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ISSN: 2397-9607 Issue 50
In Issue 50 of the Baba Indaba Children’s Stories, Baba Indaba narrates the Celtic story about how a hard-hearted woman shoos away a stray dog and how another woman shows kindness and compasion to another. The tale tells of which of the two women the fairies rewarded and whom they did not.
This issue also has a “Where in the World – Look it Up” section, where young readers are challenged to look up a place on a map somewhere in the world. The place, town or city is relevant to the story, on map. HINT – use Google maps.
Baba Indaba is a fictitious Zulu storyteller who narrates children’s stories from around the world. Baba Indaba translates as “Father of Stories”.
 
A Fairy Dog

A Fairy Dog

 

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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

 

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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