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There once lived a king and a queen as many a one has been. They were long married and had no children; but at last a baby boy came to the queen when the king was away in the far countries. The queen would not christen the boy till the king came back, and she said: ‘We will just call him Nix Nought Nothing until his father comes home.’ But it was long before he came home, and the boy had grown a fine, bonny laddie. At length the king was on his way back; but he had a big river to cross, and there was a whirlpool, and he could not get over the water. But a giant came up to him, and said: ‘I’ll carry you over.’ But the king said: ‘What’s your pay?’ ‘Oh, give me Nix, Nought, Nothing, and I will carry you over the water on my back.’ The king had never heard that his son was called Nix Nought Nothing, and so he said: ‘Oh, I’ll give you that and my thanks into the bargain.’ When the king got home again, he was very happy to see his wife again, and his young son. She told him that she had not given the child any name, but just Nix Nought Nothing, until he should come home again himself. The poor king was in a terrible case. He said: ‘What have I done? I promised to give the giant who carried me over the river on his back Nix Nought Nothing.’ The king and the queen were sad and sorry, but they said: ‘When the giant comes we will give him the hen-wife’s boy; he will never know the difference.’ The next day the giant came to claim the king’s promise, and he sent for the hen-wife’s boy; and the giant went away with the boy on his back. He travelled till he came to a big stone, and there he sat down to rest. He said: ‘Hidge, Hodge, on my back, what time of day is that?’

 

The poor little lad said: ‘It is the time that my mother, the hen-wife, takes up the eggs for the queen’s breakfast.’

 

Then the giant was very angry, and dashed the boy on the stone and killed him.

 

Back he went in a tower of a temper and this time they gave him the gardener’s boy. He went off with him on his back till they got to the stone again when the giant sat down to rest. And he said: ‘Hidge, Hodge, on my back, what time of day do you make that?’

 

The gardener’s boy said: ‘Surely, it’s the time that my mother takes up the vegetables for the queen’s dinner.’

 

Then the giant was as wild as could be, and killed him, too.

 

Then the giant went back to the king’s house in a terrible temper and said he would destroy them all if they did not give him Nix Nought Nothing this time. They had to do it; and when he came to the big stone, the giant said: ‘What time of day is that?’ Nix Nought Nothing said: ‘It is the time that my father the king will be sitting down to supper.’ The giant said: ‘I’ve got the right one now’; and took Nix Nought Nothing to his own house and brought him up till he was a man.

 

The giant had a bonny daughter, and she and the lad grew very fond of each other. The giant said one day to Nix Nought Nothing: ‘I’ve work for you tomorrow. There is a stable seven miles long and seven miles broad, and it has not been cleaned for seven years, and you must clean it tomorrow, or I will have you for my supper.’

 

The giant’s daughter went out next morning with the lad’s breakfast, and found him in a terrible state, for always as he cleaned out a bit, it just fell in again. The giant’s daughter said she would help him, and she cried all the beasts in the field, and all the fowls in the air, and in a minute they all came, and carried away everything that was in the stable and made it all clean before the giant came home. He said: ‘Shame on the wit that helped you; but I have a worse job for you tomorrow.’ Then he said to Nix Nought Nothing: ‘There is a lake seven miles long, and seven miles deep, and seven miles broad, and you must drain it tomorrow by nightfall, or else I’ll have you for my supper.’ Nix Nought Nothing began early next morning and tried to lave the water with his pail, but the lake was never getting any less, and he didn’t know what to do; but the giant’s daughter called on all the fish in the sea to come and drink the water, and very soon they drank it dry. When the giant saw the work done he was in a rage, and said: ‘I’ve a worse job for you tomorrow; there is a tree, seven miles high, and no branch on it, till you get to the top, and there is a nest with seven eggs in it, and you must bring down all the eggs without breaking one, or else I’ll have you for my supper.’ At first the giant’s daughter did not know how to help Nix Nought Nothing; but she cut off first her fingers and then her toes, and made steps of them, and he climb the tree and got all the eggs safe till he came just to the bottom, and then one was broken. So they determined to run away together, and after the giant’s daughter had gone back to her room and got her magic flask, they set out together as fast as they could run. And they hadn’t got but three fields away when they looked back and saw the giant walking along at full speed after them. ‘Quick! quick!’ called out the giant’s daughter, ‘take my comb from my hair and throw it down.’ Nix Nought Nothing took her comb from her hair and threw it down, and out of every one of its prongs there sprung up a fine thick briar in the way of the giant. You may be sure it took him a long time to work his way through the briar bush, and by the time he was well through, Nix Nought Nothing and his sweetheart had run far, far away from him. But he soon came along after them, and was just like to catch ’em up when the giant’s daughter called out to Nix Nought Nothing, ‘Take my hair dagger and throw it down, quick, quick!’ So Nix Nought Nothing threw down the hair dagger and out of it grew as quick as lightning a thick hedge of sharp razors placed cuss-cross. The giant had to tread very cautiously to get through all this and meanwhile they both ran hard, and on, and on, and on, till they were nearly out of sight. But at last the giant was through, and it wasn’t ‘long before he was like to catch them up. But just as he was stretching out his hand to catch Nix Nought Nothing his daughter took out her magic flask and dashed it on the ground. And as it broke, out of it welled a big, big wave that grew, and that grew, till it reached the giant’s waist and then his neck, and when it got to his head, he was drowned dead, and dead, and dead indeed.

 

But Nix Nought Nothing fled on till where do you think they came to? Why, to near the castle of Nix Nought Nothing’s father and mother. But the giant’s daughter was so weary that she couldn’t move a step further. So Nix Nought Nothing told her to wait there while he went and found out a lodging for the night. And he went on towards the lights of the castle, and on the way he came to the cottage of the hen-wife whose boy, you’ll remember, had been killed by the giant. Now she knew Nix Nought Nothing in a moment, and hated him because he was the cause of her son’s death. So when he asked his way to the castle, she put a spell upon him, and when he got to the castle, no sooner was he let in than he fell down dead asleep upon a bench in the hail. The king and queen tried all they could do to wake him up, but all in vain, So the king promised that if any maiden could wake him she could marry him.

 

Meanwhile the giant’s daughter was waiting and waiting for him to come back. And she went up into a tree to watch for him. The gardener’s daughter, going to draw water in the well, saw the shadow of the lady in the water and thought it was herself, and said: ‘If I’m so bonny, if I’m so brave, why do you send me to draw water?’ So she threw down her pail and went to see if she could wed the sleeping stranger. And she went to the hen-wife, who taught her an unspelling charm which would keep Nix Nought Nothing awake as long as the gardener’s daughter liked. So she went up to the castle and sang her charm and Nix Nought Nothing was wakened for a while and they promised to wed him to the gardener’s daughter. Meanwhile the gardener went down to draw water from the well and saw the shadow of the lady in the water. So he looked up and found her, and he brought the lady from the tree, and led her into his house. And he told her that a stranger was to marry his daughter, and took her up to the castle and showed her the man: and it was Nix Nought Nothing asleep in a chair. And she saw him, and she cried to him: ‘Waken, waken, and speak to me!’ But he would not waken, and soon she cried: ‘I cleaned the stable, I laved the lake, and I clomb the tree, And all for the love of thee, And thou wilt not waken and speak to me.’

 

The king and queen heard this, and came to the bonny young lady, and she said: ‘I cannot get Nix Nought Nothing to speak to me, for all that I can do.’

 

Then were they greatly astonished when she spoke of Nix Nought Nothing, and asked where he was, and she said: ‘He that sits there in that chair.’ Then they ran to him and kissed him and called him their own dear son; so they called for the gardener’s daughter and made her sing her charm, and he wakened, and told them all that the giant’s daughter had done for him, and of all her kindness. Then they took her in their arms and kissed her, and said she should now be their daughter, for their son should marry her. But as for the hen-wife, she was put to death. And they lived happy all their days.

 

———————-

From English Fairy Tales

ISBN: 978-1-907256-04-2

URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_eft.html

 

 

 

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Today we take a brief branch away from folklore and fairy tales but stay in Wales for some ancient bardic poetry. Our poem is titled –  SONG TO THE WIND. A poem from the BOOK OF TALIESSIN XVII.

