The Irish Twins
by Lucy Fitch Perkins
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"It's because of my better sense that I'm going," said Mr McQueen. "Faith, do you think I'd be showing the judgment of an old goat to stay where every penny I can get out of the land I have to pay back in rent? I'm going to America where there'll be a chance for myself."

"I thought Michael Malone would be sowing the seeds of discontent in this parish, with his silk hats and his grand talk," said Mr Conroy angrily, "but I didn't think you were the fish to be caught with fine words!"

"If the seeds of discontent have been sown in this parish, Terence Conroy," said Mr McQueen, "'tis you and the likes of you that have ploughed and harrowed the ground ready for them! Do you think we're wishful to be leaving our old homes and all our friends? But 'tis you that makes it too hard entirely for people to stay. And I can tell you that if you keep on with others as you have with me, raising the rent when any work is done to improve the farm, you'll be left in time with no tenants at all. And then where will you be yourself, Terence Conroy?"

Mr Conroy's face was red with anger, but he said, "While I'm not needing you to teach me my duty, I will say this, McQueen. You're a good farmer, and I hate to see you do a foolish thing for yourself. If you'll stay on the farm, I'll not raise the rent on you."

"You're too late, altogether," said Mr McQueen; "and as you said yourself I'm not the fish to be caught with fine words. I know better than to believe you. I'll be sailing from Queenstown in two weeks' time."

And with that he stalked out of the room and slammed the door, leaving Mr Conroy in a very bad state of mind.

All that Larry and Eileen could remember of the next two weeks was a queer jumble of tears and good-byes, of good wishes and blessings, and strange, strange feelings they had never had before. Their Mother went about with a white face and red eyes, and their Father was very silent as he packed the few household belongings they were to take with them to their new home.

At last the great day came. The McQueens got up very early that morning, ate their potatoes and drank their tea from a few cracked and broken dishes which were to be left behind. Then, when they had tidied up the hearth and put on their wraps ready to go, Mrs McQueen brought some water to quench the fire on the hearth. She might almost have quenched it with her tears. And as she poured the water upon the ashes she crooned this little song [see Note 1] sadly to herself:—

"Vein of my heart, from the lone mountain The smoke of the turf will die. And the stream that sang to the young children Run down alone from the sky— On the doorstone, grass—and the Cloud lying Where they lie In the old country."

Mr McQueen and the Twins stood still with their bundles in their hands until she had finished and risen from her knees, then they went quietly out the door, all four together, and closed it after them.

Mrs McQueen stooped to gather a little bunch of shamrock leaves which grew by the doorstone, and then the McQueen family was quite, quite ready for the long journey.

Mr Maguire had bought Colleen and the cows, and he was to have the few hens that were left for taking the McQueen family to the train.

Larry and Eileen saw him coming up the road, "Here comes Mr Maguire with the cart!" they cried, "and Dennis is driving the jaunting-car with Michael and Grannie on it."

They soon reached the little group by the roadside, and then the luggage was loaded into the cart. Mrs McQueen got up with Grannie on one side of the jaunting-car and Eileen sat between them. Michael and Mr McQueen were on the other side with Larry. The small bags and bundles were put in the well of the jaunting-car.

"Get up!" cried Dennis, and off they started. Mrs McQueen looked back at the old house, and cried into her new shawl. Grannie was crying, too. But Michael said, "Wait until you see your new home, and sure, you'll be crying to think you weren't in it before!" And that cheered them up again, and soon a turn in the road hid the old house from their sight forever.

The luggage was heavy, and Colleen was slow. So it took several hours to reach the railroad. It took longer, too, because all the people in the village ran out of their houses to say good-bye. When they passed the schoolhouse, the Master gave the children leave to say good-bye to the Twins. He even came out to the road himself and shook hands with everybody.

But for all that, when the train came rattling into the station, there they all were on the platform in a row ready to get on board. When it stopped, the guard jumped down and opened the door of a compartment. He put Grannie in first, then Mrs McQueen and the Twins. They were dreadfully afraid the train would start before Mr McQueen and Michael and all the luggage were on board.

It was the first time Grannie had ever seen a train, or the Twins either. But at last they were all in, and the guard locked the door. Larry and Eileen looked out of the window and waved their hands to Mr Maguire and Dennis. The engine whistled, the wheels began to turn, and above the noise the Twins heard Dennis call out to them, "Sure, I'll be coming along to America myself some day."

"We'll be watching for you," Eileen called back.

Then they passed the station, and were soon racing along over the open fields at what seemed to poor Grannie a fearful rate of speed.

"Murder! murder!" she screamed. "Is it for this I left my cabin? To be broken in bits on the track like a piece of old crockery! Wirra, wirra, why did I ever let myself be persuaded at all? Ochanee, but it is Himself has the soothering tongue in his mouth to coax his old Mother away for to destroy her entirely!"

Michael laughed and patted her arm, and "Whist now," he said, "sure, I'd never bring you where harm would come to you, and that you know well. Look out of the window, for 'tis the last you'll be seeing of old Ireland."

Grannie dried her eyes, but still she clung to Michael's arm, and when the train went around a curve she crossed herself and told her beads as fast as she could.

