Gateway to the Classics: The Irish Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins
The Irish Twins by  Lucy Fitch Perkins

The Bog

When Eileen got back with the jug, she found Larry still sitting beside the road. He was talking with a freckled-faced boy, and Colleen's head was still in the thistles.


"The top of the morning to you, Dennis Maguire," Eileen called to the freckled boy when she saw him. "And does it take the two of you to watch one donkey at his breakfast? Come along and let 's play in the bog!"

"But however shall we leave Colleen? She might run away on us," said Larry.

"She 's tethered by hunger fast enough," said Eileen. "Ropes would not drag her away. But you could throw her halter over a stone, to be sure."

Larry slipped the halter over a stone, they set the milk-jug in a safe place, and the three children ran off into the bog.

The bog-land was brown and dark. Tufts of coarse grass grew here and there, and patches of yellow gorse. There were many puddles, and sometimes there were deep holes, where the turf had been cut out.

Mr. McQueen was a thrifty man, and got his supply of turf early in the season. He would cut it out in long black blocks, like thick mud, and leave it in the sun to dry. When it was quite dry he would carry it home on Colleen's back, pile it in a high turf-stack near the kitchen door, and it would burn in the fireplace all winter.

The children were barefooted, so they played in the puddles as much as ever they liked.


By and by Eileen said, "Let 's play we are Deirdre and the sons of Usnach."

"And who were they, indeed?" said Dennis.

"It was Grannie told us about them," said Eileen, "and sure it 's the sorrowfullest story in Ireland."

"Then let 's not be playing it," said Dennis.

"But there 's Kings in it, and lots of fighting!"

"Well, then, it might not be so bad, at all. Tell the rest of it," Dennis answered.

"Well, then," Eileen began, "there once was a high King of Emain, and his name was Conchubar. And one time when he was hunting out in the fields, he heard a small little cry, crying. And he followed the sound of it, and what should he find, but a little baby girl, lying alone in the field!"

"Well, listen to that now," said Dennis.

"He did so," Eileen went on; "and he loved the child and took her to his castle, and had her brought up fine and careful, intending for to marry her when she should be grown up. And he hid her away, with only an old woman to take care of her, in a beautiful house far in the mountain, for he was afraid she 'd be stolen away from him.

"And she had silver dishes and golden cups, and everything fine and elegant, and she the most beautiful creature you ever laid your two eyes on."

"Sure, I don't see much fighting in the tale, at all," said Dennis.

"Whist now, and I 'll come to it," Eileen answered.

"One day when Deirdre had grown to be a fine big girl, she looks out of the window, and she sees Naisi going along by with his two brothers, the three of them together, they having been hunting in the mountain. And the minute she slaps her eyes on Naisi, 'There,' says she, 'is the grandest man in the width of the world, and I 'll be wife to no man but him,' says she.

"So she calls in the sons of Usnach, though the old woman is scared to have her, and she tells Naisi she 's going to marry him.

"And Naisi says, says he, 'I 'll never be one to refuse a lady, but there 'll be murder the day Conchubar finds it out!' says he.

"So they went away that same night, and the old woman fair distraught with fear. Soon along comes Conchubar to see Deirdre, for to marry her. And he had many men with him. When he finds Deirdre gone, 'It 's that Naisi,' says he, 'that stole her away.' And he cursed him. And all his men and himself went out for to chase Naisi and his two brothers. But they never caught up with them at all for ten years, and Naisi and Deirdre living all the time as happy as two birds in the spring-time."

"No fighting at all yet," said Dennis, "and ten years gone by. Musha, indeed, 't is not much of a tale at all."

"There was fighting enough when the years were up," Eileen said. "The men of Conchubar pursued them up hill and down dale, and when they finally caught them, there was fighting that made the ground red with the blood spilled.

"And when Naisi and his brothers were all caught together, and Conchubar was after killing them, sure, did n't Deirdre put an end to herself entirely, and the four of them were buried together in one grave."

"But however will we play it at all?" said Larry.

"Listen, now," said Eileen. "I 'll be Deirdre, of course. You can just be Naisi, Larry, and Dennis can be Conchubar, and he after us, and we running as fast as ever we can, to get away from him. You must give us a start, Dennis."

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