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Gilly of the Goatskin wished for wide windows in his house and he got them. He wished for a light within when there was darkness without, and he got a silver lamp that burned until he wished to sleep. He wished for the songs of birds and he had a blackbird singing upon his half-door, a lark over his chimney, a goldfinch and a green linnet within his window, and a shy wren in the evening singing from the top of his dresser. Then he wished to hear the conversation of the beasts and all the creatures of the fields and the wood and the mountain top came into his house.

The hare used to come in early in the morning. He was always the first visitor and he never remained long, and always while he was there he kept running up and down the house, and he generally ended his visit by jumping through the open window. The martens, the beautiful wild cats of the wood, came in to see Gilly once; they were very proud and told him nothing. The little black rabbits were very much impressed by the martens, and all the time the martens were there they stayed under the bed and the chairs. Two or three times the King of the Wood himself--the Boar of the Bristles and the Long Tusks--came to see Gilly; he used to push open the door and then stand in the middle of the floor grunting and grunting. Once he brought his wife with him, and six or seven of their little pigs that went running over the floor, with their ears hanging over their eyes, came with them too. The hedgehogs used to come, but they always made themselves disagreeable. They just lay down by the fire and snored, and when they wakened up they quarrelled with each other. Everybody said that the hedgehogs' children were very badly brought up and very badly provided for. The squirrels who were so clean and careful, and so fond of their children, thought the hedgehogs were very bad creatures indeed. "It is just like them to have dirty sticky thorns around them instead of nice clean fur," said the squirrel's wife. "But, my dear," said the squirrel, "every animal can't have fur." "How well," said she, "the rabbits have fur, though dear knows they're creatures of not much account. It's all just to let us see that they're some relation of that horrible, horrible boar that goes crashing and marching through the wood."

The deer never came into the house, and Gilly had a shed made for them outside. They would come into it and stay there for many nights and days, and Gilly used to go out and talk with them. They knew about far countries, and strange paths and passes, but they did not know so much about men and about the doings of other creatures as the Fox did.

The Fox used to come in the evening and stay until nearly morning whether Gilly fell asleep or kept awake. The Fox was a very good talker. He used to lie down at the hearth with his paws stretched out, and tell about this one and that one, and what she said and what he did. If the Fox came to see you, and if he was in good humor for talking, you would stay up all night to listen to him. I know I should. It was the Fox who told Gilly what the Crow of Achill did to Laheen the Eagle. She had stolen the Crystal Egg that Laheen was about to hatch--the Crystal Egg that the Crane had left on a bare rock. It was the Fox who told Gilly how the first cat came into the world. And it was the Fox who told Gilly about the generations of the eel. All I say is that it is a pity the Fox cannot be trusted, for a better one to talk and tell a story it would be hard to find. He was always picking up and eating things that had been left over--a potato roasting in the ashes, an apple left upon a plate, a piece of meat under a cover. Gilly did not grudge these things to Rory the Fox and he always left something in a bag for him to take home to the young foxes.


I had nearly forgotten to tell you about Gilly's friend, the brave Weasel. He had made a home for himself under the roof. Sometimes he would go away for a day or so and he would never tell Gilly where he had been. When he was at home he made himself the door-keeper of Gilly's house. If any of the creatures made themselves disagreeable by quarrelling amongst each other, or by being uncivil to Gilly, the Weasel would just walk over to them and look them in the eyes. Then that creature went away. Always he held his head up and if Gilly asked him for advice he would say three words, "Have no fear; have no fear."

One day Gilly wanted to have a bunch of cherries with his dinner, and he went to find the Crystal Egg so that he might wish for it. The Crystal Egg was not in the place he had left it. He called the Weasel and the two of them searched the house. The Crystal Egg was nowhere to be found. "One of the creatures has stolen the Egg," said the Weasel, "but whoever stole it I will make bring it back. I'll soon find out who did it." The Weasel walked up to every creature that came in, looked him or her in the eye and said, "Did you steal the Crystal Egg?" And every creature that came in said, "No, Little Lion, I didn't steal it." Next day they had examined every creature except the Fox. The Fox had not been in the night before nor the night before that again. He did not come in the evening they missed the Crystal Egg nor the evening after that evening. That night the Weasel said, "As sure as there are teeth in my head the Fox stole the Crystal Egg. As soon as there is light we'll search for him and make him give the Egg back to us."

Next: Part IX