There was once a boy in the County Mayo, and he never washed a foot from the day he was born. Guleesh was his name; but as nobody could ever prevail on him to wash his feet, they used to call him Guleesh na guss dhu, or Guleesh Black-foot. It’s often the father said to him: “Get up, you strone-sha (lubber), and wash yourself,” but the devil a foot would he get up, and the devil a foot would he wash. There was no use in talking to him. Every one used to be humbugging him on account of his dirty feet, but he paid them no heed nor attention. You might say anything at all to him, but in spite of it all he would have his own way afterwards.
One night the whole family were gathered in by the fire, telling stories and making fun for themselves, and he amongst them. The father said to him: “Guleesh, you are one and twenty years old to-night, and I believe you never washed a foot from the day you were born till to-day.”
“You lie,” said Guleesh, “didn’t I go a’swimming on May day last? and I couldn’t keep my feet out of the water.”
“Well, they were as dirty as ever they were when you came to the shore,” said the father.
“They were that, surely,” said Guleesh.
“That’s the thing I’m saying,” says the father, “that it wasn’t in you to wash your feet ever.”
“And I never will wash them till the day of my death,” said Guleesh.
“You miserable behoonugh! you clown! you tinker! you good-for-nothing lubber! what kind of answer is that?” says the father; and with that he drew the hand and struck him a hard fist on the jaw. “Be off with yourself,” says he, “I can’t stand you any longer.”
Guleesh got up and put a hand to his jaw, where he got the fist. “Only that it’s yourself that’s in it, who gave me that blow,” said he, “another blow you’d never strike till the day of your death.” He went out of the house then and great anger on him.
There was the finest lis, or rath, in Ireland, a little way off from the gable of the house, and he was often in the habit of seating himself on the fine grass bank that was running round it. He stood, and he half leaning against the gable of the house, and looking up into the sky, and watching the beautiful white moon over his head. After him to be standing that way for a couple of hours, he said to himself: “My bitter grief that I am not gone away out of this place altogether. I’d sooner be any place in the world than here. Och, it’s well for you, white moon,” says he, “that’s turning round, turning round, as you please yourself, and no man can put you back. I wish I was the same as you.”
Hardly was the word out of his mouth when he heard a great noise coming like the sound of many people running together, and talking, and laughing, and making sport, and the sound went by him like a whirl of wind, and he was listening to it going into the rath. “Musha, by my soul,” says he, “but ye’re merry enough, and I’ll follow ye.”
What was in it but the fairy host, though he did not know at first that it was they who were in it, but he followed them into the rath. It’s there he heard the fulparnee, and the folpornee, the rap-lay-hoota, and the roolya-boolya. that they had there, and every man of them crying out as loud as he could: “My horse, and bridle, and saddle! My horse, and bridle, and saddle!”
“By my hand,” said Guleesh, “my boy, that’s not bad. I’ll imitate ye,” and he cried out as well as they:
“My horse, and bridle, and saddle! My horse, and bridle, and saddle!” And on the moment there was a fine horse with a bridle of gold, and a saddle of silver, standing before him. He leaped up on it, and the moment he was on its back he saw clearly that the rath was full of horses, and of little people going riding on them.
Said a man of them to him: “Are you coming with us to-night, Guleesh?”
“I am, surely,” said Guleesh.
“If you are, come along,” said the little man, and out with them altogether, riding like the wind, faster than the fastest horse ever you saw a’ hunting, and faster than the fox and the hounds at his tail.
The cold winter’s wind that was before them, they overtook her, and the cold winter’s wind that was behind them, she did not overtake them. And stop nor stay of that full race, did they make none, until they came to the brink of the sea.
Then every one of them said: “Hie over cap! Hie over cap!” and that moment they were up in the air, and before Guleesh had time to remember where he was, they were down on dry land again, and were going like the wind. At last they stood, and a man of them said to Guleesh: “Guleesh, do you know where you are now?”
“Not a know,” says Guleesh.
“You’re in Rome, Guleesh,” said he; “but we’re going further than that. The daughter of the king of France is to be married to-night, the handsomest woman that the sun ever saw, and we must do our best to bring her with us, if we’re only able to carry her off; and you must come with us that we may be able to put the young girl up behind you on the horse, when we’ll be bringing her away, for it’s not lawful for us to put her sitting behind ourselves. But you’re flesh and blood, and she can take a good grip of you, so that she won’t fall off the horse. Are you satisfied, Guleesh, and will you do what we’re telling you?”
