A long time ago there was once a man of the name of Paudyeen O’Kelly, living near Tuam, in the county Galway. He rose up one morning early, and he did not know what time of day it was, for there was fine light coming from the moon. He wanted to go to the fair of Cauher-na-mart to sell a sturk of an ass that he had.
He had not gone more than three miles of the road when a great darkness came on, and a shower began falling. He saw a large house among trees about five hundred yards in from the road, and he said to himself that he would go to that house till the shower would be over. When he got to the house he found the door open before him, and in with him. He saw a large room to his left, and a fine fire in the grate. He sat down on a stool that was beside the wall, and began falling asleep, when he saw a big weasel coming to the fire with something yellow in its mouth, which it dropped on the hearth-stone, and then it went away. She soon came back again with the same thing in her mouth, and he saw that it was a guinea she had. She dropped it on the hearth-stone, and went away again. She was coming and going, until there was a great heap of guineas on the hearth. But at last, when he got her gone, Paudyeen rose up, thrust all the gold she had gathered into his pockets, and out with him.
He was not gone far till he heard the weasel coming after him, and she screeching as loud as a bag-pipes. She went before Paudyeen and got on the road, and she was twisting herself back and forwards, and trying to get a hold of his throat. Paudyeen had a good oak stick, and he kept her from him, until two men came up who were going to the same fair, and one of them had a good dog, and it routed the weasel into a hole in the wall.
Paudyeen went to the fair, and instead of coming home with the money he got for his old ass, as he thought would be the way with him in the morning, he went and bought a horse with some of the money he took from the weasel, and he came home and he riding. When he came to the place where the dog had routed the weasel into the hole in the wall, she came out before him, gave a leap up and caught the horse by the throat. The horse made off, and Paudyeen could not stop him, till at last he gave a leap into a big drain that was full up of water and black mud, and he was drowning and choking as fast as he could, until men who were coming from Galway came up and banished the weasel.
Paudyeen brought the horse home with him, and put him into the cows’ byre and fell asleep.
Next morning, the day on the morrow, Paudyeen rose up early and went out to give his horse hay and oats. When he got to the door he saw the weasel coming out of the byre and she covered with blood. “My seven thousand curses on you,” said Paudyeen, “but I’m afraid you’ve harm done.” He went in and found the horse, a pair of milch cows, and two calves dead. He came out and set a dog he had after the weasel. The dog got a hold of her, and she got a hold of the dog. The dog was a good one, but he was forced to loose his hold of her before Paudyeen could come up. He kept his eye on her, however, all through, until he saw her creeping into a little hovel that was on the brink of a lake. Paudyeen came running, and when he got to the little hut he gave the dog a shake to rouse him up and put anger on him, and then he sent him in before himself. When the dog went in he began barking. Paudyeen went in after him, and saw an old hag (cailleach) in the corner. He asked her if she saw a weasel coming in there.
“I did not,” said she; “I’m all destroyed with a plague of sickness, and if you don’t go out quick you’ll catch it from me.”
While Paudyeen and the hag were talking, the dog kept moving in all the time, till at last he gave a leap up and caught the hag by the throat. She screeched, and said:
“Paddy Kelly, take off your dog, and I’ll make you a rich man.”
Paudyeen made the dog loose his hold, and said:
“Tell me who are you, or why did you kill my horse and my cows?”
“And why did you bring away my gold that I was for five hundred years gathering throughout the hills and hollows of the world?”
“I thought you were a weasel,” said Paudyeen, “or I wouldn’t touch your gold; and another thing,” says he, “if you’re for five hundred years in this world, it’s time for you to go to rest now.”
“I committed a great crime in my youth,” said the hag, “and now I am to be released from my sufferings if you can pay twenty pounds for a hundred and three score masses for me.”
“Where’s the money?” says Paudyeen.
