Part 3 out of 5
"Why don't you come to breakfast, my dear?" said she.
"I have no mind to eat anything," replied the story-teller; "long as
I have been in the service of the king of Leinster, I never sat down
to breakfast without having a new story ready for the evening, but
this morning my mind is quite shut up, and I don't know what to do.
I might as well lie down and die at once. I'll be disgraced for ever
this evening, when the king calls for his story-teller."
Just at this moment the lady looked out of the window.
"Do you see that black thing at the end of the field?" said she.
"I do," replied her husband.
They drew nigh, and saw a miserable looking old man lying on the
ground with a wooden leg placed beside him.
"Who are you, my good man?" asked the story-teller.
"Oh, then, 'tis little matter who I am. I'm a poor, old, lame,
decrepit, miserable creature, sitting down here to rest awhile."
"An' what are you doing with that box and dice I see in your hand?"
"I am waiting here to see if any one will play a game with me,"
replied the beggar man.
"Play with you! Why what has a poor old man like you to play for?"
"I have one hundred pieces of gold in this leathern purse," replied
the old man.
"You may as well play with him," said the story-teller's wife; "and
perhaps you'll have something to tell the king in the evening."
A smooth stone was placed between them, and upon it they cast their
It was but a little while and the story-teller lost every penny of
"Much good may it do you, friend," said he. "What better hap could I
look for, fool that I am!"
"Will you play again?" asked the old man.
"Don't be talking, man: you have all my money."
"Haven't you chariot and horses and hounds?"
"Well, what of them!"
"I'll stake all the money I have against thine."
"Nonsense, man! Do you think for all the money in Ireland, I'd run
the risk of seeing my lady tramp home on foot?"
"Maybe you'd win," said the bocough.
"Maybe I wouldn't," said the story-teller.
"Play with him, husband," said his wife. "I don't mind walking, if
you do, love."
"I never refused you before," said the story-teller, "and I won't do
Down he sat again, and in one throw lost houses, hounds, and
"Will you play again?" asked the beggar.
"Are you making game of me, man; what else have I to stake?"
"I'll stake all my winnings against your wife," said the old man.
The story-teller turned away in silence, but his wife stopped him.
"Accept his offer," said she. "This is the third time, and who knows
what luck you may have? You'll surely win now."
They played again, and the story-teller lost. No sooner had he done
so, than to his sorrow and surprise, his wife went and sat down near
the ugly old beggar.
"Is that the way you're leaving me?" said the story-teller.
"Sure I was won," said she. "You would not cheat the poor man, would
"Have you any more to stake?" asked the old man.
"You know very well I have not," replied the story-teller.
"I'll stake the whole now, wife and all, against your own self,"
said the old man.
Again they played, and again the story-teller lost.
"Well! here I am, and what do you want with me?"
"I'll soon let you know," said the old man, and he took from his
pocket a long cord and a wand.
"Now," said he to the story-teller, "what kind of animal would you
rather be, a deer, a fox, or a hare? You have your choice now, but
you may not have it later."
To make a long story short, the story-teller made his choice of a
hare; the old man threw the cord round him, struck him with the
wand, and lo! a long-eared, frisking hare was skipping and jumping
on the green.
But it wasn't for long; who but his wife called the hounds, and set
them on him. The hare fled, the dogs followed. Round the field ran a
high wall, so that run as he might, he couldn't get out, and
mightily diverted were beggar and lady to see him twist and double.
In vain did he take refuge with his wife, she kicked him back again
to the hounds, until at length the beggar stopped the hounds, and
with a stroke of the wand, panting and breathless, the story-teller
stood before them again.
"And how did you like the sport?" said the beggar.
"It might be sport to others," replied the story-teller looking at
his wife, "for my part I could well put up with the loss of it."
"Would it be asking too much," he went on to the beggar, "to know
who you are at all, or where you come from, or why you take a
pleasure in plaguing a poor old man like me?"
"Oh!" replied the stranger, "I'm an odd kind of good-for-little
fellow, one day poor, another day rich, but if you wish to know more
about me or my habits, come with me and perhaps I may show you more
than you would make out if you went alone."
"I'm not my own master to go or stay," said the story-teller, with a
The stranger put one hand into his wallet and drew out of it before
their eyes a well-looking middle-aged man, to whom he spoke as
"By all you heard and saw since I put you into my wallet, take
charge of this lady and of the carriage and horses, and have them
ready for me whenever I want them."
Scarcely had he said these words when all vanished, and the story-
teller found himself at the Foxes' Ford, near the castle of Red Hugh
O'Donnell. He could see all but none could see him.
O'Donnell was in his hall, and heaviness of flesh and weariness of
spirit were upon him.
"Go out," said he to his doorkeeper, "and see who or what may be
The doorkeeper went, and what he saw was a lank, grey beggarman;
half his sword bared behind his haunch, his two shoes full of cold
road-a-wayish water sousing about him, the tips of his two ears out
through his old hat, his two shoulders out through his scant
tattered cloak, and in his hand a green wand of holly.
"Save you, O'Donnell," said the lank grey beggarman.
"And you likewise," said O'Donnell. "Whence come you, and what is
"I come from the outmost stream of earth,
From the glens where the white swans glide,
A night in Islay, a night in Man,
A night on the cold hillside."
"It's the great traveller you are," said O'Donnell.
"Maybe you've learnt something on the road."
"I am a juggler," said the lank grey beggarman, "and for five pieces
of silver you shall see a trick of mine."
"You shall have them," said O'Donnell; and the lank grey beggarman
took three small straws and placed them in his hand.
"The middle one," said he, "I'll blow away; the other two I'll
"Thou canst not do it," said one and all.
But the lank grey beggarman put a finger on either outside straw
and, whiff, away he blew the middle one.
"'Tis a good trick," said O'Donnell; and he paid him his five pieces
"For half the money," said one of the chief's lads, "I'll do the
"Take him at his word, O'Donnell."
The lad put the three straws on his hand, and a finger on either
outside straw and he blew; and what happened but that the fist was
blown away with the straw.
"Thou art sore, and thou wilt be sorer," said O'Donnell.
"Six more pieces, O'Donnell, and I'll do another trick for thee,"
said the lank grey beggarman.
"Six shalt thou have."
"Seest thou my two ears! One I'll move but not t'other."
"'Tis easy to see them, they're big enough, but thou canst never
move one ear and not the two together."
The lank grey beggarman put his hand to his ear, and he gave it a
O'Donnell laughed and paid him the six pieces.
"Call that a trick," said the fistless lad, "any one can do that,"
and so saying, he put up his hand, pulled his ear, and what happened
was that he pulled away ear and head.
"Sore thou art; and sorer thou'lt be," said O'Donnell.
"Well, O'Donnell," said the lank grey beggarman, "strange are the
tricks I've shown thee, but I'll show thee a stranger one yet for
the same money."
"Thou hast my word for it," said O'Donnell.
With that the lank grey beggarman took a bag from under his armpit,
and from out the bag a ball of silk, and he unwound the ball and he
flung it slantwise up into the clear blue heavens, and it became a
ladder; then he took a hare and placed it upon the thread, and up it
ran; again he took out a red-eared hound, and it swiftly ran up
after the hare.
"Now," said the lank grey beggarman; "has any one a mind to run
after the dog and on the course?"
"I will," said a lad of O'Donnell's.
"Up with you then," said the juggler; "but I warn you if you let my
hare be killed I'll cut off your head when you come down."
The lad ran up the thread and all three soon disappeared. After
looking up for a long time, the lank grey beggarman said: "I'm
afraid the hound is eating the hare, and that our friend has fallen
Saying this he began to wind the thread, and down came the lad fast
asleep; and down came the red-eared hound and in his mouth the last
morsel of the hare.
He struck the lad a stroke with the edge of his sword, and so cast
his head off. As for the hound, if he used it no worse, he used it
"It's little I'm pleased, and sore I'm angered," said O'Donnell,
"that a hound and a lad should be killed at my court."
"Five pieces of silver twice over for each of them," said the
juggler, "and their heads shall be on them as before."
"Thou shalt get that," said O'Donnell.
Five pieces, and again five were paid him, and lo! the lad had his
head and the hound his. And though they lived to the uttermost end
of time, the hound would never touch a hare again, and the lad took
good care to keep his eyes open.
Scarcely had the lank grey beggarman done this when he vanished from
out their sight, and no one present could say if he had flown
through the air or if the earth had swallowed him up.
He moved as wave tumbling o'er wave
As whirlwind following whirlwind,
As a furious wintry blast,
So swiftly, sprucely, cheerily,
And no stop made
Until he came
To the court of Leinster's King,
He gave a cheery light leap
O'er top of turret,
Of court and city
Of Leinster's King.
Heavy was the flesh and weary the spirit of Leinster's king. 'Twas
the hour he was wont to hear a story, but send he might right and
left, not a jot of tidings about the story-teller could he get.
"Go to the door," said he to his doorkeeper, "and see if a soul is
in sight who may tell me something about my story-teller."
The doorkeeper went, and what he saw was a lank grey beggarman, half
his sword bared behind his haunch, his two old shoes full of cold
road-a-wayish water sousing about him, the tips of his two ears out
through his old hat, his two shoulders out through his scant
tattered cloak, and in his hand a three-stringed harp.
"What canst thou do?" said the doorkeeper.
"I can play," said the lank grey beggarman.
"Never fear," added he to the story-teller, "thou shalt see all, and
not a man shall see thee."