“Why shouldn’t I be satisfied?” said Guleesh. “I’m satisfied, surely, and anything that ye will tell me to do I’ll do it without doubt; but where are we now?”
“You’re in Rome now, Guleesh,” said the sheehogue (fairy).
“In Rome, is it?” said Guleesh. “Indeed, and no lie, I’m glad of that. The parish priest that we had he was broken (suspended) and lost his parish some time ago; I must go to the Pope till I get a bull from him that will put him back in his own place again.”
“Oh, Guleesh,” said the sheehogue, “you can’t do that. You won’t be let into the palace; and, anyhow, we can’t wait for you, for we’re in a hurry.”
“As much as a foot, I won’t go with ye,” says Guleesh, “till I go to the Pope; but ye can go forward without me, if ye wish. I won’t stir till I go and get the pardon of my parish priest.”
“Guleesh, is it out of your senses you are? You can’t go; and there’s your answer for you now. I tell you, you can’t go.”
“Can’t ye go on, and to leave me here after ye,” said Guleesh, “and when ye come back can’t ye hoist the girl up behind me?”
“But we want you at the palace of the king of France,” said the sheehogue, “and you must come with us now.”
“The devil a foot,” said Guleesh, “till I get the priest’s pardon; the honestest and the pleasantest man that’s in Ireland.”
Another sheehogue spoke then, and said:
“Don’t be so hard on Guleesh. The boy’s a kind boy, and he has a good heart; and as he doesn’t wish to come without the Pope’s bull, we must do our best to get it for him. He and I will go in to the Pope, and ye can wait here.”
“A thousand thanks to you,” said Guleesh. “I’m ready to go with you; for this priest, he was the sportingest and the pleasantest man in the world.”
“You have too much talk, Guleesh,” said the sheehogue, “but come along now. Get off your horse and take my hand.”
Guleesh dismounted, and took his hand; and then the little man said a couple of words he did not understand, and before he knew where he was he found himself in the room with the Pope.
The Pope was sitting up late that night reading a book that he liked. He was sitting on a big soft chair, and his two feet on the chimney-board. There was a fine fire in the grate, and a little table standing at his elbow, and a drop of ishka-baha (eau-de-vie) and sugar on the little tableeen; and he never felt till Guleesh came up behind him.
“Now Guleesh,” said the sheehogue, “tell him that unless he gives you the bull you’ll set the room on fire; and if he refuses it to you, I’ll spurt fire round about out of my mouth, till he thinks the place is really in a blaze, and I’ll go bail he’ll be ready enough then to give you the pardon.”
Guleesh went up to him and put his hand on his shoulder. The Pope turned round, and when he saw Guleesh standing behind him he frightened up.
“Don’t be afraid,” said Guleesh, “we have a parish priest at home, and some thief told your honour a lie about him, and he was broken; but he’s the decentest man ever your honour saw, and there’s not a man, woman, or child in Ballynatoothach but’s in love with him.”
“Hold your tongue, you bodach,” said the Pope. “Where are you from, or what brought you here? Haven’t I a lock on the door?”
“I came in on the keyhole,” says Guleesh, “and I’d be very much obliged to your honour if you’d do what I’m asking.”
The Pope cried out: “Where are all my people? Where are my servants? Shamus! Shawn! I’m killed; I’m robbed.”
Guleesh put his back to the door, the way he could not get out, and he was afraid to go near Guleesh, so he had no help for it, but had to listen to Guleesh’s story; and Guleesh could not tell it to him shortly and plainly, for he was slow and coarse in his speaking, and that angered the Pope; and when Guleesh finished his story, he vowed that he never would give the priest his pardon; and he threatened Guleesh himself that he would put him to death for his shamelessness in coming in upon him in the night; and he began again crying out for his servants. Whether the servants heard him or no, there was a lock on the inside of the door, so that they could not come in to him.
“Unless you give me a bull under your hand and seal, and the priest’s pardon in it,” said Guleesh; “I’ll burn your house with fire.”
The sheehogue, whom the Pope did not see, began to cast fire and flame out of his mouth, and the Pope thought that the room was all in a blaze. He cried out: “Oh, eternal destruction! I’ll give you the pardon; I’ll give you anything at all, only stop your fire, and don’t burn me in my own house.”
