Site Map
Celtic Folktales
Section › 13 Set Search Previous Next

Reservations Contents  

  1. A White Trout
  2. Daniel O'Rourke
  3. The Galloping Woman

A White Trout

One morning I went on alone to a cave in the county of Mayo to see the natural beauty of an underground river there. Leaving my home at the little village of Cong I bent my way on foot through the fields. The landscape was marked by large flat muses of limestone, intersected by patches of verdure. The pastures in these little verdant interstices are so rich that cattle are fattened on them in a much shorter time than on ordinary meadows. The Mayo farmer knows it from experience.

Sometimes there are deep clefts between these laminae of limestone rock, and one of these chasms, of larger dimensions than usual, forms the entrance to a wonderful cave to see.

Very rude steps of unequal height, partly natural and partly artificial, took me down abruptly to the quiet beauty at the bottom of the cave. There I saw an enlightened area of some ten or twelve meters. Further inside a naturally vaulted passage opens, one of deepening darkness. The depth of the cave at the bottom might be twelve meters too, and its mouth was no more than four or five meters across. Clusters of ivy and other parasite plants hang and clung from its margin in a glorious variety of natural festooning and tracery. It was a marvellous little spot, and unlike anything else I had ever seen, and had none of the noisy and vulgar pretence of regular show-places, which called on you every moment to exclaim "Prodigious!"

An elderly and decent-looking woman had just filled her pitcher with the deliciously cold and clear water of the subterranean river that flowed along its bed of small, smooth, and many-coloured pebbles, as I arrived at the bottom. She observed at once that I was a stranger and paused, partly, perhaps, from the native peasant politeness of her country, to be my guide of the cave for a little while. She spoke some word of Irish, and hurried forth on her errand a very handsome and active boy. She was his great-grandmother, she said.

"Great-grandmother!" I repeated in unfeigned astonishment.

"Yes, your honour," she answered, with evident pleasure sparkling in her eyes, which time had not yet deprived of their brightness. Nor had the soul-subduing influence of this selfish world bereft them of their kind-hearted expression.

"You are the youngest woman I have ever seen," said I, "to be a great-grandmother."

"Truly, I don't doubt you, sir," she answered.

"And you seem still in good health, and likely to live many a year yet," said I.

"With the help of God, sir," said she reverently.

"But," I added, "I perceive a great number of persons about here of extreme age. Now, how long generally do the people in this country live?"

"Truly, sir," said she, with the figurative drollery of her country, "we live here as long as we like."

"Well, that is no inconsiderable privilege," said I; "but you, nevertheless, must have married very young?"

"I was not much over sixteen, your honour, when I had my first child at my breast."

"That was beginning early," said I.

"True for you, sir; and faith, Noreen (that is my daughter, sir)—Noreen herself lost no time either; I suppose she thought she had as good a right as the mother before her—she was married at seventeen, and a likely couple herself and her husband was. So you see, sir, it was not long before I was a granny. Well, to make the saying good, "As the old cock crows, the young bird chirrups," and faiks, the whole breed, seed, and generation took after the old woman (that is myself sir); and so, in course of time, I was not only a granny, but a great granny; and, by the same token, here comes my darling Paudeen Bawn, with what I sent him for."

Here the fine little fellow I have spoken of, with his long fair hair curling about his shoulders, descended into the cave, bearing some faggot of bogwood, a wisp of straw, and a lighted sod of turf.

"Now, your honour, it is when you will see the pigeon-hole to advantage."

"What pigeon-hole!" said I.

"Here where we are," she replied.

"Why is it so called?" l inquired.

"Because, sir, the wild pigeons often build in the bushes and the ivy that is round the mouth of the cave, and in here too," said she, pointing into the gloomy depth of the interior.

"Blow that turf, Paudeen; "and Paudeen, with distended cheeks and compressed lips, forthwith poured a few vigorous blasts on the sod of turf, which soon flickered and blazed, while the kind old woman lighted her faggots of bogwood at the flame.

"Now, sir, follow me," "said my conductress.

"I am sorry you have had so much trouble on my account," said I.

