It was on account of his daughter that Meehawl MacMurrachu had come to visit the Philosopher. He did not know what had become of her, and the facts he had to lay before his adviser were very few.

He left the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath taking snuff under a pine tree and went into the house.

“God be with all here,” said he as he entered.

“God be with yourself, Meehawl MacMurrachu,” said the Philosopher.

“I am in great trouble this day, sir,” said Meehawl, “and if you would give me an advice I’d be greatly beholden to you.”

“I can give you that,” replied the Philosopher.

“None better than your honour and no trouble to you either. It was a powerful advice you gave me about the washboard, and if I didn’t come here to thank you before this it was not because I didn’t want to come, but that I couldn’t move hand or foot by dint of the cruel rheumatism put upon me by the Leprecauns of Gort na Cloca Mora, bad cess to them forever: twisted I was the way you’d get a squint in your eye if you only looked at me, and the pain I suffered would astonish you.”

“It would not,” said the Philosopher.

“No matter,” said Meehawl. “What I came about was my young daughter Caitilin. Sight or light of her I haven’t had for three days. My wife said first, that it was the fairies had taken her, and then she said it was a travelling man that had a musical instrument she went away with, and after that she said, that maybe the girl was lying dead in the butt of a ditch with her eyes wide open, and she staring broadly at the moon in the nighttime and the sun in the day until the crows would be finding her out.”

The Philosopher drew his chair closer to Meehawl.

“Daughters,” said he, “have been a cause of anxiety to their parents ever since they were instituted. The flightiness of the female temperament is very evident in those who have not arrived at the years which teach how to hide faults and frailties, and, therefore, indiscretions bristle from a young girl the way branches do from a bush.”

“The person who would deny that⁠—” said Meehawl.

“Female children, however, have the particular sanction of nature. They are produced in astonishing excess over males, and may, accordingly, be admitted as dominant to the male; but the well-proven law that the minority shall always control the majority will relieve our minds from a fear which might otherwise become intolerable.”

“It’s true enough,” said Meehawl. “Have you noticed, sir, that in a litter of pups⁠—”

“I have not,” said the Philosopher. “Certain trades and professions, it is curious to note, tend to be perpetuated in the female line. The sovereign profession among bees and ants is always female, and publicans also descend on the distaff side. You will have noticed that every publican has three daughters of extraordinary charms. Lacking these signs we would do well to look askance at such a man’s liquor, divining that in his brew there will be an undue percentage of water, for if his primogeniture is infected how shall his honesty escape?”

“It would take a wise head to answer that,” said Meehawl.

“It would not,” said the Philosopher. “Throughout nature the female tends to polygamy.”

“If,” said Meehawl, “that unfortunate daughter of mine is lying dead in a ditch⁠—”

“It doesn’t matter,” said the Philosopher. “Many races have endeavoured to place some limits to this increase in females. Certain Oriental peoples have conferred the titles of divinity on crocodiles, serpents, and tigers of the jungle, and have fed these with their surplusage of daughters. In China, likewise, such sacrifices are defended as honourable and economic practices. But, broadly speaking, if daughters have to be curtailed I prefer your method of losing them rather than the religio-hysterical compromises of the Orient.”

“I give you my word, sir,” said Meehawl, “that I don’t know what you are talking about at all.”

“That,” said the Philosopher, “may be accounted for in three ways⁠—firstly, there is a lack of cerebral continuity: that is, faulty attention; secondly, it might be due to a local peculiarity in the conformation of the skull, or, perhaps, a superficial instead of a deep indenting of the cerebral coil; and thirdly⁠—”

“Did you ever hear,” said Meehawl, “of the man that had the scalp of his head blown off by a gun, and they soldered the bottom of a tin dish to the top of his skull the way you could hear his brains ticking inside of it for all the world like a Waterbury watch?”

“I did not,” said the Philosopher. “Thirdly, it may⁠—”

“It’s my daughter, Caitilin, sir,” said Meehawl humbly. “Maybe she is lying in the butt of a ditch and the crows picking her eyes out.”

“What did she die of?” said the Philosopher.

“My wife only put it that maybe she was dead, and that maybe she was taken by the fairies, and that maybe she went away with the travelling man that had the musical instrument. She said it was a concertina, but I think myself it was a flute he had.”

