MORE ENGLISH FAIRY TALES
Collected and Edited by
Editor of "Folk-Lore"
JOHN D. BATTEN
G.P. Putnam's Sons New York and London
YOU KNOW HOW TO GET INTO THIS BOOK
Knock at the Knocker on the Door, Pull the Bell at the side.
Then, if you are very quiet, you will hear a teeny tiny voice say through the grating "Take down the Key." This you will find at the back: you cannot mistake it, for it has J. J. in the wards. Put the Key in the Keyhole, which it fits exactly, unlock the door, and
MY SON SYDNEY
This volume will come, I fancy, as a surprise both to my brother folk-lorists and to the public in general. It might naturally have been thought that my former volume (English Fairy Tales) had almost exhausted the scanty remains of the traditional folk-tales of England. Yet I shall be much disappointed if the present collection is not found to surpass the former in interest and vivacity, while for the most part it goes over hitherto untrodden ground, the majority of the tales in this book have either never appeared before, or have never been brought between the same boards.
In putting these tales together, I have acted on the same principles as in the preceding volume, which has already, I am happy to say, established itself as a kind of English Grimm. I have taken English tales wherever I could find them, one from the United States, some from the Lowland Scotch, and a few have been adapted from ballads, while I have left a couple in their original metrical form. I have rewritten most of them, and in doing so have adopted the traditional English style of folk-telling, with its "Wells" and "Lawkamercy" and archaic touches, which are known nowadays as vulgarisms. From former experience, I find that each of these principles has met with some dissent from critics who have written from the high and lofty standpoint of folk-lore, or from the lowlier vantage of "mere literature." I take this occasion to soften their ire, or perhaps give them further cause for reviling.
My folk-lore friends look on with sadness while they view me laying profane hands on the sacred text of my originals. I have actually at times introduced or deleted whole incidents, have given another turn to a tale, or finished off one that was incomplete, while I have had no scruple in prosing a ballad or softening down over-abundant dialect. This is rank sacrilege in the eyes of the rigid orthodox in matters folk-lorical. My defence might be that I had a cause at heart as sacred as our science of folk-lore—the filling of our children's imaginations with bright trains of images. But even on the lofty heights of folk-lore science I am not entirely defenceless. Do my friendly critics believe that even Campbell's materials had not been modified by the various narrators before they reached the great J.F.? Why may I not have the same privilege as any other story-teller, especially when I know the ways of story-telling as she is told in English, at least as well as a Devonshire or Lancashire peasant? And—conclusive argument—wilt thou, oh orthodox brother folk-lorist, still continue to use Grimm and Asbjoernsen? Well, they did the same as I.
Then as to using tales in Lowland Scotch, whereat a Saturday Reviewer, whose identity and fatherland were not difficult to guess, was so shocked. Scots a dialect of English! Scots tales the same as English! Horror and Philistinism! was the Reviewer's outcry. Matter of fact is my reply, which will only confirm him, I fear, in his convictions. Yet I appeal to him, why make a difference between tales told on different sides of the Border? A tale told in Durham or Cumberland in a dialect which only Dr. Murray could distinguish from Lowland Scotch, would on all hands be allowed to be "English." The same tale told a few miles farther North, why should we refuse it the same qualification? A tale in Henderson is English: why not a tale in Chambers, the majority of whose tales are to be found also south of the Tweed?
The truth is, my folk-lore friends and my Saturday Reviewer differ with me on the important problem of the origin of folk-tales. They think that a tale probably originated where it was found. They therefore attribute more importance than I to the exact form in which it is found and restrict it to the locality of birth. I consider the probability to lie in an origin elsewhere: I think it more likely than not that any tale found in a place was rather brought there than born there. I have discussed this matter elsewhere with all the solemnity its importance deserves, and cannot attempt further to defend my position here. But even the reader innocent of folk-lore can see that, holding these views, I do not attribute much anthropological value to tales whose origin is probably foreign, and am certainly not likely to make a hard-and-fast division between tales of the North Countrie and those told across the Border.
As to how English folk-tales should be told authorities also differ. I am inclined to follow the tradition of my old nurse, who was not bred at Girton and who scorned at times the rules of Lindley Murray and the diction of smart society. I have been recommended to adopt a diction not too remote from that of the Authorised Version. Well, quite apart from memories of my old nurse, we have a certain number of tales actually taken down from the mouths of the people, and these are by no means in Authorised form; they even trench on the "vulgar"—i.e., the archaic. Now there is just a touch of snobbery in objecting to these archaisms and calling them "vulgar." These tales have been told, if not from time immemorial, at least for several generations, in a special form which includes dialect and "vulgar" words. Why desert that form for one which the children cannot so easily follow with "thous" and "werts" and all the artificialities of pseudo-Elizabethan? Children are not likely to say "darter" for "daughter," or to ejaculate "Lawkamercyme" because they come across these forms in their folk-tales. They recognise the unusual forms while enjoying the fun of them. I have accordingly retained the archaisms and the old-world formulae which go so well with the folk-tale.
In compiling the present collection I have drawn on the store of 140 tales with which I originally started; some of the best of these I reserved for this when making up the former one. That had necessarily to contain the old favourites Jack the Giant Killer, Dick Whittington, and the rest, which are often not so interesting or so well told as the less familiar ones buried in periodicals or folk-lore collections. But since the publication of English Fairy Tales, I have been specially fortunate in obtaining access to tales entirely new and exceptionally well told, which have been either published during the past three years or have been kindly placed at my disposal by folk-lore friends. Among these, the tales reported by Mrs. Balfour, with a thorough knowledge of the peasants' mind and mode of speech, are a veritable acquisition. I only regret that I have had to tone down so much of dialect in her versions. She has added to my indebtedness to her by sending me several tales which are entirely new and inedited. Mrs. Gomme comes only second in rank among my creditors for thanks which I can scarcely pay without becoming bankrupt in gratitude. Other friends have been equally kind, especially Mr. Alfred Nutt, who has helped by adapting some of the book versions, and by reading the proofs, while to the Councils of the American and English Folk-Lore Societies I have again to repeat my thanks for permission to use materials which first appeared in their publications. Finally, I have had Mr. Batten with me once again—what should I or other English children do without him?
[Footnote 1: See "The Science of Folk Tales and the Problem of Diffusion" in Transactions of the International Folk-Lore Congress, 1891. Mr. Lang has honoured me with a rejoinder, which I regard as a palinode, in his Preface to Miss Roalfe Cox's volume of variants of Cinderella (Folk-Lore Society, 1892).]
THE PIED PIPER OF FRANCHVILLE
THE GOLDEN BALL
MY OWN SELF
THE BLACK BULL OF NORROWAY
SIR GAMMER VANS
THE HEDLEY KOW
THE WEE BANNOCK
COAT O' CLAY
THE THREE COWS
THE BLINDED GIANT
THE PEDLAR OF SWAFFHAM
THE OLD WITCH
THE THREE WISHES
THE BURIED MOON
A SON OF ADAM
THE CHILDREN IN THE WOOD
A POTTLE O' BRAINS
THE KING OF ENGLAND AND HIS THREE SONS
KING JOHN AND THE ABBOT OF CANTERBURY
THE KING 'O THE CATS
THE STARS IN THE SKY
PUDDOCK, MOUSIE AND RATTON
THE LITTLE BULL-CALF
THE WEE, WEE MANNIE
HABETROT AND SCANTLIE MAB
OLD MOTHER WIGGLE-WAGGLE
THE LAMBTON WORM
THE WISE MEN OF GOTHAM
THE PRINCESS OF CANTERBURY
* * * * *
NOTES AND REFERENCES
Full Page Illustrations
THE BLACK BULL OF NORROWAY
THE OLD WITCH
THE CASTLE OF MELVALES
THE LITTLE BULL-CALF
THE LAMBTON WORM
WARNING TO CHILDREN
MORE ENGLISH FAIRY TALES
The Pied Piper
Newtown, or Franchville, as 't was called of old, is a sleepy little town, as you all may know, upon the Solent shore. Sleepy as it is now, it was once noisy enough, and what made the noise was—rats. The place was so infested with them as to be scarce worth living in. There wasn't a barn or a corn-rick, a store-room or a cupboard, but they ate their way into it. Not a cheese but they gnawed it hollow, not a sugar puncheon but they cleared out. Why the very mead and beer in the barrels was not safe from them. They'd gnaw a hole in the top of the tun, and down would go one master rat's tail, and when he brought it up round would crowd all the friends and cousins, and each would have a suck at the tail.
Had they stopped here it might have been borne. But the squeaking and shrieking, the hurrying and scurrying, so that you could neither hear yourself speak nor get a wink of good honest sleep the live-long night! Not to mention that, Mamma must needs sit up, and keep watch and ward over baby's cradle, or there'd have been a big ugly rat running across the poor little fellow's face, and doing who knows what mischief.