When the king heard a harper was outside, he bade him in.
"It is I that have the best harpers in the five-fifths of Ireland,"
said he, and he signed them to play. They did so, and if they
played, the lank grey beggarman listened.
"Heardst thou ever the like?" said the king.
"Did you ever, O king, hear a cat purring over a bowl of broth, or
the buzzing of beetles in the twilight, or a shrill tongued old
woman scolding your head off?"
"That I have often," said the king.
"More melodious to me," said the lank grey beggarman, "were the
worst of these sounds than the sweetest harping of thy harpers."
When the harpers heard this, they drew their swords and rushed at
him, but instead of striking him, their blows fell on each other,
and soon not a man but was cracking his neighbour's skull and
getting his own cracked in turn.
When the king saw this, he thought it hard the harpers weren't
content with murdering their music, but must needs murder each
"Hang the fellow who began it all," said he; "and if I can't have a
story, let me have peace."
Up came the guards, seized the lank grey beggarman, marched him to
the gallows and hanged him high and dry. Back they marched to the
hall, and who should they see but the lank grey beggarman seated on
a bench with his mouth to a flagon of ale.
"Never welcome you in," cried the captain of the guard, "didn't we
hang you this minute, and what brings you here?"
"Is it me myself, you mean?"
"Who else?" said the captain.
"May your hand turn into a pig's foot with you when you think of
tying the rope; why should you speak of hanging me?"
Back they scurried to the gallows, and there hung the king's
Back they hurried to the king who had fallen fast asleep.
"Please your Majesty," said the captain, "we hanged that strolling
vagabond, but here he is back again as well as ever."
"Hang him again," said the king, and off he went to sleep once more.
They did as they were told, but what happened was that they found
the king's chief harper hanging where the lank grey beggarman should
The captain of the guard was sorely puzzled.
"Are you wishful to hang me a third time?" said the lank grey
"Go where you will," said the captain, "and as fast as you please if
you'll only go far enough. It's trouble enough you've given us
"Now you're reasonable," said the beggarman; "and since you've given
up trying to hang a stranger because he finds fault with your music,
I don't mind telling you that if you go back to the gallows you'll
find your friends sitting on the sward none the worse for what has
As he said these words he vanished; and the story-teller found
himself on the spot where they first met, and where his wife still
was with the carriage and horses.
"Now," said the lank grey beggarman, "I'll torment you no longer.
There's your carriage and your horses, and your money and your wife;
do what you please with them."
"For my carriage and my houses and my hounds," said the story-
teller, "I thank you; but my wife and my money you may keep."
"No," said the other. "I want neither, and as for your wife, don't
think ill of her for what she did, she couldn't help it."
"Not help it! Not help kicking me into the mouth of my own hounds!
Not help casting me off for the sake of a beggarly old--"
"I'm not as beggarly or as old as ye think. I am Angus of the Bruff;
many a good turn you've done me with the King of Leinster. This
morning my magic told me the difficulty you were in, and I made up
my mind to get you out of it. As for your wife there, the power that
changed your body changed her mind. Forget and forgive as man and
wife should do, and now you have a story for the King of Leinster
when he calls for one;" and with that he disappeared.
It's true enough he now had a story fit for a king. From first to
last he told all that had befallen him; so long and loud laughed the
king that he couldn't go to sleep at all. And he told the story-
teller never to trouble for fresh stories, but every night as long
as be lived he listened again and he laughed afresh at the tale of
the lank grey beggarman.
There was once a poor old fisherman, and one year he was not getting
much fish. On a day of days, while he was fishing, there rose a sea-
maiden at the side of his boat, and she asked him, "Are you getting
much fish?" The old man answered and said, "Not I." "What reward
would you give me for sending plenty of fish to you?" "Ach!" said
the old man, "I have not much to spare." "Will you give me the first
son you have?" said she. "I would give ye that, were I to have a
son," said he. "Then go home, and remember me when your son is
twenty years of age, and you yourself will get plenty of fish after
this." Everything happened as the sea-maiden said, and he himself
got plenty of fish; but when the end of the twenty years was
nearing, the old man was growing more and more sorrowful and heavy
hearted, while he counted each day as it came.
He had rest neither day nor night. The son asked his father one day,
"Is any one troubling you?" The old man said, "Some one is, but
that's nought to do with you nor any one else." The lad said, "I
must know what it is." His father told him at last how the matter
was with him and the sea-maiden. "Let not that put you in any
trouble," said the son; "I will not oppose you." "You shall not; you
shall not go, my son, though I never get fish any more." "If you
will not let me go with you, go to the smithy, and let the smith
make me a great strong sword, and I will go seek my fortune."
His father went to the smithy, and the smith made a doughty sword
for him. His father came home with the sword. The lad grasped it and
gave it a shake or two, and it flew into a hundred splinters. He
asked his father to go to the smithy and get him another sword in
which there should be twice as much weight; and so his father did,
and so likewise it happened to the next sword--it broke in two
halves. Back went the old man to the smithy; and the smith made a
great sword, its like he never made before. "There's thy sword for
thee," said the smith, "and the fist must be good that plays this
blade." The old man gave the sword to his son; he gave it a shake or
two. "This will do," said he; "it's high time now to travel on my
On the next morning he put a saddle on a black horse that his father
had, and he took the world for his pillow. When he went on a bit, he
fell in with the carcass of a sheep beside the road. And there were
a great black dog, a falcon, and an otter, and they were quarrelling
over the spoil. So they asked him to divide it for them. He came
down off the horse, and he divided the carcass amongst the three.
Three shares to the dog, two shares to the otter, and a share to the
falcon. "For this," said the dog, "if swiftness of foot or sharpness
of tooth will give thee aid, mind me, and I will be at thy side."
Said the otter, "If the swimming of foot on the ground of a pool
will loose thee, mind me, and I will be at thy side." Said the
falcon, "If hardship comes on thee, where swiftness of wing or crook
of a claw will do good, mind me, and I will be at thy side."
On this he went onward till he reached a king's house, and he took
service to be a herd, and his wages were to be according to the milk
of the cattle. He went away with the cattle, and the grazing was but
bare. In the evening when he took them home they had not much milk,
the place was so bare, and his meat and drink was but spare that
On the next day he went on further with them; and at last he came to
a place exceedingly grassy, in a green glen, of which he never saw
But about the time when he should drive the cattle homewards, who
should he see coming but a great giant with his sword in his hand?
"HI! HO!! HOGARACH!!!" says the giant. "Those cattle are mine; they
are on my land, and a dead man art thou." "I say not that," says the
herd; "there is no knowing, but that may be easier to say than to
He drew the great clean-sweeping sword, and he neared the giant. The
herd drew back his sword, and the head was off the giant in a
twinkling. He leaped on the black horse, and he went to look for the
giant's house. In went the herd, and that's the place where there
was money in plenty, and dresses of each kind in the wardrobe with
gold and silver, and each thing finer than the other. At the mouth
of night he took himself to the king's house, but he took not a
thing from the giant's house. And when the cattle were milked this
night there _was_ milk. He got good feeding this night, meat
and drink without stint, and the king was hugely pleased that he had
caught such a herd. He went on for a time in this way, but at last
the glen grew bare of grass, and the grazing was not so good.
So he thought he would go a little further forward in on the giant's
land; and he sees a great park of grass. He returned for the cattle,
and he put them into the park.
They were but a short time grazing in the park when a great wild
giant came full of rage and madness. "HI! HAW!! HOGARAICH!!!" said
the giant. "It is a drink of thy blood that will quench my thirst
this night." "There is no knowing," said the herd, "but that's
easier to say than to do." And at each other went the men.
_There_ was shaking of blades! At length and at last it seemed
as if the giant would get the victory over the herd. Then he called
on the dog, and with one spring the black dog caught the giant by
the neck, and swiftly the herd struck off his head.
He went home very tired this night, but it's a wonder if the king's
cattle had not milk. The whole family was delighted that they had
got such a herd.
Next day he betakes himself to the castle. When he reached the door,
a little flattering carlin met him standing in the door. "All hail
and good luck to thee, fisher's son; 'tis I myself am pleased to see
thee; great is the honour for this kingdom, for thy like to be come
into it--thy coming in is fame for this little bothy; go in first;
honour to the gentles; go on, and take breath."
"In before me, thou crone; I like not flattery out of doors; go in
and let's hear thy speech." In went the crone, and when her back was
to him he drew his sword and whips her head off; but the sword flew
out of his hand. And swift the crone gripped her head with both
hands, and puts it on her neck as it was before. The dog sprung on
the crone, and she struck the generous dog with the club of magic;
and there he lay. But the herd struggled for a hold of the club of
magic, and with one blow on the top of the head she was on earth in
the twinkling of an eye. He went forward, up a little, and there was
spoil! Gold and silver, and each thing more precious than another,
in the crone's castle. He went back to the king's house, and then
there was rejoicing.
He followed herding in this way for a time; but one night after he
came home, instead of getting "All hail" and "Good luck" from the
dairymaid, all were at crying and woe.
He asked what cause of woe there was that night. The dairymaid said
"There is a great beast with three heads in the loch, and it must
get some one every year, and the lot had come this year on the
king's daughter, and at midday to-morrow she is to meet the Laidly
Beast at the upper end of the loch, but there is a great suitor
yonder who is going to rescue her."
"What suitor is that?" said the herd. "Oh, he is a great General of
arms," said the dairymaid, "and when he kills the beast, he will
marry the king's daughter, for the king has said that he who could
save his daughter should get her to marry."
