The Devil's Mill

: Irish Fairy Tales


You see, sir, there was a colonel wanst, in times back, that owned a

power of land about here--but God keep uz, they said he didn't come by

it honestly, but did a crooked turn whenever 'twas to sarve himself.

Well, the story goes that at last the divil (God bless us) kem to him,

and promised him hapes o' money, and all his heart could desire and

more, too, if he
d sell his sowl in exchange.

He was too cunnin' for that; bad as he was--and he was bad enough God

knows--he had some regard for his poor sinful sowl, and he would not

give himself up to the divil, all out; but, the villain, he thought he

might make a bargain with the old chap, and get all he wanted, and

keep himself out of harm's way still: for he was mighty 'cute--and,

throth, he was able for Owld Nick any day.

Well, the bargain was struck, and it was this-a-way: the divil was to

give him all the goold ever he'd ask for, and was to let him alone as

long as he could; and the timpter promised him a long day, and said

'twould be a great while before he'd want him at all, at all; and whin

that time kem, he was to keep his hands aff him, as long as the other

could give him some work he couldn't do.

So, when the bargain was made, 'Now,' says the colonel to the divil,

'give me all the money I want.'

'As much as you like,' says Owld Nick; 'how much will you have?'

'You must fill me that room,' says he, pointin' into a murtherin' big

room that he emptied out on purpose--'you must fill that room,' says

he, 'up to the very ceilin' with goolden guineas.'

'And welkem,' says the divil.

With that, sir, he began to shovel the guineas into the room like mad;

and the colonel towld him, that as soon as he was done, to come to him

in his own parlour below, and that he would then go up and see if the

divil was as good as his word, and had filled the room with the

goolden guineas. So the colonel went downstairs, and the owld fellow

worked away as busy as a nailer, shovellin' in the guineas by

hundherds and thousands.

Well, he worked away for an hour and more, and at last he began to get

tired; and he thought it mighty odd that the room wasn't fillin'

fasther. Well, afther restin' for awhile, he began agin, and he put

his shouldher to the work in airnest; but still the room was no

fuller at all, at all.

'Och! bad luck to me,' says the divil, 'but the likes of this I never

seen,' says he, 'far and near, up and down--the dickens a room I ever

kem across afore,' says he, 'I couldn't cram while a cook would be

crammin' a turkey, till now; and here I am,' says he, 'losin' my whole

day, and I with such a power o' work an my hands yit, and this room no

fuller than five minutes ago.'

Begor, while he was spakin' he seen the hape o' guineas in the middle

of the flure growing littler and littler every minit; and at last

they wor disappearing, for all the world like corn in the hopper of a


'Ho! ho!' says Owld Nick, 'is that the way wid you?' says he; and wid

that, he ran over to the hape of goold--and what would you think, but

it was runnin' down through a great big hole in the flure, that the

colonel made through the ceilin' in the room below; and that was the

work he was at afther he left the divil, though he purtended he was

only waitin' for him in his parlour; and there the divil, when he

looked down the hole in the flure, seen the colonel, not content with

the two rooms full of guineas, but with a big shovel throwin' them

into a closet a' one side of him as fast as they fell down. So,

putting his head through the hole, he called down to the colonel:

'Hillo, neighbour!' says he.

The colonel looked up, and grew as white as a sheet, when he seen he

was found out, and the red eyes starin' down at him through the hole.

'Musha, bad luck to your impudence!' says Owld Nick: 'it is sthrivin'

to chate me you are,' says he, 'you villain!'

'Oh, forgive me for this wanst!' says the colonel, 'and, upon the

honour of a gintleman,' says he, 'I'll never----'

'Whisht! whisht! you thievin' rogue,' says the divil, 'I'm not angry

with you at all, at all, but only like you the betther, bekase you're

so cute;--lave off slaving yourself there,' says he, 'you have got

goold enough for this time; and whenever you want more, you have only

to say the word, and it shall be yours to command.'

So with that, the divil and he parted for that time: and myself

doesn't know whether they used to meet often afther or not; but the

colonel never wanted money, anyhow, but went on prosperous in the

world--and, as the saying is, if he took the dirt out o' the road, it

id turn to money wid him; and so, in course of time, he bought great

estates, and was a great man entirely--not a greater in Ireland,


At last, afther many years of prosperity, the owld colonel got

stricken in years, and he began to have misgivings in his conscience

for his wicked doings, and his heart was heavy as the fear of death

came upon him; and sure enough, while he had such murnful thoughts,

the divil kem to him, and towld him he should go wid him.