The sheehogue stopped the fire, and the Pope had to sit down and write a full pardon for the priest, and give him back his old place again, and when he had it ready written, he put his name under it on the paper, and put it into Guleesh’s hand.
“Thank your honour,” said Guleesh; “I never will come here again to you, and bannacht lath (good-bye).”
“Do not,” said the Pope; “if you do I’ll be ready before you, and you won’t go from me so easily again. You will be shut up in a prison, and you won’t get out for ever.”
“Don’t be afraid, I won’t come again,” said Guleesh. And before he could say any more the sheehogue spoke a couple of words, and caught Guleesh’s hand again, and out with them. Guleesh found himself amongst the other sheehogues, and his horse waiting for him.
“Now, Guleesh,” said they, “it’s greatly you stopped us, and we in such a hurry; but come on now, and don’t think of playing such a trick again, for we won’t wait for you.”
“I’m satisfied,” said Guleesh, “and I’m thankful to ye; but tell me where are we going.”
“We’re going to the palace of the king of France,” said they; “and if we can at all, we’re to carry off his daughter with us.”
Every man of them then said, “Rise up, horse;” and the horses began leaping, and running, and prancing. The cold wind of winter that was before them they overtook her, and the cold wind of winter that was behind them, she did not overtake them, and they never stopped of that race, till they came as far as the palace of the king of France.
They got off their horses there, and a man of them said a word that Guleesh did not understand, and on the moment they were lifted up, and Guleesh found himself and his companions in the palace. There was a great feast going on there, and there was not a nobleman or a gentleman in the kingdom but was gathered there, dressed in silk and satin, and gold and silver, and the night was as bright as the day with all the lamps and candles that were lit, and Guleesh had to shut his two eyes at the brightness. When he opened them again and looked from him, he thought he never saw anything as fine as all he saw there. There were a hundred tables spread out, and their full of meat and drink on each table of them, flesh-meat, and cakes and sweet-meats, and wine and ale, and every drink that ever a man saw. The musicians were at the two ends of the hall, and they playing the sweetest music that ever a man’s ear heard, and there were young women and fine youths in the middle of the hall, dancing and turning, and going round so quickly and so lightly, that it put a soorawn in Guleesh’s head to be looking at them. There were more there playing tricks, and more making fun and laughing, for such a feast as there was that day had not been in France for twenty years, because the old king had no children alive but only the one daughter, and she was to be married to the son of another king that night. Three days the feast was going on, and the third night she was to be married, and that was the night that Guleesh and the sheehogues came, hoping if they could, to carry off with them the king’s young daughter.
Guleesh and his companions were standing together at the head of the hall, where there was a fine altar dressed up, and two bishops behind it waiting to marry the girl, as soon as the right time should come. Nobody could see the sheehogues, for they said a word as they came in, that made them all invisible, as if they had not been in it at all.
“Tell me which of them is the king’s daughter,” said Guleesh, when he was becoming a little used to the noise and the light.
“Don’t you see her there from you?” said the little man that he was talking to.
Guleesh looked where the little man was pointing with his finger, and there he saw the loveliest woman that was, he thought, upon the ridge of the world. The rose and the lily were fighting together in her face, and one could not tell which of them got the victory. Her arms and hands were like the lime, her mouth as red as a strawberry, when it is ripe, her foot was as small and as light as another one’s hand, her form was smooth and slender, and her hair was falling down from her head in buckles of gold. Her garments and dress were woven with gold and silver, and the bright stone that was in the ring on her hand was as shining as the sun.
Guleesh was nearly blinded with all the loveliness and beauty that was in her; but when he looked again, he saw that she was crying, and that there was the trace of tears in her eyes. “It can’t be,” said Guleesh, “that there’s grief on her, when everybody round her is so full of sport and merriment.”
“Musha, then, she is grieved,” said the little man; “for it’s against her own will she’s marrying, and she has no love for the husband she is to marry. The king was going to give her to him three years ago, when she was only fifteen, but she said she was too young, and requested him to leave her as she was yet. The king gave her a year’s grace, and when that year was up he gave her another year’s grace, and then another; but a week or a day he would not give her longer, and she is eighteen years old to-night, and it’s time for her to marry; but, indeed,” says he, and he crooked his mouth in an ugly way; “indeed, it’s no king’s son she’ll marry, if I can help it.”