GUESS who it is.
Created before the deluge.
A creature strong,
Without flesh, without bone,
Without veins, without blood,
Without head, and without feet.
It will not be older, it will not be younger,
Than it was in the beginning.
There will not come from his design

10 Fear or death.
He has no wants
From creatures.
Great God! the sea whitens
When it comes from the beginning.
Great his beauties,
The one that made him.
He, in the field, he, in the wood,
Without hand and without foot.
Without old age, without age.

20 Without the most jealous destiny
And he (is) coeval
With the five periods of the five ages.
And also is older,
Though there be five hundred thousand years.
And he is as wide
As the face of the earth,
And he was not born,
And he has not been seen.
He, on sea, he, on land,

30 He sees not, he is not seen.
He is not sincere,
He will not come when it is wished.
He, on land, he, on sea,
He is indispensable,
He is unconfined,
He is unequalled.
He from four regions,
He will not be according to counsel.
He commences his journey

40 From above the stone of marble.
He is loud-voiced, he is mute.
He is uncourteous.
He is vehement, he is bold,
When he glances over the land.
He is mute, he is loud-voiced.
He is blustering.
Greatest, his banner
On the face of the earth.
He is good, he is bad,

50 He is not bright,
He is not manifest,
For the sight does not see (him).
He is bad, he is good.
He is yonder, he is here,
He will disorder.

He will not repair what he does
And he sinless,
He is wet, he is dry,
He comes frequently

60 From the heat of the sun, and the coldness of the moon.
The moon is without benefit,
Because less, her heat.
One Person has made it,
All the creatures.
He owns the beginning
And the end without falsehood.
Not skilful, the minstrel
That praises not the Lord.
Not true, the songster

70 That praises not the Father.
Not usual will a plough be
Without iron, without seed.
There was not a light
Before the creation of heaven;
There will not be a priest,
That will not bless the wafer;
The perverse will not know
The seven faculties.
Ten countries were provided,

80 In the angelic country.
The tenth were discarded,
They loved not their Father.
A loveless shower
In utter ruin.
Llucufer the corrupter,
Like his destitute country
Seven stars there are,
Of the seven gifts of the Lord.
The student of the stars

 

90 Knows their substance.
Marca mercedus
Ola olimus
Luna lafurus
Jubiter venerus
From the sun freely flowing
The moon fetches light.
Remembrance is not in vain,
No cross if not believed.
Our Father! Our Father!

100 Our relative and companion.
Our Sovereign, we shall not be separated.
By the host of Llucufer.

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From The Four Ancient Books of Wales

ISBN: 978-1-907256-92-9

URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_fabw.html

A COMPANY of fairies who lived in the recesses of Cader Idris were in the habit of going about from cottage to cottage in that part of the country to test the dispositions of the cottagers. Those who gave the fairies an ungracious welcome were subject to bad luck during the rest of their lives; but those who were good to the little folk who visited them in disguise received substantial favours from them.

 

Old Morgan ap Rhys was sitting one night by himself in his own chimney corner, solacing his loneliness with his pipe and some Llangollen ale. The generous liquor made Morgan very light-hearted, and he began to sing–at least he was under the impression that he was singing. His voice, however, was anything but sweet, and a bard whom he had offended–it is a very dangerous thing to fall foul of the bards in Wales, because they often have such bitter tongues–had likened his singing to the lowing of an old cow or the yelping of a blind dog which has lost its way to the cowyard. His singing, however, gave Morgan himself much satisfaction, and this particular evening he was especially pleased with the harmony he was producing. The only thing which marred his sense of contentment was the absence of an audience. Just as he was coming to the climax of his song, he heard a knock at the door. Delighted with the thought that there was someone to listen to him, Morgan sang with all the fervour he was capable of, and his top note was, in his opinion, a thing of beauty and a joy forever. When he had quite finished, he again heard a knock at the door, and shouted out, “What is the door for but to come in by? Come in, whoever you are.” Morgan’s manners, you will see, were not very polished.

 

The door opened and in came three travellers, travel-stained and weary-looking. Now these were fairies from Cader Idris disguised in this manner to see how Morgan treated strangers, but he never suspected they were other than they appeared. “Good sir,” said one of the travellers, “we are worn and tired, but all we seek is a bite of food to put in our wallets, and then we will go on our way.”

 

“Brensiach,” said Morgan, “is that all you want? Welt, there, look you, is the loaf and the cheese, and the knife lies by them, and you cut what you like. Eat your heartiest and fill your wallets, for never shall it be said that Morgan ap Rhys denied bread and cheese to strangers that came into his house.” The travellers proceeded to help themselves, and Morgan, determined not to fail in hospitality, sang to them while they ate, moistening his throat occasionally with Llangollen ale when it became dry.

 

The fairy travellers, after they had regaled themselves sufficiently, got up to go and said, “Good sir, we thank you for our entertainment. Since you have been so generous we will show that we are grateful. It is in our power to grant you any one wish you may have: tell us what that wish may be.”

 

“Well, indeed,” said Morgan, “the wish of my heart is to have a harp that will play under my fingers, no matter how ill I strike it: a harp that will play lively tunes, look you–no melancholy music for me. But surely it’s making fun of me you are.”

 

But that was not the case: he had hardly finished speaking when, to his astonishment, there on the hearth before him stood a splendid harp. He looked round and found his guests had vanished. “That’s the most extraordinary thing I have ever seen in my life,” said Morgan, “they must have been fairies,” and he was so flabbergasted that he felt constrained to drink some more ale. This allayed to some extent his bewilderment, and he proceeded to try the instrument he had been so mysteriously presented with. As soon as his fingers touched the strings, the harp began to play a mad and capering tune. Just then there was a sound of footsteps, and in came his wife with some friends. No sooner did they hear the strains of the harp than they began dancing, and as long as Morgan’s fingers were on the strings, they kept footing it like mad creatures.

 

The news that Morgan had come into possession of a harp with some mysterious power spread like wildfire over the whole country, and many were the visitors who came to see him and it. Every time he played it everyone felt irresistibly impelled to dance, and could not leave off until Morgan stopped. Even lame people capered away, and a one legged man who visited him danced as merrily as any biped.

 

One day, among the company who had come to see if the stories about the harp were true, was the bard who had made such unpleasant remarks about Morgan’s singing. Morgan determined to pay him out, and instead of stopping as usual after the dance had been going on for a few minutes, he kept on playing. He played on and on until the dancers were exhausted and shouted to him to stop. But Morgan was finding the scene much too amusing to want to stop. He laughed until his sides ached and the tears rolled down his cheeks at the antics of his visitors, and especially at those of the bard. The longer he played the madder became the dance: the dancers spun round and round, wildly knocking over the furniture, and some of them bounded up against the roof of the cottage till their heads cracked again. Morgan did not stop until the bard had broken his legs and the rest had been jolted almost to pieces. By that time his revenge was satisfied, and his sides and jaws were so tired with laughing that he had to take his fingers away from the strings.

 

But this was the last time he was to have the chance of venting his spite on his enemies. By next morning the harp had disappeared, and was never seen again. The fairies, evidently displeased with the evil use to which their gift had been put, must have taken it away in the night. And this is a warning to all who abuse the gifts of the fairies.

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From “The Welsh Fairy Book”

ISBN: 978-1-907256-68-4

URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_wfb.html

 

Once upon a time a lot of fairies lived in Mona.

 

One day the queen fairy’s daughter, who was now fifteen years of age, told her mother she wished to go out and see the world. The queen consented, allowing her to go for a day, and to change from a fairy to a bird, or from a bird to a fairy, as she wished.

 

When she returned one night she said:

“I’ve been to a gentleman’s house, and as I stood listening, I heard the gentleman was witched: he was very ill, and crying out with pain.”

 

“Oh, I must look into that,” said the queen.

 

So the next day she went through her process and found that he was bewitched by an old witch. So the following day she set out with six other fairies, and when they came to the gentleman’s house she found he was very ill.