Well, to be sure, the owld man was frekened, but he plucked up his

courage and his cuteness, and towld the divil, in a bantherin' way,

jokin' like, that he had partic'lar business thin, that he was goin'

to a party, and hoped an owld friend wouldn't inconvaynience him


The divil said he'd call the next day, and that he must be ready; and

sure enough in the evenin' he kem to him; and when the colonel seen

him, he reminded him of his bargain that as long as he could give him

some work he couldn't do, he wasn't obleeged to go.

'That's thrue,' says the divil.

'I'm glad you're as good as your word, anyhow,' says the colonel.

'I never bruk my word yit,' says the owld chap, cocking up his horns

consaitedly; 'honour bright,' says he.

'Well then,' says the colonel, 'build me a mill, down there, by the

river,' says he, 'and let me have it finished by to-morrow mornin'.'

'Your will is my pleasure,' says the owld chap, and away he wint; and

the colonel thought he had nicked Owld Nick at last, and wint to bed

quite aisy in his mind.

But, jewel machree, sure the first thing he heerd the next mornin'

was that the whole counthry round was runnin' to see a fine bran new

mill that was an the river-side, where the evening before not a thing

at all, at all, but rushes was standin', and all, of coorse, wonderin'

what brought it there; and some sayin' 'twas not lucky, and many more

throubled in their mind, but one and all agreein' it was no good;

and that's the very mill forninst you.

But when the colonel heered it he was more throubled than any, of

coorse, and began to conthrive what else he could think iv to keep

himself out iv the claws of the owld one. Well, he often heerd tell

that there was one thing the divil never could do, and I darsay you

heerd it too, sir,--that is, that he couldn't make a rope out of the

sands of the say; and so when the owld one kem to him the next day

and said his job was done, and that now the mill was built he must

either tell him somethin' else he wanted done, or come away wid him.

So the colonel said he saw it was all over wid him. 'But,' says he, 'I

wouldn't like to go wid you alive, and sure it's all the same to you,

alive or dead?'

'Oh, that won't do,' says his frind; 'I can't wait no more,' says he.

'I don't want you to wait, my dear frind,' says the colonel; 'all I

want is, that you'll be plased to kill me before you take me away.'

'With pleasure,' says Owld Nick.

'But will you promise me my choice of dyin' one partic'lar way?' says

the colonel.

'Half a dozen ways, if it plazes you,' says he.

'You're mighty obleegin',' says the colonel; 'and so,' says he, 'I'd

rather die by bein' hanged with a rope made out of the sands of the

say,' says he, lookin' mighty knowin' at the owld fellow.

'I've always one about me,' says the divil, 'to obleege my frinds,'

says he; and with that he pulls out a rope made of sand, sure enough.

'Oh, it's game you're makin',' says the colonel, growin' as white as a


'The game is mine, sure enough,' says the owld fellow, grinnin',

with a terrible laugh.

'That's not a sand-rope at all,' says the colonel.

'Isn't it?' says the divil, hittin' him acrass the face with the ind

iv the rope, and the sand (for it was made of sand, sure enough)

went into one of his eyes, and made the tears come with the pain.

'That bates all I ever seen or heerd,' says the colonel, sthrivin' to

rally and make another offer; 'is there anything you can't do?'

'Nothing you can tell me,' says the divil, 'so you may as well leave

off your palaverin' and come along at wanst.'

'Will you give me one more offer,' says the colonel.

'You don't desarve it,' says the divil; 'but I don't care if I do';

for you see, sir, he was only playin' wid him, and tantalising the

owld sinner.

'All fair,' says the colonel, and with that he ax'd him could he stop

a woman's tongue.

'Thry me,' says Owld Nick.

'Well then,' says the colonel, 'make my lady's tongue be quiet for the

next month and I'd thank you.'

'She'll never trouble you agin,' says Owld Nick; and with that the

colonel heerd roarin' and cryin', and the door of his room was thrown

open and in ran his daughter, and fell down at his feet, telling him

her mother had just dhropped dead.

