Mrs. Sullivan fancied that her youngest child had been changed by "fairies theft," to use Spenser's words, and certainly appearances warranted such a conclusion; for in one night her healthy, blue-eyeed boy had become shrivelled up into almost nothing, and never ceased squalling and crying. This naturally made poor Mrs. Sullivan very unhappy; and all the neighbours, by way of comforting her, said, that her own child was, beyond any kind of doubt, with the good people, and that one of themselves had been put in his place.
Mrs. Sullivan of course could not disbelieve what every one told her, but she did not wish to hurt the thing; for although its face was so withered, and its body wasted away to a mere skeleton, it had still a strong resemblance to her own boy: she therefore could not find it in her heart to roast it alive on the griddle, or to burn its nose off with the red hot tongs, or to throw it out in the snow on the road side, notwithstanding these, and several like proceedings, were strongly recommended to her for the recovery of her child.
One day who should Mrs. Sullivan meet but a cunning woman, well known about the country by the name of Ellen Leah (or Grey Ellen). She had the gift, however she got it, of telling where the dead were, and what was good for the rest of their souls; and could charm away warts and wens, and do a great many wonderful things of the same nature.
"You are in grief this morning, Mrs. Sullivan," were the first words of Ellen Leah to her.
"You may say that, Ellen," said Mrs. Sullivan, and good cause I have to be in grief, for there was my own fine child whipped off from me out of his cradle, without as much as by your leave, or ask your pardon, and an ugly dony bit of a shrivelled up fairy put in his place; no wonder then that you see me in grief, Ellen."
"Small blame to you, Mrs. Sullivan," said Ellen Leah; "but are you sure it is a fairy?"
"Sure!" echoed Mrs. Sullivan, " sure enough am I to my sorrow, and can I doubt my own two eyes? Every mother's soul must feel for me!"
"Will you take an old woman's advice?" said Ellen Leah, fixing her wild and mysterious gaze on the unhappy mother; and, after a pause, she added, "but may be you will call it foolish? "
"Can you get me back my child, - my own child, Ellen?" said Mrs. Sullivan with great energy.
"If you do as I bid you," returned Ellen Leah, "you will know." Mrs. Sullivan was silent in expectation, and Ellen continued, " Put down the big pot, full of water, on the fire, and make it boil like mad; then get a dozen new laid eggs, break them, and keep the shells, but throw away the rest; when that is done, put the shells in the pot of boiling water, and you will soon know whether it is your own boy or a fairy. If you find that it is a fairy in the cradle, take the red hot poker and cram it down his ugly throat, and you will not have much trouble with him after that, I promise you."
Home went Mrs. Sullivan, and did as Ellen Leah desired. She put the pot on the fire, and plenty of turf under it, and set the water boiling at such a rate, that if ever water was red hot-it surely was.
The child was lying for a wonder quite easy and quiet in the cradle, every now and then cocking his eye, that would twinkle as keen as a star in a frosty night, over at the great fire, and the big pot on it; and he looked on with great attention at Mrs. Sullivan breaking the eggs, and putting down the egg-shells to boil. At last he asked, with the voice of a very old man, " What are you doing, mammy?"
Mrs.. Sullivan's heart, as she said herself, was up in her mouth ready to choke her, at hearing the child speak. But she contrived to put the poker in the fire, and to answer without making any wonder at the words, "I am brewing, a vick," (my son.)
"And what are you brewing, mammy?" said the little imp, whose supernatural gift of speech now proved beyond question that he was a fairy substitute.
"I wish the poker was red," thought Mrs. Sullivan; but it was a large one, and took a long time heating: so she determined to keep him in talk till the poker was in a proper state to thrust down his throat, and therefore repeated the question.
"Is it what I am brewing, avec," said she, you want to know?"
"Yes, mammy: what are you brewing?" returned the fairy.
"Egg-shells, avec," said Mrs. Sullivan.
"Oh!" shrieked the imp, starting up in the cradle, and clapping his hands together, " I am fifteen hundred years in the world, and I never saw a brewery of egg-shells before!" The poker was by this time quite red, and Mrs. Sullivan seizing it, ran furiously towards the cradle; but somehow or other her foot slipped, and she fell flat on the floor, and the poker flew out of her hand to the other end of the house. However, she got up, without much loss of time, and went to the cradle intending to pitch the wicked thing that was in it into the pot of boiling water, when there she saw her own child in a sweet sleep, one of his soft round arms rested on the pillow his features were as placid as if their repose had never been disturbed, save the rosy mouth which moved with a gentle and regular breathing.
Who can tell the feelings of a mother when she looks on her sleeping child? Why should I, therefore, endeavour to describe those of Mrs. Sullivan at again beholding her long lost boy? The fountain of her heart overflowed with the excess of joy - and she wept! - tears trickled silently down her cheeks, no? did she strive to check them - they were tears not of sorrow, but of happiness.
