I can recall a wee man who lived in the village of Derrytrask for quite a few years, but almost all his neighbours thought he was a bit of an ‘eejit’ (idiot). If asked, “what made them look upon the wee man as an eejit?”, they would look at the questioner in such a way as if he was not right in the head. Their proof that the wee man was ‘not the full shilling’ was the way that he was so demonstratively fond of music but had never been able to learn to play more than one tune on his ‘Uileann-pipes’. The sole tune that he did play was known as the “Munster Cloak”, which was his party piece in the various bars, and at the local festivities. People would make fun of him as he played his one tune over and over again, but he did earn a few shillings from his ‘recitals’. The money he received, however, helped both the wee man and his widowed mother to pay the rent on their small holding, and occasionally buy some luxuries for themselves, like snuff and a bottle or two of stout.
One warm Spring night the Piper was walking home from a local house, where there had been a bit of a dance. The ‘House Ceilidh’ had been a lively one and like several other attendees he found himself somewhat the worse for wear, because of the whisky and poteen he had taken. As he staggered along the narrow cart track of a road he managed to arrive safely at the little bridge spanning the small stream that flowed close by his mother’s cottage. He decided to stop there for a moment and sit down upon a large flat rock, then he breathed into his pipes’ bag and squeezing it he began to play the one tune that he knew so well, the “Munster Cloak.” As the first musical notes floated into the air he was suddenly grabbed from behind and flung on his back in the middle of the track. In the darkness of the night a ‘Pooka’ had come upon him by surprise. For those readers who may not know what a ‘Pooka’ is, the easiest explanation is that it is a spirit creature which takes on many forms and shapes. This spirit creature, however, possessed long horns and as the Piper regained his senses he took a good, strong grip of them. But, as he grabbed at the strange creature’s horns he cried out with a loud voice, “Damn you to hell, you evil creature. Just allow me to go on my way home for I have a shining silver sixpence in my pocket that is for my mother, and she wants some snuff brought to her!”
Using the horns, the ‘Pooka’ now threw the Piper onto his own back and spoke menacingly to him, “Pay no attention to yourmother, or even to what she wants, but concentrate your mind on keeping your hold on those horns. Remember that if you should fall from my back there is little doubt that you will surely break your neck and smash those pipes you are carrying.” Then, in a softer tone of voice, the ‘Pooka’ asked him, “You could play for me the ‘The Blackbird, for it is my favourite tune?‘”
“Sure, wouldn’t I be the greatest of all pipers if I could play ‘The Blackbird’, when I don’t know it,” replied the Piper with a snigger.
“Don’t you be concerning yourself about whether you know the tune, or you don’t know it!” the ‘Pooka’ snapped at him. “Just you begin playing those pipes of yours and I’ll make sure you play the right tune.”
Although he was deeply frightened, the Piper blew hard into his pipe bag and he began to play such fine music that he began to wonder how this could happen. “By the holy, but you’re a fine teacher,” said the Piper, “and now tell me where you are taking me in such a hurry?”
“There is to be a great feast being held tonight in the house of the Banshee, which stands at the top of Croagh Patrick,” said the Pooka. “I am bringing you to the feast, where you will play your music and be well rewarded for your trouble.”
“Sure, isn’t that a great bit of news, for you’ll save me a journey,” replied the Piper, “Father Tom has told me that I should make the pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick as a penance, because I was the one who stole the big white goose from the Martins’ farmhouse yard.”
But, the Pooka paid no attention to him, put down his head and rushed the piper across hills, the bogs and rough places, until he finally brought him to the top of Croagh Patrick. Then, as they came to a halt, the Pooka struck three blows on the ground with his foot, and a great door opened before them. Without a moment’s hesitation they both passed through the door and found themselves in a large, finely adorned room. There, in the middle of the room, the Piper saw a large golden table, around which sat hundreds of old women, all of whom were staring toward him. One of the old women stood up from her seat and greeted him, “A hundred thousand welcomes to you, Pooka of November. Who is this mortal being that you have brought with you?”
“This mortal is the best Piper in all of Ireland,” said the Pooka, proudly.
One of the old women now struck a blow on the ground and a door opened in the side wall of the fine room. Then much to the Piper’s surprise, he noticed the big white goose, which he had stolen from Martins’ farmyard coming out of the door. “Now this is a miracle,” said the Piper, “for myself and my mother ate every bit of that goose, except for one wing. Sure, it was that one wing that I gave to old ‘Red Mary’, and it was her that told the priest I had stolen the goose.”
The goose now marched over to clean the table before carrying it away, and the Pooka now turned to the piper and urged him, “Play your music for these ladies to enjoy.”
The Piper filled the bag with air and he began to play. He played so well that all the old women took to the floor and began to dance, and they danced so lively until they could dance no more. It was then that the Pooka came forward and demanded that they pay the Piper for his music. Without any complaint each of the old women took a gold piece from their pockets and gave it to him. “By the staff of Saint Patrick,” says the Piper, “sure I’m as rich as the son of any great lord.”
“Now come with me,” asked the Pooka, “and I will bring you back to your home.”
Together they went out of the room and, just as the Piper was about to mount the back of the Pooka, the goose waddled over to him and presented him with a new set of pipes. With the same speed as before the Pooka set off and it did not take him long until he brought the Piper back to Derrytrask. They came at last to the little bridge once again and the Piper dismounted the Pooka, who quietly told him that he should go home. But, before the Piper left, the Pooka told him, “You now have two things that you have never had before. You now have sense and music.”
Hurrying home the Piper was feeling on top of the world, and he knocked loudly at his mother’s door. He called out to her, “Mother, let me in. Your son is as rich now as any lord, and I have become the very best Piper in the whole of Ireland.”
“Ah, you’re drunk again,” replied his mother in disgust.
“No, Mother, indeed I’m not,” insisted the Piper, “Not a single drop of liquor has passed my lips.”
His mother opened the door to him, and he gave her the gold pieces he had received from the old women. “Wait, now,” says he, “until you hear the wonderful music that I can play now.” He quickly buckled on the pipes and began to play them, but instead of sweet music of before there now came a sound as if all the geese and ganders in Ireland were screeching together. The terrible noise that he made wakened all the neighbours, and they all began to make fun of him. Their mocking continued for a while until the Piper put on his old pipes and, from that moment, he played the most melodious music for them. Now that they had heard his music the Piper told them all the great adventure that he had gone through that night and they listened to his story in disbelief.
The next morning, when the Piper’s mother went to look at the gold pieces her son had given her, there was nothing there but the leaves of a plant. Shocked by this news, the Piper went to see the priest and began to relate to him the adventure he had undertaken. But, the priest would not believe a word that he told him, and the Piper decided to give proof by playing the pipes for him. As he did so the screeching of the ganders and the geese began once again. “Get out of my sight, you thief,” the angry priest roared at him. But the Piper would not move an inch until he put the old pipes on him to demonstrate to the priest that his story was indeed true. He buckled on his old pipes, and he began to play the most wonderful and melodious music. From that day until the day of his death the piper’s fame grew and it is still said that there was never his equal as a Piper in all the western part of Ireland.
“Sure, I’ll leave you past the stream,” said an old man to a friend of mine who was leaving my house one night.
“Oh, don’t annoy yourself, Eddie,” my friend replied, laughing; “the night’s a clear one, and I won’t be afraid.“
“Sure, he’s not afraid of ghosts, Eddie? ” said I, when my friend had left.