The Twins were not frightened. They were busy seeing things. And besides, Larry had Grannie's piece of coal in his pocket. From the window they caught glimpses of distant blue hills, and of lakes still more blue. They passed by many a brown bog, and many a green field with farmers and farmers' wives working in them. The hillsides were blue with blossoming flax, and once they passed a field all spread with white linen bleaching in the sun.

They flew by little towns with queer names, like Ballygrady and Ballylough, and once when they were quite near Cork they saw the towers of Blarney Castle.

At last the train rattled into a great station. There was so much noise from puffing engines and rumbling trucks and shouting men, that the Twins could only take hold of their Mother's hands and keep close behind their Father as he followed Michael, with Grannie clinging to him, to another train. Then there were more flying fields, and a city and more fields still, until they reached Queenstown.

The next thing they knew they were walking across a gangplank and on to a boat. The Twins had never seen anything larger than a rowboat before, and this one looked very big to them, though it was only a lighter. This lighter was to carry luggage and passengers from the dock to the great steamer lying outside the harbour in the deep water of the main channel.

When they were all safely on board the lighter, and Michael had counted their bundles to be sure they had not lost anything, the Twins and their Father and Mother, with Michael and Grannie, stood by the deck rail and looked back at the dock. It was crowded with people running to and fro. There were groups of other emigrants like themselves, surrounded by great piles of luggage—waiting for the next lighter, for one boat would not carry all who wanted to go.

There were many good-byes being said and many tears falling, and in the midst of all the noise and confusion the sailors were loading tons of barrels and bags and boxes and trunks on board the ship.

There was no friend to see them off, but when they saw people crying all about them, the Twins cried a little, too, for sympathy, and even Mr McQueen's eyes were red along the rims.

At last the gangplanks were drawn in, and the cables thrown off. The screws began to churn the green water into white foam, and the boat moved slowly out of the harbour.

The Twins and their Father and Mother, with Grannie and Michael, stood by the rail for a long time, and watched the crowd on the pier until it grew smaller and smaller, and at last disappeared entirely from sight around a bend in the Channel.

They stood there until the lighter reached the great ship that was waiting to take them across the water to a new world.

And when at last they were safely on board, and the lighters had gone back empty into the harbour, they stood on the wide deck of the ship, with their faces turned toward Ireland, until all they could see of it in the gathering dusk was a strip of dark blue against the eastern sky, with little lights in cottage windows twinkling from it like tiny stars.

Then they turned their faces toward the bright western sky.


Note 1. Copyright of this poem by Herbert Trench, held by John Lane.



In the middle of one of the busiest crossings in Chicago, there stands a big man in a blue uniform. His eyes are blue, and there are wrinkles in the corners of them, the marks of many smiles.

On his head is a blue cap, and under the edge of the cap you catch a glimpse of dark hair. There are bands of gold braid on his sleeve, and on his breast is a large silver star.

He is King of the Crossing. When he blows his whistle, all the street-cars and automobiles and carriages—even if it were the carriage of the Mayor himself—stop stock-still. Then he waves his white-gloved hands and the stream of people pours across the street.

If there is a very small boy among them, the King of the Crossing sometimes lays a big hand on his shoulder and goes with him to the curb. And he has been known to carry a small girl across on his shoulder and set her safely down on the other side.

When the people are all across, he goes back to the middle of the street once more, and blows twice on his little whistle.

Then all the wheels that have been standing as still as if they had gone to sleep suddenly wake up, and go rolling down the street, while those that have just been turning stop and wait while the big man helps more people over the crossing the other way.

All day long the King of the Crossing stands there, blowing his whistle, waving his white-gloved hands, and turning the stream of people up first one street, then the other.

Everybody minds him. If everybody didn't, they might get run over and wake up in a hospital. Oh, he must be minded, the King of the Crossing, or nobody would be safe!

When the long day is over, he looks up the street and sees another big man coming. This man wears a blue uniform, too, and a silver star, and when the hands on the big clock at the corner point to five, he steps into the place of the King of the Crossing and reigns in his stead.

Then the King jumps on to the platform of a passing street-car, and by and by, when it has gone several miles, he jumps off again, and walks up the street to a little house that's as neat as neat can be.

It stands back from the street in a little green yard. The house is painted white, and the front door is green. But he doesn't go to the front door. He goes round by the sidewalk to the kitchen door, and there he doesn't even knock.

He opens the door and walks right in. Through the open door comes the smell of something good cooking, and he sees a plump woman with blue eyes that have smile wrinkles in the corners, just like his own, and crinkly dark hair, just like his own, too, bending over the stove. She is just tasting the something that smells so good, with a spoon.

When she sees the big man in the door she tastes so quickly that she burns her tongue! But she can use it just the same even if it is burned.

She runs to the big man and says, "And is that yourself, now, Larry darling? Sure, I'm that glad to see you, I've scalded myself with the soup!"

The big man has just time to say, "Sure, Eileen, you were always a great one for burning yourself. Do you remember that day at Grannie Malone's"—when out into the kitchen tumble a little Larry and a little Eileen, and a Baby. They have heard his voice, and they fall upon the King of the Crossing as if he weren't a King at all—but just a plain ordinary Uncle.