Why didn't the good people of the town have cats? Well they did, and there was a fair stand-up fight, but in the end the rats were too many, and the pussies were regularly driven from the field. Poison, I hear you say? Why, they poisoned so many that it fairly bred a plague. Ratcatchers! Why there wasn't a ratcatcher from John o' Groat's house to the Land's End that hadn't tried his luck. But do what they might, cats or poison, terrier or traps, there seemed to be more rats than ever, and every day a fresh rat was cocking his tail or pricking his whiskers.
The Mayor and the town council were at their wits' end. As they were sitting one day in the town hall racking their poor brains, and bewailing their hard fate, who should run in but the town beadle. "Please your Honour," says he, "here is a very queer fellow come to town. I don't rightly know what to make of him." "Show him in," said the Mayor, and in he stepped. A queer fellow, truly. For there wasn't a colour of the rainbow but you might find it in some corner of his dress, and he was tall and thin, and had keen piercing eyes.
"I'm called the Pied Piper," he began. "And pray what might you be willing to pay me, if I rid you of every single rat in Franchville?"
Well, much as they feared the rats, they feared parting with their money more, and fain would they have higgled and haggled. But the Piper was not a man to stand nonsense, and the upshot was that fifty pounds were promised him (and it meant a lot of money in those old days) as soon as not a rat was left to squeak or scurry in Franchville.
Out of the hall stepped the Piper, and as he stepped he laid his pipe to his lips and a shrill keen tune sounded through street and house. And as each note pierced the air you might have seen a strange sight. For out of every hole the rats came tumbling. There were none too old and none too young, none too big and none too little to crowd at the Piper's heels and with eager feet and upturned noses to patter after him as he paced the streets. Nor was the Piper unmindful of the little toddling ones, for every fifty yards he'd stop and give an extra flourish on his pipe just to give them time to keep up with the older and stronger of the band.
Up Silver Street he went, and down Gold Street, and at the end of Gold Street is the harbour and the broad Solent beyond. And as he paced along, slowly and gravely, the townsfolk flocked to door and window, and many a blessing they called down upon his head.
As for getting near him there were too many rats. And now that he was at the water's edge he stepped into a boat, and not a rat, as he shoved off into deep water, piping shrilly all the while, but followed him, plashing, paddling, and wagging their tails with delight. On and on he played and played until the tide went down, and each master rat sank deeper and deeper in the slimy ooze of the harbour, until every mother's son of them was dead and smothered.
The tide rose again, and the Piper stepped on shore, but never a rat followed. You may fancy the townsfolk had been throwing up their caps and hurrahing and stopping up rat holes and setting the church bells a-ringing. But when the Piper stepped ashore and not so much as a single squeak was to be heard, the Mayor and the Council, and the townsfolk generally, began to hum and to ha and to shake their heads.
For the town money chest had been sadly emptied of late, and where was the fifty pounds to come from? Such an easy job, too! Just getting into a boat and playing a pipe! Why the Mayor himself could have done that if only he had thought of it.
So he hummed and ha'ad and at last, "Come, my good man," said he, "you see what poor folk we are; how can we manage to pay you fifty pounds? Will you not take twenty? When all is said and done, 't will be good pay for the trouble you've taken."
"Fifty pounds was what I bargained for," said the piper shortly; "and if I were you I'd pay it quickly. For I can pipe many kinds of tunes, as folk sometimes find to their cost."
"Would you threaten us, you strolling vagabond?" shrieked the Mayor, and at the same time he winked to the Council; "the rats are all dead and drowned," muttered he; and so "You may do your worst, my good man," and with that he turned short upon his heel.
"Very well," said the Piper, and he smiled a quiet smile. With that he laid his pipe to his lips afresh, but now there came forth no shrill notes, as it were, of scraping and gnawing, and squeaking and scurrying, but the tune was joyous and resonant, full of happy laughter and merry play. And as he paced down the streets the elders mocked, but from school-room and play-room, from nursery and workshop, not a child but ran out with eager glee and shout following gaily at the Piper's call. Dancing, laughing, joining hands and tripping feet, the bright throng moved along up Gold Street and down Silver Street, and beyond Silver Street lay the cool green forest full of old oaks and wide-spreading beeches. In and out among the oak-trees you might catch glimpses of the Piper's many-coloured coat. You might hear the laughter of the children break and fade and die away as deeper and deeper into the lone green wood the stranger went and the children followed.
All the while, the elders watched and waited. They mocked no longer now. And watch and wait as they might, never did they set their eyes again upon the Piper in his parti-coloured coat. Never were their hearts gladdened by the song and dance of the children issuing forth from amongst the ancient oaks of the forest.
Once upon a time there was a farmer called Jan, and he lived all alone by himself in a little farmhouse.
By-and-by he thought that he would like to have a wife to keep it all vitty for him.
So he went a-courting a fine maid, and he said to her: "Will you marry me?"
"That I will, to be sure," said she.
So they went to church, and were wed. After the wedding was over, she got up on his horse behind him, and he brought her home. And they lived as happy as the day was long.
One day, Jan said to his wife, "Wife can you milk-y?"
"Oh, yes, Jan, I can milk-y. Mother used to milk-y, when I lived home."
So he went to market and bought her ten red cows. All went well till one day when she had driven them to the pond to drink, she thought they did not drink fast enough. So she drove them right into the pond to make them drink faster, and they were all drowned.
When Jan came home, she up and told him what she had done, and he said, "Oh, well, there, never mind, my dear, better luck next time."
So they went on for a bit, and then, one day, Jan said to his wife, "Wife can you serve pigs?"
"Oh, yes, Jan, I can serve pigs. Mother used to serve pigs when I lived home."
So Jan went to market and bought her some pigs. All went well till one day, when she had put their food into the trough she thought they did not eat fast enough, and she pushed their heads into the trough to make them eat faster, and they were all choked.
When Jan came home, she up and told him what she had done, and he said, "Oh, well, there, never mind, my dear, better luck next time."
So they went on for a bit, and then, one day, Jan said to his wife, "Wife can you bake-y?"
"Oh, yes, Jan, I can bake-y. Mother used to bake-y when I lived home."
So he bought everything for his wife so that she could bake bread. All went well for a bit, till one day, she thought she would bake white bread for a treat for Jan. So she carried her meal to the top of a high hill, and let the wind blow on it, for she thought to herself that the wind would blow out all the bran. But the wind blew away meal and bran and all—so there was an end of it.
When Jan came home, she up and told him what she had done, and he said, "Oh, well, there, never mind, my dear, better luck next time."
So they went on for a bit, and then, one day, Jan said to his wife, "Wife can you brew-y?"
"Oh, yes, Jan, I can brew-y. Mother used to brew-y when I lived home."
So he bought everything proper for his wife to brew ale with. All went well for a bit, till one day when she had brewed her ale and put it in the barrel, a big black dog came in and looked up in her face. She drove him out of the house, but he stayed outside the door and still looked up in her face. And she got so angry that she pulled out the plug of the barrel, threw it at the dog, and said, "What dost look at me for? I be Jan's wife." Then the dog ran down the road, and she ran after him to chase him right away. When she came back again, she found that the ale had all run out of the barrel, and so there was an end of it.
When Jan came home, she up and told him what she had done, and he said, "Oh well, there, never mind, my dear, better luck next time."
So they went on for a bit, and then, one day, she thought to herself, "'T is time to clean up my house." When she was taking down her big bed she found a bag of groats on the tester. So when Jan came home, she up and said to him, "Jan, what is that bag of groats on the tester for?"
"That is for Hereafterthis, my dear."
Now, there was a robber outside the window, and he heard what Jan said. Next day, he waited till Jan had gone to market, and then he came and knocked at the door. "What do you please to want?" said Mally.
"I am Hereafterthis," said the robber, "I have come for the bag of groats."
Now the robber was dressed like a fine gentleman, so she thought to herself it was very kind of so fine a man to come for the bag of groats, so she ran upstairs and fetched the bag of groats, and gave it to the robber and he went away with it.
When Jan came home, she said to him, "Jan, Hereafterthis has been for the bag of groats."
"What do you mean, wife?" said Jan.
So she up and told him, and he said, "Then I'm a ruined man, for that money was to pay our rent with. The only thing we can do is to roam the world over till we find the bag of groats." Then Jan took the house-door off its hinges, "That's all we shall have to lie on," he said. So Jan put the door on his back, and they both set out to look for Hereafterthis. Many a long day they went, and in the night Jan used to put the door on the branches of a tree, and they would sleep on it. One night they came to a big hill, and there was a high tree at the foot. So Jan put the door up in it, and they got up in the tree and went to sleep. By-and-by Jan's wife heard a noise, and she looked to see what it was. It was an opening of a door in the side of the hill. Out came two gentlemen with a long table, and behind them fine ladies and gentlemen, each carrying a bag, and one of them was Hereafterthis with the bag of groats. They sat round the table, and began to drink and talk and count up all the money in the bags. So then Jan's wife woke him up, and asked what they should do.
"Now's our time," said Jan, and he pushed the door off the branches, and it fell right in the very middle of the table, and frightened the robbers so that they all ran away. Then Jan and his wife got down from the tree, took as many money-bags as they could carry on the door, and went straight home. And Jan bought his wife more cows, and more pigs, and they lived happy ever after.
