‘Do you play much at cards?’

‘Sorra a game, Shorsha, have I played with the cards since my uncle Phelim, the thief, stole away the ould pack, when he went to settle in the county Waterford!’

‘But you have other things to do?’

‘Sorra anything else has Murtagh to do that he cares about and that makes me dread so going home at nights.’

‘I should like to know all about you; where do you live, joy?’

‘Faith, then, ye shall know all about me, and where I live. It is at a place called the Wilderness that I live, and they call it so, because it is a fearful wild place, without any house near it but my father’s own; and that’s where I live when at home.’

‘And your father is a farmer, I suppose?’

‘You may say that; and it is a farmer I should have been, like my brother Denis, had not my uncle Phelim, the thief, tould my father to send me to school, to learn Greek letters, that I might be made a saggart of, and sent to Paris and Salamanca.’

‘And you would rather be a farmer than a priest?’

‘You may say that! - for, were I a farmer, like the rest, I should have something to do, like the rest - something that I cared for - and I should come home tired at night, and fall asleep, as the rest do, before the fire; but when I comes home at night I am not tired, for I have been doing nothing all day that I care for; and then I sits down and stares about me, and at the fire, till I become frighted; and then I shouts to my brother Denis, or to the gossoons, “Get up, I say, and let’s be doing something; tell us the tale of Finn-ma-Coul, and how he lay down in the Shannon’s bed, and let the river flow down his jaws!” Arrah, Shorsha! I wish you would come and stay with us, and tell us some o’ your sweet stories of your own self and the snake ye carried about wid ye. Faith, Shorsha dear! that snake bates anything about Finn-ma-Coul or Brian Boroo, the thieves two, bad luck to them!’

‘And do they get up and tell you stories?’

‘Sometimes they does, but oftenmost they curses me, and bids me be quiet! But I can’t be quiet, either before the fire or abed; so I runs out of the house, and stares at the rocks, at the trees, and sometimes at the clouds, as they run a race across the bright moon; and, the more I stares, the more frighted I grows, till I screeches and holloas. And last night I went into the barn, and hid my face in the straw; and there, as I lay and shivered in the straw, I heard a voice above my head singing out “To whit, to whoo!” and then up I starts, and runs into the house, and falls over my brother Denis, as he lies at the fire. “What’s that for?” says he. “Get up, you thief!” says I, “and be helping me. I have been out into the barn, and an owl has crow’d at me!”’

‘And what has this to do with playing cards?’

‘Little enough, Shorsha dear! - If there were card-playing, I should not be frighted.’

‘And why do you not play at cards?’

‘Did I not tell you that the thief, my uncle Phelim, stole away the pack? If we had the pack, my brother Denis and the gossoons would be ready enough to get up from their sleep before the fire, and play cards with me for ha’pence, or eggs, or nothing at all; but the pack is gone - bad luck to the thief who took it!’

‘And why don’t you buy another?’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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