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from Irish Fairy Tales - LAND AND WATER FAIRIES





Story-teller--MICHAEL HART

Recorder--W. B. YEATS


In the times when we used to travel by canal I was coming down from
Dublin. When we came to Mullingar the canal ended, and I began to
walk, and stiff and fatigued I was after the slowness. I had some
friends with me, and now and then we walked, now and then we rode in a
cart. So on till we saw some girls milking a cow, and stopped to joke
with them. After a while we asked them for a drink of milk. 'We have
nothing to put it in here,' they said, 'but come to the house with
us.' We went home with them and sat round the fire talking. After a
while the others went, and left me, loath to stir from the good fire.
I asked the girls for something to eat. There was a pot on the fire,
and they took the meat out and put it on a plate and told me to eat
only the meat that came from the head. When I had eaten, the girls
went out and I did not see them again.

It grew darker and darker, and there I still sat, loath as ever to
leave the good fire; and after a while two men came in, carrying
between them a corpse. When I saw them I hid behind the door. Says one
to the other, 'Who'll turn the spit?' Says the other, 'Michael Hart,
come out of that and turn the meat!' I came out in a tremble and began
turning the spit. 'Michael Hart,' says the one who spoke first, 'if
you let it burn we will have to put you on the spit instead,' and on
that they went out. I sat there trembling and turning the corpse until
midnight. The men came again, and the one said it was burnt, and the
other said it was done right, but having fallen out over it, they both
said they would do me no harm that time; and sitting by the fire one
of them cried out, 'Michael Hart, can you tell a story?' 'Never a
one,' said I. On that he caught me by the shoulders and put me out
like a shot.

It was a wild, blowing night; never in all my born days did I see such
a night--the darkest night that ever came out of the heavens. I did
not know where I was for the life of me. So when one of the men came
after me and touched me on the shoulder with a 'Michael Hart, can you
tell a story now?'--'I can,' says I. In he brought me, and, putting me
by the fire, says 'Begin.' 'I have no story but the one,' says I,
'that I was sitting here, and that you two men brought in a corpse
and put it on the spit and set me turning it.' 'That will do,' says
he; 'you may go in there and lie down on the bed.' And in I went,
nothing loath, and in the morning where was I but in the middle of a
green field.





Next: Teigue Of The Lee

Previous: The Young Piper



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