“Och, God bless you! He isn’t afraid?” smiled Eddie, “well, I don’t think you know him very long or you wouldn’t be saying that.“
“Do you tell me he is afraid of ghosts!” I exclaimed.
“I do,” replied Ned emphatically, “that is unless he has changed greatly this last while.”
“And what good would it do him if you escorted him over the stream?” I asked.
“Ah! For goodness sake, do you know nothing at all? “
“I can assure you, Eddie, I, for one, am not well versed in those things. But I am very willing to learn.“
“And did you never hear that nothing bad can follow you past running water?” asked Eddie, astonished by my admission of ignorance.
“Honestly, no,” I replied. “Is that the truth? “
“Indeed, it is,” answered Eddie. ” Sure, I thought everybody knew that.”
“Well, no, Eddie! In that part of the country where I come from, the people believe in ghosts alright, but I don’t think any ever heard of that.“
“Well, now, isn’t that a quare thing,” said Eddie, looking down at the floor thoughtfully.
“And what would you do,” he asked, “if you were walking about at night, and, without hearing or seeing anything anywhere around you, you were to get a blow, very suddenly, on the back of your head?“
“By God! I suppose I’d turn around and strike back,” I answered and laughed.
“Ha ha! Well, that is where you’d be entirely wrong. Indeed, that would be a move that would do you little good. Damn the bit harm your fists would be doing, for you’d only be beating the air. And, at the same time, you’d be getting such a thrashing yourself that if you ever survived it, you’d be a lucky man, and be thankful for some good person’s prayers.”
“Well, tell me, what should I be doing then?” I inquired with great interest.
“What should you be doing? Is that what you’re asking me?“
“You should be walking on you should, until you cross a stream of running water, and whatever it is that would be trying to do you harm couldn’t follow you past it.“
“Oh, I see!” I replied, rather deflated by the answer he gave me, but to keep him encouraged I said, “That’s why you spoke about the stream a few moments ago.“
“Aye, that’s the very way son,“
“Then there must be some magic charm in running water?“
“To be sure there is, and why wouldn’t there be?” he exclaimed earnestly as if I doubted his word.
In a time, long before the coming of Saint Patrick, there was an old king in Connacht, who had been blessed with three sons. The old king had been bothered by a sore foot for many years, and he could get nothing to cure it. One day he sent for blind ‘Wise-man’ and said to him, “I’m giving you wages this twenty-years and you can’t even tell me what will cure my foot.”
“You’ve never asked me that question before,” said the ‘Wiseman’, “but I’ll tell you now that there is nothing in this world that will cure you but a bottle of water from the Well of Derrydowan. “
The next morning, the king called his three sons to him and told them, “My foot will never be better until I get a bottle of water from the Well of Derrydowan, and whichever of you brings me that, will inherit my kingdom.”
“We will go in search of it to-morrow,” the sons replied. The names of the three young men were Art, Nart, and Cart, and the next morning the king gave to each one of them a purse of gold as he sent them on their way.
When they came as far as the cross-roads Art spoke, “Each one of us ought to take a road for himself, and if one of us is back before a year and a day is past, let him wait until the other two come, or else let him set up a stone as a sign that he has come back safe.”
They parted company after that, with Art and Nart going to an inn, where they began drinking. But Cart went on by himself, walking all that day without knowing with any certainty where he was going. Then, as the darkness of night fell, he entered a great wood, and he pressed on until he came to a large house. Cart went into the building and looked around, but he saw nobody, except for a large white cat sitting beside the turf-fire. When the cat saw him, she rose up and went into another room, while a very tired Cart sat himself beside the fire. But it was not long until the door of the room opened, and out came an old hag and declared, “One hundred-thousand welcomes to you, son of the king of Connacht.”
“Oh, many a good day I spent in your father’s castle, and I have known you since you were born,” said the old hag. Then she prepared a fine supper and gave it to him and, when he had eaten and drunk enough, she said to him, “You made a long journey to-day, now come with me ‘til I show you a bed.” She brought him to a fine room, showed him a bed, and the king’s son quickly fell asleep.
Cart did not awake until the sun was coming in through the windows the next morning. Then he rose up, dressed himself, and was going out of the house, when the hag asked him where he was going. “I don’t know,” replied the king’s son. “I left home to find out the Well of Derrydowan.”
”I’ve walked in many a place,” said the hag, “but I never heard tell of the Well of Derrydowan before.”
The king’s son left the house and travelled on until he came to a crossroads between two woods. He did not know which road to take but he noticed a seat under the trunk of a great tree. When he went up to the seat found a notice, saying, “This is the seat of travellers.” The king’s son now sat down, and after a minute he saw the most beautiful woman in the world approaching him. She was dressed in red silk, and she spoke quietly to him, saying “I have often heard it said that it is better to go forward than back.” Then she vanished from his sight, as though the ground had suddenly swallowed her up.
The king’s son rose up from the seat and went forward, walking all that day until the darkness of the night began to come on, and he began to wonder where he would get lodgings. He saw a light coming from the wood, and he moved towards it. The light was coming from a little house where there was not as much as the end of a feather jutting up on the outside, nor jutting down on the inside, but only one single feather that was keeping the house up. He knocked at the door, and an old hag opened it to him. “God save all here,” said the king’s son.
“A hundred welcomes before you, son of the king,” said the hag.
“How did you know me?” asked the king’s son.
“It was my sister that nursed you,” said the hag, ” and sit yourself down a while until I get your supper ready.”
When he had eaten and drank enough, she gave him a comfortable bed, where he slept until morning. Then, rising the next morning, he prayed to God to direct him on the road to find his goal. “How far will you go to-day?” asked the hag.
“I don’t know,” said the king’s son, “I’m in search of the Well of Derrydowan.”
“Well, I’m three hundred years here,” said the hag, “and I have never heard of such a place before. But I have a sister, who is older than myself, and, perhaps, she may know of it. Here is a ball of silver for you, and when you go out on the road just throw it up before you and follow it ‘til you come to the house of my sister.”
When he went out on the road, he threw down the ball, and he followed it until the sun began to go under the shadow of the hills. Then he went into a wood and came to the door of a little house. When he knocked on the door, a hag opened it to him, and said, “A hundred thousand welcomes before you, son of the king, who was at my sister’s house last night. You have made a long journey today, so sit yourself down for I have a supper ready for you.” When the king’s son had eaten and drank his fill, the hag put him to bed, where slept until the next morning. Then the hag asked him, “Where are you going to ?”.
“I don’t really know,” said the king’s son. “I left home to find the Well of Derrydowan.”
“Well, I am over five hundred years of age,” said the hag, “and I have never heard anyone talk of that place before. But I have a brother, and if there is any such place in the world, he will certainly know of it. He lives seven hundred miles from here.”
“It’s a long journey,” said the king’s son.
“You’ll be there to-night,” said the hag as she gave him a little horse about the size of a goat.
“Sure, that wee beast will never be able to carry me,” said the kings’ son.
“Wait ‘til you start riding it,” said the hag, and the king’s son got on the wee horse and together they moved as fast as lightning. When the sun was going down that evening, Cart came to a little house in a wood.
He dismounted from his small mount, went up to the house, and it was not long until an old grey man came out, and said, “A hundred thousand welcomes to you, son of the king. You’re searching for the Well of Derrydowan.”