"Oh, no trouble at all, your honour, but the greatest of pleasure;" and so saying, she went into the cave, and I followed, carefully choosing my steps by the help of her torch-light along the slippery path of rock that overhung the river. When she had reached a point of some little elevation, she held up her lighted pine branches, and waving them to and fro, asked me if I could see the top of the cave.

The effect of her figure was very fine, illumined as it was in the middle of utter darkness by the red glare of the blazing faggots; and as she wound them round her head, and shook their flickering sparks about, it required no extraordinary stretch of imagination to suppose her, with her ample cloak of dark drapery, and a few straggling tresses of grey hair escaping from the folds of a rather Eastern head-dress, some sibyl about to begin an awful rite while the river, which rushed unseen along, told of its wild course by the turbulent dash of its waters, which the reverberation of the cave rendered still more hollow.

She shouted aloud, and the cavern-echoes answered to her summons. "Look!" she said —and she lighted the wisp of straw and flung it on the stream. It floated rapidly away, blazing in wild undulations over the perturbed surface of the river, and at length suddenly disappeared altogether. The effect was most picturesque and startling; it was interesting.

Her light being nearly expired, we retraced our steps, and emerging from the gloom, stood beside the river in the enlightened area I have described.

"Now, sir," said my old woman, "we must try and see the white trout; and you never saw a trout of that colour yet, I warrant."

I told her I had not.

"They say it is a fairy trout, your honour, and tells mighty querr stories about it."

"What are they?" I asked.

"Well, I myself don't know half of them—only partly; but strive and see it before you go, sir, for there are those who says it isn't lucky to come to the cave and leave it without seeing the white trout. And if you are a bachelor, sir, and didn't get a peep at it, you would never be married, and sure that would be a murther."

"Oh," said I, "I hope the fairies would not be so spiteful—"

"Whisht, whisht!" said she, looking fearfully around; then, knitting her brows, she gave me an admonitory look, and put her finger on her lip in token of silence, and then coming close enough to me to make herself audible in a whisper, she said, "Never speak ill, your honour, of the good people—above all in such places as this—for it is in such places they always stay; and one doesn't know who may be listening. God keep us! But look, sir, look!" and she pointed to the stream—"there she is."

"Who—what?" said I.

"The trout, sir."

I at once perceived the creamy white trout. It was heading up the stream, and seeming to keep constantly within the region of the enlightened part of it.

"There it is, in that very spot evermore," continued my guide, "and never anywhere else."

"The poor fish, I suppose, likes to swim in the light," said I.

"Oh, no, sir," said she, shaking her head significantly, "the people here has a mighty old story about that trout"

"Let me hear it, and you will oblige me."

"Och! it is only laughing at me you would be, and call me an old fool, as the mistress in the big house over there often did before, when she first came among us—but now it's different - now she knows."

"Indeed, I shall not laugh at your story," said I, "but on the contrary, shall thank you very much for your tale."

"Then sit down a minute, sir," said she, throwing her apron on the rock, and pointing to the seat, "and I will tell you to the best of my knowledge." And seating herself on an adjacent patch of verdure, she began her legend. "There was, once on a time and long ago, a beautiful young lady that lived in a castle up by the lake above here, and they say she was promised to a king's son, and they were to be married; when, all of a suddent, he was murdered, the creature (Lord help us), and thrown into the lake above, and so, of corrse, he couldn't keep his promise to the fair lady.

"Well, the story goes that she went out of her mind because of losing the king's son; for she was tender-hearted, and pined away after him, till, at last no one about saw her, good or bad, and the story went that the fairies took her away.

"Well, sir, in course of time the white trout was seen in the stream beyond, and sure the people didn't know what to think av the creature, for a white trout was never heard of before or afterward; and years on years the trout was there, just where you seen it this blessed minute, longer than I can tell—aye, and beyond the memory of the oldest in the village.

"At last the people began to think it must be a fairy—for what else could it be?—and no hurt nor harm was ever put on the white trout, until some nasty soldiers came to these parts and laughed at all the people, and jibed and jeered them for thinking like that; and one of them in particular swore he'd catch the trout and eat it for his dinner—the blackguard!

