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The Big Poor People

She had heard this talk of America many times before, and she did not like it. She would rather believe, and make others believe, that better times were coming for Ireland. She was not so young as the others and not so ready to leave her old home, yet lately she had seen how it was growing harder and harder to stay, and there seemed to be little left of the good luck of which she boasted.

She was thinking of all this now, and John knew her thoughts, though she did not speak them, and he said: "You always tell us that there's betther times comin', mother, and I've learned to know that all you say is true. She was sayin' it just before you came in, Pether. But how can we believe in the betther times? They don't come. They get worse and worse. How do we know they'll ever come?"

Again Mrs. O'Brien seemed lost in deep thought, or in a dream, just as when, a little while before, she had told them of O'Donoghue. What she told them now was a sort of answer to John's question, but perhaps she told it quite as much to draw their thoughts away from America. She was silent for a little while, and they all waited for her to speak.

"Good times for Ireland there will be again," she said, "when Earl Gerald comes back. It was hundreds of years ago that Earl Gerald lived in his great castle of Mullaghmast. He was a strong warrior and he fought many a good fight for his people against their foes. More than that, he was powerful in magic. He could work mighty charms and he could change himself into any form he liked.

"His wife knew that he could do this, but he had never shown himself to her in any form but his own. She often begged him to let her see what his magic could do, and to change himself to some other form for her. But he knew there was danger in it, and he put her off with one reason and another. But at last, she asked him so many times, he told her that if she took any fright at all while he was in any form but his own he could never live in the world again in his own form till all the people of the country had passed away many times.

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