The Curse of Pantannas
LONG, long ago, at the farm of Pantannas, in Glamorgan, there lived a churlish old husbandman. He hated the Fair Folk who danced on his fields to the light of the moon, and longed to discover some way of ridding his land of them.
Not being able to think of any plan, he went to an old witch and told her of his wish. She made him promise to give her one night's milking on his farm, and then advised him thus:
"Wherever you see a fairy ring in your fields plough it and sow it with corn," she said. "When the fairies find the greensward gone, they will never revisit the spot."
The farmer took her advice. He yoked his oxen and drove his iron ploughshare through every circle in which the fairies had danced at night, and sowed it with corn. The nightly sounds of dance and song ceased, and no fairy was afterwards seen in the fields of Pantannas.
The farmer rejoiced greatly, imagining vain things, until one evening in the spring of the year, when the wheat was green in the fields. The farmer was returning home in the red light of the setting sun, when a tiny little man in a red coat came to him, unsheathed a little sword, and directing the point towards him, said:
Dial a ddaw, Vengeance cometh,
Y mae gerilaw. Fast it approacheth.
After saying this, the mannikin disappeared. The farmer tried to laugh; but there was something in the angry, grim looks of the little man which made him feel very uncomfortable.
Spring, however, turned into summer, and summer into autumn, without anything happening, and the farmer thought that he had been very foolish to fear the threat of the little man in the red coat.
In the autumn, when the corn was golden in the fields and ripe for the sickle, the farmer and his family were one night going to bed. Suddenly they heard a mighty noise, which shook the house as though it would fall. As they trembled with fear, they heard a loud voice saying:
Daw dial. Vengeance cometh.
Next morning, no. ear or straw was to be seen in the cornfields, only black ashes. The fairies had burnt all the harvest.
The farmer was walking through his fields, gazing ruefully at the destruction wrought by the fairies, when he was met by the same little man as before. Pointing his sword threateningly, the elf said:
Nid yw ond dechrau. It but beginneth.
The farmer's face turned as white as milk, and he began to plead for pardon. He was quite willing, he said, to allow the fields where the fairies had been wont to dance and sing to grow again into a greensward.
They could dance in their rings as often as they wished without interference, provided only they would punish him no more.
"No," was the stern reply. "The word of the King has gone forth that he will avenge himself on thee, and no power can recall it."
The farmer burst into tears, and begged so sorrowfully to be forgiven for his fault that the little man at last pitied him and said that he would speak to his lord. "I will come again at the hour of sunset three days hence and bring thee my lord's behest."
When the time came on the third day, the sprite was awaiting the farmer at the appointed spot. "The King's word," he said, "cannot be recalled, and vengeance must come. Still, since thou repentest thee of thy fault and art anxious to atone it, the curse shall not fall in thy time nor in that of thy sons, but will await thy distant posterity."
This promise comforted the farmer. The dark-green circles of grass grew again, the gay elves danced in them, and the sounds of music gladdened the fields as of old. The dread voice came at times, repeating the threat,
Daw dial, Vengeance will come,
but the farmer passed away in peaceful old age, and his sons followed him to the churchyard without feeling any effects of the curse pronounced by the King of the fairies.
More than a hundred years after the first warning had been uttered, Madoc, the heir of Pantannas, was betrothed to Teleri, the daughter of the squire of Pen Craig Daf, and the wedding was to take place in a few weeks. It was Christmas-tide, and they made a feast at Pantannas to which Teleri and all her kin were bidden.
The feast sped merrily, and all were seated round the hearth, passing the hours with tale and song. Suddenly, above the noise of the river which flowed outside the house, they seemed to hear a voice saying:
Daeth amser ymddial. The time for revenge is come.
A silence fell on the joyous company. They went out and listened if they could hear the voice a second time; but long though they lingered, they could make out no sound except the angry noise of the full river plunging down its rocky bed. They went back into the house; gradually their fears were chased away, and all was as before.
Again, above the sounds of mirth and the noise of the waters as they boiled over the boulders was heard a clear voice:
Daeth yr amser. The time is come.