The Golden Ball
There were two lasses, daughters of one mother, and as they came from the fair, they saw a right bonny young man stand at the house-door before them. They never saw such a bonny man before. He had gold on his cap, gold on his finger, gold on his neck, a red gold watch-chain—eh! but he had brass. He had a golden ball in each hand. He gave a ball to each lass, and she was to keep it, and if she lost it, she was to be hanged. One of the lasses, 't was the youngest, lost her ball. I'll tell thee how. She was by a park-paling, and she was tossing her ball, and it went up, and up, and up, till it went fair over the paling; and when she climbed up to look, the ball ran along the green grass, and it went right forward to the door of the house, and the ball went in and she saw it no more.
So she was taken away to be hanged by the neck till she was dead because she'd lost her ball.
But she had a sweetheart, and he said he would go and get the ball. So he went to the park-gate, but 't was shut; so he climbed the hedge, and when he got to the top of the hedge, an old woman rose up out of the dyke before him, and said, if he wanted to get the ball, he must sleep three nights in the house. He said he would.
Then he went into the house, and looked for the ball, but could not find it. Night came on and he heard bogles move in the courtyard; so he looked out o' the window, and the yard was full of them.
Presently he heard steps coming upstairs. He hid behind the door, and was as still as a mouse. Then in came a big giant five times as tall as he, and the giant looked round but did not see the lad, so he went to the window and bowed to look out; and as he bowed on his elbows to see the bogles in the yard, the lad stepped behind him, and with one blow of his sword he cut him in twain, so that the top part of him fell in the yard, and the bottom part stood looking out of the window.
There was a great cry from the bogles when they saw half the giant come tumbling down to them, and they called out, "There comes half our master, give us the other half."
So the lad said, "It's no use of thee, thou pair of legs, standing alone at the window, as thou hast no eye to see with, so go join thy brother;" and he cast the lower part of the giant after the top part. Now when the bogles had gotten all the giant they were quiet.
Next night the lad was at the house again, and now a second giant came in at the door, and as he came in the lad cut him in twain, but the legs walked on to the chimney and went up them. "Go, get thee after thy legs," said the lad to the head, and he cast the head up the chimney too.
The third night the lad got into bed, and he heard the bogles striving under the bed, and they had the ball there, and they were casting it to and fro.
Now one of them has his leg thrust out from under the bed, so the lad brings his sword down and cuts it off. Then another thrusts his arm out at other side of the bed, and the lad cuts that off. So at last he had maimed them all, and they all went crying and wailing off, and forgot the ball, but he took it from under the bed, and went to seek his true-love.
Now the lass was taken to York to be hanged; she was brought out on the scaffold, and the hangman said, "Now, lass, thou must hang by the neck till thou be'st dead." But she cried out:
"Stop, stop, I think I see my mother coming! O mother, hast brought my golden ball And come to set me free?"
"I've neither brought thy golden ball Nor come to set thee free, But I have come to see thee hung Upon this gallows-tree."
Then the hangman said, "Now, lass, say thy prayers for thou must die." But she said:
"Stop, stop, I think I see my father coming! O father, hast brought my golden ball And come to set me free?"
"I've neither brought thy golden ball Nor come to set thee free, But I have come to see thee hung Upon this gallows-tree."
Then the hangman said, "Hast thee done thy prayers? Now, lass, put thy head into the noose."
But she answered, "Stop, stop, I think I see my brother coming!" And again she sang, and then she thought she saw her sister coming, then her uncle, then her aunt, then her cousin; but after this the hangman said, "I will stop no longer, thou 'rt making game of me. Thou must be hung at once."
But now she saw her sweetheart coming through the crowd, and he held over his head in the air her own golden ball; so she said:
"Stop, stop, I see my sweetheart coming! Sweetheart, hast brought my golden ball And come to set me free?"
"Aye, I have brought thy golden ball And come to set thee free, I have not come to see thee hung Upon this gallows-tree."
And he took her home, and they lived happy ever after.
My Own Self
In a tiny house in the North Countrie, far away from any town or village, there lived not long ago, a poor widow all alone with her little son, a six-year-old boy.
The house-door opened straight on to the hill-side and all round about were moorlands and huge stones, and swampy hollows; never a house nor a sign of life wherever you might look, for their nearest neighbours were the "ferlies" in the glen below, and the "will-o'-the-wisps" in the long grass along the pathside.
And many a tale she could tell of the "good folk" calling to each other in the oak-trees, and the twinkling lights hopping on to the very window sill, on dark nights; but in spite of the loneliness, she lived on from year to year in the little house, perhaps because she was never asked to pay any rent for it.
But she did not care to sit up late, when the fire burnt low, and no one knew what might be about; so, when they had had their supper she would make up a good fire and go off to bed, so that if anything terrible did happen, she could always hide her head under the bed-clothes.
This, however, was far too early to please her little son; so when she called him to bed, he would go on playing beside the fire, as if he did not hear her.
He had always been bad to do with since the day he was born, and his mother did not often care to cross him; indeed, the more she tried to make him obey her, the less heed he paid to anything she said, so it usually ended by his taking his own way.
But one night, just at the fore-end of winter, the widow could not make up her mind to go off to bed, and leave him playing by the fireside; for the wind was tugging at the door, and rattling the window-panes, and well she knew that on such a night, fairies and such like were bound to be out and about, and bent on mischief. So she tried to coax the boy into going at once to bed:
"The safest bed to bide in, such a night as this!" she said: but no, he wouldn't.
Then she threatened to "give him the stick," but it was no use.
The more she begged and scolded, the more he shook his head; and when at last she lost patience and cried that the fairies would surely come and fetch him away, he only laughed and said he wished they would, for he would like one to play with.
At that his mother burst into tears, and went off to bed in despair, certain that after such words something dreadful would happen; while her naughty little son sat on his stool by the fire, not at all put out by her crying.
But he had not long been sitting there alone, when he heard a fluttering sound near him in the chimney and presently down by his side dropped the tiniest wee girl you could think of; she was not a span high, and had hair like spun silver, eyes as green as grass, and cheeks red as June roses. The little boy looked at her with surprise.
"Oh!" said he; "what do they call ye?"
"My own self," she said in a shrill but sweet little voice, and she looked at him too. "And what do they call ye?"
"Just my own self too!" he answered cautiously; and with that they began to play together.
She certainly showed him some fine games. She made animals out of the ashes that looked and moved like life; and trees with green leaves waving over tiny houses, with men and women an inch high in them, who, when she breathed on them, fell to walking and talking quite properly.
But the fire was getting low, and the light dim, and presently the little boy stirred the coals with a stick to make them blaze; when out jumped a red-hot cinder, and where should it fall, but on the fairy child's tiny foot.
Thereupon she set up such a squeal, that the boy dropped the stick, and clapped his hands to his ears but it grew to so shrill a screech, that it was like all the wind in the world whistling through one tiny keyhole.
There was a sound in the chimney again, but this time the little boy did not wait to see what it was, but bolted off to bed, where he hid under the blankets and listened in fear and trembling to what went on.
A voice came from the chimney speaking sharply:
"Who's there, and what's wrong?" it said.
"It's my own self," sobbed the fairy-child; "and my foot's burnt sore. O-o-h!"
"Who did it?" said the voice angrily; this time it sounded nearer, and the boy, peeping from under the clothes, could see a white face looking out from the chimney-opening.
"Just my own self too!" said the fairy-child again.
"Then if ye did it your own self," cried the elf-mother shrilly, "what's the use o' making all this fash about it?"—and with that she stretched out a long thin arm, and caught the creature by its ear, and, shaking it roughly, pulled it after her, out of sight up the chimney.
The little boy lay awake a long time, listening, in case the fairy-mother should come back after all; and next evening after supper, his mother was surprised to find that he was willing to go to bed whenever she liked.
"He's taking a turn for the better at last!" she said to herself; but he was thinking just then that, when next a fairy came to play with him, he might not get off quite so easily as he had done this time.
Black Bull of Norroway
In Norroway, long time ago, there lived a certain lady, and she had three daughters: The oldest of them said to her mother: "Mother, bake me a bannock, and roast me a collop, for I'm going away to seek my fortune." Her mother did so; and the daughter went away to an old witch washerwife and told her purpose. The old wife bade her stay that day, and look out of her back-door, and see what she could see. She saw nought the first day. The second day she did the same, and saw nought. On the third day she looked again, and saw a coach-and-six coming along the road. She ran in and told the old wife what she saw. "Well," quoth the old woman, "yon's for you." So they took her into the coach and galloped off.
The second daughter next says to her mother: "Mother, bake me a bannock, and roast me a collop, for I'm going away to seek my fortune." Her mother did so; and away she went to the old wife, as her sister had done. On the third day she looked out of the back-door, and saw a coach-and-four coming along the road. "Well," quoth the old woman, "yon's for you." So they took her in, and off they set.
