The Three Gifts

A great, noble-looking man called one night at a cottage, and told the woman that she must come away with him then and there on the instant, for his wife wanted a nurse for her baby. And so saying, before she could answer, he swung her up on his great black horse on a pillion behind him. And she sat wondering at his tall, shadowy form, for she could see the moonlight through him.

"Do not fear," he said, "and no harm will happen to you. Only ask no questions whatever happens, and drink no wine that may be offered to you."

On reaching the palace she saw the most beautiful ladies going about all covered with jewels, and she was led into a chamber hung with silk and gold, and lace as fine as cobwebs; and there on a bed supported by crystal pillars lay the mother, lovely as an angel, and her little baby beside her. And when the nurse had dressed the baby and handed it to the mother, the lady smiled and offered her wine; "for then," she said, "you will never leave us, and I would love to have you always near me."

But the woman refused, though she was sorely tempted by the beautiful bright red wine.

"Well, then," said the lord and master, "here are three gifts, and you may take them away in safety, for no harm will come to you by them. A purse, never to be opened, but while you have it, you will never want money; a girdle, and whoso wears it will never be slain in battle; and an herb that has power to cure all diseases for seven generations."

So the woman was put again upon the horse with her three gifts, and reached her home safely. Then, from curiosity, the first thing she did was to open the purse, and behold, there was nothing in it but some wild flowers. On seeing this, she was so angry that she flung away the herb, "for they were only making a fool of me," she said, "and I don't believe one word of their stories." But the husband took the belt and kept it safe, and it went down in the family from father to son; and the last man who wore it was out in all the troubles of '98, and fought in every one of the battles, but he never got hurt or wound. However, after his death, no one knew what became of the belt; it was never seen more.

A woman was carried off one night to a fairy palace to attend one of the beautiful fairy ladies who lay sick on her golden bed. And as she was going in at the gate a man whispered to her, "Eat no food, and take no money from the fairies; but ask what you like and it will be granted." So when the fairy lady was well, she bade the nurse ask what she pleased. The woman answered, "I desire three things for my sons and their race—luck in fishing, luck in learning, and luck in gambling," which things were granted—and to this day the family are the richest, the wisest, and the luckiest in the whole neighbourhood. They win at every game, and at every race, but always by fair play and without cheating; and not the priest himself can beat them at book learning. And every one knows that the power comes to them from the fairy gift, though good luck comes with it and not evil; and all the work of their hands has prospered through every generation since the day of the Three Wishes.