“I am, indeed,” said the king’s son.
“Many a good man went that way before you, but not a man of them came back alive,” said the old man. “However, I’ll do my best for you. Stop here tonight and we’ll have some sport to-morrow.” Then he prepared a supper and gave it to the king’s son, and when he had eaten and drank sufficiently, the old man put gave him a bed to sleep on. The next morning, the old man told Cart, “I found out where the Well of Derrydowan is, but it is difficult to get there. We must find out if you are any good at using the bow.” Then he brought the king’s son out into the wood, gave him a bow and arrow, and put a mark on a tree forty yards away from him, and told him to strike it. He drew the bow and struck the mark, causing the old man to say, “You’ll do the business.”
They then returned to the house, where they spent the day telling stories until the darkness of night fell over the wood. When the night came, the old man gave him a bow and a quiver of arrows, saying “Come with me now.”
They went on until they came to a great river, and the old man said, “Get on my back, and I’ll swim across the river with you. But, if you see a great bird coming, kill him, or we shall both be lost.”
Then the king’s son climbed on the old man’s back, and the old man began swimming. When they reached the middle of the river the king’s son saw a great eagle coming towards them with its beak wide open. The king’s son drew the bow and wounded the eagle. “Did you strike him?” said the old man.
“I struck him,” said the king’s son; “but here he comes again.”
He drew the bow for a second time and the eagle fell, dead and when they came to the riverbank the old man declared, “We are on the island of the Well of Derrydowan. The queen is sleeping, and she will not awaken for a day and a year. She only goes to sleep once every seven years. There is usually a lion and a monstrous beast watching at the gate to the well, but they go to sleep at the same time as the queen, and you will have no difficulty in going to the well. Here are two bottles for you. Fill one of them for yourself, and the other for me, and it will make me a young man again.”
The king’s son went off, and when he came as far as the castle, he saw the lion and the monster sleeping on each side of the gate. Then he saw a great wheel throwing up water out of the well, and he went and filled the two bottles he had been given, and while he was coming back, he saw a shining light from the castle. He looked in through the window and saw a great table, upon which sat a loaf of bread, with a knife, a bottle, and a glass. He filled the glass, but he did not empty the bottle. He observed that there was a writing on the bottle and on the loaf; and he read on the bottle, “Water For the World,” and on the loaf, “Bread For the World.” He cut a piece off the loaf, but it only grew bigger. “My God! It’s a pity we haven’t that loaf and that bottle at home,” said the king’s son, “and there would be neither hunger nor thirst on the poor people.” Then he went into a great chamber, and he saw the queen and eleven waiting-maids asleep, and a sword of light was hanging above the head of the queen. It was the sword that was giving light to the whole castle and when he saw the queen, he said to himself, “It’s a pity to leave that pretty mouth without kissing it.” He kissed the queen, and she never awoke, and after that he did the same to the eleven maidens. Then he took the sword, the bottle, and the loaf, and came back to the old man, but he never told him that he had those things. “How did you get on?” said the old man.
“I got the thing I was in search of,” said the king’s son.
“Did you see any marvel since you left me?” asked the old man, and the king’s son told him that he had seen a wonderful loaf, a bottle, and a sword.
“You did not touch them?” asked the old man, warily. “Shun them, for they would bring trouble on you. Come on my back now ‘til I bring you back across the river.”
When they went to the house of the old man, he poured water out of the bottle on himself, and made himself a young man again. Then he said to the king’s son, “My sisters and myself are now free from enchantment, and they are young women again.”
The king’s son remained there until the most part of the year and day were gone. Then he began his journey home, but he did not have the little horse with him. He walked the first day until the darkness of the night came down. He saw a large house, went to the door, knocked on it, and the man of the house came out to him. “Can you give me lodgings ?” he asked.
“I can,” said the man of the house, “only I have no light to light your way.”
“I have a light myself,” said the king’s son. He went into the house, drew the sword, and gave a fine light to them all, and to everybody that was on the island. They then gave him a good supper, and he fell asleep. When he was going away in the morning, the man of the house asked him for the honour of God, to leave the sword with them. “Since you have asked for it in the honour of God, you must have it,” said the king’s son and he walked that second day until darkness began to fall. He went to another great house, knocked the door, and it was not long until the woman of the house came out to him, and he asked her for lodgings.
The man of the house came and told him, “I can give you that, but I have not a drop of water to make any food for you.”
“Sure, I have plenty of water myself,” said the king’s son. He went in, took out the bottle, and there was not a vessel in the house he did not fill, and still the bottle remained full. Then a supper was prepared for him, and when he had eaten and drank enough, he went to sleep. In the morning, when he was going, the woman asked him, in the honour of God, to leave them the bottle. “Since you have asked it for the honour of God,” said the king’s son, “I cannot refuse you, for my mother made me promise her, before she died, never, if I could, refuse anything that a person would ask of me for the honour of God.” Then he left the bottle to them.
He walked the third day until darkness was came, and he reached a great house on the side of the road. He knocked on the door and when the man of the house came out, he asked if he could have lodgings there. “I can give you that, and welcome,” said the man, “But I’m sorry that I have not a morsel of bread for you to eat.”
“I have plenty of bread myself,” said the king’s son as he went in, got a knife, and began cutting the loaf, until the table was filled with pieces of bread. Yet, the loaf was as big as it was when he began. Then they prepared a supper for him, and when he had eaten enough, he went to sleep. Then, when he was leaving the next morning, they asked him, for the honour of God, to leave the loaf with them, and he left it with them. The three things were now gone from him and he walked the fourth day until he came to a great river, and he had no way to get across it. He went down on his knees, and he asked God to send him help. After half a minute, he saw the beautiful woman he had seen the day he had left the house of the first hag and, as she came near him, she asked him, “Son of the king, has it succeeded with you?”
“I got the thing I went in search of,” said the king’s son; “but I don’t know how I shall get over this river.”
She drew out a thimble and said, “It would be a bad day that I would see your father’s son without a boat.” Then she threw the thimble into the river and made a splendid boat from it. “Get into that boat now,” said she, “and when you come to the other side, there will be a horse there ready to bring you as far as the cross-road, where you left your brothers.”
The king’s son stepped into the boat, and it was not long until he was at the other side of the river, and there he found a white horse standing before him. He mounted it, and it went off as swiftly as the wind, bringing him to the cross-roads at about twelve o’clock that day. The king’s son looked around him, and he did not see his brothers, nor any stone set up, and he said to himself, “Perhaps they are at the inn.” When he went there, he found Art and Nart, and both were two-thirds drunk. They asked him how he gotten on since he had left them. “I have found the Well of Derrydowan, and I have the bottle of water,” said Cart.
Nart and Art were filled with jealousy, and they said to one another, “It’s a great shame that the youngest son should have the kingdom. We’ll kill him, and bring the bottle of water to our father,” said Nart, “and we’ll say that it was us that went to the Well of Derrydowan.”
“I’m not with you there,” said Art, “but we’ll get him drunk, and we’ll take the bottle from him. My father will believe me and you, before he’ll believe our brother, because he has an idea that there’s nothing in him but a half-wit.” Then, he said to Cart, “Since it has happened that we have all come home safe and sound we’ll have a drink before we go home.” They called for a quart of whiskey, and they made Cart drink the most of it, causing him to fall drunk. Then, they took the bottle of water from him, went home themselves, and gave it to the king, who put a drop of the water on his foot, and it made him as well as ever he had been. Then they told him that they had great trouble to get the bottle of water. That they had to fight giants and overcome great dangers.