The third daughter says to her mother: "Mother, bake me a bannock, and roast me a collop, for I'm going away to seek my fortune." Her mother did so; and away she went to the old witch. She bade her look out of her back-door, and see what she could see She did so; and when she came back, said she saw nought. The second day she did the same, and saw nought. The third day she looked again, and on coming back said to the old wife she saw nought but a great Black Bull coming crooning along the road. "Well," quoth the old witch, "yon's for you." On hearing this she was next to distracted with grief and terror; but she was lifted up and set on his back, and away they went.
Aye they travelled, and on they travelled, till the lady grew faint with hunger. "Eat out of my right ear," says the Black Bull, "and drink out of my left ear, and set by your leaving." So she did as he said, and was wonderfully refreshed. And long they rode, and hard they rode, till they came in sight of a very big and bonny castle. "Yonder we must be this night," quoth the Bull; "for my elder brother lives yonder;" and presently they were at the place. They lifted her off his back, and took her in, and sent him away to a park for the night. In the morning, when they brought the Bull home, they took the lady into a fine shining parlour, and gave her a beautiful apple, telling her not to break it till she was in the greatest strait ever mortal was in the world, and that would bring her out of it. Again she was lifted on the Bull's back, and after she had ridden far, and farther than I can tell, they came in sight of a far bonnier castle, and far farther away than the last. Says the Bull to her: "Yonder we must be this night, for my second brother lives yonder;" and they were at the place directly. They lifted her down and took her in, and sent the Bull to the field for the night. In the morning they took the lady into a fine and rich room, and gave her the finest pear she had ever seen, bidding her not to break it till she was in the greatest strait ever mortal could be in, and that would get her out of it. Again she was lifted and set on his back, and away they went. And long they rode, and hard they rode, till they came in sight of the far biggest castle and far farthest off, they had yet seen. "We must be yonder to-night," says the Bull, "for my young brother lives yonder;" and they were there directly. They lifted her down, took her in, and sent the Bull to the field for the night. In the morning they took her into a room, the finest of all, and gave her a plum, telling her not to break it till she was in the greatest strait mortal could be in, and that would get her out of it. Presently they brought home the Bull, set the lady on his back, and away they went.
And aye they rode, and on they rode, till they came to a dark and ugsome glen, where they stopped, and the lady lighted down. Says the Bull to her: "Here you must stay till I go and fight the Old One. You must seat yourself on that stone, and move neither hand nor foot till I come back, else I'll never find you again. And if everything round about you turns blue, I have beaten the Old One; but should all things turn red, he'll have conquered me." She set herself down on the stone, and by-and-by all round her turned blue. Overcome with joy, she lifted one of her feet, and crossed it over the other, so glad was she that her companion was victorious. The Bull returned and sought for her, but never could find her.
Long she sat, and aye she wept, till she wearied. At last she rose and went away, she didn't know where. On she wandered, till she came to a great hill of glass, that she tried all she could to climb, but wasn't able. Round the bottom of the hill she went, sobbing and seeking a passage over, till at last she came to a smith's house; and the smith promised, if she would serve him seven years, he would make her iron shoon, wherewith she could climb over the glassy hill. At seven years' end she got her iron shoon, clomb the glassy hill, and chanced to come to the old washerwife's habitation. There she was told of a gallant young knight that had given in some clothes all over blood to wash, and whoever washed them was to be his wife. The old wife had washed till she was tired, and then she set her daughter at it, and both washed, and they washed, and they washed, in hopes of getting the young knight; but for all they could do they couldn't bring out a stain. At length they set the stranger damsel to work; and whenever she began, the stains came out pure and clean, and the old wife made the knight believe it was her daughter had washed the clothes. So the knight and the eldest daughter were to be married, and the stranger damsel was distracted at the thought of it, for she was deeply in love with him. So she bethought her of her apple and breaking it, found it filled with gold and precious jewellery, the richest she had ever seen. "All these," she said to the eldest daughter, "I will give you, on condition that you put off your marriage for one day and allow me to go into his room alone at night." The lady consented; but meanwhile the old wife had prepared a sleeping drink, and given it to the knight who drank it, and never wakened till next morning. The live-long night the damsel sobbed and sang:
"Seven long years I served for thee, The glassy hill I clomb for thee, Thy bloody clothes I wrang for thee; And wilt thou not waken and turn to me?"
Next day she knew not what to do for grief. Then she broke the pear, and found it filled with jewellery far richer than the contents of the apple. With these jewels she bargained for permission to be a second night in the young knight's chamber; but the old wife gave him another sleeping drink, and again he slept till morning. All night she kept sighing and singing as before:
"Seven long years I served for thee, The glassy hill I clomb for thee, Thy bloody clothes I wrang for thee; And wilt thou not waken and turn to me?"
Still he slept, and she nearly lost hope altogether, But that day, when he was out hunting, somebody asked him what noise and moaning was that they heard all last night in his bedchamber. He said: "I have heard no noise." But they assured him there was; and he resolved to keep waking that night to try what he could hear. That being the third night and the damsel being between hope and despair, she broke her plum, and it held far the richest jewellery of the three. She bargained as before; and the old wife, as before, took in the sleeping drink to the young knight's chamber; but he told her he couldn't drink it that night without sweetening. And when she went away for some honey to sweeten it with, he poured out the drink, and so made the old wife think he had drunk it. They all went to bed again, and the damsel began, as before, singing:
"Seven long years I served for thee, The glassy hill I clomb for thee, Thy bloody clothes I wrang for thee; And wilt thou not waken and turn to me?"
He heard, and turned to her. And she told him all that had befallen her, and he told her all that had happened to him. And he caused the old washerwife and her daughter to be burnt. And they were married, and he and she are living happy to this day for aught I know.
Once upon a time, and a very good time it was, though it wasn't in my time, nor in your time, nor any one else's time, there was a young lad of eighteen or so named Tom Tiver working on the Hall Farm. One Sunday he was walking across the west field, 't was a beautiful July night, warm and still and the air was full of little sounds as though the trees and grass were chattering to themselves. And all at once there came a bit ahead of him the pitifullest greetings ever he heard, sob, sobbing, like a bairn spent with fear, and nigh heartbroken; breaking off into a moan and then rising again in a long whimpering wailing that made him feel sick to hark to it. He began to look everywhere for the poor creature. "It must be Sally Bratton's child," he thought to himself; "she was always a flighty thing, and never looked after it. Like as not, she's flaunting about the lanes, and has clean forgot the babby." But though he looked and looked, he could see nought. And presently the whimpering got louder and stronger in the quietness, and he thought he could make out words of some sort. He hearkened with all his ears, and the sorry thing was saying words all mixed up with sobbing—
"Ooh! the stone, the great big stone! ooh! the stones on top!"
Naturally he wondered where the stone might be, and he looked again, and there by the hedge bottom was a great flat stone, nigh buried in the mools, and hid in the cotted grass and weeds. One of the stones was called the "Strangers' Table." However, down he fell on his knee-bones by that stone, and hearkened again. Clearer than ever, but tired and spent with greeting came the little sobbing voice—"Ooh! ooh! the stone, the stone on top." He was gey, and mis-liking to meddle with the thing, but he couldn't stand the whimpering babby, and he tore like mad at the stone, till he felt it lifting from the mools, and all at once it came with a sough out o' the damp earth and the tangled grass and growing things. And there in the hole lay a tiddy thing on its back, blinking up at the moon and at him. 'T was no bigger than a year-old baby, but it had long cotted hair and beard, twisted round and round its body so that you couldn't see its clothes; and the hair was all yaller and shining and silky, like a bairn's; but the face of it was old and as if 't were hundreds of years since 't was young and smooth. Just a heap of wrinkles, and two bright black eyne in the midst, set in a lot of shining yaller hair; and the skin was the colour of the fresh turned earth in the spring—brown as brown could be, and its bare hands and feet were brown like the face of it. The greeting had stopped, but the tears were standing on its cheek, and the tiddy thing looked mazed like in the moonshine and the night air.
The creature's eyne got used like to the moonlight, and presently he looked up in Tom's face as bold as ever was; "Tom," says he, "thou 'rt a good lad!" as cool as thou can think, says he, "Tom, thou 'rt a good lad!" and his voice was soft and high and piping like a little bird twittering.
Tom touched his hat, and began to think what he ought to say. "Houts!" says the thing again, "thou needn't be feared o' me; thou 'st done me a better turn than thou know'st, my lad, and I'll do as much for thee." Tom couldn't speak yet, but he thought; "Lord! for sure 't is a bogle!"
"No!" says he as quick as quick, "I am no bogle, but ye 'd best not ask me what I be; anyways I be a good friend o' thine." Tom's very knee-bones struck, for certainly an ordinary body couldn't have known what he'd been thinking to himself, but he looked so kind like, and spoke so fair, that he made bold to get out, a bit quavery like—
"Might I be axing to know your honour's name?"
"H'm," says he, pulling his beard; "as for that"—and he thought a bit—"ay so," he went on at last, "Yallery Brown thou mayst call me, Yallery Brown; 't is my nature seest thou, and as for a name 't will do as any other. Yallery Brown, Tom, Yallery Brown's thy friend, my lad."
