The Leprechaun Journals

Henry could feel the heat from the ashes through his worn shoes. He choked back the tears, pretending it was the smoke making them water. Nurse Nancy pulled young Henry close and led him away from the rubble. Henry clutched the rough diamond in his small hands and looked back over his shoulder at the large angry man standing in the smoky ruins. He was both exhilarated and confused but he felt secure in the care of the tender nurse. Henry adored her because she was kind, had a pretty face, and always smelled of lavender, but now, her bravery made him feel unassailable, so he nestled in closer. Henry couldn’t decide if he was trembling from the cold or fear. He thought Nurse Nancy was trembling too as they made their way briskly back to the local theater where all the children had been taken after the fire. They would have to remain there until they could be transported to the public orphanage in Philadelphia. Making their way into the building was difficult as people from the community were bringing in more blankets, pillows, and necessities. They found a secure place for the diamond, then Henry helped Nurse Nancy distribute the donated items to the children who were scattered all over the seats and the stage of the large room. He was the one that was going to have to keep up Cole’s job now. He would have to take care of the other children and be like a big brother to all of them. He wasn’t so sure he could live up to it. After all, he was the cause of the fire that took his best friend's life just the night before. He could no longer hold back the tears as he tucked a blanket over Michael’s legs and between them and his wheelchair. They sobbed as they embraced each other. Suddenly the already frayed nerves of every child in the room were affected by a loud commotion coming from the lobby. Henry’s frightened eyes fastened on the entryway as four figures appeared. “There, that boy there, and the nurse was with him.” the large man bellowed. Standing next to him was a smaller version of the large man and two officers of the law. Nancy and Henry held onto each other as the group descended on them through the crowd of horrified faces. “Mam,” called the Sergeant, speaking to the nurse. “We understand that a valuable item was found in the remains of the fire today and that this young man has it.” “Yes sir. We have it locked away in the ticket booth, this way please.” As they entered the ticket booth Nancy heard a familiar tune played by a violin. She turned to Henry, but his eyes were already fixed on her. She couldn’t discern if he was hearing it too, making it harder to remain calm. Her hands shook visibly, betraying her composed demeanor. “Here let me help you with that,” offered the second officer, gently taking the key from her hand. She caught his eye and gratefully stepped away. He unlocked the money drawer and guardedly withdrew the glistening gem. As if it were a piece of warm bread to a starving man, Big Dan brusquely snatched it from the young officer’s hand. “Leave it,” the Sergeant shouted to the click of his revolver. “Hand it over slowly to Officer Foltz”. “But it’s mine I tell ya,” he bellowed as he shoved it at the officer. “I hid it in that cellar five years ago to save til my boy here was older.” “That will be determined in court. I advise you to get yourself a lawyer.” “A lawyer?” I don’t need no lawyer to prove what’s rightfully mine.” “Suit yourself, but you’d better come with me and file your claim.” --------------- It would be another sleepless night for Henry replaying the horrible nightmare with visions of screaming children now displaced and traumatized. If only he could go back in time and notice, that in his rush, he had not made sure that the coal-burning stove door was closed. And then the diamond. Was it something magical? A final heroic deed left by Cole in the ashes? The words of the song Cole often sang kept haunting his mind. "A lump of coal can warm you on a cold winter night. Its' embers golden glow makes cozy firelight. Deep within the earth where heat and pressure rein, a coal becomes a diamond a lovely precious gem. We are all coal; we are all coal, a lump or a diamond what e'er is your goal. Nancy tiptoed to where Henry was lying. “When I opened the ticket drawer to get the diamond for the police officer, this little black notebook was in the drawer,” she whispered, handing him the book. “It wasn’t there before. I looked around and I saw a little man wink and walk away. He fit Cole’s description of the man that taught Cole the song in the cellar those many years ago.” Henry thumbed through its pages, “It looks like someone’s journal.” The book fell open as if it knew a place it wanted them to read. Stunned, Henry began; “My great-grandfather was a well-known cobbler in his village in Ireland. He was funny and a trickster and everyone loved him. He worked very hard and saved his money. My father loved the tap-tapping sound of the leather tops being fastened to the soles of the shoes. When his grandfather died, my father always knew when he was looking in on him, for he would hear the tapping sound he loved so well. Father told me that our deceased loved ones are never far away. On one of his visits, he told my father that he left his savings in the soles of the shoes he inherited. I have learned that most fairy tales start as a true story that gets embellished and changed over time. Leprechaun means small bodied. My great-grandfather was a small man and people called him the first Leprechaun. It is also a myth that all Leprechauns are cobblers like my great-grandfather but, they all have one thing in common; a treasure that they have hidden away. They want to see to it that their family or someone worthy gets it.” “So, do you think Cole’s visitor at the orphanage was a relative?” Henry asked. “Most definitely,” Nancy replied. Taking the book. So, it’s Leprechaun’s Journal. “The name of the owner should be there somewhere.” Nancy turned the book over in her hands and leafed through the pages. She had been the nurse in the orphanage for many years. She knew the story of every child who had been brought there. Cole’s father had died in the great Connellsville, Pennsylvania coal mine disaster in 1884. His name was John Murray. Flipping back to the inside front cover, a sensation shot through her and made her heart race. That was the name Nancy found herself staring at inside the front cover. ---------------- Henry’s lawyer, Mr. O’Conner, looked cheerful and confident as Henry and Nancy entered the courtroom. “Mr. Bumbridge; Mr. O’Conner, are you ready to proceed?” the Judge began. “Yes, your honor.” the lawyers answered respectively. “Your honor, I have in my hand a document from the honorable gentlemen, Mr. Branner, a geologist at Stanford University, to whom Mr. Grubbs was employed. He has sent this certificate in response to Mr. Grubbs request.” Before Mr. Bumbridge could place the document in the judge's possession, a gusty wind snatched the paper from the lawyer's hand and whipped it around the room. The paper circled the center chandelier three times, then curiously made a beeline for the open window. Dan sprinted to the sash and slammed it down, trapping the document. Releasing it and gripping it tight, he handed it to Mr. Bumbridge, who placed it carefully back in his honors hands. The judge pulled out his spectacles and closely examined the paper, the print, and fingered the paper for weight, quality and authenticity. “The prosecution would like to call Henry Hackney to the stand.” Henry rubbed his sweaty hands together, wishing that he could run out the door. He turned to his lawyer for help. Mr. O’Conner, leaned in, “Have courage my boy.” Henry stood and forced his wobbling knees to walk to the stand and place his hand on the Bible. His thoughts began to fade away from the court room, back to that cold dark Christmas eve. He could see Cole crouched to leap. The thick brick wall below him shuddered and collapsed inward. With all the strength he had left, Cole thrust Michael out of his embrace and into the safety of the net below. “ help you, God?” He heard the bailiff ask. “Oh yes, I do.” Henry stammered as he took the stand.

