In the tale of Tom and the Leprechaun, in all the green countryside of Ireland there was not a sharper lad than Tom Connor, the son of a farmer who lived beside the River Liffey, in County Kildare.
One day in harvest time Tom was walking beside a blackthorn hedge when all of a sudden he heard a clacking noise: clack-clack, clack-clack
'What can that be?' he wondered.
'It sounds like the cry of a stonechat.'
But he could see no sign of the little bird with the white tail-feathers.
He tip-toed up to the blackthorn hedge, and what should he see but a little old man.
He wore a long green coat with a leather apron tied over it, a black hat, white stockings and red, pointed shoes. A wispy white beard reached to his knees, and his skin was as brown as a chestnut. He was hard at work with a tiny hammer, making a shoe small enough for one of his own little feet. And this was the sound the hammer made: clack-clack, clack-clack
'Here's a bit of luck!' Tom thought to himself. 'I often heard tell of the leprechauns, but I never set eyes on one of them till this day!'
Now clever Tom knew that every fairy shoemaker, or leprechaun, had a crock of gold hidden away in a secret place. An Tom also knew that a leprechaun was bound to reveal that place to any man who laid eyes on him – so long as that man did not turn away his gaze from the leprechaun, from the time he first saw him until he was shown the spot where the fairy gold lay hidden.
'Faith, I shall be a rich man in no time at all,' Tom thought.
The fairy shoemaker looked up from the shoe he was making and saw Tom. 'And what d'ye think you're about, prying into other people's business?' he said, in a shrill cross voice. 'It would be better if you attended to your own work. Look behind you! The cows from the next field have broken through the hedge and are trampling down the corn.'
Tom was on the very point of turning his head to look round when he remembered the tales he had heard, how a leprechaun will try every trick he can to make the man who finds him turn away his gaze, so that he may escape and go free.
'Do you take me for a simpleton?' Tom asked. 'You needn't try any of your tricks with me. They don't call me “Clever Tom' for nothing, you know.' Suddenly he bent down and grasped the leprechaun with one hand. 'Just show me where your crock of gold is hidden, and then I'll let you go.'
Tom spoke in such a loud, fierce voice that the leprechaun trembled.
'I can see it's no use to try to deceive you,' he cried in his shrill voice. 'If you come along with me, I will show you where my gold is hidden.'
With Tom firmly holding him and never turning his eyes away for a single second, the little man led the way across a couple of fields. He chose the hardest path he could, jumping ditches and pushing his way through prickly hedges, and even crossing a piece of bog, where the oozy mud came over the top of Tom's boots. But Tom was so busy thinking of the gold that would soon be his that he paid no heed to the ditches or the prickle or the mud.
'I'll soon be the richest lad in County Kildare,' he thought to himself.
At last they reached the third field, which was lying fallow, and was overgrown with yellow ragwort.
'D'ye see that great boulder over there?' asked the leprechaun, pointing with one finger to a large grey stone that stood by itself, all alone in the filed. 'Tis there my treasure lies hidden. If you dig deep enough, you will find a crock filled with golden guineas.'
Tom's eyes gleamed as he thought of all this money. 'You can take yourself off, now that I've got what I wanted from you,'Tom told the leprechaun.
And no sooner had he said this than the leprechaun vanished from sight.
Now Tom did not have a spade with him, and he needed a spade to dig up the ground under the boulder. So he ran back to his father's house as fast as he could, to fetch one.
'What's all the hurry?' asked his father.
'I'm going to dig up a crock of gold that a leprechaun showed me just now,' Tom told him. 'I shall be the richest lad in County Kildare!'
His father shook his head. 'There's never a man yet who succeeded in gaining a leprechaun's crock of gold for himself,' he said.
That's because none of them were as clever as me,' Tom boasted. 'You'll see, Father: in a little while I shall be back with my treasure!'
His father smiled. 'You'll be a clever lad indeed, Tom, if you succeed in getting the better of a leprechaun,' he said, as Tom rushed off with a spade over his shoulder.
And what do imagine Tom found when he got back to the field? Why, instead of one huge boulder standing by itself, there were a hundred scattered all over the field; and for the life of him, Tom could not tell which was the boulder the leprechaun had showed him.
As for digging up the whole field, that was not to be thought of, since there were more than twenty good Irish acres in it. And so Tom had to return home empty-handed after all; for all the treasure he ever saw in that field was the golden petals of the yellow ragwort flowers.
And that is how Clever Tom was outwitted by a leprechaun.