled a gentle smile, blew a bit of watery mist after the two brothers, and spoke for them a word of blessing, “The last rung on the Ladder of Success is Life and that rung I give you both freely without your asking—a full Irish life of goodness and happiness all the days you’re caring to live.” 

A woman’s voice joyfully cried, “I see them, Tamara!  They’re coming!  They’re coming!”

The Father said, “Aye, Ireland, they’re coming.  Be ready for them with open and generous hearts.”  As McGillvery and McGillicuddy stepped from heaven to earth, their ears were filled with the crescendo of rich Irish voices singing, “There is no earth’s ill, heaven cannot heal, when earth does lean heavily upon heaven’s windowsill.”

##

 

 
 
 
 
MCGILLVERY AND MCGILLICUDDY, TINKERS AT LARGE

Part I

 

Wealth

 

 

by

 

Ben Meyers

With

Olivia Jeshurun


 

 

 

 

 

Where is it to be found and what position shall one play in the final part of the game?

 

Dedicated to all the ones who provided loving, enduring, and loyal support

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreword

A thoughtful Irish writer once wrote, “Worthwhile dreams need never die if the dreamer can find the secret that allows conversion of wishes into realities.”  Unfortunately, that secret is often as coy and as illusively shy as the brush of an angel’s wing.  The truth of the matter is that the secret, once found, lies openly available for the taking; but few persons from ancient times to present times have been able to see or to find the secret even after a lifetime of wishing, wondering, and searching.  Not too very long ago, two Irish tinkers solved this age-old riddle and made the secret their own.  The tinkers’ journey begins, as all worthwhile journeys must—within the bosom of distress.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1   A Dish of Vegetables……………………………………………………5

Chapter 2   Need and Greed………………………………………………………...16

Chapter 3   Land of Gone Forever…………………………………………………..33

Chapter 4   The Dreamer Begins…………………………………………………….42

Chapter 5    Peculiar Places………………………………………………………….58

Chapter 6    Mankind’s Pain…………………………………………………………80

Chapter 7    Black Eyes and Puppies…………………………………………………91

Chapter 8    Small Portions………………………………………………………….103

Chapter 9    Charity………………………………………………………………….139

Chapter 10   Lords and Earls………………………………………………………...143

Chapter 11   The Lions’ Den………………………………………………………...157

Chapter 12    Bribes in High Places………………………………………………….178

Chapter 13    The Wrath of Man……………………………………………………..192

Chapter 14     Rabbits on the Glen……………………………………………………221

Chapter 15     Light Breaks……………………………………………………………229

 

 

 

 

 


 

Chapter 1

A Dish of Vegetables

 

On nights when the Irish mist is particularly deep and the moon’s fair light is quite smothered in the shadows of men’s darkened dreams, the aging tinker cart sign’s beseeching cries, rising from shadowed lanes and meadows, caused many a late lad and lassie to gather their coat’s collars in gestures reflecting anxious acknowledgement of the slim hold mortals have on life. 

Could the late travelers have seen the sign before evening’s fall as it gently swayed from the back of its dilapidated tinker’s cart, the rusty sound would have melded rather nicely with meadowlark’s song, two easy tinkers’ voices carrying over greenly gentle hills, and the patient, steady drumming of horses’ hooves as their cart pulled along winding, dirt roads.  In Irish blue on Kelley green the sign’s complimentary letters dutifully, conservatively, and genteelly proclaimed, “McGillvery and McGillicuddy, Tinkers at Large.”

It was just at the end of such a day, before the darkling hours begin laying around, that McGillvery said to McGillicuddy, “Now, I’m that much wishing we’d have been havin’ a cabbage with our potato this evenin’.”

“Aye, now,” agreed McGillicuddy a wee bit wistfully.  “The cabbages in that last garden were exceedingly fine.  ’Tis a miserable thing indeed the gentle lady of the house was so ready for callin’ her dog or we might have had the time to ask for a head or two while passin’.”  

“’Tis an even sadder thing of late that we’ve more potato on our plate than much else,” glumly observed Gilly.  “Both our breeches will hardly stay in place for our thinness this year, Cuddy.”

McGillicuddy did not reply at once for another farmhouse had loomed on the horizon.  Ever the hopeful, he said, “Cheer up, lad.  Day’s not done yet.  Yonder looks like we’ve another chance at sale or trade before evenin’ falls.  Perhaps we’ll have better than cabbage for our sup tonigh’.  A lamb chop would much surpass the cabbage as a compliment to our potato.”

As they neared the whitewashed and newly thatched cottage, McGillvery sat eagerly forward on the wagon’s stoop, “Do ye catch a whiff of soda bread and herring?  Mmmm,” he sighed.  “I’ve not tasted a piece of herring for ever so long.  Perhaps the fair lady will extend an invitation to dine.”

“I hope the teapot’s bubbling and she’s a way with marmalade and jam,” agreed McGillicuddy longingly.

McGillvery gripped McGillicuddy’s sleeve in excitement.  “I smell apples baking sure.  Look, they’ve a small orchard behind the sheep’s shed.  Ohhh,” he breathed while rolling his eyes toward heaven, “I’m thinkin’ in this ’ere ’umble cottage tonight is being set a supper fit for Ireland’s finest.  Can ye see the white napkins and plate, Cuddy?  May the Lord bless us, his country gentlemen, with a dear offer of hospitality from the good lady cook.”

McGillicuddy, too, hoped for an honest meal from the generous heart of a fellow country person as their tinker horses, Belle and Shade, automatically turned shaggy legs into the dusty lane leading through the farm’s main gate and stopped the tinker’s wagon precisely at the front of cottage door.

“Clean and neat, too, Cuddy,” whispered Gilly.  “Flowers at the door mean a dear lady who takes a little extra care in her doings.”

As McGillicuddy began to clamber down from the wagon seat, a burly, ruddy-faced man emerged from the low hung door.

“What’re ye doin’ comin’ up me lane without invitation and at supper time, too?” he asked roughly.

“No offense, kind sir,” replied McGillicuddy, hesitating in his dismount.  “We’re tinkers three generations down and are come to furnish the home with needles and pins, pans and fabric. We’ve even a horse to trade if ye’re needin’ a mare to pull or ride.”

A well-rounded woman wiping her hands against cotton toweling appeared in the cottage shadows behind the man.  The man’s suspicious eyes roamed to the back of the wagon, looking at the gray mare in tow. “’An what’s wrong with ’er?” he growled.

“I’ll not be foolin’ ye nor takin’ advantage of ye in any way.  The mare’s recovering from injury to her right hind foot,” truthfully answered McGillicuddy.  “But in another month’s passin’ she’ll be as sound as ever.”

The heavily built man looked into McGillicuddy’s unshaven face and frowned testily, “Two tinkers on a fellow’s property looks a bit unseemly.  What’s the one doing while the other’s sellin’?  Perhaps ’e’s going ’round back and shooing me best ewe out to pasture to pick up a little later in the evening, eh?  I’m not that foolish, gents.  Ye take yer mare and be off my property or I’ll be givin’ ye a taste of the lead,” and the man produced an aged gun which was soon cocked and aimed straight toward McGillicuddy’s square head.

“Nay, not so,” replied McGillicuddy in remonstration.  “We be honest lads, raised at our mother’s knee with strong respect for the commandments.  We stop at church every Sunday and read in our mother’s Book every night.  We’re not what ye’re believin’,” protested McGillicuddy weakly.

The man stepped closer to McGillicuddy observing his unshaven face and well-worn clothing.  “Don’t be hidin’ behind the Lord, laddie.  I can see for myself what ye be.  Ye best be havin’ that wagon down the road at the count of three or ye’ll not be tinkerin’ anymore on this earth.”

McGillvery pulled urgently at McGillicuddy’s sleeve, “Come now.  Sit yourself back into the wagon, Cuddy. The man’s set sure to fight and we’ve little to gain buried in this isolated spot.  Turn Belle and Shade now and let’s be quick about it.”

Long practiced in the art of turning the heavily built wagon in tight spaces, the two horses at Gilly’s urging, complacently accomplished their task with gentle ease and soon carried the two brothers far from the inhospitable cottage door.

McGillvery’s stomach growled deeply—an encouragement to begin a gentle lament to accompany his hunger pains. “The timing was so right at that house.  Smelled the bread coming hot from the oven I did.  The herring was crisp in the pan and smelled like the apples had been dipped in flour biscuit and coated in sweet syrup before she set them to bake.  Would have been a fine evening beyond compare.  After the supper, we’d have set ’round the fire showing the lady our fabrics and pans.  Ye’re well knowin’ they always buy more after a fine meal.  We may have had an invite for mornin’ sup and the master, so set at ease by our fellowship from the night before, may have traded for the gray mare.” 

Not much later, their cart passed the large stone piers raised many a year past to hold the imposing gates leading to Earl Donogough’s estate.  McGillvery took especial note and morosely said, “But for just a few different circumstances of life we would have been inside those lovely gates eatin’ finer than all Ireland this summer evening.  I’ve heard tell that the Earl Donogough eats his apple tarts with little flowers carved into their tops each with a large D engraved in light and flaky pastry crust.  This evening the serving folk will be bowing low beside him asking in a most solicitous manner, ‘An’ ’ow would ye be likin’ yer lamb this evening—with a bit of sweet mint jelly and tea?’”

McGillicuddy did not join in McGillvery’s wishful suppositions.  He let his brother ramble on for a good piece of the road before finally stopping at the edge of a lane where stood an abandoned cottage much in need of thatching and repair.  He clambered down from wagon seat, began unhitching the horses, and set the hobbles on their feet so they might more freely graze and get their drink from a stream nearby.  McGillvery had hung the harnesses to dry and was gathering a bit of fuel for night’s meal.  When the fire had died to its proper lowness, he returned to the wagon reaching for their grub sack.  In its bottom was left remaining a single medium sized potato bypassed for many a night in favor of its larger brothers.  Tonight it finally met the fate of the rest by being laid in a smallish iron covered pot which was then carefully buried beneath the fire’s coals.  That done, McGillvery looked for two flattish rocks suitable for seating and dining at fire’s edge.  Out of the two rocks found, he appropriated one, situated himself near the fire, and sank immediately into a despondent gazing toward embers’ orange glow.

When the potato was quite done, McGillvery handed it to McGillicuddy for separating into its two halves.  When his half was returned to him, he looked at the slim fare, and said a bit testily, “Hasn’t our Lord promised that honesty in business has a fair sure result in comfortable living and the respect of one’s fellows?”

“What are ye tryin’ to say, Gilly?” mumbled McGillicuddy around a mouthful of his half of hot potato.

McGillvery set his potato back into the pot while carefully observing, “We’ve a sound night’s sleep for our good consciences, but ’tis an aching affliction to be treated in so rough a fashion by our countrymen, now isn’t it?”

McGillicuddy, ever the patient, grunted and waited for McGillvery to continue.

“When the wintry mist is particularly biting, it’s damaging to one’s good nature to be refused the hospitality of a comforting cup of steaming, hot tea at cozy fireside.”

“’Tis not winter, Gilly,” replied Cuddy.

“It’s damagin’ in fair weather or foul,” argued Gilly.

“We’d best get used to the fact that the welcoming scent of soda bread wafting down the tinker’s road is not a sure promise of an invitation for a wee bite of the warm loaf,” remarked McGillicuddy philosophically.

A very disappointed Gilly looked down at his half potato with eyes growing a bit moist and said mournfully to himself, “Now I’m not complaining, mind ye, for we can’t complain at the Lord’s Great Bounty.  Still…” and he paused for a moment before continuing sorrowfully, “I’m sure wishing we had a bit of chop to go with this potato.”

McGillicuddy, the older of the two, consoled his brother, as was his life-long custom, “Now, now.  Times pass.  Maybe tomorrow we’ll have the better side of luck and be dining on fowl and summer peas.”

McGillvery made no effort of reply.

McGillicuddy, understanding his brother’s heart, quietly encouraged, “We’d best be always lookin’ for our eternal future, Gilly.  It’s what our dear mother taught us.  ’Tis a simple philosophy leading to peace and to a certain graciousness not obtained by giving in to rapacious appetite.  We’re knowin’ the future of God’s children is to be as bright and as pleasant as each and every one could ever wish.  But while we’re livin’ in the present, it’s needful for us to be content.”  Ever mindful of the importance of being thankful and counting blessings, Cuddy added, “We’ve food for the night and it’s hot sup, not cold.”

“An’ no food for the morrow I’ll be addin’,” spoke Gilly.  “T’was the last potato in the sack, Cuddy.”

“I’m knowin’ things are a mite short,” acknowledged McGillicuddy.  “But even our Lord urged us not to be worrying about our food and clothin’—that it would be provided at the time most needful.  An’ we’ve only ourselves, fine strong men, to worry about.  There’s not a wee bairn that’s havin’ to be doin’ without due to our bad fortunes.”

“Thank ’eavens for that stroke, Cuddy,” agreed Gilly.  “It would quite put my ’eart to bursting if we’d a small babe and nothin’ to feed ’im.”

Cuddy nodded and rearranged himself on the ground with his back resting comfortably on the rock.  “Gilly,” he began, “I’m for figurin’ a potato’s as good as the manna the good Lord furnished his people in the Wandering Wilderness.  If He saw in His great bountifulness that manna was sufficient for his dearest chosen ones for forty long years, then I’m supposin’ a potato on our plate is good enough for us, their brethren in spirit.”

McGillvery looked at the potato on his plate. “But the good wandering people had all they wanted of the manna and left from the side of their tables quite full in belly.  Half a potato would hardly feed a wee mouse much less a fine man such as me.”

McGillicuddy looked sadly at his brother, “Well, I’ve finished mine long before now.  Be eating your share before it takes on the cold.  Then we’d best be giving thanks and be about turning out the bed and doing some reading out of the good Book.”

McGillicuddy thought about bringing their mother’s harp from the wagon to float away some of his brother’s misery with the cheery tinker’s songs they frequently employed to fill the long hours between farmhouses.  The songs encouraged a tinker to forever look on the bright side of life and always leave behind the gift of a smile.  This evening was a good time to be reminded of those truths, yet somehow, in this lonely spot, beside a windowless cottage with little cheer and no warmth, Cuddy didn’t feel like vocalizing the ideals that bolstered the tinkering way of life. 

Instead he looked across the fire at McGillvery’s despondent demeanor and said,  “We’d best keep in form, Gilly.  Try smilin’ just a bit over that potato.  If we lose our smile and give in to fret and worry, it will soon be showing to the wives along the way.  They’ll be driven that quickly back into their doors for fear they’ll be catching the glum looks we’ve caught.  It will only make our situation worse, Brother.  A smile is the face’s little prayer.  It’s saying, ‘Here’s hoping a myriad of blessings are awaitin’ just around the corner to surprise you and me.’  Circumstances often change much for the better with just the right attitude.  We’ve proved that again and again.”

Usually McGillicuddy’s common sense and pleasant way of speaking provided quite the cure for any ill-favored circumstance which may have befallen the brothers, but tonight McGillvery would not be consoled.

“The night falls, Cuddy, with nary moon nor star to light the way,” he gloomily noted.

McGillicuddy worriedly said in great haste, “’Tis not so.”  He quickly looked toward the night sky as if endeavoring to see any invisible saint who might be passing by and overhearing their conversation.  Just as quickly he spit on two fingers of each hand which he immediately stuck to his ears while saying, “We be two good brothers.  Here’s stopping the accuser’s ears and mouth until we can right this temporary despair.”  He turned to McGillvery and urged, “Be careful what ye’re saying.  We’re belonging to a different sort than that.  Hope never dies in bosoms that belong to the Lord.  How can it, Gilly?  To think there’s no way out is to deny the power of our Holy Helper.  This little lull in our business affairs is not a matter of that much consequence that it be called impossible.  If it were impossible, we’ve every right to expect help from on high for our heavenly Father works best in the most impossible of circumstances.”

Gilly did not respond to Cuddy’s rebuff nor his encouragement.  “’Tis no use, Cuddy.  The talk won’t work this time.  All the fair words in the world will not cover the reality.  An’ the reality is we’re poor.  It seems, since we pulled into this campsite, that I’ve been besieged by all sorts of queer thoughts I’ve never thought before.  I’ve never thought of ourselves as poor.  And it’s not just the empty potato sack or the last two houses we visited that’s set me to thinking this way.  I’m remembering years back when our mum was ill.  We couldn’t buy the medicines before she passed away.”  His voice broke as he said, “What kind of a life is it, Cuddy, when those you love do without the necessaries which can prolong their sweet fellowship for a bit longer on this earth?”  His voice rose distressfully, “Nay.  The sweet words will not cover what we’ve become, Cuddy.  We’re poor and I don’t see how we’ll ever be anything else but poor.”

McGillicuddy understood his brother was in a state of great consternation, but he did not understand how deeply his brother’s feelings were running this night until Gilly suddenly stood, the heat from the newly laid, crackling branches making him appear most unearthly and quite ready to fight things visible and invisible.  Unable to see the enemy which had so beaten them, he bent to the ground, picked a rock, abruptly turned, hurled it at the stone wall of the cabin, and said vehemently, “I’m bloody tired of being poor!”

McGillicuddy was quite taken aback at the intensity of McGillvery’s feelings.  Although his brother was more highly tempered than himself, it was his usual habit to take whatever situation they found themselves in with complacence, accepting the ways of the world in which they lived.  Cuddy watched as his brother agitatedly turned his face toward the heavens.  The words poured in a rush from his heart as much as from his mouth, “We’re not bad lads and we’re living like we were the worse refuse of Dublin Town.  At the urging of farmers, we’ve the dogs on us three times this week and guns held to our heads twice.  Nary once were we asked for even a drink at their well let alone a peaceful evening meal at their firesides.”

He turned pleading eyes toward McGillicuddy. “Even a thief eats meat once in awhile, Cuddy.  I’ve not once left my mother’s upright ways nor passed the church on a Sunday nor neglected my duty to my fellowman to seek his welfare and peace in all things and yet I’ve not had a glass of milk for a fortnight, let alone the bite of meat from the worst part of the sheep in nigh on six months.”

Although McGillicuddy had been quite taken aback by his brother’s words, he at last found his tongue.  “McGillvery!” he reprimanded.  “Watch your language!  How Mother would cry to hear you say such things!”  But, for all that, McGillicuddy knew that all Gilly had said was true and Cuddy had no real answer for him.  He looked up at the moon and found it covered, as dark and unyielding as Death when he comes to snatch away the life of wee babe and old marm together.  As McGillvery had said, even the stars had fled from their sky with nary light to show a way.  McGillicuddy shivered a bit as he thought of the last several years’ business.  In truth, it was as if the sky had joined arms with the earth in a binding mutual contract to turn upon two lads for the purpose of vomiting them out of the land of good living.  McGillicuddy searched his mind and knew they’d been patient and never resorted to ill doings despite many privations and hardships.  Somewhere a grave error in justice had been made—a mistaken identity—so that two good lads were receiving a life that they wouldn’t wish upon the very bad.  McGillicuddy held his head in his hands while mightily searching for right words, but the soothing and healing words he needed so badly had quite fled away. 

