Read Celtic Fairy Tales Online
Authors: Joseph Jacobs
He went over to it, and observed 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," said he to himself,
"that I never noticed this herb before. If there's any virtue in an
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 sow-
thistle 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 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
He had to wait, then, till the day rose; 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
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.
Guleesh 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 till the day on the morrow.
Guleesh and the priest sat up the entire night with her, waiting
till she should awake, and they between hope and unhope, between
expectation of saving her and fear of hurting her.
She awoke at last when the sun had gone half its way through the
heavens. She rubbed her eyes and looked like a person who did not
know where she was. She was like one astonished when she saw Guleesh
and the priest in the same room with her, and she sat up doing her
best to collect her thoughts.
The two men were in great anxiety waiting 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?"
And she answered him: "I slept, thank you."
No sooner did Guleesh hear her talking than he put a shout of joy
out of him, and ran over to her and fell on his two knees, and said:
"A thousand thanks to God, who has given you back the talk; lady of
my heart, speak again to me."
The lady answered him that she understood it was he who boiled that
drink for her, and gave it to her; that she was obliged to him from
her heart for all the kindness he showed her since the day she first
came to Ireland, and that he might be certain that she never would
Guleesh 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 left off talking with the priest while she was
After that Guleesh 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 woke
up 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 watching
beside her till she awoke the second time, and she had her talk as
well as ever, and Guleesh was greatly rejoiced. The priest put food
on the table again, and they ate together, and Guleesh used after
that 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 Guleesh and the priest, and she liked
So they married one another, and that was the fine wedding they had,
and if I were to be there then, I would not be here now; but I heard
it from a birdeen that there was neither cark nor care, sickness nor
sorrow, mishap nor misfortune on them till the hour of their death,
and may the same be with me, and with us all!
One fine day in harvest—it was indeed Lady-day in harvest, that
everybody knows to be one of the greatest holidays in the year—Tom
Fitzpatrick was taking a ramble through the ground, and went along
the sunny side of a hedge; when all of a sudden he heard a clacking
sort of noise a little before him in the hedge. "Dear me," said Tom,
"but isn't it surprising to hear the stonechatters singing so late
in the season?" So Tom stole on, going on the tops of his toes to
try if he could get a sight of what was making the noise, to see if
he was right in his guess. The noise stopped; but as Tom looked
sharply through the bushes, what should he see in a nook of the
hedge but a brown pitcher, that might hold about a gallon and a half
of liquor; and by-and-by a little wee teeny tiny bit of an old man,
with a little
of a cocked hat stuck upon the top of his
head, a deeshy daushy leather apron hanging before him, pulled out a
little wooden stool, and stood up upon it, and dipped a little
piggin into the pitcher, and took out the full of it, and put it
beside the stool, and then sat down under the pitcher, and began to
work at putting a heel-piece on a bit of a brogue just fit for
himself. "Well, by the powers," said Tom to himself, "I often heard
tell of the Lepracauns, and, to tell God's truth, I never rightly
believed in them—but here's one of them in real earnest. If I go
knowingly to work, I'm a made man. They say a body must never take
their eyes off them, or they'll escape."
Tom now stole on a little further, with his eye fixed on the little
man just as a cat does with a mouse. So when he got up quite close
to him, "God bless your work, neighbour," said Tom.
The little man raised up his head, and "Thank you kindly," said he.
"I wonder you'd be working on the holiday!" said Tom.
"That's my own business, not yours," was the reply.
"Well, may be you'd be civil enough to tell
got in the pitcher there?" said Tom.
"That I will, with pleasure," said he; "it's good beer."
"Beer!" said Tom. "Thunder and fire! where did you get it?"
"Where did I get it, is it? Why, I made it. And what do you think I
made it of?"
"Devil a one of me knows," said Tom; "but of malt, I suppose, what
"There you're out. I made it of heath."
"Of heath!" said Tom, bursting out laughing; "sure you don't think
me to be such a fool as to believe that?"
"Do as you please," said he, "but what I tell you is the truth. Did
you never hear tell of the Danes?"
"Well, what about
?" said Tom.
"Why, all the about them there is, is that when they were here they
taught us to make beer out of the heath, and the secret's in my
family ever since."
"Will you give a body a taste of your beer?" said Tom.
"I'll tell you what it is, young man, it would be fitter for you to
be looking after your father's property than to be bothering decent
quiet people with your foolish questions. There now, while you're
idling away your time here, there's the cows have broke into the
oats, and are knocking the corn all about."
