[From Shadowland in Ellan Vannin, 1880]
The magic kiern rod The heiress of Glen Auldyn Her marriage to Richard Clague Richard meets a fairy who threatens him Wonderful effect of the kiern rod Clague accepts money from the elf.
IT is not only in these more modern times that the Isle of Man could boast of heiresses, for we are credibly informed that nearly a century ago there was one of these raræ aves to be found in the romantic Glen of Auldyn, near Ramsey. She was blessed with good looks and pleasing manners, so we may well believe that chroniclers say true, when they tell us that many young men, needy and otherwise, came from all parts of the island to pay court to the fair Jane Clucas. Like the Lady of the Lea, however, when 'asked if she would wed,' she, too, could 'toss her dainty head,' saying-though probably not just in these words-'Sirs, we would be free.' But let that be as it may, she certainly preferred her liberty, until, unfortunately for her, there appeared upon the scene a young man who was all that is prepossessing in appearance. Tall and straight, with chestnut-coloured hair and flowing beard; such bright blue eyes and sunny smile, that altogether his attractions proved too much for (Air heroine, and 'in love fell she.' The successful swain, Richard Clague, came from the neighbourhood of Duglas, where he had been kept pretty hard at work on his father's farm ; and as work was a thing for which he had an especial aversion, he, on hearing of the fair Jane, determined to lay siege to her heart and possessions. She could not make even a show of resistance, and as she was an orphan, and had no near relatives to interfere or ask unpleasant questions, two months' time from their first meeting saw the fair maid of Glen Auldyn transformed into Mistress Richard Clague.
For the first year or so everything went prosperously, as a trustworthy man, who had lived with the bride's father, continued to manage affairs for the young couple; but one day, returning from the fair at Sulby on a restive pony, and having, probably, had a rather liberal allowance of jough (ale), he was thrown, his head came into violent contact with a rough stone wall at the side of the road, and the poor man was picked up quite insensible and borne to his home, where, after lingering for a few days in a state of semi-consciousness, he breathed his last. Mrs. Clague took greatly to heart the death of her father's and her own faithful servant, and did her best to console his widow, who was now quite alone in the world.
Richard, though strongly urged to the contrary by his wife, determined to take the management of everything into his own hands instead of looking out for an experienced, trustworthy man to fill poor Ned Criggal's place. A year's intercourse had given Mrs. Clague a pretty clear insight into her husband's character, and what she knew was not likely to impress her with much confidence as to things prospering under his supervision. For the last few months he had been rarely at home ; even the birth of a little son, now just eight weeks old, had failed to steady him, or keep him from his wandering life. Wherever in the island there was a fair or a sale of cattle, there Richard was to be found, coming home generally, after absences more or less prolonged, to his patient, long-suffering wife with empty purse, a sick head, and by no means an amiable temper.
Of course under these circumstances things could not go very prosperously, and matters progressed rapidly from bad to worse, so that at last the Clagues were threatened with an execution, or, as it was then and is now called in Manx parlance, being 'sold up.' Till now Richard had tried to blind his eyes and shut his ears to the true state of affairs ; but he could no longer get money to follow his various pleasures, indeed, he seemed now on the point of being homeless. He, his wife, and Mrs. Criggal sat far into the night consulting and talking over what could be done to stave off, if possible, the sale of their furniture, and what little in the way of stock still remained on the farm. At last, after various schemes had been proposed, and in turn rejected, it was decided that but one plan seemed feasible, and that was that Richard should try and induce his elder brother to lend him sufficient money to pay the most pressing of the creditors. This brother had succeeded his father on the farm at Onchan, and, being active and energetic, was now a thriving, well-to-do man.
Richard prepared to start on the afternoon of the following day. Things being so changed, he could no longer mount a sturdy steed, and ride where he pleased, but must e'en 'foot it' all the way. He bid his wife and child farewell, and she and Mrs. Criggal followed him to the door to wish him luck.
' I must just get a rod for my brother's boy, Charley,' he said; 'he was at me, last time I was at Onchan, for one.'
Having selected a stick to his liking from a kierntree near, he cut it, and, waving an adieu to the anxious women at the door, he started on his road.
' I have not,' thought he, as he trudged along,
'acted rightly to my poor wife. It's a pity, just for her, that she ever came across me.'
He paused in his reflections for a moment, and for the time felt very repentant as a vision of the pale, careworn face he had left at the door looking after
him came before his mind's eye; and then yet another picture, when first he knew her, bright and rosy, full of life and animation.
