Without any let or hindrance from either fairy or
buggane he safely reached his destination, no sign of magician's castle or aught else strange, occurring on the road; and in due course Tom Kewley received his share of the earnings of the herring-boat in the shape of good gold and silver coin. In the course of the day Tom had repeated to several small knots of friends the particulars of Philip Caine's adventure on Barrule Mountain, with all of whom he had sundry noggins. As evening drew near he prepared to set out on his return home, with his little store of money safely stowed away in the deep recesses of his breeches' pocket. With a light step and a merry heart he started, having a somewhat bulky package, slung upon his stick across his shoulder, containing various commissions he had executed for the "gude wife" at home. Just as he was passing the last houses of the town, and about to cross the old bridge at the head of the harbour, he heard his name called, and, turning round, saw Matthew Mylechreest, an old friend and shipmate, standing at the door of a house of public entertainment beckoning to him. Although he had already had as many noggins as were good for him, he could not resist Mylechreest's invitation to have a JOUGH-YN-DORIS--anglice, a parting glass--and another one after that, so that when he actually did make his final start, he was in that happy mellow state when all care, all fear, and all thought of the morrow is banished from the heart and brain; when the world and all about it looks cheery and good-humoured, while within there is a feeling of intense self-satisfaction, the man and himself being on the very best of terms.
By the time he parted with Mylechreest it was getting late. The sun was already down, and all folks at home were beginning to draw round their firesides, the day's work being over. Tom said a last "good bye!" gave a last shake of the hand, and started off on his walk to Ballasalla, whistling and singing alternately as he went along; and, though he feared no robber or highwaymen, yet he kept one hand in his breeches' pocket as guard upon his bag of money, trying, as well as his somewhat muddled brain would allow him, to reckon up all that he would have to do with it, and always failing in the mental calculation as to the possibility of making twenty
pounds do the work of twenty-five. Despairing after some time of being able to come to a satisfactory solution of his little sum, and having reached
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the top of what is now known as Richmond Hill, he turned round and beheld Douglas town at his feet, with the lovely bay beyond.
The harvest moon was brightly shining, like a ball of burnished silver,
in the heavens, shedding her soft yet brilliant light upon the dancing waves, which as they rose and fell, each one sparkling like a mass of diamonds, seemed to be clutching at the beauteous rays of the queen of night, and carrying them down into the green sea depths, far down below where corals grow and lustrous pearls lie hid. The lovely light of the moon was set off by the deep shadows of the rocks and hills. On the extreme left, jutting boldly out to sea, stood the dark rounded head of Banks' How, with the waves breaking against its rocks in white and sparkling foam that looked like boiling silver in the light of the moon, contrasting grandly with the deep sombre head itself. On the right was the highland of Douglas Head casting a still denser gloom on the restless sea; while in front was the town with its many glimmering lights, contrasting curiously with the effulgent beams of the harvest moon.
Although Kewley had many a time before seen the same enchanting scene, he stood some moments gazing on the beautiful panorama displayed before him, and looking first at the dancing lights upon the waves and then the cosy, comfortable lights in the houses--lights that told of many a snug fireside and jovial party assembled there. He thought he saw them all dance--lights, waves, and moonbeams--in and out, up and down, in one continuous whirl. He could not make it out; he knew well enough it could not be that the lights actually danced, such an idea was ridiculous, he came to the conclusion that something had disagreed with him, something indigestible, most probably it was the tanrogans--better known to Englishmen as scollops; so in order, as he thought, to correct this and set himself to rights for his journey, he hastened on to the public-house on the hill-top, and, calling for a noggin of brandy, swallowed it down, and once more set his face towards Ballasalla.
Walking briskly down the other side of the hill he resumed his whistling and singing, each in turn, till he reached nearly to the bottom of the glen over against Mount Murray, when, during a pause in his own music, he fancied he heard another voice in the distance, singing also. He stopped, the better to listen, and far away down in the glen he heard the sounds of
low, plaintive music. He proceeded on in silence, having stopped his own song, listening attentively to the other, and trying to catch the air in spite of the gentle rustling of the trees overhead. As he neared the bridge at Ballalona the sounds became louder and more distinct, and more than one voice was clearly distinguishable. He had never heard anything so charming in his life. He advanced slowly and softly, expecting every moment to come upon the serenaders and not wishing to disturb them. As he stepped upon the bridge it ceased suddenly, and then he heard at some little distance a hearty peal of laughter from many voices, mingled with sounds--like the clinking of glasses and the rapping of tables. What could it be? He was quite sure no house was near. Taking few steps, further on he stumbled over something in his path, and ere he could quite recover himself and see what it was, a voice at his feet saluted him.
"Now then, Mister Kewley! is it all the road that you're wanting? Isn't the bridge wide enough for the both of us?"