Guleesh pitied the handsome young lady greatly when he heard that, and he was heart-broken to think that it would be necessary for her to marry a man she did not like, or what was worse, to take a nasty Sheehogue for a husband. However, he did not say a word, though he could not help giving many a curse to the ill-luck that was laid out for himself, and he helping the people that were to snatch her away from her home and from her father.
He began thinking, then, what it was he ought to do to save her, but he could think of nothing. “Oh, if I could only give her some help and relief,” said he, “I wouldn’t care whether I were alive or dead; but I see nothing that I can do for her.”
He was looking on when the king’s son came up to her and asked her for a kiss, but she turned her head away from him. Guleesh had double pity for her then, when he saw the lad taking her by the soft white hand, and drawing her out to dance. They went round in the dance near where Guleesh was, and he could plainly see that there were tears in her eyes.
When the dancing was over, the old king, her father, and her mother, the queen, came up and said that this was the right time to marry her, that the bishop was ready and the couch prepared, and it was time to put the wedding-ring on her and give her to her husband.
The old king put a laugh out of him: “Upon my honour,” he said, “the night is nearly spent, but my son will make a night for himself. I’ll go bail he won’t rise early to-morrow.”
“Musha, and maybe he would,” said the Sheehogue in Guleesh’s ear, “or not go to bed, perhaps, at all. Ha, ha, ha!”
Guleesh gave him no answer, for his two eyes were going out on his head watching to see what they would do then.
The king took the youth by the hand, and the queen took her daughter, and they went up together to the altar, with the lords and great people following them.
When they came near the altar, and were no more than about four yards from it, the little sheehogue stretched out his foot before the girl, and she fell. Before she was able to rise again he threw something that was in his hand upon her, said a couple of words, and upon the moment the maiden was gone from amongst them. Nobody could see her, for that word made her invisible. The little maneen seized her and raised her up behind Guleesh, and the king nor no one else saw them, but out with them through the hall till they came to the door.
Oro! dear Mary! it’s there the pity was, and the trouble, and the crying, and the wonder, and the searching, and the rookawn, when that lady disappeared from their eyes, and without their seeing what did it. Out on the door of the palace with them, without being stopped or hindered, for nobody saw them, and, “My horse, my bridle, and saddle!” says every man of them. “My horse, my bridle, and saddle!” says Guleesh; and on the moment the horse was standing ready caparisoned before him. “Now, jump up, Guleesh,” said the little man, “and put the lady behind you, and we will be going; the morning is not far off from us now.”
Guleesh raised her up on the horse’s back, and leaped up himself before her, and, “Rise horse,” said he; and his horse, and the other horses with him, went in a full race until they came to the sea.
“Highover, cap!” said every man of them.
“Highover, cap!” said Guleesh; and on the moment the horse rose under him, and cut a leap in the clouds, and came down in Erin.
They did not stop there, but went of a race to the place where was Guleesh’s house and the rath. And when they came as far as that, Guleesh turned and caught the young girl in his two arms, and leaped off the horse.
“I call and cross you to myself, in the name of God!” said he; and on the spot, before the word was out of his mouth, the horse fell down, and what was in it but the beam of a plough, of which they had made a horse; and every other horse they had, it was that way they made it. Some of them were riding on an old besom, and some on a broken stick, and more on a bohalawn (rag weed), or a hemlock-stalk.
The good people called out together when they heard what Guleesh said:
“Oh, Guleesh, you clown, you thief, that no good may happen you, why did you play that trick on us?”
But they had no power at all to carry off the girl, after Guleesh had consecrated her to himself.
“Oh, Guleesh, isn’t that a nice turn you did us, and we so kind to you? What good have we now out of our journey to Rome and to France? Never mind yet, you clown, but you’ll pay us another time for this. Believe us you’ll repent it.”
“He’ll have no good to get out of the young girl,” said the little man that was talking to him in the palace before that, and as he said the word he moved over to her and struck her a slap on the side of the head. “Now,” says he, “she’ll be without talk any more; now, Guleesh, what good will she be to you when she’ll be dumb? It’s time for us to go—but you’ll remember us, Guleesh na Guss Dhu!”
