I was a young man back then when I went to the Hawthorne tree.
It was a warm spring day, the air was crisp and the forest smelled fresh. I’d just finished working on O’Carroll’s farm, a hard day tending the fields. I started my trek back home through the forest to my village.
I heard the birds chirping merrily high up in the branches. Every tree had a flock of birds, except one tree. The Hawthorne.
It was a beautiful tree full of grace, it’s battered branches held their own against the wind. Arms stretching right to heaven as if in a celebration to God himself.
But the Hawthorne tree was not natural.
It was the spring of 1959, the world seemed to be progressing with technology and magic. I thought of the wonders often as I took the long walk home. I was thinking of cars that I’d like to buy when my thoughts were broken.
I saw him.
I encountered a creature sitting under that tree. It was small in stature but the body was in proportion. His small red hat was tipped over his one eye and a small tooting sound escaped his mouth. He was sleeping.
His little suit was burgundy with gold buttons, the shirt a fine white and braces the colour of night. The thing that amazed me was bus shoes, so polished it was like black marble. He looked like a statue but I could see him breathing.
I crept slowly to get a good look, I had heard of the Leprechauns before but only in childhood stories. I approached carefully, I was so close to the tree.
Suddenly a twig snapped under my foot. The creature woke quickly, he loomed around until our eyes finally met. It seemed like a lifetime and it seemed I’d stopped breathing.
His eyes glowed angrily as if he had been caught out, it grinned as it saw my stealthy creeping figure. His eyes widened and relaxed.
“Ah, ye got me there now! I was having a snooze. And who might you be? Friend or foe?” The creature said.
I stood up, feeling like a fool having been caught sneaking. I felt a bit ashamed.
“My name is Fergal, just a man on his way home to his family” I said gingerly.
“Ah, Fergal, well come sit with me” he ushered me over with his small hands patting beside him. “I’d like a wee chat”.
Cautiously I sat beside him, wondering what on earth I could talk to a leprechaun about. He started anyway.
“So I guess we have to sort the wishes out Fergal?” He said slyly with a little glimmer in his eye. “You can have three, but please I beg of you not the crock of gold.”
“Why? What’s wrong with the gold?” I was excited by the notion of the gold, the leprechaun had a saddened expression on his face. He stroked his little beard in contemplation.
“I always get asked Fergal, the truth of the matter is that I dont actually know where it is. It’s beyond wishes now. You see I have been around for a long long time, I hid it near my youngest age” the leprechauns wizened face shook with rage. “Just don’t wish it”.
I sat there with the leprechaun in the stillness of the forest. The exhilaration in me was overwhelming, here I found a mythical being right in front of me. Not only had I found him but we were talking. No one would believe me.
It suddenly dawned on me that I never asked his name. I looked at him and his mouth widened, grinning from ear to ear. He waved his hand and in front of us a banquet table appeared from thin air. A barrel of fine stout dropped on the table.
Chairs appeared and he bade me to sit, so I did.
Now I don’t know what you’ve heard about the wee folk but they are tricksters and deceivers. I was impressed but I was wary, this unknown creature was wily. I could tell by the eyes.
“My name is Conarght” he said as if he read my mind earlier. With the sentence he finished there was a sneer, almost like he felt contempt for even letting me know is name.
He jumped high up and landed softly on the chair, then bounced on to the table.
He waved his hand and two mugs appeared one small and a human sized one. The mugs were of the finest metal and glistened with flecks of gold.
He invited me to eat to which I politely declined. I heard stories of folk disappearing after dining with the faerie folk. He was angered but it dissipated as we continued to talk. He told me of his adventures, he said that there were so many that he couldn’t recall because it was ancient.
He told me of the old kings of ulster and Finn mccool to which I scoffed. He was displeased at my mockery and be put me right.
“One day the world will see it to be true!” He screeched. Then he calmed, smiled and poured some stout for himself and me.
I longed for the stout as I was thirsty, he knew it. I reached for the cup, I noticed his eyes narrow and darken. I grabbed hold of my senses. I put the cup straight down. He glared, his eyes burned with hatred.
“Fergal, in one way or another you will be staying forever.” He hissed and spat.
“I have three wishes Conarght! I know we’ll enough straight and true that you won’t hurt me until the three wishes are up!” I shot back.
“Well…now…I suppose…” the leprechaun turned his head away, he looked deep in thought, his eyes rolled up in his thoughts. His eyes went left to right, then he grinned. He turned back to me.
“Alright fergal, I’ll tell thee thus. I will not harm ye or your kin. Here are four gold coins.” The leprechaun dropped them to the table. “Hold them near because they are more precious than air.”
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