Looking down to whence the voice proceeded, he beheld a wee fairy-man standing before him. The little fellow had the most laughing eyes and rougish-looking mouth imaginable, was a compact and perfect figure, dressed in the very gayest colours, and was altogether a most gallant and pleasing, though diminutive, cavalier.
Tom, doffing his cap to the little buck, said, "Pray, sir, was it you I heard singing? I hope I have not interrupted you. I was listening so attentively I did not heed what was before me, and ask your pardon most humbly for stumbling over you."
"Over me, indeed! Well, I like that certainly," replied the mannikin, whose dignity seemed offended at being considered small enough to be stumbled over, and who evidently considered himself quite as tall as Tom Kewley, whose knee was level with the feather in the fairy-man's cap.
"Oh, I beg--I beg," stammered Tom, but before he could proceed he was interrupted by the loquacious little cavalier.
"You're mighty polite, Tom Kewley! and as you seem to have brought your best manners out with you, and have a taste for music, you can come
with me, and I'll introduce you into some decent society for once in your life. So follow me. But no more 'stumbling over me,' if you please," and
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TOM KEWLEY MEETING THE LANNANSHEE
the Lannanshee laid particular stress upon the word "over," and looked very imperious; then giving Tom a knowing wink, and placing the forefinger
of his right hand against the side of his nose in a most comical way, he continued, in a more friendly tone of voice--
"And if your walk has given you an appetite for supper, and the dust wants washing out of your throat, you can be well supplied with the best of good living as well as plenty of music, with drink enough to swim in; and after refreshing yourself and putting your pipe into good tune with some liquor, the likes of which you never yet tasted, and that will very pleasantly wash all the cobwebs from your throat, you may give me and my friends the pleasure of hearing the sound of your own voice. We shall not be particular whether you sing in Manx or English; it's all one to our fraternity."
Proceeding on and talking all the while, the little elfin led Tom through a wood and over a curragh, the sounds of revelry and music becoming louder and louder at every step. Presently they emerged into an open space in front of an old ruined house, when a number of little elves, like his guide, surrounded Tom, and after playing all manner of pranks with him, pulling his coat-tails, sticking thorns into the calves of his legs, and almost tripping him up by running in front of him and between his legs, they led him down what appeared a long-standing passage into a capacious apartment with a low-groined roof like a church vault, all hung with festoons of cobwebs, upon which some of the little people were swinging.
A long and very curious shaped table was in the centre of the room, cunningly constructed of plaited fern-leaves and bullrushes, supported on innumerable mushrooms, around which were seated a large company of little ladies and gentlemen, all most gaily dressed in every conceivable variety of costume. The table was loaded with bottles, flagons, goblets, cups, and glasses of as many different shapes, sizes, and materials as the dresses of the company, and good things of all sorts were in abundance. The whole scene was one of the gayest description. Such a rollicking, merry party Tom Kewley had never seen before.
As he entered, a little lady, in a very grotesque costume, had just concluded a song, and the company were shouting their applause most vociferously and beating the table with their drinking-cups and glasses. On
looking around, as he was ushered up to the further end of the room, he felt considerable surprise in recognizing in several of the little faces the features of persons he had an indistinct recollection of having seen somewhere else before, and more than one seemed to be quite familiar to him.
Feeling his coat-tail pulled and his sleeve plucked, he turned round, and seeing a little man beckoning to him to stoop down, he did so, and listened as the mannikin whispered into his ear--
"Whatever you do, Tom Kewley, don't either eat or drink anything here, or you will never return to your home in Ballasalla again. Let nothing tempt you. Beware!"
Before Tom could ask for any explanation the little elf hurried away to his seat at the lower end of the table.
Kewley was now conducted to the presence of the fairy king, who had commanded that he should be introduced to him. This was done with much ceremony, and the little monarch received him most graciously, presenting Tom to the lovely fairy queen who sat at his left hand.
Never before had the bewildered Kewley seen anything so splendid and so beautiful as the royal pair, whose dresses were composed of the most exquisite materials, of various brilliant colours, and covered all over with bright, sparkling jewels. The queen was reserved and dignified, his small majesty was most affable and familiar, but with the air of a polished gentleman, and evidently was well used to command the respect and obedience of his rollicking and somewhat boisterous subjects.
"We welcome you, Tom Kewley, to our royal presence and to the fairy glen, for we know you well, and always find a crock of clean water standing at your door every night, and a well-swept and sanded floor on New Year's eve, when we or our queen come to Ballasalla, and my subjects give a fair report of you besides. Sit down, my good man, and join our elfin feast, for again I say you are right welcome."
Tom, who stood bowing and scraping before the royal pair, was quite overpowered by his majesty's gracious manner, and acknowledged his condescension the best way a rough countryman like him could; and having
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THE FAIRY FEAST
been handed to a seat at the table, where room had been made for him, within good view of the royal party, he sat down, and was immediately supplied with a handsome MASSIVE SILVER CUP, which was instantly filled with wine.