Jack was twenty years old before he done any good for his family. So at last his mother said it was high time for him to begin to be of some use. So the next market day she sent him to Bunclody (Newtownbarry), to buy a billhook to cut the furze. When he was coming back he kep' cutting gaaches with it round his head, till at last it flew out of his hand, and killed a lamb that a neighbour was bringing home. Well, if he did, so sure was his mother obliged to pay for it, and Jack was in disgrace. "Musha, you fool," says she, "couldn't you lay the billhook in a car, or stick it into a bundle of hay or straw that any of the neighbours would be bringing home?" "Well, mother," said he, "it can't be helped now; i'll be wiser next time."
" Now, Jack," says she, the next Saturday, " you behaved like a fool the last time; have some wit about you now, and don't get us into a hobble. Here is a fi'penny bit, and buy me a good pair (set) of knitting needles, and fetch 'em home safe." "Never fear, mother." When Jack was outside the town, coming back, he overtook a neighbour sitting on the side-lace of his car, and there was a big bundle of hay in the bottom of it. "Just the safe thing," says Jack, sticking the needles into it. When he came home he looked quite proud of his good management. " Well, Jack," says his mother, " where's the needles ? " " Oh, faith ! they're safe enough. Send any one down to Jem Doyle's, and he'll find them in the bundle of hay that's in the car." " Musha, purshuin to you, Jack ! why couldn't you stick them in the band o' your hat ? What searching there will be for them in the hay !" " Sure you said i ought to put any things i was bringing home in a car, or stick 'em in hay or straw. Anyhow I'll be wiser next time."
Next week Jack was sent to a neighbour's house about a mile away, for some of her nice fresh butter. The day was hot, and Jack remembering his mother's words, stuck the cabbage leaf that held the butter between his hat and the band. He was luckier this turn than the other turns, for he brought his errand safe in his hair and down along his clothes. There's no pleasing some people, however, and his mother was so vexed that she was ready to beat him.
There was so little respect for Jack's gumption in the whole village after this, that he wasn't let go to market for a fortnight. Then his mother trusted him with a pair of young fowl. "Now don't be too eager to snap at the first offer you'll get; wait for the second any wray, and above all things keep your wits about you." Jack got to the market safe. " How do you sell them fowl, honest boy?" "My mother bid me ax three shillings for 'em, but sure herself said I wouldn't get it." " She never said a truer word. Will you have eighteen pence ? " " In throth an' I won't; she ordhered me to wait for a second offer." " And very wisely she acted ; here is a shilling." " Well now, I think it would be wiser to take the eighteen pence, but it is better for me at any rate to go by her bidding, and then she can't blame me."
Jack was in disgrace for three weeks after making that bargain ; and some of the neighbours went so far as to say that Jack's mother didn't show much more wit than Jack himself.
She had to send him, however, next market day to sell a young sheep, and says she to him, " Jack, I'll have your life if you don't get the highest penny in the market for that baste." " Oh, won't I! " says Jack. Well, when he was standing in the market, up comes a jobber, and asks him what he'd take for the sheep. "My mother won't be satisfied," says Jack, " if I don't bring her home the highest penny in the market." " Will a guinea note do you ? " says the other. " Is it the highest penny in the market ? " says Jack. " No, but here's the highest penny in the market," says a sleeveen that was listenin', getting up on a high ladder that was restin' again' the market house : " here's the highest penny, and the sheep is mine."
Well, if the poor mother wasn't heart-scalded this time it's no matter. She said she'd never lose more than a shilling a turn by him again while she lived ; but she had to send him for some groceries next Saturday for all that, for it was Christmas eve. " Now, Jack," says she, " I want some cinnamon, mace, and cloves, and half a pound of raisins; will you be able to think of 'em ? " " Able, indeed ! I'll be repatin' 'em every inch o' the way, and that won't let me forget them." So he never stopped as he ran along, saying " cinnamon, mace, and cloves, and half a pound of raisins;" and this time he'd have come home in glory, only he struck his foot again' a stone, and fell down, and hurt himself.
At last he got up, and as he went limping on he strove to remember his errand, but it was changed in his mind to " pitch, and tar, and turpentine, and half a yard of sacking"-" pitch, and tar, and turpentine, and half a yard of sacking." These did not help the Christmas dinner much, and his mother was so tired of minding him that she sent him along with a clever black man (match-maker), up to the county Carlow, to get a wife to take care of him.
Well, the black man never let him open his mouth all the time the coortin' was goin' on; and at last the whole party-his friends, and her friends, were gathered into the priest's parlour. The black man stayed close to him for 'fraid he'd do a bull; and when Jack was married half a-year, if he thought his life was bad enough before, he thought it ten times worse now; and told his mother if she'd send his wife back to her father, he'd never make a mistake again going to fair or market. But the wife cock-crowed over the mother as well as over Jack; and if they didn't live happy, that we may !
The ensuing household story has rather more of a Norse than Celtic air about it, though there are apparently no traces of it in Grimm's or Dasent's collections, except in the circumstances of the flight. Parts of the story may be recognised in the West Highland Tales, but we have met with the tale in full nowhere in print. Jemmy Reddy, Father Murphy's servant, the relater of the "Adventures of Gilla na Chreck an Gour," told it to the occupants of the big kitchen hearth in Coolbawn, one long winter evening, nearly in the style in which it is here given, and no liberty at all has been taken with the incidents. The underground adventures seem to point to the Celtic belief in the existence of the " Land of Youth," under our lakes. If it were ever told in Scandinavia, the spacious caverns of the Northern land would be substituted for our Tir-na-n-Oge, with the bottom of the sea for its sky, and its own sun, moon, and stars. The editor of this series never heard a second recitation of this household story.