VIEW THE MOBILE VERSION of www.urbanmyths.ca Informational Site Network Informational
Privacy


The Young Piper






Category: LAND AND WATER FAIRIES

Source: Irish Fairy Tales

BY CROFTON CROKER


There lived not long since, on the borders of the county Tipperary, a
decent honest couple, whose names were Mick Flannigan and Judy
Muldoon. These poor people were blessed, as the saying is, with four
children, all boys: three of them were as fine, stout, healthy,
good-looking children as ever the sun shone upon; and it was enough to
make any Irishman proud of the breed of his countrymen to see them
about one o'clock on a fine summer's day standing at their father's
cabin door, with their beautiful flaxen hair hanging in curls about
their head, and their cheeks like two rosy apples, and a big laughing
potato smoking in their hand. A proud man was Mick of these fine
children, and a proud woman, too, was Judy; and reason enough they had
to be so. But it was far otherwise with the remaining one, which was
the third eldest: he was the most miserable, ugly, ill-conditioned
brat that ever God put life into; he was so ill-thriven that he never
was able to stand alone, or to leave his cradle; he had long, shaggy,
matted, curled hair, as black as the soot; his face was of a
greenish-yellow colour; his eyes were like two burning coals, and were
for ever moving in his head, as if they had the perpetual motion.
Before he was a twelvemonth old he had a mouth full of great teeth;
his hands were like kites' claws, and his legs were no thicker than
the handle of a whip, and about as straight as a reaping-hook: to
make the matter worse, he had the appetite of a cormorant, and the
whinge, and the yelp, and the screech, and the yowl, was never out of
his mouth.

The neighbours all suspected that he was something not right,
particularly as it was observed, when people, as they do in the
country, got about the fire, and began to talk of religion and good
things, the brat, as he lay in the cradle, which his mother generally
put near the fireplace that he might be snug, used to sit up, as they
were in the middle of their talk, and begin to bellow as if the devil
was in him in right earnest; this, as I said, led the neighbours to
think that all was not right, and there was a general consultation
held one day about what would be best to do with him. Some advised to
put him out on the shovel, but Judy's pride was up at that. A pretty
thing indeed, that a child of hers should be put on a shovel and
flung out on the dunghill just like a dead kitten or a poisoned rat;
no, no, she would not hear to that at all. One old woman, who was
considered very skilful and knowing in fairy matters, strongly
recommended her to put the tongs in the fire, and heat them red hot,
and to take his nose in them, and that would beyond all manner of
doubt make him tell what he was and where he came from (for the
general suspicion was, that he had been changed by the good people);
but Judy was too softhearted, and too fond of the imp, so she would
not give in to this plan, though everybody said she was wrong, and
maybe she was, but it's hard to blame a mother. Well, some advised one
thing, and some another; at last one spoke of sending for the priest,
who was a very holy and a very learned man, to see it. To this Judy of
course had no objection; but one thing or other always prevented her
doing so, and the upshot of the business was that the priest never
saw him.

Things went on in the old way for some time longer. The brat continued
yelping and yowling, and eating more than his three brothers put
together, and playing all sorts of unlucky tricks, for he was mighty
mischievously inclined, till it happened one day that Tim Carrol, the
blind piper, going his rounds, called in and sat down by the fire to
have a bit of chat with the woman of the house. So after some time
Tim, who was no churl of his music, yoked on the pipes, and began to
bellows away in high style; when the instant he began, the young
fellow, who had been lying as still as a mouse in his cradle, sat up,
began to grin and twist his ugly face, to swing about his long tawny
arms, and to kick out his crooked legs, and to show signs of great
glee at the music. At last nothing would serve him but he should get
the pipes into his own hands, and to humour him his mother asked Tim
to lend them to the child for a minute. Tim, who was kind to children,
readily consented; and as Tim had not his sight, Judy herself brought
them to the cradle, and went to put them on him; but she had no
occasion, for the youth seemed quite up to the business. He buckled on
the pipes, set the bellows under one arm, and the bag under the other,
worked them both as knowingly as if he had been twenty years at the
business, and lilted up 'Sheela na guira' in the finest style
imaginable.

