PURSUANT to his arrangement with Meehawl MacMurrachu, the Philosopher sent the children in search of Pan. He gave them the fullest instructions as to how they should address the Sylvan Deity, and then, having received the admonishments of the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath, the children departed in the early morning.
When they reached the clearing in the pine wood, through which the sun was blazing, they sat down for a little while to rest in the heat. Birds were continually darting down this leafy shaft, and diving away into the dark wood. These birds always had something in their beaks. One would have a worm, or a snail, or a grasshopper, or a little piece of wool torn off a sheep, or a scrap of cloth, or a piece of hay; and when they had put these things in a certain place they flew up the sun-shaft again and looked for something else to bring home. On seeing the children each of the birds waggled his wings, and made a particular sound. They said "caw" and "chip" and "twit" and "tut" and "what" and "pit"; and one, whom the youngsters liked very much, always said "tit-tittit-tit-tit." The children were fond of him because he was so all-of-asudden. They never knew where he was going to fly next, and they did not believe he knew himself. He would fly backwards and forwards, and up and down, and sideways and bawways—all, so to speak, in the one breath. He did this because he was curious to see what was happening everywhere, and, as something is always happening everywhere, he was never able to fly in a straight line for more than the littlest distance. He was a cowardly bird too, and continually fancied that some person was going to throw a stone at him from behind a bush, or a wall, or a tree, and these imaginary dangers tended to make his journeyings still more wayward and erratic. He never flew where he wanted to go himself, but only where God directed him, and so he did not fare at all badly.
The children knew each of the birds by their sounds, and always said these words to them when they came near. For a little time they had difficulty in saying the right word to the right bird, and sometimes said "chip" when the salutation should have been "tut." The birds always resented this, and would scold them angrily, but after a little practice they never made any mistakes at all. There was one bird, a big, black fellow, who loved to be talked to. He used to sit on the ground beside the children, and say "caw" as long as they would repeat it after him. He often wasted a whole morning in talk, but none of the other birds remained for more than a few minutes at a time. They were always busy in the morning, but in the evening they had more leisure, and would stay and chat as long as the children wanted them. The awkward thing was that in the evening all the birds wanted to talk at the same moment, so that the youngsters never knew which of them to answer. Seumas Beg got out of that difficulty for a while by learning to whistle their notes, but, even so, they spoke with such rapidity that he could not by any means keep pace with them. Brigid could only whistle one note; it was a little flat "whoo" sound, which the birds all laughed at, and after a few trials she refused to whistle any more.
While they were sitting two rabbits came to play about in the brush. They ran round and round in a circle, and all their movements were very quick and twisty. Sometimes they jumped over each other six or seven times in succession, and every now and then they sat upright on their hind legs, and washed their faces with their paws. At other times they picked up a blade of grass, which they ate with great deliberation, pretending all the time that it was a complicated banquet of cabbage leaves and lettuce.
While the children were playing with the rabbits an ancient, stalwart he-goat came prancing through the bracken. He was an old acquaintance of theirs, and he enjoyed lying beside them to have his forehead scratched with a piece of sharp stick. His forehead was hard as rock, and the hair grew there as sparse as grass does on a wall, or rather the way moss grows on a wall—it was a mat instead of a crop. His horns were long and very sharp, and brilliantly polished. On this day the he-goat had two chains around his neck—one was made of butter-cups and the other was made of daisies, and the children wondered to each other who it was could have woven these so carefully. They asked the he-goat this question, but he only looked at them and did not say a word. The children liked examining this goat's eyes; they were very big, and of the queerest light-gray colour. They had a strange steadfast look, and had also at times a look of queer, deep intelligence, and at other times they had a fatherly and benevolent expression, and at other times again, especially when he looked sidewards, they had a mischievous, light-and-airy, daring, mocking, inviting and terrifying look; but he always looked brave and unconcerned. When the he-goat's forehead had been scratched as much as he desired he arose from between the children and went pacing away lightly through the wood. The children ran after him and each caught hold of one of his horns, and he ambled and reared between them while they danced along on his either side singing snatches of bird songs, and scraps of old tunes which the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath had learned among the people of the Shee.
In a little time they came to Gort na Cloca Mora, but here the he-goat did not stop. They went past the big tree of the Leprecauns, through a broken part of the hedge and into another rough field. The sun was shining gloriously. There was scarcely a wind at all to stir the harsh grasses. Far and near was silence and warmth, an immense, cheerful peace. Across the sky a few light clouds sailed gently on a blue so vast that the eye failed before that horizon. A few bees sounded their deep chant, and now and again a wasp rasped hastily on his journey. Than these there was no sound of any kind. So peaceful, innocent and safe did everything appear that it might have been the childhood of the world as it was of the morning.
The children, still clinging to the friendly goat, came near the edge of the field, which here sloped more steeply to the mountain top. Great boulders, slightly covered with lichen and moss, were strewn about, and around them the bracken and gorse were growing, and in every crevice of these rocks there were plants whose little, tight-fisted roots gripped a desperate, adventurous habitation in a soil scarcely more than half an inch deep. At some time these rocks had been smitten so fiercely that the solid granite surfaces had shattered into fragments. At one place a sheer wall of stone, ragged and battered, looked harshly out from the thin vegetation. To this rocky wall the he-goat danced. At one place there was a hole in the wall covered by a thick brush. The goat pushed his way behind this growth and disappeared. Then the children, curious to see where he had gone, pushed through also. Behind the bush they found a high, narrow opening, and when they had rubbed their legs, which smarted from the stings of nettles, thistles and gorse prickles, they went into the hole which they thought was a place the goat had for sleeping in on cold, wet nights. After a few paces they found the passage was quite comfortably big, and then they saw a light, and in another moment they were blinking at the god Pan and Caitilin Ni Murrachu.