"Well, what would you think of the villiany of the soldier?—Sure enough he caught the trout; and away with him home where he put on the frying-pan, and into it he pitched the pretty little thing. The trout squeeled all she was up to, and you would think the soldier would split his sides roaring and laughing—for he was a hardened villian; and when he thought one side was done, he turned it over to fry the other. And what would you think, nothing was fried at all!

"Hm, I will have to give it another turn, "said the soldier.

"When he thought that side was done, he turned it again—and lo! Nothing was fried. "Bad luck to me," said the soldier, "but I will try again, my darling," said he, and with that, he turned it over and over; but the trout remained white and unburnt for all that. "Well," said the desperate villain, "my jolly little trout, maybe you are fried enough, though you don't seem over-well dressed; but you may be better than you look, like a singed cat, and a tit-bit, after all." With that he took his his knife and fork to taste a piece of the trout—but the minute he put his knife into the fish, there was a murdering screech, so that you would think the life would leave you if you heard it, and away jumped the trout out av the frying-pan into the middle of the floor; and on the spot where it fell, up rose a lovely lady—the most beautiful young creature that eyes ever seen. She was dressed in white with a band of gold in her hair, and a stream of blood running down her arm.

"Look where you cut me, you villian," said she, and she held out her arm to him—and he thought that he would go blind.

"Couldn't you leave me cool and comfortable in the river where you snared me, and not disturb me in my duty?" said she.

"Well, he trembled like a dog in a wet sack, and at last he stammered out something, and begged for his life, and asked her ladyship's pardon, and said he didn't know she was on duty, or he was too good a soldier not to know better nor to meddle with her.

"I was on duty, then," said the lady; "I was watching for my true love, that is coming by water to me," said she; "and if be comes while I am away and I miss him, I will turn you into a little pinkeen fish [also: thornback], and I will hunt you up and down for evermore, while grass grows or water runs."

"Well, the soldier thought life would leave him at the thoughts of being turned into a pinkeen, and begged for mercy; and with that said the lady:

"Renounce your evil courses," said she, "or you will repent it too late; be a good man for the future, and go to your duty regular. And now," said she, "take me back, and put me into the river again where you found me."

"'Oh, my lady," said the soldier, "how could I have the heart to drown a beautiful lady like you?'

"But before he could say another word, the lady vanished, and there he saw the little trout on the ground. Well, he put it on a clean plate, and away he ran for the bare life, for fear her lover would come while she was away; and he ran, and he ran, till be came to the cave again and threw the throat into the river. The minute he did, the water was as red as blood for a little while, by reason of the cut, I suppose, till the stream washed the stain away. And to this day there is a little red mark on the trout's side where it was cut.

"Well, sir, from that day on the soldier was an altered man and reformed his way; and went to his duty regular, and fasted three times a week—though it was never fish he took on fasting days; for after the fright be got, fish could never rest in his stomach. But anyhow, he was an altered man, as I said before; and in course of time he left the army and turned hermit at last; and they say he used to pray evermore for the soul of the White Trout."


Daniel O'Rourke

PEOPLE may have heard of the renowned adventures of Daniel O'Rourke, but how few are there who know that the cause of all his perils, above and below, was neither more nor less than his having slept under the walls of the Phooka's tower. I knew the man well: he lived at the bottom of Hungry Hill, just at the right hand side of the road as you go towards Bantry. An old man was he at the time that he told me the story, with gray hair, and a red nose; and it was on the 25th of June, l8l3, that I heard it from his own lips, as he sat smoking his pipe under the old poplar tree, on as fine an evening as ever shone from the sky. I was going to visit the caves in Dursey Island, having spent the morning at Glengariff.

"I am often asked to tell it, sir," said he, "so that this is not the first time. The master's son, you see, had come from beyond foreign parts in France and Spain, as young gentlemen used to go, before Buonaparte or any such was heard of; and sure enough there was a dinner given to all the people on the ground, gentle and simple, high and low, rich and poor. The old gentlemen were the gentlemen, after all, saving your honour's presence They'd swear at a body a little, to be sure, and, may be, give one a cut of a whip now and then, but we were no losers by it in the end; - and they were so easy and civil, and kept such rattling houses, and thousands of welcomes; - and there was no grinding for rent, and few agents; and there was hardly a tenant on the estate that did not taste of his landlord's bounty often and often in the year; - but now it is another thing: no matter for that, sir, for I'd better be telling you my story.