All were in astonishment: the poor woman crossed herself. Tim, who, as
I said before, was dark, and did not well know who was playing, was
in great delight; and when he heard that it was a little prechan not
five years old, that had never seen a set of pipes in his life, he
wished the mother joy of her son; offered to take him off her hands if
she would part with him, swore he was a born piper, a natural
genus, and declared that in a little time more, with the help of a
little good instruction from himself, there would not be his match in
the whole country. The poor woman was greatly delighted to hear all
this, particularly as what Tim said about natural genus quieted some
misgivings that were rising in her mind, lest what the neighbours said
about his not being right might be too true; and it gratified her
moreover to think that her dear child (for she really loved the whelp)
would not be forced to turn out and beg, but might earn decent bread
for himself. So when Mick came home in the evening from his work, she
up and told him all that had happened, and all that Tim Carrol had
said; and Mick, as was natural, was very glad to hear it, for the
helpless condition of the poor creature was a great trouble to him. So
next day he took the pig to the fair, and with what it brought set
off to Clonmel, and bespoke a bran-new set of pipes, of the proper
size for him.

In about a fortnight the pipes came home, and the moment the chap in
his cradle laid eyes on them he squealed with delight and threw up his
pretty legs, and bumped himself in his cradle, and went on with a
great many comical tricks; till at last, to quiet him, they gave him
the pipes, and he immediately set to and pulled away at 'Jig Polthog,'
to the admiration of all who heard him.

The fame of his skill on the pipes soon spread far and near, for there
was not a piper in the six next counties could come at all near him,
in 'Old Moderagh rue,' or 'The Hare in the Corn,' or 'The Fox-hunter's
Jig,' or 'The Rakes of Cashel,' or 'The Piper's Maggot,' or any of the
fine Irish jigs which make people dance whether they will or no: and
it was surprising to hear him rattle away 'The Fox-hunt'; you'd really
think you heard the hounds giving tongue, and the terriers yelping
always behind, and the huntsman and the whippers-in cheering or
correcting the dogs; it was, in short, the very next thing to seeing
the hunt itself.

The best of him was, he was noways stingy of his music, and many a
merry dance the boys and girls of the neighbourhood used to have in
his father's cabin; and he would play up music for them, that they
said used as it were to put quicksilver in their feet; and they all
declared they never moved so light and so airy to any piper's playing
that ever they danced to.

But besides all his fine Irish music, he had one queer tune of his
own, the oddest that ever was heard; for the moment he began to play
it everything in the house seemed disposed to dance; the plates and
porringers used to jingle on the dresser, the pots and pot-hooks used
to rattle in the chimney, and people used even to fancy they felt the
stools moving from under them; but, however it might be with the
stools, it is certain that no one could keep long sitting on them, for
both old and young always fell to capering as hard as ever they could.
The girls complained that when he began this tune it always threw them
out in their dancing, and that they never could handle their feet
rightly, for they felt the floor like ice under them, and themselves
every moment ready to come sprawling on their backs or their faces.
The young bachelors who wished to show off their dancing and their new
pumps, and their bright red or green and yellow garters, swore that it
confused them so that they never could go rightly through the heel
and toe or cover the buckle, or any of their best steps, but felt
themselves always all bedizzied and bewildered, and then old and young
would go jostling and knocking together in a frightful manner; and
when the unlucky brat had them all in this way, whirligigging about
the floor, he'd grin and chuckle and chatter, for all the world like
Jacko the monkey when he has played off some of his roguery.

The older he grew the worse he grew, and by the time he was six years
old there was no standing the house for him; he was always making his
brothers burn or scald themselves, or break their shins over the pots
and stools. One time, in harvest, he was left at home by himself, and
when his mother came in she found the cat a-horseback on the dog, with
her face to the tail, and her legs tied round him, and the urchin
playing his queer tune to them; so that the dog went barking and
jumping about, and puss was mewing for the dear life, and slapping her
tail backwards and forwards, which, as it would hit against the dog's
chaps, he'd snap at and bite, and then there was the philliloo.
Another time, the farmer with whom Mick worked, a very decent,
respectable man, happened to call in, and Judy wiped a stool with her
apron, and invited him to sit down and rest himself after his walk. He
was sitting with his back to the cradle, and behind him was a pan of
blood, for Judy was making pig's puddings. The lad lay quite still in
his nest, and watched his opportunity till he got ready a hook at the
end of a piece of twine, which he contrived to fling so handily that
it caught in the bob of the man's nice new wig, and soused it in the
pan of blood. Another time his mother was coming in from milking the
cow, with the pail on her head: the minute he saw her he lilted up his
infernal tune, and the poor woman, letting go the pail, clapped her
hands aside, and began to dance a jig, and tumbled the milk all a-top
of her husband, who was bringing in some turf to boil the supper. In
short, there would be no end to telling all his pranks, and all the
mischievous tricks he played.

