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Authors: Joseph Jacobs

Celtic Fairy Tales (6 page)

BOOK: Celtic Fairy Tales
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"When he saw that he could not see a glimpse, and when I myself said
to him that I would get out in spite of him, he gave a spring out of
the water, and he stood in the mouth of the cave, and he said that
he would have revenge for the sight of his eye. I had but to stay
there crouched the length of the night, holding in my breath in such
a way that he might not find out where I was.

"When he felt the birds calling in the morning, and knew that the
day was, he said—'Art thou sleeping? Awake and let out my lot of
goats.' I killed the buck. He cried, 'I do believe that thou art
killing my buck.'

"'I am not,' said I, 'but the ropes are so tight that I take long to
loose them.' I let out one of the goats, and there he was caressing
her, and he said to her, 'There thou art thou shaggy, hairy white
goat; and thou seest me, but I see thee not.' I kept letting them
out by the way of one and one, as I flayed the buck, and before the
last one was out I had him flayed bag-wise. Then I went and I put my
legs in place of his legs, and my hands in place of his forelegs,
and my head in place of his head, and the horns on top of my head,
so that the brute might think that it was the buck. I went out. When
I was going out the giant laid his hand on me, and he said, 'There
thou art, thou pretty buck; thou seest me, but I see thee not.' When
I myself got out, and I saw the world about me, surely, oh, king!
joy was on me. When I was out and had shaken the skin off me, I said
to the brute, 'I am out now in spite of you.'

"'Aha!' said he, 'hast thou done this to me. Since thou wert so
stalwart that thou hast got out, I will give thee a ring that I have
here; keep the ring, and it will do thee good.'

"'I will not take the ring from you,' said I, 'but throw it, and I
will take it with me.' He threw the ring on the flat ground, I went
myself and I lifted the ring, and I put it on my finger. When he
said me then, 'Is the ring fitting thee?' I said to him, 'It is.'
Then he said, 'Where art thou, ring?' And the ring said, 'I am
here.' The brute went and went towards where the ring was speaking,
and now I saw that I was in a harder case than ever I was. I drew a
dirk. I cut the finger from off me, and I threw it from me as far as
I could out on the loch, and there was a great depth in the place.
He shouted, 'Where art thou, ring?' And the ring said, 'I am here,'
though it was on the bed of ocean. He gave a spring after the ring,
and out he went in the sea. And I was as pleased then when I saw him
drowning, as though you should grant my own life and the life of my
two sons with me, and not lay any more trouble on me.

"When the giant was drowned I went in, and I took with me all he had
of gold and silver, and I went home, and surely great joy was on my
people when I arrived. And as a sign now look, the finger is off
me."

"Yes, indeed, Conall, you are wordy and wise," said the king. "I see
the finger is off you. You have freed your two sons, but tell me a
case in which you ever were that is harder than to be looking on
your son being hanged tomorrow, and you shall get the soul of your
eldest son."

"Then went my father," said Conall, "and he got me a wife, and I was
married. I went to hunt. I was going beside the sea, and I saw an
island over in the midst of the loch, and I came there where a boat
was with a rope before her, and a rope behind her, and many precious
things within her. I looked myself on the boat to see how I might
get part of them. I put in the one foot, and the other foot was on
the ground, and when I raised my head what was it but the boat over
in the middle of the loch, and she never stopped till she reached
the island. When I went out of the boat the boat returned where she
was before. I did not know now what I should do. The place was
without meat or clothing, without the appearance of a house on it. I
came out on the top of a hill. Then I came to a glen; I saw in it,
at the bottom of a hollow, a woman with a child, and the child was
naked on her knee, and she had a knife in her hand. She tried to put
the knife to the throat of the babe, and the babe began to laugh in
her face, and she began to cry, and she threw the knife behind her.
I thought to myself that I was near my foe and far from my friends,
and I called to the woman, 'What are you doing here?' And she said
to me, 'What brought you here?' I told her myself word upon word how
I came. 'Well then,' said she, 'it was so I came also.' She showed
me to the place where I should come in where she was. I went in, and
I said to her, 'What was the matter that you were putting the knife
on the neck of the child?' 'It is that he must be cooked for the
giant who is here, or else no more of my world will be before me.'
Just then we could be hearing the footsteps of the giant, 'What
shall I do? what shall I do?' cried the woman. I went to the
caldron, and by luck it was not hot, so in it I got just as the
brute came in. 'Hast thou boiled that youngster for me?' he cried.
'He's not done yet,' said she, and I cried out from the caldron,
'Mammy, mammy, it's boiling I am.' Then the giant laughed out HAI,
HAW, HOGARAICH, and heaped on wood under the caldron.