"Well, we had every thing of the best, and plenty of it; and. we ate, and we drank, and we danced, and the young master by the same token danced with Peggy Barry, from the Bohereen - a lovely young couple they were, though they are both low enough now. To make a long story short, I got, as a body may say, the same thing as tipsy almost, for I can't remember ever at all, no ways, how it was I left the place: only I did leave it, that is certain. Well, I thought,. for all that, in myself, I'd just step to Molly Cronohan's, the fairy woman, to speak a word about the bracket heifer what was bewitched; and so as I was crossing the stepping-stones of the ford of Ballyasheenough, and was looking up at the stars and blessing myself - for why? it was Lady-day - I missed my foot, and souse I fell into the water. "Death alive!" thought I, "I will be drowned now!" However, I began swimming, swimming, swimming away for the dear life, till at last I got ashore, somehow or other, but never the one of me can tell how, on a dissolute island.

"I wandered and wandered about there, without knowing where I wandered, till at last I got into a big bog. The moon was shining as bright as day, or your fair lady's eyes, sir (with your pardon for mentioning her), and I looked east and west, and north and south, and every way, and nothing did I see but bog, bog, bog; - I could never find out how I got into it; and my heart grew cold with fear, for sure and certain I was that it would be my berrin place. So I sat down on a stone which, as good luck would have it, was close by me, and I began to scratch my head and sing the Ullagone - when all of a sudden the moon grew black, and I looked up, and saw something for all the world as if it was moving down between me and it, and I could not tell what it was. Down it came with a pounce, and looked at me full in the face; and what was it but an eagle? as fine a one as ever flew from the kingdom of Kerry. So he looked at me in the face, and says he to me,

"Daniel O'Rourke," said he, "how do you do?"

"Very well, I thank you, sir," said I: "I hope you are well," wondering out of my senses all the time how an eagle came to speak like a Christian.

"What brings you here, Dan?" says he.

"Nothing at all, sir, says I:" only I wish I was safe home again."

"Is it out of the island you want to go, Dan?" says he. "it is, sir," said I : so I up and told him how I had taken a drop too much, and fell into the water; how I swam to the island; and how I got into the bog and did not know my way out of it. "Dan," said he, after a minute's thought, though it is very improper for you to get drunk on Lady-day, yet as you are a decent sober man, who "tends mass well, and never flings stones at me nor mine, nor cries out after us in the fields - my life for yours," said he; "so get up on my back, and grip me well for fear you would fall off, and I will fly you out of the bog."

"I am afraid," said I, "your honour's making game of me; for who ever heard of riding a horseback on an eagle before?"

"Pon the honour of a gentleman," said he, putting his right foot on his breast, "I am quite in earnest; and so now either take my offer or starve in the bog - besides, I see that your weight is sinking the stone."

It was true enough as he said, for I found the stone every minute going from under me. I had no choice; so thinks I to myself, faint heart never won fair lady, and this is fair persuadance - "I thank your honour," said I, "for the loan of your civility; and I will take your kind offer."

I therefore mounted on the back of the eagle, and held him tight enough by the throat, and up be flew in the air like a lark. Little I knew the trick he was going to serve me. Up - up - up - God knows how far up he flew.

"Why, then," said I to him - thinking he did not know the right road home - very civilly, because I was in his power entirely. "Sir," said I, "please your honour's glory, and with humble submission to your better judgment, if you would fly down a bit, you are now just over my cabin, and I could be put down there, and many thanks to your worship."

"Arrah, Dan," said he, "do you think me a fool? Look down in the next field, and don't you see two men and a gun? By my word it would be no joke to be shot this way, to oblige a drunken blackguard that I picked up off of a could stone in a bog."

"Bother you," said I to myself, but I did not speak out, for where was the use? Well, sir, up he kept, flying, flying, and I asking him every minute to fly down, and all to no use. "Where in the world are you going,. sir?" says I to him. "Hold your tongue, Dan," said he: "mind your own business, and don't be interfering with the business of other people."