 

Going into the room, bearing a small blue pot they had brought with them, the queen asked him:

 

“Would you like to be cured?”

 

“Oh, bless you; yes, indeed.”

 

Whereupon the queen put the little blue pot of perfume on the centre of the table, and lit it, when the room was instantly filled with the most delicious odour.

 

Whilst the perfume was burning, the six fairies formed in line behind her, and she leading, they walked round the table three times, chanting in chorus:

 

“Round and round three times three,

We have come to cure thee.”

 

At the end of the third round she touched the burning perfume with her wand, and then touched the gentleman on the head, saying:

 

“Be thou made whole.”

 

No sooner had she said the words than he jumped up hale and hearty, and said:

 

“Oh, dear queen, what shall I do for you? I’ll do anything you wish.”

 

“Money I do not wish for,” said the queen, “but there’s a little plot of ground on the sea-cliff I want you to lend me, for I wish to make a ring there, and the grass will die when I make the ring. Then I want you to build three walls round the ring, but leave the sea-side open, so that we may be able to come and go easily.”

 

“With the greatest of pleasure,” said the gentleman; and he built the three stone walls at once, at the spot indicated.

 

II.

 

Near the gentleman lived the old witch, and she had the power of turning at will into a hare. The gentleman was a great hare hunter, but the hounds could never catch this hare; it always disappeared in a mill, running between the wings and jumping in at an open window, though they stationed two men and a dog at the spot, when it immediately turned into the old witch. And the old miller never suspected, for the old woman used to take him a peck of corn to grind a few days before any hunt, telling him she would call for it on the afternoon of the day of the hunt. So that when she arrived she was expected.

 

One day she had been taunting the gentleman as he returned from a hunt, that he could never catch the hare, and he struck her with his whip, saying “Get away, you witchcraft!”

 

Whereupon she witched him, and he fell ill, and was cured as we have seen.

 

When he got well he watched the old witch, and saw she often visited the house of an old miser who lived nearby with his beautiful niece. Now all the people in the village touched their hats most respectfully to this old miser, for they knew he had dealings with the witch, and they were as much afraid of him as of her; but everyone loved the miser’s kind and beautiful niece.

 

III.

 

When the fairies got home the queen told her daughter:

 

“I have no power over the old witch for twelve months from to-day, and then I have no power over her life. She must lose that by the arm of a man.”

 

So the next day the daughter was sent out again to see whether she could find a person suited to that purpose.

 

In the village lived a small crofter, who was afraid of nothing; he

was the boldest man thereabouts; and one day he passed the miser without saluting him. The old fellow went off at once and told the witch.

 

“Oh, I’ll settle his cows to-night!” said she, and they were taken

sick, and gave no milk that night.

 

The fairy’s daughter arrived at his croft-yard after the cows were

taken ill, and she heard him say to his son, a bright lad:

 

“It must be the old witch!”

 

When she heard this, she sent him to the queen.

 

So next day the fairy queen took six fairies and went to the croft,

taking her blue pot of perfume. When she got there she asked the crofter if he would like his cows cured?

 

“God bless you, yes!” he said.

 

The queen made him bring a round table into the yard, whereon she placed the blue pot of perfume, and having lit it, as before, they formed in line and walked round thrice, chanting the words:

 

“Round and round three times three,

We have come to cure thee.”

 

Then she dipped the end of her wand into the perfume, and touched the cows on the forehead, saying to each one:

 

“Be thou whole.”

 

Whereupon they jumped up cured.

 

The little farmer was overjoyed, and cried:

 

“Oh, what can I do for you? What can I do for you?”

 

“Money I care not for,” said the queen, “all I want is your son to avenge you and me.”

 

The lad jumped up and said:

 

“What I can do I’ll do it for you, my lady fairy.”

 

She told him to be at the walled plot the following day at noon, and left.

 

IV.

 

The next day at noon, the queen and her daughter and three hundred other fairies came up the cliff to the green grass plot, and they carried a pole, and a tape, and a mirror. When they reached the plot they planted the pole in the ground, and hung the mirror on the pole. The queen took the tape, which measured ten yards and was fastened to the top of the pole, and walked round in a circle, and wherever she set her feet the grass withered and died. Then the fairies followed up behind the queen, and each fairy carried a harebell in her left-hand, and a little blue cup of burning perfume in her right. When they had formed up the queen called the lad to her side, and told him to walk by her throughout. They then started off, all singing in chorus:

 

“Round and round three times three,

Tell me what you see.”

 

When they finished the first round, the queen and lad stopped before the mirror, and she asked the lad what he saw?

 

“I see, I see, the mirror tells me,

It is the witch that I see,”

said the lad. So they marched round again, singing the same words as before, and when they stopped a second time before the mirror the queen again asked him what he saw?

 

“I see, I see, the mirror tells me,

It is a hare that I see,”

said the lad.

 

A third time the ceremony and question were repeated.

 

“I see, I see, the mirror tells me,

The hares run up the hill to the mill.”

 

“Now”, said the queen, “there is to be a hare-hunting this day week; be at the mill at noon, and I will meet you there.”

 

And then the fairies, pole, mirror, and all, vanished and only the empty ring on the green was left.

 

V.

 

Upon the appointed day the lad went to his tryst, and at noon the Fairy Queen appeared, and gave him a sling, and a smooth pebble from the beach, saying:

 

“I have blessed your arms, and I have blessed the sling and the

stone.

 

“Now as the clock strikes three,

Go up the hill near the mill,

And in the ring stand still

Till you hear the click of the mill.

Then with thy arm, with power and might,

You shall strike and smite

The devil of a witch called Jezabel light,

And you shall see an awful sight.”

 

The lad did as he was bidden, and presently he heard the huntsman’s horn and the hue and cry, and saw the hare running down the opposite hill-side, where the hounds seemed to gain on her, but as she breasted the hill on which he stood she gained on them. As she came towards the mill he threw his stone, and it lodged in her skull, and when he ran up he found he had killed the old witch. As the huntsmen came up they crowded round him, and praised him; and then they fastened the witch’s body to a horse by ropes, and dragged her to the bottom of the valley, where they buried her in a ditch. That night, when the miser heard of her death, he dropped down dead on the spot.

 

As the lad was going home the queen appeared to him, and told him to be at the ring the following day at noon.

 

VI.

 

Next day all the fairies came with the pole and mirror, each

carrying a harebell in her left-hand, and a blue cup of burning

perfume in her right, and they formed up as before, the lad walking beside the queen. They marched round and repeated the old words, when the queen stopped before the mirror, and said:

 

“What do you see?”

 

“I see, I see, the mirror tells me,

It is an old plate-cupboard that I see.”

 

A second time they went round, and the question, was repeated.

 

“I see, I see, the mirror tells me,

The back is turned to me.”

 

A third time was the ceremony fulfilled, and the lad answered

 

“I see, I see, the mirror tells me,

A spring-door is open to me.”

 

“Buy that plate-cupboard at the miser’s sale,” said the queen, and she and her companions disappeared as before.

 

VII.

 

Upon the day of the sale all the things were brought out in the

road, and the plate-cupboard was put up, the lad recognising it and bidding up for it till it was sold to him. When he had paid for it he took it home in a cart, and when he got in and examined it, he found the secret drawer behind was full of gold. The following week the house and land, thirty acres, was put up for sale, and the lad bought both, and married the miser’s niece, and they lived happily till they died.

 

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From “Welsh Fairy Tales and Other Stories”

ISBN: 978-1-907256-03-5

URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_wftos.html

 

 

Recorded from the Rev. Thomas Pattieson of Islay.

 

YEARS ago there lived in Crossbrig a smith of the name of MacEachern. This man had an only child, a boy of about thirteen or fourteen years of age, cheerful, strong, and healthy. All of a sudden he fell ill; took to his bed and moped whole days away. No one could tell what was the matter with him, and the boy himself could not, or would not, tell how he felt. He was wasting away fast; getting thin, old, and yellow; and his father and all his friends were afraid that he would die.