"Thankee, master," says Tom, quite meek like.
"And now," he says, "I'm in a hurry to-night, but tell me quick, what'll I do for thee? Wilt have a wife? I can give thee the finest lass in the town. Wilt be rich? I'll give thee gold as much as thou can carry. Or wilt have help wi' thy work? Only say the word."
Tom scratched his head. "Well, as for a wife, I have no hankering after such; they're but bothersome bodies, and I have women folk at home as 'll mend my clouts; and for gold that's as may be, but for work, there, I can't abide work, and if thou 'lt give me a helpin' hand in it I'll thank—"
"Stop," says he, quick as lightning, "I'll help thee and welcome, but if ever thou sayest that to me—if ever thou thankest me, see'st thou, thou 'lt never see me more. Mind that now; I want no thanks, I'll have no thanks;" and he stampt his tiddy foot on the earth and looked as wicked as a raging bull.
"Mind that now, great lump that thou be," he went on, calming down a bit, "and if ever thou need'st help, or get'st into trouble, call on me and just say, 'Yallery Brown, come from the mools, I want thee!' and I'll be wi' thee at once; and now," says he, picking a dandelion puff, "good-night to thee," and he blowed it up, and it all came into Tom's eyne and ears. Soon as Tom could see again the tiddy creature was gone, and but for the stone on end and the hole at his feet, he'd have thought he'd been dreaming.
Well, Tom went home and to bed; and by the morning he'd nigh forgot all about it. But when he went to the work, there was none to do! all was done already, the horses seen to, the stables cleaned out, everything in its proper place, and he'd nothing to do but sit with his hands in his pockets. And so it went on day after day, all the work done by Yallery Brown, and better done, too, than he could have done it himself. And if the master gave him more work, he sat down, and the work did itself, the singeing irons, or the broom, or what not, set to, and with ne'er a hand put to it would get through in no time. For he never saw Yallery Brown in daylight; only in the darklins he saw him hopping about, like a Will-o-th'-wyke without his lanthorn.
At first 't was mighty fine for Tom; he'd nought to do and good pay for it; but by-and-by things began to grow vicey-varsy. If the work was done for Tom, 't was undone for the other lads; if his buckets were filled, theirs were upset; if his tools were sharpened, theirs were blunted and spoiled; if his horses were clean as daisies, theirs were splashed with muck, and so on; day in and day out, 't was the same. And the lads saw Yallery Brown flitting about o' nights, and they saw the things working without hands o' days, and they saw that Tom's work was done for him, and theirs undone for them; and naturally they begun to look shy on him, and they wouldn't speak or come nigh him, and they carried tales to the master and so things went from bad to worse.
For Tom could do nothing himself; the brooms wouldn't stay in his hand, the plough ran away from him, the hoe kept out of his grip. He thought that he'd do his own work after all, so that Yallery Brown would leave him and his neighbours alone. But he couldn't—true as death he couldn't. He could only sit by and look on, and have the cold shoulder turned on him, while the unnatural thing was meddling with the others, and working for him.
At last, things got so bad that the master gave Tom the sack, and if he hadn't, all the rest of the lads would have sacked him, for they swore they'd not stay on the same garth with Tom. Well, naturally Tom felt bad; 't was a very good place, and good pay too; and he was fair mad with Yallery Brown, as 'd got him into such a trouble. So Tom shook his fist in the air and called out as loud as he could, "Yallery Brown, come from the mools; thou scamp, I want thee!"
You'll scarce believe it, but he'd hardly brought out the words but he felt something tweaking his leg behind, while he jumped with the smart of it; and soon as he looked down, there was the tiddy thing, with his shining hair, and wrinkled face, and wicked glinting black eyne.
Tom was in a fine rage, and he would have liked to have kicked him, but 't was no good, there wasn't enough of it to get his boot against; but he said, "Look here, master, I'll thank thee to leave me alone after this, dost hear? I want none of thy help, and I'll have nought more to do with thee—see now."
The horrid thing broke into a screeching laugh, and pointed its brown finger at Tom. "Ho, ho, Tom!" says he. "Thou 'st thanked me, my lad, and I told thee not, I told thee not!"
"I don't want thy help, I tell thee," Tom yelled at him—"I only want never to see thee again, and to have nought more to do with 'ee—thou can go."
The thing only laughed and screeched and mocked, as long as Tom went on swearing, but so soon as his breath gave out—
"Tom, my lad," he said with a grin, "I'll tell 'ee summat, Tom. True's true I'll never help thee again, and call as thou wilt, thou 'lt never see me after to-day; but I never said that I'd leave thee alone, Tom, and I never will, my lad! I was nice and safe under the stone, Tom, and could do no harm; but thou let me out thyself, and thou can't put me back again! I would have been thy friend and worked for thee if thou had been wise; but since thou bee'st no more than a born fool I'll give 'ee no more than a born fool's luck; and when all goes vicey-varsy, and everything agee—thou 'lt mind that it's Yallery Brown's doing though m'appen thou doesn't see him. Mark my words, will 'ee?"
And he began to sing, dancing round Tom, like a bairn with his yellow hair, but looking older than ever with his grinning wrinkled bit of a face:
"Work as thou will Thou 'lt never do well; Work as thou mayst Thou 'lt never gain grist; For harm and mischance and Yallery Brown Thou 'st let out thyself from under the stone."
Tom could never rightly mind what he said next. 'T was all cussing and calling down misfortune on him; but he was so mazed in fright that he could only stand there shaking all over, and staring down at the horrid thing; and if he'd gone on long, Tom would have tumbled down in a fit. But by-and-by, his yaller shining hair rose up in the air, and wrapt itself round him till he looked for all the world like a great dandelion puff; and it floated away on the wind over the wall and out o' sight, with a parting skirl of wicked voice and sneering laugh.
And did it come true, sayst thou? My word! but it did, sure as death! He worked here and he worked there, and turned his hand to this and to that, but it always went agee, and 't was all Yallery Brown's doing. And the children died, and the crops rotted—the beasts never fatted, and nothing ever did well with him; and till he was dead and buried, and m'appen even afterwards, there was no end to Yallery Brown's spite at him; day in and day out he used to hear him saying—
"Work as thou wilt Thou 'lt never do well; Work as thou mayst Thou 'lt never gain grist; For harm and mischance and Yallery Brown Thou 'st let out thyself from under the stone."
Once upon a time there was a girl who was married to a husband that she never saw. And the way this was, was that he was only at home at night, and would never have any light in the house. The girl thought that was funny, and all her friends told her there must be something wrong with her husband, some great deformity that made him want not to be seen.
Well, one night when he came home she suddenly lit a candle and saw him. He was handsome enough to make all the women of the world fall in love with him. But scarcely had she seen him when he began to change into a bird, and then he said: "Now you have seen me, you shall see me no more, unless you are willing to serve seven years and a day for me, so that I may become a man once more." Then he told her to take three feathers from under his side, and whatever she wished through them would come to pass. Then he left her at a great house to be laundry-maid for seven years and a day.
And the girl used to take the feathers and say:
"By virtue of my three feathers may the copper be lit, and the clothes washed, and mangled, and folded, and put away to the missus's satisfaction."
And then she had no more care about it. The feathers did the rest, and the lady set great store by her for a better laundress she had never had. Well, one day the butler, who had a notion to have the pretty laundry-maid for his wife, said to her, he should have spoken before but he did not want to vex her. "Why should it when I am but a fellow-servant?" the girl said. And then he felt free to go on, and explain he had L70 laid by with the master, and how would she like him for a husband.
And the girl told him to fetch her the money, and he asked his master for it, and brought it to her. But as they were going upstairs, she cried, "O John, I must go back, sure I've left my shutters undone, and they'll be slashing and banging all night."
The butler said, "Never you trouble, I'll put them right." and he ran back, while she took her feathers, and said: "By virtue of my three feathers may the shutters slash and bang till morning, and John not be able to fasten them nor yet to get his fingers free from them."
And so it was. Try as he might the butler could not leave hold, nor yet keep the shutters from blowing open as he closed them. And he was angry, but could not help himself, and he did not care to tell of it and get the laugh on him, so no one knew.
Then after a bit the coachman began to notice her, and she found he had some L40 with the master, and he said she might have it if she would take him with it.
So after the laundry-maid had his money in her apron as they went merrily along, she stopt, exclaiming: "My clothes are left outside, I must run back and bring them in." "Stop for me while I go; it is a cold frost night," said William, "you'd be catching your death." So the girl waited long enough to take her feathers out and say, "By virtue of my three feathers may the clothes slash and blow about till morning, and may William not be able to take his hand from them nor yet to gather them up." And then she was away to bed and to sleep.
