Paddy O'Byrne was what was known as a gentleman farmer and he had been sent to Trinity College in Dublin in his younger days to receive a training in the classics and he knew Greek and Latin. He had returned to his farm in Co. Wicklow near Roundwood and lived in comfort on his acres and in the selling and buying of livestock. He was a bachelor and was now getting on in years. People around called him "Gintleman Paddy" behind his back as he loved to bend their ears with his monologues in obscure Greek verse and Latin, just to show off how educated and erudite he considered himself to be above others. You see Paddy O'Byrne suffered from the fault of Pride believing that he was a cut above everyone else. Which is why he had never got married thinking that the solid country girls were not good enough for him. He was ever the dapper gentleman preferring to spend his money on himself and his wardrobe.
Now it happened that one evening as he was returning from the fair in a semi-intoxicated state having had one too many malt whiskies, that he decided to take a short-cut to his home by way of the Devil's Glen for he was not afraid of the stories that abounded about ghostly sightings and faery folk and such nonsense! As he walked along he held a soliloquy aloud in which he wondered would he ever marry and deciding that Miss Kathleen O'Toole was too homely and not well-read enough for him he wondered would any fine city ladies deign to marry him and deciding they would not be good at farm management, he really had no choice but to remain a bachelor.
When above him in the forest he heard a rustling and "Gintleman Paddy" looking upwards, perceived a diminutive creature astride on one of the oak boughs, that stretched across the roadway. He was dressed in uniform of green and gold, with a black military cocked hat, and a pendant white feather falling over one of its brims. He wore a red vest, while white shorts and silk stockings, with nice little dancing sharp-toed pumps, fronted with gold clasps and buckles, nearly completed his costume. A pair of spurs was fastened on his heels. The extremities of his nose and chin seemed almost hooked together; while his mouth formed a crossing of two irregular rubied lines, through which long, yellowish, white teeth glittered; and his face was covered over with wrinkles or crows-feet, meeting at every conceivable angle. His eyes glittered like diamonds. This time he gave a loud laugh, but in the fairies' peculiar shrill key.
"Good-night, Mr.. O'Byrne ! he at last cried; "I am right glad to have the pleasure of meeting you in this lonely glen, as you are an amusing character, and to form your acquaintance even now; for as you know the old saying 'Better late than never.' "
The individual addressed trembled from head to foot, when he got a full glimpse of the goblin; and notwithstanding that he was almost paralyzed with fear, when hearing these words, Mr. O'Byrne endeavoured to muster sufficient courage for another colloquy, which he knew to be inevitable. Making a low obeisance to the little man, not more that a few palms in stature, the mortal faltered out this return of the salute with a forced cough, to conceal his own nervousness and embarrassment.
"Ahem, sir! ahem! ahem! I'm exceedingly obliged for your kind, good wishes, my dear sir - or maybe I should call you your Royal Highness, or your Grace, or at least my Lord; for you seem, by your rich accoutrements, to hold some high military rank in the army. Maybe it's Captain, or Major, or General, I ought to style you; but you'll be kind enough to correct me, your Royal Highness, if I make a mistake. Might I beg, as a favour, a knowledge of the title, by which your Excellency is known?"
"I'm called the Cluricaune," said he very gruffly.
"And a highly respectable class of the 'good people' you belong to," chimed in Mr. O'Byrne, with the oil of flattery on his tongue; "indeed, it's well known you are full of talent, and fond of whim and frolic, wherever you may happen to be; and as for myself, I have a turn for fun and humour too, like most Irishmen."
"I'm right glad to hear it; and you were in great glee a while ago," returned the Cluricaune. "But I mean to show off, in a few entertainments, to-night, if you have no objection, Mr. O'Byrne."
"Not the least in life, your Royal Highness," said the mortal.
"Well then, Mr. O'Byrne, would you like to hear a little of my mind about you, or about your perfections and accomplishments?" said the Cluricaune, with a laugh.
"With great pleasure, your Excellency," returned the personage addressed, yet with some hesitation.
"Do you want to hear the naked truth?"