Chapter 2

            Need and Greed

 

McGillicuddy need not have worried about his lack of words, for McGillvery soon supplied words quite uncommon to his usual nature.

“The last farmer needed a thorough thrashing for his uncharitable manner and his wife needed a good spanking on her ampleness for not having acted the Christian to strangers.  We might have been angels for all she knew and she missing a blessing by the turning of us away.  What kind of Christian thinking is that to not offer the sustenance of Ireland to two strangers?  For just this bit,” and he narrowed his two fingers quite close together, “I’d go back and claim my bread and apples, too.”

McGillicuddy looked at McGillvery’s rosy-hot cheeks and flaming red hair, which was now standing in undisciplined peaks all over a roundly shaped head.  He couldn’t help smiling a bit while thinking of the startle the farmer would have should McGillvery appear at his bedside in just such a manner and demand his justice.  The smile turned into a chuckle and the more he thought about eating the soda bread and apple treat in a warm kitchen while the lady dished out the proper Christian charity, the deeper the humor seemed until he was quite rolling in laughter.

McGillvery was not amused and frowned quite sourly at McGillicuddy which sent Cuddy into deeper throes of merriment at Gilly’s expense.  When he finally calmed, he turned more serious eyes to Gilly and asked, “An’ while your first plan to end our poverty may not be the best plan, what do you sincerely reckon we do about it, Gilly?  If ye’re well tired of something, then ’tis best to do something about it.  What are ye preposing we do to change our most serious circumstances?”

Gilly threw his arms outward in frustration as if wishing to gather a whole world of ideas to himself, then stood hunching his back in the manner of a hedgehog when he’s very wet and quite cold.  He finally began a pacing to and fro in front of the fire. 

“I don’t know!” he said agonizingly.  “I feel as if we were both wrong somehow.  Someway we’ve a great error inside us that needs correcting so that the outside circumstances we suffer can be corrected  But I’m just short of knowing what the error is for us to be suffering along so.”

McGillicuddy understood exactly.  It was the very thing he had been thinking.  “There’s a verse I’ve read in Mother’s Book that says the Lord is the author of adverse and favorable circumstances, Gilly.  If we were to set our mind to the possibility that perhaps the good God above is allowing these less than fortuitous times, then we would be asking our God what we were needin’ to do to walk into the sunshine of good conditions again.  Perhaps there’s a large change we’re needin’ to make just like the wandering people when they was slaves in Egypt and they had to go from bein’ slaves to bein’ a free people.  Their circumstances became just that poor before the good God sent an answer.”

“An’ they had to make tremendous big changes, Cuddy,” acknowledged Gilly.

“A whole way of life taken away and a new one learned,” agreed Cuddy.  “Their lessons weren’t easily learned and at quite some hardship to themselves and their families.”

McGillvery turned to McGillicuddy with tears near brimming along the rims of his eyes, “Is that what’s needin’ to be done then, Cuddy?  Are we needin’ to become something other than tinkers?  What do people do when all they’ve known is a tinker’s life, an’ their fathers before them, an’ their fathers before that?  Where do they go?”

“The wandering people went into the wilderness,” returned Cuddy.

“We’re already in the wilderness—a wilderness of lack,” protested Gilly.

McGillicuddy shook his head firmly, “Nay.  We’re not in the wilderness.  I’m thinkin’ we’re in the slavery of Egypt.”

McGillvery looked shocked.  “How can that be?  Our father gave this business and told us we were the luckiest sort for we were born free with the right to claim our time and our way on this earth with no one to tell us how to manage but ourselves.  We’re not the slaves of another where we must draw his wage and depend upon his success and goodwill for our own, Cuddy.”

“An’ yet we’ve found ourselves in slavery to the worse Egypt of all, Gilly.”

Gilly turned surprised eyes to Cuddy, “An’ what may that be?”

“Poverty,” replied McGillicuddy simply.  “We are in slavery to Mister Poverty.”

McGillvery did not know what to say, so taken aback was he at this revelation.

McGillicuddy explained, “We’ve not the ability to place tasty food on our plates at night nor the funds to pull into a roadside inn from time to time to lessen the rudeness of constant travel in the enjoyment of the fellowship of others.  Our items for merchandising have become just that meager and shopworn that many wives turn their nose at it for trading the least of things.  An’ even ourselves, Gilly, we’re in need of a little repair.  The funds are sorely lacking for the littlest piece of leather for the resoling of our boots.  Haven’t ye noticed on Sundays how we’re always waitin’ until the last to go in to church and quietly sitting in the shady corners and leaving before all the good people are up and out of their seats?  It’s not for politeness we do that.  We’ve humble clothin’ and rough looks about us, Gilly.  If we’d the finery of the Lords and Ladies in the balcony seats, we’d be up front with the best of them a’shakin’ the vicar’s hand when we’re in Protestant land and a’shakin’ the priest’s hand when we’re in Catholic land.  I’m thinkin’ we are in our Egypt and somehow we’ve need of cryin’ to our Lord in such a way that He can show us how to get free from it.”

McGillvery had quite shut his mouth.  It was all true.

McGillicuddy continued to hold the floor.  “Have ye noticed that tinkers are rarely along the roads like when we was small and ridin’ with our father?”

McGillvery nodded his head, “Not ever do I see one any day of the year.”

“It seems, dear Brother,” spoke Cuddy gently, “that the place left a tinker is so small a man can’t be a man and the times have grown past us.  When we can’t feed ourselves, we can’t plan for future.  We’re livin’ one day to another with barest of necessities.  Do ye know,” he continued thoughtfully, “I’ve not even the tar to patch the wagon’s roof should it begin a leak.  There’s nary a colleen in Ireland who would share our life with us even though we be young and right handsome lads.  I’ve been so busy living our life from day to day that I’ve not thought about it for ever so long, but things have changed Gilly.  Sometime between the time of our father’s passing and our dear mother’s burying, affairs changed.  The little life we’ve left would be a sin indeed to offer a new bride and a wee bairn.”  Cuddy paused for a long while and then said, “If we can’t do that,” while turning to Gilly, “what is the purpose of being?”

Gilly knew his brother quite well but was surprised to find him linking ‘being’ with a bride and child.  “Were ye that much a’wantin’ a family to be speakin’ of?” he asked in amazement.

“Aye,” answered Cuddy, surprised at the resurfacing of a deep-seated wish long buried.  “I suppose I was.  When I was the youngest of lads, I’d always planned to take Dearbháil to wife when I was of age.  Every time we traded down her way with Father and Mum I’d think I’d make the proper moves to tell her my choice in the matter,” admitted McGillicuddy.  He added as an afterthought, “She did a masterful thing by keeping the affairs in order after the passin’ of her parents and her so young, too.  Her wee sister never missed the tiniest comfort even though an orphan.  A body would never lack at any time of year with such a strong and reasonable mind as Dearbháil’s.”  He sighed a bit and said, “She’s pretty even now that she’s heading toward being a confirmed maid.”

“Aye,” remembered McGillvery.  “She always liked our Mum.  That’s to her good sense.  But I’m recalling hair flaming like a Irish goddess’ and a temper to suit.”

Cuddy grinned, “Temper puts the pepper into life so it doesn’t go stale.”

Gilly’s face took on the surprise at his brother’s response.  Cuddy had always been a man of placid manner and accepting ways.  Yet, it was fitting Cuddy be drawn to such a fiery one as that lassie.  In the tinkering business the two brothers partnered, it was Gilly who added the pepper.  McGillvery drew a slow breath, laboring in his mind for an answer to the situation the two brothers found themselves in. 

“We’re not the poor, Cuddy,” he observed while groping for ideas.  “We’ve got our potato and I do recall,” he continued, “even the Lord, while doing his work, was hungry enough to desire a fig from a tree he was passing.  Did he not be of ever so much hunger that he and his men once plucked heads of grain from a field they were walking through?”

“Aye,” responded Cuddy.  “I’m supposin’ two tinkers shouldn’t be expectin’ any much more than the Lord himself while we walk this earth.”

“I should never,” stuttered McGillvery, aghast at the thought of such presumption, “think of myself as more than He!  And, I’m well aware that if we get too roused about the matter of our material sustenance, we’ll find ourselves sinning against the Lord.  ’Tis a small step between discontent and stealing, or worse.”

“‘Contentment is a deathblow to the monster greed’…,” smiled McGillicuddy remembering.

“ ‘An’ greed is the witch-mother of many a bad child.’  T’was what our mother always taught us,” finished McGillvery.

“Her very words,” agreed McGillicuddy.  He shivered a bit and looked fearfully into the darkness.  “Perhaps ’tis best we kill these depressing thoughts now before all sorts of evil spectres are born.  Live our lives as they be and not give any more energy to thinking about changing what was meant to be.”

Gilly looked at Cuddy with pleading eyes, “Cuddy, if we should unleash evil by our desire to have more than we truly need—t’would be a great evil indeed.  But I’m believin’ our desire is pure and clean.  We’d not use the extra to do bad with.  We’ve only a use for the extra to raise our standards a bit and to provide for a future that could contain a growin’ family for each of us.”

“Aye,” returned Cuddy thoughtfully, “To be truthful about the matter, Gilly, the Lord had a different callin’ than me.  His job while on earth was quite a different one than that to which most men are called.  It would not be so appropriate for my dearie and her children to walk along through the grain fields of Ireland and pick from their heads grain for their sup.”

Gilly nodded, “And besides does not the scripture say ‘the will of God is to feed the dear widows and the orphans in their need’?  I’m just a little short of knowin’ how to do that when we can’t even feed ourselves.  I mean, ’tis different for us, Cuddy.  If the Lord were here, he could feed all the widows and orphans of the world out of this one potato forever and ever, but I could sit on yon mountaintop till I starved to death and wouldn’t know how to do it for myself and you, let alone all the starving widows and orphans of the world.  All I know is trading, Cuddy,” continued McGillvery earnestly.  “I know you’ve got to have something to trade before you can get something you want.  ’Tis the reality of living in a real world.  I’m very, very sorry,” said McGillvery burring his r’s thickly, “to speak it, Brother, but I…,” and McGillvery hung his head ever so low, “…I am not spiritual enough a man to know how to solve all these problems without real gold and real money.”

McGillicuddy was quiet for a very long time and then said reflectively, “When I left on our dear homeland’s military campaigns to lands far from here, I remember watching the foreign holy men a’beggin’ their daily food, wandering from one place to another, and wondered if what they gave in words was worth the bread they got in return.  Then I wondered what they gave the poor what had naught to give in return for their words.  Our Lord gave words, but he also gave real food and real care to the unfortunate, Gilly.”

“Aye, that’s right, Cuddy!” agreed McGillvery enthusiastically.  Then with a bit of cunning added, “Not just in foreign lands do the holy men give words alone.  I sometimes notice our own priests and vicars are more willing to give well-wishing words than part with the tithes that have been received.  I’ve also seen they are always asking for the gold and tend to live in pretty fine houses themselves for these parts of the world.”

“Shhh!  Shhhh!”  McGillicuddy urged, looking uneasily around.  “The Saints have large ears and we’ve no need of offending them.  Who are we, Gilly, to say the vicars and priests have not taken care of their funds well?  Best we tend to our personal affairs and let the Lord tend to theirs.  After all there’s a rightful order to things and we’d best be paying homage to that order.”

Gilly snorted disdainfully, “It’s that precise order I’m talking about, Cuddy!  Why is it all right for everyone else, including the vicars and priests, to be comfortable and well sustained while we suffer along so?  Would it upset the whole order of the universe if two tinkers lived as an Earl or a Baron or a Lord does for a day?”

McGillicuddy grinned, “I don’t know about the universe, but it might upset any one of those three men should one of them be traded down to our level while we occupied theirs.”

McGillvery ignored the humorous picture McGillicuddy had painted.  Thoughts were framing in his mind and he began vocalizing them in words, “Cuddy, I’ve read in Mother’s Book of folks from unpretentious and unlikely beginnings being raised from humble circumstances into places of surplus and plenty.  If such ones had their circumstances changed so drastically, why couldn’t the same happen for us also?”

“An’ who are ye thinkin’ of precisely, Gilly?”

“I was remembering the Hebrew story of David.  He was only a caretaker of sheep, but out of such small beginnings he became a leader and controlled great stores of wealth for himself and the great nation he ruled.”

McGillicuddy sat rock still.  “Are you thinking we could be a David, Gilly?”

“Nay, I’m thinkin’ we could be ourselves and receive at God’s hand the same as David received.”

“But, in the case of David that was the Lord’s will for David, Gilly,” protested McGillicuddy.  “The Lord intervened for David, you see.”

“Well, why couldn’t He intervene for us?” logically inquired Gilly.

“I don’t know,” replied Cuddy. “But the question makes me feel trembly and upset inside like maybe we shouldn’t be asking it or hoping it for ourselves.”

“Well, maybe we should, Cuddy.  I’m remembering another instance in Mother’s Book when a fellow asked and it turned out quite well for him.”

“An’ who are ye thinkin’ of this time?”

“Solomon.”

“The wise man?”

“Aye.”

“I’m recalling he asked for wisdom, not gold, Gilly,” recalled McGillicuddy. “Also, if I remember correctly Solomon was asked by the Lord to ask what he would and it would be given him,” objected McGillicuddy.  “He was asked to ask.  We’ve not been asked to ask.”

“I’m thinkin’ our sad circumstances are beggin’ us to ask,” stubbornly insisted McGillvery.  “And that’s the first clue.  From Solomon’s example we’ll ask for wisdom first and then we’ll ask for the gold.”

“Really, Gilly,” a shocked McGillicuddy responded. “I think you are not quite right in all this.  Even in David’s instance I think the Lord chose him first.  T’wasn’t David who did the choosing for his prosperous life.”

“Well, how do ye know what David was thinking and wishing for while herding his father’s sheep all those growing up years in the hills of Judea?  He may have been thinking a powerful lot o’ the gold.”

“I believe the Book says he thought a powerful lot about God, Gilly,” corrected McGillicuddy gently.

“Maybe he thought a powerful lot about his heavenly Father helping him to get that gold,” persisted Gilly.

A small smile played at the corners of McGillicuddy’s generous mouth until he finally laughed outright.  “No wonder you outsell me, Gilly.  You’ve got the gift of the Irish sons in your tongue, sure enough.”

“Would that I had the gift at the end of Irish rainbows, too,” glumly returned McGillvery.

“Aye,” agreed Cuddy and turned to the fire, poking and stirring the dying embers, all the while wondering how does a man raise himself from day-to-day subsistence to a place where there is a roomy surplus of valuable things.

Gilly hesitantly broke into Cuddy’s musing.  “I’ve thought, Cuddy, that since it is a fact one must have something to trade before getting something in return, then one must wonder where one originally gets the item to be traded.”

McGillicuddy wrinkled his forehead in perplexity and said, “I’m not understanding what ye’re tryin’ to say.”

“I’m not sure how to say it exactly,” admitted McGillvery.  “But…we’ve always lived by having something in our hand and we trade that something for something else we’re wantin’.  But if we was to go back in time ever so far, there had to be a time when one of our dear fathers had nothing in hand to trade.  Where did he get something when he had nothing?”

Cuddy furrowed his brow in bewilderment.  “We got our items from our father.  It was our inheritance….”

“Precisely.  We had someone who helped us get a start, such as it was.” McGillvery held his head in his hands.  “I feel as if my head were fair to breakin’ but it seems to me that if someone gave us a start in this poor tinker’s business then someone would have to give us a start on the road to prosperity.”

McGillicuddy was completely baffled.  “I do not understand, Gilly.  I know for a fact that if ye were to ask anyone we know for a start on the road to prosperity, ye’d be laughed out of Ireland.  Why, even those who’ve got…like Earl Donogough, would no more give you a gold piece for your pins let alone give you something while asking with an empty hand!”

McGillvery hung his head in silence knowing what McGillicuddy said was the fact of living.  Finally, he said wistfully,  “Perhaps men in all their injustice may not help poor lads such as we, but could it be our dear heavenly Father would help us be more than we are at this present moment in time?  For you see,” he continued, “’tis a most perplexing problem and not one many men would be able to answer seeing how’s most are in the same small craft at sea as we be.”

“What you’re saying is that we’ve no one on earth could or would help us and you’re thinking our dear Lord might be able to lead the way?” asked McGillicuddy.

McGillvery nodded a glum head.  “I know not what else to do seeing the situation is so grave.”

McGillicuddy said, “It is traditional that lads such as we look to a hope of better things beyond this life, laddie.  ’Tis what our betters have taught us.  To think such thoughts as ye’re thinkin’ could be spiritual ruination for simple folk such as we.  We’re most likely the little birds and rabbits of this world, Gilly, not the roarin’ lions.”

“And yet,” spoke McGillvery softly, “even the lions enjoy the little bird’s song, Cuddy.”

McGillicuddy was quiet and then handed their mother’s Book to McGillvery.  “We’ve never a night we didn’t say our prayers and read in the Book, Gilly.  Why don’t you do that now?” he suggested gently.

McGillvery cleared his throat and said, “I thank thee that our poor dear mum did not live long enough to see the pitiable situation her sons have sunk into and I thank thee for the skill of McGillicuddy’s hands in carving the last potato so fairly and I pray thee to remember how thee prospered Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and remember us, their Irish Brothers, Amen.”

“Amen,” agreed McGillicuddy. 

McGillvery opened the parlor sized, leather bound Book and read, “The meek shall inherit the earth.”  He paused and noted significantly, “I’m knowin’ two brothers who haven’t been doing much inheriting lately.”

A few pages later he read a verse that said,  ‘If I had not expected to see my reward in this life’ and he turned amazed eyes in McGillicuddy’s direction.  “Cuddy!  Did ye hear that now? I’ll read the words again.”  He slowly read, “’If I had not expected to see my reward in this life….’  Cuddy!  This was someone who wrote that he expected to see a reward in this life while here on earth.”

McGillicuddy reached over and took the large Book from McGillvery’s weather roughened hands and said, “Where did ye read that?”

McGillvery rose from his warm stone seat and stood over Cuddy’s shoulder pointing to the exact verse.

McGillicuddy looked and said excitedly, “Why, this is a portion that David himself wrote and we jus’ talkin’ about him this evening, too.”

McGillvery nodded elatedly, “And you see, Cuddy, David said he was looking for some o’ the good things in this life!  I can’t see any wrong in wishing for the same things for ourselves that David wanted.  Why he was a man after the Lord’s own heart!  The Book says so itself!”

“You know Lord,” he whispered to himself, “I would sure like to see some of that inheriting and taste a little of King David’s reward before I die.”  McGillvery paused for a moment as if reflecting, then said aloud to McGillicuddy, “You know Lord Danbury has fresh fowl every evening’s meal.”