The coachman did not want to be every one's jest, and he said nothing. So after a bit the footman comes to her and said he: "I have been with my master for years and have saved up a good bit, and you have been three years here, and must have saved up as well. Let us put it together, and make us a home or else stay on at service as pleases you." Well, she got him to bring the savings to her as the others had, and then she pretended she was faint, and said to him: "James, I feel so queer, run down cellar for me, that's a dear, and fetch me up a drop of brandy." Now no sooner had he started than she said: "By virtue of my three feathers may there be slashing and spilling, and James not be able to pour the brandy straight nor yet to take his hand from it until morning."
And so it was. Try as he might James could not get his glass filled, and there was slashing and spilling, and right on it all, down came the master to know what it meant!
So James told him he could not make it out, but he could not get the drop of brandy the laundry-maid had asked for, and his hand would shake and spill everything, and yet come away he could not.
This got him in for a regular scrape, and the master when he got back to his wife said: "What has come over the men, they were all right until that laundry-maid of yours came. Something is up now though. They have all drawn out their pay, and yet they don't leave, and what can it be anyway?"
But his wife said she could not hear of the laundry-maid being blamed, for she was the best servant she had and worth all the rest put together.
So it went on until one day as the girl stood in the hall door, the coachman happened to say to the footman: "Do you know how that girl served me, James?" And then William told about the clothes. The butler put in, "That was nothing to what she served me," and he told of the shutters clapping all night.
Just then the master came through the hall, and the girl said: "By virtue of my three feathers may there be slashing and striving between master and men, and may all get splashed in the pond."
And so it was, the men fell to disputing which had suffered the most by her, and when the master came up all would be heard at once and none listened to him, and it came to blows all round, and the first they knew they had shoved one another into the pond.
When the girl thought they had had enough she took the spell off, and the master asked her what had begun the row, for he had not heard in the confusion.
And the girl said: "They were ready to fall on any one; they'd have beat me if you had not come by."
So it blew over for that time, and through her feathers she made the best laundress ever known. But to make a long story short, when the seven years and a day were up, the bird-husband, who had known her doings all along, came after her, restored to his own shape again. And he told her mistress he had come to take her from being a servant, and that she should have servants under her. But he did not tell of the feathers.
And then he bade her give the men back their savings.
"That was a rare game you had with them," said he, "but now you are going where there is plenty, leave them each their own." So she did; and they drove off to their castle, where they lived happy ever after.
Sir Gammer Vans
Last Sunday morning at six o'clock in the evening as I was sailing over the tops of the mountains in my little boat, I met two men on horseback riding on one mare: So I asked them, "Could they tell me whether the little old woman was dead yet who was hanged last Saturday week for drowning herself in a shower of feathers?" They said they could not positively inform me, but if I went to Sir Gammer Vans he could tell me all about it. "But how am I to know the house?" said I. "Ho, 't is easy enough," said they, "for 't is a brick house, built entirely of flints, standing alone by itself in the middle of sixty or seventy others just like it."
"Oh, nothing in the world is easier," said I.
"Nothing can be easier," said they: so I went on my way.
Now this Sir G. Vans was a giant, and a bottle-maker. And as all giants who are bottle-makers usually pop out of a little thumb-bottle from behind the door, so did Sir G. Vans.
"How d'ye do?" says he.
"Very well, I thank you," says I.
"Have some breakfast with me?"
"With all my heart," says I.
So he gave me a slice of beer, and a cup of cold veal; and there was a little dog under the table that picked up all the crumbs.
"Hang him," says I.
"No, don't hang him," says he; "for he killed a hare yesterday. And if you don't believe me, I'll show you the hare alive in a basket."
So he took me into his garden to show me the curiosities. In one corner there was a fox hatching eagle's eggs; in another there was an iron apple tree, entirely covered with pears and lead; in the third there was the hare which the dog killed yesterday alive in the basket; and in the fourth there were twenty-four hipper switches threshing tobacco, and at the sight of me they threshed so hard that they drove the plug through the wall, and through a little dog that was passing by on the other side. I, hearing the dog howl, jumped over the wall; and turned it as neatly inside out as possible, when it ran away as if it had not an hour to live. Then he took me into the park to show me his deer: and I remembered that I had a warrant in my pocket to shoot venison for his majesty's dinner. So I set fire to my bow, poised my arrow, and shot amongst them. I broke seventeen ribs on one side, and twenty-one and a half on the other; but my arrow passed clean through without ever touching it, and the worst was I lost my arrow: however, I found it again in the hollow of a tree. I felt it; it felt clammy. I smelt it; it smelt honey. "Oh, ho," said I, "here's a bee's nest," when out sprang a covey of partridges. I shot at them; some say I killed eighteen; but I am sure I killed thirty-six, besides a dead salmon which was flying over the bridge, of which I made the best apple-pie I ever tasted.
Before the days of William the Conqueror there dwelt a man in the marsh of the Isle of Ely whose name was Thomas Hickathrift, a poor day labourer, but so stout that he could do two days' work in one. His one son he called by his own name, Thomas Hickathrift, and he put him to good learning, but the lad was none of the wisest, and indeed seemed to be somewhat soft, so he got no good at all from his teaching.
Tom's father died, and his mother being tender of him, kept him as well as she could. The slothful fellow would do nothing but sit in the chimney-corner, and eat as much at a time as would serve four or five ordinary men. And so much did he grow that when but ten years old he was already eight feet high, and his hand like a shoulder of mutton.
One day his mother went to a rich farmer's house to beg a bottle of straw for herself and Tom. "Take what you will," said the farmer, an honest charitable man. So when she got home she told Tom to fetch the straw, but he wouldn't and, beg as she might, he wouldn't till she borrowed him a cart rope. So off he went, and when he came to the farmer's, master and men were all a-trashing in the barn.
"I'm come for the straw," said Tom.
"Take as much as thou canst carry," said the farmer.
So Tom laid down his rope and began to make his bottle.
"Your rope is too short," said the farmer by way of a joke; but the joke was on Tom's side, for when he had made up his load there was some twenty hundred-weight of straw, and though they called him a fool for thinking he could carry the tithe of it, he flung it over his shoulder as if it had been a hundred-weight, to the great admiration of master and men.
Tom's strength being thus made known there was no longer any basking by the fire for him; every one would be hiring him to work, and telling him 't was a shame to live such a lazy life. So Tom seeing them wait on him as they did, went to work first with one, then with another. And one day a woodman desired his help to bring home a tree. Off went Tom and four men besides, and when they came to the tree they began to draw it into the cart with pulleys. At last Tom, seeing them unable to lift it, "Stand away, you fools," said he, and taking the tree, set it on one end and laid it in the cart. "Now," said he, "see what a man can do." "Marry, 't is true," said they, and the woodman asked what reward he'd take. "Oh, a stick for my mother's fire," said Tom; and espying a tree bigger than was in the cart, he laid it on his shoulders and went home with it as fast as the cart and six horses could draw it.
Tom now saw that he had more strength than twenty men, and began to be very merry, taking delight in company, in going to fairs and meetings, in seeing sports and pastimes. And at cudgels, wrestling, or throwing the hammer, not a man could stand against him, so that at last none durst go into the ring to wrestle with him, and his fame was spread more and more in the country.
Far and near he would go to any meetings, as football play or the like. And one day in a part of the country where he was a stranger, and none knew him, he stopped to watch the company at football play; rare sport it was; but Tom spoiled it all, for meeting the ball he took it such a kick that away it flew none could tell whither. They were angry with Tom as you may fancy, but got nothing by that as Tom took hold of a big spar, and laid about with a will, so that though the whole country-side was up in arms against him, he cleared his way wherever he came.
It was late in the evening ere he could turn homeward, and on the road there met him four lusty rogues that had been robbing passengers all day. They thought they had a good prize in Tom, who was all alone, and made cocksure of his money.
"Stand and deliver!" said they.
"What should I deliver?" said Tom.
"Your money, sirrah," said they.
"You shall give me better words for it first," said Tom.
"Come, come, no more prating; money we want, and money we'll have before you stir."
"Is it so?" said Tom, "nay, then come and take it."
The long and the short of it was that Tom killed two of the rogues and grieviously wounded the other two, and took all their money, which was as much as two hundred pounds. And when he came home he made his old mother laugh with the story of how he served the football players and the four thieves.
But you shall see that Tom sometimes met his match. In wandering one day in the forest he met a lusty tinker that had a good staff on his shoulder, and a great dog to carry his bag and tools.
"Whence come you and whither are you going?" said Tom, "this is no highway."
"What's that to you?" said the tinker; "fools must needs be meddling."
"I'll make you know," said Tom, "before you and I part, what it is to me."
"Well," said the tinker, "I'm ready for a bout with any man, and I hear there is one Tom Hickathrift in the country of whom great things are told. I'd fain see him to have a turn with him."
"Ay," said Tom, "methinks he might be master with you. Anyhow, I am the man; what have you to say to me?"
"Why, verily, I'm glad we are so happily met."
"Sure, you do but jest," said Tom.
"Marry, I'm in earnest," said the tinker. "A match?" "'T is done." "Let me first get a twig," said Tom. "Ay," said the tinker, "hang him that would fight a man unarmed."
