Yeats' FAIRY AND FOLK TALES OF THE IRISH PEASANTRY

THE LONG SPOON1

Patrick Kennedy

   The devil and the hearth-money collector for Bantry set out one summer morning to decide a bet they made the night before over a jug of punch. They wanted to see which would have the best load at sunset, and neither was to pick up anything that wasn't offered with the good-will of the giver. They passed by a house, and they heard the poor ban-a-t'yee2 cry out to her lazy daughter, "Oh, musha ------ take you for a lazy sthronsuch3 of a girl! do you intend to get up today?" "Oh, oh," says the taxman, "there's a job for you, Nick." "Ovock," says the other, "it wasn't from her heart she said it; we must pass on." The next cabin they were passing, the woman was on the bawnditch4 crying out to her husband that was mending one of his brogues inside: "Oh, tattheration to you, Nick! you never rung them pigs, and there they are in the potato drills rootin' away; the ------ run to Lusk with them." "Another windfall for you," says the man of the inkhorn, but the old thief shook his horns and wagged his tail. So they went on, and ever so many prizes were offered to the black fellow without him taking one. Here it was a gorsoon playing marvels when he should be using his clappers in the corn-field; and then it was a lazy drone of a servant asleep with his face to the sod when he ought to be weeding. No one thought of offering the hearth-money man even a drink of butter-milk, and at last the sun was within half a foot of the edge of Cooliagh. They were just then passing Monamolin, and a poor woman that was straining her supper in a skeeoge outside her cabin-door, seeing the two standing at the bawn gate, bawled out, "Oh, here's the hearth-money man--run away wid him." "Got a bite at last," says Nick. "Oh, no, no! it wasn't from her heart," says the collector. "Indeed, an' it was from the very foundation-stones it came. No help for misfortunes; in with you," says he, opening the mouth of his big black bag; and whether the devil was ever after seen taking the same walk or not, nobody ever laid eyes on his fellow-traveller again.

 

Footnotes

1. Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts.
2. Woman of the house.
3. It. strÅ­inse--i.e., a lazy thing.
4. Ir. bádhun--i.e., enclosure, or wall round a house. From ba, cows, and dún, a fortress. Properly, cattle-fortress.

Aran Islanders, J. Synge [1898] (public domain photograph)