The Leprechaun and Mary Caitlin
The leprechaun of Irish folklore is usually depicted as one partaking of mischief. The story is they cobble and mend shoes, and have a pot of gold, said to be at the end of a rainbow. It is not the author's intent here go along with the lore, nor attribute anything supernatural to them.
That said, here is a story about a leprechaun and an Irish maiden
named Mary Kaitlin. She was a poor girl who took care of their thatch
cottage home in Ireland after the death of her mother. The cottage was set
in the hills, flowered with heather, where the wind rose up to their back
and the sun shone warm upon their face.
She had two brothers. Her mother used to refer to them, as the
little sons of thunder, as their names Shaun and Sťamus meant John and
James. Now Caitlin took a fancy to a young acquaintance of theirs named
Michael, who lived in the neighborhood. He sometimes would eat at table with
them, when he came by. He'd eat her cooking but hardly paid any attention to
Caitlin, but she noticed him, and rather liked him. He was a good Irish boy
who prayed his beads for the poor souls. Caitlin kind of wished he would
notice her. She even mused, I'm a poor soul, he could pray for me.
One evening, she sat on the front porch. In front of their humble cottage there grew a clump of rose bushes. As she was looking up at the pretty moon, it seemed to her, that something moved in the bushes. She lit a candle and to see what it might be. Carefully, she pulled aside a couple of the thorn branches. Even though the moon shone down, there was darkness inside the bushes, but illumined by the candle light, she spied a leprechaun caught in the thorns! And she happened to look directly into his eyes as he tried to look away.
Occasionally when she went to the meadow to fetch the cows for milking in the morning, she glimpsed them as they gathered dewdrops from buttercups, or saw them as they scurried down from a tree where the bees stored their honey. Now she saw one close up.
Setting the candle down, she cautiously pulled the thorns away
from sticking to his clothes, freeing him. Grumpily, the leprechaun spoke to
her. "All right, colleen, what is the first of the three wishes"? Mary
Caitlin knew the legend, if you looked a leprechaun square in the eye, he
became your slave and had to grant you three wishes. And that included
leading you to the pot of gold, that is, if you could keep your eye on him.
He said to her, "I've heard where thy treasure is, there is thy
heart too. You mean to tell me your heart 'tisn't on treasure"? Caitlin
smiled and said, "O it 'tis. But treasure isn't only gold coin. Treasure
'tis what you want the most or hate to lose the most. And, in that way, I've
treasure in m'heart."
Caitlin gave up her hopes of going to the dance. She was drying the dishes one evening when she heard a sound by the front door. She opened it and looked out into the night, but saw nothing. As she was about to close the door, she looked down at the porch illumined from the lamplight in the house, and she noticed the most beautiful pair of shoes she'd ever seen. They were so pretty--pretty as the heather of the hill. She wondered who could've put them there. They fit perfectly! Her heart skipped a beat. Then the thought came to her: Could it be...could it be him? She noted the nails. Yes, it must be, as these wee people make shoes. It has to be from him. What a lovely thing he's done! A golden heart, he has.
With her mother's party dress from the trunk, and the pretty new shoes, she went to the dance, and danced with more grace and beauty than anyone else there. And Michael the lad was there, too, and a bit bashfully asked her to dance. And not just once. He seemed to enjoy stepping to the music with her.
Somewhere, out in the night, a leprechaun was poorer in coin but
happier in heart. He'd melted down some of his pieces of gold to make the
nails for her shoes. To this day, no one knows where she got those shoes, as
it's a secret shared only by the leprechaun and Mary Caitlin.
This story is rewritten from one published many years ago, entitled "The Fair Colleen and the Leprechaun," wherein the maiden was named Mary Cathleen, but here named Mary Caitlin. The ink drawing was taken from the art that went with it.
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