“Did you see Cart on your road?” asked the king.
“He never went farther than the inn, since he left us,” they told him, “and he’s in it now, blind drunk.”
“Sure, there never was any good in him,” said the king, “but I cannot leave him there.” So, he sent six men to the inn, and they carried Cart home and, when he recovered from his drunkenness, the king reduced him to a servant and was to do all the dirty jobs about the castle.
When a year and a day had gone by, the queen of the Well of Derrydowan and her maids-in-waiting woke up, and the queen and her eleven maidens found a young son by her sides. The queen was extremely angry, and she sent for the lion and the monster, to ask them what had become of the eagle that she had left in charge of the castle. “He must be dead, or he’d be here when you awakened,” they said.
“I’m destroyed! Myself, and the maids-in-waiting,” said the queen angrily, ”and I won’t stop until I discover who is the father of my son!” Then she called for her enchanted coach to be made ready, with two fawns to pull it, and she hurried off until she came to the first house where the king’s son had been given lodging. There she asked if there had been any stranger there lately, and the man of the house said that there had.
“Yes!” said the queen, “And he left the sword of light behind him! It is mine, and if you do not give it back to me quickly, I will turn your house upside down.” They immediately gave her the sword, and she went on until she came to the second house, in which he had been given lodging, and she asked if there had been any strangers there lately. They said that there had been. “Yes!” said she, “And he left a bottle after him. Give it back to me immediately, or I’ll bring this house down upon you!” They quickly returned the bottle to her, and she went off again until she came to the third house, where she asked if there had been any strangers there lately. They said there was. “Yes!” said she, “And he left the loaf of lasting bread after him. That belongs to me, and if you don’t return it to me quickly, I will kill you all!” She got the loaf, and she set off once more, and never stopped until she came to the old king’s castle, where she pulled the challenge bell outside the gate. When the king came out, she asked him, “Have you a son?”
“I have,” said the king.
“Send him out here ‘til I see him,” said she and in response the king sent out Art. The queen asked him, “Were you at the Well of Derrydowan?”
“I was,” said Art.
“And are you the father of my son?” she asked.
“I believe I am,” said Art.
“I will know that soon enough,” she said, and she drew two hairs out of her head, flung them against the wall, and they were made into a ladder that went up to the top of the castle. Then she said to Art, “If you were at the Well of Derrydowan, you can go up to the top of that ladder.” Art went up half-way before he fell and broke his thigh. “You were never at the Well of Derrydowan,”said the queen and she asked the king, “Have you any other son?”
“I have,” replied the king.
“Bring him out,” said the queen. When Nart came out, she asked him, “Were you ever at the Well of Derrydowan?”
“I was,” said Nart.
“If you were, go up to the top of that ladder,” said the queen, and he began going up. But he had not gone very far until he fell and broke his foot. “You were not at the Well of Derrydowan,” said the queen and again she asked the king if he had any other son. When the king said he had, he added, “But it’s a half-wit he is, that has never left home.”
“Bring him here,” said the queen, and when Cart came, she asked him, “Were you at the Well of Derrydowan ?”.
“I was,” said Cart, “and I saw you there.”
“Go up to the top of that ladder,” said the queen, and she watched as Cart went up the ladder like a cat. When he came down, she said told him, “Yes, you are the man who was at the Well of Derrydowan, and you are the father of my son.” Then Cart explained the trick that his brothers played on him, and the queen was about to slay them both, until Cart asked her to pardon them. The king then declared that Cart must inherit the kingdom, and he dressed him in robes and put a chain of gold around his neck. Then, Cart got into the coach beside the queen, and they departed the castle for the Well of Derrydowan. The maids-in-waiting gave Cart a great welcome, and they all came to him, with each one asking him to marry them. He stayed in that place twenty-one years, until the queen died, and then he brought back with him to Galway his twelve sons Galway. Each of the sons married a wife, and it is from them that the twelve tribes of Galway are descended.
In the County of Armagh, there once lived a young man, who had never washed his feet from the day he was born. His name was Danny Grealish but, because people said there was enough dirt on his feet to grow potatoes, they used to call him ‘Spud Foot’. His father would often call him, “Get up, you great waste of space and wash.” But not one inch would he move out of the bed, and never a thought did he give to washing one foot, never mind two.
There was no sense at all in talking to the idler. Everyone would constantly be making fun of him because of his dirty feet, but not one bit of attention did he pay to them. In fact, you could have said anything to him, but he had the hide of rhinoceros and would pay no heed, going his own way despite all. Then, one night the whole family were gathered in the house, sitting by the fire, telling stories, and having great craic, with him in the middle of it. The father took a puff of his pipe and said to him, “Danny, my boy, this day you are twenty-one years old this day, and you’ve never washed a foot from the day you were born.”
“That’s a lie,” said Danny, “sure, didn’t I go swimming last May Day, and I couldn’t keep my feet out of the water.“
“Well, let me tell you, boy, they were as dirty as ever they were when you came to the shore,” said the father.
“Aye, that’s the truth. They were,” replied Danny.
“Precisely!” replied his father, “Isn’t that what I’m telling you! It was never in you to wash your feet.“
“Aye, and I will never wash them until the day that God calls me,” Danny told him.
“You’re a miserable gobshite! A clown! a tinker! a good-for-nothing wastrel! What kind of answer is that? ” says the father, who drew back his hand and gave him a great thump with his fist on the boy’s jaw. “Get out of this!” he said, “I can’t stand you being about me any longer.“
Danny lifted himself up from the floor and put a hand to his jaw, where he had got the fist. “Only that it is you that gave me that blow,” said the boy, “You’d never hit another blow for the rest of your life.” His eyes were filled with rage and his voice with anger as he stormed out of the house.
Just a little way off from the gable of the house there was the finest Rath in Ireland, with a fine grass bank that ran around it, and Danny would often sit there by himself. He stood, half leaning against the gable wall of the house, looking up into the sky, and watching the beautiful white moon over his head. After he was standing there for a couple of hours, he said quietly to himself, “It’s my fault that I am not away from this place before now. By God, I would rather be any other place in the world than here. Och, sure, it’s well for you, white moon, going around and around just as you wish, and no man can hold you back. I wish, I was the same as you.“
Hardly were the words out of his mouth when he heard a great noise coming toward him, like the sound of many people running together, talking, and laughing, and having fun, and the sound went by him like a whirl of wind. He listened attentively to it as it went into the Rath, “Well, by my soul,” says he, ” but you’re all sounding in good form, and I’ll follow your example”.
Although he did not know it at the time, it was the fairy host that had passed him by, and he followed them into the Rath. It was there that he heard whooping, hollering, whistling, and the cheering, and every one of them crying out as loud as he could, “My horse, and bridle and saddle!”
“Now, that’s not a bad shout,” said Danny, “Sure, I’ll imitate you.” Cupping his hand to his mouth, he cried out as loudly as they did, “My horse, and bridle, and saddle! My horse, and bridle, and saddle! “
In an instant, a fine horse with a bridle of gold, and a saddle of silver was standing before him and leapt upon it. The moment he was on its back Danny clearly saw that the Rath was full of horses, and of little people riding on them. One of these little people turned to him and asked, “Are you coming with us to-night, ‘Spud Feet’?”
