The Farmer of Tralee and the Fairy Cows
BEFORE any comment was made on Connors' experience of ghosts, Maurice Lynch, the mason, came in. My host asked him at once to tell a story, and the following is his contribution:
There was a rich farmer near Tralee, and he had a strong, able man of a son who was a herder for him, driving the cows and taking care of them always.
One evening the son was driving the cows to the field where they were to stop for the night. There was a fairy fort in the field. When the young man was driving the cows in at the gate of this field the first cow stretched her head through the gate, bawled as if some cow were horning her, and ran away. A cow with three dogs after her wouldn't be wilder than this one. He tried till he was tired to drive the other cows, and couldn't drive one of them into the field. He went home then and said he couldn't get a cow through the gate.
The farmer had three servant boys; they were inside in the house after the day, and he told them to go and help, but not a cow could they drive in, and they were in amaze, without knowing what was on the cows, and why they wouldn't go into the field as every evening before that. The farmer's son was with the boys, and when the four were tired, he said:
"There must be something before them." He went inside then and looked about the place, and what did he see standing aside from the gate but a little old man. He cursed the old man, raised his hand with a stick in it, and swore that he'd have his life.
"Stop your hand," said the fairy "and don't try the like of that."
"I'll not stop my hand," said the young man, "for you have my stock destroyed."
"Wait," said the fairy, "and I'll tell you the cause of this trouble. I am very badly off from the want of a wife and a housekeeper, and what I wished was that yourself would come here till I spoke to you. I have the woman made out these four or five days, and we were to go for her to-night, and I want you to go with us. We have strength enough of our own men, but we can never take her without help from this world. You'll not lose by assisting me. I'll be your friend ever and always for the future."
"Well," said the farmer, "I'll help you."
"That's all I want," said the fairy; "and I'll not trouble your cows from this out. Be at the fort in half an hour and go with me."
The farmer's son was at the fairy fort at the time mentioned. The old man and a crowd of other fairies were waiting on horseback, and a horse was reserved for the young man. They started off and never stopped nor drew bridle till they reached the North of Ireland and halted at the house of a rich man, who had a very beautiful daughter. The fairies had struck her four or five days before; she was stretched on the bed and was to die that same night. She was given up by the priest and the fairies brought one of their own to put in place of her.
"You have no cause to be in dread of anything," said the old man to the farmer's son. "The house is full of our friends and neighbours; all you need to do is to take her with you out of the house and put her before you on the horse."
He did this, and soon they were back at the fort, and the old man said, "Put the lady off the horse and give her to me."
The farmer's son was grieved to think that such a fine young woman would be for ever with such an old fairy, and he said, "I'll not let her go with you; I want her myself."
He kept the woman from the fairy and brought her with him to his father's house.
The old fairy began then at the father, who had more than forty cows and property of all kinds, and never stopped till he left him nothing but the walls of his house, and made beggars of the family. The young man and his wife were as poor as they could be, and one day the woman said to her husband, "If my father and mother knew our trouble we wouldn't be long the way we are, in poverty and want, and I'm sure it's the fairy that's working on us always."
"I'd wish to see them," said the husband, "and if I knew the place they are living in I'd try could I find them. Write a letter; I'll take it to them."
She wrote and mentioned many things that only she and her family knew. The husband started off; he had the name of the place, and was travelling always till he came to the right house at last. A fine house it was. There were herds of cows, and servants to milk them. The mother was down in her room when he came, and he saw her at once. The woman was crying. He asked her the cause.
"It seems," said she, "that you are a stranger in these parts."
"I am," said he.
"My only daughter is dead," said the woman, "and I am still grieving. Her father took to his bed after he buried her, and hasn't risen out of it since."
"Your daughter is alive yet; she didn't die at all."
"You'll suffer for that talk," said the mother.
He handed her the letter. She opened it and read. "That is her writing whether she is dead or alive," said the mother. She went to her husband then. "There is a man below in the room," said she, "who says that our daughter is living."
"Call him here to me. I'll put him in the way he won't say that again."
The wife showed the letter and said, "She wrote it; I know the hand."
They sent for the priest. "Don't harm the man," said the priest. "I'll write to the parish priest there and know the true story"
The parents had three sons besides the daughter they had lost, and these three brothers thought it long to wait. What they did was to saddle three horses and away with them, and never did they stop day or night, travelling and getting tidings. They kept in the right road till they made out the house. The sister put out her head when they were coming and knew her brothers. When she saw them she came very near fainting.
The sister told all about the fairy, and said, "Hurry away and bring my husband; don't leave it in the legs of the horses."
They turned, and never fear they didn't leave it in the horses, but took out of them what speed was in their bones. When they were within sight of their father's house they had handkerchiefs flying, they were so glad, and the people were running from every side to meet them. They made a great feast for the brother-in-law then, and asked him what stock had he lost by the fairy.
"Forty-five cows and two horses," said he.
The three brothers took sixty men with themselves and started for the fairy fort. The husband showed them where it was. They swore that if the old fairy were twenty fathoms deep they would have him out. They dug quickly, and not long were they working when they met a great flat stone. They were raising the stone with crowbars, when the fairy felt them. "Spare my house," cried he, "and I'll give help whenever ye need me."
"Give the man back all you took from him," said the brothers.
The fairy put back everything as it was before. The brothers left a blessing with their sister and her husband and went home. The fairy was a friend of the young couple after that. He never put the father nor the son back a pen'orth.