But on the morrow, when the time grew near, the king's daughter and
this hero of arms went to give a meeting to the beast, and they
reached the black rock, at the upper end of the loch. They were but
a short time there when the beast stirred in the midst of the loch;
but when the General saw this terror of a beast with three heads, he
took fright, and he slunk away, and he hid himself. And the king's
daughter was under fear and under trembling, with no one at all to
save her. Suddenly she sees a doughty handsome youth, riding a black
horse, and coming where she was. He was marvellously arrayed and
full armed, and his black dog moved after him. "There is gloom on
your face, girl," said the youth; "what do you here?"
"Oh! that's no matter," said the king's daughter. "It's not long
I'll be here, at all events."
"I say not that," said he.
"A champion fled as likely as you, and not long since," said she.
"He is a champion who stands the war," said the youth. And to meet
the beast he went with his sword and his dog. But there was a
spluttering and a splashing between himself and the beast! The dog
kept doing all he might, and the king's daughter was palsied by fear
of the noise of the beast! One of them would now be under, and now
above. But at last he cut one of the heads off it. It gave one roar,
and the son of earth, echo of the rocks, called to its screech, and
it drove the loch in spindrift from end to end, and in a twinkling
it went out of sight.
"Good luck and victory follow you, lad!" said the king's daughter.
"I am safe for one night, but the beast will come again and again,
until the other two heads come off it." He caught the beast's head,
and he drew a knot through it, and he told her to bring it with her
there to-morrow. She gave him a gold ring, and went home with the
head on her shoulder, and the herd betook himself to the cows. But
she had not gone far when this great General saw her, and he said to
her, "I will kill you if you do not say that 'twas I took the head
off the beast." "Oh!" says she, "'tis I will say it; who else took
the head off the beast but you!" They reached the king's house, and
the head was on the General's shoulder. But here was rejoicing, that
she should come home alive and whole, and this great captain with
the beast's head full of blood in his hand. On the morrow they went
away, and there was no question at all but that this hero would save
the king's daughter.
They reached the same place, and they were not long there when the
fearful Laidly Beast stirred in the midst of the loch, and the hero
slunk away as he did on yesterday, but it was not long after this
when the man of the black horse came, with another dress on. No
matter; she knew that it was the very same lad. "It is I am pleased
to see you," said she. "I am in hopes you will handle your great
sword to-day as you did yesterday. Come up and take breath." But
they were not long there when they saw the beast steaming in the
midst of the loch.
At once he went to meet the beast, but _there_ was
Cloopersteich and Claperstich, spluttering, splashing, raving, and
roaring on the beast! They kept at it thus for a long time, and
about the mouth of night he cut another head off the beast. He put
it on the knot and gave it to her. She gave him one of her earrings,
and he leaped on the black horse, and he betook himself to the
herding. The king's daughter went home with the heads. The General
met her, and took the heads from her, and he said to her, that she
must tell that it was he who took the head off the beast this time
also. "Who else took the head off the beast but you?" said she. They
reached the king's house with the heads. Then there was joy and
About the same time on the morrow, the two went away. The officer
hid himself as he usually did. The king's daughter betook herself to
the bank of the loch. The hero of the black horse came, and if
roaring and raving were on the beast on the days that were passed,
this day it was horrible. But no matter, he took the third head off
the beast, and drew it through the knot, and gave it to her. She
gave him her other earring, and then she went home with the heads.
When they reached the king's house, all were full of smiles, and the
General was to marry the king's daughter the next day. The wedding
was going on, and every one about the castle longing till the priest
should come. But when the priest came, she would marry only the one
who could take the heads off the knot without cutting it. "Who
should take the heads off the knot but the man that put the heads
on?" said the king.
The General tried them; but he could not loose them; and at last
there was no one about the house but had tried to take the heads off
the knot, but they could not. The king asked if there were any one
else about the house that would try to take the heads off the knot.
They said that the herd had not tried them yet. Word went for the
herd; and he was not long throwing them hither and thither. "But
stop a bit, my lad," said the king's daughter; "the man that took
the heads off the beast, he has my ring and my two earrings." The
herd put his hand in his pocket, and he threw them on the board.
"Thou art my man," said the king's daughter. The king was not so
pleased when he saw that it was a herd who was to marry his
daughter, but he ordered that he should be put in a better dress;
but his daughter spoke, and she said that he had a dress as fine as
any that ever was in his castle; and thus it happened. The herd put
on the giant's golden dress, and they married that same day.
They were now married, and everything went on well. But one day, and
it was the namesake of the day when his father had promised him to
the sea-maiden, they were sauntering by the side of the loch, and lo
and behold! she came and took him away to the loch without leave or
asking. The king's daughter was now mournful, tearful, blind-
sorrowful for her married man; she was always with her eye on the
loch. An old soothsayer met her, and she told how it had befallen
her married mate. Then he told her the thing to do to save her mate,
and that she did.
She took her harp to the sea-shore, and sat and played; and the sea-
maiden came up to listen, for sea-maidens are fonder of music than
all other creatures. But when the wife saw the sea-maiden she
stopped. The sea-maiden said, "Play on!" but the princess said, "No,
not till I see my man again." So the sea-maiden put up his head out
of the loch. Then the princess played again, and stopped till the
sea-maiden put him up to the waist. Then the princess played and
stopped again, and this time the sea-maiden put him all out of the
loch, and he called on the falcon and became one and flew on shore.
But the sea-maiden took the princess, his wife.
Sorrowful was each one that was in the town on this night. Her man
was mournful, tearful, wandering down and up about the banks of the
loch, by day and night. The old soothsayer met him. The soothsayer
told him that there was no way of killing the sea-maiden but the one
way, and this is it--"In the island that is in the midst of the loch
is the white-footed hind of the slenderest legs and the swiftest
step, and though she be caught, there will spring a hoodie out of
her, and though the hoodie should be caught, there will spring a
trout out of her, but there is an egg in the mouth of the trout, and
the soul of the sea-maiden is in the egg, and if the egg breaks, she
Now, there was no way of getting to this island, for the sea-maiden
would sink each boat and raft that would go on the loch. He thought
he would try to leap the strait with the black horse, and even so he
did. The black horse leaped the strait. He saw the hind, and he let
the black dog after her, but when he was on one side of the island,
the hind would be on the other side. "Oh! would the black dog of the
carcass of flesh were here!" No sooner spoke he the word than the
grateful dog was at his side; and after the hind he went, and they
were not long in bringing her to earth. But he no sooner caught her
than a hoodie sprang out of her. "Would that the falcon grey, of
sharpest eye and swiftest wing, were here!" No sooner said he this
than the falcon was after the hoodie, and she was not long putting
her to earth; and as the hoodie fell on the bank of the loch, out of
her jumps the trout. "Oh! that thou wert by me now, oh otter!" No
sooner said than the otter was at his side, and out on the loch she
leaped, and brings the trout from the midst of the loch; but no
sooner was the otter on shore with the trout than the egg came from
his mouth. He sprang and he put his foot on it. 'Twas then the sea-
maiden appeared, and she said, "Break not the egg, and you shall get
all you ask." "Deliver to me my wife!" In the wink of an eye she was
by his side. When he got hold of her hand in both his hands, he let
his foot down on the egg, and the sea-maiden died.
A LEGEND OF KNOCKMANY
What Irish man, woman, or child has not heard of our renowned
Hibernian Hercules, the great and glorious Fin M'Coul? Not one, from
Cape Clear to the Giant's Causeway, nor from that back again to Cape
Clear. And, by-the-way, speaking of the Giant's Causeway brings me
at once to the beginning of my story. Well, it so happened that Fin
and his men were all working at the Causeway, in order to make a
bridge across to Scotland; when Fin, who was very fond of his wife
Oonagh, took it into his head that he would go home and see how the
poor woman got on in his absence. So, accordingly, he pulled up a
fir-tree, and, after lopping off the roots and branches, made a
walking-stick of it, and set out on his way to Oonagh.
Oonagh, or rather Fin, lived at this time on the very tip-top of
Knockmany Hill, which faces a cousin of its own called Cullamore,
that rises up, half-hill, half-mountain, on the opposite side.
There was at that time another giant, named Cucullin--some say he
was Irish, and some say he was Scotch--but whether Scotch or Irish,
sorrow doubt of it but he was a targer. No other giant of the day
could stand before him; and such was his strength, that, when well
vexed, he could give a stamp that shook the country about him. The
fame and name of him went far and near; and nothing in the shape of
a man, it was said, had any chance with him in a fight. By one blow
of his fists he flattened a thunderbolt and kept it in his pocket,
in the shape of a pancake, to show to all his enemies, when they
were about to fight him. Undoubtedly he had given every giant in
Ireland a considerable beating, barring Fin M'Coul himself; and he
swore that he would never rest, night or day, winter or summer, till
he would serve Fin with the same sauce, if he could catch him.
However, the short and long of it was, with reverence be it spoken,
that Fin heard Cucullin was coming to the Causeway to have a trial
of strength with him; and he was seized with a very warm and sudden
fit of affection for his wife, poor woman, leading a very lonely,
uncomfortable life of it in his absence. He accordingly pulled up
the fir-tree, as I said before, and having snedded it into a
walking-stick, set out on his travels to see his darling Oonagh on
the top of Knockmany, by the way.
In truth, the people wondered very much why it was that Fin selected
such a windy spot for his dwelling-house, and they even went so far
as to tell him as much.
