The Story of the McAndrew Family (cont.)
"Bedad, there's the foal," cried Con, and all seven gave chase but there was no use trying to catch a hare.
"That's the foinest foal that ever was; if he was five year old, the devil himself could not catch him," Con said, and with that the seven omadhauns gave up the chase and went quietly home.
As I said before, everyone had it in mind to get all they could out of the McAndrew's. Everyone said, "One man might as well have it as another, for they're bound to spend every penny they have."
So their money dwindled away; then a fine horse would go for a few bits of glass they took for precious stones, and by-and-by a couple of pigs or a pair of fine geese for a bit of ribbon to tie on a hat, and at last their land began to go.
One day Shamus was sitting by his fire-place warming himself, and to make a good fire, he threw on a big heap of turf so that by-and-by it got roaring hot, and instead of feeling chilly as he had before, Shamus got as hot as a spare-rib on a spit. Just then in came his youngest brother.
"That's a great fire ye have here, Shamus."
"It is, in dade, and too near it is to me; run like a good boy to Giblin, the mason, and see if he can't move the chimney to the other side of the room."
The youngest McAndrew did as he was bid, and soon in came Giblin, the mason.
"Ye're in a sad plight, Shamus, roasting alive; what can I do for ye?"
"Can ye move the chimney over beyant?"
"Faith, I can, but ye will have to move a bit; just go out for a walk with yer brother, and the job will be done when ye come back."
Shamus did as he was bid, and Giblin took the chair the omadhaun was sitting on and moved it away from the fire, and then sat down for a quiet laugh for himself and to consider on the price he'd charge for the job.
When Shamus came back, Giblin led him to the chair, saying: "Now, isn't that a great deal better ?"
"Ye're a fine man, Giblin, and ye did it without making a bit of dirt; what'll I give ye for so fine a job?"
"If ye wouldn't mind, I'd like the meadow field nearing on mine. It's little enough for a job like that."
"It's yours and welcome, Giblin," and, without another word, the deed was drawn. That was the finest of the McAndrew fields, and the only pasture land left to Shamus.
It was not long before it came about that first one and then another lost the house he lived in, until all had to live together in the father's old place.
O'Toole and Giblin had encroached field by field, and there was nothing left but the old house and a strip of garden that none of them knew how to till.
It was hard times for the seven McAndrews, but they were happy and contented as long as they had enough to eat, and that they had surely, for the wives of the men who got away all their fine lands and cattle, had sore hearts when they saw their men enriched at the expense of the omadhauns, and every day, unbeknown to their husbands, they carried them meat and drink.
O'Toole and Giblin now had their avaricious eyes set on the house and garden, and they were on the watch for a chance to clutch them, when luck, or something worse, threw the chance in the way of O'Toole.
He was returning from town one day, just in the cool of the afternoon, when he spied the seven brothers by the roadside, sitting in a circle facing each other.
"What may ye be doing here instead of earning yer salt, ye seven big sturks?"
"We're in a bad fix, Mr. O'Toole," answered Pat. "We can't get up."
"What's to hinder ye from getting up, I'd like to know."
"Don't ye see our feet are all here together in the middle, and not for the life of us can we each tell our own. You see if one of us gets up he don't know what pair of feet to take with him."
O'Toole was never so ready to laugh before in his life, but he thought: "Now's me chance to get the house and garden before Giblin, the mason, comes round."
So he looked very grave and said, "I suppose it is hard to tell one man's feet from another's when they're all there in a heap, but I think I can help you as I have many a time before. It would be a sorry day for ye if ye did not have me for a neighbour. What will ye give me if I help you find yer feet?"
"Anything, anything we have, so that we can get up from here," answered the whole seven together.
"Will ye give me the house and garden?"
"Indade we will; what good is a house and garden, if we have to sit here all the rest of our lives?"
"Then it's a bargain," said O'Toole, and with that he went over to the side of the road and pulled a good stout rod. Then he commenced to belabour the poor McAndrews over the heads, feet, shoulders, and any place he could get in a stroke until, with screeches of pain, they all jumped up, everyone finding his own feet, and away they ran."
So O'Toole got the last of the property of the McAndrews, and there was nothing left for them but to go and beg.
Next: The Farmer of Liddesdale