When the Leprecaun came through the pine wood on the following day he met two children at a little distance from the house. He raised his open right hand above his head (this is both the fairy and the Gaelic form of salutation), and would have passed on but that a thought brought him to a halt. Sitting down before the two children he stared at them for a long time, and they stared back at him. At last he said to the boy:

“What is your name, a vic vig O?”

“Seumas Beg, sir,” the boy replied.

“It’s a little name,” said the Leprecaun.

“It’s what my mother calls me, sir,” returned the boy.

“What does your father call you,” was the next question.

“Seumas Roghan Maelduin O’Carbhail Mac an Droid.”

“It’s a big name,” said the Leprecaun, and he turned to the little girl. “What is your name, a cailin vig O?”

“Brigid Beg, sir.”

“And what does your father call you?”

“He never calls me at all, sir.”

“Well, Seumaseen and Breedeen, you are good little children, and I like you very much. Health be with you until I come to see you again.”

And then the Leprecaun went back the way he had come. As he went he made little jumps and cracked his fingers, and sometimes he rubbed one leg against the other.

“That’s a nice Leprecaun,” said Seumas.

“I like him too,” said Brigid.

“Listen,” said Seumas, “let me be the Leprecaun, and you be the two children, and I will ask you our names.”

So they did that.

The next day the Leprecaun came again. He sat down beside the children and, as before, he was silent for a little time.

“Are you not going to ask us our names, sir?” said Seumas.

His sister smoothed out her dress shyly. “My name, sir, is Brigid Beg,” said she.

“Did you ever play Jackstones?” said the Leprecaun.

“No, sir,” replied Seumas.

“I’ll teach you how to play Jackstones,” said the Leprecaun, and he picked up some pine cones and taught the children that game.

“Did you ever play Ball in the Decker?”

“No, sir,” said Seumas.

“Did you ever play ‘I can make a nail with my ree-ro-raddy-O, I can make a nail with my ree-ro-ray’?”

“No, sir,” replied Seumas.

“It’s a nice game,” said the Leprecaun, “and so is Cap-on-the-back, and Twenty-four yards on the billy goat’s tail, and Towns, and Relievo, and Leapfrog. I’ll teach you all these games,” said the Leprecaun, “and I’ll teach you how to play Knifey, and Hole-and-taw, and Horneys and Robbers.”

“Leapfrog is the best one to start with, so I’ll teach it to you at once. Let you bend down like this, Breedeen, and you bend down like that a good distance away, Seumas. Now I jump over Breedeen’s back, and then I run and jump over Seumaseen’s back like this, and then I run ahead again and I bend down. Now, Breedeen, you jump over your brother, and then you jump over me, and run a good bit on and bend down again. Now, Seumas, it’s your turn; you jump over me and then over your sister, and then you run on and bend down again and I jump.”

“This is a fine game, sir,” said Seumas.

“It is, a vic vig⁠—keep in your head,” said the Leprecaun. “That’s a good jump, you couldn’t beat that jump, Seumas.”

“I can jump better than Brigid already,” replied Seumas, “and I’ll jump as well as you do when I get more practice⁠—keep in your head, sir.”

Almost without noticing it they had passed through the edge of the wood, and were playing into a rough field which was cumbered with big, grey rocks. It was the very last field in sight, and behind it the rough, heather-packed mountain sloped distantly away to the skyline. There was a raggedy blackberry hedge all round the field, and there were long, tough, haggard-looking plants growing in clumps here and there. Near a corner of this field there was a broad, low tree, and as they played they came near and nearer to it. The Leprecaun gave a back very close to the tree. Seumas ran and jumped and slid down a hole at the side of the tree. Then Brigid ran and jumped and slid down the same hole.

“Dear me!” said Brigid, and she flashed out of sight.

The Leprecaun cracked his fingers and rubbed one leg against the other, and then he also dived into the hole and disappeared from view.

When the time at which the children usually went home had passed, the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath became a little anxious. She had never known them to be late for dinner before. There was one of the children whom she hated; it was her own child, but as she had forgotten which of them was hers, and as she loved one of them, she was compelled to love both for fear of making a mistake and chastising the child for whom her heart secretly yearned. Therefore, she was equally concerned about both of them.

Dinner time passed and supper time arrived, but the children did not. Again and again the Thin Woman went out through the dark pine trees and called until she was so hoarse that she could not even hear herself when she roared. The evening wore on to the night, and while she waited for the Philosopher to come in she reviewed the situation. Her husband had not come in, the children had not come in, the Leprecaun had not returned as arranged.⁠ ⁠… A light flashed upon her. The Leprecaun had kidnapped her children! She announced a vengeance against the Leprecauns which would stagger humanity. While in the extreme centre of her ecstasy the Philosopher came through the trees and entered the house.

The Thin Woman flew to him⁠—

“Husband,” said she, “the Leprecauns of Gort na Cloca Mora have kidnapped our children.”

The Philosopher gazed at her for a moment.

“Kidnapping,” said he, “has been for many centuries a favourite occupation of fairies, gypsies, and the brigands of the East. The usual procedure is to attach a person and hold it to ransom. If the ransom is not paid an ear or a finger may be cut from the captive and despatched to those interested, with the statement that an arm or a leg will follow in a week unless suitable arrangements are entered into.”

“Do you understand,” said the Thin Woman passionately, “that it is your own children who have been kidnapped?”

“I do not,” said the Philosopher. “This course, however, is rarely followed by the fairy people: they do not ordinarily steal for ransom, but for love of thieving, or from some other obscure and possibly functional causes, and the victim is retained in their forts or duns until by the effluxion of time they forget their origin and become peaceable citizens of the fairy state. Kidnapping is not by any means confined to either humanity or the fairy people.”

“Monster,” said the Thin Woman in a deep voice, “will you listen to me?”

“I will not,” said the Philosopher. “Many of the insectivora also practice this custom. Ants, for example, are a respectable race living in well-ordered communities. They have attained to a most complex and artificial civilization, and will frequently adventure far afield on colonising or other expeditions from whence they return with a rich booty of aphides and other stock, who thenceforward become the servants and domestic creatures of the republic. As they neither kill nor eat their captives, this practice will be termed kidnapping. The same may be said of bees, a hardy and industrious race living in hexagonal cells which are very difficult to make. Sometimes, on lacking a queen of their own, they have been observed to abduct one from a less powerful neighbour, and use her for their own purposes without shame, mercy, or remorse.”

“Will you not understand?” screamed the Thin Woman.

“I will not,” said the Philosopher. “Semitropical apes have been rumoured to kidnap children, and are reported to use them very tenderly indeed, sharing their coconuts, yams, plantains, and other equatorial provender with the largest generosity, and conveying their delicate captives from tree to tree (often at great distances from each other and from the ground) with the most guarded solicitude and benevolence.”

“I am going to bed,” said the Thin Woman, “your stirabout is on the hob.”

“Are there lumps in it, my dear?” said the Philosopher.

“I hope there are,” replied the Thin Woman, and she leaped into bed.

That night the Philosopher was afflicted with the most extraordinary attack of rheumatism he had ever known, nor did he get any ease until the grey morning wearied his lady into a reluctant slumber.