When they were nearly home, the Twins saw a dark figure hurrying down the road, and as it drew near, their Mother's voice called to them, "Is it yourselves, Larry and Eileen, and whatever kept you till this hour? Sure, you 've had me distracted entirely with wondering what had become of you at all! And your Dada sits in the room with a lip on him as long as to-day and to-morrow!"
The Twins both began to talk at once. Their mother clapped her hands over her ears.
"Can't you hold your tongues and speak quietly now—one at a time—like gentlemen and ladies?" she said. "Come in to your father and tell him all about it."
The Twins each took one of her hands. and they all three hurried into the house. They went into the kitchen. Their Father was sitting by the chimney, with his feet up, smoking his pipe when they came in. He brought his feet to the floor with a thump, and sat up straight in his chair.
"Where have you been, you Spalpeens?" he said. "It 's nine o'clock this instant minute."
The Twins both began again to talk. Their Mother flew about the kitchen to get them a bite of supper.
"Come now," said the Father, "I can't hear myself at all with the noise of you. Do you tell the tale, Larry."
Then Larry told them about the cakeen, and the silk hat, and Michael Malone, and the Tinkers, while his Mother said, "The Saints preserve us!" every few words, and Eileen interrupted to tell how brave Larry had been—"just like the good son in Grannie Malone's tale, for all the world."
But when they came to the geese part of the story, the Father said, "Blathers," and got up and hurried out to the place where the fowls were kept, in the yard behind the house.
In a few minutes he came in again. "The geese are gone," he said, "and that 's the truth or I can't speak it!"
"Bad luck to the thieves, then," cried the Mother. "The back of my hand to them! Sure, I saw a rough, scraggly man with a beard on him like a rick of hay, come along this very afternoon, and I up the road talking with Mrs. Maguire! I never thought he 'd make that bold, to carry off geese in the broad light of day! And me saving them against Christmastime, too!"
"Wait till I get that fellow where beating is cheap, and I 'll take the change out of him!" said the Father.
Eileen began to cry and Larry's lip trembled.
"Come here now, you poor dears," their Mother said. "Sit down on the two creepeens by the fire, and have a bite to eat before you go to bed. Indeed, you must be starved entirely, with the running, and the fright, and all. I 'll give you a drink of cold milk, warmed up with a sup of hot water through it, and a bit of bread, to comfort your stomachs."
While the Twins ate the bread and drank the milk, their Father and Mother talked about the Tinkers. "Sure, they are as a frost in spring, and a blight in harvest," said Mrs. McQueen. "I wonder wherever they got the badness in them the way they have."
"I 've heard said it was a Tinker that led St. Patrick astray when he was in Ireland," said Mr. McQueen. "I don't know if it 's true or not, but the tale is that he was brought here a slave, and that it would take a hundred pounds to buy his freedom. One day, when he was minding the sheep on the hills, he found a lump of silver, and he met a Tinker and asked him the value of it.
" 'Wirra,' says the Tinker, 't is naught but a bit of solder. Give it to me!' But St. Patrick took it to a smith instead, and the smith told him the truth about it, and St. Patrick put a curse on the Tinkers, that every man's face should be against them, and that they should get no rest at all but to follow the road."
"Some say they do be walking the world forever," said Mrs. McQueen, "and I never in my life met any one that had seen a Tinker's funeral."
"There 'll maybe be one if I catch the Tinker that stole the geese!" Mr. McQueen said grimly.
Mrs. McQueen laughed. "It 's the fierce one you are to talk," she said, "and you that good-natured when you 're angry that you 'd scare not even a fly! Come along now to bed with you," she added to the Twins. "There you sit with your eyes dropping out of your heads with sleep."
She helped them undress and popped them into their beds in the next room; then she barred the door, put out the candle, covered the coals in the fireplace, and went to bed in the room on the other side of the kitchen. Last of all, Mr. McQueen knocked the ashes from his pipe against the chimney-piece, and soon everything was quiet in their cottage, and in the whole villap of Ballymora where they lived.