"Indeed and I do, your worship, especially from a highly intelligent gentleman like yourself."
"You are neither drunk nor sober precisely, at this present moment, Mr. O'Byrne. But maybe you will understand the force of my remarks to you on another subject."
"Indeed, your excellency, I would not say but I am slightly elevated, sure enough; yet, on my word and honour, I did not take too much."
"Well, the very next thing to it. You took more than was good for your health of mind or body. Again, to be plain with you, I must declare you are full of self-conceit."
"I did not suppose I was, your Excellency."
"It is the case with every really conceited man," cried the Cluricaune.
"Well your Excellency knows best; and I won't dispute the question with you."
"What pretensions, sir, could you possibly have to a seat in Parliament, or to a position at the Bar?
"Oh! none whatever your Excellency; only my natural talents and education might procure such distinctions for me, if I had more means or a greater landed property; or maybe I might be helped there by an illustrious patron like yourself, who is known to have vast treasures at your command."
"If I have them be right sure I will not bestow any of my money on you, for you do not deserve any patronage from me. What are your ideas about politics?"
"Might I ask your Excellency whether you belong to the Liberal or the Tory party?"
"Then, I presume, you would like to fall in with my opinions on public questions."
"Well, I would suppose your Worship ought to be a good judge about the wants and interests of the country, as you can see things more clearly and intelligently than we can. But I would like to act the part of a good patriot and Irishman on all occasions, and under all circumstances."
"I often heard the same thing said by many a humbug and time-server; but I must say, Mr. O'Byrne, you are neither one or the other; for you honestly act up to your political convictions and principles. Moreover, I think every man should have the public spirit to forward a good cause, according to the best of his abilities. Besides, you would make very excellent speeches, if you were not so fond of alluding to yourself - a theme on which every fool is most eloquent. But, what have you to boast of, in composing your wretched charades, rebuses, and enigmas? these can hardly be regarded as intellectual exercises: they only occupy the attention of small wits or idle persons. Every hedge-schoolmaster can do as much. And to compare yourself, as a poet, with Tom Moore! Well, to be sure, Mr. O'Byrne, is not that the height of impertinence?"
"Gintleman Paddy" hung down his head, and seemed rather confused, as he discovered all his soliloquies had been overheard by the Cluricaune. The latter recommenced his invectives:
"Now, Mr. O'Byrne, you also spoke slightingly about Miss Kathleen O'Toole, and thought she would not make a sufficiently good wife for you, because she does not indulge in any of your pedantry and nonsense. Yet, I can tell you she comes from as good a family and stock as your own, in the county of Wicklow; she has a fortune that no comfortable farmer should despise; she is better looking and younger than you by far; she is at least as careful and neat a housekeeper indoors as you are a proper manager outside; she has sobriety and modesty, in both of which respects you are somewhat deficient; while she excels you greatly in every other fair quality. Shame! Shame! you should overrate the showy, fashion loving, dressy, talkative ladies of Dublin, and overlook the sterling character and good looks of an honest and simple, but decent and respectable, Wicklow farmer's daughter. Maybe, then, you will never meet with half as good a match all the dear days of your life!"
Mr. O'Byrne keenly felt those just reproaches; but he tried to appear as complaisant and repentant as possible. He also wished to keep up his spirits, and show no signs of fear, in company with the Cluricaune. This however, cost him a great effort; for he was really anxious and uneasy to understand the sprite's object. The Cluricaune again began:
"Mr. O'Byrne, for our special amusement, I would now like to indulge in a little fun, and to play off a few pranks in your presence."
"Well, your Highness, I am very fond of sport, and he is a churl that is not; so the moment you are ready to commence the fun, I'll enjoy it beyond measure. Ha! ha! ha!"
"Maybe then Mr. O'Byrne, you'll soon laugh at the wrong side of your mouth; for in truth, I'm convinced already, you would sooner have my room than my company. Now, look out, stop a moment, and you'll see what I can do!"