"What can you mane, Mr. M'Coul," said they, "by pitching your tent
upon the top of Knockmany, where you never are without a breeze, day
or night, winter or summer, and where you're often forced to take
your nightcap without either going to bed or turning up your little
finger; ay, an' where, besides this, there's the sorrow's own want
"Why," said Fin, "ever since I was the height of a round tower, I
was known to be fond of having a good prospect of my own; and where
the dickens, neighbours, could I find a better spot for a good
prospect than the top of Knockmany? As for water, I am sinking a
pump, and, plase goodness, as soon as the Causeway's made, I intend
to finish it."
Now, this was more of Fin's philosophy; for the real state of the
case was, that he pitched upon the top of Knockmany in order that he
might be able to see Cucullin coming towards the house. All we have
to say is, that if he wanted a spot from which to keep a sharp look-
out--and, between ourselves, he did want it grievously--barring
Slieve Croob, or Slieve Donard, or its own cousin, Cullamore, he
could not find a neater or more convenient situation for it in the
sweet and sagacious province of Ulster.
"God save all here!" said Fin, good-humouredly, on putting his
honest face into his own door.
"Musha, Fin, avick, an' you're welcome home to your own Oonagh, you
darlin' bully." Here followed a smack that is said to have made the
waters of the lake at the bottom of the hill curl, as it were, with
kindness and sympathy.
Fin spent two or three happy days with Oonagh, and felt himself very
comfortable, considering the dread he had of Cucullin. This,
however, grew upon him so much that his wife could not but perceive
something lay on his mind which he kept altogether to himself. Let a
woman alone, in the meantime, for ferreting or wheedling a secret
out of her good man, when she wishes. Fin was a proof of this.
"It's this Cucullin," said he, "that's troubling me. When the fellow
gets angry, and begins to stamp, he'll shake you a whole townland;
and it's well known that he can stop a thunderbolt, for he always
carries one about him in the shape of a pancake, to show to any one
that might misdoubt it."
As he spoke, he clapped his thumb in his mouth, which he always did
when he wanted to prophesy, or to know anything that happened in his
absence; and the wife asked him what he did it for.
"He's coming," said Fin; "I see him below Dungannon."
"Thank goodness, dear! an' who is it, avick? Glory be to God!"
"That baste, Cucullin," replied Fin; "and how to manage I don't
know. If I run away, I am disgraced; and I know that sooner or later
I must meet him, for my thumb tells me so."
"When will he be here?" said she.
"To-morrow, about two o'clock," replied Fin, with a groan.
"Well, my bully, don't be cast down," said Oonagh; "depend on me,
and maybe I'll bring you better out of this scrape than ever you
could bring yourself, by your rule o' thumb."
She then made a high smoke on the top of the hill, after which she
put her finger in her mouth, and gave three whistles, and by that
Cucullin knew he was invited to Cullamore--for this was the way that
the Irish long ago gave a sign to all strangers and travellers, to
let them know they were welcome to come and take share of whatever
In the meantime, Fin was very melancholy, and did not know what to
do, or how to act at all. Cucullin was an ugly customer to meet
with; and, the idea of the "cake" aforesaid flattened the very heart
within him. What chance could he have, strong and brave though he
was, with a man who could, when put in a passion, walk the country
into earthquakes and knock thunderbolts into pancakes? Fin knew not
on what hand to turn him. Right or left--backward or forward--where
to go he could form no guess whatsoever.
"Oonagh," said he, "can you do nothing for me? Where's all your
invention? Am I to be skivered like a rabbit before your eyes, and
to have my name disgraced for ever in the sight of all my tribe, and
me the best man among them? How am I to fight this man-mountain--
this huge cross between an earthquake and a thunderbolt?--with a
pancake in his pocket that was once--"
"Be easy, Fin," replied Oonagh; "troth, I'm ashamed of you. Keep
your toe in your pump, will you? Talking of pancakes, maybe, we'll
give him as good as any he brings with him--thunderbolt or
otherwise. If I don't treat him to as smart feeding as he's got this
many a day, never trust Oonagh again. Leave him to me, and do just
as I bid you."
This relieved Fin very much; for, after all, he had great confidence
in his wife, knowing, as he did, that she had got him out of many a
quandary before. Oonagh then drew the nine woollen threads of
different colours, which she always did to find out the best way of
succeeding in anything of importance she went about. She then
platted them into three plats with three colours in each, putting
one on her right arm, one round her heart, and the third round her
right ankle, for then she knew that nothing could fail with her that
Having everything now prepared, she sent round to the neighbours and
borrowed one-and-twenty iron griddles, which she took and kneaded
into the hearts of one-and-twenty cakes of bread, and these she
baked on the fire in the usual way, setting them aside in the
cupboard according as they were done. She then put down a large pot
of new milk, which she made into curds and whey. Having done all
this, she sat down quite contented, waiting for his arrival on the
next day about two o'clock, that being the hour at which he was
expected--for Fin knew as much by the sucking of his thumb. Now this
was a curious property that Fin's thumb had. In this very thing,
moreover, he was very much resembled by his great foe, Cucullin; for
it was well known that the huge strength he possessed all lay in the
middle finger of his right hand, and that, if he happened by any
mischance to lose it, he was no more, for all his bulk, than a
At length, the next day, Cucullin was seen coming across the valley,
and Oonagh knew that it was time to commence operations. She
immediately brought the cradle, and made Fin to lie down in it, and
cover himself up with the clothes.
"You must pass for your own child," said she; "so just lie there
snug, and say nothing, but be guided by me."
About two o'clock, as he had been expected, Cucullin came in. "God
save all here!" said he; "is this where the great Fin M'Coul lives?"
"Indeed it is, honest man," replied Oonagh; "God save you kindly--
won't you be sitting?"
"Thank you, ma'am," says he, sitting down; "you're Mrs. M'Coul, I
"I am," said she; "and I have no reason, I hope, to be ashamed of my
"No," said the other, "he has the name of being the strongest and
bravest man in Ireland; but for all that, there's a man not far from
you that's very desirous of taking a shake with him. Is he at home?"
"Why, then, no," she replied; "and if ever a man left his house in a
fury, he did. It appears that some one told him of a big basthoon of
a--giant called Cucullin being down at the Causeway to look for him,
and so he set out there to try if he could catch him. Troth, I hope,
for the poor giant's sake, he won't meet with him, for if he does,
Fin will make paste of him at once."
"Well," said the other, "I am Cucullin, and I have been seeking him
these twelve months, but he always kept clear of me; and I will
never rest night or day till I lay my hands on him."
At this Oonagh set up a loud laugh, of great contempt, by-the-way,
and looked at him as if he was only a mere handful of a man.
"Did you ever see Fin?" said she, changing her manner all at once.
"How could I?" said he; "he always took care to keep his distance."
"I thought so," she replied; "I judged as much; and if you take my
advice, you poor-looking creature, you'll pray night and day that
you may never see him, for I tell you it will be a black day for you
when you do. But, in the meantime, you perceive that the wind's on
the door, and as Fin himself is from home, maybe you'd be civil
enough to turn the house, for it's always what Fin does when he's
This was a startler even to Cucullin; but he got up, however, and
after pulling the middle finger of his right hand until it cracked
three times, he went outside, and getting his arms about the house,
turned it as she had wished. When Fin saw this, he felt the sweat of
fear oozing out through every pore of his skin; but Oonagh,
depending upon her woman's wit, felt not a whit daunted.
"Arrah, then," said she, "as you are so civil, maybe you'd do
another obliging turn for us, as Fin's not here to do it himself.
You see, after this long stretch of dry weather we've had, we feel
very badly off for want of water. Now, Fin says there's a fine
spring-well somewhere under the rocks behind the hill here below,
and it was his intention to pull them asunder; but having heard of
you, he left the place in such a fury, that he never thought of it.
Now, if you try to find it, troth I'd feel it a kindness."
She then brought Cucullin down to see the place, which was then all
one solid rock; and, after looking at it for some time, he cracked
his right middle finger nine times, and, stooping down, tore a cleft
about four hundred feet deep, and a quarter of a mile in length,
which has since been christened by the name of Lumford's Glen.
"You'll now come in," said she, "and eat a bit of such humble fare
as we can give you. Fin, even although he and you are enemies, would
scorn not to treat you kindly in his own house; and, indeed, if I
didn't do it even in his absence, he would not be pleased with me."
She accordingly brought him in, and placing half-a-dozen of the
cakes we spoke of before him, together with a can or two of butter,
a side of boiled bacon, and a stack of cabbage, she desired him to
help himself--for this, be it known, was long before the invention
of potatoes. Cucullin put one of the cakes in his mouth to take a
huge whack out of it, when he made a thundering noise, something
between a growl and a yell. "Blood and fury!" he shouted; "how is
this? Here are two of my teeth out! What kind of bread this is you
"What's the matter?" said Oonagh coolly.
"Matter!" shouted the other again; "why, here are the two best teeth
in my head gone."
"Why," said she, "that's Fin's bread--the only bread he ever eats
when at home; but, indeed, I forgot to tell you that nobody can eat
it but himself, and that child in the cradle there. I thought,
however, that, as you were reported to be rather a stout little
fellow of your size, you might be able to manage it, and I did not
wish to affront a man that thinks himself able to fight Fin. Here's
another cake--maybe it's not so hard as that."