 

At last one day, after the boy had been lying in this condition for a long time, getting neither better nor worse, always confined to bed, but with an extraordinary appetite,–one day, while sadly revolving these things, and standing idly at his forge, with no heart to work, the smith was agreeably surprised to see an old man, well known to him for his sagacity and knowledge of out-of-the-way things, walk into his workshop. Forthwith he told him the occurrence which had clouded his life.

 

The old man looked grave as he listened; and after sitting a long time pondering over all he had heard, gave his opinion thus–“It is not your son you have got. The boy has been carried away by the ‘Daoine Sith,’ and they have left a Sibhreach in his place.” “Alas! and what then am I to do?” said the smith. “How am I ever to see my own son again?” “I will tell you how,” answered the old man. “But, first, to make sure that it is not your own son you have got, take as many empty egg shells as you can get, go with them into the room, spread them out carefully before his sight, then proceed to draw water with them, carrying them two and two in your hands as if they were a great weight, and arrange when full, with every sort of earnestness round the fire.” The smith accordingly gathered as many broken egg-shells as he could get, went into the room, and proceeded to carry out all his instructions.

 

He had not been long at work before there arose from the bed a shout of laughter, and the voice of the seeming sick boy exclaimed, “I am now 800 years of age, and I have never seen the like of that before.”

 

The smith returned and told the old man. “Well, now,” said the sage to him, “did I not tell you that it was not your son you had: your son is in Brorra-cheill in a digh there (that is, a round green hill frequented by fairies). Get rid as soon as possible of this intruder, and I think I may promise you your son.”

 

“You must light a very large and bright fire before the bed on which this stranger is lying. He will ask you ‘What is the use of such a fire as that?’ Answer him at once, ‘You will see that presently!’ and then seize him, and throw him into the middle of it. If it is your own son you have got, he will call out to save him; but if not, this thing will fly through the roof.

 

The smith again followed the old man’s advice, kindled a large fire, answered the question put to him as he had been directed to do, and seizing the child flung him in without hesitation. The “Sibhreach” gave an awful yell, and sprung through the roof, where a hole was left to let the smoke out.

 

On a certain night the old man told him the green round hill, where the fairies kept the boy, would be open. And on that night the smith, having provided himself with a bible, a dirk, and a crowing cock, was to proceed to the hill. He would hear singing and dancing and much merriment going on, but he was to advance boldly; the bible he carried would be a certain safeguard to him against any danger from the fairies. On entering the hill he was. to stick the dirk in the threshold, to prevent the hill from closing upon him; “and then,” continued the old man, “on entering you will see a spacious apartment before you, beautifully clean, and there, standing far within, working at a forge, you will also see your own son. When you are questioned, say you come to seek him, and will not go without him.”

 

Not long after this, the time came round, and the smith sallied forth, prepared as instructed. Sure enough as he approached the hill, there was a light where light was seldom seen before. Soon after a sound of piping, dancing, and joyous merriment reached the anxious father on the night wind.

 

Overcoming every impulse to fear, the smith approached the threshold steadily, stuck the dirk into it as directed, and entered. Protected by the bible he carried on his breast, the fairies could not touch him; but they asked him, with a good deal of displeasure, what he wanted there. He answered, “I want my son, whom I see down there, and I will not go without him.”

 

Upon hearing this, the whole company before him gave a loud laugh, which wakened up the cock he carried dozing in his arms, who at once leaped up on his shoulders, clapped his wings lustily, and crowed loud and long.

 

The fairies, incensed, seized the smith and his son, and throwing them out of the hill, flung the dirk after them, “and in an instant a’ was dark.”

 

For a year and a day the boy never did a turn of work, and hardly ever spoke a word; but at last one day, sitting by his father and watching him finishing a sword he was making for some chief, and which he was very particular about, he suddenly exclaimed, “That is not the way to do it;” and taking the tools from his father’s hands he set to work himself in his place, and soon fashioned a sword, the like of which was never seen in the country before.

 

From that day the young man wrought constantly with his father, and became the inventor of a peculiarly fine and well-tempered weapon, the making of which kept the two smiths, father and son, in constant employment, spread their fame far and wide, and gave them the means in abundance, as they before had the disposition to live content with all the world and very happily with one another.

 

The walls of the house where this celebrated smith, the artificer of the ‘Claidheamh Ceann-Ileach,” lived and wrought, are standing to this day, not far from the parish church of Kilchoman, Islay, in a place called Caonis gall..

 

* * * * * * *

 

Many of the incidents in this story are common in other collections; but I do not know any published story of the kind in which the hero is a smith. This smith was a famous character, and probably a real personage, to whom the story has attached itself.

———————–

From “Popular Tales of the West Highlands Vol. 2”

ISBN: 978-1-907256-06-6

URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_ptotwh2.html

 

As I was a-walking one morning in the spring,
I heard a young ploughman so sweetly to sing,
And as he was singing these words he did say,
No life is like the ploughman’s in the month of May.

The lark in the morning rises from her nest,
And mounts in the air with the dew on her breast,
And with the jolly ploughman she’ll whistle and she’ll sing,
And at night she’ll return to her nest back again.

If you walk in the fields any pleasure to find,
You may see what the ploughman enjoys in his mind;
There the corn he sows grows and the flowers do spring,
And the ploughman’s as happy as a prince or a king.

When his day’s work is done that he has to do,
Perhaps to some country walk he will go;
There with a sweet lass he will dance and sing,
And at night return with his lass back again.

Then he rises next morning to follow his team,
Like a jolly ploughman so neat and so trim;
If he kiss a pretty girl he will make her his wife,
And she loves her jolly ploughman as dear as her life.

There’s Molly and Dolly, Nelly and Sue;
There’s Ralph, John, and Willie, and young Tommy too ;
Each lad takes his lass to the wake or the fair,
Adzooks! they look rarely I vow and declare.

——————

From Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales

ISBN: 978-1-907256-93-6

URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_sfft.html

Tags:

(Recorded from Ann MacGilvray, Islay.–April 1859)

 

THERE was ere now a farmer, and he had three daughters. They were waulking(1) clothes at a river. A hoodie came round and he said to the eldest one, ’M-POS-U-MI, “Wilt thou wed me, farmer’s daughter?” “I won’t wed thee, thou ugly brute. An ugly brute is the hoodie,” said she. He came to the second one on the morrow, and he said to her, “M-POS-U-MI, wilt thou wed me?” “Not I, indeed,” said she; “an ugly brute is the hoodie.” The third day he said to the youngest, M-POS-U-MI, “Wilt thou wed me, farmer’s daughter?,” “I will wed thee,” said she; “a pretty creature is the hoodie,” and on the morrow they married.

 

The hoodie said to her, “Whether wouldst thou rather that I should be a hoodie by day, and a man at night; or be a hoodie at night, and a man by day?” “I would rather that thou wert a man by day, and a hoodie at night,” says she. After this he was a splendid fellow by day, and a hoodie at night. A few days after they married he took her with him to his own house.

At the end of three quarters they had a son. In the night there came the very finest music that ever was heard about the house. Every man slept, and the child was taken away. Her father came to the door in the morning, and he asked how were all there. He was very sorrowful that the child should be taken away, for fear that he should be blamed for it himself.

 

At the end of three quarters again they had another son. A watch was set on the house. The finest of music came, as it came before, about the house; every man slept, and the child was taken away. Her father came to the door in the morning. He asked if everything was safe; but the child was taken away, and he did not know what to do for sorrow.

 

Again, at the end of three quarters they had another son. A watch was set on the house as usual. Music came about the house as it came before; every one slept, and the child was taken away. When they rose on the morrow they went to another place of rest that they had, himself and his wife, and his sister-in-law. He said to them by the way, “See that you have not forgotten anything.” The wife said, “I FORGOT MY COARSE COMB.” The coach in which they were fell a withered faggot, and he went away as a hoodie.

Her two sisters returned home, and she followed after him. When he would be on a hill top, she would follow to try and catch him; and when she would reach the top of a hill, he would be in the hollow on the other side. When night came, and she was tired, she had no place of rest or dwelling; she saw a little house of light far from her, and though far from her she was not long in reaching it.