When he said that he stretched out his two hands, and before Guleesh was able to give an answer, he and the rest of them were gone into the rath out of his sight, and he saw them no more.
He turned to the young woman and said to her: “Thanks be to God, they’re gone. Would you not sooner stay with me than with them?” She gave him no answer. “There’s trouble and grief on her yet,” said Guleesh in his own mind, and he spoke to her again: “I am afraid that you must spend this night in my father’s house, lady, and if there is anything that I can do for you, tell me, and I’ll be your servant.”
The beautiful girl remained silent, but there were tears in her eyes, and her face was white and red after each other.
“Lady,” said Guleesh, “tell me what you would like me to do now. I never belonged at all to that lot of sheehogues who carried you away with them. I am the son of an honest farmer, and I went with them without knowing it. If I’ll be able to send you back to your father I’ll do it, and I pray you make any use of me now that you may wish.”
He looked into her face, and he saw the mouth moving as if she was going to speak, but there came no word from it.
“It cannot be,” said Guleesh, “that you are dumb. Did I not hear you speaking to the king’s son in the palace to-night? Or has that devil made you really dumb, when he struck his nasty hand on your jaw?”
The girl raised her white smooth hand, and laid her finger on her tongue, to show him that she had lost her voice and power of speech, and the tears ran out of her two eyes like streams, and Guleesh’s own eyes were not dry, for as rough as he was on the outside he had a soft heart, and could not stand the sight of the young girl, and she in that unhappy plight.
He began thinking with himself what he ought to do, and he did not like to bring her home with himself to his father’s house, for he knew well that they would not believe him, that he had been in France and brought back with him the king of France’s daughter, and he was afraid they might make a mock of the young lady or insult her.
As he was doubting what he ought to do, and hesitating, he chanced to put his hand in his pocket, and he found a paper in it. He pulled it up, and the moment he looked at it he remembered it was the Pope’s bull. “Glory be to God,” said he, “I know now what I’ll do; I’ll bring her to the priest’s house, and as soon as he sees the pardon I have here, he won’t refuse me to keep the lady and care her.” He turned to the lady again and told her that he was loath to take her to his father’s house, but that there was an excellent priest very friendly to himself, who would take good care of her, if she wished to remain in his house; but that if there was any other place she would rather go, he said he would bring her to it.
She bent her head, to show him she was obliged, and gave him to understand that she was ready to follow him any place he was going. “We will go to the priest’s house, then,” said he; “he is under an obligation to me, and will do anything I ask him.”
They went together accordingly to the priest’s house, and the sun was just rising when they came to the door. Guleesh beat it hard, and as early as it was the priest was up, and opened the door himself. He wondered when he saw Guleesh and the girl, for he was certain that it was coming wanting to be married they were.
“Guleesh na Guss Dhu, isn’t it the nice boy you are that you can’t wait till ten o’clock or till twelve, but that you must be coming to me at this hour, looking for marriage, you and your girshuch. You ought to know that I’m broken, and that I can’t marry you, or at all events, can’t marry you lawfully. But ubbubboo!” said he, suddenly, as he looked again at the young girl, “in the name of God, who have you here? Who is she, or how did you get her?”
“Father,” said Guleesh, “you can marry me, or anybody else, any more, if you wish; but it’s not looking for marriage I came to you now, but to ask you, if you please, to give a lodging in your house to this young lady.” And with that he drew out the Pope’s bull, and gave it to the priest to read.
The priest took it, and read it, and looked sharply at the writing and seal, and he had no doubt but it was a right bull, from the hand of the Pope.
“Where did you get this?” said he to Guleesh, and the hand he held the paper in, was trembling with wonder and joy.
“Oh, musha!” said Guleesh, airily enough, “I got it last night in Rome; I remained a couple of hours in the city there, when I was on my way to bring this young lady, daughter of the king of France, back with me.”
The priest looked at him as though he had ten heads on him; but without putting any other question to him, he desired him to come in, himself and the maiden, and when they came in, he shut the door, brought them into the parlour, and put them sitting.
“Now, Guleesh,” said he, “tell me truly where did you get this bull, and who is this young lady, and whether you’re out of your senses really, or are only making a joke of me?”
“I’m not telling a word of lie, nor making a joke of you,” said Guleesh; “but it was from the Pope himself I got the paper, and it was from the palace of the king of France I carried off this lady, and she is the daughter of the king of France.”