So Tom took a gate-rail for his staff, and at it they fell, the tinker at Tom, and Tom at the tinker, like two giants they laid on at each other. The tinker had a leathern coat on, and at every blow Tom gave the tinker his coat roared again, yet the tinker did not give way one inch. At last Tom gave him a blow on the side of his head which felled him.
"Now tinker where are you?" said Tom.
But the tinker being a nimble fellow, leapt up again, gave Tom a blow that made him reel again, and followed his blow with one on the other side that made Tom's neck crack again. So Tom flung down his weapon and yielded the tinker the better on it, took him home to his house, where they nursed their bruises and from that day forth there was no stauncher pair of friends than they two.
Tom's fame was thus spread abroad till at length a brewer at Lynn, wanting a good lusty man to carry his beer to Wisbeach went to hire Tom, and promised him a new suit of clothes from top to toe, and that he should eat and drink of the best, so Tom yielded to be his man and his master told him what way he should go, for you must understand there was a monstrous giant who kept part of the marsh-land, so that none durst go that way.
So Tom went every day to Wisbeach a good twenty miles by the road. 'T was a wearisome journey thought Tom and he soon found that the way kept by the giant was nearer by half. Now Tom had got more strength than ever, being well kept as he was and drinking so much strong ale as he did. One day, then, as he was going to Wisbeach, without saying anything to his master or any of his fellow servants, he resolved to take the nearest road or to lose his life; as they say, to win horse or lose saddle. Thus resolved, he took the near road, flinging open the gates for his cart and horses to go through. At last the giant spied him, and came up speedily, intending to take his beer for a prize.
He met Tom like a lion as though he would have swallowed him. "Who gave you authority to come this way?" roared he. "I'll make you an example for all rogues under the sun. See how many heads hang on yonder tree. Yours shall hang higher than all the rest for a warning."
But Tom made him answer, "A fig in your teeth you shall not find me like one of them, traitorly rogue that you are."
The giant took these words in high disdain, and ran into his cave to fetch his great club, intending to dash out Tom's brains at the first blow.
Tom knew not what to do for a weapon; his whip would be but little good against a monstrous beast twelve foot in length and six foot about the waist. But whilst the giant went for his club, bethinking him of a very good weapon, he made no more ado, but took his cart, turned it upside down, and took axle-tree and wheel for shield and buckler. And very good weapons they were found!
Out came the giant and began to stare at Tom. "You are like to do great service with those weapons," roared he. "I have here a twig that will beat you and your wheel to the ground." Now this twig was as thick as some mileposts are, but Tom was not daunted for all that, though the giant made at him with such force that the wheel cracked again. But Tom gave as good as he got, taking the giant such a weighty blow on the side of the head that he reeled again. "What," said Tom, "are you drunk with my strong beer already?"
So at it they went, Tom laying such huge blows at the giant, down whose face sweat and blood ran together, so that, being fat and foggy and tired with the long fighting, he asked Tom would he let him drink a little? "Nay, nay," said Tom, "my mother did not teach me such wit; who'd be a fool then?" And seeing the giant beginning to weary and fail in his blows, Tom thought best to make hay whilst the sun shone, and, laying on as fast as though he had been mad, he brought the giant to the ground. In vain were the giant's roars and prayers and promises to yield himself and be Tom's servant. Tom laid at him till he was dead, and then, cutting off his head, he went into the cave, and found a great store of silver and gold, which made his heart to leap. So he loaded his cart, and after delivering his beer at Wisbeach, he came home and told his master what had befallen him. And on the morrow he and his master and more of the towns-folk of Lynn set out for the giant's cave. Tom showed them the head, and what silver and gold there was in the cave, and not a man but leapt for joy, for the giant was a great enemy to all the country.
The news was spread all up and down the country-side how Tom Hickathrift had killed the giant. And well was he that could run to see the cave; all the folk made bonfires for joy, and if Tom was respected before, he was much more so now. With common consent he took possession of the cave and every one said, had it been twice as much, he would have deserved it. So Tom pulled down the cave, and built himself a brave house. The ground that the giant kept by force for himself, Tom gave part to the poor for their common land, and part he turned into good wheat-land to keep himself and his old mother, Jane Hickathrift. And now he was become the chiefest man in the country-side; 't was no longer plain Tom, but Mr. Hickathrift, and he was held in due respect I promise you. He kept men and maids and lived most bravely; made him a park to keep deer, and time passed with him happily in his great house till the end of his days.
The Hedley Kow
There was once an old woman, who earned a poor living by going errands and such like, for the farmers' wives round about the village where she lived. It wasn't much she earned by it; but with a plate of meat at one house, and a cup of tea at another, she made shift to get on somehow, and always looked as cheerful as if she hadn't a want in the world.
Well, one summer evening as she was trotting away homewards, she came upon a big black pot lying at the side of the road.
"Now that," said she, stopping to look at it, "would be just the very thing for me if I had anything to put into it! But who can have left it here?" and she looked round about, as if the person it belonged to must be not far off. But she could see no one.
"Maybe it'll have a hole in it," she said thoughtfully:—
"Ay, that'll be how they've left it lying, hinny. But then it 'd do fine to put a flower in for the window; I'm thinking I'll just take it home, anyways." And she bent her stiff old back, and lifted the lid to look inside.
"Mercy me!" she cried, and jumped back to the other side of the road; "if it is fit brim full o' gold PIECES!!"
For a while she could do nothing but walk round and round her treasure, admiring the yellow gold and wondering at her good luck, and saying to herself about every two minutes, "Well, I do be feeling rich and grand!" But presently she began to think how she could best take it home with her; and she couldn't see any other way than by fastening one end of her shawl to it, and so dragging it after her along the road.
"It'll certainly be soon dark," she said to herself, "and folk'll not see what I'm bringing home with me, and so I'll have all the night to myself to think what I'll do with it. I could buy a grand house and all, and live like the Queen herself, and not do a stroke of work all day, but just sit by the fire with a cup of tea; or maybe I'll give it to the priest to keep for me, and get a piece as I'm wanting; or maybe I'll just bury it in a hole at the garden-foot, and put a bit on the chimney, between the chiney teapot and the spoons—for ornament like. Ah! I feel so grand, I don't know myself rightly!"
And by this time, being already rather tired with dragging such a heavy weight after her, she stopped to rest for a minute, turning to make sure that her treasure was safe.
But when she looked at it, it wasn't a pot of gold at all, but a great lump of shining silver!
She stared at it, and rubbed her eyes and stared at it again; but she couldn't make it look like anything but a great lump of silver. "I'd have sworn it was a pot of gold," she said at last, "but I reckon I must have been dreaming. Ay, now, that's a change for the better; it'll be far less trouble to look after, and none so easy stolen; yon gold pieces would have been a sight of bother to keep 'em safe. Ay, I'm well quit of them; and with my bonny lump I'm as rich as rich—!"
And she set off homewards again, cheerfully planning all the grand things she was going to do with her money. It wasn't very long, however, before she got tired again and stopped once more to rest for a minute or two.
Again she turned to look at her treasure, and as soon as she set eyes on it she cried out in astonishment. "Oh, my!" said she; "now it's a lump o' iron! Well, that beats all; and it's just real convenient! I can sell it as easy as easy, and get a lot o' penny pieces for it. Ay, hinny, an' it's much handier than a lot o' yer gold and silver as 'd have kept me from sleeping o' nights thinking the neighbours were robbing me—an' it's a real good thing to have by you in a house, ye niver can tell what ye mightn't use it for, an' it'll sell—ay, for a real lot. Rich? I'll be just rolling!"
And on she trotted again chuckling to herself on her good luck, till presently she glanced over her shoulder, "just to make sure it was there still," as she said to herself.
"Eh, my!" she cried as soon as she saw it; "if it hasn't gone and turned itself into a great stone this time! Now, how could it have known that I was just terrible wanting something to hold my door open with? Ay, if that isn't a good change! Hinny, it's a fine thing to have such good luck."
And, all in a hurry to see how the stone would look in its corner by her door, she trotted off down the hill, and stopped at the foot, beside her own little gate.
When she had unlatched it, she turned to unfasten her shawl from the stone, which this time seemed to lie unchanged and peaceably on the path beside her, There was still plenty of light, and she could see the stone quite plainly as she bent her stiff back over it, to untie the shawl end; when, all of a sudden, it seemed to give a jump and a squeal, and grew in a moment as big as a great horse; then it threw down four lanky legs, and shook out two long ears, flourished a tail, and went off kicking its feet into the and laughing like a naughty mocking boy.
The old woman stared after it, till it was fairly out of sight.
"WELL!" she said at last, "I do be the luckiest body hereabouts! Fancy me seeing the Hedley Kow all to myself, and making so free with it too! I can tell you, I do feel that GRAND—"
And she went into her cottage, and sat down by the fire to think over her good luck.
Once there was a man Gobborn Seer, and he had a son called Jack.
One day he sent him out to sell a sheep skin, and Gobborn said, "You must bring me back the skin and the value of it as well."
So Jack started, but he could not find any who would leave him the skin and give him its price too. So he came home discouraged.