"And now I was sure I would scald before I could get out of that. As
fortune favoured me, the brute slept beside the caldron. There I was
scalded by the bottom of the caldron. When she perceived that he was
asleep, she set her mouth quietly to the hole that was in the lid,
and she said to me 'was I alive?' I said I was. I put up my head,
and the hole in the lid was so large, that my head went through
easily. Everything was coming easily with me till I began to bring
up my hips. I left the skin of my hips behind me, but I came out.
When I got out of the caldron I knew not what to do; and she said to
me that there was no weapon that would kill him but his own weapon.
I began to draw his spear and every breath that he drew I thought I
would be down his throat, and when his breath came out I was back
again just as far. But with every ill that befell me I got the spear
loosed from him. Then I was as one under a bundle of straw in a
great wind for I could not manage the spear. And it was fearful to
look on the brute, who had but one eye in the midst of his face; and
it was not agreeable for the like of me to attack him. I drew the
dart as best I could, and I set it in his eye. When he felt this he
gave his head a lift, and he struck the other end of the dart on the
top of the cave, and it went through to the back of his head. And he
fell cold dead where he was; and you may be sure, oh king, that joy
was on me. I myself and the woman went out on clear ground, and we
passed the night there. I went and got the boat with which I came,
and she was no way lightened, and took the woman and the child over
on dry land; and I returned home."

The king of Lochlann's mother was putting on a fire at this time,
and listening to Conall telling the tale about the child.

"Is it you," said she, "that were there?"

"Well then," said he, "'twas I."

"Och! och!" said she, "'twas I that was there, and the king is the
child whose life you saved; and it is to you that life thanks should
be given." Then they took great joy.

The king said, "Oh, Conall, you came through great hardships. And
now the brown horse is yours, and his sack full of the most precious
things that are in my treasury."

They lay down that night, and if it was early that Conall rose, it
was earlier than that that the queen was on foot making ready. He
got the brown horse and his sack full of gold and silver and stones
of great price, and then Conall and his three sons went away, and
they returned home to the Erin realm of gladness. He left the gold
and silver in his house, and he went with the horse to the king.
They were good friends evermore. He returned home to his wife, and
they set in order a feast; and that was a feast if ever there was
one, oh son and brother.

Hudden and Dudden and Donald O'Neary
*

There was once upon a time two farmers, and their names were Hudden
and Dudden. They had poultry in their yards, sheep on the uplands,
and scores of cattle in the meadow-land alongside the river. But for
all that they weren't happy. For just between their two farms there
lived a poor man by the name of Donald O'Neary. He had a hovel over
his head and a strip of grass that was barely enough to keep his one
cow, Daisy, from starving, and, though she did her best, it was but
seldom that Donald got a drink of milk or a roll of butter from
Daisy. You would think there was little here to make Hudden and
Dudden jealous, but so it is, the more one has the more one wants,
and Donald's neighbours lay awake of nights scheming how they might
get hold of his little strip of grass-land. Daisy, poor thing, they
never thought of; she was just a bag of bones.

One day Hudden met Dudden, and they were soon grumbling as usual,
and all to the tune of "If only we could get that vagabond Donald
O'Neary out of the country."

"Let's kill Daisy," said Hudden at last; "if that doesn't make him
clear out, nothing will."

No sooner said than agreed, and it wasn't dark before Hudden and
Dudden crept up to the little shed where lay poor Daisy trying her
best to chew the cud, though she hadn't had as much grass in the day
as would cover your hand. And when Donald came to see if Daisy was
all snug for the night, the poor beast had only time to lick his
hand once before she died.