 

When she reached the house she stood deserted at the door. She saw a little laddie about the house, and she yearned to him exceedingly. The housewife told her to come up, that she knew her cheer and travel. She laid down, and no sooner did the day come than she rose. She went out, and when she was out, she was going from hill to hill to try if she could see a hoodie. She saw a hoodie on a hill, and when she would get on the hill the hoodie would be in the hollow, when she would go to the hollow, the hoodie would be on another hill. When the night came she had no place of rest or dwelling. She saw a little house of light far from her, and if far from her she, was not long reaching it. She went to the door. She saw a laddie on the floor to whom she yearned right much. The, housewife laid her to rest. No earlier came the day than she took out as she used. She passed this day as the other days. When the night came she reached a house. The housewife told her to come up, that she knew her cheer and travel, that her man had but left the house a little while, that she should be clever, that this was the last night she would see him, and not to sleep, but to strive to seize him. She slept, he came where she was, and he let fall a ring on her right hand. Now when she awoke she tried to catch hold of him, and she caught a feather of his wing. He left the feather with her, and he went away. When she rose in the morning she did not know what she should do. The housewife said that he had gone over a hill of poison over which she could not go without horseshoes on her hands and feet. She gave her man’s clothes, and she told her to go to learn smithying till she should be able to make horse shoes for herself.

 

She learned smithying so well that she made horseshoes for her hands and feet. She went over the hill of poison. That same day after she had gone over the hill of poison, her man was to be married to the daughter of a great gentleman that was in the town.

There was a race in the town that day, and everyone was to be at the race but the stranger that had come over to poison hill. The cook came to her, and he said to her, Would she go in his place to make the wedding meal, and that he might get to the race.

 

She said she would go. She was always watching where the bridegroom would be sitting.

She let fall the ring and the feather in the broth that was before him. With the first spoon he took up the ring, with the next he took up the feather. When the minister came to the fore to make the marriage, he would not marry till he should find out who had made ready the meal. They brought up the cook of the gentleman, and he said that this was not the cook who made ready the meal.

 

They brought up now the one who had made ready the meal. He said, “That now was his married wife.” The spells went off him. They turned back over the hill of poison, she throwing the horse shoes behind her to him, as she went a little bit forward, and he following her. When they came, back over the hill, they went to the three houses in which she had been. These were the houses of his sisters, and they took with them the three sons, and they came home to their own house, and they were happy.

———————

1 – Washing clothes – also known as waulking: in addition to washing by hand the women would also lay the clothes on rocks and walk on the cloth during washing (usually at a river)

———————

Written down by Hector Maclean, schoolmaster at Ballygrant, in Islay, from the recitation of “Ann MacGilvray, a Cowal woman, married to a farmer at Kilmeny, one Angus Macgeachy from Campbelltown.” Sent April 14, 1859.

 

The Gaelic of this tale is the plain everyday Gaelic of Islay and the West Highlands. Several words are variously spelt, but they are variously pronounced–falbh, folbh, tigh, taighe, taighean. There is one word, Tapaidh, which has no English equivalent; it is like “Tapper” in Swedish.

———————

From “Popular Tales of the West Highlands” collated and edited by John Campbell – better known as “John of Islay”

ISBN: 978-1-907256-02-8

URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_ptotwh1.html

 

 

Tomorrow we journey from the Emerald Isle to Scotland for a taste of their folklore, myths and legends. So today is our last tale of Ireland, this time around. It is titled:

 

BLACK, BROWN and GRAY

an Irish Tale of Fin MacCumhail

 

On a day Fin MacCumhail was near Tara of the Kings, south of Ballyshannon, hunting with seven companies of the Fenians of Erin.

 

During the day they saw three strange men coming towards them, and Fin said to the Fenians:

 

“Let none of you speak to them, and if they have good manners they’ll not speak to you nor to any man till they come to me.”

 

When the three men came up, they said nothing till they stood before Fin himself. Then he asked what their names were and what they wanted. They answered: -Our names are Dubh, Dun, and Glasán [Black, Brown, and Gray]. We have come to find Fin MacCumhail, chief of the Fenians of Erin, and take service with him.”

 

Fin was so well pleased with their looks that he brought them home with him that evening and called them his sons. Then he said, “Every man who comes to this castle must watch the first night for me, and since three of you have come together each will watch one third of the night. You’ll cast lots to see who’ll watch first and second.”

 

Fin had the trunk of a tree brought, three equal parts made of it, and one given to each of the men.

 

Then he said, “When each of you begins his watch he will set fire to his own piece of wood, and so long as the wood burns he will watch.”

 

The lot fell to Dubh to go on the first watch.

 

Dubh set fire to his log, then went out around the castle, the dog Bran with him. He wandered on, going further and further from the castle, and Bran after him. At last he saw a bright light and went towards it. When he came to the place where the light was burning, he saw a large house. He entered the house and when inside saw a great company of most strange looking men, drinking out of a single cup.

 

The chief of the party, who was sitting on a high place, gave the cup to the man nearest him; and when he had drunk his fill out of it, he passed it to his neighbour, and so on to the last.

 

While the cup was going the round of the company, the chief said, ” This is the great cup that was taken from Fin MacCumhail a hundred years ago; and as much as each man wishes to drink he always gets from it, and no matter how many men there may be, or what they wish for, they always have their fill.”

 

Dubh sat near the door on the edge of the crowd, and when the cup came to him he drank a little, then slipped out and hurried away in the dark; when he came to the fountain at the castle of Fin MacCumhail, his log was burned.

 

As the second lot had fallen on Dun, it was now his turn to watch, so he set fire to his log and went out, in the place of Dubh, with the dog Bran after him.

 

Dun walked on through the night till he saw a fire. He went towards it, and when he had come near he saw a large house, which he entered; and when inside he saw a crowd of strange looking men, fighting. They were ferocious, wonderful to look at, and fighting wildly.

 

The chief, who had climbed on the crossbeams of the house to escape the uproar and struggle, called out to the crowd below: “Stop fighting now; for I have a better gift than the one you have lost this night” and putting his hand behind his belt, he drew out a knife and held it before them, saying: ” Here is the wonderful knife, the small knife of division, that was stolen from Fin MacCumhail a hundred years ago, and if you cut on a bone with the knife, you’ll get the finest meat in the world, and as much of it as ever your hearts can wish for.”

 

Then he passed down the knife and a bare bone to the man next him, and the man began to cut; and off came slices of the sweetest and best meat in the world.

 

The knife and the bone passed from man to man till they came to Dun, who cut a slice off the bone, slipped out unseen, and made for Fin’s castle as fast as his two legs could carry him through the darkness and over the ground.

 

When he was by the fountain at the castle, his part of the log was burned and his watch at an end.

 

Now Glasán set fire to his stick of wood and went out on his watch and walked forward till he saw the light and came to the same house that Dubh and Dun had visited.

 

Looking in he saw the place full of dead bodies, and thought, There must be some great wonder here. If I lie down in the midst of these and put some of them over me to hide myself, I shall be able to see what is going on.

 

He lay down and pulled some of the bodies over himself. He wasn’t there long when he saw an old hag coming into the house. She had but one leg, one arm, and one tipper tooth, which was as long as her leg and served her in place of a crutch.

 

When inside the door she took up the first corpse she met and threw it aside; it was lean. As she went on she took two bites out of every fat corpse she met, and threw every lean one aside.

 

She had her fill of flesh and blood before she came to Glasán; and as soon as she had that, she dropped down on the floor, lay on her back, and went to sleep.

 

Every breath she drew, Glasán was afraid she’d drag the roof down on top of his head, and every time she let a breath out of her he thought she’d sweep the roof off the house.

 

Then he rose up, looked at her, and wondered at the bulk of her body. At last he drew his sword, hit her a slash, and if he did, three young giants sprang forth.

 

Glasán killed the first giant, the dog Bran killed the second, and the third ran away.

 

Glasán now hurried back, and when he reached the fountain at Fin’s castle, his log of wood was burned, and day was dawning.