“Aye.  Well I know it.”

“And even the high tempered lassie and her sister has a garden of fresh greens and herbs, potatoes to dig the year round.”

“Aye.”

“Then, Brother, it seems we must be doin’ something peculiarly backwards to be fightin’ so every day for the potato on our plate.”

“Aye,” finally agreed McGillicuddy halfheartedly. “If it were a famine time, it would seem more fair.  But this isn’t scarcity times in any county of Ireland—nary in the mountains nor the valleys—only in this here cottage,” he said, pointing to their tinker’s wagon.  “So what do you be supposing, Gilly?”

“I been thinking maybe we’ve been not humble enough and that’s why we ain’t got our daily victuals.”

“An’ how do ye mean?”

“Did you notice that verse last Sunday by the vicar? I marked it a’purpose.” McGillvery retrieved the Book from McGillicuddy, quickly flipped over several pages to a place specially marked with a blue silk ribbon, and read, “See here…it says, ‘first comes fear of the Lord, humility, riches, honor, and life.’ After that was read, I realized this must be the Ladder of Success.”

“A ladder?” puzzled Cuddy.

“Sure, a pattern, a road, a way to walk so a fine chap could get from one place to another more easily.  I read that verse and I thought it was tellin’ about a ladder that a discerning type could climb to get from a state of poverty to a state of plenty.  I figgered we both were standing on the first rung of the ladder because we do fear our Lord and that means there must be only one rung between us and wealth beyond our wildest imaginings.”

McGillicuddy reached over, took the Book, and read the verse, “‘Fear of the Lord, humility, riches, honor, and life’…An’ what are you trying to say, Gilly?  Are you saying that since we fear the Lord the next step is to be humble?   Somehow I’ve never thought of ourselves as too awful proud.”

“But if we was really humble then we should have our gold, Cuddy.  You see, it says right here that first one must fear the Lord, then one must have humility, and then comes riches.”

“Well,” hesitated McGillicuddy.  “Ye’re not knowing how big the space is between those rungs on your Success Ladder.  I’m thinkin’ there’s a big gap between being ’umble and bein’ rich.  I know we’re God-fearing folks.  Our mum saw to that.  We always pull into the first worship place we see every worship day.  We’ve always shown respect for priest and vicar alike.  We spend regular time in the good Book.  We’ve always tried to do onto others as we’d want to be done.  But still to be quite fair, Gilly, there’s a heap of folks that have done the same and they’re not the rich of the land so far as I can see.”

Gilly shook his head stubbornly, “This is the Ladder of Success. I know we’re standing on that first rung and now we’ve got to step up to the second rung. I’m thinking we’ve got something wrong in the humility part and we’re needin’ to fix the error.  The only reason the rest of those God-fearing folks ’aven’t got their gold is they just never understood the Ladder and even if they did, they jus’ couldn’t bring themselves to be that ’umble.  Being ’umble is a difficult thing for a man to accomplish, Cuddy.”

“Well, if that be true, how do you dispose us to recondition our dispositions?” queried McGillicuddy logically.

“I was thinking on that,” replied Gilly’s ready tongue.  “The good Book says, ‘Ask and ye’ll receive.’ So I’m thinking maybe we need to be humble enough to ask.”

“I asked for our daily needs today,” countered Cuddy.

“But maybe that’s not formal enough nor specific enough.  Maybe we ought to ask on bended knee like a knight would ask a Lord—maybe with our heads kind o’ lowered and trembly like.”

Cuddy looked thoughtful and finally said, “If that will put a potato on our plate every night, let’s do it right now, Gilly.”

“All right,” delightedly replied Gilly.

“You’d better say it,” urged Cuddy, “since you’d been thinkin’ on it a powerful lot longer than I have.”

So McGillvery and McGillicuddy entered the old stone cottage, got down on the worn flagstone floor with bowed heads, clasped hands, trembly hearts, and asked most properly for all the gold they’d ever wanted and more.  They stayed there until their fire burned to black and Cuddy complained of his aching, stone-cold knees.

“Be humble,” cautioned Gilly.

“If I’m any more humble, I’ll never walk again,” chided Cuddy.

McGillvery sighed, “It’s probably enough anyway.  Were you truly humble in your heart, McGillicuddy?” he inquired anxiously.

“Humble as ’umble pie,” reassured McGillicuddy.

McGillvery sighed a satisfied sigh of relief.  “Well, it should be a powerful request with a powerful answer, Cuddy.  For it says in the Book that ‘two agreed together on earth is agreed in heaven.’”

So the brothers went to sleep with hopeful hearts and slept deeply as does everyone with happy expectations.


Chapter 3

           Land of Gone Forever

 

McGillvery was not sure what had awakened him.  He lay still and listened.  There was something missing, but he wasn’t sure what it was.  He nudged McGillicuddy who quietly groaned his protest about being awakened after such a short sleep. 

“Shhh!!!  Listen fair,” whispered Gilly.

Cuddy obliged with both ears carefully tuned for a very long time and then whispered back, “What did you hear?”

“I didn’t hear any a thing.”

“Then for all the heavens above, why did you awaken me?  You awaken people when there’s danger or when you hear something,” complained McGillicuddy in a low voice.

“It’s what I don’t hear that’s bothering me,” whispered McGillvery.

McGillicuddy listened again and then laughed quietly, “You don’t hear the sign squeaking on the back of the cart.  It means the summer breeze has quite died away.”

McGillvery listened again and agreed.  “Ye’re right.  The Irish wind is resting in its bed and the sign is dead silent.”  He looked at the stars in the sky and said, “It must be around midnight, wouldn’t you say?” but McGillicuddy had already gone back to sleep and did not reply.

Cuddy was the first to rise in the morning.  His stomach was growling quite fiercely and he went to the back of the wagon to give their potato sack a short shake just to reaffirm there was nothing in its bottom.  After verifying there was nothing for breaking the night fast, he called to Gilly, “If we head down the road, we might be finding an apple tree.  Wouldn’t be bad sup on a summer morning.”

McGillvery, who had the slighter build of the two brothers, was always looking for the next meal.  He immediately retired from his bed sack and began rolling both boys’ bedding into tight rolls for storage in the cart while McGillicuddy hitched Belle and Shade to the wagon.  The gray mare was tied to the back.  Soon their sign was squeaking in time with the music of the horses’ patient hooves as they pulled their load along pleasant roads lined with greenery.

While Gilly minded the reins, Cuddy pulled their mother’s Book from within the wagon letting it open where it may, placed a roughened finger on the page, and began reading this verse:

 “For there is a mine for silver and a place for gold that they wash out, iron is taken out of earth, and one melts stone to copper.  Man has set an end to darkness, and to every extremity he ransacks stone of blackness and gloom.  An intruding people breaks into ravines that were forgotten by feet; they suffer privations, they rove from men to a country from which bread has gone out and whose underpart turns to be like fire.  A place whose stones are malachite and which has clods of gold.  A path no bird of prey knows nor has a kite’s eye glimpsed it.  Which boldest beasts have not trodden nor lion passed along it…He explores the sources of rivers and brings to light an undiscovered thing….” 

McGillicuddy began to shiver so violently that McGillvery took notice.

“What’s troubling you, Cuddy?” asked Gilly anxiously.  “Are ye getting’ a chill?”

McGillicuddy shook his head negatively and firmly shut their mother’s Book.  “Nay,” he said in a voice that quivered in quite an unmanly manner.

Gilly pulled the horses short and examined his brother’s face.  “I’m sure knowin’ there’s somethin’ wrong with you.  Are ye that hungry then?  If it comes to that, we’ll eat that gray mare before ye get ill from the starvation.  You know you won’t starve.  We’ve still resources, Brother.”

Cuddy shook his head and with shaking voice said, “Not the hunger, Gilly.”

“Then what, man?” urged Gilly.  “Ye’re lookin’ right pale and frightenin’ me some as if ye saw the Banshee for yerself or hearing her for the both of us.”

McGillicuddy looked queerly at McGillvery.  “Nay.  Not the Banshee.  It’s the verse I just read.”

“What could ever be bothering you about a verse in Mother’s Book?  It’s a Book for giving peace not upset to men.”  Gilly examined Cuddy’s face more closely and exclaimed, “Ye are frightened.”  Gilly had great admiration for Cuddy’s courage.  Cuddy had gone away when he was young on the foreign wars and come back again.  He was a well-trained military man and a fighting man as well.  It would take a great deal to frighten his brother. 

 McGillicuddy nodded his head affirmatively and said palely, “I know a place exactly like the place that was described in the Book, Gilly.”

McGillvery was quiet and said, “I was half paying attention to the words when you were reading, Cuddy.  Could you read it again?  I’ll be paying closer attention.”

McGillicuddy opened the Book flipping many, many pages for nearly a thirty- minute span and finally said, “I can’t find it.”

“Can you paraphrase what you read?” asked Gilly.  “It was something about gold, wasn’t it?” he prodded.

“Aye,” agreed Cuddy, “It was about where gold can be found.”

“An’ what’s a verse in the good Book makin’ ye shudder like ye were receiving the Devil’s own sentence at Judgment Day when it’s a verse about where to find what we most have need of?” asked Gilly.

“Didn’t ye hear what it said at all, Gilly?  It’s a place where no bird flies.  A place where the boldest of beasts refuse to go.  A place forgotten by men’s feet.  It’s the land of the Gone Forever, Gilly.”

“Ye mean the Land of Death?”

“Nay.  The Land of the Gone Forever.”

McGillvery scratched his head ponderingly.  “The only place where one can go and not come back on his own is the land where all the dead are, Cuddy.  What kind of a land are you thinkin’ of?”

“There’s a place in Ireland, Gilly, far and away above the Shannon River where men have gone and never come back.” 

McGillvery was quite dumbfounded.  “I’ve been back and forth everywhere a man can walk and ride in Ireland.  I’ve never come upon such a land as that.  There’s not a place in all our country where the lovely birdies don’t sing nor where any animal or man fears to walk.  It’s God’s own land for all living.”  He paused, trying to understand his brother’s words, and said, “However, a man can go to sea and not come back.  ’E can go to war and not come back.  Are ye talkin’ about that kind of mean situation?”

“No,” said Cuddy.  “It’s a place with a narrow path into and no path out.”

Gilly snorted in disgust, “You’re getting’ addled in your brain, Cuddy.  If there’s a path in, it serves a double purpose as a path out.”

“Not this path, Gilly.”  Cuddy explained, “This path goes into a place where you can see the footprints of men who’ve long ago gone, but there are no prints showing they ever came out.”

Gilly thought about this for a moment and then said, “Well, it’s a simple riddle then.  It’s like the mud flats when they’re fresh wet and a person walks on them and leaves a print that dries in the mud.  Later in the afternoon when coming back all the flat is dry and a body can walk right along the prints set in the ground without leaving nary a trace.  If the mud flats were a path, it would look like travelers had gone in on the path and never come out.  But of course, the travelers did come out.  It just doesn’t show because when they returned, the mud had dried and carried none of their prints.”

Cuddy shook his head, “This is not the same, Gilly.”

“Explain yourself, then.”

“The prints are set in stone.”

When Gilly had no answer, Cuddy continued, “An’ it’s a place you can never get to the bottom of.”

Gilly was beginning to feel the tickle of hairs raising on the back of his neck.  “What do you mean?”

“When a person begins to walk down the path, he begins to get fearful and trembly inside.  The feeling grows and grows until even a grown man will feel as if he’s walkin’ into the face of Death himself.  Finally, the fear becomes so unbearable that a man has no other option than to turn and run as fast as a good man from the dev’l himself past the spot where he was first settin’ his foot.  The man will ever afterward never desire under any circumstance to go back into that place.”

Gilly said, “If we were destined to go there, Cuddy, we wouldn’t act the fools.  We’re not just any two men, Cuddy.  Maybe many men would behave in that manner, but never you and me.”

Cuddy looked at Gilly a bit wild eyed and said, “The man running and leaping out of that place was me, Gilly.”

Gilly looked startled and said, “How came it you found such a devil’s place?”

“The year I was shepherding for Lord Danby above the Shannon I came upon another shepherd from the other side of the hills.  He told me he had found a place when he was a young lad—a place he’d like to show me.  He pointed the way and I began descending.  Before I’d gone ten meters I’d the fear on me so badly that I’d turned and charged back to the top like a mad bull looking for its target.  The old man told me it was the same with him.  He couldn’t advance down the path for the fear that overwhelmed him.”

“Did the old one give you a reason for the circumstances on that path?”

“He told me he thought it was the path into the devil’s own den.”

“I’m not seein’ how Ireland’s the proper place for the door to hell to be emerging,” objected Gilly.

“Who knows?” said Cuddy, “There’s been many a tale about supernatural doings at the source of the Shannon since ancient times.”

“An’ ye’re saying the description in that verse you were reading this morning exactly describes the place you tried to enter?”

“Aye, even down to the malachite stones.”

“Isn’t it an odd thing, Cuddy, that just last night we were asking for gold and just this morning Mum’s Book opened to a place about where to find the gold?  It’s even an odder coincidence that ye’re knowing exactly where such a place be.”  Gilly looked at Cuddy and continued, “Mum always said there was no such thing as chance in the lives of those belonging to the Lord and that everything makes a complete picture in its own time.  If you’re thinking closely about the matter, it could be He showed you the place long ago seeing in advance we would be needing material sustenance in these years.  When we relied upon Him by asking His assistance, He already had everything in place for us to solve our financial woes.”

Cuddy shook his head vigorously side to side, “You’re thinking we’re supposed to be going to that place to pick up the gold we prayed for.  I’m not wanting to ever go back to that place, Gilly.  Nothing is worth returning to that place.”

Gilly laid his hand upon his brother’s arm.  “Wait a minute now.  When a fellow prays for a thing, the Lord provides a way.  But then a fellow’s got to have the gumption to go forward.  What a fellow has to provide in every transaction with the Lord is the faith to act upon His direction.  Don’t you see?  We asked like ’umble pie and received an answer this very morning.  We need to be ’umble enough to walk to that place and rescue our gold.  Humility, Cuddy, humility!”

“I’m thinking of courage, Gilly.”

“We’ll be the ’umble lads and let the good Lord have the courage,” boldly charged McGillvery.

McGillicuddy turned quite pale and looked far down the road beyond Belle and Shade’s ears.  “Ye’re not understanding what it’s like,” he said.  “We’re men of flesh and blood and we’ll not be dealing with the matters of flesh and blood.  How can a man fight something unnatural?”

“All through Mum’s Book there’s stories of folks battling the unnatural, Cuddy.  Jacob wrestled with an angel and look at the reward he received for his efforts.”

“I’m not Jacob, Gilly,” returned Cuddy.  “I’m just a poor Irish tinker.”

“A hungry Irish tinker,” said Gilly pointedly.

“We could eat the gray mare and not be hungry for many a day,” suggested Cuddy.

“An’ when we’d quite finished ’er we’d be jus’ that much poorer and still lookin’ for our next meal,” said Gilly.  He stubbornly added, “The Lord never intended for his own to be doing without.”

Cuddy sighed and conceded, “The Book is overflowing with the promises he makes for His own.  He raises lowly men from impossible circumstances to places of roomy surplus.  I’ve read it in the Book and know it must be so.  But, it’s one thing to read a fair story of others’ good fortunes at the Lord’s hands and quite another to see it for oneself, Gilly.”  He sat for a moment as if ruminating on their future and then reached across Gilly’s lap, took the wagon’s reins from his hands, gave the signal to Belle and Shade, and said, “We’ve no other place to go, have we, Gilly?”

“That’s the way I’m seein’ it, Brother.  We’ve been backed as far into a corner as we can go and have no way out now except to fight it out.”

“Then, mark the date in Mother’s Book, Gilly,” said Cuddy resignedly.  “’Tis a Friday morning in Ireland when two brothers are beginning their journey with nothing but hope in their pockets and expectations grand.  Ye best be saying yer prayers.  We’ve dangers to meet and adventures to win.  May the good Lord save us in danger and bless us true.  May He set our feet firm to walk out of the land of poverty into the better land of prosperity.”


Chapter 4

The Dreamer Begins

Many a dreamer fails to begin his journey.  He fails because he forgets that the role he plays on the human stage of life is not the planner, the adviser, or the reasoner.  The dreamer has one job—to hope, to believe, to speak the dream into being.  Let the practical planner plan.  Let the advisor count the cost.  Let the reasoner dictate the journey is ill-advised for financial reasons, for health reasons, for unforeseen circumstances, for fear of failure.  The dream, a fragile thing giving to playfully teasing for the opportunity to become reality, easily fades away into nothingness if the dreamer does not stand firm for its right to live.  The dreamer hangs his future on the coat rack of hope and with his dream as company proceeds along his way.

And, that is the peg upon which McGillvery and McGillicuddy hung the success of their journey.  They had no material resources and no education upon which to make more sure decisions—no deep, lasting circles of friends from which to draw excellent advice. The only thing they had was a dream of changing their circumstances in life, hope that it could be done, and the beginning of a path to walk.  Somewhere along the way hope must undergo a transformation into a quality with substance.  ‘Faith is the assured expectation of the things hoped for,’ says the Book.  But, directions on how to transmute hope into faith are not so very clear.  Sometimes it can take a lifetime to develop and sometimes it can come in a hurry.

The brother’s journey took them to the edge of a long lane winding past a pied cottage that McGillicuddy had not forgotten nor had he visited since his mother’s death.  Belle and Shade turned the wagon into the lane as if they were finally going home.  McGillvery made no move to correct the horses’ decision and justified the delay with their need for supplies for their journey.

“We’ve need of sustenance, Cuddy.  She had respect for our mother.  At least she’ll not turn us away.”

A large, red-haired woman emerged from the cottage doorway while three shepherd dogs came loping down the lane to greet the tinker’s wagon.  Soon a young girl of about fourteen years of age appeared from the apple orchard with an apron full of summer fruit.  Both women broke into smiles and waved the wagon into the yard.

“McGillvery and McGillicuddy!  No one hereabouts has heard of neither of you for such a long time.  I’d thought you had grown so rich from tinkering in other counties that ye’d emigrated to England to keep company with the Queen,” laughed the woman.

McGillicuddy blushed and said, “Not when we could be keeping company with Ireland’s own, Dearbháil.”

“An’ ye haven’t lost the Irish tongue, I see,” she retorted archly and quickly added,  “Then if it’s company you’re caring to keep you’d best be turning the horses to pasture and showing us your wares.  We’ve apple pastries to bake and may trade you some potatoes for some fabrics before many days have passed.”

McGillicuddy had grown as deeply crimson as red morning.  McGillvery waved their thanks while urging Belle and Shade toward pasture.  They pulled the wagon into the orchard before releasing the horses and pulled a pail of water from the spring to wash and shave.

After sincere efforts to smooth the rough edges of their appearance, Gilly noted, “Ye’re lookin’ right fine, Cuddy.”

