As I was closing the cupboard again I had an idea. I caught hold of the goldie bottle in the far corner and I half‑filled a cup from it. I took a taste, but oh boy! Bad as that black stuff had been when I tried it the previous night this goldie stuff was seven times worse. Man, it would really burn the throat off you! Then I wondered what I would do with it. I called the dog over and held the cup to his snout but, boy, oh boy, he wouldn’t even look at it. All he did was let out a big snort.
Then I thought of something else. I got a fistful of yellow meal and I wetted it with the stuff from the goldie bottle and I put it out in the yard on a plate. Then along came the big gander who just swallowed the whole lot in one go.
I did not see any difference in him for a while. Then he began to cackle. After a bit he grew tired of that. Then he started walking around with his head tilted right over on its side with one eye looking at the ground and the other at the sky. He was going around in a funny kind of a circle as he walked. Then he stopped and spread his two legs wide apart and began swaying to and fro. It would make even the cats laugh.
Then he lay down and closed his eyes. He reminded me for all the world of our old Dermot when he is sitting in his big chair by the fire at night and the sleep coming over him.
Finally he lay down flat on the ground, stretched his neck straight out in front of him and spread his two wings wide. After that there was no further movement or sign of life from him, no more than if he were dead.
I can tell you that I was now getting really frightened that he might die and I did not know what I should do. I heard Daddy coming from the cow shed and I beat a hasty retreat into the house. When Daddy saw the gander he stopped and began to talk to himself. “Isn’t it a fright to God but someone has made a right hames of this poor fellow,” he said. “Jime‑e‑e‑en!” he shouted.
Right then I was being very busy sweeping the floor. I came to the door.
“What did you do to this gander?” Daddy said.
I hesitated. I did not want to be telling lies on Christmas Day. I told Daddy the whole story, a little bit at a time. I could see that he was really cross with me.
“Some day you are going to pay for your tricking, my lad.” he said. “And I suppose it was you who put an end to our cat down below in Poll a’Lín (‘The Flax Pool’) as well.”
I thought I would fall where I stood. I had thought that not a living soul knew about that. I was pretty subdued by then, I can tell you. Of course I thought that Daddy would tell it all to Mammy.
I went off to Mass by myself. During the Mass I asked God to deliver me from the evils that were hanging over me.
When I got home from Mass Mammy was nursing the gander near the fire while the soul was gradually coming back to him.
Mammy never did find out what had happened to the gander because when Daddy got home from Mass she tried to find out from him just who had dropped by that morning that he had given the whiskey from the bottle to.
Daddy treated it all as a great big joke and he didn’t let on a thing. But he gave me a look once, however, that left me feeling quite uncomfortable.
All the same, Daddy’s alright really.
From Jimín Mháire Thadhg, the classic story for children by Pádraig Ó Siochfradha, better known as An Seabhac (‘The Hawk’), who grew up in County Kerry, Ireland.
The story was first published in Irish in the 1920s and is in stock at Cardiff Central Library as part of the collection of books in Irish.
Adaptation and translation: Wales Famine Forum.
Published in The Green Dragon No. 1, December 1996.
The John Breese Collection Part 3