"But this is my business," said I. "Be quiet, Dan," said he: so I said no more.

"At last where should we come to, but to the moon itself. Now you can't see it from this, but there is, or there was in my time a reaping-hook sticking out of the side of the moon, this way, (drawing the figure thus O~ on the ground with the end of his stick).

"Dan," said the eagle, "I am tired with this long fly; I had no notion it was so far."

"And my lord, sir," said I, "who in the world asked you to fly so far - was it I? did not I beg, and pray, and beseech you to stop half an hour ago?"

'There is no use talking, Dan," said he; "I am tired bad enough, so you must get off, and sit down on the moon till I rest myself."

"Is it sit down on the moon?" said I; "is it on that little round thing, then? why, then, sure I'd fall off in a minute, and be killed and split, and smashed all to bits: you are a vile deceiver, - so you are."

"Not at all, Dan," said he: "you can catch fast hold of the reaping-hook that is sticking out of the side of the moon, and "twill keep you up."

"I will not, then," said I."

"May be not," said he, quite quiet. "If you don't, my man, I shall just give you a shake, and one slap of my wing, and send you down to the ground, where every bone in your body will be smashed as small as a drop of dew on a cabbage-leaf in the morning."

"Why, then, I am in a fine way," said I to myself, "ever to have come along with the likes of you;" and so giving him a hearty curse in Irish, for fear he'd know what I said, I got off his back with a heavy heart, took a hold of the reaping-hook, and sat down on the moon; and a mighty cold seat it was, I can tell you that.

"When he had me there fairly landed, he turned about on me, and said, "Good morning to you, Daniel O'Rourke," said he: "I think I have nicked you fairly now. You robbed my nest last year," ('twas true enough for him, but how he found it out is hard to say,) "and in return you are freely welcome to cool your heels dangling on the moon like a cockthrow."

"Is that all; and is this the way you leave me, you brute, you?" says I. "You ugly unnatural baste, and is this the way you serve me at last? Bad luck to yourself, with your hook'd nose, and to all your breed, you blackguard."

"It was all to no manner of use: he spread out his great big wings, burst out a laughing, and flew away like lightning. I bawled after him to stop; but I might have called and bawled for ever, without his minding me. Away he went, and I never saw him from that day to this - sorrow fly away with him I You may be sure I was in a disconsolate condition, and kept roaring out for the bare grief, when all at once a door opened right in the middle of the moon, creaking on its hinges as if it had not been opened for a month before. I suppose they never thought of greasing them, and out there walks - who do you think but the man in the moon himself? I knew him by his bush.

"Good morrow to you, Daniel O'Rourke," said he: "How do you do?"

"Very well, thank your honour," said I. "I hope your honour's well."

"What brought you here, Dan?" said he. So I told him told I was a little overtaken in liquor at the master's, and how I was cast on a dissolute island, and how I lost my way in the bog, and how the thief of an eagle promised to fly me out of it, and how instead of that he had fled me up to the moon.

"Dan," said the man in the moon, taking a pinch of snuff when I was done, "you must not stay here."

"Indeed, sir," said I, "It is much against my will I am here at all; but how am I to go back?"

"That is your business," said he, "Dan, mine is to tell you that here you must not stay, so be off in less than no time."

"I am doing no harm," said I, "only holding on hard by the reaping-hook, lest I fall off."

"That is what you must not do, Dan," said he. "Pray, sir," said I, "may I ask how many you are in family, that you would not give a poor traveller lodging: I am sure it is not so often you are troubled with strangers coming to see you, for it is a long way."

"I am by myself, Dan," said he; "but you had better let go the reaping-hook."

"Faith, and with your leave," said I, "I will not let go the grip, and the more you bids me, the more I will not let go; - so I will."

"You had better, Dan," said he again. "Why, then, my little fellow," said I, taking the whole weight of him with my eye from head to foot, "there are two words to that bargain; and I will not budge, but you may if you like."

"We will see how that is to be," said he; and back he went, giving the door such a great bang after him (for it was plain he was huffed), that I thought the moon and all would fall down with it.