The minit the door opened, the divil runs and hides himself behind a

big elbow-chair; and the colonel was frekened almost out of his siven

sinses by raison of the sudden death of his poor lady, let alone the

jeopardy he was in himself, seein' how the divil had forestalled him

every way; and after ringin' his bell and callin' to his sarvants and

recoverin' his daughter out of her faint, he was goin' away wid her

out of the room, whin the divil caught howld of him by the skirt of

the coat, and the colonel was obleeged to let his daughter be carried

out by the sarvants, and shut the door afther them.

'Well,' says the divil, and he grinn'd and wagg'd his tail, all as one

as a dog when he's plaised; 'what do you say now?' says he.

'Oh,' says the colonel, 'only lave me alone until I bury my poor

wife,' says he, 'and I'll go with you then, you villain,' says he.

'Don't call names,' says the divil; 'you had better keep a civil

tongue in your head,' says he; 'and it doesn't become a gintleman to

forget good manners.'

'Well, sir, to make a long story short, the divil purtended to let him

off, out of kindness, for three days antil his wife was buried; but

the raison of it was this, that when the lady his daughter fainted, he

loosened the clothes about her throat, and in pulling some of her

dhress away, he tuk off a goold chain that was on her neck and put it

in his pocket, and the chain had a diamond crass on it (the Lord be

praised!) and the divil darn't touch him while he had the sign of the

crass about him.

Well, the poor colonel (God forgive him!) was grieved for the loss of

his lady, and she had an illigant berrin--and they say that when the

prayers was readin' over the dead, the owld colonel took it to heart

like anything, and the word o' God kem home to his poor sinful sowl at


Well, sir, to make a long story short, the ind of it was, that for the

three days o' grace that was given to him the poor deluded owld sinner

did nothin' at all but read the Bible from mornin' till night, and bit

or sup didn't pass his lips all the time, he was so intint upon the

Holy Book, but he sat up in an owld room in the far ind of the house,

and bid no one disturb him an no account, and struv to make his heart

bould with the words iv life; and sure it was somethin' strinthened

him at last, though as the time drew nigh that the inimy was to

come, he didn't feel aisy, and no wondher; and, bedad the three days

was past and gone in no time, and the story goes that at the dead hour

o' the night, when the poor sinner was readin' away as fast as he

could, my jew'l, his heart jumped up to his mouth at gettin' a tap on

the shoulder.

'Oh, murther!' says he, 'who's there?' for he was afeard to look up.

'It's me,' says the owld one, and he stood right forninst him, and

his eyes like coals o' fire, lookin' him through, and he said, with a

voice that almost split his owld heart, 'Come!' says he.

'Another day!' cried out the poor colonel.

'Not another hour,' says Sat'n.

'Half an hour!'

'Not a quarther,' says the divil, grinnin' with a bitther laugh;

'give over your reading I bid you,' says he, 'and come away wid me.'

'Only gi' me a few minits,' says he.

'Lave aff your palaverin' you snakin' owld sinner,' says Sat'n; 'you

know you're bought and sould to me, and a purty bargain I have o' you,

you owld baste,' says he; 'so come along at wanst,' and he put out his

claw to ketch him; but the colonel tuk a fast hould o' the Bible, and

begged hard that he'd let him alone, and wouldn't harm him antil the

bit o' candle that was just blinkin' in the socket before him was

burned out.

'Well, have it so, you dirty coward,' says Owld Nick, and with that he

spit an him.

But the poor owld colonel didn't lose a minit (for he was cunnin' to

the ind), but snatched the little taste o' candle that was forninst

him out o' the candlestick, and puttin' it an the Holy Book before

him, he shut down the cover of it and quinched the light. With that

the divil gave a roar like a bull, and vanished in a flash o' fire,

and the poor colonel fainted away in his chair; but the sarvants heerd

the noise (for the divil tore aff the roof o' the house when he left

it), and run into the room, and brought their master to himself agin.

And from that day he was an althered man, and used to have the Bible

read to him every day, for he couldn't read himself any more, by

raison of losin' his eyesight when the divil hit him with the rope of

sand in the face, and afther spit an him--for the sand wint into one

eye, and he lost the other that-a-way, savin' your presence.