Cuddy felt his smooth cheeks while looking around at the trimness of Dearbháil’s home and pastures.  “A fellow could smell almost decent every day with such handiness about him—running water all the year.  She’s got herself a paradise of luxuries, that’s for sure.”

Gilly reached into a small wooden box kept in a chest.  “Here,” he said, handing McGillicuddy a bottle of Bay Rum.  “It’s the gentleman’s way of announcing his arrival.  A bit of the scent on your face and ye’ll be as presentable as Lord Darroughby.”

A small giggle escaped from behind the wagon and Tamara appeared with an impish gleam in her green eyes.  “What’s that awful smell?” she asked mirthfully.

McGillicuddy looked at McGillvery, “Is it smelling?”

“Nay.  Can’t ye see the child’s teasing you?”

“Don’ be listening to him, McGillicuddy.  It smells fiercesome bad,” she retorted firmly.

McGillicuddy reopened the bottle and passed it to her.  “You wouldn’t want to be trying any then, would you?”

Tamara’s eyes lighted with joy and she quickly put two fingers to the neck of the glass jar touching a bit of the Bay Rum behind her ears.  “I’ll be borrowing it for a bit, Cuddy,” she said and just that quickly ran toward the cottage with the gentleman’s scent in her hand.

“Must not have smelled too badly,” observed McGillvery.  “The child was quick to try it and quicker still to share it.”

McGillicuddy laughed and asked, “Do we still have a bit of the Lavender packed away?  Would be a fine thing if the lassies were smellin’ a bit different from the laddies.”

McGillvery got into the wagon and soon presented two small bottles on which he tied two green silk ribbons.  “They will make a superior thank you for the apple tarts we’ll be havin’ this evening.”

McGillicuddy smiled his thanks and the two brothers headed toward Dearbháil and Tamara’s cottage.  “How different it is to be among friends than strangers, Gilly.  I’m smelling the tarts and some cabbage, too.”

They knocked politely on the cottage door and Tamara flung it open.  The smell of Bay Rum hung heavily in the room nearly overpowering the lovely smell of the tarts.  McGillicuddy’s eyes roved longingly over the plaid checked tablecloth and the deep glasses filled to brim with creamy fresh milk.  Small pats of new butter lay near each plate and man-sized napkins conveniently lay to the side of the forks.  Dearbháil noted his satisfaction and nodded her head knowingly.

“Best be sitting yourselves.  The cabbage is hot and the soda bread just coming from the oven.  Tamara’s already laid by a most enticing apple jelly this year that she’s sure to be trying on you this evening.”

The boys immediately sat themselves at table and then McGillicuddy rose apologizing.  “It’s been a long time since Mother passed away and we’ve near forgot our Christian manners, Dearbháil.”  He walked toward her while reaching into his pocket for the small bottles of lavender.  “One for you and one for Tamara.  A thank you in advance for the fine evening and kindness of your hospitality.”

Dearbháil smiled while taking the two bottles from him. “An’ Irish colored ribbons, too.  They’ll look lovely in her hair, Cuddy.”  After setting the bottles on a shelf, she handed two large skillets to him and said, “Put them on table and I’ll be bringing the bread.”

Tamara was setting the new summer’s jelly on the table and took the covers from the two skillets.  One was filled with cabbage and the other with shepherd potatoes.

McGillvery’s eyes fairly watered with anticipation as Dearbháil sat three loaves of soda bread at table and began breaking them into thick, soft, hot pieces.  Without conversation the meal began while many a hungry night was forgotten at the small table covered in green plaid.  The evening passed merrily with music provided from the harp, tinker’s stories swapped about places small and grand, tea and apple tarts served at midnight, and rolls of fabric spread for the women’s viewing at candle’s glow in the wee hours of the morning. 

Three days passed in such a fashion before McGillvery finally tugged at McGillicuddy’s elbow.  “’Tis time we were going, Cuddy.  We’ve a prayer to seek the answer to and an adventure to undertake.”

McGillicuddy was greasing the cart’s rear wheel while sitting under an apple tree and did not immediately answer.

McGillvery continued pleasantly, “If the place ye’ve been telling me of is not far from here, we need not be gone for many days.”

McGillicuddy remained silent. 

McGillvery noted his brother’s reticence and quietly added, “I’ve been thinking on it a bit.  We could leave the wagon with Dearbháil and Tamara.  Would give us a reason to stop at the cottage again when we’ve become the successful gentlemen.”

 McGillicuddy finished the rear wheel and rolled it toward the wagon for remounting.

 “We can take Belle and Shade as riding horses and leave the gray mare for Dearbháil.  She’s a way with animals and could use the mare once it’s had time to heal,” continued McGillvery.

McGillicuddy looked down at the ground while wiping the sweat from his brow.  He continued with the mounting of the wheel while McGillvery planned.

“Do ye want me to tell Dearbháil we’re on our way, then?”

“Nay.  There’s no need. I’ll be tellin’ her,” reluctantly agreed Cuddy.

The next morning the two brothers rode away from the pied cottage with Dearbháil and Tamara left standing in the door.  The tinker’s wagon sat forlornly in the apple orchard, its sign strangely quiet.  They turned to wave until the hospitable property faded away into green pastures and rolling hills.  Belle and Shade patiently plodded forward while flicking ears against the occasional straying insect.

All that day they traveled along the Shannon in quiet anticipation of the rough country ahead.  When the horses began laboring to the point of stumbling, they turned them loose, tied bedrolls and supplies to their own backs, and continued their journey until finally cresting into open meadows holding the originations of the Shannon River.

McGillicuddy said, “We’re not far now from the Sinks.  An’ it’s there, Gilly, you’ll find the place described in Mother’s Book.”

“We’re that close by then?” queried Gilly.

“That close an’ already a dread coming over me.”

“Don’t be speaking so fearfully, Cuddy.  The Lord’s men walk confident and sure, with no fear, for they’ve His promises to hold and protect them.”

“I’d fight a thousand enemies of flesh and blood, Gilly, with both arms resting on my Lord for strength.  But, what lives in the Sinks is not something that assails the body, but the spirit.”

Gilly quietly ignored Cuddy’s presentiment and asked, “Is the trail into the Sinks easily found?”

“Nay, not easily found.  But it’s a trail an Irish mum could walk, it’s that broad.  Only there’s not an Irish mum in Ireland would begin the trail if she’d the good sense the Lord gave her.  Ye’ll not walk far along that trail before every fiber in your innermost essence will tell you to reverse your course.  The man who can resist his own self telling him to turn around hasn’t been born a usual man, Gilly.”

“Two are better than one for accomplishing all things,” replied Gilly in rebuttal.  “’Tis what our dear mother always told us.  It’s the wisdom for us staying together all these years.  When one of us is down, the other’s up.  We’ve made a better showing that way.  King Solomon’s proverb says, ‘A threefold cord might never be broken.’  So faith man!  There’s you and me and the good Lord—a fine threefold cord.  We two can fight the flesh and He can fight the spirit.  So what more do we need than that?  He’s leading the way and we’re just a’following.  That’s as innocent as can be.  Harm should pass us by.  ‘Tho’ ye walk through the valley of deep shadow.’  Remember the words, Cuddy?  Do ye think they have no real meaning?  No real power?  Come now, Man.  These are the words our dear mother taught us at her very knee.  The precious words will give us the light which to follow.”

Cuddy was quiet and had hung his head, half ashamed.  “You’re right, Gilly.  I’m glad our own darlin’ mother isn’t here to see my fearful set.  But faith is a gift, Gilly.   I always felt you were more deeply imbued with it than I.”

Gilly blushed with pleasurable pride.  “I did always take a heap of store by the Book, didn’t I?”

“Aye, you did.”

The boys continued their hike long until evening shadows were slinking darkened cat’s paws over and around the rocks and knarled stumps that passed for trees in this  land of ancient lore.

“Looking Glass Lake is near here, Gilly.  I’d hoped to reach it before nightfall.  There’s a spot on the east shore where the striped trout jump at evening.  I’d had my jaw set for fresh trout all smoky from campfire.  As is, we’ll be settling for cold, baked potato this evening.”

“McGillicuddy,” consoled McGillvery, “perhaps we’ll have one of those trout on the way back from our journey.”

Cuddy grimaced. “If we make it back, Gilly.”

“Now, Cuddy, faith,” warned McGillvery.

“Ahem, faith,” repeated Cuddy.

Gilly sat on a stump along the highland trail they’d been following and looked around.  “This seems as good a place as any to be making our camp seein’s how the moon’s past full already.  We’re needin’ to catch the evening light early.”

Cuddy agreed and set his pack on the ground while Gilly pulled out one of Dearbháil’s baked potatoes.  He grimaced as he accepted the half cold potato from Gilly.  But after several diligent movements of his jaw, remarked, “Did you ever notice how much finer the potatoes from the middle of Ireland taste than those from the southern shores?”

“Aye.  It’s that black soil and the mineral springs they waters their gardens with.  Gives ’em body and taste.”

“Ye know, Gilly,” said Cuddy stretching himself comfortably alongside their sleeping rolls, “It was a fine piece of hospitality Dearbháil set before us the last three days.”

“Mmmm,” sighed Gilly.  “I’m wishing we could be going to sack with a piece of her soda bread fresh and hot from oven and Tamara’s apple jelly in our middle sections.  The young lassie’s got a way with the jellies.”

“It’s a more comfortable life they lead that’s for sure.  T’would be a good thing for us to stay rather than leave them.”

“Dearbháil’s a self-sufficient lassie.  I’m not sure she’s needin’ a tinker or two staying.”

Cuddy lowered his head and said, “There’s such a thing as a man so foolish that ’e’s no sense to know when good comes to him.  Seems like the most good we’ve had in many a day came to us this week when we decided to turn in at Dearbháil’s.  Would be an imprudent thing not to recognize the good and find a way to make ourselves a part of it.”

Gilly pictured Dearbháil’s hair—red flamin’ like an Atlantic sunset.  “I’m not one to speak ill, especially when I’m lovin’ to see Dearbháil any time of the year.  But I’ll be reminding you there’s many a good to be found besides a good meal in the evening, Brother.  Forgive my lack of charity and I’m apologizing for the outspoken thought before I’m saying it, but I’m thinking her tongue could be a mite spiteful without half trying.  Somehow whenever I’m around her I think of Mother saying, ‘If a man’s wantin’ praise, he’d best die; if he’s wantin’ blame, he’d best marry.’”

McGillicuddy grinned.  “Aye.  I see it, sure.  I’m not foolin’ myself.  In the spark of her eye and the way she sets her mouth firm-like when a turnip won’t come out of the ground on the first pull is a definite sign of strong will.  But a fine, self-sufficient woman like that is somewhat of a comfort to a man.”

“You sure don’t want to be the turnip Dearbháil’s pullin’,” observed McGillvery dryly.

“Nor pushing either,” grinned McGillicuddy.  “Only a successful man could keep those firm lines melted into softness on Dearbháil’s sweet lips.”

“Maybe she might want a successful man to be a mite more successful and then a mite more successful, Cuddy.  Then you would be right back where you started from with her.”

“Maybe.  But money can cushion things, Gilly. If anything, a man can be away on business from time to time.”

“You can do that in your tinker’s wagon.”

“Aye, but Dearbháil isn’t a woman to have her man gone all the time and there’s Tamara to think of, too.  Dearbháil’s got larger plans for her sister than inheriting a tinker’s trade.”

McGillvery was silent.  Dearbháil was pretty in the morning and when laughing had the trill of a lark in her voice, but when those green eyes flashed—no—not for him.  He’d take a brown-eyed lassie like his own mother any day.  A contented, amiable female was a jewel which maybe didn’t flash with the fire of Dearbháil, but was still a worthy treasure.  Satisfied with that easy thought, Gilly soon drowsed into a deep slumber followed shortly by his brother’s peaceful and regular breathing.

Long before daybreak, Cuddy was rousing McGillvery.  “I don’t want to be walking into the Sinks in the evening, Gilly.  So, up with you now.  It’s bad enough we didn’t travel as far as the Looking Glass on the yesterday.”

They ate their potatoes along the way and long before noon passed the lake and stood at last on the edge of Blue Mountain country.

“It’s a picture,” breathed McGillvery.

“Aye.  Only here is the Emerald Isle truly blue, Gilly.”

“Who’d of thought it?  Blue as the willow on Mum’s teapot.”

“That’s why they call it the Blue Mountains, Gilly.”  Then a little anxiously, he hoisted his canvas pack.  “We’d best not be lingering too long for we’ve got to hike part way ’round the rim of the Sinks.”

“’Tis an odd name—the Sinks.  Why’d they call them the Sinks?” asked Gilly while tightening and securing his pack.

“Some things are best left in misty dreams of long ago,” hesitantly answered Cuddy.

“Nay.  We both need be prepared for what comes, Cuddy.  Tell me the story,” urged Gilly.

Cuddy replied, “Maybe as far back a time as when the large stones were laid along the sea is the age of the tale.  In those far away days, a ship of raiders landed on western shores.  It was an unexpected thing and many a village lost.  But good men rallied and sent their most courageous warriors to help their brothers along the sea.  Fierce fighters they were and successfully saved many a village from the marauders.  But on the way home the heroes were that anxious to be home for seeing their wives and families that they took a shorter way.”

“The Sinks?” queried McGillvery.

“The Sinks,” acknowledged McGillicuddy.  “You can still see the path they took into the Sinks, but no path coming out.”

This was the second time McGillicuddy had spoken of the path they were to travel in such a manner.  “How can there be a path in and no path out, Cuddy?” asked Gilly with a bit of irritation.  “That’s cat-e-cornered talk if I ever heard and a fine beginning of a fanciful leprechaun tale for smallish children!”

“No, no,” hastily assured Cuddy.  “The footprints are still there.  You’ll see them soon.”

Gilly pondered this piece of information for a moment and then asked, “An’ the warriors never came home?”

“They never came home.”

For the first time in this adventure, McGillvery’s heart quavered a bit.  For, after all, the desire for gold must be intense to cause any man to go forward when it would be easier and more comfortable to stay in familiar territory. 

In truth, the brothers’ lot in life was not much different from the majority of men the world over.  A good wife can make strong beginnings toward mending much of the comforts a man sorely lacks with her sewing, milking, and gardening ways.  Both boys, however, could not bear the thought of coming home some years down the road to a reproachful look from an ageing wife as he delivered no coin for many days labor at tinkering.  This vision of an imaginary feminine face full of utmost sadness had made them thrust aside all thoughts of marriage for many a year and now this same face made McGillvery throw aside his momentary hesitation and fear.  His chin came up with an air of determination.  

“Well, then, they must have been fairly silly to have wandered round and round in a smallish place like that and couldn’t even find the path they originally walked on when even today it is as plain for any to see.”

“Or maybe ’tis only a path in and no path out,” repeated McGillicuddy again quietly.

                Gilly hesitated in his step, “It was the old sheepherder who told you the tale, Cuddy?  You never heard the tale from another?”

           “Never heard the story anywhere else.  He had me lead the way down the path and told me afterward he wanted to see if I felt the same about the path into the Sinks as he.”

           “’An you did?” asked Gilly, wanting to hear the story once again.

           “I turned and ran clear over the top of the ole’ man without a ‘Please, get out of my way’ before we were twenty meters down the trail.”

           “Did you go that far down onto the path, then?”

           “Aye, but in truth it’s jus’ a little way.  The trail seems long as if it extends into forever.”

Gilly strode forward albeit more slowly and less willingly than before.

It was Cuddy who finally turned and urged him, “Come now, Man. We’re nearly there.”

Gilly looked ahead and saw a wide patch of clouds just skimming along the ground.  “It looks like I could near walk on top o’ them,” he wonderingly mused.

Cuddy was scanning the ground carefully while walking around the edge of the lovely white expanse floating inconsequentially alongside the edge of mountain grasses.

Finally, Cuddy motioned with his hand.  “Here.  It’s not changed.  This is the place, Gilly.  See, the stone path leading down into the clouds.”

“I can see why ye were afraid, Cuddy.  It would be hard seeing where to put one’s foot in all that cloud.  A body would be fearful of falling off the path into a deep valley or miry place where ’e couldn’t ever be found again.”

“Nay.  ’Tis not so.  As soon as ye step into the cloud, it vanishes.”

“That’s not likely, Cuddy.”

“Follow me and I’ll show you the reality of the matter.  But,” and he held his hand out to Gilly, “you must know, Gilly, you will be overpowered with the desire to return from whence you came.”

Gilly noted Cuddy’s serious blue eyes and nodded.  “Let’s make a pledge we’ll not turn back, Cuddy.  We’ve got to claim our fortune.  The Word promised it would be found in a place such as this.”

Cuddy lowered his eyes and clasped his hands.  “I’ve no words to tell you how it will be.  These many years later I still feel it.  Ye’ll just have to experience it for yourself.  But, I’ll go ahead as long as you will follow.  Our dear Lord protect us and bless us, his simple men.”

Gilly’s eyes moistened a bit.  Unlike Cuddy, this was the most adventure he had ever undertaken.  It was requiring more courage than he had ever needed in his entire life.  “Thank you for going first, Cuddy.  You being a military man and more bold than I.  If you lead, I’ll do my best to follow and may God bless the head and the tail of this most earnest party.”

Cuddy nodded, turned toward the path, and instantly disappeared.  Gilly quickly followed and true to Cuddy’s word, above them was a ceiling of brightly lit cloud and in front of them was a broad, stone path with the record of myriads of feet permanently set in stone.  The footprints descended.  No footprints came back. 

As the boys progressed down the path an increasing tightness gripped their chests while every hair on their bodies raised as does the hair on a dog when it is alerted of extreme danger.  

Finally, Gilly gasped, “Cuddy!”

“I can’t turn ‘round, Gilly, for if I do I’ll jump right over you and run all the way to the top of the Blue Mountains.”

Gilly breathed heavily.  A profuse sweating broke on his body.  He felt like a man sitting in the fiercely hot radium pots of the Southern Irish shores.

“I don’t seem to get my breath, Cuddy.”

“It’s the Dread on you, Gilly.  You need to think of the words, Gilly, or we’ll never make it beyond this point.”

“Be…of…good...courage…little flock…,” whispered Gilly.  “Fear…not…I have approved of…giving you…the kingdom.”

“Every perfect…present…comes…from above,” struggled Cuddy.

“Ask…of the Father…for wisdom…for He gives…generously…to all.”

And so the brothers marched deeper and deeper, past where no animals dared wander, following the petrified footprints of a band of long ago warriors into the black stillness of the Sinks—a place where no breeze played, no bird sang, no vulture or eagle drifted.  The trees and flowers melted away and the earth became nothing but hardened, glassy-like rock—slippery, sharp, and treacherous. 

