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          One fine fall afternoon, a young man named Tom was walking along a country road.  It was harvest time, and the fields were filled with golden grain.  But that day was a holiday, so no one had to work.
          Tom was in a very good mood as he wandered along, swinging a stick at some small leaves that blew across his feet.
          Suddenly he heard a strange noise coming from the bushes.  It sounded like a bird singing, but he had never heard a bird sounding quite like that before!
          "I wonder if it's hurt, the poor thing," he said.  So he looked over the bushes, trying to find the little bird and help it.
          The noise instantly stopped.   And Tom stared in surprise.
          On the other side of the bushes was a big pitcher leaning against the tree, and a little man no taller than his knee!   The little man was wearing a thick leather apron, and holding a wooden stool.
          Tom blinked, and rubbed his eyes.   But the little man was still there!
          He stared in surprise as the knee-high man set the stool on the ground, then climbed up on it, and dipped a little cup into the pitcher.  When the cup was full, he took a long drink.  Then he refilled his cup, and climbed back down to the ground.
          "I can hardly believe it!" Tom thought as the little man set the cup down on the ground, then picked up a tiny shoe and began to work on it.  "I've heard about leprechauns, of course, but I never thought I would see one for myself!"
          He remembered the stories very well.  If you could catch a leprechaun, and you never took your eyes off him, he'd have to do anything you said.  And they always had magical pots of gold that never emptied themselves, hidden nearby!
          But Tom was a clever lad.  He didn't want to just snatch at the leprechaun, because then he might chase him away!   "I'll trick him into leading me to a pot of his magical gold," he thought.  "Then I'll be rich for the rest of my life, and I'll never have to work again!"
          Tom was careful not to take his eyes off the leprechaun.  "Hello!  That's very fine work you're doing!" he said.
          The leprechaun calmly looked up and nodded a polite greeting to Tom.  "Why, thank you," he said.
          "Why are you working so hard today?" Tom asked, trying to be friendly.  "No one else is working, it's a holiday!"
          The leprechaun gave him an impish smile.  "I'm not telling," he said.
          But Tom refused to give up that easily.  "Well, will you tell me what's in that big pitcher?" he asked.
          "I'll be glad to tell you that," the leprechaun replied.  "It's full of sweet wine."
          "Wine!" Tom said, and his mouth began to water.  "Where did you get such a big pitcher full of wine?"
          "Why, I made it, of course," the leprechaun said.  "But not out of grapes.  I made my wine out of fine grass!"
          Tom began to laugh.   "Why, you can't make wine out of grass!" he said.
          The leprechaun shrugged.   "It's true enough," he said, "whether you believe me or not.   We know how to do it, and I won't tell you how.  It's a very special wine."
          Tom's mouth began to water again.   "Well, may I taste it?" he asked.
          The leprechaun shook his head.   "You had better go take care of your father's animals," he said, pointing past Tom.  "Look, the fence has broken and the cattle are getting loose."
          Tom almost turned to look.   But then he knew that it must be a trick.  He remembered not to take his eyes off the leprechaun, or it would escape.
          "Oh, you're not getting away that easily!" he laughed, and caught the leprechaun by the arm.  But he accidentally knocked over the pitcher of wine, and that made him angry.  "If I can't taste your wine, you can show me where your gold is hidden," he ordered.
          Tom didn't realize how lucky he really was.  If he'd tasted that wine, he'd have forgotten all about the leprechaun and the gold, and he would have wandered off in a daze and woken up the next morning, miles away from his home!
          "Oh, very well," the leprechaun scowled.  "Put me down.  I have a big pot of gold in the field over there.  I'll show you where it is."
          Tom set the leprechaun down, and they started across the field.  He kept the leprechaun in front of him, where he could always see him.  But it wasn't easy following the little fellow, because he kept tripping over rocks and sticks and holes in the ground.
          At last they came to a part of the field that was filled with ragweed.  The leprechaun walked right into the ragweed and pointed at a big plant that was covered with golden flowers.
          "There," he said, "that's where my pot of gold is buried.  All you have to do is dig under the ragweed, and you'll find it."
          Tom wanted to start digging right away, but the ground was very hard and full of rocks.  He couldn't dig with his bare hands!  "I'll have to go home and find a shovel," he said with a scowl.
          Tom pulled a piece of string from his pocket, and tied it around the big ragweed.  That way, he thought to himself, he'd know which plant to dig up when he returned.
          "May I go back to my work now?" the leprechaun asked him.
          Tom was feeling generous, now that the magical pot of gold was almost in his grasp.  "Of course you can, and thank you for bringing me here," he said.
          "You're quite welcome," the leprechaun replied, dipping into a polite bow.  "I hope that what you get will do you good!"  Then he vanished like the wind.
          Tom laughed, and ran home for a shovel.  "I will be rich!" he said as he hurried back to the field of ragweed.  "I'll never have to work again!"
          But when he got back to the field, he was in for a nasty surprise!
          Every single ragweed plant had a string tied around it!  He couldn't tell which plant had the pot of gold buried under it!
          He couldn't dig up every single plant in that huge field!  So, with a heavy heart, he turned around and headed home again.
          Every year after that, Tom always looked in the bushes, hoping to find another leprechaun working on his little shoes.   But he never found one.

          And until he was an old man, he told his children, and their children, and their children after that, about the big field of ragweed, and the magical pot of gold.

 

Adaptation by:  Jo Grant