With that the little man began to swing with both his arms from a cross bough, like Leotard from the trapeze, and then, with incredible speed and dexterity, he cast himself, by a series of somersaults, from one branch to another, before the gaze of the alarmed and astonished mortal. When somewhat tired of this exercise, the Cluricaune looked below, and thus continued:
"What do you think of that performance, Mr. O'Byrne? Did you ever witness anything like it?"
"Gintleman Paddy" mentally acknowledged it was extraordinary enough, and most sincerely hoped he might never have a repetition of any similar performance under similar circumstances. But as he must reply to the question, he at last faltered:
"I have not seen the equal of it, certainly, your High Mightiness, although I saw Mr. Merryman turn many an active head-over-heels on the stage on front of the show box at the fair of Wicklow."
"Why do you compare me with that paint-daubed harlequin?" said the Cluricaune. "Do you think you are paying me a compliment, or that it is the language one gentleman should use to another? Can you whistle, Mr. O'Byrne?"
"Well, only very indifferently, I apprehend, for your Excellency's musical ear; but sometimes I do. So, now, is there any particular tune your honour wishes me to whistle?"
"Do you know 'Tatther Jack Walsh,'" says the sprite: "It's a great favourite of mine."
"Well, I do," replied Mr. O'Byrne; "it's a very sprightly tune when given in quick time."
"Then give it in quick time," cried the Cluricaune; "and without a moment's delay" - an admonition which Mr. O'Byrne instantly complied with; and, setting his lips in order, he proceeded to render it in his best possible style, and in the clearest and liveliest strains.
No sooner had he whistled the first bar, than the Cluricaune, curling over and over, with a quick and almost instantaneous rotary motion through air, alighted with his dancing pumps on the crown of Mr. O'Byrnes new Caroline hat. At once, the nimble atomy figure commenced pattering with heel and toe, to the sound of the music; he strained his knees, and threw outwards and upwards his tiny legs, like a pasteboard toy moved with strings; he cracked his fingers as an accompaniment, and, in the glee of his soul, he sometimes emitted an ejaculation of delight, in a "Whoop! hurrah! bravo!" Every treble step and flourish sent the hat down more firmly over the eyebrows of Mr. O'Byrne; and the noise made on the crown of his prized Caroline was like that of hen-egg hailstones rattling on a slate roof.
"Oh! for the love of goodness and justice, your honour, don't spoil my bran-new Caroline hat, that I paid fifteen shillings for last week in Dublin, and it the only decent one I have to appear in on Sunday or holiday, at meeting, wedding, christening, fair, or market!"
"Hold your tongue, sir" replied the Cluricaune, "and keep up the tune, until I finish the jig. If you don't it will be the worse for you."
With a heavy heart and an agitated vocalism, Mr. O'Byrne resumed the tune, until the Cluricaune had finished the last beat with his feet. He then jumped off a perch or so on the path before the mortal, and first standing on his head, the sprite made one spring upwards, and his feet were locked together over another oak bough, with his head hanging down, and a sardonic grin on his face.
"Don't stir an inch from where you are Mr. O'Byrne," he again cried, "until I make another proposal to you. Are you not proud of your wrestling, of which you were just now boasting? I would like in this very spot to see of what stuff you're made; and I now wish to try a fall with you."
"Well, your honour, I have not wrestled a fall this many a day; nor could I presume to try one with your Highness, who is so young and active. Indeed sir, I grant you'd soon turn the soles of my boots to the moonlight, if I'd try."
"No matter for that, you must now do what you can; and mind if I throw you at all, it will be over that ledge of rock, and maybe you'll tumble down into the very waters of the Vartry. So now do your best."
With that he jumped on the ground, once more alighting on his feet. He seized Mr. O'Byrne's whip, which he threw to one side, and then took him by the collar and elbow. Both pulled and strained for the bare life. Now and then the mortal received a sore tip on the shin from the Cluricaune's spur, while his fairy antagonist wriggled his legs out of the way when a hook or trip was intended. After a considerable share of tugging and prancing about, the Cluricaune at last took Mr. O'Byrne at a disadvantage, touched him under the knee-joint, whipped the right foot upwards, and then with a light toss sent him right over the precipice. A heavy fall was the result, and the contest was at an end.