As suddenly as the brothers stood on the floor of the smooth rock, the Dread lifted.  Gilly breathed deeply and wiped his perspiring brow.  “We made it, Cuddy.  We must say a thank you prayer for our dear Lord’s provision for our lives.”

After a short prayer, the boys looked around the unearthly landscape, and Cuddy asked, “What now?”


Chapter 5

Peculiar Places

Everywhere the boys looked, glassy, volcanic lava lay in smooth shaven shards.  Gilly shivered a bit while wondering aloud at the time of day.  “It seems midday with the bright cloud for sky.  Not knowing how the light sets in this peculiar place, perhaps we’d best be making our way to a safe place for night’s camp, Cuddy.”

Cuddy nodded.  It had occurred to him that the bright light on the path had dimmed to quite a degree at the bottom of the Sinks.  “I’ve not been seeing where the band of good men went, Gilly.  Their footprints have quite disappeared.”

Gilly looked everywhere in astonishment.  “It’s almost as if they walked into thinnish air, Cuddy.”

“Aye.  Perhaps it would be best if we could make a nest high like a bird for this evening’s rest.  Are ye seeing a ledge anywhere we might climb to for safety?”

Gilly looked carefully along the sheer face of the black cliff in front of them.  “Nay.  We’d best navigate the base of this dark mountain for a bit.  Perhaps we’ll find such a place as ye’re lookin’ for.”

Cuddy’s military training cautioned him to mark the trail out of the Sinks with a large pile of rock.  While Gilly had made fun of the silliness of the band of warriors losing their way in the Sinks, neither he nor Cuddy thought they would be any luckier than those legendary heroes when they wished to leave.

“After all,” reasoned Cuddy, “if two heads are better’n one, hundreds of minds working on a puzzle should have been that much more effective in unraveling difficult problems.  At first glance it seems their many minds were ineffectual in resolving their dilemma.” 

As an added precaution, he pulled his mother’s locket from his side pocket and hung its silver strand atop their stone pile.  “She always loved us, Gilly, and she’ll lead us back should we have any trouble.”

“The Good Lord will do the leading,” corrected Gilly and then smiled.  “But it’s a good idea.  See how it gleams against the black rock.  We’ll sure not miss it when passing this way again.”

No sooner had the boys set out along the bottom’s edge of the cliff then that quick Cuddy hollered, “There.  See.  A smallish cave midway up the cliff’s face.  An’ a few handholds for us to make it with ease.  If we can reach that, Gilly, we’ve a safe night’s sleep and can viewpoint this bottomland.  There may be water near the center of the Sinks or some other useful item for our adventure.”

The cave was smallish with enough room for a tall man to stand in.  Ten men might comfortably sleep on the floor which was made of the same material as the Sink’s base—smooth, glassy-black rock.  Surprisingly, a pool of clear water bubbled in the extreme back of the cave.  The boys stood marveling at that small wonder.

“It bubbles, but puts forth no stream, Cuddy,” observed Gilly.

“A phenomenon I’ve never seen quite the like of in any of my travels, Gilly,” agreed Cuddy.

“Is it a slight popping noise the bubbles are making?” asked Gilly.

“Aye.  I’ve heard of such waters in Normandy.  Sparkling waters. They are sought for strong ability to restore health.  Some call them life-giving waters.”

Gilly turned to walk toward the cave’s entrance for the purpose of surveying the Sinks, but a soft Irish mist had risen from the nape of the cliff to envelop all they might have seen. 

“It’s odd how with fresh water and an Irish mist there’s no greenery or bluery here,” commented Gilly.  “I’ve half a notion not to drink the water.  Maybe it boils up from some poisonous recess deep within the earth.”

“An’ maybe it’s as pure as can be.  For what could grow on this black glass, Gilly?” inquired Cuddy.

“Our Irish moss could grow anywhere there’s a mist, Cuddy, and you don’ see it growin’ now, do ye?”

“No, I don’t.  But we may discover reason enough by the morrow.  For now, let’s eat our potatoes and sleep off the Dread of the Sinks.”

While they ate, the mist raised to the level of the cave’s entrance.  It looked thick enough to walk on.

“’Tis a beautiful thing, Gilly,” said Cuddy.

“An’ sure ’tis.  Makes a fellow properly sleepy.  I’ll be saying my evening prayers and wishing you a good night, Cuddy.”

“Good night, Gilly.”

Both boys rolled into their blankets—the mist at their feet, the bubbling spring at their heads.

It must have been along toward morning when Gilly had the oddest dream of the earth shaking, groaning, and cracking.  The cave’s floor split open to reveal stair steps just neatly carved with the bubbling spring cascading down them like a regularly paced waterfall.  He seemed to feel Cuddy shaking him, telling him to get up, and look. 

Their voices echoed oddly as they engaged in a hurried conference over the open stair steps.

“Where did they come from?”

“I’m sure not knowing.  It seems an otherworldly invitation.”

“If we accept the invitation, we may not have the power to retreat should we decide the party wasn’t one to our liking,” said Gilly fearfully.  “You spoke of the Land of the Gone Forever.  This may be it.”

“We’ve come this far,” reasoned Cuddy.  “An invitation requests either a yes or a no for an answer. There is not a between response.”

“What will happen should we say no?” questioned Gilly.  “We are not in the safe keeping of our own county to know the rules and ways of saying no.”

“’Tis a good point, Gilly.  In our own land, ‘Yes’ is usually the best answer when invited.  It bespeaks of graciousness,” thoughtfully spoke Cuddy.

“Then, let’s hope graciousness is a valuable quality in this land,” said Gilly as he reached a hand toward Cuddy for the beginning of a walk into depths unknown.

They joined hands and began the treacherous walk down the steps to see what was at the bottom.  The water made the steps uncommonly slippery.  The brothers soon released their grip in order to grope slowly and carefully along the walls toward an ever increasing brightness until at last they were in a room so bright it seemed nothing could be distinguished except light.  With time’s passing the brothers became aware of shimmering yellow colors within the white light.  They strained their eyes to focus and found they were trying to see mountains of golden nuggets as abundantly present as the acres of harvested grapes in Normandy.

Gilly dropped to his knees and scooped handful after handful of the golden clusters into his cupped hands, letting them fall easily into glistening, rounded mounds.

Cuddy whispered, “By the Saints, Gilly, we’ve become the successful men.”

“It’s an answer to prayer given from true men’s hearts to a good Lord with ears to hear and a loving disposition to show where to be finding a future.  It’d be a fittin’ time to give thanks, Cuddy.”

“Nay,” objected Cuddy suddenly.  “That’s like saying your thanks before your meal instead of after, Gilly.  How can you give thanks for something ye haven’t yet received?  Better to eat it and then give thanks.  That’s the proper way.  We’re not home with this gold yet.  Have you thought, a man can only pack so much gold because of its heaviness?  We didn’t bring a little one wheeled cart nor anything stronger than our knapsacks in which to haul our treasure, Gilly.”

Gilly stopped running his fingers through the golden nuggets for a moment.  “It seems we didn’t plan well, Cuddy.  If we had truly believed our Lord, we would have brought the tools necessary to take up what He promised.  I’m that much sorry for my lack of faithful planning.”  He stood upright and surveyed the room.  “Ah! Here’s what we’re needin’—two rucksacks of uncommon durability.”

Cuddy admitted these bags were well made for the job and, appropriating one to himself, began to fill it brimful.  It was barely all a stout man could carry, but it would do.

Gilly did the same.  “’Tis a very great shame to leave so much behind, Cuddy.”

“Aye, ’tis.  But now this will do and there’s no saying we won’t be able to come again.  What’s this now?  Seems a bit quieter in the room.”  Cuddy turned to look and said, “I’m wondering where the water went that was cascading down the steps?”

True enough the water was no longer there.  In its place a white cat of tremendous stature was slinking down the stairs as evenly and smoothly as the water had flowed before.

There were no cats to match the like of this cat in all Ireland, of that Gilly and Cuddy were certain.  But, this was the Blue Mountains beyond the Shannon, Looking Glass Lake, and deep into the Sinks.  This was a place where one might find unusual things such as roomfuls of finely clustered gold nuggets and it seemed—white cats of tremendous size.  And since this was a dream, Gilly stepped in front of the cat and addressed it firmly.

“Scat, puss.  Scat.  Begone with ye.  We’re two Irish lads a leavin’ this county for our own.”

The Cat stood erect on his hindmost feet and struck through the air with extended claws as sharp as the talons of eagles.  Cuddy had once seen a rabbit clutched in such claws.  He shivered at the thought—for he and Gilly were in proportionate size to the Cat as prey to the hunter.  Gilly was so very close to the Cat that he was looking under it’s chin and there saw a necklace of gold round its neck with a queer kind of writing engraved on the nameplate.  The room suddenly shook with a roaring sound louder than a multitude of waterfalls. Gilly found himself gazing into the pinkish depths of that white carnivore.  Past the rows of pearly sharp teeth, he saw a tongue so rough it seemed as the scales of a salmon roughed all backwards.

“Perhaps scat was not the appropriate term, Gilly,” whispered Cuddy. 

The shock of looking so close and so far down the throat of the creature quite addled Gilly’s brain for thinking what else to say.

Cuddy looked steadily at the Cat and began humming a consoling tune, “Here now, pussy.  Be a nice pussy.  Purr a little song, pussy,” to no effect.  The Cat merely swished its tail, roared again, and leapt over the boys’ heads to the far side of the room.  It began pacing back and forth, watching both boys with yellow, glittering eyes—eyes not unlike the gold it seemed to guard.

The situation the boys found themselves in, tightened its severity when the water  resumed its quiet flow over the steps assuring an ascent out of the cavern would be treacherous business loaded as they were with golden clusters of their future.

“What’ll we do, Cuddy?” whispered Gilly.

“We could start backing toward the steps and retreat slowly and carefully one by one until we’ve reached the cave’s mouth and continue a retreat to the path out of the Sinks.  Never show fear you know.  The proper sort of attitude can quite save the day in the face of danger.”

Because Gilly greatly admired Cuddy’s tactical expertise he naturally and promptly agreed it was quite the proper thing to do.

They began a backward two-step to the stairway never taking their gaze from the eyes of the Cat.  Suddenly, with the rush of a stiff breeze, the room filled with one word.

“Thieves.”

Gilly stopped.  “Who said that?  Who said ‘Thieves’?”  For even in the face of such uncertainty it was inconceivable that anyone should accuse the two brothers of such a base condition as thief.

“Tinkering thieves,” the voice repeated.

“Nay, not thieves and never thieves,” disagreed Gilly.

“And what’s your definition of thieves, McGillvery?” a husky voice whispered.

“’E knows me name, Cuddy,” whispered Gilly in astonishment. Peculiar as that would seem in the natural order of their Irish world, in a dream it could be quite proper for a cat to know such things.

“’Tis not the primary issue here,” whispered Cuddy. 

Gilly nodded in agreement.  This cat had leveled a bitter charge against McGillvery’s character and, worse yet, on the spotless reputation of McGillicuddy.  Of course, that was uncalled for in the real world or in the Sinks.  One’s name before others is more valuable than any earthly treasure.  Once sullied, a name is often in a state of dishonor for one’s entire life and therefore must be guarded and defended assiduously.

So, Gilly drew himself to his full meter and a half height, straightened his hat, and looked the Cat straight in the eye as only a man of good conscience can.

“A man can only be charged with thievery if he’s taken something not rightfully his.  And ye can see we’ve only the clothes on our backs and these rucksacks.”

“But what’s IN those rucksacks?” spat the Cat.

“Nary a thing but the gold from this room,” truthfully spoke McGillvery.

The Cat leapt across half the room toward the brothers.  He stood on his hindermost legs as bears sometimes do when ready to fight and began speaking as if standing in a court of law delivering the final charges before the judge gives sentence. 

“You don’t belong here.  You’ve no right to the gold.  I’ve no Passport of Entrance for you.  You passed the Dread without legal permission.  I’ve no Certificate of Duty Free Export for two rucksacks of gold for a McGillvery or a McGillicuddy.  Without the appropriate documentation, it is obvious to me you are both thieves and not only thieves but liars as well.  The Supreme Punishment is in order.”

Such a long charge of infractions of the Rules of the Sinks quite silenced Gilly.  But Cuddy, having been in the military and knowin’ all about infractions of rules, countered with, “Ye know as well as I that paperwork sometimes gets lost in the jungly maze of paper handlers.  The Passport of Entrance may have delayed in processing.  We gave the proper words to the Dread for we entered, didn’t we?  And as for Certificate of Duty Free Export, who is to say whether you yourself properly recognized it?  It may have been misfiled, mislaid, misjudged, or misread.”

The Cat narrowed its yellowish eyes and began a swishy twitching of its tail.  Gilly had seen his mother’s own tabby do quite the same before pouncing on unfortunate quarry.

“Even if you had all the proper documentation,” the Cat accused slowly, “you’ll both be found guilty for you’ve broken the Ultimate Law.”

At this, Gilly more than found his tongue, spluttering at the indignity of the accusation,  “Broken the Ultimate Law?  And name me this law, dear Cat.”

“You’ve broken the Ultimate Law of Plenteous Possession,” solemnly announced the Cat.

“We’re great admirers of all law,” protested Gilly.  “We’re understanding the importance of law in society.  We read our mother’s Book regularly to keep from breaking the laws peculiar to our Lord.  What are the specifics of this law you are accusing us of breaking?”

“The Law says those who do not work, shall not eat.  It also says, ‘Go to the ant, you lazy idler and observe his ways.’”

“We’ve always worked for our food and idle bread we’ve never eaten,” remonstrated Cuddy hastily.

“But you’ve not earned this gold,” purred the Cat, creamy and velvety soft words spoken with a sucking twist of satisfaction.  “Gold shall not go with the man who has not worked for it.”

Gilly looked at Cuddy and Cuddy looked at Gilly.  No more words came to them. For an Irishman whose very tongue is linked to celestial inspiration this meant only one thing—a departure of words meant the Cat could pronounce sentence and execute judgment.

“Pray, Cuddy, pray,” whispered Gilly.  “If a loosening of our tongue doesn’t come, we’re to perish amidst all these riches without ever tasting the Earl’s sweet wine and with no one ever to miss us.”

Cuddy thought of Dearbháil and Tamara.  Nay, not even Dearbháil would often wonder what had happened to the two tinkers, McGillvery and McGillicuddy.  Suddenly, help from a place far and yet near came, and Cuddy had masterful resolution grip his heart and mind.  He must have the gold to be sure, but more importantly, he had to leave this land whole and alive for he intended to obtain a place in the world where at least one person would cry over his passing.  And with that determined resolve, his tongue was loosened.

“Wait, Cat.  You charge us with not earning the gold, but now we’ve done something a bit better.  We’ve asked.  ’Tis that same thing if you’ve a rich Uncle and you ask and he gives you some of the gold, you see.  We asked the Owner of all the gold.”

Gilly looked in amazement at Cuddy.  How well he spoke!  It was true.  They’d asked the Owner of all the gold in the material universe for some of His gold.  Gilly sighed a deep sigh.  How true it was—two heads were better than one.

But the Cat advanced toward them extending one talon and then another reminding Cuddy all for the world like a first sergeant he once knew who flexed his fingers before announcing a particularly punishing march.

“Asked, did you?” sneered the Cat, seeming to smile. “And what did the Owner of the gold say?  I’ll warrant He didn’t answer you, yea or nay.  For I know all matters must go through proper channels.  The paperwork must be done correctly and little unimportant tinkers like yourselves do not have access to The Owner of the Gold.” 

The Cat licked his lips, “I think you’re presumptuous.  That’s what you’ll be—two Irish crocks full of presumption a’walking on two legs and if that weren’t enough, you’re greedy, voracious, and audacious.  You know what those evil passions cause old men, young men, kings, and peasants—a peck of troubles and an untimely death.  That’s what it’ll lead to boys—a premature and unholy demise.  Now leave the rucksacks and back up the steps.  I’ll turn and let this all be a misunderstanding.  Forgive and forget I will if you’ll set for home.”

Gilly hitched his rucksack a little higher on his back and whispered to Cuddy, “If we set the gold down now, we’d be admitting the Cat was right in all its accusations.  But we’re honest lads who came all this way on faith, belief, and hope in our hearts.  We took leave of our business to do this business and we’re duty bound to finish this business.  Besides, Cuddy, we made it past the Dread.”

Cuddy was half listening to Gilly, all the while watching the Cat, but he seemed to come alive at Gilly’s last words, “That’s right!  We made it past the Dread.  The fact we made it is a kind of passport and we’re a’standing in this room, Gilly, and that’s a kind of passport and I’m thinking maybe some of the things happening to us right now are a kind of test, Gilly.”

Cuddy stood as still as stone, then leapt at the Cat and shouted, “Boo!”

The Cat screeched like a tabby with its tail run over by a cart and vanished into thin air.

“Why, Cuddy!” Gilly marveled.  “However did you know what to do?”

Cuddy grinned.  “I remembered a little sergeant who was all the time huffing and puffing while accusing folks of this and accusing folks of that.  One day a young woman, half his size, shook her finger in his face and told him he ought to be ashamed of the way he was carrying on.  Somehow I seemed to see that sergeant’s face on that cat and I remembered how that sergeant melted right into the floor as easily as ice on summer day when that tiny woman took him to task.  That cat was all meow, Gilly.  I guess our way has been cleared of all obstacles.”  He looked around him wistfully. “My, how I hate to leave all o’ this.”

“Seems to me we’re not leaving it, Cuddy,” observed Gilly.  “We’re the only lads in the whole world who know where the Lord’s gold is.  We’re just leavin’ it in His keepin’ until we’re needin’ more of it.”

Cuddy surveyed the room.  “Aye,” he said thoughtfully.  “If we could take it all, we would get the indigestion just trying to keep it from thieves and predators outside the Sinks.” 

Gilly smiled.  “Perhaps the Dread won’t be so fearsome the next time we endeavor to pass.”

“An’ maybe the Dread won’t even be showing himself since we vanquished him so squarely.”

“Maybe so.  At all points of view, this here’s a secure place in which to leave our inheritance.”

“Then, we’ve need to be going home, Gilly,” said Cuddy and then corrected himself.  “Or to a place we’d like to call home for the rest of our days.”

The brothers climbed the stairs to the cave’s floor, gathered their bedrolls, and quickly clambered down the face of the cliff with the Irish mist lowering its table in perfect harmony with their descent.  They followed round the base of the cliff until they arrived at the place where they were sure they had marked the trail out of the Sinks.  After a diligent search, they stopped with great consternation showing on their faces.

“Sure ’twas here,” spoke Gilly.

“Nay, the silver locket would be shining atop the pile of rocks we made.  I’m seeing no trail,” contradicted Cuddy.

“Perhaps was a bit further on,” said a voice.

Startled, the boys turned to see a Father most properly dressed in black robes with a hint of rosary beads hanging from his pocket.