“Mr. Hackney, did you have any possessions at the orphanage that you could call yours and only yours?” “No Sir, other than my clothes” — Bumbridge interrupted, “And of the many times you had gone to the furnace room with your friend, did you ever see that gem?” Henry scanned his memory, “No sir, but”— “And you had never seen that diamond before you pulled it from the rubble?” “No, but”— “That will be all!” “The prosecution rests. “Would the defense like to cross-examine the witness?” asked the Judge. “Yes, your honor. Mr. Hackney, would you please tell us what happened that morning after the fire?” “I saw something sparkle next to the remains of the furnace. I knelt, brushed away some ash and debris” ...Henry paused, then quietly sang, “A lump or a diamond what e’er is your goal!” “Speak louder young man!” the Judge insisted. “The words to Cole’s song”— “A lump or a diamond what e’er is your goal,” Henry said, then dazedly drifted off. Henry saw himself standing on the front of Michael's wheelchair, as Cole pushed them around the halls all singing the song, “A lump of coal can warm you on a cold winter night. Its' embers golden glow makes cozy firelight.” As Henry sang everyone in the courtroom could hear a violin echo a faint, sweet melody that resonated softly in everyone's ears, matching each line and verse. “Henry, Henry”, said Mr. O’Conner wide-eyed, shaking Henry’s shoulder. Teary-eyed, Henry slowly stared up at Mr. O’Conner, “The Music. “You heard it too...didn’t you?” then began to sing again. The sound of violin added emotion to his singing, following every word that fell from Henry’s lips. Spell-bound, the Judge held the certificate loosely in his hands befuddled by the peculiar spectacle. The certificate began slipping from between his fingers. Gripping it tighter, the document pulled taught, then began to convulsively jerk as if some unseen power was trying to take it from his grasp. Standing, he wrestled the paper back and forth while the eyes in the courtroom followed as if they were viewing a tennis match. Determined to win, the judge let go with his right hand, grabbed his gavel, and swung it out beyond the certificate towards the invisible assailant. For an instant he saw two small hands seize the parchment, causing him to fall into his chair: almost tipping it over backward into the state flag. “It must be Leprechauns!” The Judge rose to his feet, rapping the desk repeatedly with his gavel. “The stone was found on the orphanage property,” He said. It belongs to the owner of the property, and this young man equally. Case dismissed.” --------------- Lilia didn’t know where the whistling came from, but she’d been hearing it more frequently lately. The Irish trill of the whistle inspired her to draw pictures in her smart notebook of her ancestors that she read about in the numerous journals that had been passed down to her. She walked to the bookshelf and picked up Henry Hackney’s journal and started reading where she had left off. Thirty minutes later she read, “I invested, saved, and became a very wealthy man. If you are reading this, I have hidden $20,000 in a false bottom of the box that contained this book and heirlooms. Your reward for reading my story.

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