A Legend of Shak Island.
THE "Red-haired Man," although he is considered very unlucky in actual life, yet generally acts in the fairy world as the benevolent Deus ex machina, that saves and helps and rescues the unhappy mortal, who himself is quite helpless under the fairy spells.
There was a man in Shark Island who used to cross over to Boffin [a] to buy tobacco, but when the weather was too rough for the boat his ill-temper was as bad as the weather, and he used to beat his wife, and fling all the things about, so that no one could stand before him. One day a man came to him.
"What will you give me if I go over to Boffin," said he, "and bring you the tobacco?"
"I will give you nothing," said the other. "Whatever way you go I can go also."
"Then come with me to the shore," said the first man, "and I'll show you how to get across; but as only one can go, you must go alone."
And as they went down to the sea, they saw a great company of horsemen and ladies galloping along, with music and laughter.
"Spring up now on a horse and you will get across," said the first man.
So the other sprang up as he was told, and in an instant they all jumped right across the sea and landed at Boffin. Then he ran to buy the tobacco and was back again in a minute, and found all the same company by the sea-shore. He sprang again upon a horse and they all jumped right into the sea, but suddenly stopped midway between the two islands, where there was a great rock, and beyond this they could not force the horses to move. Then there was great disquietude amongst them, and they called a council.
"There is a mortal amongst us," they said. "Let us drown him." And they carried the man up to the top of the rock and cast him down; and when he rose to the surface again they caught him by the hair, and cried--
"Drown him! Drown him! We have the power over life and death; he must be drowned."
And they were going to cast him down a second time, when a red-haired man pleaded for him, and carried him off with a strong hand safe to shore.
"Now," said he, "you are safe, but mind, the spirits are watching you, and if ever again you beat your poor good wife, and knock about the things at home just to torment her out of her life, you will die upon that rock as sure as fate." And He vanished.
So from that time forth the man was as meek as a mouse, for he was afraid; and whenever he went by the rock in his boat he always stopped a minute, and said a little prayer for his wife with a "God bless her." And this kept away the evil, and they both lived together happily ever after to a great old age.
This is but a rude tale. Yet the moral is good, and the threat of retributive justice shows a laudable spirit of indignation on the part of the fairy race against the tyranny of man over the weaker vessel.
[a] The correct names for these islands are Innis-Erk (the Island of St. Erk), and Innis-bo-finn (the Island of the White Cow).