They take off his cap and rumple his hair. They get into his pockets and find some peppermints there. And the Baby even tries to get the silver star off his breast to put into her mouth.

"Look at that now," cries Uncle Larry. "Get along with you! Is it trying to take me off the Force, you are? Sure, that star was never intended by the City for you to cut your teeth on."

"She'll poison herself with the things she's always after putting in her mouth," cries the Mother. She seizes the Baby and sets her in a safe corner by herself, gives her a spoon and says, "There now—you can be cutting your teeth on that."

And when the children have quite worn Uncle Larry out, he sits upon the floor, where they have him by this time, and runs his fingers through his hair, which is standing straight up, and says to the Mother, "Sure, Eileen, when you and I were children on the old sod, we were never such spalpeens as the likes of these! They have me destroyed entirely, and me the biggest policeman on the Force! Is it American they are, or Irish, I want to know?"

"It's Irish-American we are," shouts little Larry.

"And with the heft of both countries in your fists," groans big Larry.

And then the Mother, who has been laying the table, meanwhile, interferes. "Come off of your poor Uncle," she says, "and be eating your soup, like gentlemen and ladies. It's getting cold on you waiting for you to finish your antics. Your poor Uncle Larry won't come near you at all, and you all the time punishing him like that."

And then the Baby, still sucking her spoon, is lifted into her high chair. A chair is placed for Uncle Larry, and they all eat their soup around the kitchen table, just as the very last rays of the summer sun make long streaks of light across the kitchen floor.

"Where's Dennis?" says Uncle Larry, while the children are quiet for a moment.

"Oh, it's Himself is so late that I feed the children and put them to bed before he gets home at all," says the Mother. "It's little he sees of them except of a Sunday."

"It's likely he'll live the longer for that," says Uncle Larry. He looks reproachfully at the children and rubs his head.

And then—"Mother, tell us, what kind of a boy was Uncle Larry when you and he were Twins and lived in Ireland," says little Eileen.

"The best in the width of the world," says her Mother promptly. "Weren't you, Larry? Speak up and tell them now."

And Uncle Larry laughs and says, "Sure, I was too good entirely! It wouldn't be modest to tell you the truth about myself."

"Tell us about Mother, then," says little Eileen. "Was she the best in the width of the world, too?"

"Sure, I'll never be telling tales on my only twin sister," says Uncle Larry, "beyond telling you that there was many another in green old Ireland just like her, whatever kind she was. But I can't stay here wearing out my tongue! Look out the window! The chickens have gone to roost, and the sun is down. So get along with you to your beds."

When he had gone, and the children were in bed, and the house quiet, the Mother sat down by the light in the kitchen with a basket of mending beside her.

And while she darned and mended and waited for Himself to come home, she remembered and remembered about when she was little Eileen, herself, and the King of the Crossing was just her twin brother Larry.

And this book is what she remembered.




Like the author's earlier books—"The Dutch Twins" and "The Japanese Twins"—this reader aims to foster a kindly feeling and a deserved respect for a country whose children have come to form a numerous portion of our own population.

To arouse the children's interest and thus to make the reading of this story most valuable as a school exercise, it is suggested that at the outset the children be allowed to look at the pictures in the book in order to get acquainted with "Larry" and "Eileen" and with the scenes illustrating their home life and surroundings.

During the reading, point out Ireland on a map of the world or on a globe, and tell the children something about the unique character of the country, thus connecting this supplementary reading material with the work in geography.

The text is so simply written that any fourth or fifth grade child can read it without much preparation. In the fourth grade it may be well to have the children read it first in a study period in order to work out the pronunciation of the more difficult words. In the fifth grade the children can usually read it at sight, without the preparatory study. Give little attention to the expressions in dialect. Let the children read them naturally and they will enhance the dramatic effect of the story. The possibilities in the story for dramatisation and for language and constructive work will be immediately apparent.

In connection with the reading of the book, teachers should read or tell to the children stories of Irish life and from Irish folk-lore; for example, "The Story of the Little Rid Hin," "The Dagda's Harp," and "The Tailor and the Three Beasts," in Sara Cone Bryant's Stories to Tell to Children; and "Billy Beg and his Bull," in the same author's How to Tell Stories to Children. Material which may readily be adapted to this use will be found in Johnston and Spencer's Ireland's Story. Let the children bring to class postcards and other pictures of scenes in Ireland.

The unique illustrations in "The Irish Twins" should be much used, both in the reading of the story and in other ways. Children will enjoy sketching some of them; their simple treatment makes them especially useful for this purpose.

The book is printed on paper which will take water colour well, and where books are individually owned some of the sketches could be used for colouring in flat washes. They also afford suggestions for action sketching by the children.

An excellent oral language exercise would be for the children, after they have read the story, to take turns telling the story from the illustrations; and a good composition exercise would be for each child to select the illustration that he would like to write upon, make a sketch of it, and write the story in his own words.

These are only a few of the many ways that will occur to resourceful teachers for making the book a valuable as well as an enjoyable exercise in reading.


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