Come now, my children, come. For you who would know the truth behind the legend of Penny Fathrington, the time has arrived. Legion are the tales of his legendary largesse, but from whence did it spring? The seal is finally lifted (though not entirely). And, I swear by Merlin’s Beard to the truth of it all:
This is the story, first, of the Irish waif known then by her Christian name of Felicia Fathrington, torn from the bosom of her family on the Isle of Mann by the pirate band of the North Sea, known amongst their kind only as The Black Patch. She was raised according to the ancient code, first against her will but then fully embracing the same, proving her metal step-by-step until she finally found her true calling as the fearsome Tempest Queen (or, said some, the White Witch of the Waves).
It is the story of her fateful, short-lived union (under the numbing influence of dark highland grog) with the larger-than-life Wee Willie Wheatley, King of the Northern Leprechauns, and their only offspring, who was known then only as Red Rupert, a stout, blue-eyed lad possessed of a surprisingly gentle nature, and endowed with flaming red hair and certain magical gifts of the leprechauns, though marred by a disquieting “mad eye” that was perpetually drawn to the nearest body of saltwater.
It is the cautionary tale of the boy’s wild, yet magical, upbringing, partaking of the best (or, as some would have it, the worst) of both the pirates and the leprechauns, and his obsession with the coins of the realm – how he would dare, connive, deceive and wager with his fellows to acquire by any means, fair or foul, all the pennies he could, and how he horded the same in a well-concealed cave high above the crashing surf by Garrickfergus on the Northern Shore (and far more than a few farthings, I might add, and later on even more by way of the leprechauns’ magical minting of the same).
It is also the story of sweet Erin of Edinburg, she of the flashing emerald eyes and the heart of gold, who first saw the good in the pirates’ apprentice and whose love finally turned him to his life’s work – sharing his wealth in his own quixotic way with the poor orphans, street urchins and others among Britannia’s deserving poor.
And it is the story of Penny’s trusty steed, Balthazar, his loyal hound, Beadlebarf, and his life-long struggle with the adversary of his youth, the dark wizard of the fetid Inland Bog, he of the withered, hoary hand – Malovious (one of many tales for another time).
It is, finally, a story of redemption – the long (and ofttimes sad, sometimes joyful) odyssey of the lad’s private path of penance – learning to share his fathomless wealth with the poor in hopes of compensating, before his Maker, for the pirate excesses of an ill-spent youth; taking upon himself his mother’s maiden name (and adding thereto, with a touch of whimsy, his nickname among the leprechauns), as he grasped for his roots and some respectability; and how he, at long last, succeeded, being knighted secretly (for such was his modest wish) by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Yet try as he might, Penny could never entirely escape the wild ways of his youth and his strange fascination with the magical properties of Scottish red squirrel pelts and sparkling Welsh ribbon candy – vestiges of his arcane training amongst his leprechaun brethren during the cold, yet often merry, winter months of his adolescence as he grew in stature and acquired the hard-earned wisdom that “a penny saved is a penny earned, but better yet is a penny shared.”
Alas, I have perhaps revealed too much concerning the great Penny. Perchance, the muse will bid me to further illuminate his legend at some future time, but for now this must suffice. Long live Sir Penny!
W. t. W.