"Well, I was preparing myself to try strength him, when back again he comes, with the kitchen cleaver in his hand, and without saying a word, he gives two bangs to the handle of the reaping-hook that was keeping me up, and whap! it came in two. "Good morning to you, Dan," said the spiteful little old blackguard, when he saw me cleanly falling down with a bit of the handle in my hand: "I thank you for your visit, and fair weather after you, Daniel." I had not time to make any answer to him, for I was turning over and over, and rolling and rolling at the rate of a fox-hunt. "God help me," said I, "but this is a pretty pickle for a decent man to be seen in at this time of night: I am now sold fairly." The word was not out of my mouth, when whiz! what should fly by close to my ear but a flock of wild geese; all the way from my own bog of Ballyasheenough, else how should they know me? the old gander, who was their general, turning about his head, cried out to me, "Is that you, Dan?"

"The same," said I, not a bit daunted now at what he said, for I was by this time used to all kinds of bedevilment and, besides, I knew him of old. "Good morrow to you," said he, "Daniel O'Rourke: how are you in health this morning?"

"Very well, sir," said I, "I thank you kindly," drawing my breath, for I was mightily in want of some. "I hope your honour's the same. I think it is falling you are, Daniel," said he. You may say that, sir," said I. "And where are you going all the way so fast?" said the gander. So I told him how I had taken the drop, and how I came on the island, and how I lost my way in the bog, and how the thief of an eagle flew m& up to the moon, and how the man in the moon turned me out. "Dan," said he, "I will save you: put out your hand and catch me by the leg, and I will fly you home."

"Sweet is your hand in a pitcher of honey, my jewel," said I, though all the time I thought in myself that I don't much trust you; but there was no help, so I caught the gander by the leg, and away I and the other geese flew after him as fast as hops.

"We flew, and we flew, and we flew, till we came right over the wide ocean. I knew it well, for I saw Cape Clear to my right" hand, sticking up out of the water. "Ah! my lord," said I to the goose, for I thought it best to keep a civil tongue in my head any way, " fly to land if you please."

'It is impossible, you see, Dan," said he, "for a while, because you see we are going to Arabia." To Arabia!" said I; "that is surely some place in foreign parts, far away. Oh I Mr. Goose : why then, to be sure, I am a man to be pitied among you."

"Whist, whist, you fool," said he, "hold your tongue; I tell you Arabia is a very decent sort of place, as like West Carbery as one egg is like another, only there is a little more sand there."

"Just as we were talking, a ship hove in sight, scudding so beautiful before the wind: "Ah! then, sir," said I, "will you drop me on the ship, if you please?"

"We are not fair over it," said he. "We are," said I. "We are not," said he "If I dropped you now, you would go splash into the sea."

"I would not," said I: "I know better than that, for it is just clean under us, so let me drop now at once."

"If you must, you must," said he. "There, take your own way;" and be opened his claw, and faith he was right - sure enough I came down plump into the very bottom of the salt sea! Down to the very bottom I went, and I gave myself up then for ever, when a whale walked up to me, scratching himself after his night's sleep, and looked me full in the face, and never the word did he say, but lifting up his tail, he splashed me all over again with the cold salt water, till there wasn't a dry stitch on my whole carcass; and I heard somebody saying - it was a voice I knew too - "Getup, you drunken brute, off of that;" and with that I woke up, and there was Judy with a tub full of water, which she was splashing all over me; - for, rest her soul though she was a good wife, she never could bear to see me in drink, and had a bitter hand of her own.

Get up," said she again: "and of all places in the parish, would no place sarve your turn to lie down on but under the old walls of Carrigaphooka? an uneasy resting I am sure you had of it." And sure enough I had; for I was fairly bothered out of my senses with eagles, and men of the moon, and flying ganders, and whales, driving me through bogs, and up to the moon, and down to the bottom of the green ocean. If I was in drink ten times over, long would it be before I'd lie down in the same spot again, I know that."


The Galloping Woman

In a pleasant valley lived Larry Dodd and his wife Nancy. They rented a cabin and cultivated a few acres with great care, and the crops rewarded their industry. They were independent and respected by their neighbours, they loved each other and led a comfortable life together.

