When the pig was driven to the Fair at Ennistimon, Andy was left friendless, and then—in all winds and weather—was to be found on the Cliffs of Moher. Sometimes he stopped out all night, till hunger would bring him back when the Lonergans were rejoicing at his disappearance. He knew every inch of the Cliffs, and spent half his time lying on the edge of the grey precipice, looking down at the sea, six hundred feet below, or watching the clouds of sea-birds; he found new paths down the cliff-side and clambered like a goat; he knew where the gulls nested, but never robbed them, and the caves where the seals lived, and the seals shouldered their way through the water close by him, looking at him with soft eyes.
When he was about fourteen, the Famine Year came; fever and “The Hunger” swept Clare. The fever took Lonergan and his wife, and they were buried in the dead-pit at Liscannor; it left Andy, but it left him blind. Then the neighbours began to have their doubts whether he was a Changeling after all; for the Fairies are faithful, and who ever heard of a Changeling being left blind and penniless? If he was only mortal he had been cruelly treated, so to make amends they gave him the fiddle that had belonged to the “Dark” Man—that is the blind man—of St. Bridget’s Well, who had lately starved. There was still a feeling that he was unfit for a Holy Well, so he took up a post at the Liscannor Cross-roads, and there levied a toll on passers with the professional heart-broken cry:
“Remember the Dark Man! For God’s sake, remember the Dark Man!”
* * * * *
For nearly twenty years Andy haunted the Cross-roads, he came to be honoured as one of the institutions of Moher, though the folk considered there was much that was uncanny about him, he was so silent, and he hated the smell of whisky. Now those were the times when Cornelius Desmond ruled Moher in the old open-handed haphazard way, never troubling penniless tenants. But “Corney” died and the daisies grew over him, so the estate was managed by an agent who made short work of paupers, and evicted “Dark” Andy from his ancestral hovel. Andy did not seem to know his misfortune. He spent the day of the eviction, as usual, at the Cross-roads, and came back at night to a ruin. His neighbour, Larry Ronan the blacksmith, was grieved to see that he took the change as a matter of course, and that after groping in the four corners of the cabin he sat on the window-ledge as if unaware that nothing was left of his home but the walls.
Next day it was rumoured that Bridget McCaura, of Moher Farm, had sheltered Dark Andy. Bridget was a warm woman, a “woman of three cows,” a masterful old maid, who in her time had refused many a pretty fellow, perhaps because she suspected them of hankering after her live stock, her poultry, and her sixty acres of rocks. Then the old parish priest, Father Peter Flannery, rode over to see her. Bridget was called out of her house to speak to him; he was afraid to dismount. She stood in the narrow gateway in front of her farm, with her arms akimbo, ready to defend her home against all comers. Peter’s heart trembled; he has a great dread of angry women.