“Why, Father!” exclaimed Cuddy aghast. “An’ I was thinking we were alone and here we are with a materialization of profound spiritual guidance in front of our innocent eyes.  Now, did ye come down the same path we came in on, then?”

The Father ignored Cuddy’s question.  “Ye seem to have a heavy load to carry, boys.  Are ye needing some help with it?”

Cuddy and Gilly sat their packs on the volcanic glass and said, “No,” in unison.

The Father stepped forward quickly and lightly kicked the rucksacks.  “An’ what would ye be wanting to be taking from this land to the land above the clouds?  Are ye involved in an undertakin’ not to our Lord’s liking?  Perhaps taking something not rightfully yours?”

“We’ve always been lads of the church and do truly love our Lord in common,” protested Cuddy.  “We’ve paid for what’s in those bags with faith, dear Father, and not a smallish bit of it neither.”

“Aye,” joined Gilly.  “This whole undertaking should be most to our Lord’s liking for it was a prayed for thing and a worked for thing.  It cost us our tinker’s inheritance to make this journey.  McGillicuddy,” he encouraged, “let’s be showing hospitality to our guest—share a potato with the dear Father.”

McGillicuddy reached into his pocket and carefully cut a potato into three pieces being sure to noticeably offer the Father the larger share.  The Father moved forward and sat down on the two bags biting into the cold potato with a grimace.  “I’ve come to give ye good advice which I hope you’ll take, Brothers.  Gold was never made for man.  Many more a curse has gone with a pot of gold than a blessing.”

“An’ why would ye be saying such a thing, Father?” incredulously asked Gilly.  “We’re well knowing what a blessing a pot of gold could be for fellows such as we.”

“An’ are ye asking the question from your heart due to not really knowing, Gilly?”

Gilly was quite surprised to find the Father knew his name, but answered truthfully, “Aye, from a pure heart.  We’re not able to see how gold could ever be anything but a blessing.”

“Then I’ll answer so’s you’re understanding well.  You see, not many a man’s so careful and disciplined of his actions that he’ll procure blessings for his soul while in the presence of opulent abundance.  In fact, boys, did ye know now that many a wealthy man has said, ‘great wealth is a curse rather than a blessing’?”

McGillvery answered, “In the company we walk in, dear Father, no one’s ever had the opportunity to find out for themselves whether that be true or not.”

“Believe me, lads, it’s true, it’s true,” said the old one shaking his head sadly.  Ahhh! But how little prepared be a man for the handling of so much fiscal responsibility as ye both are carting away here.  Much evil has occurred when wealth was gotten and this,” he indicated the bags, “ill-gotten—all at once.  Fellows, money’s a thing you need to be growing into, little by little.  ’Tis always the best way.”

McGillvery had on his forehead a wrinkle or two of deep concern.  “Father, never would McGillicuddy nor I wish to compromise our standards of trueness and fair dealin’ with other folks just because we was more prosperous.  It would be an unthinkable thing on our part to return evil to anyone when ’tis in our power to do good.  With the gold, seems like we’d be better set up to do good than other folks would be.  And as far as coming into prosperity all of a sudden-like, well, we’ve been un-prosperous for many a year now.  In fact by most standards I suppose even when we were wee little ones, prosperity walked around the corner from us and never bothered casting a glance behind.  So we’ve had many a year to prepare for this day.”

The Father listened quietly and said, “Don’t be overmuch righteous, lads.  What ye think ye plan to do before ye’re sprinkled with gold dust and what ye actually do after  being sprinkled with the dust…well…let me tell you about Gingus McQuee.”  And the Father began a story which would jerk the tear out of the hardest eye.

“Gingus McQuee had a digging up on the high side of a mountain.  He’d dug and he’d scraped for many a year with no such luck as Ireland bestows upon true lads and lassies.  And in fact if it weren’t for the bonnie Ellen, his wife, who grew the gardens and saved the food, McQuee would have had nothing to eat for most of his life.  And then, by the sweet angel’s whispering promise, McQuee came running out of his mine shaft one day leaping and shouting for joy and swinging the dear Ellen round and round for he’d at long last found a most sumptuous pocket of gold.  Ellen cried a colleen’s tears of happiness.  Her patience, loyalty, belief, and love had at long last been rewarded.  She urged Gingus to go to town and trade for his needs and asked but one thing for herself.  ‘Would ye bring me a red dress, Gingus?’  As Gingus set out for the town far below, he grandly cried, ‘Ellen, not just one dress but a hundred all in the Queen’s velvets and satins.’  A month went by and then another month and another.  Poor Ellen was that frantic with worry.  One day she spied Gingus trudging up the mountain bareheaded, barefooted, and empty handed. ‘Why, Gingus!’ her loyal lips cried. ‘Come in, my dearie.  Whatever misfortune has befallen you?’  Gingus told her his tale of woe—card gamblers who had cheated him and wild women who had plied him with drink. ‘Ah, Ellen, I was bamboozled and befuddled out of me whole pot o’ gold.’  Ellen sat and thought for a long while, bravely covering her disappointment.  Finally, she said, ‘Gingus, there’s but one thing to do.  There’s still the vein of gold.  We’ll work as before and perhaps for our diligence, luck will shine on us again.  Next time we’ll not be so foolish.’  So Ellen went back to tending her garden and Gingus to following the vein and by God’s unfathomable favor he shortly dug another pocket of gold from the mine’s interior.  ‘A hundred red velvet dresses for Ellen,’ Gingus cried, once again, as he left the mountain’s side for the city.  ‘No, but one will do, Gingus,’ sweet Ellen urged.  ‘And do be careful, my love.  Remember to fear God and be true.’”

The ancient Father looked intently at McGillvery.  “Now what do you think happened?”

McGillvery beamed.  “Providence provided good fortune twice so must have been an honest mistake on the part of Gingus McQuee—not being wise to the wiles of the world, he naturally could have fallen the first time, but the second time—not ever Father.”

The Father looked at McGillvery for a long moment.  McGillicuddy, who had also been listening to this great moral lesson, gave a start of surprise.  What was it he saw on the old man’s face?  There was something there that reminded him of someone.  He felt a touch of uneasiness—that indescribable feeling that begins in your middle as a churning and spreads to your outer parts causing goose bumps to rise.  McGillvery, however, totally lost in the spiritual oneness he felt with the Father was urging, “Go on.  What really did happen?”

“It’s so sad I don’t know quite if I can finish the story.”

“Oh,” replied a saddened Gilly.  “Gingus did not resist the temptations of evil?”

“He did not,” spoke the Father.

“And what about poor Ellen alone on the hillside waiting for her red dress?”

“She waited for one month, two months quietly, but long into the third month the roses began to leave her cheeks and the brightness of her eyes became as the dullness of the earth she worked in.”

“And?” queried Gilly.

“The poor lass in weakness of a deeply hurt spirit took to her bed not eating or drinking and at last died…alone…of a pitiably broken heart.  For she realized you see, she had loved her all for someone who loved not her.”  The Father paused for a long moment and then quietly added, “Dear Ellen’s goodness was so pure that even to her last breath she did not call upon the Saints to curse Gingus McQuee.  Not a sigh of reproach passed those sweet lips.”   The Father clasped his hands and slightly bowed his head at the finish of his tale.

McGillvery spoke out in a rage,“This Gingus McQuee should have been stripped and hung by his thumbs for to let England’s black crows tweak off his flesh by day and the Leprechaun King’s owls by night.  By the Saints above it’s an awful story ye tell!”

The Father waited just a bit allowing Gilly to calm so he would be sure and hear the lesson of the story.  “But Gilly, the real point of the story is: It could be you.”

“Not ever, Father!” exclaimed Gilly in horror.  “Be ye cursing me now?  Not ever would I do such a thing.”  Gilly turned to Cuddy, “Speak up, Man.  This is an awful story of deceit and wickedness.  Never have we two brothers, all the time of our living, done anything to hurt our fellow man.  We’ve always turned the other cheek when being spited and we’ve humbled our heart in every instance in order to be at peace with all those we meet.”

Cuddy raised a hand, “Hush, Gilly.  We’ve no wife or children.  We’ve only ourselves.  The story’s no application to our situation.  Quit your sad stories now, Father.”

“I know.  I know,” placated the Father.  “But it is something to wonder about now isn’t it?  How would Gingus McQuee ever explain to the Most High Judge above when he’s standing before the Great Judgment seat and the High Judge shows sweet Ellen’s tears, the darkest circles under her pale eyes—eyes of famine, Gilly.”

Now Cuddy, who had been watching the Father, said, “Father, I see a lovely silver strand ’round your neck.  Would you bring it out now and we’ll be saying a prayer for God’s good graces to be extended unto our souls and for a special saint to be sent as a watch-guard against an unholy heart.  Then with your blessing, and a point in the right direction, we’ll be taking our leave.”

The Father ignored McGillicuddy and spoke directly to McGillvery, “Sons, leave it be.  I plead with you.  Only evil can possibly come of it—even the good teacher said to be content with each day’s sustenance.”

McGillvery, eyes moistened with tears, turned to McGillicuddy, “It’s true.  Often I’ve read it in the Book, Cuddy.  Perhaps it’s best to leave the bags now—for why should we bring evil down on our heads?”

“Why, now McGillvery,” countered McGillicuddy, “the Book says the Lord owns all the silver and the gold.  Isn’t He a fair friend of ours?  Then He wouldn’t be a’mindin’ if we took our fair share.”

The Father moved a bit to catch McGillvery’s eye, “The Book says money is the root of all evil.”

McGillicuddy spoke quickly, “It also says, McGillvery, that wealth is a stronghold in a day of distress and in those bags is our stronghold.  The good Lord has seen us this far and we’d better not be disappointing Him by leaving our gold behind—t’would mean all His help thus far went to a couple of spineless fellows who don’t know how to carry through on a plan.  Now we’ve never been that sort, Gilly.  Let’s have the dear Father take the silver strand from around his neck and pronounce a blessing, Gilly.  After all, one can look for the doom, gloom, and evil in every situation.  But we’re at the bottom of the stairs and this Father’s doing a fair job of telling us there’s no use trying to climb them because we’ll fail and fall to the bottom in a heap again.  It’s a true story that we may fail at certain points and not be all we should be in every situation.  For a time we may even be too proud with all our gold.  But Gilly, we’ve got to at least try.  Wasn’t that one of the reasons we loved the Book’s story of old King David?  He sinned a mighty, mighty sin when he was wealthy; but when he realized what he’d done, he begged forgiveness, got forgiveness, and didn’t repeat the action again.  Why couldn’t we be like King David, Gilly?  An error is an error whether one’s rich or poor.”

“Tsk, tsk, Gilly,” spoke the Father.  “What your Cuddy doesn’t realize is that wealth gives you much more latitude to error.  You can affect many more people and do ever so much more harm.  Now if you’d been born to it, you’d have had the training, my son, and would handle the responsibility in a much more worthy manner.”

Cuddy was growing red round his neck. “What you’re saying, Father, is that all rich men were rich forever back to the beginning of time.  But I’m a’telling you the lines of those ‘born and trained to it’ all began with someone who wasn’t born and trained to it.  Someone had to start out just like Gilly and me—poor and of no account, no education, no potato on their plate—and they had to go asking the good Lord for a favor and the Lord had to put his ear down and listen and show them a way.  That’s how those lines got started.  This very day Gilly and I are getting ready to start our line of future prosperous progeny ‘born to it’ with these two bags.  So, Father,” and Cuddy stepped up to the old man, “I’ll be taking this and taking your blessing, too.” 

McGillicuddy tore the silver strand from around the old man’s neck as McGillvery began to protest. “No! Cuddy!  Mind your…,” and stopped.  In McGillicuddy’s hands was their own mother’s silver locket.

“He’s a fraud, Gilly—just like the Cat.  He was sent here to persuade us we were not worthy of the gold, but we ARE, Gilly—as much as anyone else and we have to believe we’ll do the right thing, Gilly, ’cause just as belief in the good Lord is important, belief in oneself is important, too.  And,” he said turning to the Father, “if ye’ll be stepping away from our gold, Father, I’m betting the path with our stones marking the way leaving the Sinks will appear behind you.  I think, Father, you cast a maze upon us and we would be walking right past the exit and wasting our energies on foolish meanderings if your purposes were to succeed.”

The Father scowled.  “Ye’ll not be free yet to enjoy the gold.  You know not what you bit into lads.  In those two bags are ulcers, jealousy, and murder.  You’re liable to meet with all three and be glad to cast those bags away and go back to being the tinkers ye are and ever shall be.  Whoever heard of a tinker raising himself in the world?” he sneered.  “It can’t be done.”

McGillicuddy hoisted McGillvery’s pack onto Gilly’s back and helped himself into his.  “Nothin’s impossible with the Lord and He’s a loyal one to help His friends.  We’ll be bidding you good day, Father.”

The piles of rocks were behind the ancient priest.  McGillicuddy and McGillvery began the long ascent out of the Sinks not noticing the permanent prints they were leaving behind.  But the old Father noticed and frantically began scuffing at the prints, trying to obliterate the fact that two persons had not only come into the Sinks but were successfully leaving the Sinks.

 

 


 

Chapter 6

                                                       Mankind’s Pain

McGillicuddy and McGillvery weren’t long out of hearing range when the Father cried, “Cat!  Come quickly.  Look what’s happening.  Their footprints leaving have become as permanent as the ancient band of warriors’ footprints coming.  Oh, Cat,” he moaned, “others will find this place and when they see someone, and two someones at that, went down and came back, they’ll gather the courage to follow and soon Cat, all our gold will be gone.  There’ll be none left, Cat.  We’ll no longer be Keepers of the Treasure for the treasure will be nonexistent.  O’ Cat, DO something!”

The Cat looked at the old Father.  “There’s not much I can do.  Didn’t you see what bags they carried the gold in?”

“No.”

“The Ever Filling Bags from the treasury room.”

“What does it mean?”

“It means whenever McGillvery and McGillicuddy come to the bottom of their sacks, they will magically refill to the top again.  They’ll never be out of gold, old one.”

“And the gold comes from…?”

“From our treasury rooms,” spoke the Cat grimly.

The Cat was facing a twofold dilemma.  First, it is natural for man, once in possession of gold, to increase consumption to match income.  Over time, the Cat could foresee exceedingly large piles of treasure transferring into circulation in the land above the Sinks via McGillvery and McGillicuddy’s efforts to live comfortably and do well.  The Ever Filling Bags made steady depletion of the treasury rooms that much easier for the two brothers.

The second dilemma was McGillvery and McGillicuddy’s successful entrance and exit into the Sinks could be duplicated by other humans.  It was conceivable that the ancient treasury rooms would be completely depleted to the point of emptiness as others found the means to enter and leave the Sinks.

The Cat padded softly back and forth analyzing its problem before deciding upon action.  It seemed the second problem was not the immediate threat.  He knew the ways of men.  It is true that an obstacle—such as the Sinks—becomes much easier for humans to surmount and to conquer once one of the species has accomplished the difficult task.  Humans are, after all, great imitators.  But the Cat understood at a primal level a great deal about the queer chemistry of heaven’s potion for success.  All successful action depends on the exercise of faith, hope, courage, and love.  Like tinctures of medicine in small bottles lined in tidy rows in heaven’s pharmaceutical shop, these four elements combine infinitely to form prescriptions unique for each seeking individual.  The precise recipe necessary for the situation at hand can be difficult to find indeed.  It is usually revealed in stages—quietly and obtusely appearing and disappearing through many years of diligent searching.

The Cat knew future adventurers must journey into arenas at the edge of material realities.  The journey requires groping into the unknown while maintaining firm ties to dogged endurance, courage, and hope.  The hope must never fail even in the face of impossible circumstances and the courage is often difficult to accumulate in the necessary large doses.  The adventurer must steadily step forward into the unknown even when seeming to be in possession of courage less than the measure needed for the situation at hand.  Within the unknown are large enemies needing to be vanquished.  These enemies are not those of flesh and blood; but of the mind—flooding streams of doubt and of unanswerable questions.  The traveler must meet the enemy with humility.  It is the only way to conquer. 

Such struggling souls are few.  The Cat understood the human masses, even with a wealthy McGillvery and McGillicuddy in their midst, would wish, want, and dream their lives away without actually doing something to reproduce the actions that turn desire into reality.  Some would envy the boys while imagining themselves in the brothers’ shoes.  Only a few would decide yes—“It will be me”—and do it.

After such thoughts the Cat gently lay aside the second problem of those who would follow to concentrate on the first problem.  It was very real and at hand.   McGillvery and McGillicuddy had its personal refilling bags with unlimited access to the treasury rooms.  The Cat knew the farther up the trail Gilly and Cuddy went—the nearer the goal they got—the more assured and confident the boys would become.  That confidence alone would be more difficult to deal with.  The Cat needed to make another attempt to dissuade them. 

The Cat paced back and forth switching its tail.  “Fear did not work.  The Power of the Word did not work.  What else can one use on mortal man?”

“If I may suggest, Cat, punishment works quite well.”

The Cat paused, turning golden-glitter eyes toward the Father.  “Punishment? It’s against the rules to kill or to physically harm them.  We can do neither.”

“True, but a sort of pain can be inflicted on man.  If you think a bit, you’ll realize how little man likes sustained effort.  He’s not very good at it and some are so poor at it that their mortality rate is greatly increased when under the strain of consistent, persistent effort.”

“What are you plotting, Ancient Man?”

“It crossed my mind that we’ve little and few ways to stop McGillvery and McGillicuddy from reaching the top of the Blue Mountains, and then home.  But you have the power to place a rule on their use of the gold.  If they go beyond the bounds of the rules, then their right to the treasure will be forfeited.”

“Speak on, wise one,” urged the Cat.

The old priest laid out a devious scheme which caused the white Cat to roll over and over on the black glass chortling his extreme pleasure.  “How wise old one! We’ve sure a hand at success!” And to himself he promised, “And I’ve a little something extra to add to the old one’s plan.”

All this while, McGillicuddy and McGillvery labored up the hill.  When they finally crested the top, McGillvery panted, “Let’s take a bit of rest here, Cuddy.  I’m wondering so at your wisdom.  How was it ye knew the Father was after our gold?  He spoke right fair words, Cuddy.”

“I watched him while you listened, Gilly.  I got a feeling there was a conniving cat behind those eyes.  I knew he’d outcat us if we’d not be most careful.  And…,” McGillicuddy started.  “What’s this now—speaking of cats, Gilly.”

Before the two brothers had appeared the white Cat.  It wasn’t threatening as before and seemed to hum, but somehow the vibrations didn’t seem pleasurable, soothing, or comforting as a sweet tabby’s purr should.

McGillvery stood and McGillicuddy also, each placing a foot firmly on their golden packs.  “None of your sassy ways, Cat.  We’ll buy none of the foolishness about returning the gold.”

“Oh?” asked the Cat in surprise.  “I’d no intention of asking you to return it.  Once you’ve gone this far, there’s really no turning back.  I’ve come only to give you a final word or two, then ye both shall be on your way.”

