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Getting Rid of the Fairies

NOT so very far from the caves of Ystrad Fellte, in Breconshire, is a farmhouse called Pen Fathor, which in the olden time was inhabited by Morgan Rhys and his family. They were well-to-do and ought to have been happy, but they were sorely troubled by the fairies. This was owing to an insult which was unwittingly offered to one of them. Morgan's wife, Modlen, seeing a little fairy lady poorly clad, had, in the kindness of her heart, given her a gown. She was furiously angry and tore it to shreds. (Not that the Fair Family are always offended by such proffered gifts. A shepherd of Cwm Dyli used to spend the summer with his sheep on the mountain. Waking up one morning in his hut he saw a little fairy mother washing a baby close to his bed, and he noticed that she had scarcely anything wherewith to clothe the shivering little creature. Stretching out his arm to reach a ragged old shirt, he threw it to her, saying, "Take that, poor thing, and wrap it around him." She took the shirt thankfully, old as it was, and departed. Every evening after this, as regularly as clockwork, the shepherd found a silver coin in an old clog in his hut, and this lasted for many years.) After this the Fair Family gave Morgan and his household no peace. When they were in the kitchen there were all manner of noises in the cowhouse (in those days it was on the same floor as the kitchen, and only separated by a rhag-ddor, or a half-door). When they went to the cowhouse everything was upset in the kitchen. When they were at their meals, dust was shaken into their food through the crevices of the flooring above. At night their crockery was broken, their cows were milked dry, and their horses ridden until their wind was broken.

The nuisance was unbearable, and Morgan consulted a wise woman at Penderyn as to the best means of ridding Pen Fathor of such troublesome company. She must have been a pretender and no real wise woman, for though her directions were faithfully carried out, they ended in nothing but disappointment and expense. "You must make out," she said, "that you are going to quit your farm for another holding in Ystrad Towy. Collect all your stock together, and put the whole of your household goods upon wagons. Then go down to Pont Nedd Fechan, as if you meant to leave Ystrad Fellte for ever. You can then return through Hirwain and Penderyn, and you will find that the fairies have deserted your house, for it is their invariable custom to quit a place which passes from an old family into new hands."

This Morgan did, and the procession had got as far as Pont Nedd Fechan when Morgan was accosted by an old neighbour whom he met. "And so you are going to leave us, Morgan bach, are you?" Before Morgan had time to reply, a thin soprano voice piped out of a churn upon the top of one of the wagons, "Yes, we are going to live in Ystrad Towy." The scheme had failed, and there was nothing to do but to return by the same way that they had come by. The behaviour of the fairies was more outrageous than ever after this. They even tried to steal Modlen's baby from her arms in bed one night. But she screamed and held on, and as she afterwards told the neighbours, "God and me were too hard for them."

Then Morgan consulted a cunning man of great reputation living at Pentre Felin, and his plan was crowned with success. It was the commencement of the oat harvest, when the Cae Mawr, or big field, by the river side, which it took fifteen men to mow in a day, was ripe for the sickle. "How many of the neighbours will be coming to help us with the Cae Mawr to-morrow?" asked Modlen in a loud voice, so that the fairies might hear. "There will be fifteen of us in all," answered Morgan, "and. you must see that the food is substantial and sufficient for the hard job before us." "The fifteen men will have no reason to complain about that," said Modlen, "they shall be fed according to our means." Next morning, when the fifteen men were showing their prowess in the big field, Modlen set about preparing food for the mowers. She procured a sparrow, trussed it like a fowl, and roasted it before the kitchen fire. She then placed some salt in a nutshell, and set the sparrow and a piece of bread no bigger than her fist upon the table. She had just taken the horn to summon the mowers to dinner when the fairies, beholding the scanty provision made for the midday meal of so many hungry men, said, "We have lived long: we were born just after the earth was made, but never have we beheld a sight like this. Let us quickly depart from this place, for the means of our hosts are exhausted. Who before this was ever so poor as to serve up just one sparrow as the dinner of fifteen mowers?" They departed that very night, and Pen Fathor was never troubled by them afterwards.

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