Once upon a time, there lived a woman named Maggie, one of the most optimistic people in the world. Maggie loved to look on the bright side of things. The world, she always said, was a rosy place, a nice place to be.
One day, Maggie was on her way to market carrying a big basketful of eggs. She was especially pleased, for her hens were healthy, they were laying plenty of eggs, and she couldn't have imagined better luck. The day was beautiful -- not a cloud in the sky, and as Maggie walked, she began to dream about all the money she would earn for her basket of eggs.
She calculated in her head. "If eggs are expensive today, I'll earn a basketful of silver," she smiled. But ever the optimist, she said, "Even if the prices are down, I will do well. After all, I have so many eggs."
Maggie counted as she walked: "One, two, three, four ... 26, 27, 28 ..."
Suddenly, she heard a strange voice call out, "What are you counting?"
Maggie turned and saw a little boy sitting on a hedge at the side of the road. He was stitching away at his brogue, and immediately her eyes twinkled with excitement, for she knew this was no ordinary lad. This was a leprechaun, and he could lead her to a treasure. All her life, Maggie had heard such tales; she knew this fellow dressed in his red jacket and red breeches buckled at the knee surely could find buried treasure. And if she managed to capture him, he would have to lead her to it.
She then realized that her eggs were not so wonderful.
Maggie carefully placed her basket at the side of the road and tiptoed up behind the leprechaun. She was strong and quick, and she reached out and caught him by the collar, crying, "I've got you! I've got you!" She held on to him tightly.
The leprechaun smiled, "Well, sure you do."
"So," Maggie said, "take me to the treasure. I know you know where it's buried, and now that I've caught you, it's mine!"
The little fellow smiled and looked thoughtfully around, as if he were about to share a secret. "I have to tell you, though," he whispered, "the pot of gold I know about is guarded by a strange frog."
Maggie burst out laughing. "Who cares about frogs?" she asked. "Frogs don't frighten me. Monsters do. And witches. And spells. But why would I be afraid of a frog?"
"Well, then," the leprechaun said, "if you're not afraid, let's go!"
And with that, Maggie put him onto the handle of her basket of eggs, holding tight to his ear.
"This way," the fellow said.
Maggie picked up the basket with her other hand, and off they set.
As they walked along the road, the leprechaun called out directions. "Turn right," he said, "then left, straight, right again ..."
On they walked, as the day grew warmer. The basket was heavy with the leprechaun on the handle, but Maggie was determined to find the treasure.
"My, my," the lad said as they walked on, "you are a strong woman. I don't think I've ever met anyone quite as tough as you."
Maggie liked hearing this, though she blushed a little and said, "Go on, now, stop chatting and hurry up. I'm ready to reach that treasure!"
On they walked.
Hours passed. "Right, now left, now straight," the leprechaun ordered.
But after a while, he began to toss eggs out of the basket, one after another.
Maggie heard the eggs smashing on the road, and although this lightened her load, she was growing dismayed.
"Now, stop that!" she yelled. "Stop breaking my eggs. That's foolishness, and such a waste!"
But on he tossed -- smash! Crack! Smash! Finally, she could stand it no longer, and she turned her head to see the mess left behind.
That's all it took.
The moment she turned, the leprechaun slipped from her grasp, and with one big leap, he reached the hedge and vanished, as if he had never existed.
Maggie just stood there and stared at all those shattered eggs on the pavement. She then looked at the hedge where the leprechaun had disappeared.
Maggie understood all that she had lost and began to weep.
But a moment later, she stopped weeping. "What am I doing?" she said. "How silly I am. That wee one fooled me, and I've lost my eggs, but he did say I was the toughest woman he had ever known. Surely there's something in that!"
And so, happy as ever, Maggie skipped all the way home, content that things would surely get better.
"Tell Me a Story 3: Women of Wonder," the third CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, please visit www.mythsandtales.com.