“Careful, Cat, about that word or two.  It may not be a word or two we’d be wanting,” said Cuddy.

“But a word you’ll be needin’.”

“Usually when folks say you need something its them that needs it,” observed Cuddy.

“You’ve made a grave error in coming to my country,” purred the Cat.

“We’ll let the Lord be the judge o’ that,” countered Gilly.  “He’s brought us out of a terrible drama with nary a scratch.”

The Cat’s talons extended a mite as if willing to share a scratch with Gilly, but remembering anger is best kept simmering when one speaks one’s mind, the Cat merely said, “That may or may not be, McGillvery, but I do have the right as Keeper of the Treasure to speak a word over it.  I’ll speak it now.  The gold is going with you, to be sure; but it will only stay with you if you spend all that is in the bags by evening’s fall each day.  In the morning the bags will be full again, completely replenished; but again, you must spend it in one day by evening’s fall.  If there’s just one round nugget left in the bottom of one of the bags, then bags and gold shall return to their rightful keeper.”

McGillvery and McGillicuddy quickly inhaled their breath at this fantastic revelation of unbelievably good fortune.  It was like being given a lifetime of rooms full of golden nuggets.  They were about to speak, when the Cat warned, “But, mark my words, ye’ll never have it long for no mortal is wise enough to have gold and the happiness meant to go with it.  For ’tis a great secret none can find,” and the Cat began rumbling a little purring tune.  “While in their eyes the golden glint gleams and in their hands the lustrous metal sheens, a slave they’ll be to a ruler cold, for few shall govern as well as Gold.”

The Cat narrowed his eyes and sneered, “And, I’ll be reminding ye both this ruler is a sovereign who changes its slaves as easily as ye change your clothing.”

McGillvery had heard nothing past the fact that their bags would be forever replenished.  Enthralled to the core of his soul and with face aglow he was about to say “Thank You!” when McGillicuddy put a finger to his lips. 

Without another word, the Cat disappeared.

“Be careful to whom ye say thank you.  I think the Cat meant those words as a curse not a blessing.”

“A curse?  However can that be?” sputtered Gilly.  “Why Cuddy! The Saints have smiled on us today.  The bags are to refill whenever they are empty.  Our only obligation is to spend the gold!  After a lifetime of lack and ill-fortune!  What a glorious end to our sad story!  How good our Lord is!”

“Ye may think so, Gilly.  But it seemed an ominous speech rather than a blessing speech to me.  Did ye not hear all the words?  We’re a long way from anywhere to spend our gold this day and have ye looked at the sun’s positioning in the sky?”

Gilly looked overhead and his heart sank like a ship with all its masts broken at stormy seas.  “Cuddy,” he whispered, “however can we spend the gold in time?  It took a whole day and part of another to come here and we’ve not hardly a day to go home and spend the gold.”  He held his head despairingly in his hands.  “What a cruel joke, Cuddy.  After all we’ve been through.”

Cuddy looked thoughtfully at Gilly for a moment.  “Ye remember the story in the Book about a man who cursed good people whom God had decided to bless?  Every time the curses turned to blessings.  It may be this situation could spin the same.  We’ve God’s blessings on our efforts.  He evidently has chosen to see us as worthy men for He has allowed us to be successful up to this point.  Despite the Cat’s words, I believe we should stay by our Lord’s words.  He raises lowly men to high positions.  We’ll have to sit and think awhile before taking action, Gilly.”

Gilly didn’t believe they had time to think with the sun’s position being so far gone into the day.  But he was a loyal brother and dutifully sat and thought.  Suddenly, he sat upright, “Here we’re thinking about spending the gold because the Cat told us we must.  What if it lied to us, Cuddy?  What if the spending of the gold will not replenish the gold at all?  Wouldn’t it be like the Cat to have us spend our hard-earned gold and the bags never refill at all?”

Cuddy nodded.  “This could be.  It is a very devious cat.”  He rested his head in his hands for a moment and then said, “One takes action in life by believing words one chooses to believe.  We must decide what we shall believe—either the Cat told the truth about the everlasting refilling of the bags or it spoke a trick and once spent, the bags shall never refill.”

“This is a most perplexing problem,” worried Gilly.

“Maybe not,” asserted Cuddy.  “If we do not believe it, we do not spend the gold.  If it spoke the truth, we will lose all the gold at sunset including the gold in the present sacks and we will have nothing for our efforts.  If we chose to believe it, we will have spent the gold and at sunset will at least have something in hand even if the bags refuse to refill.  So you see, a simple solution has presented itself.  We shall spend the gold.”

“Well,” marveled Gilly, “however did you reason that out so cleverly?”

Cuddy, just as surprised, answered, “I don’t know myself.  It was quite a masterful piece of thinking now wasn’t it?”

Gilly agreed and said, “If we should fail in spending the gold this day, not from lack of trying mind you, and the Cat’s words prove true, t’will be all right anyway, won’t it, Brother?  For we can return to the treasury rooms and fight for our chance at success again, can’t we?”

Cuddy shuddered queerly.  “When we were at the bottom of the Sinks it was easy to imagine going back.  But now we’re at the top o’ the mountain…well…even though we’ve done it once, somehow I’m thinking it will be harder next time or…,” Cuddy groped for the words before continuing.  “Everything the Lord does proceeds in precisely defined orders and rhythms.  We’ve often marveled at the regularity of His seasons and the timing of the lands’ and the seas’ cycles.  When we were in the Sinks we may have been standing in Fortuitous Time—a special time that does not often occur for lads such as we be.  The stairs in the Sinks may open only once for a singular instant—a sole opportunity presented to the seeking man to become more than he is.  If one doesn’t slip through the opened door with faith and sure action, the door may never present itself again.”

Gilly shivered unexpectedly, “Then we may not have a second opportunity should this one be lost.”

Cuddy wrinkled his forehead in deep thought, “Or, it may be some time before we’re given another opportunity…maybe when we are old men near to die.”

“O! Cuddy!” Gilly cried, “If we lose these bags, we’ll have lost the whole world and our lives will be sadder than ever before.”

“Careful, lad.  This is a situation where we need place our feet carefully now.  Even our Lord rejected the whole world. That’s a tempting dangle from the other side and we’re too smart to be nibbling in those fishing waters, aren’t we?”

Gilly nodded in humble acquiescence and began thinking seriously about the Cat’s last words.  “I think ye’re correct that the Cat was cursing rather than blessing our dear efforts.  It t’would be near impossible to spend all the gold every day.  It’s a frantic pace that’s been set.  ’Tis apparent a goodly, stout man could die trying to spend this much gold every single day for the rest of his life.”

“That may have been the Cat’s plan all along,” agreed Cuddy. “We’ll just have to trust the Lord is more powerful than any scheming that may be done against his true friends.  The Book says good ideas are stored up for those who fear Him.  I’ll reckon the Cat doesn’t understand how our Father, and I’m not meaning the one in the black robe, can give us an overflowing of good ideas so that spending the gold will be no trickier than eating our daily potato.”

Gilly nodded quietly.  “Two men praying are a powerful tonic, Cuddy.  An’ ye’re right, of course.  It would be best to take a deepish breath and do a bit more thinkin’.”

“Yes,” solemnly noted Cuddy.  “The facts are:  We know we’ve no chance to be making it back to an Irish village on our side of the mountain by evening.  Even if we did—we’ve not been gone three days and had bare enough to trade bonny Dearbháil for potatoes when we left.  A woman like Dearbháil is too quick with the questions, being of a highly suspicious mind as she is.  She’d be wantin’ to know how we come by properties and valuables so sudden that we are buying a whole village and of course that could lead to all kinds of troubles from her more jealous and covetous neighbors like the Earl, for instance.  However, if we was gone for a whole half year, say, and then come home as wealthy gentlemen, we could excuse it as a bit of Irish luck in trading, now couldn’t we?  An’ only a few questions asked and we could be about our business without all the hubbub.  Gold rushes are started from men who wish riches in three days, but rarely are they started from riches resulting from many months and years of labor.” 

Cuddy paused and added thoughtfully, “I’m remembering a village on the western side of this mountain from many years back.  I’m thinking we could easily walk into its fair lanes before evening falls.”

McGillvery, half listening to Cuddy’s soliloquy, perked up immediately.  “There’s a plan then.  Is there enough in the village to spend two whole bags of gold?”

“It’s a hard town to sell, Gilly.  Those hard to sell are usually most happy to sell to you.  They like the jingle of gold in their own pockets, you see.”

“Not willing to part with it, but more than willin’ to get it.  Mother always said two heads are better than one and well you’ve proved her right this day, Cuddy.  It sounds a good strategy to me.”

Once agreed, the brothers immediately hoisted their packs to their backs and set a brisk pace for Ireland’s western shores.  As they walked, Gilly said, “You know, Cuddy, the Lord sees all and He knows what a predicament we’re in.  If we keep our eyes open, we may find an opportunity along the way to spend some of this gold.  T’would lighten our load some.”

“More’n likely it will spend easy enough,” agreed Cuddy.  “I’ve never had a piece of gold that ever liked to stick around the likes o’ me for very long.  Seems any I got developed run-away feet and fled every which way here ’n there.”

“Aye, it’s been a sad story to tell, Cuddy,” sighed Gilly.

Before Cuddy could agree, the two brothers heard a flute playing a lively, tuneful melody that is accompanied by the bleating of a thousand sheep.  Around the corner of their trail came a young lad of ruddy cheek and honest eye.


Chapter 7

Black Eyes and Puppies

Fortuitous circumstances have a way of finding those possessing sweet hearts.  McGillvery and McGillicuddy were presented with an opportunity to overcome the Cat’s curse in a most handy and ready manner.

“Ho! Lad!” hailed Gilly.

“Ho! To you,” cheerfully responded the boy.

“Where do ye be coming from and where do ye be headed?”

“I’m coming from my father’s pastures and I’m heading for the grazing at the top of this mountain.”

Cuddy looked at the sun’s distance from the horizon, squinted his eye and whispered to Gilly, “Do ye think this might be our opportunity, Gilly?”

“P’rhaps so.  But you’ll not be able to dicker with the lad.”

“And is your father bringing up the rear, lad?”

“Aye, he is.”

The brothers grinned their thanks and hurried up the high side of the path.  Presently they spied a short, bow-legged, middle-aged man hollering and pointing his crook for the dogs to edge the flock forward.

“May we follow along with you a bit?”

The man looked at them from under bushy brows.  “Just so you be up to good and not harm.”

“Harmless men.  We be interested in doing a bit of business.”

“Speak.”

“Would ye be interested in selling your flock now?”

“Selling?  It’s me bread and butter.  I’d be ashamed to sell—why, what would I do with me days?  What would I have to pass on to my son?  What would I tell my poor wife when I got home—that I’d sold our living out from under us?”

McGillvery quite taken aback at the man’s quick and odd reply, followed along quietly by his side for several minutes.  He, as every good salesman should, gave some thought to the fellow’s objections and after some moments received delivery of a bit of celestial inspiration.

“Nay.  We’re not here to buy your living out from underneath you.  Now listen a bit.  We’ve a proposition for you and your bounteous family, may God bless them all.  We would like to buy your flock at the best prices. You’ll have your price in advance, you see.  You can continue to herd it, care for it, and do as you’ve always done.  At the end of the year we’ll take half the profits and you can have the other half.”

The man stopped and looked at them.  “Are ye daft or are ye highway robbers?  Now why would I want half the profits for the rest of me life when I get all of the profits now?”

“But ye’ll be getting two bags of gold, man.”

“Two bags of gold that’ll be gone in a twelve month and then I’ll be left with one half the profits on my sheep to carry me through me old age.  Ye scamps, begone with ye.  Ye’re thieves an’ robbers trying to take what my father and my father’s father before him toiled and built for those to follow.” 

The man shook his crook at Gilly and Cuddy.  “Hey, dogs,” he called.

McGillvery looked alarmed.  “No need for that, Sir.  We’re on our way.  May our Lord prosper and bless you.”

But the dogs were already on the way.  By the glint of the man’s eye, both boys knew he wouldn’t call the dogs back before he’d seen blood.

There was no tinker’s wagon seat to hop to and the bags of gold were a cumbersome burden, but McGillvery and McGillicuddy had had much experience in games of this sort and ran like runners for the ancient kings of a long ago Ireland.  When they’d rounded the bend, they heard the man call for the dogs’ retreat and they allowed themselves to regain a brisk walk.

“Now then, that took some time now.  I say, we didn’t handle that very well, Gilly,” panted Cuddy.

“Cuddy, that man’s one who’ll never see opportunity when it’s hit him smack in the face,” gasped Gilly.  “Why, a man would be addled in the mind to refuse such an opportunity.  He could have bought another thousand sheep with the bags of gold and managed our thousand for fifty per cent of the profit.  He’d have had one hundred fifty per cent profit for the rest of his life and his son’s life.  It was an opportunity to grow his wealth that will not soon come again.   A small mind, Cuddy.  A verrry small mind not able to see the blessings coming his way.”

“I wish you had rehearsed those facts to our man,” observed Cuddy. “Sometimes its only one small bit of information that may sell the reluctant customer.  Salesmen that we are, you know it’s important to point all the angles to a prospective buyer of the goods.”

McGillvery shook his head in disbelief.  “Who would have thought you’d have to be selling to get rid of two bags of gold?  Seems everyone would be as interested in receiving it as we were to get it.”

“Mmmm…maybe we’ve a bit more of the privileged world to learn about, Gilly.  Wouldn’t it be funny now if a wealthy man’s plight was more severe than a poor man’s blight?”

“We’ll know the answer to that question soon because we’re wealthy lads with money to spend,” observed Gilly dryly.  “Perhaps the village will reinstate our faith in golden sheen’s ability to expend.”

Cuddy looked at the sun’s positioning in the sky.  “We’d best be setting a marching pace to the village.  We’ll walk fifty paces and run fifty paces, Gilly.”

“’Tis a good idea.  In the event we’ve no easy takers of our gold, t’will give us a bit more time to look over our best opportunities.”

At last the brothers reached the final winding road into the seashore town of MacKenay on the Shore.

“In time, Cuddy,” said a puffing Gilly.

“In time,” gasped a profusely sweating Cuddy.  “We’d best head for the pub and see if we’ve any takers for our gold.”

The boys quickly surveyed the smallish, quiet village sitting on the curve of a wide bay.  One building alone displayed the activity one should expect of an inviting pub.    It lay closest to the ships in harbor and it was toward its door the brothers quickly hurried.  The wooden signature declared the pub’s name—The Bay of MacKenay.  Such a hubbub of Irish laughter was coming out of the inn that even McGillvery’s heart was uplifted.  “The best time of day, too,” he whispered to Cuddy.  “They’ll be in a mood to bargain for what we’ve got.  Say your prayers for a blessing.”

The boys stopped for a moment, spit on their hands, clasped them, wished for all the luck in the world, and solemnly marched into the pub of MacKenay on the Shore.

These were fishing men mostly—bronzed, muscularly built, and loving a good brawl or a rowdy laugh equally well.  They were not the farming folk McGillvery and McGillicuddy were most used to selling; but business is business, so shoulders were squared, and they marched up to the bar. 

Cuddy pounded on the waxed surface.  “We’ve need of your attention.  We’ve some gold to spend and lookin’ for land to buy.”

There was a sudden hush in the room as all eyes turned toward McGillvery and McGillicuddy.  “That’s right, men.  We’ve gold to spend and looking for land to buy.”

A few sniggers were heard in the back of the room and suddenly a man was pushed to the center of the floor. “McDougal’s got property.  Now haven’t ye, McDougal?”

“Now, boys, leave me alone,” the man protested.  “Ye know I’ve got property all right.”

“Then, be talkin’ to the strange gents about cutting a sweet trade,” suggested a mirthful voice at the front of the room.

An ‘Aye’ all around caused the young man’s face to redden considerably.

“I’ve got property all right,” stubbornly insisted the young man with a lowering of his neck into his shoulders as does a bull before getting ready to fight.

“Ye mean ye’re wife’s got property,” merrily shouted a red-haired, middle-aged man in the back.  The whole roomful of men roared gleefully.

McDougal’s face reddened to the color of a coastal, red sky at morning tide.

Another voice hollered, “McDougal’ll assist you, boys, soon as he can wean his dearie from her father’s sage advice.”

McDougal was not one to hang his head in shame as McGillvery and McGillicuddy could see by his swelling neck and bulging eyes.  Gilly thought this McDougal looked like Dearbháil’s youngest bull before the ring was placed in his nose. 

“There’s sure to be a fight,” whispered Gilly.

“Not to our advantage,” agreed Cuddy looking worriedly toward the window’s framing of a setting sun.

Gilly stepped forward, “Now, now, Gentlemen.  It’s forever Ireland, isn’t it?  All good friends together here now.  Let’s have a drink to peace, goodwill, and the blessings of our Lord on all.”

McDougal’s fighting posture did not change, but he was pushed and shoved by the good-natured shoulders of his friends as they surged forward to claim Gilly’s offer of a free drink. 

McDougal’s eyes sought Gilly’s.  In a loud voice reminding one of the roar of a enraged bull, he said, “Ye’re a stranger here.  It seems in front of all me friends ye’ve accused me of being less than a man.”

Gilly quickly shook his head, “Nay, nay.  No such thing.  Remember it was only a piece of land I was asking to buy.”  He opened his mouth to reason peaceably with the young fellow but found himself at the end of McDougal’s arm, feet dangling several centimeters from the floor.

McDougal was shaking his head slowly back and forth.  “Nay, but you did make me little in front of me countrymen.”

McGillvery’s eyes, a pale blue of innocence, swept to the ceiling in an earnest unspoken prayer for heavenly assistance.  A man jostled the elbow of McDougal and McDougal grabbed the man by the kerchief around his neck.  “Don’t jostle me when I’ve an important matter to be discussing with my friend here.”

The man on his third pint of McGillvery and McGillicuddy’s generosity answered with a tongue not inclined toward peace.  McGillvery found himself thrown across the crowd as McDougal released him and took a masculine swing at the jostler’s face.  McGillvery landed square on the pub’s bar splashing ale and spirits on all persons pressed there for refreshment.  A free-for-all ensued with mugs and short glasses hurling through the air as freely as fists and kicks.

McGillicuddy had ducked behind the bar and was sitting on his bag of gold, hands covering his head in a protective manner while waiting for the brawl to subside.  And, fierce fighters that these men were, it took no time for the scrap to have simmered to a few groans and moans.

As suddenly as the fight stopped, someone cried, “It’s those two strangers what has done this to friends all together.  Throw them out!”

The boys barely managed to gather their bags before finding themselves seat first on the dusty road which passed before the pub.

The pub’s keeper, a man with portly belly, came out wiping hands on an apron much in need of washing, and said,   “In Ireland, there are three things about the nip—to tipple it well, to hold it better, and to pay for it before the day is done.”  He reached down and emptied one of the bags of gold into his own satchel and tossed the empty bag to McGillicuddy.

