Sacred Texts  Sagas and Legends  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 


About a hundred years ago lived Mr. Diarmuidh K., a strong gentleman-farmer of this family. His place was not far from Slieve Buie (Yellow Hill). He was much

addicted to the study of astrology, and the occult works of Cornelius Agrippa. When his only son was about a month old, one of his servant boys ran into the parlour one day to tell him a circumstance that had greatly astonished himself: "Oh, master," said he, "the black cow was just while ago under the old thom-tree in the meadow, and all of a sudden a fog came round herself and the tree, while all the rest of the field was in the sunshine. I was going over to try what was the matter, when what should I see but a big sea-gull flying into the fog, and making ever so much noise with his wings. For fear he'd pick out the poor beast's eyes I ran over, but just as I got to the edge of the fog it all cleared as if there was some magic in it, and Blacky was walking away on the other side." "Oh, ho!" said the master; "what I have been long wishing for has happened at last. Now, Pat, attend to what I say. Watch that cow close; and when she calves, be sure to bring me some of the first beestings, and I'll give you more money than you have ever seen at once in your own possession."

The boy did his duty, such as it was. He brought the first beestings to his master, and received 10l for his pains; and Mr. K. ordering the child to be brought to him, made it take a spoonful or two of this first milk of the black cow. When the child began to speak intelligibly, the master of the house called all the family together one day, and charged them as they valued his favour, or dreaded his resentment, never to ask his son a question till he was full fourteen years of age. "The questions, I mean," said he, "are such as he could not answer without being a prophet. He is gifted with a spirit of prophecy, and when he reaches his fifteenth birthday, you will be at liberty to get all the information you please from him, concerning anything that is passing anywhere in any part of the world at the moment, or to ask about things lost or stolen, or your own future destiny. But attend to what I say. If you ask a question of him before he is full fourteen years of age, something terrible shall happen to him and you; take timely warning."

The boy had a wonderful capacity for science and language, but seldom spoke to those about him. He was very amiable, however, and every one anxious for some favour from his father always got him to be their spokesman. Strange to say, he reached to within a few days of the fatal time without being asked an improper question by any one.

He would occasionally when in company start. and begin to talk of what was passing at the moment in the town of Wexford, or the cities of Dublin or London, as if the people about him were aware of these matters as well as himself. Finding, however, by their looks and expressions of surprise, that they had not the same faculty, he began to grow very silent and reserved.

About this time a grand-daughter of the famous Blacky was about to calve; and Mr. K., who set a great value on the breed, recommended her particularly to the care of a young servant boy, a favourite of his. While he was looking after her and some others in a pasture near the house, a young girl to whom he was under promise of marriage was passing by chance along the path that bordered the fence. He asked her to stop, but "she was in a hurry to the big house." Stop she did, however, and full twenty minutes passed unmarked while they stood and conversed on very interesting nullities.

At the end of the twenty minutes he gave a sudden start, and examined the different groups of cattle with his eyes, but no Blacky was to be seen. He searched, and his betrothed assisted, but in vain; and the poor girl burst out a crying for the blame he would be sure to get through her folly. She went forward at last on her message to the big house, and passing by the kitchen garden, whom should she see, looking at the operations of the bees, but the young master. Let her not be blamed too much: she forgot everything but her lover's mishap; and so, after making her curtsey, she cried out across the hedge--"Ah! Master Anthony, alanna, do you know where the black cow has hid herself?" "Black cow!" said he, "she is lying dead in the byre." At the moment his eyes opened wide as if about to start from his head, an expression of terror took possession of his features, he gave one wild cry, fell powerless on his face, and when his wretched father came running to the spot, on hearing of the circumstance, he found an idiot in the place of his fine intelligent son.

The following event, said to have occurred near Scarawalsh, was told by a certain Owen Jourdan, on a winter night, in a farm-house of Cromogue, some seven miles away from the scene of action, the locality of such stories being never in the neighbourhood of their exposition.

Next: The Bewitched Churn