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Main > Irish folktales > Fairy tale "The Cleverness of Mortals"

The Cleverness of Mortals

If you live in the city of New York, or if you have ever been in the city of New York for any long time, you know how disheartening, how terrible, and how altogether unreasonable the climate can be at times. But you also know how heavenly it can be on an autumn day, when the sky and the air and the water are all in a good humor. To see and to feel the best of it, you must be down in the Narrows, or somewhere near there. The fierce heat has gone out of the air, but there is a gentle warmth left in it. All the shores near you are turning from green to brown and yellow, with here and there a dash of red. The sun makes every sail in the bay a gleaming spot of white. Far up the bay you see just an end of the city, with the tall buildings standing so close that it looks like one great castle, built all over a hill that slopes steeply down to the water on both sides. The Bridge looks like a spider's web, spun across to the other shore. Beyond it all the hills look purple, through the thin mist. If, instead of having seen all this often, you saw it for the first time—if you were coming from a far country, where you had always been poor—if you had toiled all your life to pay your rent, never expecting to do more—then perhaps you would look, more than anything else, at the giant woman standing before you and holding her torch high into the sky to light the world.

It was on such a day as this that the O'Briens and the Sullivans saw New York first. It was on the same day that the fairies who had left the rath and followed them saw it too. The O'Briens and the Sullivans had left their old home and gone to Queenstown, and the fairies had followed them. Cork and Queenstown had rather alarmed the fairies. They did not like the look of a city. It looked cold and stony and uncomfortable. It did not look like a good place to dance out of doors at night. They almost wished that they had stayed at home and let the O'Briens and the Sullivans go where they liked without them. Some of them even wanted to go back, but Naggeneen laughed at them, and fairies can stand being laughed at even less than human beings.

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