Cucullin at the moment was not only hungry, but ravenous, so he
accordingly made a fresh set at the second cake, and immediately
another yell was heard twice as loud as the first. "Thunder and
gibbets!" he roared, "take your bread out of this, or I will not
have a tooth in my head; there's another pair of them gone!"
"Well, honest man," replied Oonagh, "if you're not able to eat the
bread, say so quietly, and don't be wakening the child in the cradle
there. There, now, he's awake upon me."
Fin now gave a skirl that startled the giant, as coming from such a
youngster as he was supposed to be.
"Mother," said he, "I'm hungry-get me something to eat." Oonagh went
over, and putting into his hand a cake that had no griddle in it,
Fin, whose appetite in the meantime had been sharpened by seeing
eating going forward, soon swallowed it. Cucullin was thunderstruck,
and secretly thanked his stars that he had the good fortune to miss
meeting Fin, for, as he said to himself, "I'd have no chance with a
man who could eat such bread as that, which even his son that's but
in his cradle can munch before my eyes."
"I'd like to take a glimpse at the lad in the cradle," said he to
Oonagh; "for I can tell you that the infant who can manage that
nutriment is no joke to look at, or to feed of a scarce summer."
"With all the veins of my heart," replied Oonagh; "get up, acushla,
and show this decent little man something that won't be unworthy of
your father, Fin M'Coul."
Fin, who was dressed for the occasion as much like a boy as
possible, got up, and bringing Cucullin out, "Are you strong?" said
"Thunder an' ounds!" exclaimed the other, "what a voice in so small
"Are you strong?" said Fin again; "are you able to squeeze water out
of that white stone?" he asked, putting one into Cucullin's hand.
The latter squeezed and squeezed the stone, but in vain.
"Ah, you're a poor creature!" said Fin. "You a giant! Give me the
stone here, and when I'll show what Fin's little son can do, you may
then judge of what my daddy himself is."
Fin then took the stone, and exchanging it for the curds, he
squeezed the latter until the whey, as clear as water, oozed out in
a little shower from his hand.
"I'll now go in," said he, "to my cradle; for I scorn to lose my
time with any one that's not able to eat my daddy's bread, or
squeeze water out of a stone. Bedad, you had better be off out of
this before he comes back; for if he catches you, it's in flummery
he'd have you in two minutes."
Cucullin, seeing what he had seen, was of the same opinion himself;
his knees knocked together with the terror of Fin's return, and he
accordingly hastened to bid Oonagh farewell, and to assure her, that
from that day out, he never wished to hear of, much less to see, her
husband. "I admit fairly that I'm not a match for him," said he,
"strong as I am; tell him I will avoid him as I would the plague,
and that I will make myself scarce in this part of the country while
Fin, in the meantime, had gone into the cradle, where he lay very
quietly, his heart at his mouth with delight that Cucullin was about
to take his departure, without discovering the tricks that had been
played off on him.
"It's well for you," said Oonagh, "that he doesn't happen to be
here, for it's nothing but hawk's meat he'd make of you."
"I know that," says Cucullin; "divil a thing else he'd make of me;
but before I go, will you let me feel what kind of teeth Fin's lad
has got that can eat griddle-bread like that?"
"With all pleasure in life," said she; "only, as they're far back in
his head, you must put your finger a good way in."
Cucullin was surprised to find such a powerful set of grinders in
one so young; but he was still much more so on finding, when he took
his hand from Fin's mouth, that he had left the very finger upon
which his whole strength depended, behind him. He gave one loud
groan, and fell down at once with terror and weakness. This was all
Fin wanted, who now knew that his most powerful and bitterest enemy
was at his mercy. He started out of the cradle, and in a few minutes
the great Cucullin, that was for such a length of time the terror of
him and all his followers, lay a corpse before him. Thus did Fin,
through the wit and invention of Oonagh, his wife, succeed in
overcoming his enemy by cunning, which he never could have done by
FAIR, BROWN, AND TREMBLING
King Hugh Curucha lived in Tir Conal, and he had three daughters,
whose names were Fair, Brown, and Trembling. Fair and Brown had new
dresses, and went to church every Sunday. Trembling was kept at home
to do the cooking and work. They would not let her go out of the
house at all; for she was more beautiful than the other two, and
they were in dread she might marry before themselves.
They carried on in this way for seven years. At the end of seven
years the son of the king of Emania fell in love with the eldest
One Sunday morning, after the other two had gone to church, the old
henwife came into the kitchen to Trembling, and said: "It's at
church you ought to be this day, instead of working here at home."
"How could I go?" said Trembling. "I have no clothes good enough to
wear at church; and if my sisters were to see me there, they'd kill
me for going out of the house."
"I'll give you," said the henwife, "a finer dress than either of
them has ever seen. And now tell me what dress will you have?"
"I'll have," said Trembling, "a dress as white as snow, and green
shoes for my feet."
Then the henwife put on the cloak of darkness, clipped a piece from
the old clothes the young woman had on, and asked for the whitest
robes in the world and the most beautiful that could be found, and a
pair of green shoes.
That moment she had the robe and the shoes, and she brought them to
Trembling, who put them on. When Trembling was dressed and ready,
the henwife said: "I have a honey-bird here to sit on your right
shoulder, and a honey-finger to put on your left. At the door stands
a milk-white mare, with a golden saddle for you to sit on, and a
golden bridle to hold in your hand."
Trembling sat on the golden saddle; and when she was ready to start,
the henwife said: "You must not go inside the door of the church,
and the minute the people rise up at the end of Mass, do you make
off, and ride home as fast as the mare will carry you."
When Trembling came to the door of the church there was no one
inside who could get a glimpse of her but was striving to know who
she was; and when they saw her hurrying away at the end of Mass,
they ran out to overtake her. But no use in their running; she was
away before any man could come near her. From the minute she left
the church till she got home, she overtook the wind before her, and
outstripped the wind behind.
She came down at the door, went in, and found the henwife had dinner
ready. She put off the white robes, and had on her old dress in a
When the two sisters came home the henwife asked: "Have you any news
to-day from the church?"
"We have great news," said they. "We saw a wonderful grand lady at
the church-door. The like of the robes she had we have never seen on
woman before. It's little that was thought of our dresses beside
what she had on; and there wasn't a man at the church, from the king
to the beggar, but was trying to look at her and know who she was."
The sisters would give no peace till they had two dresses like the
robes of the strange lady; but honey-birds and honey-fingers were
not to be found.
Next Sunday the two sisters went to church again, and left the
youngest at home to cook the dinner.
After they had gone, the henwife came in and asked: "Will you go to
"I would go," said Trembling, "if I could get the going."
"What robe will you wear?" asked the henwife.
"The finest black satin that can be found, and red shoes for my
"What colour do you want the mare to be?"
"I want her to be so black and so glossy that I can see myself in
The henwife put on the cloak of darkness, and asked for the robes
and the mare. That moment she had them. When Trembling was dressed,
the henwife put the honey-bird on her right shoulder and the honey-
finger on her left. The saddle on the mare was silver, and so was
When Trembling sat in the saddle and was going away, the henwife
ordered her strictly not to go inside the door of the church, but to
rush away as soon as the people rose at the end of Mass, and hurry
home on the mare before any man could stop her.
That Sunday, the people were more astonished than ever, and gazed at
her more than the first time; and all they were thinking of was to
know who she was. But they had no chance; for the moment the people
rose at the end of Mass she slipped from the church, was in the
silver saddle, and home before a man could stop her or talk to her.
The henwife had the dinner ready. Trembling took off her satin robe,
and had on her old clothes before her sisters got home.
"What news have you to-day?" asked the henwife of the sisters when
they came from the church.
"Oh, we saw the grand strange lady again! And it's little that any
man could think of our dresses after looking at the robes of satin
that she had on! And all at church, from high to low, had their
mouths open, gazing at her, and no man was looking at us."
The two sisters gave neither rest nor peace till they got dresses as
nearly like the strange lady's robes as they could find. Of course
they were not so good; for the like of those robes could not be
found in Erin.
When the third Sunday came, Fair and Brown went to church dressed in
black satin. They left Trembling at home to work in the kitchen, and
told her to be sure and have dinner ready when they came back.
After they had gone and were out of sight, the henwife came to the
kitchen and said: "Well, my dear, are you for church to-day?"
"I would go if I had a new dress to wear."
"I'll get you any dress you ask for. What dress would you like?"
asked the henwife.
"A dress red as a rose from the waist down, and white as snow from
the waist up; a cape of green on my shoulders; and a hat on my head
with a red, a white, and a green feather in it; and shoes for my
feet with the toes red, the middle white, and the backs and heels
The henwife put on the cloak of darkness, wished for all these
things, and had them. When Trembling was dressed, the henwife put
the honey-bird on her right shoulder and the honey-finger on her
left, and, placing the hat on her head, clipped a few hairs from one
lock and a few from another with her scissors, and that moment the
most beautiful golden hair was flowing down over the girl's
shoulders. Then the henwife asked what kind of a mare she would
ride. She said white, with blue and gold-coloured diamond-shaped
spots all over her body, on her back a saddle of gold, and on her
head a golden bridle.
The mare stood there before the door, and a bird sitting between her
ears, which began to sing as soon as Trembling was in the saddle,
and never stopped till she came home from the church.
The fame of the beautiful strange lady had gone out through the
world, and all the princes and great men that were in it came to
church that Sunday, each one hoping that it was himself would have
her home with him after Mass.
The son of the king of Emania forgot all about the eldest sister,
and remained outside the church, so as to catch the strange lady
before she could hurry away.