He was surprised to hear himself called this, nevertheless, he answered, “I am sure.“
“Well, if you are, come along,” said the little man, and he rode out with them, riding like the wind, faster than the fastest horse ever you and faster than the fox with the hounds at his tail. The cold winter’s wind that was blowing ahead of them, they overtook, and the cold winter’s wind that was behind them, could not overtake them. They made no stop or slowing down that race until they eventually came to the brink of the sea. Then every one of them cried out, “High up! High up!“. In a flash, they were high up in the air, and before Danny had time to think about where he was, they were down again on dry land and were going like the wind.
Finally, they stood, and one of the little people asked Danny, ” ‘Spud Feet’, do you know where you are now?“
“Not a clue,” replied Danny.
” You’re in Rome, ‘Spud Feet’’” said he, “but we’re going much further than that. The daughter of the king of France is to be married to-night, and she the most handsome woman that ever the sun shone upon, and we must do our best to bring her with us if we can carry her off. You must come with us, so that we may be able to put the young girl up behind you on the horse, when we bring her away, for it’s not permitted for her to sit behind us. But you are flesh and blood, and she can take a good grip of you, to prevent her from falling off the horse. Are you satisfied, ‘Spud Feet’, and will you do what we’re telling you?“
“Sure, why shouldn’t I be satisfied?” said Danny. “I’m satisfied, surely, and anything that you tell me to do I’ll do it, but where are we now?“
“You’re in Rome now, ‘Spud Feet’,” said the fairy.
“In Rome, is it?” said Danny. “Indeed, and no lie. Sure, I’m glad of that, for the parish priest that we had was suspended and lost his parish some time ago. Now, I’ll go to the Pope and get a ‘Bull’ from him that will put the priest back in his own place again.“
“Oh, ‘Spud Feet’,” said the fairy, “sure, you can’t do that. You won’t be allowed into the palace and, anyhow, we can’t wait for you, for we’re in a terrible hurry.“
“I’ll not go with you one foot,” Said Danny, “until I go to the Pope! All of you can go on ahead without me if you want. But I’ll not move an inch until I go and get the pardon for my parish priest.“
“’Spud Feet’, have you completely lost your senses, man dear? You can’t go, and there’s your answer for you now! I tell you, you can’t go, so settle yourself.”
“Can you not just go on and leave me here behind you?” said Danny, “Then, when you come back, can you not just throw the wee girl up behind me?”
“But we want you at the palace of the king of France,” said the fairy, “and you have to come with us now.“
“No! The devil a step I’ll take, I’ve told you,” stressed Danny, “until I get the pardon for the priest. I tell you, he’s the most honest and the most pleasant man in Ireland.“
Another now stepped forward and spoke, “Now, don’t you lot be so hard on ‘Spud Feet’. Sure, that boy’s a kind boy, and he has a good heart. If he doesn’t want to come without the Pope’s bull in his hand, then we must do our best to get it for him. He and I will go into the Pope together, and you all can wait here for us.“
“Thank you, a thousand times,” an excited Danny said with a huge grin. “I’m ready to go with you now, for this priest is the nicest and most generous man in the world.”
“You just talk too much, ‘Spud Feet’,” said the fairy leader, “but come along with me now. Get off your horse and take my hand.“
Danny dismounted and took the fairy’s hand, and he heard the little man say a couple of words that he did not understand. Then, before he could get his thoughts together, he found himself in a room with the Pope. That night the Pope was sitting up late reading a book that he liked, and he was sitting on a big soft armchair with his two feet on the chimney-board. He had a fine fire going in the grate, and a little table standing at his elbow and a drop of hot whiskey with sugar in a little glass. He was so involved in his book that he never felt Danny coming up behind him. “Now ‘Spud Feet’,” said the fairy leader, “go and tell him that unless he gives you that bull, you’ll set the room on fire. And, if that fellow refuses it to you, I’ll spurt fire all around the place out of my mouth, until he thinks the place is really in a blaze, and I’ll bet you that he’ll be quick enough then to give you that pardon.”
Danny went up to the Pope and put his hand on a shoulder, with a jump of fright the Pope turned around, and when he saw Danny standing behind him, he almost fainted. “Don’t be afraid, big man,” said Danny comfortingly, “we have a parish priest at home, and some blackguard told your honour an awful lie about him, and he was a broken man. But, let me tell you that he’s the most decent man ever your honour came across, and there’s not a man, woman, or child in the entire Parish that doesn’t love him.”
“Hold your whisht, you wee imp!” snapped the Pope angrily. “Where did you come from, and how did you get in here at all, for I have a lock on the door? What is it you want of me?”
“Didn’t I come in through the keyhole?” Danny told him. “And I’d be very much obliged if your honour would do just what I’m asking of you.“
The Pope cried out in fear, “Where are all my people? Where are my servants? Seamus! Sean! I’m killed! I’m robbed!”
Danny had put his back to the door of the to prevent his escape, and he was afraid to go anywhere near Danny, so there was little choice Pope but to listen to the story. Danny, however, was the type of man who could not tell a story briefly and plainly, because his speech was naturally slow and coarse, and this made the Pope angry. So, when Danny had finished his story, the Pope vowed that he would never pardon the priest, and he threatened that he would have Danny put to death for his audacity in bursting in upon him uninvited. He immediately began to cry out for his servants to attend him, but there was a lock on the inside of the door which would prevent them coming into the room, whether they heard him or not. “Unless you give me a bull under your hand and seal, granting the priest his pardon, I will burn this house of yours to the ground,” Danny threatened.
The fairy man, whom the Pope had not seen, now began to blow fire and flame out of his mouth, and the Pope panicked as he thought that the room was all ablaze. He cried out, “Oh, Stop your destruction! I’ll give you the pardon you want. I’ll give you anything you want if you would stop your fire, and don’t burn my house.”
The Fairy man stopped the fire, and the Pope had to sit down at his desk and write a full pardon for the priest and giving him back his old Parish. When he had it written, he put his name under it on the paper, and he placed it in Danny’s hand. “Thank you,” Danny said humbly, “I will never come here again to disturb you, good-bye.”
“Don’t even think about it,” replied the Pope, ” for if you do, I’ll be ready for you, and you won’t get away from me so easily again. I will have you shut up in a dark prison, from which you will never get out.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t be coming again,” Danny insisted and, before he could say another word, the Fairy Man spoke some words, caught Danny’s hand again, and they left. Danny found himself among the other Fairies, and his horse waiting for him.
“Now, ‘Spud Feet’,” they said, “you have caused us a great delay, and us in such a hurry. But, no matter, come on now, and don’t be playing such a trick again, for we won’t wait for you the next time.”
“I’m satisfied, now,” said Danny, “and I thank you all. But tell me, where are we going?”
“We’re going to the palace of the king of France,” they told him, “and if we can, we are going to carry off his daughter.”