“Go and dig under a bush that’s over a little well in the corner of that field there without, and you’ll get a pot filled with gold. Pay the twenty pounds for the masses, and yourself shall have the rest. When you’ll lift the flag off the pot, you’ll see a big black dog coming out; but don’t be afraid before him; he is a son of mine. When you get the gold, buy the house in which you saw me at first. You’ll get it cheap, for it has the name of there being a ghost in it. My son will be down in the cellar. He’ll do you no harm, but he’ll be a good friend to you. I shall be dead a month from this day, and when you get me dead put a coal under this little hut and burn it. Don’t tell a living soul anything about me—and the luck will be on you.”
“What is your name?” said Paudyeen.
“Maurya nee Keerwaun” (Mary Kerwan), said the hag.
Paudyeen went home, and when the darkness of the night came on he took with him a loy, and went to the bush that was in the corner of the field, and began digging. It was not long till he found the pot, and when he took the flag off it a big black dog leaped out, and off and away with him, and Paudyeen’s dog after him.
Paudyeen brought home the gold, and hid it in the cow-house. About a month after that he went to the fair of Galway, and bought a pair of cows, a horse, and a dozen sheep. The neighbours did not know where he was getting all the money; they said that he had a share with the good people.
One day Paudyeen dressed himself, and went to the gentleman who owned the large house where he first saw the weasel, and asked to buy the house of him, and the land that was round about.
“You can have the house without paying any rent at all; but there is a ghost in it, and I wouldn’t like you to go to live in it without my telling you, but I couldn’t part with the land without getting a hundred pounds more than you have to offer me.”
“Perhaps I have as much as you have yourself,” said Paudyeen. “I’ll be here to-morrow with the money, if you’re ready to give me possession.”
“I’ll be ready,” said the gentleman.
Paudyeen went home and told his wife that he had bought a large house and a holding of land.
“Where did you get the money?” says the wife.
“Isn’t it all one to you where I got it?” says Paudyeen.
The day on the morrow Paudyeen went to the gentleman, gave him the money, and got possession of the house and land; and the gentleman left him the furniture and everything that was in the house, in with the bargain.
Paudyeen remained in the house that night, and when darkness came he went down to the cellar, and he saw a little man with his two legs spread on a barrel.
“God save you, honest man,” says he to Paudyeen.
“The same to you,” says Paudyeen.
“Don’t be afraid of me at all,” says the little man.
“I’ll be a friend to you, if you are able to keep a secret.”
“I am able, indeed; I kept your mother’s secret, and I’ll keep yours as well.”
“May-be you’re thirsty?” says the little man.
“I’m not free from it,” said Paudyeen.
The little man put a hand in his bosom and drew out a gold goblet. He gave it to Paudyeen, and said: “Draw wine out of that barrel under me.”
Paudyeen drew the full up of the goblet, and handed it to the little man. “Drink yourself first,” says he. Paudyeen drank, drew another goblet, and handed it to the little man, and he drank it.
“Fill up and drink again,” said the little man. “I have a mind to be merry to-night.”
The pair of them sat there drinking until they were half drunk. Then the little man gave a leap down to the floor, and said to Paudyeen:
“Don’t you like music?”
“I do, surely,” says Paudyeen, “and I’m a good dancer, too.”
“Lift up the big flag over there in the corner, and you’ll get my pipes under it.”
Paudyeen lifted the flag, got the pipes, and gave them to the little man. He squeezed the pipes on him, and began playing melodious music. Paudyeen began dancing till he was tired. Then they had another drink, and the little man said:
“Do as my mother told you, and I’ll show you great riches. You can bring your wife in here, but don’t tell her that I’m there, and she won’t see me. Any time at all that ale or wine are wanting, come here and draw. Farewell now; go to sleep, and come again to me tomorrow night.”
Paudyeen went to bed, and it wasn’t long till he fell asleep.
On the morning of the day of the morrow, Paudyeen went home, and brought his wife and children to the big house, and they were comfortable. That night Paudyeen went down to the cellar; the little man welcomed him and asked him did he wish to dance?
“Not till I get a drink,” said Paudyeen.
“Drink your ‘nough,” said the little man; “that barrel will never be empty as long as you live.”
Paudyeen drank the full of the goblet, and gave a drink to the little man. Then the little man said to him:
“I am going to Doon-na-shee (the fortress of the fairies) to-night, to play music for the good people, and if you come with me you’ll see fine fun. I’ll give you a horse that you never saw the like of him before.”
