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

The Tinkers

After Larry and Eileen had gone around the turn in the road there were no houses in sight for quite a long distance.

On one side of the road stretched the brown bog, with here and there a pool of water in it which shone bright in the colors of the setting sun. It was gay, too, with patches of yellow buttercups, of primroses, and golden whins. The whins had been in bloom since Easter, for Larry and Eileen had gathered the yellow flowers to dye their Easter eggs. On the other side of the road the land rose a little, and was so covered with stones that it seemed as if there were no earth left for things to grow in. Yet the mountain fern took root there and made the rocks gay with its green fronds.

The sun was so low that their shadows stretched far across the bogland beside them, as the Twins trudged along.

Three black ravens were flying overhead and a lark was singing its evening song.

Eileen looked up in the sky. "There 's the ghost of a moon up there! Look, Larry," she said.

Larry looked up. There floating high above them, was a pale, pale moon, almost the color of the sky itself. "It looks queer and lonesome up there," he said, "and there 's no luck at all in three ravens flying. They 'll be putting a grudge on somebody's cow, maybe. I wonder where the little lark does be hiding herself."

Larry was still looking up in the sky for the little lark, when Eileen suddenly seized his arm. "Whist, Larry," she whispered. "Look before you on the road!"

Larry stopped stock-still and looked. A man was coming toward them. The man was still a long way off, but they could see that he carried something on his back. And beside the road, not so far away from where the Twins stood, there was a camp, like a gypsy camp.

" 'T is the Tinkers!" whispered Larry. He took Eileen's hand and pulled her with him behind a heap of stones by the road. Then they crept along very quietly and climbed over the wall into a field.

From behind the wall they could peep between the stones at the Tinkers' Camp without being seen.

The Twins were afraid of Tinkers. Everybody is in Ireland, because the Tinkers wander around over the country without having any homes anywhere.

They go from house to house in all the villages mending the pots and pans, and often they steal whatever they can lay their hands on.

At night they sleep on the ground with only straw for a bed, and they cook in a kettle over a camp-fire.

The Twins were so badly scared that their teeth chattered.

Eileen was the first to say anything. "However will we g-g-g-get home at all?" she whispered. "They 've a dog with them, and he 'll b-b-b-bark at us surely. Maybe he 'll bite us!"


They could see a woman moving about through the Camp. She had a fire with a kettle hanging over it. There were two or three other people about, and some starved-looking horses. The do; was lying beside the fire, and there was a baby rolling about on the ground. A little pig was tied by one hind leg to a thorn bush.

"If the dog comes after us," said Larry, "I 'll drop a stone on him, out of a tree, just the way the good son did in the story, and kill him dead."

"But there 's never a tree anywhere about," said Eileen. "Sure, that is no plan at all."

"That 's a true word," said Larry, when he had looked all about for a tree, and found none. "We 'll have to think of something else."

Then he thought and thought. "We might go back to Grannie's," he said after a while.

"That would be no better," Eileen whispered, "for, surely, our Mother would go crazy with worrying if we did n't come home, at all, and we already so late."

"Well, then," Larry answered, "we must just bide here until it 's dark, and creep by, the best way we can. Anyway, I 've the piece of coal in my pocket, and Grannie said no harm would come to us at all, and we having it."

Just then the man, who had been coming up the road, reached the Camp. The dog ran out to meet him, barking joyfully. The man came near the fire and threw the bundle off his shoulder. It was two fat geese, with their legs tied together!

"The Saints preserve us," whispered Eileen, if those are n't our own two geese! Do you see those black feathers in their wings?"

"He 's the thief of the world," said Larry.

He forgot to be frightened because he was so angry, and he spoke right out loud! He stood up and shook his fist at the Tinker. His head showed over the top of the wall. Eileen jerked him down.


"Whist now, Larry darling," she begged. "If the dog sees you once he 'll tear you to pieces."

Larry dropped behind the wall again, and they watched the Tinker's wife loosen the string about the legs of the geese, and tie them by a long cord to the bush, beside the little pig. Then all the Tinker people gathered around the pot and began to eat their supper.

The baby and the dog were on the ground playing together. The Twins could hear the shouts of the baby, and the barks of the dog.

It was quite dusk by this time, but the moon grew brighter and brighter in the sky, and the flames of the Tinkers' fire glowed more and more red, as the night came on.


"Sure, it is n't going to get real dark at all," whispered Larry.

"Then we 'd better be going now," said Eileen, "for the Tinkers are eating their supper, and their backs are towards the road, and we 'll make hardly a taste of noise with our bare feet."

They crept along behind the rocks, and over the wall. "Now," whispered Larry, "slip along until we 're right beside them, and then run like the wind!"

The Twins took hold of hands. They could hear their hearts beat. They walked softly up the road.

The Tinkers were still laughing and talking; the baby and the dog kept on playing.

The Twins were almost by, when all of a sudden, the geese stood up. "Squawk, squawk," they cried. "Squawk, squawk."

"Whatever is the matter with you, now?" said the Tinker's wife to the geese. "Can't you be quiet?" The dog stopped romping with the baby, sniffed the air, and growled. "Lie down," said the woman; "there 's a bone for your supper." She threw the dog a bone. He sprang at it and began to gnaw it.

Larry and Eileen had crouched behind a rock the minute the geese began to squawk. "I believe they know us," whispered Eileen.

They waited until everything was quiet again. Then Larry whispered, "Run now, and if you fall, never wait to rise but run till we get to Tom Daly's house!"

Then they ran! The soft pat-pat of their bare feet on the dirt road was not heard by the Tinkers, and soon another turn in the road hid them from view, but, for all that, they ran and ran, ever so far, until some houses were in sight.

They could see the flicker of firelight in the windows of the nearest house. It was Tom Daly's house. They could see Tom's shadow as he sat at his loom, weaving flax into beautiful white linen cloth. They could hear the clack! clack! of his loom. It made the Twins feel much safer to hear this sound and see Tom's shadow, for Tom was a friend of theirs, and they often went into his house and watched him weave his beautiful linen, which was so fine that the Queen herself used it. Up the road, in the window of the last house of all, a candle shone.


"Sure, Mother is watching for us," said Larry. "She 's put a candle in the window."

They went on more slowly now, past Tom Daly's, past the Maguires' and the O'Briens' and several other houses on the way, and when they were quite near their own home Larry said, "Sure, I 'll never travel again without a bit of coal in my pocket. Look at all the danger we 've been in this night, and never the smallest thing happening to us."

And Eileen said, "Indeed, musha, 't is well we 're the good children! Sure, the Good Little People would never at all let harm come to the likes of us, just as Grannie said."

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