The church was more crowded than ever before, and there were three
times as many outside. There was such a throng before the church
that Trembling could only come inside the gate.
As soon as the people were rising at the end of Mass, the lady
slipped out through the gate, was in the golden saddle in an
instant, and sweeping away ahead of the wind. But if she was, the
prince of Emania was at her side, and, seizing her by the foot, he
ran with the mare for thirty perches, and never let go of the
beautiful lady till the shoe was pulled from her foot, and he was
left behind with it in his hand. She came home as fast as the mare
could carry her, and was thinking all the time that the henwife
would kill her for losing the shoe.
Seeing her so vexed and so changed in the face, the old woman asked:
"What's the trouble that's on you now?" "Oh! I've lost one of the
shoes off my feet," said Trembling.
"Don't mind that; don't be vexed," said the henwife; "maybe it's the
best thing that ever happened to you."
Then Trembling gave up all the things she had to the henwife, put on
her old clothes, and went to work in the kitchen. When the sisters
came home, the henwife asked: "Have you any news from the church?"
"We have indeed," said they, "for we saw the grandest sight to-day.
The strange lady came again, in grander array than before. On
herself and the horse she rode were the finest colours of the world,
and between the ears of the horse was a bird which never stopped
singing from the time she came till she went away. The lady herself
is the most beautiful woman ever seen by man in Erin."
After Trembling had disappeared from the church, the son of the king
of Emania said to the other kings' sons: "I will have that lady for
They all said: "You didn't win her just by taking the shoe off her
foot; you'll have to win her by the point of the sword; you'll have
to fight for her with us before you can call her your own."
"Well," said the son of the king of Emania, "when I find the lady
that shoe will fit, I'll fight for her, never fear, before I leave
her to any of you."
Then all the kings' sons were uneasy, and anxious to know who was
she that lost the shoe; and they began to travel all over Erin to
know could they find her. The prince of Emania and all the others
went in a great company together, and made the round of Erin; they
went everywhere,--north, south, east, and west. They visited every
place where a woman was to be found, and left not a house in the
kingdom they did not search, to know could they find the woman the
shoe would fit, not caring whether she was rich or poor, of high or
The prince of Emania always kept the shoe; and when the young women
saw it, they had great hopes, for it was of proper size, neither
large nor small, and it would beat any man to know of what material
it was made. One thought it would fit her if she cut a little from
her great toe; and another, with too short a foot, put something in
the tip of her stocking. But no use; they only spoiled their feet,
and were curing them for months afterwards.
The two sisters, Fair and Brown, heard that the princes of the world
were looking all over Erin for the woman that could wear the shoe,
and every day they were talking of trying it on; and one day
Trembling spoke up and said: "Maybe it's my foot that the shoe will
"Oh, the breaking of the dog's foot on you! Why say so when you were
at home every Sunday?"
They were that way waiting, and scolding the younger sister, till
the princes were near the place. The day they were to come, the
sisters put Trembling in a closet, and locked the door on her. When
the company came to the house, the prince of Emania gave the shoe to
the sisters. But though they tried and tried, it would fit neither
"Is there any other young woman in the house?" asked the prince.
"There is," said Trembling, speaking up in the closet; "I'm here."
"Oh! we have her for nothing but to put out the ashes," said the
But the prince and the others wouldn't leave the house till they had
seen her; so the two sisters had to open the door. When Trembling
came out, the shoe was given to her, and it fitted exactly.
The prince of Emania looked at her and said: "You are the woman the
shoe fits, and you are the woman I took the shoe from."
Then Trembling spoke up, and said: "Do you stay here till I return."
Then she went to the henwife's house. The old woman put on the cloak
of darkness, got everything for her she had the first Sunday at
church, and put her on the white mare in the same fashion. Then
Trembling rode along the highway to the front of the house. All who
saw her the first time said: "This is the lady we saw at church."
Then she went away a second time, and a second time came back on the
black mare in the second dress which the henwife gave her. All who
saw her the second Sunday said: "That is the lady we saw at church."
A third time she asked for a short absence, and soon came back on
the third mare and in the third dress. All who saw her the third
time said: "That is the lady we saw at church." Every man was
satisfied, and knew that she was the woman.
Then all the princes and great men spoke up, and said to the son of
the king of Emania: "You'll have to fight now for her before we let
her go with you."
"I'm here before you, ready for combat," answered the prince.
Then the son of the king of Lochlin stepped forth. The struggle
began, and a terrible struggle it was. They fought for nine hours;
and then the son of the king of Lochlin stopped, gave up his claim,
and left the field. Next day the son of the king of Spain fought six
hours, and yielded his claim. On the third day the son of the king
of Nyerfoi fought eight hours, and stopped. The fourth day the son
of the king of Greece fought six hours, and stopped. On the fifth
day no more strange princes wanted to fight; and all the sons of
kings in Erin said they would not fight with a man of their own
land, that the strangers had had their chance, and, as no others
came to claim the woman, she belonged of right to the son of the
king of Emania.
The marriage-day was fixed, and the invitations were sent out. The
wedding lasted for a year and a day. When the wedding was over, the
king's son brought home the bride, and when the time came a son was
born. The young woman sent for her eldest sister, Fair, to be with
her and care for her. One day, when Trembling was well, and when her
husband was away hunting, the two sisters went out to walk; and when
they came to the seaside, the eldest pushed the youngest sister in.
A great whale came and swallowed her.
The eldest sister came home alone, and the husband asked, "Where is
"She has gone home to her father in Ballyshannon; now that I am
well, I don't need her."
"Well," said the husband, looking at her, "I'm in dread it's my wife
that has gone."
"Oh! no," said she; "it's my sister Fair that's gone."
Since the sisters were very much alike, the prince was in doubt.
That night he put his sword between them, and said: "If you are my
wife, this sword will get warm; if not, it will stay cold."
In the morning when he rose up, the sword was as cold as when he put
It happened, when the two sisters were walking by the seashore, that
a little cowboy was down by the water minding cattle, and saw Fair
push Trembling into the sea; and next day, when the tide came in, he
saw the whale swim up and throw her out on the sand. When she was on
the sand she said to the cowboy: "When you go home in the evening
with the cows, tell the master that my sister Fair pushed me into
the sea yesterday; that a whale swallowed me, and then threw me out,
but will come again and swallow me with the coming of the next tide;
then he'll go out with the tide, and come again with to-morrow's
tide, and throw me again on the strand. The whale will cast me out
three times. I'm under the enchantment of this whale, and cannot
leave the beach or escape myself. Unless my husband saves me before
I'm swallowed the fourth time, I shall be lost. He must come and
shoot the whale with a silver bullet when he turns on the broad of
his back. Under the breast-fin of the whale is a reddish-brown spot.
My husband must hit him in that spot, for it is the only place in
which he can be killed."
When the cowboy got home, the eldest sister gave him a draught of
oblivion, and he did not tell.
Next day he went again to the sea. The whale came and cast Trembling
on shore again. She asked the boy "Did you tell the master what I
told you to tell him?"
"I did not," said he; "I forgot."
"How did you forget?" asked she.
"The woman of the house gave me a drink that made me forget."
"Well, don't forget telling him this night; and if she gives you a
drink, don't take it from her."
As soon as the cowboy came home, the eldest sister offered him a
drink. He refused to take it till he had delivered his message and
told all to the master. The third day the prince went down with his
gun and a silver bullet in it. He was not long down when the whale
came and threw Trembling upon the beach as the two days before. She
had no power to speak to her husband till he had killed the whale.
Then the whale went out, turned over once on the broad of his back,
and showed the spot for a moment only. That moment the prince fired.
He had but the one chance, and a short one at that; but he took it,
and hit the spot, and the whale, mad with pain, made the sea all
around red with blood, and died.
That minute Trembling was able to speak, and went home with her
husband, who sent word to her father what the eldest sister had
done. The father came, and told him any death he chose to give her
to give it. The prince told the father he would leave her life and
death with himself. The father had her put out then on the sea in a
barrel, with provisions in it for seven years.
In time Trembling had a second child, a daughter. The prince and she
sent the cowboy to school, and trained him up as one of their own
children, and said: "If the little girl that is born to us now
lives, no other man in the world will get her but him."
The cowboy and the prince's daughter lived on till they were
married. The mother said to her husband "You could not have saved me
from the whale but for the little cowboy; on that account I don't
grudge him my daughter."
The son of the king of Emania and Trembling had fourteen children,
and they lived happily till the two died of old age.
JACK AND HIS MASTER
A poor woman had three sons. The eldest and second eldest were
cunning clever fellows, but they called the youngest Jack the Fool,
because they thought he was no better than a simpleton. The eldest
got tired of staying at home, and said he'd go look for service. He
stayed away a whole year, and then came back one day, dragging one
foot after the other, and a poor wizened face on him, and he as
cross as two sticks. When he was rested and got something to eat, he
told them how he got service with the Gray Churl of the Townland of
Mischance, and that the agreement was, whoever would first say he
was sorry for his bargain, should get an inch wide of the skin of
his back, from shoulder to hips, taken off. If it was the master, he
should also pay double wages; if it was the servant, he should get
no wages at all. "But the thief," says he, "gave me so little to
eat, and kept me so hard at work, that flesh and blood couldn't
stand it; and when he asked me once, when I was in a passion, if I
was sorry for my bargain, I was mad enough to say I was, and here I
am disabled for life."