“I’ll go with you, and welcome,” said Paudyeen; “but what excuse will I make to my wife?”
“I’ll bring you away from her side without her knowing it, when you are both asleep together, and I’ll bring you back to her the same way,” said the little man.
“I’m obedient,” says Paudyeen; “we’ll have another drink before I leave you.”
He drank drink after drink, till he was half drunk, and he went to bed with his wife.
When he awoke he found himself riding on a besom near Doon-na-shee, and the little man riding on another besom by his side. When they came as far as the green hill of the Doon, the little man said a couple of words that Paudyeen did not understand. The green hill opened, and the pair went into a fine chamber.
Paudyeen never saw before a gathering like that which was in the Doon. The whole place was full up of little people, men and women, young and old. They all welcomed little Donal—that was the name of the piper—and Paudyeen O’Kelly. The king and queen of the fairies came up to them, and said:
“We are all going on a visit to-night to Cnoc Matha, to the high king and queen of our people.”
They all rose up then and went out. There were horses ready for each one of them and the coash-t’ya bower for the king and the queen. The king and queen got into the coach, each man leaped on his own horse, and be certain that Paudyeen was not behind. The piper went out before them and began playing them music, and then off and away with them. It was not long till they came to Cnoc Matha. The hill opened and the king of the fairy host passed in.
Finvara and Nuala were there, the arch-king and queen of the fairy host of Connacht, and thousands of little persons. Finvara came up and said:
“We are going to play a hurling match to-night against the fairy host of Munster, and unless we beat them our fame is gone for ever. The match is to be fought out on Moytura, under Slieve Belgadaun.”
The Connacht host cried out: “We are all ready, and we have no doubt but we’ll beat them.”
“Out with ye all,” cried the high king; “the men of the hill of Nephin will be on the ground before us.”
They all went out, and little Donal and twelve pipers more before them, playing melodious music. When they came to Moytura, the fairy host of Munster and the fairy men of the hill of Nephin were there before them. Now, it is necessary for the fairy host to have two live men beside them when they are fighting or at a hurling-match, and that was the reason that little Donal took Paddy O’Kelly with him. There was a man they called the “Yellow Stongirya,” with the fairy host of Munster, from Ennis, in the County Clare.
It was not long till the two hosts took sides; the ball was thrown up between them, and the fun began in earnest. They were hurling away, and the pipers playing music, until Paudyeen O’Kelly saw the host of Munster getting the strong hand, and he began helping the fairy host of Connacht. The Stongirya came up and he made at Paudyeen O’Kelly, but Paudyeen turned him head over heels. From hurling the two hosts began at fighting, but it was not long until the host of Connacht beat the other host. Then the host of Munster made flying beetles of themselves, and they began eating every green thing that they came up to. They were destroying the country before them until they came as far as Cong. Then there rose up thousands of doves out of the hole, and they swallowed down the beetles. That hole has no other name until this day but Pull-na-gullam, the dove’s hole.
When the fairy host of Connacht won their battle, they came back to Cnoc Matha joyous enough, and the king Finvara gave Paudyeen O’Kelly a purse of gold, and the little piper brought him home, and put him into bed beside his wife, and left him sleeping there.
A month went by after that without anything worth mentioning, until one night Paudyeen went down to the cellar, and the little man said to him: “My mother is dead; burn the house over her.” “It is true for you,” said Paudyeen. “She told me that she hadn’t but a month to be on the world, and the month was up yesterday.”
On the morning of the next day Paudyeen went to the hut and he found the hag dead. He put a coal under the hut and burned it. He came home and told the little man that the hut was burnt. The little man gave him a purse and said to him; “This purse will never be empty as long as you are alive. Now, you will never see me more; but have a loving remembrance of the weasel. She was the beginning and the prime cause of your riches.” Then he went away and Paudyeen never saw him again.
Paudyeen O’Kelly and his wife lived for years after this in the large house, and when he died he left great wealth behind him, and a large family to spend it.
There now is the story for you, from the first word to the last, as I heard it from my grandmother.
- ↑ Narrow spade used all over Connacht.