“Who was this traveller?”

“I never saw him,” said Meehawl, “but one day I went a few perches up the hill and I heard him playing⁠—thin, squeaky music it was like you’d be blowing out of a tin whistle. I looked about for him everywhere, but not a bit of him could I see.”

“Eh?” said the Philosopher.

“I looked about⁠—” said Meehawl.

“I know,” said the Philosopher. “Did you happen to look at your goats?”

“I couldn’t well help doing that,” said Meehawl.

“What were they doing?” said the Philosopher eagerly.

“They were bucking each other across the field, and standing on their hind legs and cutting such capers that I laughed till I had a pain in my stomach at the gait of them.”

“This is very interesting,” said the Philosopher.

“Do you tell me so?” said Meehawl.

“I do,” said the Philosopher, “and for this reason⁠—most of the races of the world have at one time or another⁠—”

“It’s my little daughter, Caitilin, sir,” said Meehawl.

“I’m attending to her,” the Philosopher replied.

“I thank you kindly,” returned Meehawl.

The Philosopher continued⁠—

“Most of the races of the world have at one time or another been visited by this deity, whose title is the ‘Great God Pan,’ but there is no record of his ever having journeyed to Ireland, and, certainly within historic times, he has not set foot on these shores. He lived for a great number of years in Egypt, Persia, and Greece, and although his empire is supposed to be worldwide, this universal sway has always been, and always will be, contested; but nevertheless, however sharply his empire may be curtailed, he will never be without a kingdom wherein his exercise of sovereign rights will be gladly and passionately acclaimed.”

“Is he one of the old gods, sir?” said Meehawl.

“He is,” replied the Philosopher, “and his coming intends no good to this country. Have you any idea why he should have captured your daughter?”

“Not an idea in the world.”

“Is your daughter beautiful?”

“I couldn’t tell you, because I never thought of looking at her that way. But she is a good milker, and as strong as a man. She can lift a bag of meal under her arm easier than I can; but she’s a timid creature for all that.”

“Whatever the reason is I am certain that he has the girl, and I am inclined to think that he was directed to her by the Leprecauns of the Gort. You know they are at feud with you ever since their bird was killed?”

“I am not likely to forget it, and they racking me day and night with torments.”

“You may be sure,” said the Philosopher, “that if he’s anywhere at all it’s at Gort na Cloca Mora he is, for, being a stranger, he wouldn’t know where to go unless he was directed, and they know every hole and corner of this countryside since ancient times. I’d go up myself and have a talk with him, but it wouldn’t be a bit of good, and it wouldn’t be any use your going either. He has power over all grown people so that they either go and get drunk or else they fall in love with every person they meet, and commit assaults and things I wouldn’t like to be telling you about. The only folk who can go near him at all are little children, because he has no power over them until they grow to the sensual age, and then he exercises lordship over them as over everyone else. I’ll send my two children with a message to him to say that he isn’t doing the decent thing, and that if he doesn’t let the girl alone and go back to his own country we’ll send for Angus Óg.”

“He’d make short work of him, I’m thinking.”

“He might surely; but he may take the girl for himself all the same.”

“Well, I’d sooner he had her than the other one, for he’s one of ourselves anyhow, and the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.”

“Angus Óg is a god,” said the Philosopher severely.

“I know that, sir,” replied Meehawl; “it’s only a way of talking I have. But how will your honour get at Angus? for I heard say that he hadn’t been seen for a hundred years, except one night only when he talked to a man for half an hour on Kilmasheogue.”

“I’ll find him, sure enough,” replied the Philosopher.

“I’ll warrant you will,” replied Meehawl heartily as he stood up. “Long life and good health to your honour,” said he as he turned away.

The Philosopher lit his pipe.

“We live as long as we are let,” said he, “and we get the health we deserve. Your salutation embodies a reflection on death which is not philosophic. We must acquiesce in all logical progressions. The merging of opposites is completion. Life runs to death as to its goal, and we should go towards that next stage of experience either carelessly as to what must be, or with a good, honest curiosity as to what may be.”

“There’s not much fun in being dead, sir,” said Meehawl.

“How do you know?” said the Philosopher.

“I know well enough,” replied Meehawl.