Well, Donald was a shrewd fellow, and downhearted though he was,
began to think if he could get any good out of Daisy's death. He
thought and he thought, and the next day you could have seen him
trudging off early to the fair, Daisy's hide over his shoulder,
every penny he had jingling in his pockets. Just before he got to
the fair, he made several slits in the hide, put a penny in each
slit, walked into the best inn of the town as bold as if it belonged
to him, and, hanging the hide up to a nail in the wall, sat down.

"Some of your best whisky," says he to the landlord.

But the landlord didn't like his looks. "Is it fearing I won't pay
you, you are?" says Donald; "why I have a hide here that gives me
all the money I want." And with that he hit it a whack with his
stick and out hopped a penny. The landlord opened his eyes, as you
may fancy.

"What'll you take for that hide?"

"It's not for sale, my good man."

"Will you take a gold piece?"

"It's not for sale, I tell you. Hasn't it kept me and mine for
years?" and with that Donald hit the hide another whack and out
jumped a second penny.

Well, the long and the short of it was that Donald let the hide go,
and, that very evening, who but he should walk up to Hudden's door?

"Good-evening, Hudden. Will you lend me your best pair of scales?"

Hudden stared and Hudden scratched his head, but he lent the scales.

When Donald was safe at home, he pulled out his pocketful of bright
gold and began to weigh each piece in the scales. But Hudden had put
a lump of butter at the bottom, and so the last piece of gold stuck
fast to the scales when he took them back to Hudden.

If Hudden had stared before, he stared ten times more now, and no
sooner was Donald's back turned, than he was of as hard as he could
pelt to Dudden's.

"Good-evening, Dudden. That vagabond, bad luck to him—"

"You mean Donald O'Neary?"

"And who else should I mean? He's back here weighing out sackfuls of
gold."

"How do you know that?"

"Here are my scales that he borrowed, and here's a gold piece still
sticking to them."

Off they went together, and they came to Donald's door. Donald had
finished making the last pile of ten gold pieces. And he couldn't
finish because a piece had stuck to the scales.

In they walked without an "If you please" or "By your leave."

"Well,
I
never!" that was all
they
could say.

"Good-evening, Hudden; good-evening, Dudden. Ah! you thought you had
played me a fine trick, but you never did me a better turn in all
your lives. When I found poor Daisy dead, I thought to myself,
'Well, her hide may fetch something;' and it did. Hides are worth
their weight in gold in the market just now."

Hudden nudged Dudden, and Dudden winked at Hudden.

"Good-evening, Donald O'Neary."

"Good-evening, kind friends."

The next day there wasn't a cow or a calf that belonged to Hudden or
Dudden but her hide was going to the fair in Hudden's biggest cart
drawn by Dudden's strongest pair of horses.

When they came to the fair, each one took a hide over his arm, and
there they were walking through the fair, bawling out at the top of
their voices: "Hides to sell! hides to sell!"

Out came the tanner:

"How much for your hides, my good men?"

"Their weight in gold."

"It's early in the day to come out of the tavern."

That was all the tanner said, and back he went to his yard.

"Hides to sell! Fine fresh hides to sell!"

Out came the cobbler.

"How much for your hides, my men?"

"Their weight in gold."

"Is it making game of me you are! Take that for your pains," and the
cobbler dealt Hudden a blow that made him stagger.

Up the people came running from one end of the fair to the other.
"What's the matter? What's the matter?" cried they.

"Here are a couple of vagabonds selling hides at their weight in
gold," said the cobbler.

"Hold 'em fast; hold 'em fast!" bawled the innkeeper, who was the
last to come up, he was so fat. "I'll wager it's one of the rogues
who tricked me out of thirty gold pieces yesterday for a wretched
hide."

It was more kicks than halfpence that Hudden and Dudden got before
they were well on their way home again, and they didn't run the
slower because all the dogs of the town were at their heels.

Well, as you may fancy, if they loved Donald little before, they
loved him less now.

BOOK: Celtic Fairy Tales
9.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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