' Ah, well 1' he said, ' please God, if I'm spared and helped out of this trouble, I'll try and do different, an' make up to her an' the boy for all the time that's gone in pleasures, an' drinking, and such-likeI'll turn to an' work, an' begin life again.'
'Begin life again, will ye, Richard Clague ?' echoed a voice, apparently at his elbow. But as Richard looked in all directions to find the speaker, no one was to be seen.
' I was thinkin' that hard, I must have fancied I heard someone, for there's no one near, for sure.'
The day had been a misty one. And as it was the middle of January, and about five o'clock, the light was dying out, and Clague could not see very far before hire. On each side were hedges of no considerable height, with fields stretching beyond; the road seemed, as well as he could tell, as he glanced from side to side, deserted save by himself.
'Yes, yes, fancy it was,' he repeated, when again the same voice took up what he had said-Yes, yes, fancy it was'-and Richard, looking quickly to where the sound came from, beheld, immediately in front of him, and scarcely reaching to his knees, a man, to judge from his wrinkled visage and grizzled hair and beard, but not, apparently, quite two feet high. As Clague gazed in wonder at this strange apparition,
the creature placed himself in front of him, as though to bar his further progress.
'Go back, Richard Clague, from whence you came!' squeaked the pigmy; and as Richard tried to proceed on his way, he began to dodge backwards and forwards in front, evidently with the intention of preventing him, and tired and depressed as Clague was, he could hardly help smiling that so small and puny a creature should think he could thus stay his progress.
'Now, now, my man,' he said, 'this little game has gone on long enough; suppose you move to one side.'
'Not for you, or any mortal man, will I move where I do not choose to go,' cried the dwarf; ' so go back to your home, your wife, and your child, Richard Clague, idle do - naught as you are.' And while Richard stared in amazement, the little man burst into a fit of elfin laughter that seemed to be echoed on all sides. Clague was no coward, but suddenly to find himself-as he could no longer doubt-surrounded by a company of 'the good people' was too much even for his nerves ; so pushing the creature in front of him hastily to one side, with the rod he held in his hand, he prepared to run from the haunted spot as quick as his legs could carry him, when he was arrested by a yell from the elf the instant the stick touched him, and to his intense surprise the creature fell to the ground, where he lay writhing for some moments, apparently in great torture. Clague bent
over him with the intention of raising him, but before he could do this the mannikin jumped up, still shrieking, and, giving one terrified glance at the kiern rod, he cried in Manx, 'Touch me not! touch me not ! Cur shen sha in gilley glash (Give that to the Lockman),' at the same time throwing a purse to Clague. The next instant he vanished over the hedge and was lost to sight.
With the purse in one hand and the rod that had worked this magic spell in the other, Clague made the best of his way to his brother's. Great was the interest excited when, on his arrival at the farm, he recounted his adventures.
On turning out the coins and counting them, they were found to amount to exactly the sum necessary to free the Clagues from debt.
Early next morning Richard mounted a horse lent him by his brother, and with a light heart hastened to his home, choosing, however, a, different route from that of the previous night. Quickly as he rode, he found he had not arrived a moment too soon. Betsey, her apron thrown over her head, was rocking herself to and fro with loud lamentations: ' Och, och, that I should live to see the day-an' the fines' bit o' Ian' in all the counthry roun'-ah well, well !'
The gentle, patient wife, tears slowly coursing down her pale cheeks, sat near the open hearth, doing her best to soothe the baby, whose loud cries added to the general misery of the surroundings. Standing a little removed from the women was the 'man in possession,' who, notwithstanding the wretchedness his presence created, was enjoying, with unimpaired appetite, a repast of oat-cake and cheese, and washing these down with copious draughts of jough.
'Cur shen sha in gilley glash.' To the delight of his weeping wife, Clague at once followed the fairy's injunction, and her surprise was great when she learned how the money had been obtained. Mistress Criggal, however, shook her head ominously, and uttered many well-known proverbs about the ill luck that invariably attends the using of 'fairy money' or gifts.
From that day Clague set to work in earnest to retrieve the past, and so successfully that ere long, by his industry and steady habits, he had won back all and more than he had squandered.
The kiern rod,* it is hardly necessary to say, he did not give to his nephew. It was preserved carefully in the family, and to some purpose, as will be shown in the next chapter.
* The fairies, it is said, cannot abide the touch of the kiern, or mountain-ash.