Vexed enough were the poor mother and brothers; and the second
eldest said on the spot he'd go and take service with the Gray
Churl, and punish him by all the annoyance he'd give him till he'd
make him say he was sorry for his agreement. "Oh, won't I be glad to
see the skin coming off the old villain's back!" said he. All they
could say had no effect: he started off for the Townland of
Mischance, and in a twelvemonth he was back just as miserable and
helpless as his brother.
All the poor mother could say didn't prevent Jack the Fool from
starting to see if he was able to regulate the Gray Churl. He agreed
with him for a year for twenty pounds, and the terms were the same.
"Now, Jack," said the Gray Churl, "if you refuse to do anything you
are able to do, you must lose a month's wages."
"I'm satisfied," said Jack; "and if you stop me from doing a thing
after telling me to do it, you are to give me an additional month's
"I am satisfied," says the master.
"Or if you blame me for obeying your orders, you must give the
"I am satisfied," said the master again.
The first day that Jack served he was fed very poorly, and was
worked to the saddleskirts. Next day he came in just before the
dinner was sent up to the parlour. They were taking the goose off
the spit, but well becomes Jack he whips a knife off the dresser,
and cuts off one side of the breast, one leg and thigh, and one
wing, and fell to. In came the master, and began to abuse him for
his assurance. "Oh, you know, master, you're to feed me, and
wherever the goose goes won't have to be filled again till supper.
Are you sorry for our agreement?"
The master was going to cry out he was, but he bethought himself in
time. "Oh no, not at all," said he.
"That's well," said Jack.
Next day Jack was to go clamp turf on the bog. They weren't sorry to
have him away from the kitchen at dinner time. He didn't find his
breakfast very heavy on his stomach; so he said to the mistress, "I
think, ma'am, it will be better for me to get my dinner now, and not
lose time coming home from the bog."
"That's true, Jack," said she. So she brought out a good cake, and a
print of butter, and a bottle of milk, thinking he'd take them away
to the bog. But Jack kept his seat, and never drew rein till bread,
butter, and milk went down the red lane.
"Now, mistress," said he, "I'll be earlier at my work to-morrow if I
sleep comfortably on the sheltery side of a pile of dry peat on dry
grass, and not be coming here and going back. So you may as well
give me my supper, and be done with the day's trouble." She gave him
that, thinking he'd take it to the bog; but he fell to on the spot,
and did not leave a scrap to tell tales on him; and the mistress was
a little astonished.
He called to speak to the master in the haggard, and said he, "What
are servants asked to do in this country after aten their supper?"
"Nothing at all, but to go to bed."
"Oh, very well, sir." He went up on the stable-loft, stripped, and
lay down, and some one that saw him told the master. He came up.
"Jack, you anointed scoundrel, what do you mean?" "To go to sleep,
master. The mistress, God bless her, is after giving me my
breakfast, dinner, and supper, and yourself told me that bed was the
next thing. Do you blame me, sir?"
"Yes, you rascal, I do."
"Hand me out one pound thirteen and fourpence, if you please, sir."
"One divel and thirteen imps, you tinker! what for?"
"Oh, I see, you've forgot your bargain. Are you sorry for it?"
"Oh, ya--no, I mean. I'll give you the money after your nap."
Next morning early, Jack asked how he'd be employed that day. "You
are to be holding the plough in that fallow, outside the paddock."
The master went over about nine o'clock to see what kind of a
ploughman was Jack, and what did he see but the little boy driving
the bastes, and the sock and coulter of the plough skimming along
the sod, and Jack pulling ding-dong again' the horses.
"What are you doing, you contrary thief?" said the master.
"An' ain't I strivin' to hold this divel of a plough, as you told
me; but that ounkrawn of a boy keeps whipping on the bastes in spite
of all I say; will you speak to him?"
"No, but I'll speak to you. Didn't you know, you bosthoon, that when
I said 'holding the plough,' I meant reddening the ground."
"Faith, an' if you did, I wish you had said so. Do you blame me for
what I have done?"
The master caught himself in time, but he was so stomached, he said
"Go on and redden the ground now, you knave, as other ploughmen do."
"An' are you sorry for our agreement?"
"Oh, not at all, not at all!"
Jack, ploughed away like a good workman all the rest of the day.
In a day or two the master bade him go and mind the cows in a field
that had half of it under young corn. "Be sure, particularly," said
he, "to keep Browney from the wheat; while she's out of mischief
there's no fear of the rest."
About noon, he went to see how Jack was doing his duty, and what did
he find but Jack asleep with his face to the sod, Browney grazing
near a thorn-tree, one end of a long rope round her horns, and the
other end round the tree, and the rest of the beasts all trampling
and eating the green wheat. Down came the switch on Jack.
"Jack, you vagabone, do you see what the cows are at?"
"And do you blame, master?"
"To be sure, you lazy sluggard, I do?"
"Hand me out one pound thirteen and fourpence, master. You said if I
only kept Browney out of mischief, the rest would do no harm. There
she is as harmless as a lamb. Are you sorry for hiring me, master?"
"To be--that is, not at all. I'll give you your money when you go to
dinner. Now, understand me; don't let a cow go out of the field nor
into the wheat the rest of the day."
"Never fear, master!" and neither did he. But the churl would rather
than a great deal he had not hired him.
The next day three heifers were missing, and the master bade Jack go
in search of them.
"Where will I look for them?" said Jack.
"Oh, every place likely and unlikely for them all to be in."
The churl was getting very exact in his words. When he was coming
into the bawn at dinner-time, what work did he find Jack at but
pulling armfuls of the thatch off the roof, and peeping into the
holes he was making?
"What are you doing there, you rascal?"
"Sure, I'm looking for the heifers, poor things!"
"What would bring them there?"
"I don't think anything could bring them in it; but I looked first
into the likely places, that is, the cow-houses, and the pastures,
and the fields next 'em, and now I'm looking in the unlikeliest
place I can think of. Maybe it's not pleasing to you it is."
"And to be sure it isn't pleasing to me, you aggravating goose-cap!"
"Please, sir, hand me one pound thirteen and four pence before you
sit down to your dinner. I'm afraid it's sorrow that's on you for
hiring me at all."
"May the div--oh no; I'm not sorry. Will you begin, if you please,
and put in the thatch again, just as if you were doing it for your
"Oh, faith I will, sir, with a heart and a half;" and by the time
the farmer came out from his dinner, Jack had the roof better than
it was before, for he made the boy give him new straw.
Says the master when he came out, "Go, Jack, and look for the
heifers, and bring them home."
"And where will I look for 'em?"
"Go and search for them as if they were your own." The heifers were
all in the paddock before sunset.
Next morning, says the master, "Jack, the path across the bog to the
pasture is very bad; the sheep does be sinking in it every step; go
and make the sheep's feet a good path." About an hour after he came
to the edge of the bog, and what did he find Jack at but sharpening
a carving knife, and the sheep standing or grazing round.
"Is this the way you are mending the path, Jack?" said he.
"Everything must have a beginning, master," said Jack, "and a thing
well begun is half done. I am sharpening the knife, and I'll have
the feet off every sheep in the flock while you'd be blessing
"Feet off my sheep, you anointed rogue! and what would you be taking
their feet off for?"
"An' sure to mend the path as you told me. Says you, 'Jack, make a
path with the foot of the sheep.'"
"Oh, you fool, I meant make good the path for the sheep's feet."
"It's a pity you didn't say so, master. Hand me out one pound
thirteen and fourpence if you don't like me to finish my job."
"Divel do you good with your one pound thirteen and fourpence!"
"It's better pray than curse, master. Maybe you're sorry for your
"And to be sure I am--not yet, any way."
The next night the master was going to a wedding; and says he to
Jack, before he set out: "I'll leave at midnight, and I wish you, to
come and be with me home, for fear I might be overtaken with the
drink. If you're there before, you may throw a sheep's eye at me,
and I'll be sure to see that they'll give you something for
About eleven o'clock, while the master was in great spirits, he felt
something clammy hit him on the cheek. It fell beside his tumbler,
and when he looked at it what was it but the eye of a sheep. Well,
he couldn't imagine who threw it at him, or why it was thrown at
him. After a little he got a blow on the other cheek, and still it
was by another sheep's eye. Well, he was very vexed, but he thought
better to say nothing. In two minutes more, when he was opening his
mouth to take a sup, another sheep's eye was slapped into it. He
sputtered it out, and cried, "Man o' the house, isn't it a great
shame for you to have any one in the room that would do such a nasty
"Master," says Jack, "don't blame the honest man. Sure it's only
myself that was thrown' them sheep's eyes at you, to remind you I
was here, and that I wanted to drink the bride and bridegroom's
health. You know yourself bade me."
"I know that you are a great rascal; and where did you get the
"An' where would I get em' but in the heads of your own sheep? Would
you have me meddle with the bastes of any neighbour, who might put
me in the Stone Jug for it?"
"Sorrow on me that ever I had the bad luck to meet with you."
"You're all witness," said Jack, "that my master says he is sorry
for having met with me. My time is up. Master, hand me over double
wages, and come into the next room, and lay yourself out like a man
that has some decency in him, till I take a strip of skin an inch
broad from your shoulder to your hip."
Every one shouted out against that; but, says Jack, "You didn't
hinder him when he took the same strips from the backs of my two
brothers, and sent them home in that state, and penniless, to their
When the company heard the rights of the business, they were only
too eager to see the job done. The master bawled and roared, but
there was no help at hand. He was stripped to his hips, and laid on
the floor in the next room, and Jack had the carving knife in his
hand ready to begin.
