[from W Ralph Hall Caine Isle of Man]
IN the Isle of Man we have mermaids and mermen. Late at night, when the moon is shining clear and bright, we sometimes see them playing together among the rocks or on the sandy beach. They talk and laugh together quite merrily, but dive into the sea the instant any mere human ventures to approach.
One day a Manxman, thinking he might marry a beautiful mermaid and make her very happy in his little home in sight of the open sea, laid down a great herring-net across rocks where he had seen a certain lonely and beautiful creature make a practice of coming to rest, combing her long shining golden tresses as she sang her sad song in the cold pale light.
He waited and watched in secret for the lady's coming. Out of the water she raised herself, and, taking her familiar place, began to comb her hair and sing her plaintive song.
The Manxman jerked the rope. The mermaid was completely involved in the net. He ran to secure his prize, and was enraptured. Her eyes were like shining stars, her teeth were pearly white, and her lips as tender as a rosebud. Her shoulders were white and beautiful, but at the waist the soft skin became silver scales.
Lifting her in his strong arms, he carried her to his cottage. There he laid her gently on a couch, and, giving her meat and drink, told her she would be denied nothing in his home nothing save her liberty.
Put the mermaid was unhappy. She would not touch the food, and she refused to be comforted by his endearments. Not a word escaped her lips ; her eyes were filled with supplicating tears.
At the end of the third day fear seized the man. Some terrible ill-luck would surely befall his little home, or maybe the island.
'Dear lady,' he said, 'if you will not willingly share my home, I will not detain you another instant: you are free.'
She raised herself from the couch, and away she glided through the open door. In the water close in shore, amid the rippling waves of the rising tide, there was a great company of friends awaiting her coming. Great was the joy on her return.
'What do you think of the people of the earth?' said one sprightly little mermaid, who thought she would just love such an adventure on the dry land.
Nothing very much,' was the reply. ' Andwould you believe it?' she added teasingly-, they are so ignorant, so very ignorant, they throw away the water in which they have boiled their eggs.'
But the mermaid was herself the wooer in another instance. This time -the Manxman, thinking that the lady, as she passionately embraced him, was going to draw him into the sea, struggled violently to disengage himself, and then ran off. The lady was indignant, and threw a stone after the retreating figure. She returned to the water, while the man sickened and died.
Another Manxman had no such fears of the sea. Encased in leather and glass, he was let down beneath the waves. He signalled for more and more rope, until it was computed he had travelled below the surface of the sea twice the distance of the moon from the earth. Then, having no more rope, he was recalled to tell the wondrous tale of the world hidden from our gaze: of great broad streets and squares, of tall buildings constructed of mother-of-pearl, of tables made of amber, and floors decorated with rubies, diamonds, and pearls.
It was a blissful realm, he said, but the happy mermen and beautiful mermaids would hold no converse with him. They hastened from his path, affrighted at the sight of so monstrous a creature.
The Fenodyree is described as a satyr, and the name is so used in the Manx Bible, in Isa. xxxiv. 14, where the curious misspelling Phynnodderee is adopted. The frequent misinterpretation is of a fairy fallen from grace for his love of domestic bliss with a Manx maiden who dwelt in a pretty secluded glen. He is described as a something between a man and the lower animal, having long black shaggy hair and fiery eyes. But Fenodyree can be an invaluable friend, saving crops and rescuing sheep.
As we say, ' This has not been a merry world since Fenodyree lost his estate, his buried love, and his long-lost fairy bower.'
This is all modern confusion. Fenodyree was a giant and strong enough to thresh in a single night with a flail what would require the labour of several men.