Larry used to work hard, and at times he drank hard too, and was a man of mixed habits. He felt well pleased with himself one day he returned home from town. He rode on a rouch-coated and wall-eyed nag who all the same was a well-built animal. He trotted easy along in the delicious and lingering twilight of a lovely June evening, thinking of nothing, only whistling.

Just then his attention was roused by a woman wo was pacing quickly by the side of his horse. She was hurrying as if she tried to get somewhere before the night closed in. Larry could not see if the woman was old or young, ugly or fair, because of the large cloak she was wearing and a hood that was turned up and hid every feature.

The strange woman kept up with Larry's steed for some time. Then Larry very civilly offered her a lift behind him, since he was going her wey. But the woman did not answer him. Larry thought she was silent out of bashfulness, so he pulled up and said, "Just jump up behind me. I will take you safe and sound through the lonesome bit of road that is before us."

She jumped at the offer, and in an instant she was seated up behind Larry, with her hand and arm blucked round his waist, holding on.

"I hope you are comfortable there, my dear," said Larry in a good-humoured way, and on they went along the road - trot, trot, trot. Soon Larry, who had a keen ear, detected a click of one of the horse-shoes.

"The shoe is loose. I have to fix it," he said just as they were entering on the lonesome bit of road he had spoken of before. Around were trees with large trunks, and branches festoned with ivy grewover a dark pool of water that formerly had been a drinking-place for cattle. Here the horse made a dead halt, and Larry very quickly jumped off it, thinking to lead the horse quitely by the pool. He said,

"As luck will have it, I have a a nail in my pocket. It is not the first time I have put on a shoe, and I can use one of the stones here for a hammer."

At this the woman jumped down from the horse too. But she did not wait for him to shoe the horse, but bounded off without saying good-bye and anything else. She made her way across a field up towards the old ivy-covered walls of a little church nearby.

"Not so fast, young woman, not so fast!" hollered Larry, but away she ran as he went on, "Where is my wages? Sure, I have earned a kiss from your pretty lips?"

The woman galloped on till she came to the churchyard wall, and jumped over it in an instant. Larry soon followed, admiring her dexterity. In the old graveyard he stumbled over old and new graves, pieces of coffins and the skulls of dead persons. After a little he entangled his feet in the long prickly fangs of brambles who were growing there. They seemed to hold him back with a fearful grasp. At that moment he noticed that the woman went round and round the walls of the old church.

"Here is my chance," thought Larry, "to get my kiss. I'll just wait around a corner and when she comes round again, I'll see what I can do."

In a few moments he was in place and heard her coming. He sprang forward with open arms and clasped a headless woman in them. There were no lips to kiss.

"Well, that accounts for her not speaking," said Larry, and then he fainted. When he woke up and slowly opened his eyes, he heard strange sounds, and the little bells clattered ding, ding, ding.

A strange music was heard, and Larry did not know what to think of it, so he dozed off again. When he woke up the second time it was broad daylight, and to his great joy he found nothing about him was missing. He got up slowly and said to himself, "I must go to the pool of water to see if I find the horse."

But no horse was there, and so he made up his mind to go home. There he found his wife looking as black as a thundercloud at him for being out all night. She listened to him when he told about the horse he had bought and lost.

"But what took you up to the old church at all, out of the road, and at that time of the night, Larry?" she asked.

Larry scratched his head and saw he had better tell the truth. "Nancy, I confess. I followed a young, headless woman -"

His wife heard no more, "I knew it was a woman, but a woman without any head, Larry! Larry, going after such - oh - oh -". For a while she did not know what to say.

"Well," Larry broke in, "least said is soonest mended. I did not even kiss the woman. And couldn't a headless woman be called a Good Woman, because she has no tongue?"

His wife did not altogether get the hint and later had the last word.


Celtic folktales, fairy tales of Celts, Literature  

Celtic folktales, fairy tales of Celts, To top Section Set Next

Celtic folktales, fairy tales of Celts USER'S GUIDE: [Link]
© 2000–2016, Tormod Kinnes. [Email]  ᴥ  Disclaimer: [Link]