"Now you cruel old villain," said he, giving the knife a couple of
scrapes along the floor, "I'll make you an offer. Give me, along
with my double wages, two hundred guineas to support my poor
brothers, and I'll do without the strap."
"No!" said he, "I'd let you skin me from head to foot first."
"Here goes then," said Jack with a grin, but the first little scar
he gave, Churl roared out, "Stop your hand; I'll give the money."
"Now, neighbours," said Jack, "you mustn't think worse of me than I
deserve. I wouldn't have the heart to take an eye out of a rat
itself; I got half a dozen of them from the butcher, and only used
three of them."
So all came again into the other room, and Jack was made sit down,
and everybody drank his health, and he drank everybody's health at
one offer. And six stout fellows saw himself and the master home,
and waited in the parlour while he went up and brought down the two
hundred guineas, and double wages for Jack himself. When he got
home, he brought the summer along with him to the poor mother and
the disabled brothers; and he was no more Jack the Fool in the
people's mouths, but "Skin Churl Jack."
Print Llewelyn had a favourite greyhound named Gellert that had been
given to him by his father-in-law, King John. He was as gentle as a
lamb at home but a lion in the chase. One day Llewelyn went to the
chase and blew his horn in front of his castle. All his other dogs
came to the call but Gellert never answered it. So he blew a louder
blast on his horn and called Gellert by name, but still the
greyhound did not come. At last Prince Llewelyn could wait no longer
and went off to the hunt without Gellert. He had little sport that
day because Gellert was not there, the swiftest and boldest of his
He turned back in a rage to his castle, and as he came to the gate,
who should he see but Gellert come bounding out to meet him. But
when the hound came near him, the Prince was startled to see that
his lips and fangs were dripping with blood. Llewelyn started back
and the greyhound crouched down at his feet as if surprised or
afraid at the way his master greeted him.
Now Prince Llewelyn had a little son a year old with whom Gellert
used to play, and a terrible thought crossed the Prince's mind that
made him rush towards the child's nursery. And the nearer he came
the more blood and disorder he found about the rooms. He rushed into
it and found the child's cradle overturned and daubed with blood.
Prince Llewelyn grew more and more terrified, and sought for his
little son everywhere. He could find him nowhere but only signs of
some terrible conflict in which much blood had been shed. At last he
felt sure the dog had destroyed his child, and shouting to Gellert,
"Monster, thou hast devoured my child," he drew out his sword and
plunged it in the greyhound's side, who fell with a deep yell and
still gazing in his master's eyes.
As Gellert raised his dying yell, a little child's cry answered it
from beneath the cradle, and there Llewelyn found his child unharmed
and just awakened from sleep. But just beside him lay the body of a
great gaunt wolf all torn to pieces and covered with blood. Too
late, Llewelyn learned what had happened while he was away. Gellert
had stayed behind to guard the child and had fought and slain the
wolf that had tried to destroy Llewelyn's heir.
In vain was all Llewelyn's grief; he could not bring his faithful
dog to life again. So he buried him outside the castle walls within
sight of the great mountain of Snowdon, where every passer-by might
see his grave, and raised over it a great cairn of stones. And to
this day the place is called Beth Gellert, or the Grave of Gellert.
THE TALE OF IVAN
There were formerly a man and a woman living in the parish of
Llanlavan, in the place which is called Hwrdh. And work became
scarce, so the man said to his wife, "I will go search for work, and
you may live here." So he took fair leave, and travelled far toward
the East, and at last came to the house of a farmer and asked for
"What work can ye do?" said the farmer. "I can do all kinds of
work," said Ivan. Then they agreed upon three pounds for the year's
When the end of the year came his master showed him the three
pounds. "See, Ivan," said he, "here's your wage; but if you will
give it me back I'll give you a piece of advice instead."
"Give me my wage," said Ivan.
"No, I'll not," said the master; "I'll explain my advice."
"Tell it me, then," said Ivan.
Then said the master, "Never leave the old road for the sake of a
After that they agreed for another year at the old wages, and at the
end of it Ivan took instead a piece of advice, and this was it:
"Never lodge where an old man is married to a young woman."
The same thing happened at the end of the third year, when the piece
of advice was: "Honesty is the best policy."
But Ivan would not stay longer, but wanted to go back to his wife.
"Don't go to-day," said his master; "my wife bakes to-morrow, and
she shall make thee a cake to take home to thy good woman."
And when Ivan was going to leave, "Here," said his master, "here is
a cake for thee to take home to thy wife, and, when ye are most
joyous together, then break the cake, and not sooner."
So he took fair leave of them and travelled towards home, and at
last he came to Wayn Her, and there he met three merchants from Tre
Rhyn, of his own parish, coming home from Exeter Fair. "Oho! Ivan,"
said they, "come with us; glad are we to see you. Where have you
been so long?"
"I have been in service," said Ivan, "and now I'm going home to my
"Oh, come with us! you'll be right welcome." But when they took the
new road Ivan kept to the old one. And robbers fell upon them before
they had gone far from Ivan as they were going by the fields of the
houses in the meadow. They began to cry out, "Thieves!" and Ivan
shouted out "Thieves!" too. And when the robbers heard Ivan's shout
they ran away, and the merchants went by the new road and Ivan by
the old one till they met again at Market-Jew.
"Oh, Ivan," said the merchants, "we are beholding to you; but for
you we would have been lost men. Come lodge with us at our cost, and
When they came to the place where they used to lodge, Ivan said, "I
must see the host."
"The host," they cried; "what do you want with the host? Here is the
hostess, and she's young and pretty. If you want to see the host
you'll find him in the kitchen."
So he went into the kitchen to see the host; he found him a weak old
man turning the spit.
"Oh! oh!" quoth Ivan, "I'll not lodge here, but will go next door."
"Not yet," said the merchants, "sup with us, and welcome."
Now it happened that the hostess had plotted with a certain monk in
Market-Jew to murder the old man in his bed that night while the
rest were asleep, and they agreed to lay it on the lodgers.
So while Ivan was in bed next door, there was a hole in the pine-end
of the house, and he saw a light through it. So he got up and
looked, and heard the monk speaking. "I had better cover this hole,"
said he, "or people in the next house may see our deeds." So he
stood with his back against it while the hostess killed the old man.
But meanwhile Ivan out with his knife, and putting it through the
hole, cut a round piece off the monk's robe. The very next morning
the hostess raised the cry that her husband was murdered, and as
there was neither man nor child in the house but the merchants, she
declared they ought to be hanged for it.
So they were taken and carried to prison, till a last Ivan came to
them. "Alas! alas! Ivan," cried they, "bad luck sticks to us; our
host was killed last night, and we shall be hanged for it."
"Ah, tell the justices," said Ivan, "to summon the real murderers."
"Who knows," they replied, "who committed the crime?"
"Who committed the crime!" said Ivan. "if I cannot prove who
committed the crime, hang me in your stead."
So he told all he knew, and brought out the piece of cloth from the
monk's robe, and with that the merchants were set at liberty, and
the hostess and the monk were seized and hanged.
Then they came all together out of Market-Jew, and they said to him:
"Come as far as Coed Carrn y Wylfa, the Wood of the Heap of Stones
of Watching, in the parish of Burman." Then their two roads
separated, and though the merchants wished Ivan to go with them, he
would not go with them, but went straight home to his wife.
And when his wife saw him she said: "Home in the nick of time.
Here's a purse of gold that I've found; it has no name, but sure it
belongs to the great lord yonder. I was just thinking what to do
when you came."
Then Ivan thought of the third counsel, and he said "Let us go and
give it to the great lord."
So they went up to the castle, but the great lord was not in it, so
they left the purse with the servant that minded the gate, and then
they went home again and lived in quiet for a time.
But one day the great lord stopped at their house for a drink of
water, and Ivan's wife said to him: "I hope your lordship found your
lordship's purse quite safe with all its money in it."
"What purse is that you are talking about?" said the lord.
"Sure, it's your lordship's purse that I left at the castle," said
"Come with me and we will see into the matter," said the lord.
So Ivan and his wife went up to the castle, and there they pointed
out the man to whom they had given the purse, and he had to give it
up and was sent away from the castle. And the lord was so pleased
with Ivan that he made him his servant in the stead of the thief.
"Honesty's the best policy!" quoth Ivan, as he skipped about in his
new quarters. "How joyful I am!"
Then he thought of his old master's cake that he was to eat when he
was most joyful, and when he broke it, to and behold, inside it was
his wages for the three years he had been with him.
My grandfather, Andrew Coffey, was known to the whole barony as a
quiet, decent man. And if the whole barony knew him, he knew the
whole barony, every inch, hill and dale, bog and pasture, field and
covert. Fancy his surprise one evening, when he found himself in a
part of the demesne he couldn't recognise a bit. He and his good
horse were always stumbling up against some tree or stumbling down
into some bog-hole that by rights didn't ought to be there. On the
top of all this the rain came pelting down wherever there was a
clearing, and the cold March wind tore through the trees. Glad he
was then when he saw a light in the distance, and drawing near found
a cabin, though for the life of him he couldn't think how it came
there. However, in he walked, after tying up his horse, and right
welcome was the brushwood fire blazing on the hearth. And there
stood a chair right and tight, that seemed to say, "Come, sit down
in me." There wasn't a soul else in the room. Well, he did sit, and
got a little warm and cheered after his drenching. But all the while
he was wondering and wondering.
"Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey!"