Every now and then Lewis' Irish gets out, usually in the form of (for me) vexing remarks about 'Papists', but this story was more of a surprise, since it reminded me of my grandmother, also from Ulster (Cavan), though 10 years older than he and a Catholic. I don't remember her ever saying 'the Little People', but I do recall her speaking of fairies, and fairy mounds and lights and dancing. I only wish I remembered more of what she said, or that I had asked her to tell me the stories again when I was older than six or seven. I have no idea whether she believed them at all, but she had me convinced at the time. And she scared me quite a bit with her tales of banshees, which people she knew (so she said) had heard and even almost seen.
In any event, I discovered this story in a letter Lewis wrote to his brother, Warnie on 21 April 1940, decades after either of them had lived in Ireland:
I never told you a curious thing - I have meant to include it in several letters - wh[ich] provides a new instance of the malignity of the Little People. I was going into town one day and had got as far as the gate when I realised that I had odd shoes on, and one of them clean and the other dirty. There was no time to go back. As it was impossible to clean the dirty one, I decided that the only way of making myself look less ridiculous was to dirty the clean one. Now w[oul]d you have believed that this is an impossible operation? You can of course get some mud on it - but it remains obviously a clean shoe that has had an accident and won’t look in the least like a shoe that you have been for a walk in. One discovers new catches and snags in life every day.
As if one could foil the wrath of 'the Little Folk' by the simple expedient of dirtying a clean shoe.
And just in case you think the fairies aren't still malicious to those who cross them, here's a more recent tale from Cavan, complete with a butcher playing the part of Ted Sandyman.
I have often wondered how different it must be for those who believe in fairies to read fairy stories or hear them told.