Tom was taken so by surprise with this that he was just on the very
point of turning round when he recollected himself; so, afraid that
the like might happen again, he made a grab at the Lepracaun, and
caught him up in his hand; but in his hurry he overset the pitcher,
and spilt all the beer, so that he could not get a taste of it to
tell what sort it was. He then swore that he would kill him if he
did not show him where his money was. Tom looked so wicked and so
bloody-minded that the little man was quite frightened; so says he,
"Come along with me a couple of fields off, and I'll show you a
crock of gold."
So they went, and Tom held the Lepracaun fast in his hand, and never
took his eyes from off him, though they had to cross hedges and
ditches, and a crooked bit of bog, till at last they came to a great
field all full of boliauns, and the Lepracaun pointed to a big
boliaun, and says he, "Dig under that boliaun, and you'll get the
great crock all full of guineas."
Tom in his hurry had never thought of bringing a spade with him, so
he made up his mind to run home and fetch one; and that he might
know the place again he took off one of his red garters, and tied it
round the boliaun.
Then he said to the Lepracaun, "Swear ye'll not take that garter
away from that boliaun." And the Lepracaun swore right away not to
"I suppose," said the Lepracaun, very civilly, "you have no further
occasion for me?"
"No," says Tom; "you may go away now, if you please, and God speed
you, and may good luck attend you wherever you go."
"Well, good-bye to you, Tom Fitzpatrick," said the Lepracaun; "and
much good may it do you when you get it."
So Tom ran for dear life, till he came home and got a spade, and
then away with him, as hard as he could go, back to the field of
boliauns; but when he got there, lo and behold! not a boliaun in the
field but had a red garter, the very model of his own, tied about
it; and as to digging up the whole field, that was all nonsense, for
there were more than forty good Irish acres in it. So Tom came home
again with his spade on his shoulder, a little cooler than he went,
and many's the hearty curse he gave the Lepracaun every time he
thought of the neat turn he had served him.
A rich woman sat up late one night carding and preparing wool, while
all the family and servants were asleep. Suddenly a knock was given
at the door, and a voice called, "Open! open!"
"Who is there?" said the woman of the house.
"I am the Witch of one Horn," was answered.
The mistress, supposing that one of her neighbours had called and
required assistance, opened the door, and a woman entered, having in
her hand a pair of wool-carders, and bearing a horn on her forehead,
as if growing there. She sat down by the fire in silence, and began
to card the wool with violent haste. Suddenly she paused, and said
aloud: "Where are the women? they delay too long."
Then a second knock came to the door, and a voice called as before,
The mistress felt herself obliged to rise and open to the call, and
immediately a second witch entered, having two horns on her
forehead, and in her hand a wheel for spinning wool.
"Give me place," she said; "I am the Witch of the two Horns," and
she began to spin as quick as lightning.
And so the knocks went on, and the call was heard, and the witches
entered, until at last twelve women sat round the fire—the first
with one horn, the last with twelve horns.
And they carded the thread, and turned their spinning-wheels, and
wound and wove, all singing together an ancient rhyme, but no word
did they speak to the mistress of the house. Strange to hear, and
frightful to look upon, were these twelve women, with their horns
and their wheels; and the mistress felt near to death, and she tried
to rise that she might call for help, but she could not move, nor
could she utter a word or a cry, for the spell of the witches was
Then one of them called to her in Irish, and said, "Rise, woman, and
make us a cake."
Then the mistress searched for a vessel to bring water from the well
that she might mix the meal and make the cake, but she could find
And they said to her, "Take a sieve and bring water in it."
And she took the sieve and went to the well; but the water poured
from it, and she could fetch none for the cake, and she sat down by
the well and wept.
Then a voice came by her and said, "Take yellow clay and moss, and
bind them together, and plaster the sieve so that it will hold."
This she did, and the sieve held the water for the cake; and the
voice said again:
"Return, and when thou comest to the north angle of the house, cry
aloud three times and say, 'The mountain of the Fenian women and the
sky over it is all on fire.'"
And she did so.
When the witches inside heard the call, a great and terrible cry
broke from their lips, and they rushed forth with wild lamentations
and shrieks, and fled away to Slievenamon, where was their chief
abode. But the Spirit of the Well bade the mistress of the house to
enter and prepare her home against the enchantments of the witches
if they returned again.
And first, to break their spells, she sprinkled the water in which
she had washed her child's feet, the feet-water, outside the door on
the threshold; secondly, she took the cake which in her absence the
witches had made of meal mixed with the blood drawn from the
sleeping family, and she broke the cake in bits, and placed a bit in
the mouth of each sleeper, and they were restored; and she took the
cloth they had woven, and placed it half in and half out of the
chest with the padlock; and lastly, she secured the door with a
great crossbeam fastened in the jambs, so that the witches could not
enter, and having done these things she waited.