Larry Cotter had a farm on one side of Lough Gur in the county of Limerick and was thriving in it, for he was an industrious proper sort of man, who would have lived quietly and soberly to the end of his days, but for the misfortune that came on him, and you shall hear how that was. He had as nice a bit of meadow-land, down by the water-side, as ever a man would wish for; but its growth was spoiled entirely on him, and no one could tell how.
One year after the other it was all ruined just the same way: the bounds were well made up, and not a stone of them was disturbed; neither could his neighbours" cattle have been guilty of the trespass, for they were spancelled [= fettered]; but however it was done the grass of the meadow was destroyed, which was a great loss to Larry.
"What in the wide world will I do?" said Larry Cotter to his neighbour, Tom Welch, who was a very decent sort of man himself: "that bit of meadow-land, which I am paying the great rent for, is doing nothing at all to make it for me; and the times are bitter bad, without the help of that to make them worse."
"it is true for you, Larry," replied Welch : "the times are bitter bad - no doubt of that; but may be if you were to watch by night, you might make out all about it: sure there's Mick and Terry, my two boys, will watch with you; for it is a thousand pities any honest man like you should be ruined in such a scheming way"
Accordingly, the following night, Larry Cotter, with Welch's two sons, took their station in a corner of the meadow. It was just at the full of the moon, which was shining beautifully down on the lake, that was as calm all over as the sky itself; not a cloud was there to be seen any where, nor a sound to be heard, but the cry of the corncreaks answering one another across the water.
"Boys! boys!" said Larry, "look there I look there! but for your lives don't make a bit of noise, nor stir a step till I say the word."
They looked, and saw a great fat cow, followed by seven milk-white heifers, moving on the smooth surface of the lake towards the meadow.
"it is not Tim Dwyer the piper's cow, any way, that danced all the flesh off her bones," whispered Mick to his brother.
"Now, boys " said Larry Cotter, when he saw the fine cow and her seven white heifers fairly in the meadow, "get between them and the lake if you can, and, no matter who they belong to, we will just: put them into" the pound."
But the cow must have overheard Larry speaking, for down she went in a great hurry to the shore of the lake, and into it with her, before all their eyes: away made the seven heifers after her, but the boys got down to the hank before them, and work enough they had to drive them up from the lake to Larry Cotter.
Larry drove the seven heifers, and. beautiful beasts they were, to the pound; but after he had them there for three days, and could hear of no owner, he took them out, and put them up in a field of his own. There he kept them, and they were thriving mighty well with him, till one night the gate of the field was left open, and in the morning the seven heifers were gone. Larry could not get any account of them after; and, beyond all doubt, it was back into the lake they went. Wherever they came from, or to whatever world they belonged, Larry Cotter never had a crop of grass off the meadow through their means. So he took to drink, fairly out of the grief; and it was the drink that killed him, they say.
"Now tell me, Molly," said Mr. Coote to Molly Cogan, as he met her on the road one day, close to one of the old gateways of Kilmallock, "did you ever hear of the Cluricaune?"
Cluricaune: In Irish folklore it is an elf who is the fairies' shoemaker and who knows of hidden fairy treasure. The same as leprechaun.
"The Cluricaune? I sure did, many a time I heard my father tell about them."
"Did you ever see one yourself, Molly?"
"Och! No, I never saw one in my life; but my grandfather saw one and caught him too."
"Please tell me how."
"I will. My grandfather was out there above in the bog, drawing home turf, and the poor old mare was tired after her day's work, and the old man went out to the stable to look after her and see if she was eating her hay. When he came to the stable door there, he heard something hammering, hammering, hammering, just like a shoemaker making a shoe, and whistling all the time the prettiest tune he ever heard before. Well, my grandfather thought it was the Cluricaune and said to himself,
"I will catch you if I can, and then I will have money enough always."
So he opened the door very quietly, and didn't make a bit of noise. He looked all about, but the never a bit of the little man he could see any where. But he heard him hammering and whistling. So grandfather looked and looked, till at last he saw the little fellow. And where was he but in the girth under the mare? There he was with his little bit of an apron on him and hammer in his hand, and a little red nightcap on his head. He was making a shoe, and he was so awfully busy with his work and hammering and whistling so loud that he never minded my grandfather till my grandfather caught him fast in his hand.
"I have you now," said he, "and I will never let you go till I get your purse - that is what I want. So give it here to me at once, now."
"Stop, stop," said the Cluricaune, "stop, stop," said he, "till I get it for you."
So my grandfather like a fool opened his hand a little, and the little fellow jumped away laughing. My grandfather never saw him any more, and never got the purse. Only the Cluricaune left his little shoe that he was making; and even though my grandfather was angry with himself for letting the little one go, he had the shoe all his life, and my own mother told me she often saw it and had it in her hand, and it was the prettiest little shoe she ever saw.
"Did you see it yourself, Molly?"
"Oh no, it was lost long before I was born: but my mother told me about it often and often enough."