THE YOUNG PIPER
THERE was livin', it's not very long ago, on the borders o' the county Wicklow, a dacint honest couple, whose names wor Mick Flanagan and Judy Muldoon. These poor people wor blist, as the saying is, wid four childher, all buys: three o' them wor as fine, stout, healthy, goodlukin' childher as ivir the sun shone upon; an' it was enough to make any Irishman proud of the breed of his counthrymen to see thim about one o'clock on a find summer's day stannin' at their father's cabin-door, wid their beautiful, fine flaxen hair hangin' in curls about their heads, an' their cheeks like two rosy apples, an' a big, laughin' potato, smokin' in their hand. A proud man was Mick, o' these fine childher, an' a proud woman, too, was Judy; an' raison enough they had to be so. But it was far otherwise wid the remainin' one, which was the ouldest; he was the most miserable, ugly, ill-conditioned brat that ivir God put life into: he was so ill thriven, that he was nivir able to stand alone or to lave his cradle; he had long, shaggy, matted, curly hair, as black as the sut; his face was uv a greenish yollow colour; his eyes wor like two burnin' coals, an' wor for ever movin' in his head, as if they had the parpaitual motion. Before he was a twel'month ould he had a mouth full o' great teeth; his hands wor like kite's claws, and his legs wor no thicker nor the handle of a whip, and about as straight as a rapin' hook; to make the matther worse, he had the gut uv a cormorant, and the whinge, and the yelp, and the screech, and the yowl, was never out of his mouth.
The neighbours all suspicted that he was somethin' not right, more especialy as it was obsarved, that whin people, as they use to do in the counthry, got about the fire, and begun to talk o' religion and good things, the brat, as he lay in the cradle which his mother ginerally put near the fireplace that he might be snug, used to sit up, as they wor in the middle of their talk, and begin to bellow as if the devil was in him in right airnest: this, as I said, led the neighbours to think that all wasn't right wid him, an' there was a gineral consultashion held one day, about what id be best to do wid him. Some advised to put him out an the shovel, but Judy's pride was up at that. A purty thing, indeed, that a child of her's shud be put an a shovel, an' flung out on the dunghill jist like a dead kitten or a pisoned rat; no, no, she wouldn't hear to that at all. One ould woman, who was considhered mighty skilful an' knowin' intirely in fairy matthers sthrongly recomminded to put the tongs in the fire, an' to hate thim rid hot, an' thin to take his nose in thim, an' that that id, beyant all manner o' doubt, make him tell what he was, an' whare he come from (for the gineral supishion was, that he was changed by the good people); but Judy was too saft-harted, an' too fond o' the imp, so she wouldn't giv' into this plan neither, though iverybody said she was wrong; and may be so she was, but it's a hard thing, you know, to blame a mother. Well some advised one thing and some another, at last one spoke of sindin fur the priest, who was a very holy an' a very larned man, to see it; to this Judy uv coorse had no objection, but one thing or another always purvinted her doing so, an' the upshot o' the business was that the priest niver seen him at all. Well, things wint on in the ould way for some time longer. The brat continued yelpin' an' yowlin', an' aitin' more nor his three brothers put together, an' playin' all sorts uv unlucky thricks, for he was mighty mischievyously inclined, till it happened one day that Tim Carrol, the blind piper, goin' his rounds, called in and sot down by the fire to hav' a bit o' chat wid the woman o' the house. So afther some time, Tim, who was no churl uv his music, yoked an the pipes an' begun to bellows away in high style; whin the instant minnit he begun, the young fellow, who was lyin' as still as a mouse in his cradle, sot up, an begun to grin an' to twist his ugly phiz, an' to swing about his long tawny arms, an' to kick out his cracked legs, an' to show signs o' grate glee at the music. At last nothin' id sarve him but he must git the pipes into his own hands, an', to humour him, his mother axt Tim to lind thim to the child for a minnit. Tim, who was kind to childher, readily consinted; and, as Tim hadn't his sight, Judy herself brought thim to the cradle, an' wint to put thim an him, but she had no need, for the youth seemed quite up to the business. He buckled an the pipes, set the bellows undher one arm and the bag undher th' other, an' worked thim both as knowingly as iv he was twinty years at the thrade, an' lilted up "Sheela na Guira," in the finest style that iver was hard.