He began his story then, and told the whole to the priest, and the priest was so much surprised that he could not help calling out at times, or clapping his hands together.
When Guleesh said from what he saw he thought the girl was not satisfied with the marriage that was going to take place in the palace before he and the sheehogues broke it up, there came a red blush into the girl’s cheek, and he was more certain than ever that she had sooner be as she was—badly as she was—than be the married wife of the man she hated. When Guleesh said that he would be very thankful to the priest if he would keep her in his own house, the kind man said he would do that as long as Guleesh pleased, but that he did not know what they ought to do with her, because they had no means of sending her back to her father again.
Guleesh answered that he was uneasy about the same thing, and that he saw nothing to do but to keep quiet until they should find some opportunity of doing something better. They made it up then between themselves that the priest should let on that it was his brother’s daughter he had, who was come on a visit to him from another county, and that he should tell everybody that she was dumb, and do his best to keep everyone away from her. They told the young girl what it was they intended to do, and she showed by her eyes that she was obliged to them.
Guleesh went home then, and when his people asked him where he was, he said that he was asleep at the foot of the ditch, and passed the night there.
There was great wonderment on the neighbours when the honest priest showed them the Pope’s bull, and got his old place again, and everyone was rejoiced, for, indeed, there was no fault at all in that honest man, except that now and again he would have too much liking for a drop of the bottle; but no one could say that he ever saw him in a way that he could not utter “here’s to your health,” as well as ever a man in the kingdom. But if they wondered to see the priest back again in his old place, much more did they wonder at the girl who came so suddenly to his house without anyone knowing where she was from, or what business she had there. Some of the people said that everything was not as it ought to be, and others that it was not possible that the Pope gave back his place to the priest after taking it from him before, on account of the complaints about his drinking. And there were more of them, too, who said that Guleesh na Guss Dhu was not like the same man that was in it before, and that it was a great story (i.e., a thing to wonder at) how he was drawing every day to the priest’s house, and that the priest had a wish and a respect for him, a thing they could not clear up at all.
That was true for them, indeed, for it was seldom the day went by but Guleesh would go to the priest’s house, and have a talk with him, and as often as he would come he used to hope to find the young lady well again, and with leave to speak; but, alas! she remained dumb and silent, without relief or cure. Since she had no other means of talking she carried on a sort of conversation between herself and himself, by moving her hand and fingers, winking her eyes, opening and shutting her mouth, laughing or smiling, and a thousand other signs, so that it was not long until they understood each other very well. Guleesh was always thinking how he should send her back to her father; but there was no one to go with her, and he himself did not know what road to go, for he had never been out of his own country before the night he brought her away with him. Nor had the priest any better knowledge than he; but when Guleesh asked him, he wrote three or four letters to the king of France, and gave them to buyers and sellers of wares, who used to be going from place to place across the sea; but they all went astray, and never one came to the king’s hand.
This was the way they were for many months, and Guleesh was falling deeper and deeper in love with her every day, and it was plain to himself and the priest that she liked him. The boy feared greatly at last, lest the king should really hear where his daughter was, and take her back from himself, and he besought the priest to write no more, but to leave the matter to God.
So they passed the time for a year, until there came a day when Guleesh was lying by himself on the grass, on the last day of the last month in autumn (i.e. October), and he thinking over again in his own mind of everything that happened to him from the day that he went with the sheehogues across the sea. He remembered then, suddenly, that it was one November night that he was standing at the gable of the house, when the whirlwind came, and the sheehogues in it, and he said to himself: “We have November night again to-day, and I’ll stand in the same place I was last year, until I see will the good people come again. Perhaps I might see or hear something that would be useful to me, and might bring back her talk again to Mary”—that was the name himself and the priest called the king’s daughter, for neither of them knew her right name. He told his intention to the priest, and the priest gave him his blessing.
Guleesh accordingly went to the old rath when the night was darkening, and he stood with his bent elbow leaning on a gray old flag, waiting till the middle of the night should come. The moon rose slowly, and it was like a knob of fire behind him; and there was a white fog which was raised up over the fields of grass and all damp places, through the coolness of the night after a great heat in the day. The night was calm as is a lake when there is not a breath of wind to move a wave on it, and there was no sound to be heard but the cronawn (hum) of the insects that would go by from time to time, or the hoarse sudden scream of the wild-geese, as they passed from lake to lake, half a mile up in the air over his head; or the sharp whistle of the fadogues and flibeens (golden and green plover), rising and lying, lying and rising, as they do on a calm night. There were a thousand thousand bright stars shining over his head, and there was a little frost out, which left the grass under his foot white and crisp.
