John Cokeley and the Fairy
THERE was a farmer in the parish of Firez whose name was John Cokeley. John was a great man for every kind of new information, and would go a long way of an evening to hear people read newspapers, but he didn't give in to stories or to what old people used to say.
Cokeley thought the house he had too small and wanted to put an addition to it. There was an old passage at one end of the house, and it's there he was going to build the addition. John had a gossip who used to go with the fairies, and this man passed the way when he was beginning the work.
"What's that you are doing?" asked the gossip.
"Don't you see what I am doing?" said Cokeley.
"Couldn't you put the addition to the other end of the house and leave this one alone?"
"That wouldn't suit me," answered John.
"You should leave the passage open so that every one could travel through it by day, and especially by night."
"That's foolish talk," said Cokeley.
"Very well," said the gossip, "you think so I suppose, but my word for it, you may be sorry in the end."
Cokeley finished the addition, and left a little hole in the wall near the fireplace, and it was there he kept his pipe and tobacco. One night on going to bed he put an ounce of tobacco in the hole (there was no one smoking in the house but himself). In the morning there was no bit of the tobacco left, but in place of it the price, three-pence-ha'penny. He took great notice of that. A few weeks later he rose from his bed in the night and heard a great noise of horsemen outside. He opened the door and looked out, but if he did he saw nothing. He went to bed again, and wasn't long there when he began to be sore and feel very sick in himself. The gossip came to see him next day: "Well, John," said he, "you feel sick to-day."
"I do," said Cokeley.
"You had a right to stop in bed."
"How well you know of that," said Cokeley.
"I do; that much could not be done unknown to me. When you turned back from the door last night there was a crowd between you and the bed as big as at any fair. They gave you only a warning this time, and you'll recover."
In a few weeks' time Cokeley was looking well again, but he got downhearted, took to drinking, and spent his means, so that at last he hadn't any cows on his land but what belonged to others. One May-day in the evening he was going to a neighbour's to collect grazing money that was due to him. When about three-quarters of the way--and the time was after sunset--a woman appeared opposite and took a great fall out of him. He was thrown on his face in the middle of the road and struck senseless. In half an hour he recovered, rose, and walked on; after going a short distance he was knocked a second time, and soon after he got the third fall. Cokeley didn't know for a full hour where he was; he hadn't his senses. When he came to himself he was in the middle of the road; he crawled to the side of it, then rose and went for his money. He didn't tell the man what had happened, made no delay, but hurried home and went to bed. He felt the strength parting from his body in the night, and was without any power to move next morning. His wife ran to doctors for cures, but no use for her. In a month's time all the neighbours said that Cokeley was fairy struck, and there was no cure. The wife went one day to Killarney, where she met the gossip.
"John is very bad again," said the gossip.
"He is," said she. "There is no one to do good for him if you don't."
"Oh, well," said the gossip, "I have a son of my own to assist, and he is nearer to me than what John is; I must look out for myself. John was struck very severely, and he may thank himself for it. He was not said by me, or he wouldn't have built in the passage, and wouldn't be where he is to-day. This is all the cure I can give you: Go home, get a tub of water, and bathe John nine nights with the one water, one night after another. When you have that done you'll not throw out the water till after midnight, when all are in bed. Take care that no one of your family is out of the house that night."
When John's wife was in the road coming home a man of the neighbours overtook her and they walked on together. There was a height within one mile of the house; from this they had a fine view of Cokeley's house and land--the time was after sunset--and to their surprise they saw John himself walking around in the garden as well and strong as ever, but when the wife came home she found him in bed, sick and miserable.
"Were you out since morning, John?" asked she.
He only began to scold and look bitter at her. "How could a dead man leave the bed?" said he.
She prepared the tub of water in the corner of the house that day, and was bathing him for nine nights in the same water. She had a son fifteen or sixteen years of age who wasn't at home. He spent a night out very often, for he was working for people. She didn't think the boy would come that time, it was so late (about one o'clock in the morning). She began to throw out the water with a gallon.* There was a big flag^ outside the door; she threw the water on that. She had all out but the last gallon, when who should come but the son. When he stepped on the flag he was thrown heels over head and his leg broken. There was no doctor nearer than Killarney. When the mother went there next day she met the gossip.
"Well," said he, "you are worse now than ever. Didn't I tell you not to throw out that water when there was any one away from the house?"
"He slept out so often," said the mother, "that I was sure he wouldn't come that night."
"You may thank your friends and neighbours [of the other world] for being so strong, or your son's brains would be knocked out on that flag. He'll not be long recovering. The washing did no good to John, but he'll not leave you yet; he's very far back in the ranks. He will not go from you till he'll be the front man. Don't take too much care of him; he'll rob you."
When a neighbour came in the sick man had a tongue for any attorney, complaining of the wife, saying that she was only starving him. He would eat nothing from the poor woman but the best meat, butter and eggs; he should get a pint of whiskey every day. Every day he should be placed in a chair and brought to the fire between two persons. By looking at him you'd think there was nothing amiss with the man; besides, he had such an appetite and such a tongue for talking.
Soon the neighbours stopped coming, and didn't inquire. They used to see John Cokeley walking about the farm after sunset and before sunrise; they thought he was well again. This went on about four years, and the gossip who used to be with the fairies left this world altogether.
In the latter end the wife couldn't give the sick man what food he wanted, and he was raging; he kept the appetite all the time. She had a third cousin, a priest, and the priest came to see her.
"Oh, father, can't you do some good for my husband? Myself and my poor children are beggared from him."
"It isn't in my power to do good to that man," said the priest. "You must leave him there till he is taken from you."
She told how the husband abused her, what a tongue he had. "Don't give him another tint of whiskey," said the priest, "nor meat, nor eggs. Give him what you and your children have."
The man gave a bitter look at the priest. The priest gave a good morning and went home. After this the poor woman put no food before him but such as she and the children used. He was pining away and hadn't half the speech he had before, but he called her all the names he could think of. If he could have killed her he would.
It continued on in this way till one month before seven years were out, he pining, she breaking her heart with poverty.
This month he was sleeping all the time. They knew there was a change coming.
One midnight they heard a great crowd racing around the house, a noise of horses and people about the cross-road, and hurricanes of wind with terrible noises.
"Ah, I'll be going home soon," said he on the following morning. "I'm not sorry to leave you."
"Would you like to have a priest, John?" asked the wife.
'What would I do with a priest, woman?"
The uproar continued three nights. On the third evening he asked to eat--said he was starved. She gave him plenty of what she had and he ate willingly, without any word at all from him. Herself and son and the little family, five altogether, were talking, and in an hour's time, when they didn't hear any sound from him, they went to the bed and found that it's dead he was, and they were not sorry after him; and sure why should they, for it wasn't John Cokeley that was in it at all.
* A vessel for dipping water; it holds a few quarts.
^ A flagstone.