"Now, maybe, I have taken the conceit out of you," cried the Cluricaune, while Mr. O Byrne rubbed down his side and shoulder, which had come in contact with some sharp rocks or roots on the surface. The vanquished man acknowledged he was fairly thrown, and he was again helped upon his feet. The sprite even extended his hand to pull his adversary once more on the upper bank. There at last Mr. O'Byrne, sore and jaded, stood, after his late trial of strength.
No sooner had "Gintleman Paddy" fairly recovered from the first effects of this shock than the little fairy was resolved to put him under another ordeal. Taking up the whip, after a sudden step or two backwards , with a short run, he vaulted upon Mr. O'Byrne's back. Then, flourishing the whip, he gave a smart tap, and cried out:
"Come, now, Mr. O'Byrne, trot out in good style, for it's getting rather advanced in the night and I want a ride on your back to the upper part of the Devil's Glen, when I'll leave you at the Waterfall. Step out, sir! step out!" he repeated, redoubling his strokes, with an occasional touch of the spur; and the mortal was obliged to quicken his paces over the course indicated, which lay also in the direction of his own home.
"Oh! would your worship sit more lightly on my back, and keep your knees looser on my ribs, and you'll find there will be no need of whip or spur to keep me moving as fast as I can. For, 'pon honour and conscience, I am tired and sore enough after the day's exercise and getting home from the fair, not to speak of the hard tussle I had with your honour just now. If your worship pleases, I'll move on quickly, without the necessity of your using the whip or spur."
"Did you ever hear the old proverb, Mr. Patrick O'Byrne, that a spur in the head is worth two on the heel?" rejoined the Cluricaune.
"Gintleman Paddy's" conscience misgave him, on remembering those potations he had indulged at the fair of Wicklow, and he was at a loss for an answer. At last he ventured to remark:
"Well then, your honour, in that case, without your two spurs on the heel, my spur in the head ought to be enough to satisfy your Excellency that we'll get over the ground before us in very good time."
"Now, tell the truth, Mr. O'Byrne, didn't you get more than a spur in your head to-day before you left the fair-green?"
"There is no use in hiding anything from your honour, even if I were disposed; and I must say I did take a second tumbler of punch at Michael Murphy's hotel, on the head of our bargain."
"And anything else?"
"Well, just the dandy of scalteen by way of dhuc and dhurus before I got a seat with my good friend, Mr. Hennessy, who offered me the accommodation of his outside jaunting-car."
"Then, you ought to be 'pretty well, I thank you' as they say in this part of the country. And don't you think you took a little too much already for your light head and addled brains, this blessed moonlight night?"
"I'm very sure I did since your honour says it."
Mr. O'Byrne penitently gasped and panted, as he perspired and reeled under the weight of his unrelenting rider. At last, with much effort, both reached the top of the glen, where the waterfall's loud roar was distinctly heard. The Cluricaune thereupon relaxed his hold. Leaping off Mr. O'Byrne's back, he cried out: "Here, then, I'll leave you Mr. O'Byrne, and bid good-bye to you; but take my advice for the future; mind how you stray about the Devil's Glen after dark, with nothing but the glasses of punch and your own small wits to guide you, or maybe you'll have a repetition of the pretty hard usage you received to-night, for your correction and improvement."
With that, drawing out his tiny foot, he gave Mr. O'Byrne a kick, which sent him clear across the waterfall. This blow completely stunned him; and he felt as if the huckle-bone of his hip were out of joint, after such rough treatment, in addition to his previous mishaps. In the morning early he was found by one of his neighbours, and snoring on the ground, at the bottom of the ravine, apparently unconscious of the exposed quarters in which his lodging had been taken. His new Caroline hat was battered on leaf and crown; his blue coat and pantaloons were soiled with the mud; his face was scraped, and his body stiff and sore. He told the story of what had occurred and attributed his misfortunes to the ill-timed practical jokes of the mischief loving Cluricaune.
After that he never ventured alone into Devil's Glen and was much more moderate in all things. People remarked the change in him from that time onwards.