Soon after, some mischances began to happen to the farmer's cattle. A
horse took the staggers, a fine veal calf died of the black-leg, and
some of his sheep of the red-water; the cows began to grow vicious,
and to kick down the milk-pails, and the roof of one end of the barn
fell in; and the farmer took it into his head that Mick Flannigan's
unlucky child was the cause of all the mischief. So one day he called
Mick aside, and said to him, 'Mick, you see things are not going on
with me as they ought, and to be plain with you, Mick, I think that
child of yours is the cause of it. I am really falling away to nothing
with fretting, and I can hardly sleep on my bed at night for thinking
of what may happen before the morning. So I'd be glad if you'd look
out for work somewhere else; you're as good a man as any in the
country, and there's no fear but you'll have your choice of work.' To
this Mick replied, 'that he was sorry for his losses, and still
sorrier that he or his should be thought to be the cause of them; that
for his own part he was not quite easy in his mind about that child,
but he had him and so must keep him'; and he promised to look out for
another place immediately.

Accordingly, next Sunday at chapel Mick gave out that he was about
leaving the work at John Riordan's, and immediately a farmer who lived
a couple of miles off, and who wanted a ploughman (the last one having
just left him), came up to Mick, and offered him a house and garden,
and work all the year round. Mick, who knew him to be a good employer,
immediately closed with him; so it was agreed that the farmer should
send a car[2] to take his little bit of furniture, and that he should
remove on the following Thursday.

[Footnote 2: Car, a cart.]

When Thursday came, the car came according to promise, and Mick loaded
it, and put the cradle with the child and his pipes on the top, and
Judy sat beside it to take care of him, lest he should tumble out and
be killed. They drove the cow before them, the dog followed, but the
cat was of course left behind; and the other three children went along
the road picking skeehories (haws) and blackberries, for it was a fine
day towards the latter end of harvest.

They had to cross a river, but as it ran through a bottom between two
high banks, you did not see it till you were close on it. The young
fellow was lying pretty quiet in the bottom of the cradle, till they
came to the head of the bridge, when hearing the roaring of the water
(for there was a great flood in the river, as it had rained heavily
for the last two or three days), he sat up in his cradle and looked
about him; and the instant he got a sight of the water, and found they
were going to take him across it, oh, how he did bellow and how he did
squeal! no rat caught in a snap-trap ever sang out equal to him.
'Whist! A lanna,' said Judy, 'there's no fear of you; sure it's only
over the stone bridge we're going.'--'Bad luck to you, you old rip!'
cried he, 'what a pretty trick you've played me to bring me here!' and
still went on yelling, and the farther they got on the bridge the
louder he yelled; till at last Mick could hold out no longer, so
giving him a great skelp of the whip he had in his hand, 'Devil choke
you, you brat!' said he, 'will you never stop bawling? a body can't
hear their ears for you.' The moment he felt the thong of the whip he
leaped up in the cradle, clapped the pipes under his arm, gave a most
wicked grin at Mick, and jumped clean over the battlements of the
bridge down into the water. 'Oh, my child, my child!' shouted Judy,
'he's gone for ever from me.' Mick and the rest of the children ran to
the other side of the bridge, and looking over, they saw him coming
out from under the arch of the bridge, sitting cross-legged on the top
of a white-headed wave, and playing away on the pipes as merrily as if
nothing had happened. The river was running very rapidly, so he was
whirled away at a great rate; but he played as fast, ay, and faster,
than the river ran; and though they set off as hard as they could
along the bank, yet, as the river made a sudden turn round the hill,
about a hundred yards below the bridge, by the time they got there he
was out of sight, and no one ever laid eyes on him more; but the
general opinion was that he went home with the pipes to his own
relations, the good people, to make music for them.





Next: A Fairy Enchantment

Previous: The Rival Kempers



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 1255