He stood there for an hour, for two hours, for three hours, and the frost increased greatly, so that he heard the breaking of the traneens under his foot as often as he moved. He was thinking, in his own mind, at last, that the sheehogues would not come that night, and that it was as good for him to return back again, when he heard a sound far away from him, coming towards him, and he recognised what it was at the first moment. The sound increased, and at first it was like the beating of waves on a stony shore, and then it was like the falling of a great waterfall, and at last it was like a loud storm in the tops of the trees, and then the whirlwind burst into the rath of one rout, and the sheehogues were in it.
It all went by him so suddenly that he lost his breath with it, but he came to himself on the spot, and put an ear on himself, listening to what they would say.
Scarcely had they gathered into the rath till they all began shouting, and screaming, and talking amongst themselves; and then each one of them cried out: “My horse, and bridle, and saddle! My horse, and bridle, and saddle!” and Guleesh took courage, and called out as loudly as any of them: “My horse, and bridle, and saddle! My horse, and bridle, and saddle!” But before the word was well out of his mouth, another man cried out: “Ora! Guleesh, my boy, are you here with us again? How are you coming on with your woman? There’s no use in your calling for your horse to-night. I’ll go bail you won’t play on us again. It was a good trick you played on us last year!”
“It was,” said another man, “he won’t do it again.”
“Isn’t he a prime lad, the same lad! to take a woman with him that never said as much to him as, ‘how do you do?’ since this time last year!” says the third man.
“Perhaps he likes to be looking at her,” said another voice.
“And if the omadawn only knew that there’s an herb growing up by his own door, and to boil it and give it to her and she’d be well,” said another voice.
“That’s true for you.”
“He is an omadawn.”
“Don’t bother your head with him, we’ll be going.”
“We’ll leave the bodach as he is.”
And with that they rose up into the air, and out with them of one roolya-boolya the way they came; and they left poor Guleesh standing where they found him, and the two eyes going out of his head, looking after them, and wondering.
He did not stand long till he returned back, and he thinking in his own mind on all he saw and heard, and wondering whether there was really an herb at his own door that would bring back the talk to the king’s daughter. “It can’t be,” says he to himself, “that they would tell it to me, if there was any virtue in it; but perhaps the sheehogue didn’t observe himself when he let the word slip out of his mouth. I’ll search well as soon as the sun rises, whether there’s any plant growing beside the house except thistles and dockings.”
He went home, and as tired as he was he did not sleep a wink until the sun rose on the morrow. He got up then, and it was the first thing he did to go out and search well through the grass round about the house, trying could he get any herb that he did not recognize. And, indeed, he was not long searching till he observed a large strange herb that was growing up just by the gable of the house.
He went over to it, and observed it closely, and saw that there were seven little branches coming out of the stalk, and seven leaves growing on every brancheen of them, and that there was a white sap in the leaves. “It’s very wonderful,” said he to himself, “that I never noticed this herb before. If there’s any virtue in an herb at all, it ought to be in such a strange one as this.”
He drew out his knife, cut the plant, and carried it into his own house; stripped the leaves off it and cut up the stalk; and there came a thick, white juice out of it, as there comes out of the sow-thistle when it is bruised, except that the juice was more like oil.
He put it in a little pot and a little water in it, and laid it on the fire until the water was boiling, and then he took a cup, filled it half up with the juice, and put it to his own mouth. It came into his head then that perhaps it was poison that was in it, and that the good people were only tempting him that he might kill himself with that trick, or put the girl to death without meaning it. He put down the cup again, raised a couple of drops on the top of his finger, and put it to his mouth. It was not bitter, and, indeed, had a sweet, agreeable taste. He grew bolder then, and drank the full of a thimble of it, and then as much again, and he never stopped till he had half the cup drunk. He fell asleep after that, and did not wake till it was night, and there was great hunger and great thirst on him.
He had to wait, then, till the day rose; but he determined, as soon as he should wake in the morning, that he would go to the king’s daughter and give her a drink of the juice of the herb.