Caitilin knew them at once and came forward with welcome.
"O, Seumas Beg," she cried reproachfully, "how dirty you have let your feet get. Why don't you walk in the grassy places? And you, Brigid, have a right to be ashamed of yourself to have your hands the way they are. Come over here at once."
Every child knows that every grown female person in the~world has authority to wash children and to give them food;that is what grown people were made for, consequently Seumas and Brigid Beg submitted to the scouring for which Caitilin made instant preparation. When they were cleaned she pointed to a couple of flat stones against the wall ofthe cave and bade them sit down and be good, and this the children did, fixing their eyes on Pan with the cheerful gravity and curiosity which good-natured youngsters always give to a stranger.
Pan, who had been lying on a couch of dried grass, sat up and bent an equally cheerful regard on the children.
"Shepherd Girl," said he, "who are those children?"
"They are the children of the Philosophers of Coilla Doraca; the Grey Woman of Dun Gortin and the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath are their mothers, and they are decent, poor children, God bless them."
"What have they come here for?"
"You will have to ask themselves that."
Pan looked at them smilingly.
"What have you come here for, little children?" said he.
The children questioned one another with their eyes to see which of them would reply, and then Seumas Beg answered:
"My father sent me to see you, sir, and to say that you were not doing a good thing in keeping Caitilin Ni Murrachu away from her own place."
Brigid Beg turned to Caitilin-"Your father came to see our father, and he said that he didn't know what had become of you at all, and that maybe you were lying flat in a ditch with the black crows picking at your flesh."
"And what," said Pan, "did your father say to that?"
"He told us to come and ask her to go home."
"Do you love your father, little child?" said Pan.
Brigid Beg thought for a moment. "I don't know, sir," she replied.
"He doesn't mind us at all," broke in Seumas Beg, "and so we don't know whether we love him or not."
"I like Caitilin," said Brigid, "and I like you."
"So do I," said Seumas.
"I like you also, little children," said Pan. "Come over here and sit beside me, and we will talk."
So the two children went over to Pan and sat down one each side of him, and he put his arms about them. "Daughter of Murrachu," said he, "is there no food in the house for guests?"
"There is a cake of bread, a little goat's milk and some cheese," she replied, and she set about getting these things.
"I never ate cheese," said Seumas. "Is it good?"
"Surely it is," replied Pan. "The cheese that is made from goat's milk is rather strong, and it is good to be eaten by people who live in the open air, but not by those who live in houses, for such people do not have any appetite. They are poor creatures whom I do not like."
"I like eating," said Seumas.
"So do I," said Pan. "All good people like eating. Every person who is hungry is a good person, and every person who is not hungry is a bad person. It is better to be hungry than rich."
Caitilin having supplied the children with food, seated herself in front of them. "I don't think that is right," said she. "I have always been hungry, and it was never good."
"If you had always been full you would like it even less," he replied, "because when you are hungry you are alive, and when you are not hungry you are only half alive."
"One has to be poor to be hungry," replied Caitilin. "My father is poor and gets no good of it but to work from morning to night and never to stop doing that."
"It is bad for a wise person to be poor," said Pan, "and it is bad for a fool to be rich. A rich fool will think of nothing else at first but to find a dark house wherein to hide away, and there he will satisfy his hunger, and he will continue to do that until his hunger is dead and he is no better than dead but a wise person who is rich will carefully preserve his appetite. All people who have been rich for a long time, or who are rich from birth, live a great deal outside of their houses, and so they are always hungry and healthy."
"Poor people have no time to be wise," said Caitilin.
"They have time to be hungry," said Pan. "I ask no more of them."
"My father is very wise," said Seumas Beg.
"How do you know that, little boy?" said Pan.
"Because he is always talking," replied Seumas. "Do you always listen, my dear?"
"No, sir," said Seumas; "I go to sleep when he talks."
"That is very clever of you," said Pan.
"I go to sleep too," said Brigid.
"It is clever of you also, my darling. Do you go to sleep when your mother talks?"
"Oh, no," she answered. "If we went to sleep then our mother would pinch us and say that we were a bad breed."
"I think your mother is wise," said Pan. "What do you like best in the world, Seumas Beg?"
The boy thought for a moment and replied: "I don't know, sir."
Pan also thought for a little time.
"I don't know what I like best either," said he. "What do you like best in the world, Shepherd Girl?"
Caitilin's eyes were fixed on his.
"I don't know yet," she answered slowly.
"May the gods keep you safe from that knowledge," said Pan gravely.
"Why would you say that?" she replied. "One must find out all things, and when we find out a thing we know if it is good or bad."
"That is the beginning of knowledge," said Pan, "but it is not the beginning of wisdom."
"What is the beginning of wisdom?"
"It is carelessness," replied Pan.
"And what is the end of wisdom?" said she.
"I do not know," he answered, after a little pause.
"Is it greater carelessness?" she enquired.
"I do not know, I do not know," said he sharply. "I am tired of talking," and, so saying, he turned his face away from them and lay down on the couch.
Caitilin in great concern hurried the children to the door of the cave and kissed them good-bye.
"Pan is sick," said the boy gravely.
"I hope he will be well soon again," the girl murmured.
"Yes, yes," said Caitilin, and she ran back quickly to her lord.