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Murdoch’s Rath
by [?]

MURDOCH’S RATH[8].

[Footnote 8: Rath = a kind of moat-surrounded spot much favoured by Irish fairies. The ditch is generally overgrown with furze-bushes.]

There was not a nicer boy in all Ireland than Pat, and clever at his trade too, if only he’d had one.

But from his cradle he learned nothing (small blame to him with no one to teach him!), so when he came to years of discretion, he earned his living by running messages for his neighbours; and Pat could always be trusted to make the best of a bad bargain, and bring back all the change, for he was the soul of honesty and good-nature.

It’s no wonder then that he was beloved by every one, and got as much work as he could do, and if the pay had but fitted the work, he’d have been mighty comfortable; but as it was, what he got wouldn’t have kept him in shoe-leather, but for making both ends meet by wearing his shoes in his pocket, except when he was in the town, and obliged to look genteel for the credit of the place he came from.

Well, all was going on as peaceable as could be, till one market-day, when business (or it may have been pleasure) detained him till the heel of the evening, and by nightfall, when he began to make the road short in good earnest, he was so flustered, rehearsing his messages to make sure he’d forgotten nothing, that he never bethought him to leave off his brogues, but tramped on just as if shoe-leather were made to be knocked to bits on the king’s highway.

And this was what he was after saying:

“A dozen hanks of grey yarn for Mistress Murphy.”

“Three gross of bright buttons for the tailor.”

“Half an ounce of throat drops for Father Andrew, and an ounce of snuff for his housekeeper,” and so on.

For these were what he went to the town to fetch, and he was afraid lest one of the lot might have slipped his memory.

Now everybody knows there are two ways home from the town; and that’s not meaning the right way and the wrong way, which my grandmother (rest her soul!) said there was to every place but one that it’s not genteel to name. (There could only be a wrong way there, she said.) The two ways home from the town were the highway, and the way by Murdoch’s Rath.

Murdoch’s Rath was a pleasant enough spot in the daytime, but not many persons cared to go by it when the sun was down. And in all the years Pat was going backwards and forwards, he never once came home except by the high-road till this unlucky evening, when, just at the place where the two roads part, he got, as one may say, into a sort of confusion.

“Halt!” says he to himself (for his own uncle had been a soldier, and Pat knew the word of command). “The left-hand turn is the right one,” says he, and he was going down the high-road as straight as he could go, when suddenly he bethought himself. “And what am I doing?” he says. “This was my left hand going to town, and how in the name of fortune could it be my left going back, considering that I’ve turned round? It’s well that I looked into it in time.” And with that he went off as fast down the other road as he started down this.

But how far he walked he never could tell, before all of a sudden the moon shone out as bright as day, and Pat found himself in Murdoch’s Rath.

And this was the smallest part of the wonder; for the Rath was full of fairies.

When Pat got in they were dancing round and round till his feet tingled to look at them, being a good dancer himself. And as he sat on the side of the Rath, and snapped his fingers to mark the time, the dancing stopped, and a little man comes up, in a black hat and a green coat, with white stockings, and red shoes on his feet.