With one voice they said, “Rise up, horse !” and the horses began leaping, and running, and prancing. The cold wind of winter that was before them they over-took, and the cold wind of winter that was behind them did not overtake them. As they raced on their journey there was no obstruction to their progress, and they never stopped once until they came as far as the palace of the King of France. On their arrival, they all got off their horses and not one of them said, and in a moment, they were all lifted up. Danny now found himself and his companions in the palace, where there was a great feast in progress. At this feast, every nobleman and other men of rank were present and dressed in colourful silk and satin, with gold and silver jewellery. In that hall the night was as bright as the day with all the lamps and candles that were lit, causing Danny to shut his eyes because of the brightness. When he opened them again and looked out at the crowded hall, he thought that he had never seen anything as fine as all that he saw there.
There were a hundred tables spread out, and each was filled with meat and drink, flesh-meat, and cakes and sweetmeats, and wine and ale, and every drink that ever a man could think of. The musicians were at the two ends of the hall, and they were playing the sweetest music that a man’s ear had ever heard. In the centre of the hall, there were young women and fine young men dancing and turning, and going around so quickly and so lightly, that it caused Danny’s head to spin, just by looking at them. There were more people playing tricks, and others making fun and laughing, for such a feast as this had not been held in France for twenty years. This was special because the old king had no children alive but the one daughter, who was to be married to the son of another king that night. For three days the feast had been going, and on the third night, she was to be married. That was the night that Danny and the Fairy host had come in the hope that they could carry off the king’s daughter with them.
Danny and his companions were standing together at the head of the hall, where there was a fine altar dressed up, and two bishops behind it waiting patiently to marry the girl, as soon as the appointed time arrived. Nobody could see the Fairies, for they had spoken their charm of invisibility as they came in, and it was as if they were not there at all. “Tell me which of these people is the king’s daughter,” said Danny, as he became increasingly used to the noise and the light about him.
“Don’t you see her there, in front of you?” said the small fairy that was standing at his side. Danny looked to the place where the little man was pointing with his finger, and there he saw the loveliest woman that ever he had seen. The rose and the lily were in her face, and you could not tell which of them had dominance, while her entire form was smooth and slender, and her hair was falling from her head in tresses of gold. Her garments and dress were woven with gold and silver, and the bright stone that was in the ring on her hand was as shining as the sun.
Danny was almost made speechless by the loveliness and beauty of the woman before him, but when he looked at her again, he noticed that she was crying and that there were tracks of tears in her eyes. “It can’t be,” said Danny, “that she’s so sad when everybody around her is so full of joy and merriment.”
“Aye, she is very sad,” said the little man, “for she is being forced to marry against her will, and to a man, she does not love. The king was going to give her to him three years ago when she was only fifteen, but she said she was too young, and asked him to leave her as she was. The king gave her a year’s grace, and when that year was ended, he gave her another year’s grace, and then another. But, after that, he would not give her another week or a day longer. Tonight, she is eighteen years old, and it’s time for her to marry. But, indeed,” says he, and he twisted his mouth in an ugly way, “she’ll marry no king’s son if I can help it.”
Danny pitied the beautiful young lady when he heard that, and he was heart-broken to think that it would be necessary for her to marry a man she did not like, or what was worse, to take a nasty ‘Fairy Man’ for a husband. Although he said nothing, he could not help cursing the ill-fortune that had been laid out for himself, because he was helping the people that were to snatch her away from her home and from her father. Nonetheless, he began to think about what he could do to save her, but he could think of nothing. “If I could only give her some help and relief,” he told himself, “I wouldn’t care whether I was alive or dead. But I see nothing that I can do for her.” He was looking on when the king’s son came up to her and asked her for a kiss, but she turned her head away from him. Danny was filled with great sorrow for her, especially when he saw the young man taking her by the soft white hand and drawing her out to dance. They went dancing around the floor near to where Danny stood, and he could plainly see that there were tears in her eyes. When the dancing was over, the old king, her father, and her mother the queen came up and said that this was the right time to marry her. The Bishop was ready, and all had been prepared, and it was time to put the wedding-ring on her finger and give her to her husband.
The old king laughed out loud. “Well, friends,” he said, “the night is nearly over, but my son will make a great night for himself, and I’ll bet you that he won’t be rising early in the morning.”
“Well, maybe he will,” said the Fairy man in Danny’s ear, “or maybe he won’t go to bed, at all. Ha, ha, ha! “
Danny did not answer him, for he was busy watching to see what they would do then. He watched as the king took the young man by the hand, and the queen took her daughter, and they all went up together to the altar, with all the lords and great people following them. When they came near the altar and were no more than about four yards from it, the little fairy man stretched out his foot in front of the girl, and she fell. Before she was able to get up again, he threw something that was in his hand upon her, saying a couple of words, and immediately the girl was gone from the scene. Nobody could see her, for those words made her invisible. The little man had taken her and lifted her up behind Danny, and not a person saw them as they moved through the hall until they came to the door. The place was in a chaos with people screaming and crying as they searched and pulled the place apart, seeking the lady who had disappeared in front of their eyes. The fairy folk were now out of the palace door, without being seen by anyone and they all called out, “My horse, my bridle, and saddle! “
“My horse, my bridle, and saddle!” shouted Danny and in an instant, the horse was standing ready and waiting for him.
“Now, jump up, Spud Feet,” said the little man, “and put the lady behind you, and we will be going. It won’t be long until morning.”
Danny raised her up on the horse’s back, and leapt up in front of her, calling out, “Move on horse.” His horse, and the other horses with him, went in at full pace until they came to the sea.
“High over, cap!” said every man of them.
“High over, cap!” said Danny, and immediately the horse rose under him, cutting a path through the clouds, and came down in Ireland. They did not stop there but went racing off to the place where Danny’s house and the Rath stood. And when they came as far as that, Danny turned and caught the young girl in his two arms and leapt off the horse. “I call out and bless you to myself, in the name of God!” he said and even before he had finished speaking the horse fell and immediately changed into the beam of a plough, from which they had made it. Simultaneously, every other horse they had was returned to its original form. Some of them were riding on an old brush, and some on a broken stick, and more on a ragweed, or a hemlock-stalk.
The ‘good people’ called out together when they heard what Danny said: “Oh, ‘Spud Feet’, you clown, you thief, no good fortune will come your way now. Why did you play that trick on us?” But they had no power at all to carry off the girl after Danny had consecrated her to himself. “Oh, ‘Spud Feet’, isn’t that a nice turn you did us, and we were so kind to you? What good have we now out of our journey to Rome and to France? Never mind now, you clown, but you’ll pay us back another time for this deceit. Believe us you’ll repent of it.”
“He’ll have no life with that young girl,” said the little man that was talking to him in the palace before that, and as he said these words, he moved over to her and struck her a slap on the side of the head. “Now,” says he, “she’ll not be able to talk anymore. So, now, ‘Spud Feet’, what good will she be to you when she’ll be dumb? It’s time for us to go, but you’ll remember us, ‘Spud Feet!” When he said that he stretched out his two hands and before Danny was able to give an answer, he and the rest of them were gone into the rath out of his sight, and he saw them no more.
He turned to the young woman and said to her, “Thanks be to God, they’re gone. Would you not sooner stay with me than with them?“. She did not answer. “She’s still troubled and grieving,” Danny told himself, and he spoke to her again, “I’m afraid that you must spend this night in my father’s house, lady, and if there is anything that I can do for you, tell me, and I’ll be your servant.” The beautiful girl remained silent, but there were tears in her eyes, and her face was white and red after each other.