McGillicuddy, shocked at the quick disposal of his fortune, was only able to gasp, “May God maintain the bounty of your heart always.”

The pub keeper checked Cuddy closely, “Are ye being cheeky with me lad?  Let me give you a piece of advice fine, Sirs.  ‘Distant hills are green, but the home fireplace is the best fireplace.’  I’d suggest you be looking for your own fireplace.  MacKenay on the Shore doesn’t need folks like you.”

Gilly opened his mouth and shut it promptly at Cuddy’s quick nudge to his bruised ribs. 

“Sure ’tis a fine piece of wisdom you’ve given and one we’re sure to heed,” agreed Cuddy in careful mildness.

The innkeeper hesitated, looking for a note of scorn in Cuddy’s voice or face.  Cuddy looked as innocent as the Christ child despite his rapidly swelling eye.  Satisfied, the portly innkeeper returned to his customers and neighbors.

Gilly picked himself up, groaning.  “Life doesn’t get easier, Cuddy.”

Cuddy agreed.  “I’m feeling older than the Hag of Beare right now, Gilly.”  He looked down at the empty sack in his hand and grinned wryly.  “However, one bag is neatly spent.”

“That much gold could rebuild the entire town, Cuddy.  Not that I’d be questioning the man’s judgment about the cost of the damage to his pub,” hastily assured Gilly as he ruefully felt his chin.  “It seems McDougal got off a most masculine shot despite property and wife being controlled by a father-in-law.” 

Cuddy gingerly felt his eye while agreeing. “Not saying it was the most noble way to spend it either, Gilly.”

“Aye, an’ I’m that much glad we’ve not a Mum to go home for explaining ourselves this night.  Would be a hard effort that.  And,” he pointed to the ocean before them, “There’s that ball of flame setting to hurl itself over the edge in under ten minutes.  The Lord better be seeing the predicament we’re in, Cuddy.  Our fortune’s just been halved.  We’ve not one thing to show for it.  If the Cat lied, we’ll not be seeing that bag again.”

“Hush now and keep your eyes open.  We’ll stick to our plan and spend the gold.  Look for a business transaction we can initiate and finish on the spot.”

About that time a lad with freckled face and engaging smile came into the street with arms wrapped tightly around a sack filled to the brim with a fat brown puppy of dubious lineage.

Gilly leapt at the single show of opportunity in this most quiet and eventless town.  “Say laddie, would you like to sell your puppy?”

The smallish boy looked at Gilly with solemn, earth-brown eyes.  “I was taking him to the pub to do just that, Sir.”

“Well, then, ye’ll not need travel any further.  We will buy your puppy on the spot.”

The lad had evidently rehearsed the sales talk he felt he would need to sell the dog and immediately launched into all the reasons why this particular puppy was a bargain at any price.  “This pup is out of my father’s dog, Aishling—she’s famous hereabouts—my father’s finest dog.  This pup’s special because it is the largest and friendliest of the litter.  We don’t know who the father is but it should be no account anyways ’cause Aishling’s so fine.  My father’s figgering to drown ’em all. But I figure one half Aishling is one half famous.  So the puppies, and especially this one,” he assured the brothers while holding it high for them to see, “should be worth something now.”

McGillvery looked at Cuddy and McGillicuddy looked at Gilly.

“Son, you are entirely correct.  We will buy Aishling’s fine puppy,” said McGillvery. He reached down and took the puppy out of the boy’s sack and quickly poured their last rucksack of gold into the boy’s bag.  The lad drew a sharp breath at sight of the gold.  “Sure thing, Mister.  Aishling’s got ten more.  For all this, I’ll bring the rest in under ’alf an hour.”

Gilly waved his hand, “No, laddie.  This one’s all we’ve a use for.  Just enjoy your good fortune.”

“Yes, Sir.”  A freckly face burst into a toothless grin.  “Yes, Sir.”  He turned, dragging the load—much too heavy for a small boy—slowly, an inch at a time, up the street.  Frequently stopping to rest, he finally succeeded in struggling around the last bend in the village road with his bag of fortune.  Cuddy looked at the sun.  The last tip was just setting itself into the ocean for its evening bath.

He shook his head sadly and slung his empty sack over his shoulder.  “Well, we did it and in time, too.”

“Surely not the best trading we’ve ever done,” said Gilly wryly.

“And not the worst either,” noted Cuddy.

“I’m not seeing how ye’ve reached that conclusion,” replied Gilly.

“’Tis not like we’ve no gain at all.  I’m countin’ one very outstanding black eye, a puppy one half famous hereabouts, and a story to tell around every fireside in Ireland that will set men, women, and children on the edge of their seats every time we’re tellin’ it.”  A slight grin played around Cuddy’s mouth.

“An’ a cat a’laughing itself silly at the joke it’s played if these bags do not refill,” noted Gilly sourly, refusing to be beguiled into humor so easily.  “Don’t forget that part of this whole affair.”

“When things go wrong whether in the use of time or money one can always think of it as tithe to the Lord.  Who’s knowin’?  Perhaps the pub keeper has a child who’s been kissed by an angel and the Lord’s intending its keep with our gold.  The smallish lad may have a mother or sister needin’ medicines and our gift ensured her life. We’ll keep our peace by sending our blessings on both bags and ask that the best be done in both instances with the gold.  It’s the only way to be free of the matter.  After all, the circumstances were not of our choosing, Gilly.”

“A tithe as large as that should buy a lifetime of Irish luck of the best sort,” observed Gilly dourly.

“Aye.  ’An who’s not needin’ all the luck ’e can get?”  asked Cuddy peacefully.  “’Tis the only way we can think and be done so there’s no regrets.  At the least we’ll get a whole night’s rest tonight and many nights after. And now I find I’m hungry enough to eat an entire flank of sheep.”

“Let’s find a sheep and eat then,” agreed a resigned Gilly.

The boys had no sooner turned their steps in the direction of the inn than they stopped.  “Cuddy….”

“Don’t say it, Brother,” woefully returned Cuddy.  He pulled out his empty bag.  “Mine is empty down to the cording.  Did you not save one gold piece?”

“Nay, not one.”

“Hunger is a good sauce,” philosophically spoke Cuddy.

Gilly sighed, “Best be casting our eyes toward humble lodgings for this night, Cuddy.”

 

 


Chapter 8

Small Portions

They soon found the stable and the grain bags kept for the horses.  Gilly dipped his hand into the sack and apportioned a small handful to Cuddy.  “Small portions are tasty,” he encouraged.

A disappointed Cuddy replied, “T’was good enough for our Lord.”

On slightly empty stomachs they began to settle in for the night, read their mother’s Book, and dutifully say their prayers.  Sleep came quickly, gently.

When the moon passed between clouds and the night birds took wing, an angry man came stomping down the mountain to the door of the stable, the door was thrust open, and McGillvery and McGillicuddy roughly torn from their beds.

 “Corrupters of children and instigators of malice between neighbors!  I’ve heard all about ye and have come to punish ye for your ungodliness.”

McGillvery still mostly asleep and partly in dream cried, “Sir, we’ve surely slept in heaven tonight and are ye telling us we should have been in hell?”

From an enormous height the man reached giant sized fists to shake the boys. “Are you or are you not the men who purchased a worthless puppy of no good breeding for an unholy sum of money from my son?”

The puppy whimpered from the manger where Gilly had placed him earlier in the evening.  McGillvery looked nervously in the direction of the dog.  “We did indeed buy a puppy from a small boy heading for the pub earlier in the evening.  But sure we meant no harm by the payment of gold to the child.”

“No harm?!  That much money the MacKenay’s themselves do not pay for the wages of a hundred men for an entire year.  No harm?  I swear by St. Patrick I will beat you both into a St. Paddy’s mash unfit for walking thru Zion’s gates.  You’ll be most fortunate to crawl from this village on the morrow.”  Making true his words he swung a crushing blow to McGillvery’s head.

McGillvery fought bravely but half-heartedly, having always believed in turning the other cheek, while McGillicuddy, a stalwart champion of fairness in all things, politely waited his turn feeling slightly embarrassed that the man would be fighting him while not fresh.  Neither brother offered much resistance and therefore received a sound beating for the second time in MacKenay on the Shore. 

The last thing the man did was fling down the bag of gold, “There’s your filthy lucre.  May it stick to you as the cockleburs in MacKenay’s Meadows!”

McGillvery looked unbelievingly at the pile of glistening gold.  “Nay, Mister, we can not keep it.  You must take it back.  We are honorable men, you see.  We have your puppy and we must pay for it.”

“The puppy goes for the beating,” the man snarled and left as quickly as he’d come.

A glumness settled over McGillvery far deeper than his bruises and cuts. “Cuddy,” said he, “what is it about this gold?  Is that why rich men stay rich?  They can’t get rid of their gold?  Could it be now that gold acts differently when there is plenty compared to when one is scrapping for it every day of one’s life?  Perhaps with poor men it develops feet and runs away but with rich men it clings like sticky paper to a cottage wall.”  He raised despairing eyes to McGillicuddy.

McGillicuddy, one eye swollen completely shut, his garments strewn with hay, a bleeding cut at his hair line dribbling life’s own blood and drying about the region of his nose, shook a perplexed head.  “I’ve never seen anything like it, Gilly.  We seem to be visiting a knot headed land if ever there was.”

“If the bags refill, we’ve three bags to carry around,” noted McGillvery.  “If this keeps happening, we’ll be drowning in our own treasury rooms.”

“It won’t happen,” purred a voice behind them.

McGillvery and McGillicuddy jumped in fright.  It was the Cat.

“It won’t happen because you’ve not followed the rules.  You were to dispose of two bags of gold every day before sunset and I see,” it said, smacking its lips as if over a succulent oiled cod, “I see…,” it continued, “a pile of glistening gold at your feet.”

McGillvery stuttered, “See here, Cat, we did spend the gold.  We spent it fairly and squarely.  It just came back to us, that’s all.”

“Nevertheless there should be no bags of gold in this stable tonight with two lads named McGillvery and McGillicuddy.”

McGillicuddy, praying fervently, took a step forward in the Cat’s direction.  “Cat,” said he.  “We cannot help the Lord’s generosity.  He gives his loved ones the same in sleep as others receive in great toil.  It’s a fact that some can toil and labor all the day and receive a tenth of their dues while others can trod lightly the grapes and receive barrels of financial rewards.  You need to understand lads such as we have had our fortunes greatly changed and we belong in that category of lightly treading the grapes.  We did abide by the rules.  I cannot help it if the good Lord decided to pour back into our laps the gold and more for our efforts.  You would not try to put rules upon the Lord’s bounty now would you?”

The Cat spat a loud, “Phhht!”  He reared onto his hind paws.  “I will not cross the lines of the Supreme Owner of the gold if that be the case.  I will check the proper channels to see if that was the Owner’s intention.”

“Oh, no need to do that,” spoke a reawakened Gilly’s tongue.  “The proof is right here.  Why else would we have the gold if it had not been authorized?  Even you can be as wise as that.  The fact of it lies in front of your whiskers, Cat.”

The Cat screeched a howl of midnight fury as it vanished into the darkness.

“Sometimes I wonder at its white color, Cuddy,” spoke Gilly.  “Seems its devious nature would leak through its very fur to give it quite another color.  Seems not fittin’ that it appropriated the pure color of the Lord’s own angels.”

 “The white outside surely covers a heart as black as the coals which fuel hell,” agreed Cuddy.

In the morning McGillvery and McGillicuddy were overjoyed to find, in addition to the returned gold, two additional sacks of gold replenished to over-brimming. 

“Ah, ’tis a fine life we lead, Cuddy,” smiled Gilly.  “We’d best be appropriating a one wheeled cart for all our abundance.”

“Hungry chaps for supper, but a full belly for breakfast,” grinned Cuddy.

The boys purchased a small barrow for the three bags of wealth they now possessed and headed for the Molly B’s with Gilly towing the puppy along on a long string.

“Mmmm. I can taste it now, Cuddy.  A bit of Irish brown bread with honey jam, a pint o’ buttermilk, a herring to the side, and a steaming pot of tea.”

“Two pots, Gilly,” murmured Cuddy.

Gilly tied the pup to a short bush.  The boys pushed open the door to the eatery and sat themselves quietly at tables near the window.  They had a fine view of morning over the Atlantic Ocean—a blue-green watery floor starkly contrasted against a brilliantly blue sky studded with puffs of white so bright one could hardly bear to gaze on such cleanness.

A smallish woman, dressed in gray dress and permanently pursed lips, came to wait on them.  Hair tightly pulled back from a forehead too high, an apron starched too carefully, little wrinkle lines making long-lasting settlements around a mouth puckered in a rather judgmental way—somehow she reminded Cuddy of an old farmer’s wife who would at a moment’s provocation grab a scythe and cut a fellow’s breeches off at the knee.  His eye wandered to the beckoning promise of plenty that the swelling ocean seemed to proclaim and waited for Gilly to complete his order.

“And the same for me except a bit o’ peas with my herring and if ye’d be havin’ a little cabbage, too.”

The woman looked sharp at Cuddy and returned abruptly to the kitchen.

Cuddy spent the next half hour admiring the dishes hung on the walls, tracing the pattern on the linen cloths at the table, and noting the cobwebs in the ceiling corners.

When at last their meal was set, Cuddy looked up in surprise.  “Seems a sparse table you set, Ma’m.”

The pursed lips parted just a bit and the gray dressed woman said, “Small portions are tasty,” and departed for the kitchen.

Gilly looked in astonishment at his half piece of brown bread thinly sliced, the half pint of buttermilk.   “Cuddy, she’s served us our herring with the head end.  Why, the tail end’s gone!”

“And as bold as a pig she served that!” gasped Cuddy.

The woman did not reappear, so Gilly looked at Cuddy and said, “’Tis better than we had last night.”

“Our portions have been rather small as of late. Small bellies relish small portions,” agreed Cuddy.

“’Tis quite true heavy eating dulls the brain and we’ve important work to be about today for disposing of the gold by evening.”

“Righto, Gilly,” agreed Cuddy, holding a fork with a goodly portion of cod attached to its tines.  “Here’s to a brain with plenteous ideas due to the wisdom of lads not overfilling the stomach.  Eat up then and thank the good Lord for our bounteous blessings.”

The boys ate quickly and heartily as if the meal were plenteous, paid the woman, and walked into the sunshine, easier able to wheel their cart.  Gilly tossed a piece of herring to the pup while Cuddy looked toward the harbor for ships that may have just docked with wares for sale.  Three ships lay anchored with their sails furled to the spars and yardarms.  Cuddy motioned to Gilly, he nodded, handed the pup to Cuddy, and bent to the barrow.  Looking east and then west, they took a step in the direction of the harbor while wondering at the quietness of the village on this early morning.  At this moment a small, raggedy child came mincing down the street.  She was oddly shaped, thin, almond-eyed, and seemed quite uncomfortable walking.  Both Gilly and Cuddy were immediately absorbed in this misshapen figure’s approach.

“Such a furtive look, Gilly.”

Cuddy whispered, “Aye, but not mean, Cuddy.”

He looked a bit closer at her narrowly fashioned face, “No. Definitely not mean.”

“Be ye the lads with gold to spend, now?”

“Aye, that we be.”

“I’ve a place where ye can spend all ye have an’ more.”

Gilly looked at Cuddy and Cuddy looked at Gilly in astonishment. “Perhaps that would be a fine thing—but what are ye selling child?”

“Oh, ’tis not me that’s selling,” she hastily assured them.  “’Tis not me!”  Then she giggled at the seeming absurdity that she would have any possession whatsoever to sell.  “Mairin’s got nothing, Mister.  But I knows someone what has plenty, Mister, and is plenteously looking for more.”

She looked at Gilly and Cuddy a bit queerly, “There’s folks who has you see and whoever has, gets.  That’s the way of it.  But poor Mairin, no, now never has and never gets.”

Gilly raised his eyebrows in wonderment while Mairin motioned for them to follow.  Cuddy shrugged.  They’d no better idea for the day’s business. This might be just the lead they’d looked for.  They turned to follow the child.  She pointed a small, thin finger and said, “Not with that.”

Cuddy looked to where the finger was pointing.  It was directed at the small pup. “We’ve not a place to leave ’im,” he protested.

“The Madam doesn’t like ’em,” the child stated flatly.

Cuddy shrugged and raised questioning eyes to Gilly.

“Perhaps we could leave him at the Molly B’s.”

“’E would starve to death before noon at that woman’s place,” protested Gilly.

“Then, perhaps the pub,” suggested Cuddy.

“’An ye didn’t get enough of the beatings last evening so ye’re wanting to go back for more?”

“Nay, not much,” remarked Cuddy wryly.

Gilly looked at the small child before them and said,  “We’ve truly not a place to leave the pup.”  He added, “We’re new to this locality, you see.”

The child stood firm. “Madam does not like ’em.”

The brothers looked toward the ships in the bay. 

“Sometimes a captain is in need of a good pup for the ship,” suggested Gilly.

“If ye’ll wait here with the child, I’ll take the pup down and ask around,” said Cuddy.

Within a few moments, Cuddy came back with a look of wonderment on his face.  “T’was the easiest thing done ever,” he said.  “The young lad came out from one of the alleys and asked if we still wanted the pup.  I told him we didn’t feel right about keeping it since we hadn’t paid for it.  The laddie said he didn’t want us to have the bad conscience and took the pup just that easily.”

“Well, was a stroke of luck for us, Cuddy,” Gilly said.

Cuddy shouldered one bag, Gilly barrowed the other two, and they slowly began following Mairin.  She led them down the road and along a broad path which followed the tops of the sea cliffs.  Soon a black, foreboding castle came into view.  Mairin pointed to the castle and said, “MacKenay.  It’s MacKenay.”

Mairin ran straight through the main gates, up the castle steps, motioned for them to hurry, opened the massive entrance doors, and waved them triumphantly into the rooms beyond.

McGillvery and McGillicuddy cautiously peered around the last door into the interior chambers and were astonished to see a very old woman sitting upright in a chair fashioned as the old Ireland kings had frequently used.  Behind her a fireplace large enough to roast two oxen roared.  Above the fireplace were the colors of red and gold, crossed swords to the side. 

“Come in, come in,” she said imperiously.  She turned to Mairin.  “Be gone now.  Ye’ve done your business.  Be at your work.”

Mairin curtsied and vanished from the room.

The old woman was stroking the silk coverings lining her regal chair and motioned Gilly and Cuddy to sit.

“I hear you’ve gold to spend.”

“Aye,” admitted Cuddy.

“And what are you looking to buy?”

“Land.”

“Land?” she asked.

“To be sure.  ’Tis a good way to spend one’s money.”

“There’s only so much land, Sir,” she objected.  “What good is land to you if it is all stone and won’t grow anything else?  Where is the investment sense in land?”