Diarmid Bawn, The Piper - Fairy Legends of Ireland

NE stormy night Patrick Burke was seated in the chimney corner, smoking his pipe quite contentedly after his hard day's work; his two little boys were roasting potatoes in the ashes, while his rosy daughter held a splinter (dipped in tallow, and used as a candle) to her mother, who, seated on a siesteen (straw-seated chair), was mending a rent in Patrick's old coat; and Judy, the maid, was singing merrily to the sound of her wheel, that kept up a beautiful humming noise just like the sweet drone of a bagpipe. Indeed, they all seemed quite contented and happy; for the storm howled without, and they were warm and snug within by the side of a blazing turf fire. "I was just thinking," said Patrick, taking the dudeen from his mouth and giving it a rap on his thumb-nail to shake out the ashes, "I was just thinking how thankful we ought to be to have a snug bit of a cabin this pelting night over our heads, for in all my born days I never heard the like of it."

"And that's no lie for you, Pat," said his wife; "but, whisht! what noise is that I hard? " and she dropped her work upon her knees, and looked fearfully towards the door.

"The Vargin herself defend us all!" cried Judy, at the same time rapidly making a pious sign on her forehead, "if 'tis not the banshee!"

"Hold your tongue, you fool!" said Patrick, "it's only the old gate swinging in the wind;" and he had scarcely spoken, when the door was assailed by a violent knocking. Molly began to mumble her prayers, and Judy proceeded to mutter over the muster-roll of saints; the youngsters scampered off to hide themselves behind the settle-bed; the storm howled louder and more fiercely than ever, and the rapping was renewed with redoubled violence. "Whisht, whisht!" said Patrick; "what a noise ye're all making about nothing at all. Judy aroon, can't you go and see who's at the door?" for notwithstanding his assumed bravery, Pat Burke preferred that the maid should open the door.

"Why, then, is it me you're speaking to?" said Judy, in a tone of astonishment; "and is it cracked mad you are, Mister Burke; or is it, maybe, that you want me to be rund away with, and made a horse of, like my grandfather was?—the sorrow a step will I stir to open the door, if you were as great a man again as you are, Pat Burke."

"Bother you, then! and hold your tongue, and I'll go myself." So saying, up got Patrick, and made the best of his way to the door. "Who's there?" said he, and his voice trembled mightily all the while. "In the name of Saint Patrick, who's there?"

" 'Tis I, Pat," answered a voice which he immediately knew to be the young squire's. In a moment the door was opened, and in walked a young man with a gun in his hand and a brace of dogs at his heels.

"Your honour's honour is quite welcome, entirely," said Patrick, who was a civil sort of a fellow, especially to his betters. "Your honour's honour is quite welcome; and if ye'll be so condescending as to demean yourself by taking off your wet jacket, Molly can give ye a bran new blanket, and ye can sit forenent the fire while the clothes are drying."

"Thank you Pat," said the squire, as he wrapped himself, like Mr. Weld, in the proffered blanket.

"But what made you keep me so long at the door?"

"Why, then, your honour, 'twas all along of Judy, there, being so much afraid of the good people; and a good right she has, after what happened to her grandfather—the Lord rest his soul!"

"And what was that, Pat?" said the squire.

"Why, then, your honour must know that Judy had a grandfather; and he was ould Diarmid Bawn, the piper, as personable a looking man as any in the five parishes he was; and he could play the pipes so sweetly, and make them spake to such perfection, that it did one's heart good to hear him. We never had any one, for that matter, in this side of the country like him, before or since, except James Gandsey, that is own piper to Lord Headly—his honour's lordship is the real good gentleman—and 'tis Mr. Gandsey's music that is the pride of Killarney lakes. Well, as I was saying, Diarmid was Judy's grandfather; and he rented a small mountainy farm; and he was walking about the fields one moonlight night, quite melancholy-like in himself for want of the tobaccy; because why, the river was flooded, and he could not get across to buy any, and Diarmid would rather go to bed without his supper than a whiff of the dudeen. Well, your honour, just as he came to the old fort in the far field, what should he see—the Lord preserve us!—but a large army of the good people—'coutered for all the world just like the dragoons! 'Are ye all ready? said a little fellow at their head, dressed out like a general. 'No,' said a little curmudgeon of a chap all dressed in red, from the crown of his cocked hat to the sole of his boot. 'No, general,' said he; 'if you don't get the Fir Darrig a horse he must stay behind, and ye'll lose the battle.'

" 'There's Diarmid Bawn,' said the general, pointing to Judy's grandfather, your honour, 'make a horse of him.'

"So with that master Fir Darrig comes up to Diarmid, who, you may be sure, was in a mighty great fright; but he determined, seeing there was no help for him, to put a bold face on the matter; and so he began to cross himself, and to say some blessed words, that nothing bad could stand before.

" 'Is that what you'd be after, you spalpeen?" said the little red imp, at the same time grinning a horrible grin; 'I'm not the man to care a straw for either your words or your crossings.' So, without more a-do, he gives poor Diarmid a rap with the flat side of his sword, and in a moment he was changed into a horse, with little Fir Darrig stuck fast on his back.

Away they all flew over the wide ocean, like so many wild geese, screaming and chattering all the time, till they came to Jamaica; and there they had a murdering fight with the good people of that country. Well, it was all very well with them, and they stuck to it manfully, and fought it out fairly, till one of the Jamaica men made a cut with his sword under Diarmid's left eye, and then, sir, you see, poor Diarmid lost his temper entirely, and he dashed into the very middle of them, with Fir Darrig mounted upon his back, and he threw out his heels, and whisked his tail about, and wheeled and turned round and round at such a rate that he soon made a fair clearance of them—horse, foot, and dragoons. At last Diarmid's faction got the better, all through his means; and tnen they had such feasting and rejoicing, and gave Diarmid, who was the finest horse amongst them all, the best of everything.

" 'Let every man take a hand of tobaccy for Diarmid Bawn,' said the general; and so they did; and away they flew, for 'twas getting near morning, to the old fort back again, and there they vanished like the mist from the mountain.

"When Diarmid looked about the sun was rising, and he thought it was all a dream, till he saw a big rick of tobaccy in the old fort, and felt the blood running from his left eye; for sure enough he was wounded in the battle, and would have been kilt entirely, if it wasn't for a gospel composed by Father Murphy that hung about his neck ever since he had the scarlet fever; and for certain it was enough to have given him another scarlet fever to have had the little red man all night on his back, whip and spur for the bare life. However, there was the tobaccy heaped up in a great heap by his side; and he heard a voice, although he could see no one, telling him 'that 'twas all his own, for his good behaviour in the battle; and that whenever Fir Darrig would want a horse again he'd know where to find a clever beast, as he never rode a better than Diarmid Bawn.' That's what he said, sir."

"Thank you, Pat," said the squire; "it certainly is a wonderful story, and I am not surprised at Judy's alarm. But now, as the storm is over, and the moon shining brightly, I'll make the best of my way home." So saying, he disrobed himself of the blanket, put on his coat, and, whistling his dogs, set off across the mountain; while Patrick stood at the door, bawling after him, "May God and the blessed Virgin preserve your honour, and keep ye from the good people; for 'twas of a moonlight night like this that Diarmid Bawn was made a horse of for the Fir Darrig to ride."