 

When all had risen in the morning, and the Fenians of Erin came out, Fin said to Dubh, “Have you anything new or wonderful to tell me after the night’s watching?”

 

“I have,” said Dubh; “for I brought back the drinking-cup that you lost a hundred years ago. I was out in the darkness watching. I walked on, and the dog Bran with me till I saw a light. When I came to the light I found a house, and in the house a company feasting. The chief was a very old man, and sat on a high place above the rest. He took out the cup and said: ‘ This is the cup that was stolen from Fin MacCumhail a hundred years ago, and it is always full of the best drink in the world; and when one of you has drunk from the cup pass it on to the next.’

 

“They drank: and passed the cup till it came to me. I took it and hurried back. When I came here, my log was burned and my watch was finished. Here now is the cup for you,” said Dubh to Fin MacCumhail.

 

Fin praised him greatly for what he had done, and turning to Dun said: “Now tell us what happened in your watch.”

 

“When my turn came I set fire to the log which you gave me, and walked on; the dog Bran following, till I saw a light. When I came to the light, I found a house in which was a crowd of people, all fighting except one very old man on a high place above the rest. He called to them for peace, and told them to be quiet. ‘For,’ said he, ‘ I have a better gift for you than the one you lost this night,’ and he took out the small knife of division with a bare bone, and said: ‘This is the knife that was stolen from Fin MacCumhail, a hundred years ago, and whenever you cut on the bone with the knife, you‘ll get your fill of the best meat on earth.’

 

“Then he handed the knife and the bone to the man nearest him, who cut from it all the meat he wanted, and then passed it to his neighbour. The knife went from hand to hand till it came to me, then I took it, slipped out, and hurried away. When I came to the fountain, my log was burned, and here are the knife and bone for you.”

 

You have done a great work, and deserve my best praise,” said Fin. We are sure of the best eating and drinking as long as we keep the cup and the knife.”

 

Now what have you seen in your part of the night?” said Fin to Glasán.

 

I went out,” said Glasán, “with the dog Bran, and walked on till I saw a light, and when I came to the light I saw a house, which I entered. Inside were heaps of dead men, killed in fighting, and I wondered greatly when I saw them. At last I lay down in the midst of the corpses, put some of them over me and waited to see what would happen.

 

“Soon an old hag came in at the door, she had but one arm, one leg, and the one tooth out of her upper jaw, and that tooth a long as her leg, and she used it for a crutch as she hobbled along. She threw aside the first corpse she met and took two bites out of the second, – for she threw every lean corpse away and took two bites out of every fat one. When she had eaten her fill, she lay down on her back in the middle of the floor and went to sleep. I rose up then to look at her, and every time she drew a breath I was in dread she would bring down the roof of the house on the top of my head, and every time she let a breath out of her, I thought she’d sweep the roof from the building, so strong was the breath of the old hag.

 

“Then I drew my sword and cut her with a blow, but if I did three young giants sprang up before me. I killed the first, Bran killed the second, but the third escaped. I walked away then, and when I was at the fountain outside, daylight had come and my log was burned.”

 

Between you and me,” said Fin, “it would have been as well if you had let the old hag alone. I am greatly in dread the third young giant will bring trouble on us all.”

 

For twenty-one years Fin MacCumhail and the Fenians of Erin hunted for sport alone. They had the best of eating from the small knife of division, and the best of drinking from the cup that was never dry.

 

At the end of twenty-one years Dubh, Dun, and Glasán went away, and one day, as Fin and the Fenians of Erin were hunting on the hills and mountains, they saw a Fear Ruadh (a red haired man) coming toward them.

 

“There is a bright looking man coming this way,” said Fin, “and don’t you speak to him.”

 

“Oh, what do we care for him?” asked Conan Maol.

 

“Don’t be rude to a stranger,” said Fin.

 

The Fear Ruadh came forward and spoke to no man till he stood before Fin.

 

“What have you come for?” asked Fin. “To find a master for twenty-one years.”

 

“What wages do you ask?” Inquired Fin.

 

“No wages but this, – that if I die before the twenty-one years have passed, I shall be buried on Inis Caol (Light Island).”

 

“I’ll give you those wages, ‘ said Fin, and he hired the Fear Ruadh for twenty-one years.

 

He served Fin for twenty years to his satisfaction; but toward the end of the twenty-first year he fell into a decline, became an old man, and died.

 

When the Fear Ruadh was dead, the Fenians of Erin said that not a step would they go to bury him; but Fin declared that he wouldn’t break his word for any man, and must take the corpse to Inis Caol.

 

Fin had an old white horse which he had turned out to find a living for himself as he could on the hillsides and in the woods. And now he looked for the horse and found that he had become younger than older in looks since he had put him out. So he took the old white horse and tied a coffin, with the body of the Fear Ruadh in it, on his back. Then they started him on ahead and away he went followed by Fin and twelve men of the Fenians of Erin.

 

When they came to the temple on Inis Caol there were no signs of the white horse and the coffin; but the temple was open and in went Fin and the twelve.

 

There were seats for each man inside. They sat down and rested awhile and then Fin tried to rise but couldn’t. He told the men to rise, but the twelve were fastened to the seats, and the seats to the ground, so that not a man of them could come to his feet.

 

“Oh,” said Fin, “I’m in dread there is some evil trick played on us.”

 

At that moment the Fear Ruadh stood before them in all his former strength and youth and said:

 

“Now is the time for me to take satisfaction out of you for my mother and brothers,”

 

Then one of the men said to Fin, “Chew your thumb to know is there any way out of this.”

 

Fin chewed his thumb to know what should he do. When he knew, he blew the great whistle with his two hands; which was heard by Donogh Kamcosa and Diarmuid O’Duivne.

 

The Fear Ruadh fell to and killed three of the men; but before he could touch the fourth Donogh and Diarmuid were there, and put an end to him. Now all were free, and Fin with the nine men went back to their castle south of Ballyshannon.

 

———————–

From “Myths and Legends of Ireland” compiled and edited by Jeremiah Curtin

ISBN: 978-1-907256-08-0

URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_mfi.html

 

THE DEVIL’S MILL – A Tale from Old Ireland.

NOTE: This tale was recorded in the field by Samuel Lover. It has been recorded verbatim, or in the vulgate i.e. Samuel Lover recorded the words exactly as they were said. He did this in order to retain the local manner and flavour of the tale. Now, enough from me. Read on……

 

Beside the River Liffey stands the picturesque ruins of a mill, overshadowed by some noble trees, that grow in great luxuriance at the water’s edge. Here, one day, I was accosted by a silver-haired old man that for some time had been observing me, and who, when I was about to leave the spot, approached me and said: “I suppose it’s after takin’ off the ould mill you’d be, sir?”

 

I answered in the affirmative.

 

“Maybe your honour id let me get a sight iv it,” said he.

 

“With pleasure,” said I, as I untied the strings of my portfolio, and drawing the sketch from amongst its companions, presented it to him. He considered it attentively for some time, and at length exclaimed:

 

“Throth, there it is, to the life–the broken roof and the wather-coorse; ay, even to the very spot where the gudgeon of the wheel was wanst, let alone the big stone at the corner, that was laid the first by himself;” and he gave the last word with mysterious emphasis, and handed the drawing back to me with a “thankee, sir!” of most respectful acknowledgment.

 

“And who was ‘himself,” said I, “that laid that stone?” feigning ignorance, and desiring to “draw him out,” as the phrase is.

 

“Oh, then, maybe it’s what you’d be a stranger here?” said he

 

“Almost,” said I.

 

“And you never hear tell of L–‘s mill,” said he, “and how it was built?”

 

“Never,” was my answer.

 

“Throth, then, I thought young and ould, rich and poor, knew that–far and near.”

 

“I don’t, for one,” said I; “but perhaps,” I added, bringing forth some little preparation for a lunch that I had about me, and producing a small flask of whisky–” perhaps you will be so good as to tell me, and take a slice of ham, and drink my health,” offering him a dram from my flask, and seating myself on the sod beside the river.