“Lady” said Grealish, “tell me what you would like me to do now. I never belonged at all to that lot of fairy folk who carried you away with them. I am the son of an honest farmer, and I went with them without knowing it. If I am able to send you back to your father, I’ll do it, and I pray you make any use of me now that you may wish.” He looked into her face, and he saw the mouth moving as if she was going to speak, but there came no word from it. “It cannot be,” said Danny, “that you are dumb. Did I not hear you speaking to the king’s son in the palace tonight? Or has that devil made you really dumb, when he struck his nasty hand on your jaw?“
The girl raised her white smooth hand, and laid her finger on her tongue, to show him that she had lost her voice and power of speech, and the tears ran from the ducts in her two eyes like streams, and Danny’s own eyes were not dry. Although he may have rough on the outside, he had a soft heart, and could not stand the sight of the young girl in such an unhappy condition. He began thinking to himself what he could do, and he did not like the idea of bringing her home with himself to his father’s house. He fully realised that they would not believe that he had been in France and brought back with him the King of France’s daughter, and he feared that they might make fun of her.
The girl bent her head, to show him that she was obliged, and she gave him to understand that she was ready to follow him any place he was going. “We will go to the priest’s house, then,” said he, “he is under an obligation to me, and will do anything I ask him.” They went to the priest’s house, and the sun was just rising when they came to the door. Danny knocked it hard, and as early as it was the priest was up and opened the door himself. He wondered when he saw Danny and the girl, for he was certain that they had come to him wanting to be married. “Danny, aren’t you a nice boy that you can’t wait until ten o’clock or twelve, but decide to come to me at this hour, looking to get married, you and your girlfriend. You ought to know that I’m suspended and that I can’t marry you or can’t marry you lawfully. But, hold on!” said the priest as he looked again at the young girl, “In the name of God, who have you here? Who is she, and where did you get her?“
“Father,” said Danny, “you can marry me, or anybody else, from now on if you wish. But I’m not looking to be married. I came to you now, just to ask you, if you would please give a room in your house where this young lady can stay.” And with that, he drew out the ‘Papal Bull’ and gave it to the priest to read. The priest took it, and read it, in disbelief. But took careful notice of the writing and the seal, and he had no doubt, that it was a legitimate document from the Pope’s own hand.
“Where did you get this?” he asked Danny, and the hand he held the paper in, was trembling with wonder and joy. “Oh, now! ” said Danny, airily enough, “I got it last night in Rome. I remained a couple of hours in the city when I was on my way to bring this young-lady, daughter of the king of France, back with me.” The priest looked at him as though he had ten heads on him. But without putting another question to him, the priest asked them both to come in. When they entered the house, the priest shut the door, brought them into the parlour, and bade them be seated.
“Now, Danny,” said he, “tell me the truth. Where did you get this ‘bull’, and who is this young lady, and are you completely out of your senses, or are you only making a joke out of me?“.
“I’m not telling you a word of a lie, nor am I making a joke of you,” said Danny. “But it was from the Pope himself that I got the paper, and it was from the palace of the King of France that I carried off this lady, and she is the daughter of the king of France.” He began to tell his whole story to the priest, surprising the priest so much surprised that he could not help calling out at times or clapping his hands together. When Danny said that from what he saw he thought the girl was not happy with the marriage that was going to take place in the palace before he and the fairy-folk broke it up, there came a red blush into the girl’s cheek, and that persuaded him that she would sooner be as she was, and as badly as she was, than be to a man she hated. When Danny said that he would be very thankful to the priest if he would keep her in his own house, the kind man said he would do that as long as Danny wanted, but that he did not know what they ought to do with her, because they had no means of sending her back to her father again. Danny made it clear that he was uneasy for the same reason, but that he saw nothing else to do but to keep quiet until they should find some opportunity of doing something better.
They decided between themselves that the priest should say that she was his brother’s daughter, who had come to visit him from another county. They also agreed that the priest should tell everybody that she was dumb and do his best to keep everyone away from her. They told the young girl what they intended to do, and she showed her support through her eyes. Danny then went home and, when his people asked him where he had been, said that he was asleep at the foot of the ditch, and had passed the night there.
There was great surprise among the neighbours when the honest priest showed them all the Pope’s bull and regained his old position. Everyone rejoiced at the news because they could never see any fault at all in that honest man, except that every now and again he would have too much of a liking for a drop of whiskey. But no one could say that he ever saw him in a state that he could not utter “here’s to your health,” as well as any other man in the land. But if they were surprised to see the priest back again in his old place, they were much more surprised at the arrival of a girl so suddenly to his house without anyone knowing where she was from, or what business she had there. Some of the people said that everything was not as it ought to be, and others that it was not possible that the Pope gave the parish back to the priest after taking it from him before, on account of the complaints about his drinking. And there were more of them, too, who said that Danny was not at all like the same man that he was before, and that it was a great surprise how he was going every day to the priest’s house. But the one thing they could not quite understand was how the priest had come to respect for him. There was seldom a day passed but Danny would not go to the priest’s house and have a talk with him, and as often as he would come, he used to hope to find the young lady well again, and able to speak. Alas! she remained dumb and silent, without relief or cure. Since she had no other means of talking, she communicated by moving her hand and fingers, winking her eyes, opening and shutting her mouth, laughing or smiling, and a thousand other signs, so that it was not long until they came to understand each other very well.
Danny was always thinking about how he should send her back to her father, but there was no one to go with her, and he himself did not know what road to take, for he had never been out of his own country before the night he brought her away with him. Nor had the priest any better knowledge than he, but when Danny asked him, he wrote three or four letters to the King of France, and gave them to buyers and sellers of wares, who used to be going from place to place across the sea. They all went astray, however, and not one ever came to the king’s hand. This was the way they were for many months, and Danny was falling deeper and deeper in love with her every day, and it was plain to himself and the priest that she also liked him. The boy soon began to fear that the King would, somehow, hear where his daughter was and would take her away from him, and he pleaded the priest to write no more letters, but to leave the matter to God.
In this manner, a year passed until there came a day when Danny was lying by himself on the grass on the last day of October, and he was thinking about everything that happened to him from the day that he had gone with the fairy-folk across the sea. He suddenly remembered that it was one November night that he was standing at the gable of the house when the whirlwind came, and the fairy-folk in it, and he said to himself: “We have a November night again today, and I’ll stand in the same place I was last year until I see will the ‘good people’ come again. Perhaps I might see or hear something that would be useful to me and might bring back Mary’s voice” – that being the name Danny and the priest had given the King’s daughter, for neither of them knew her right name. He told his intentions to the priest, and the priest gave him his blessing. Danny then went to the old Rath when the night was darkening, and he stood with his bent elbow leaning on a grey old flag, waiting until the middle of the night should come. The moon rose slowly, and it was like a knob of fire behind him, and there was a white fog which was raised up over the fields of grass and all damp places, through the coolness of the night after a great heat in the day. The night was calm as is a lake when there is not a breath of wind to move a wave on it, and there was no sound to be heard but the hum of the insects that would go by from time to time, or the hoarse sudden scream of the wild geese, as they passed from lake to lake, half a mile up in the air over his head, or the sharp whistle of the golden and green plovers, rising and flying, flying and rising, as they do on a calm night. There were thousands upon thousands of bright stars shining over his head, and there was a little frost, which left the grass under his foot white and crisp.