Well, all was in amazemint; the poor woman crast herself: Tim, who, as I tould you afore, was dark an' didn't well know who was playin,' was in grate delight; an' whin he hard that it was a little prechaun, [an abridgment of Leprechaun] not aight years ould, that nivir seen a set of pipes in all his days afore, he wished the mother joy iv her son; offered to take him aff her han's iv she'd part wid him, swore he was a born piper, a nath'ral jainses, an' declared that in a little time more, wid the help uv a little good tachein' frum himsilf there wouldn't be his match in the whole counthry round. The poor woman was grately delighted to hear all this, particklarly as what Tim sed about nathral jainises put an ind to some misgivin's that war risin' in hur mind, laist what the naybours sed about his not bein' right might be only too thrue; an' it gratified hur too to think that her dear child (for she raely loved the whelp) wouldn't be forced to turn out an' big, but might airn dacent, honest bread fur himsilf. So whin Mick come home in the evenin' frum his work, she up an' she tould him all that happined, an' all that Tim Carrol sed; an Mick, as was nath'ral, was very glad to hear it, for the helpless condition o' the poor crather was a grate throuble to him; so nixt fair-day he tuk the pig to the fair of Naas, and wid what it brought he whipt up, the nixt holiday that come, to Dublin, an' bespoke a bran new set o' pipes o' the proper size fur him, an' the nixt time Tom Doolan whit up wid the cars, in about a fortnight after, the pipes come home, an' the minnit the chap in the cradle laid eyes on thim, he squealed wid delight, an' threw up his purty legs, an' bumped himsilf in his cradle, an' wint an wid a grate many comical thricks; till at last, to quite him, they gev him the pipes, an' immajetly he set to an' pulled away at "Jig Polthog," to th' admirashin uv all that hard him.
Well, the fame uv his skill an the pipes soon spread far an' near, for there wasn't a piper in the nixt three counties cud come near him at all, in Ould Maudha Roo, or the Hare in the Corn, or The Fox Hunther's Jig, or The Piper's Maggot, or any uv the fine ould Irish jigs, that make people dance whether they will or no: an' it was surprisin' to hear him rattle away The Fox Hunt; you'd raaly think you hard the hounds givin' tongue, an' the terriers yelpin' always behind, an' the huntsman an' the whippers-in cheerin' or correctin' the dogs; it was, in short, the very nixt thing to seein' the hunt itself. The best uv him was, he was no way stingy uv his music, an' many's the merry dance the boys an' the girls o' the neighbourhood used to hav' in his father's cabin; an' he 'd play up music fur thim that, they sed, used, as it wor, to put quicksilver in their feet; an' they all declared they nivir moved so light an' so airy to any piper's playin' that ivir they danced to.
But besides all his fine Irish music, he had one quare chune uv his own, the oddest that iver was hard; fur the minnit he begun to play it iverything in the house seemed disposed to dance; the plates an' porringers used to jingle an the dhresser, the pots an' pot-hooks used to rattle in the chimbley, an' people used even to fancy they felt the stools movin' frum undher thim; but, how--iver it might be wid the stools, it is sartin that no one cud keep long sittin' an them, fur both ould and young always fell to caperin' as hard as ivir they cud. The girls complained that whin he begun this chime it always threw thim out in their dancin', an' that they nivir cud handle their feet rightly, fur they felt the flure like ice undher thim, an' thimsilves ready iviry minnit to come sprawlin' an their backs or their faces; the young bachelors that wanted to show aff their dancin' an' their new pumps, an' their bright red or green an' yellow garthers, swore that it confused thim so that they cud nivir go rightly through the heel-and-toe, or cover-the-buckle, or any nv their best steps, but felt thimsilves always bedizzied an' bewildhered, an' thin ould an' young id go jostlin' an' knockin' together in a frightful manner an' whin the anlooky brat had thim all in this way whirligiggin' about the flure, he'd grin an' he 'd chuckle an' he 'd chather, jist fur all the world like Jocko, the monkey, whin he 'a played off sum uv his roguery.
The oulder he grew the worse he grew, an' by the time he was noine year ould there was no stannin' the house for him; he was always makin' his brothers burn or scald thimsilves, or brake their shins ovir the pots an' stools. One time in harvist, he was left at home by himself; an' whin his mother come in she found the cat a horseback on the dog wid hur face to the tail, an' hur legs tied round him, an' the urchin playin' his quare chune to thim, so that the dog wint barking an jumpin' about, an' puss was miowin' fur the dear life, an' slappin' her tail backwards an' forwards, which whin it id hit agin the dog's chaps, he'd snap at it an' bite it, an' thin there was the philhiloo. Another time the farmer Mick worked wid, a mighty dacint kind uv a man, happened to call in, an' Judy wiped a stool wid her apron an' axed him to sit down an rest himself afther his walk. He was sittin' wid his back to the cradle, an' behind him was a pan o' blood, fur Judy was makin' hog's puddin's; the lad lay quite still in his nist, an' watched his opportunity till he got ready a hook at the hid uv a piece o' packthread an' he conthrived to fling it so handy that it cotcht in the bob o' the man's nice new wig, an' soused it in the pan o' blood. Another time his mother was comin' in from milkin' the cow, wid the pail an her head, an' the very minnit he saw her, he lilted up his infernal chune, an' the poor woman lettin' go the pail, clapped her hands aside an' begun to dance a jig, an' tumbled the milk all atop uv her husband, who was bringin' in some turf to bile the supper. In short there id be no ind to tellin' all his pranks, an' all the mischievyous tricks he played.