 

“Thank you kindly, sir,” says he; and so, after “warming his heart,” as be said himself, he proceeded to give an account of the mill in question.

 

“You see, sir, there was a man wanst, in times back, that owned a power of land about here – but God keep us, they said he didn’t come by it honestly, but did a crooked turn whenever ’twas to sarve himself–and sure he sould the pass, and what luck or grace could he havw afther that?”

 

“How do you mean be sold the pass?” said I.

 

“Oh, sure your honour must have head how the pass was sould, and he bethrayed his king and counthry.”

 

“No, indeed,” said I.

 

“Och, well,” answered my old informant, with a shake of the head, which he meant, like Lord Burleigh in the Critic, to be very significant, “it’s no matther now, and I don’t care talkin’ about it; and laist said is soonest mended–howsomever, he got a power of money for that same, and lands and what not; but the more he got, the more he craved, and there was no ind to his sthrivin’ for goold evermore, and thirstin’ for the lucre of gain.

 

“Well, at last, the story goes, the divil (God bless us!) kem to him, and promised him hapes o’ money, and all his heart could desire, and more too, if he’d sell his soul in exchange.”

 

“Surely he did not consent to such a dreadful bargain as that?” said I.

 

“Oh, no, sir,” said the old man, with a slight play of muscle about the corners of his mouth, which, but that the awfulness of the subject suppressed it, would have amounted to a bitter smile–” oh, no, he was too cunnin’ for that, bad as he was–and he was bad enough, God knows–he had some regard for his poor sinful sowl, and he would not give himself up to the divil, all out; but the villian, he thought he might make a bargain with the ould chap, and get all he wanted, and keep himself out of harm’s way still; for he was mighty cute–and throth, he was able for Ould Nick any day.

 

“Well, the bargain was struck, and it was this-a-way: The divil was to give him all the goold ever he’d ask for, and was to let him alone as long as he could; and the timpter promised him a long day, and said ‘twould be a great while before he’d want him, at all, at all; and whin that time kem, he was to keep his hands aff him, as long as the other could give him some work be couldn’t do.

 

“So when the bargain was made, ‘Now,’ says ‘the Colonel to the divil, ‘give me all the money I want.’

 

“As much as you like,’ says Ouid Nick. ‘How much will you have?’

 

“You must fill me that room,’ says he, pointin’ into a murtherin’ big room, that he emptied out on purpose–‘you must fill me that room,’ says be, ‘up to the very ceilin’ with goolden guineas.’

 

“‘And welkim,’ says the divil.

 

“With that, sir, he began to shovel in the guineas into the room like mad; and the Colonel towld him, that as soon as he was done, to come to him in his own parlour below, and that he would then go up and see if, the divil was as good as his word, and had filled the room with the goolden guineas. So the Colonel went downstairs, and the ould fellow worked away as busy as a nailer,  shovellin’ in the guineas by hundherds and thousands.

 

“Well, he worked away for an hour and more, and at last he began to get tired; and he thought it mighty odd that the room wasn’t fillin’ fasther. Well, afther restin’ for a while, he began agin, and he put his shouIdher to the work in airnest; but still the room was no fuller, at all, at all.

 

“‘Och! bad luck to me,’ says the divil; ‘but the likes of this I never seen,’ says he, ‘far and near, up and down–the dickens a room I ever kem across afore,’ says he, ‘I couldn’t cram while a cook would be crammin’ a turkey, till now; and here I am,’ says he ‘losin’ my whole day, and I with such a power o’ work an my hands yit, and this room no fuller than if I began five minutes ago.’

 

“By gor, while he was spakin’, be seen the hape o’ guineas in the middle of the flure growing littler and littler every minit; and at last they wor disappearing, for all the world, like corn in the hopper of a mill.

 

“Ho! ho!’ says Ould Nick, ‘is that the way wid you,’ says he; and with that he run over to the hape of goold–and what would you think, but it was runnin’ down through a great big hole in the flure that the Colonel made through the ceilin’ in the room below; and that was the work he was at afther he left the divil, though he purtended he was only waitin’ for him in his parlour; and there the divil, when he looked down through the hole in the flure, seen the Colonel, not content with the two rooms full of guineas, but with a big shovel throwin’ them into a closet a one side of him as fast as they fell down. So putting his head through the hole, he called down to the Colonel:

 

“‘Hillo! neighbour,’ says he.

 

“The Colonel look up, and grew as white as a sheet when he seen he was found out, and the red eyes starin’ down at him through the hole.

 

“‘Musha, bad luck to your impudence!’ says Ould Nick; ‘is It sthrivin’ to chate me you are,’ says he, ‘you villain?’

 

“Oh! forgive me this wanst,’ says the Colonel, ‘and upon the honour of a gintleman,’ says he, ‘I’ll never–‘

 

“‘Whisht! whisht! you thievin’ rogue,’ says the divil, ‘I’m not angry with you, at all, at all; but only like you the betther, bekase you’re so cute. Lave off slaving yourself there,’ says he, ‘you have got goold enough for this time; and whenever you want more, you have only to say the word, and it shall be yours at command.’

 

“So, with that the divil and he parted for that time; and myself doesn’t know whether they used to meet often afther or not; but the Colonel never wanted money, anyhow, but went on prosperous in the world–and as the saying is, if he took the dirt out o’ the road, it id turn to money wid him; and so, in coorse of time, he bought great estates, and was a great man entirely–not a greater in Ireland, throth.”

 

Fearing here a digression on landed interest, I interrupted him to ask how he and the fiend settled their accounts at last?

 

“Oh, sir, you’ll hear that all in good time. Sure enough it’s terrible, and wondherful it is at the ind, and mighty improvin’ – glory be to God!”

 

“Is that what you say,” said I, in surprise, ” because a wicked and deluded man lost his soul to the tempter?”

 

“Oh, the Lord forbid, your honour! but don’t be impatient, and you’ll hear all. They say, at last, after many years of prosperity, that the old Colonel got stricken in years, and he began to have misgivin’s in his conscience for his wicked doin’s, and his heart was heavy as the fear of death came upon him; and sure enough, while he had such mournful thoughts, the dlvii kern to him, and tould him he should go meld hiss.

 

“Well to be sure the ould man was frekened, but he plucked up his courage and his cuteness, and towld the divil, in a bantherin’ way, jokin’ like, that he had partic’lar business thin, that he was goin’ to a party, and hoped an ould friend wouldn’t inconvaynience him, that a-way–”

 

“Well,” said I, laughing at the “put off” of going to a party, “the devil, of course would take no excuse, and carried him off in a flash of fire?”

 

“Oh, no, sir,” answered the old man, in something of a reproving, or, at least, offended tone – ” that’s the finish, I know very well, of many a story such as we’re talkin’ of, but that’s not the way of this, which is thruth every word, what I tell you.”

 

“I beg your pardon for the interruption,” said I.

 

“No offince in life, sir,” said the venerable chronicler, who was now deep in his story, and would not be stopped.

 

“Well, sir,” continued he, “the divil said he’d call the next day, and that he must be ready; and sure enough, in the evenin’ he kem to him; and when the Colonel seen him, he reminded him of his bargain that as long as he could give him some work he couldn’t do, he wasn’t obleeged to go.

 

“‘That’s thrue,’ says the divil.

 

“‘I’m glad you’re as good as your word, anyhow,’ says the Colonel.

 

“‘I never bruk my word yit,’ says the ould chap, cocking up his horns consaitedly–‘ honour bright,’ says he.

 

“‘Well, then,’ says the Colonel, ‘build me a mill, down there by the river,’ says he, ‘and let me have it finished by to-morrow mornin’.’

 

“‘Your will is my pleasure,’ says the ould chap, and away he wint; and the Colonel thought he had nick’d Ould Nick at last, and wint to bed quite aisy in his mind.

