Saturday, 27 November 2010

Piskey Threshing

On her calamitous journey back from market we’ve heard about how our spirit-troubled housemaid in the tale 'Fairy Ointment' ended up in several ditches whilst under the influence of various alcoholic beverages, and fairy ointment itself which, if placed in the eye, brings the Otherworld into vision. This is a yarn she also used to tell about her night of high adventure...
“I was so weary and felt no more could I continue homeward. I was seeing all manner of strange happenings, giants looming from hedgerows, the tinkling of fairy bells and even the Devil himself upon his charger, baying hounds at his side! Then I espied the light of a lantern coming from a barn and heard the sound of corn being threshed, it must be a farmer working late thought I. 
“So I crossed the cobbles and peeped through the door and saw Piskey himself threshing corn 
with his skinny long arms, dressed in ragged clothes with a face full of pointy teeth that glistened as he raised the flail over and over bringing it down on the corn causing clouds of dust to rise up. In the half light I beheld his workers, no more than two feet high; some lugged down sheaves and placed them close by for him, others shook the straw and bore it off to the end of the barn.
"But no sooner had I spoken the words than the light went out and all vanished and I felt a handful of dust thrown into my poor eyes that nearly blinded the only peeper that I could see anything out of!
“T’was at this point I remembered that the small people have great spite against anyone who watches them or tries to pry into their doings. So I briskly carried on across the moor but the bridle-paths were all askew. It must be that troublesome Piskey playing tricks because, turn whichever way I would, the path was always before me!
“After going on for a long while, at last I saw light and heard music. But instead of arriving at a house I came all at once on a level green surrounded by furze and there I saw the small people holding a fair. Scores of stalls were covered with trinkets, buckles of silver and gold glistening with diamonds, rings, bracelets and strings of crystal beads. Not to disturb the fairy folks I crept along softly till I stood opposite a company of dancers linked hand in hand, whirling around a maypole garlanded with flowers.

“I soon got to thinking about how well the bright little buckles would look, fixed as brooches, on my shawl, and thus determined to secure them at once. I knew that turning a garment inside out serves to keep the fairy folk at bay and as there was nothing that could be so readily turned inside-out except my apron, I took it off and turned it around. But whilst trying to grasp the buckles, pins or needles so small that I didn't notice them stuck into my fingers and I cried out, 'Oh! Cuss 'e! You little buccas!'
“That instant all the lights went out, and all the fair and most of the small people vanished like shadows among the rock, or sunk into the earth. I took up my skirt and ran fast as I could through puddles and mire to leave behind that enchanted place and the devilish Piskey who I swore I could see in the moonlight laughing at me!”

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