A dread noise crashed around them, and the house shook to its foundations. As they sat speechless with fear, behold, a shapeless hag appeared at the window. Then one, bolder than the rest, said, "What dost thou, ugly little thing, want here?"
"I have naught to do with thee, chatterer," said the hag. "I had come to tell the doom which awaits this house and that other which hopes to be allied with it, but as thou hast insulted me, the veil which conceals it shall not be lifted by me." With that she vanished, no one knew how or whither.
When she had gone, the voice proclaimed again, more loudly than before:
Daeth amser ymddial. The time for vengeance is come.
Terror and gloom fell upon all. The guests before long parted and went trembling home, and Madoc took his betrothed back to Pen Craig Daf, doing all that a fond lover could to dispel her fears, for she had been struck to the heart with nameless dread.
The hours of darkness succeeded one another wearily, and no Madoc returned to Pantannas. Morning came, but still no Madoc; and his aged parents, already shaken by the vision of the hag and the strange voices which had interrupted their joyous feast, were almost beside themselves with anxiety. As the day wore on, without any sign of Madoc, they sent messengers in all directions to seek news of him, but all they could discover was that he had turned his footsteps homewards after bidding farewell to his betrothed at Pen Craig Daf. All the countryside turned out to find him. With minute care they searched every hill and dale for many miles around, and dragged the depths of every river, but never a trace of him could they find.
When many weeks of unavailing search had gone by the father and mother sought an aged hermit who dwelt in a cave high up the country, and asked him when their lost son would come back to them. He told the lamenting parents that the judgment threatened in olden times by the fairies had overtaken the hapless youth, and bade them hope no more to see him, whether he were alive or dead. It might perhaps come to pass that after generations had gone by he would reappear, but not in their lifetime.
Time rolled on, weeks grew into months and months into years, and gradually all came to believe that the hermit had spoken true. All, that is to say, except one. The gentle maiden, Teleri, never ceased to believe that her beloved was alive and would come again. Every morning when the sun burst open the gates of dawn, she would stand upon the summit of a high rock, looking over the landscape far and near. At even, again, she would be seen at the same spot, seeking some sign of her lover's return until the sun sank behind the battlements of the west. Madoc's father and mother died, and their mortal remains were laid to rest, but Teleri never failed of hope. Year after year she watched until her bright eyes became dim and her chestnut hair was silvered. Worn out with fruitless longing, she died before her time, and they buried her in the graveyard of the old Chapel of the Fan. One by one those who had known Madoc died, and his strange disappearance became only a faint tradition.
Teleri's undying belief that her lover was still alive was, however, true. This is what had happened to him. As he was returning home from Pen Craig Daf, the sounds of the sweetest music he had ever heard in his life came out of a cave in the Raven's Rift, and he stopped to listen. The strains after a while seemed to recede further into the cave, and he stepped inside to hear better. The melody retreated further and further, and Madoc, forgetting everything else, followed it further and further into the recesses of the cavern. After he had been listening for an hour or two, as he thought, the music ceased, and suddenly remembering that after the strange events of the night his parents would be anxious for his return, he retraced his footsteps rapidly to the mouth of the cave. When he issued forth from the hollow, the sun was high in the heavens, and he realised that he had been listening to the music longer than he had at first thought. He hastened towards Pantannas, opened the door and went in. Sitting by the fire was an aged man who asked him, "Who art thou that comest in so boldly?"
A sense of bewilderment came over Madoc. He looked round him. The inside of the house seemed different from what he had been accustomed to. He went to the window and looked out. There appeared to him to be several curious differences in the aspect of the country also. He became dimly conscious that some great change had passed over his life, and answered faintly, "I am Madoc."
"Madoc?" said the aged man. "Madoc? I know thee not. There is no Madoc living in this place, nor have I ever known any man of that name. The only Madoc I have ever heard of was one who, my grandfather said, disappeared suddenly from this place, nobody knew whither, many scores of years ago."
Madoc sank on a chair and wept. The old man's heart went out to him in his grief, and he rose to comfort him. He put his hand on his shoulder, when lo! the weeping figure crumbled into thin dust.