But Gobborn Seer said, "Never mind, you must take another turn at it to-morrow."
So he tried again, and nobody wished to buy the skin on those terms.
When he came home his father said, "You must go and try your luck to-morrow," and the third day it seemed as if it would be the same thing over again. And he had half a mind not to go back at all, his father would be so vexed. As he came to a bridge, like the Creek Road one yonder, he leaned on the parapet thinking of his trouble, and that perhaps it would be foolish to run away from home, but he could not tell which to do; when he saw a girl washing her clothes on the bank below. She looked up and said:
"If it may be no offence asking, what is it you feel so badly about?"
"My father has given me this skin, and I am to fetch it back and the price of it beside."
"Is that all? Give it here, and it's easy done."
So the girl washed the skin in the stream, took the wool from it, and paid him the value of it, and gave him the skin to carry back.
His father was well pleased, and said to Jack, "That was a witty woman; she would make you a good wife. Do you think you could tell her again?"
Jack thought he could, so his father told him to go by-and-by to the bridge, and see if she was there, and if so bid her come home to take tea with them.
And sure enough Jack spied her and told her how his old father had a wish to meet her, and would she be pleased to drink tea with them.
The girl thanked him kindly, and said she could come the next day; she was too busy at the moment.
"All the better," said Jack, "I'll have time to make ready."
So when she came Gobborn Seer could see she was a witty woman, and he asked her if she would marry his Jack. She said "Yes," and they were married.
Not long after, Jack's father told him he must come with him and build the finest castle that ever was seen, for a king who wished to outdo all others by his wonderful castle.
And as they went to lay the foundation-stone, Gobborn Seer said to Jack, "Can't you shorten the way for me?"
But Jack looked ahead and there was a long road before them, and he said, "I don't see, father, how I could break a bit off."
"You're no good to me, then, and had best be off home."
So poor Jack turned back, and when he came in his wife said, "Why, how's this you've come alone?" and he told her what his father had said and his answer.
"You stupid," said his witty wife, "if you had told a tale you would have shortened the road! Now listen till I tell you a story, and then catch up with Gobborn Seer and begin it at once. He will like hearing it, and by the time you are done you will have reached the foundation-stone."
So Jack sweated and overtook his father. Gobborn Seer said never a word, but Jack began his story, and the road was shortened as his wife had said.
When they came to the end of their journey, they started building of this castle which was to outshine all others. Now the wife had advised them to be intimate with the servants, and so they did as she said, and it was "Good-morning" and "Good-day to you" as they passed in and out.
Now, at the end of a twelvemonth, Gobborn, the wise man, had built such a castle thousands were gathered to admire it.
And the king said: "The castle is done. I shall return to-morrow and pay you all."
"I have just a ceiling to finish in an upper lobby," said Gobborn, "and then it wants nothing."
But after the king was gone off, the housekeeper sent for Gobborn and Jack, and told them that she had watched for a chance to warn them, for the king was so afraid they should carry their art away and build some other king as fine a castle, he meant to take their lives on the morrow. Gobborn told Jack to keep a good heart, and they would come off all right.
When the king had come back Gobborn told him he had been unable to complete the job for lack of a tool left at home, and he should like to send Jack after it.
"No, no," said the king, "cannot one of the men do the errand?"
"No, they could not make themselves understood," said the Seer, "but Jack could do the errand."
"You and your son are to stop here. But how will it do if I send my own son?"
"That will do."
So Gobborn sent by him a message to Jack's wife. "Give him Crooked and Straight!"
Now there was a little hole in the wall rather high up, and Jack's wife tried to reach up into a chest there after "crooked and straight," but at last she asked the king's son to help her, because his arms were longest.
But when he was leaning over the chest she caught him by the two heels, and threw him into the chest, and fastened it down. So there he was, both "crooked and straight!"
Then he begged for pen and ink, which she brought him, but he was not allowed out, and holes were bored that he might breathe.
When his letter came, telling the king, his father, he was to be let free when Gobborn and Jack were safe home, the king saw he must settle for the building, and let them come away.
As they left Gobborn told him: Now that Jack was done with this work, he should soon build a castle for his witty wife far superior to the king's, which he did, and they lived there happily ever after.
There was an old woman, as I've heard tell. She went to the market her eggs for to sell; She went to the market, all on a market-day, And she fell asleep on the king's highway.
There came by a pedlar, whose name was Stout, He cut her petticoats round about; He cut her petticoats up to the knees, Which made the old woman to shiver and freeze.
When this old woman first did wake, She began to shiver, and she began to shake; She began to wonder, and she began to cry— "Lawkamercyme, this is none of I!"
"But if it be I, as I do hope it be, I've a little dog at home, and he'll know me; If it be I, he'll wag his little tail, And if it be not I, he'll loudly bark and wail."
Home went the little woman, all in the dark; Up got the little dog, and he began to bark; He began to bark, so she began to cry— "Lawkamercyme, this is none of I!"
In a great Palace by the sea there once dwelt a very rich old lord, who had neither wife nor children living, only one little granddaughter, whose face he had never seen in all her life. He hated her bitterly, because at her birth his favourite daughter died; and when the old nurse brought him the baby, he swore, that it might live or die as it liked, but he would never look on its face as long as it lived.
So he turned his back, and sat by his window looking out over the sea, and weeping great tears for his lost daughter, till his white hair and beard grew down over his shoulders and twined round his chair and crept into the chinks of the floor, and his tears, dropping on to the window-ledge, wore a channel through the stone, and ran away in a little river to the great sea. And, meanwhile, his granddaughter grew up with no one to care for her, or clothe her; only the old nurse, when no one was by, would sometimes give her a dish of scraps from the kitchen, or a torn petticoat from the rag-bag; while the other servants of the Palace would drive her from the house with blows and mocking words, calling her "Tattercoats," and pointing at her bare feet and shoulders, till she ran away crying, to hide among the bushes.
And so she grew up, with little to eat or wear, spending her days in the fields and lanes, with only the gooseherd for a companion, who would play to her so merrily on his little pipe, when she was hungry, or cold, or tired, that she forgot all her troubles, and fell to dancing, with his flock of noisy geese for partners.
But, one day, people told each other that the King was travelling through the land, and in the town near by was to give a great ball, to all the lords and ladies of the country, when the Prince, his only son, was to choose a wife.
One of the royal invitations was brought to the Palace by the sea, and the servants carried it up to the old lord who still sat by his window, wrapped in his long white hair and weeping into the little river that was fed by his tears.
But when he heard the King's command, he dried his eyes and bade them bring shears to cut him loose, for his hair had bound him a fast prisoner and he could not move. And then he sent them for rich clothes, and jewels, which he put on; and he ordered them to saddle the white horse, with gold and silk, that he might ride to meet the King.
Meanwhile Tattercoats had heard of the great doings in the town, and she sat by the kitchen-door weeping because she could not go to see them. And when the old nurse heard her crying she went to the Lord of the Palace, and begged him to take his granddaughter with him to the King's ball.
But he only frowned and told her to be silent, while the servants laughed and said: "Tattercoats is happy in her rags, playing with the gooseherd, let her be—it is all she is fit for."
A second, and then a third time, the old nurse begged him to let the girl go with him, but she was answered only by black looks and fierce words, till she was driven from the room by the jeering servants, with blows and mocking words.
Weeping over her ill-success, the old nurse went to look for Tattercoats; but the girl had been turned from the door by the cook, and had run away to tell her friend the gooseherd, how unhappy she was because she could not go to the King's ball.
But when the gooseherd had listened to her story, he bade her cheer up, and proposed that they should go together into the town to see the King, and all the fine things; and when she looked sorrowfully down at her rags and bare feet, he played a note or two upon his pipe, so gay and merry, that she forgot all about her tears and her troubles, and before she well knew, the herdboy had taken her by the hand, and she, and he, and the geese before them, were dancing down the road towards the town.
Before they had gone very far, a handsome young man, splendidly dressed, rode up and stopped to ask the way to the castle where the King was staying; and when he found that they too were going thither, he got off his horse and walked beside them along the road.
The herdboy pulled out his pipe and played a low sweet tune, and the stranger looked again and again at Tattercoats' lovely face till he fell deeply in love with her, and begged her to marry him.
But she only laughed, and shook her golden head.
"You would be finely put to shame if you had a goosegirl for your wife!" said she; "go and ask one of the great ladies you will see to-night at the King's ball, and do not flout poor Tattercoats."
But the more she refused him the sweeter the pipe played, and the deeper the young man fell in love; till at last he begged her, as a proof of his sincerity, to come that night at twelve to the King's ball, just as she was, with the herdboy and his geese, and in her torn petticoat and bare feet, and he would dance with her before the King and the lords and ladies, and present her to them all, as his dear and honoured bride.
So when night came, and the hall in the castle was full of light and music, and the lords and ladies were dancing before the King, just as the clock struck twelve, Tattercoats and the herdboy, followed by his flock of noisy geese, entered at the great doors, and walked straight up the ball-room, while on either side the ladies whispered, the lords laughed, and the King seated at the far end stared in amazement.