THE SPRIGGAN'S CHILD, AS TOLD BY A CORNISH DROLL.
I'LL tell you a tale, an you've patience to hear an,
'Bout the Spriggans, that swarm round Partinney still--
You knew Janey Tregeer, who lives in Brea Vean,
In the village just under the Chapel Hill.
One arternoon she went out for to reap,
And left the child in the cradle asleep:
Janey took good care to cover the fire;--
Turn'd down the brandis on the baking.ire (iron),
Swept up the ashes on the hearthstone,
And so left the child in the house all alone--
The boys had all on 'em gone away,
Some to work and some to play.
Janey work'd in the field as gay as a lark,
And when she came home it was nearly dark;
The furst thing she saw when she open'd the door
Was the cradle upset--all the straw on the floor.
But no child in sight--
She search'd all round --
Still no child was found:
And it got dark night.
So great was Jane's fright,
That for more than an hour
She hadn't the power
To strike a light.
However, she kindled the fire at last,
And threw in a faggot to make a blast.
As she stoop'd over the wood.corner stone,
She heard a sound 'tween a cry and a moan --
It clearly came from a bundle of ferns--
The two bigger boy's bed--
And there, sure enough, as frighten'd she turns,
Janey saw the child's head.
'Twas very queer. How the child got there,
Nobody could say;Yet ever since that day, the
And blinking and peeping, when it ought to be sleeping,
But seldom it closed its eyes.
Jane said for a child it look'd too wise --
That, she thought it a changeling
She didn't disguise--
And often and often the gave it a beating,
To stop--but she couldn't--its cussed bleating.
Janey resolved to work the spell,
And whene'er she could stay,
She bath'd the brat in the Chapel Well --
Which he thought rare play.
On the three first Wednesdays in flow'ry May
She plunged it deep at the dawn of day--
Pass'd it slowly three times against the sun,
Went three times round,--and when all was clone,
The imp of a child roar'd aloud for fun.
No tongue can tell
The trouble it gave her
To dip the shaver,
And work the spell.
From Brea to Chapel-Uny is a mile or more,
And surely it tried Janey's patience sore
To trudge forth and back from the Chapel Well,
With this brat on her back, to work the spell.
She wish'd it dead; but it wouldn't die:
It ate its bread, it would pine and cry;
And Janey was nearly beside herself
With this plague of her life--this wicked elf.
Well, one rainy day,--as it rains in May,--
Janey set out with the child in her arms
Once more to work the holy charms.
When very close to the top of the hill,
Where she was sure there was nobody near,
She heard the strangest voice in her ear,
Saying these words, quite clear and shrill --
"Tredrill Tredrill! thy wife and children greet thee well."
Oh, Janey's heart-strings were like to crack,
When up spake the thing in her arms, good lack!--
" For wife or child little care I,
They may laugh,
Or they may cry,--
While milk I quaff;
When I am dry--
Get of my pap my fill
Whenever I will,
On the dowdy's back ride,
With my legs astride,
When we work the spell
At the Chapel Well"
Janey dropp'd the cussed thing on the ground,
And turn'd round, and round, and round;
You may be sure she was in a fright
To hear the sound, and nobody in sight,
And to hear a child talkMonths before it could walk.
She has said o'er and -o'er,
And I am sure you can't wonder,
'Twouldn't frighten her more,
Had the rocks burst asunder,
And the earth belch'd forth thunder,
When Janey at length got over the fright
From hearing the sound and nobody in sight,
And the brat which lay crying, as if it was dying,
Talking out like a man of his wife and his child,
She felt all bedazzled as if she was wild--
Took the brat by the arm, flung it over her shoulder--
Wouldn't believe it her child if the parson had told her--
Thought the devil was in it,
As she ran the hill down,
Without -stopping a minute
Till she came to Brea -town.
The old women came out, and all on 'em agreed
'Twas the strangest thing that ever they seed;
They stood in a row, and each one had a word --
'Twas the wonderfull'st story that ever they heard;
'Twas a Spriggan's brat--they were all sure of that--
No more like Jane's child than an old ram-cat.
She must beat it black, she must beat it blue,
Bruise its body all o'er with the heel of her shoe--
Then lay it alone beneath the church stile,
And keep out of hearing and sight for a while--
When every one said, as every one thought,
That Janey's child would again be brought:
Some said 'twould be living--some said 'twould be dead -
But the Spriggan's base brat she no longer need dread.
Jane beat the babe black,
And she beat the babe blue,
On the ashes' pile before the door;
And she would have beaten it ten times more,
But out of her hand she lost her shoe,
Struck away all at once - by she couldn't tell who.
The brat bad roar'd--it could roar no more--
So they carried it off to the old church stile,
And laid it under the stones--some swore
That when placed on the earth it was seen to smile --
Then all turn'd back, and kept far out of sight
And Janey declared she was almost wild:
But they kept her back till the turn o' the night,
When she rush'd to the stile and found her own child
'Twas there, sure enough, her own dear child
But when first she saw it,
She did not know it-- It look'd so frighten'd--it seem'd so wild.
Then the old women said,
If it keeps its wits,
We're sadly afraid
The poor babe will have fits.
A friend writes me:-- "I saw an account in a newspaper the other day of an Irishwoman who was brought before the magistrates, in New York, for causing the death of a child by making it stand on hot coals, to try if it were her own truly begotten child, or a changeling. I think the notion was, that her own child
would stand fire, but an imp would either die, to all appearance, or be spirited away. This is much worse than the plan of the woman of Brea Vean, who put the brat on the ashes' pile, and beat it black with the broom." [a]
[a] "The Father of Eighteen Elves," in" Legends of Iceland," is, in all its chief features, similar to this story, even to the beating hint without mercy. "Icelandic Legends. Collected by John Arnason: Translated by George E. J. Powell and Erikur Magmisson." Bentley, 1864.