As soon as he got up in the morning, he went over to the priest’s house with the drink in his hand, and he never felt himself so bold and valiant, and spirited and light, as he was that day, and he was quite certain that it was the drink he drank which made him so hearty.
When he came to the house, he found the priest and the young lady within, and they were wondering greatly why he had not visited them for two days.
He told them all his news, and said that he was certain that there was great power in that herb, and that it would do the lady no hurt, for he tried it himself and got good from it, and then he made her taste it, for he vowed and swore that there was no harm in it.
Guleesh handed her the cup, and she drank half of it, and then fell back on her bed and a heavy sleep came on her, and she never woke out of that sleep till the day on the morrow.
Guleesh and the priest sat up the entire night with her, waiting till she should awake, and they between hope and unhope, between expectation of saving her and fear of hurting her.
She awoke at last when the sun had gone half its way through the heavens. She rubbed her eyes and looked like a person who did not know where she was. She was like one astonished when she saw Guleesh and the priest in the same room with her, and she sat up doing her best to collect her thoughts.
The two men were in great anxiety waiting to see would she speak, or would she not speak, and when they remained silent for a couple of minutes, the priest said to her: “Did you sleep well, Mary?”
And she answered him: “I slept, thank you.”
No sooner did Guleesh hear her talking than he put a shout of joy out of him, and ran over to her and fell on his two knees, and said: “A thousand thanks to God, who has given you back the talk; lady of my heart, speak again to me.”
The lady answered him that she understood it was he who boiled that drink for her, and gave it to her; that she was obliged to him from her heart for all the kindness he showed her since the day she first came to Ireland, and that he might be certain that she would never forget it.
Guleesh was ready to die with satisfaction and delight. Then they brought her food, and she eat with a good appetite, and was merry and joyous, and never left off talking with the priest while she was eating.
After that Guleesh went home to his house, and stretched himself on the bed and fell asleep again, for the force of the herb was not all spent, and he passed another day and a night sleeping. When he woke up he went back to the priest’s house, and found that the young lady was in the same state, and that she was asleep almost since the time that he left the house.
He went into her chamber with the priest, and they remained watching beside her till she awoke the second time, and she had her talk as well as ever, and Guleesh was greatly rejoiced. The priest put food on the table again, and they eat together, and Guleesh used after that to come to the house from day to day, and the friendship that was between him and the king’s daughter increased, because she had no one to speak to except Guleesh and the priest, and she liked Guleesh best.
He had to tell her the way he was standing by the rath when the good people came, and how he went in to the Pope, and how the sheehogue blew fire out of his mouth, and every other thing that he did till the time the good people whipt her off with themselves; and when it would be all told he would have to begin it again out of the new, and she never was tired listening to him.
When they had been that way for another half year, she said that she could wait no longer without going back to her father and mother; that she was certain that they were greatly grieved for her; and that it was a shame for her to leave them in grief, when it was in her power to go as far as them. The priest did all he could to keep her with them for another while, but without effect, and Guleesh spoke every sweet word that came into his head, trying to get the victory over her, and to coax her and make her stay as she was, but it was no good for him. She determined that she would go, and no man alive would make her change her intention.
She had not much money, but only two rings that were on her hand, when the sheehogue carried her away, and a gold pin that was in her hair, and golden buckles that were on her little shoes.
The priest took and sold them and gave her the money, and she said that she was ready to go.
She left her blessing and farewell with the priest and Guleesh, and departed. She was not long gone till there came such grief and melancholy over Guleesh that he knew he would not be long alive unless he were near her, and he followed her.
(The next 42 pages in the Leabhar Sgeuluigheachta are taken up with the adventures of Guleesh and the princess, on their way to the court of France. But this portion of the story is partly taken from other tales, and part is too much altered and amplified in the writing of it, so that I do not give it here, as not being genuine folk-lore, which the story, except for a very little embellishment, has been up to this point. The whole ends as follows, with the restoration of the princess and her marriage with Guleesh.)
It was well, and it was not ill. They married one another, and that was the fine wedding they had, and if I were to be there then, I would not be here now; but I heard it from a birdeen that there was neither cark nor care, sickness nor sorrow, mishap nor misfortune on them till the hour of their death, and that it may be the same with me, and with us all!
- ↑ Untranslatable onomatopæic words expressive of noises.