He stood there for an hour, for two hours, for three hours, and the frost increased greatly so that he heard the breaking of the daisies under his foot every time he moved. He was thinking, in his own mind, at last, that the fairy-folk would not come that night, and that it was as good for him to return back again, when he heard a sound far away from him, coming towards him, and he recognised what it was at the first moment. The sound increased, and at first, it was like the beating of waves on a stony shore, and then it was like the falling of a great waterfall, and at last, it was like a loud storm in the tops of the trees, and then the whirlwind burst into the Rath, and the fairy-folk was in it. It all went by him so suddenly that he lost his breath with it, but he came to himself on the spot, and he began listening to what they would say. Scarcely had they gathered into the Rath until they all began shouting, and screaming, and talking amongst themselves. Then, each one of them cried out, “My horse, and bridle, and saddle! My horse, and bridle, and saddle!“
Danny now took courage, and called out as loudly as any of them, “My horse, and bridle and saddle! My horse, and bridle and saddle!“
But before the word was out of his mouth, another man cried out; “Oh! ‘Spud Feet’, my boy, are you here with us again? How are you coming on with your woman? There’s no use in your calling for your horse tonight, I bet you won’t make fools of us again. It was a good trick you played on us last year!“.
“It was,” said another man, “he won’t do it again.”
“Isn’t he a smart lad, the same lad! To take a woman with him that never said as much to him as, ‘how do you do?’ since this time last year!” says the third man.
” Perhaps he just likes to be looking at her,” said another voice.
“And if the eejit only knew that there’s a herb growing up by his own door, and to boil it and give it to her, she’d be well,” said another voice.
“He is an eejit!’‘
“Don’t be bothering your head with him, we’ll be going.“
” We’ll leave the gobshite as he is.”
And with that, they rose up into the air, and out with them the way they came. They left poor Danny standing where they found him and the two eyes going out of his head, looking after them and wondering. He did not stand long till he went back, and he thought about all he saw and heard, and wondering whether there was really a herb at his own door that would bring back the voice of the King’s daughter. “It can’t be,” he told himself, “that they would tell it to me if there was any truth in it, but perhaps the fairy man didn’t think before he let the word slip out of his mouth. I’ll search as soon as the sun rises, to see if there’s any plant growing beside the house except thistles and dockings.” He went home, and as tired as he was, he did not sleep a wink until the sun rose in the morning. He got up then, and it was the first thing he did to go out and search through the grass round about the house, trying to see if he could he get any herb that he did not recognize. And, indeed, he was not long searching until he saw a large, strange herb that was growing up just by the gable of the house. He went over to it, and examined it closely, and saw that there were seven little branches coming out of the stalk, and seven leaves growing on every branch of them and that there was a white sap in the leaves. “It’s very wonderful,” he said to himself, “that I never noticed this herb before. If there’s any virtue in a herb at all, it ought to be in such a strange one as this.“
He drew out his knife, cut the plant, and carried it into his own house, stripped the leaves off it and cut-up the stalk, and there came a thick, white juice out of it, as there comes out of the dandelion when it is bruised, except that the juice was more like oil. He put it in a little pot and a little water in it and laid it on the fire until the water was boiling, and then he took a cup, filled it half up with the juice, and put it to his own mouth. It came into his head then that perhaps it was a poison that was in it, and that the ‘good people’ were only tempting him that he might kill himself with that trick or put the girl to death without meaning it. He put down the cup again, raised a couple of drops on the top of his finger, and put it to his mouth. It was not bitter, and, indeed, had a sweet, agreeable taste. He grew bolder then, and drank the full of a thimble of it, and then as much again, and he never stopped till he had half the cup drunk. He fell asleep after that and did not wake till it was night, and there was great hunger and great thirst on him. He had to wait, then, until the day returned. But he determined as soon as he should wake in the morning, that he would go to the king’s daughter and give her a drink of the juice of the herb.
As soon as he got up in the morning, he went over to the priest’s house with the drink in his hand, and he never felt himself so bold and valiant, and spirited and light, as he was that day, and he was quite certain that it was the drink he drank which made him so hearty. When he came to the house, he found the priest and the young lady within, and they were wondering greatly why he had not visited them for two days. He told them all his news and said that he was certain that there was great power in that herb, and that it would do the lady no hurt, for he tried it himself and got good from it, and then he made her taste it, for he vowed and swore that there was no harm in it. Danny handed her the cup, and she drank half of it, and then fell back on her bed and a heavy sleep came on her, and she never woke out of that sleep until the next morning.
Danny and the priest sat up the entire night with her, waiting until she should awaken, and they were between hope and despair, between the expectation of saving her and fear of hurting her. She awoke at last when the sun had gone half its way through the day. She rubbed her eyes and looked like a person who did not know where she was. She was like one astonished when she saw Danny and the priest in the same room with her, and she sat up doing her best to collect her thoughts. The two men were anxious to see would she speak, or would she not speak, and when they remained silent for a couple of minutes, the priest said to her, “Did you sleep well, Mary?“
She answered him, “I slept well, thank you.“
No sooner did Danny hear her talking than he gave a shout of joy and ran over to her and fell on his two knees, and said, “A thousand thanks to God, who has given you back your voice, my love, speak again to me.“
The lady answered him that she understood it was he who had boiled that drink for her and gave it to her. She was thankful to him from her heart for all the kindness he had shown her since the day she first came to Ireland, and that he might be certain that she never would forget it. Danny was ready to die with satisfaction and delight. Then they brought her food, and she ate with a good appetite, and was merry and joyous, and never stopped talking with the priest while she was eating. After that Danny went home to his house and stretched himself on the bed and fell asleep again, for the force of the herb was not all spent, and he passed another day and a night sleeping. When he awoke, he went back to the priest’s house and found that the young lady was in the same state and that she was asleep almost since the time that he left the house. He went into her chamber with the priest, and they remained there watching her until she awoke the second time, and she had her voice back, as well as ever, and Danny was overjoyed.
The priest put food on the table again, and they ate together. After this, Danny used to come to the house from day to day, and the friendship that was between him and the king’s daughter increased, because she had no one to speak to except Danny and the priest, and she liked Danny best. He had to tell her the way about standing by the Rath when the ‘good people’ came, and how he went into the Pope, and how the Fairy man blew fire out of his mouth, and every other thing that he had done until the time that the ‘good people’ carried her off. When he had told all, he would have to begin it again from the start, and she never tired of listening to him. When they had been that way for another half year, she said that she could wait no longer without going back to her father and mother. She was certain that they were grieving terribly for her, and that it was a shame for her to leave them in such grief when it was in her power to go to them. The priest did all he could to keep her with them for another while, but without any effect, and Danny spoke every sweet word that came into his head, trying to get win her over to the idea and to coax her and make her stay as she was, but it was no good. She was determined that she would go, and no man alive would make her change her intention. She had not much money, but only two rings that were on her hand, when the ‘good people’ carried her away, and a gold pin that was in her hair, and golden buckles that were on her little shoes. The priest took and sold them and gave her the money, and she said that she was ready to go. She left her blessing and farewell with the priest and Danny and departed. She was not long gone before a great grief and melancholy began to come over Danny that he knew he would soon die unless he could be near her, and he followed her. After being restored to her parents and they, having heard the whole story, permitted the princess and Danny to marry. They lived a long, married life together with neither care, sickness nor sorrow, mishap nor misfortune until the hour of their death.