 

“But, jewel machree, sure the first thing he heerd the next mornin’ was, that the whole counthry round was runnin’ to see a fine bran-new mill, that was an the riverside, where, the evenin’ before, not a thing at all, at all but rushes was standin’, and all, of coorse, woudherin’ what brought it there; and some sayin ’twas not lucky, and many more throubled in their mind, but one and all agreein’ it was no good; and that’s the very mill forniust you, that you were takin’ aff and the stone that I noticed is a remarkable one–a big coign-stone–that they say the divil himself laid first, and has the mark of four fingers and a thumb an it, to this day.

 

“But when the Colonel heerd it, he was more throubled than any, of coorse, and began to conthrive what else he could think iv, to keep himself out iv the claws of the ould one. Well he often heerd tell that there was one thing the divil never could do, and I dar say you beard it too, sir–that is, that he couldn’t make a rope out of the sands of the sae; and so when the ould one kem to him the next day and said his job was done, and that now the mill was built, he must either tell him somethin’ else he wanted done, or come away wid him.

 

“So the Colonel said he saw it was all over wid him; ‘but,’ says he,’ I wouldn’t like to go wid you alive, and sure, it’s all the same to you, alive or dead?’

 

“‘Oh, that won’t do,’ says his frind; ‘I can’t wait no more,’ says he.

 

“‘I don’t want you to wait, my dear frind,’ says the Colonel; “all I want is, that you’ll be plazed to kill me before you take me away.’

 

“‘With pleasure,” says Ould Nick.

 

“‘But will you promise me my choice of dyin’ one partic’lar way?’ says the Colonel.

 

“‘Half a dozen ways, if it plazes you,’ says he.

 

“‘You’re mighty obleegin’, says the Colonel; ‘and so,’ says he, ‘I’d rather die by bein’ hanged with a rope made out of the sands of the sae,’ says he, lookin’ mighty knowin’ at the ould fellow.

 

‘I’ve always one about me,’ says the divil, ‘to obleege my frinds,’ says he; and with that he pull out a rope made of sand, sure enough.

 

“‘Oh, it’s game you’re makin’,’ says the Colonel, growin’ as white as a sheet.

 

“‘The game is mine, sure enough,’ says the ould fellow, grinnn’, with a terrible laugh.

 

“‘That’s not a sand-rope at all,’ says the Colonel.

 

“‘Isn’t it?’ says the divil, hittin’ him acrass the face with the ind iv the rope, and the sand (for it was made of sand, sure enough) went into one of his eyes, and made the tears come with the pain.

 

“‘That bates all I ever seen or heerd,’ says the Colonel, sthrivin’ to rally, and make another offer–‘ is there anything you can’t do?’

 

“‘Nothin’ you can tell me,’ says the divil,’ ‘so you may as well lay, off your palaverin’, and come along at wanst.’

 

“‘Will you give me one more offer?’ says the Colonel.

 

“‘You don’t deserve it,’ says the divil, ‘but I don’t care if I do;’ for you see, sir, be was only playin’ wid him, and tantalising the ould sinner.

 

“‘All fair,’ says the Colonel, and with that he ax’d him could he stop a woman’s tongue.

 

“‘Thry me,’ says Ould Nick.

 

“‘Well, then,’ says the Colonel, ‘make my lady’s tongue be quiet for the next month, and I’ll thank you.’

 

“‘She’ll never throuble you agin,’ says Ould Nick; and with that the Colonel heerd roarin’ and cryin’, and the door of his room was throwin’ open, and in ran his daughter, and fell down at his feet, telling him her mother had just dhropped dead.

 

“The minit the door opened, the divil runs and hides himself behind a big elbow-chair; and the Colonel was frekened almost out of his siven sinses, by raison of the sudden death of his poor lady, let alone the jeopardy he was in himself, seein’ how the divil had forestall’d him every way; and after ringin’ his bell, and callin’ to his servants, and recoverin’ his daughter out of her faint, he was goin’ away wid her out o’ the room, whin the divil caught hould of him by the skirt of the coat, and the Colonel was obleeged to let his daughter be carried out by the servants, and shut the door afther them.

 

“‘Well,’ says the divil, and he grinn’d and wagg’d his tail, and all as one as a dog when he’s plaz’d–‘ what do you say now?’ says he.

 

“‘Oh,’ says the Colonel, ‘only lave me alone antil I bury my poor wife,’ says he, ‘and I’ll go with you then, you villian,’ says he.

 

“‘Don’t call names,’ says the divil; ‘you had better keep a civil tongue in your head,’ says he; ‘and it doesn’t become a gintleman to forget good manners.’

 

“Well, sir, to make a long story short, the divil purtended to let him off, out of kindness, for three days, antil his wife was buried; but the raison of it was this, that when the lady, his daughter, fainted, be loosened the clothes about her throat, and in pulling some of her dhrees away, he tuk off a gould chain that was an her neck, and put it in his pocket, and the chain had a diamond crass on it, the Lord be praised! and the divil darn’t touch him while he had the sign of the crass about him.

 

“Well, the poor Colonel, God forgive him! was grieved for the loss of his lady, and she had an iligant berrin, and they say that when the prayers was readin’ over the dead, the ould Colonel took it to heart like anything, and the word o’ God kem home to his poor sinful sowl at last.

 

“Well,’ sir, to make a long story short, the ind if it was that for the three days o’ grace that was given to him the poor deluded ould sinner did nothin’ at all but read the Bible from mornin’ till night, and bit or sup didn’t pass his lips all the time, he was so intint upon the holy Book, but sat up in an ould room in the far ind of the house, and bid no one disturb him an no account, and struv to make his heart bould with the words iv life; and sure it was somethin’ strinthened him at last, though as the time drew nigh that the inimy was to come, he didn’t feel aisy. And no wondher! And, by dad! the three days was past and gone in no time, and the story goes that at the dead hour o’ the night, when the poor sinner was readin’ away as fast as he could, my jew’l! his heart jumped up to his mouth at gettin’ a tap on the shoulder.

 

“‘Oh, murther!’ says he. ‘Who’s there?’ for he was afeard to look up.

 

“‘It’s me,’ says the ould one, and he stood right forninst him, and his eyes like coals o’ fire lookin’ him through, and he said, with a voice that a’most split his ould heart: ‘Come!’ says he.

 

“‘Another day!’ cried out the poor Colonel.

 

“‘Not another hour,’ says Sat’n.

 

“‘Half an hour?’

 

“‘Not a quarther,’ says the divil, grinnin’, ‘with a bitther laugh. ‘Give over your readin’, I bid you,’ says he, ‘and come away wid me.’

 

“‘Only gi’ me a few minits,’ says he.

 

“‘Lave aff your palavering, you snakin’ ould sinner,’ says Sat’n. ‘You know you’re bought and sould to me, and a purty bargain I have o’ you, you ould baste,’ says he, ‘so come along at wanst,’ and he put out his claw to ketch him; but the Colonel tuk a fast hould o’ the Bible,’ and begg’d hard that he’d let him alone, and wouldn’t harm him antil the bit o’ candle that was just blinkin’ in the socket before him was burned out.

 

“‘Well, have it so, you dirty coward!’ says Ould Nick, and with that he spit an him.

 

“But the poor ould Colonel didn’t lose a minit–for he was cunnin’ to the ind–but snatched the little taste o’ candle that was forninst him out o’ the candlestick, and puttin’ it an the holy Book before him, he shut down the cover of it and quinched the light. With that the divil gave a roar like, a bull, and vanished in a flash o’ fire, and the poor Colonel fainted away in his chair; but the sarvants heerd the noise–for the divil tore aff the roof o’ the house when he left it–and run into the room, and brought their master to himself agin. And from that day out he was an althered man, and used to have the Bible read to him every day, for be couldn’t read himself any more, by raison of losin’ his eyesight when the divil hit him with the rope of sand in the face, and afther spit an him–for the sand wint into one eye, and he lost the other that-away, savin’ your presence.

 

“So you see, sir, afther all, the Colonel, undher heaven, was “too able for the divil, and by readin’ the good Book his sowl was saved, and, glory be to God! isn’t that mighty improvin’?

———————-

From Legends and Stories of Ireland – compiled and edited by Samuel Lover

ISBN: 978-1-907256-01-1

URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_lsi.html

 

 

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