Soon afther, some mischances begun to happen to the farmer's cattle; a horse tuk the staggers, a fine vale calf died o' the blacklig, an' some uv his sheep o' the rid wather; the cows begun to grow vicious, an' to kick down the milkpails, an' the roof o' one hid o' the barn fell in; an' the farmer tuk it into his head that Mick Flannagan's onlooky child was the cause uv all the mischief. So, one day, he called Mick aside, an' sed to him, "Mick," sez he, "you see things are not goin' on wid me as they ought to go; an' to be plain an' honest wid you, Mick, I think that child o' yours is the cause uv it. I am raaly fallin' away to nothin', wid frettin', an' I can hardly sleep an my bed at night for thinkin' o' what may happen afore the mornin'. So I 'd be glad af you'd luk out fur work somewhare else; you 're as good a man as any in the whole counthry, there 'a no denyin' it, an' there's no fear but you'll have yer choice o' work." To this Mick med answer, and sed, "that he was sorry indeed for his losses, and still sorrier that he or his shud be thought to be the cause o' thim; that, for his own part, he wasn't quite aisy in his mind about that child, but he had him, an' so he must keep him;" an' he promised to Iuk out fur another place immajetly.
So nixt Sunday at chapil, Mick gev out that he was about lavin' the work at John Riordan's, an' immajetly a farmer, who lived a couple o' miles aff, an' who wanted a ploughman (the last one havin' jist left him), come up to Mick, an' offered him a house an' garden, an' work all the year round. Mick, who knew him to be a good employer, immajetly closed wid him. So it was agreed that the farmer shud sind his car to take his little bit o' furniture, an' that he shud remove an the following Thursday.
Whin Thursday come, the car come accordin' to promise, an' Mick loaded it, an' put the cradle wid the child an' his pipes an the top, an' Judy sat beside it to take care uv him, laste he shud tumble out an' be kilt; they dray the cow afore thim, the dog folled; but the cat, uv course, was lift behind: an' the other three childer wint along the road, pickin' haves and blackberries; for it was a fine day towst the latther ind uv harvist. They had to crass a river; but as it run through the bottom between two high banks, you didn't see it till you wor close up an it. The young fellow was lyin' purty quite in the bottom o' the cradle, till they come to the head o' the bridge, whin hearin' the roarin' o' the wather (for there was a grate flood in the river, as there was heavy rain for the last two or three days), he sot up in his cradle, an' luked about him; an' the minnit he got a sight ov the wather, an' found they wor goin' to take him acrass it, oh! how he did bellow, an' how he did squeal. "Whisht, alanna," sed Judy, "there 'a no fear o' yer; shure it 'a only ovir the stone bridge we 're goin'." "Bad luck to yer, ye ould rip," sez he, "what a purty thrick yuv played me, to bring me here;" an' he still wint an yellin', and the farther they got an the bridge, the loudher he yelled; till at last Mick cud hould out no longer; so givin' him a skelp o' the whip he had in his han', "Divil choke you, you crukked brat," sez he; "will you nivir stop bawlin'? a body can't hear their ears for you." Well, my dear, the instant minnit he felt the thong o' the whip, he jumped up in the cradle, clapped the pipes undher his arm, an' lept dane ovir the battlemints o' the bridge down into the wather. "Oh, my child! my child!" shouted Judy; "he's dane gone for ivir frum me." Mick an' the rest o' the childher 'run to the other side o' the bridge an' lukt down, an' they seen him comin' out from undher the arch o' the bridge, sittin crass-liggs an the top uv a big white-headed wave, an' playin' away an the pipes, jist as if nothin' had happened at all. The river was runnin very hard, so he was whirled away at a grate rate; but he played away as fast, ay, and faster nor the river run. They set aff as hard as they cud along the bank; but as the river med a suddint turn round the hill, about a hundred yards below the bridge, by the time they got there he was out o' sight, an' no one ivir led eyes an him sence; but the gineral belief is, that he wint home wid the pipes to his own relations--the good people--to make music fur thim.