Hairy Mary

IT had rained heavily and persistently all the week. The earth exhaled a moisture which penetrated through the newly built walls of the cottages, and made even a good fire unavailing to keep out the damp atmosphere.

Herself had been laid up by a more than usually severe attack of asthmatic bronchitis, and lay for days propped up by pillows and attended by her husband and Rosie, who kept doors and windows carefully closed and would not allow a breath of outside air to penetrate into the room in which she was. ‘The Mistress’ had called to see her, and had advised opening a window or, at least, the ‘street door.’ by way of compromise; but the suggestion was received with horror.

However, in spite of her illness she would not hear of postponing the Cailey. ‘The childher’ had been promised the treat of hearing ‘owld Mickey’s grand story,’ and it would be a ‘crool shame intirely’ to disappoint them, ‘the craythurs’! ‘And maybe,’ she said more cheerfully, ‘Mickey’s story would be apt to take me out av mesilf.’

There was no gainsaying this, and accordingly she was put into a chair as close as possible to a huge fire, a warm woolen shawl was wrapped tightly over her chest, and even round her head.

‘An’ where’s Mrs. Casey?’ Smith asked, as Pat Holohan, his wife, and the hopeful Patsey appeared.

‘She cot a bit av a cowld, an’ has a smotherin’ on her chest,’ Mrs. Holohan explained. ‘So she stayed at home to mind the young wans. Sure an’ it’s a terr’ble wet night intirelv; an’ only that Patsey was so set. on cornin’, we’d ha’ stayed at home, too.’

“There’s an owld savin’,’ remarked Smith in his slow, deliberate voice: “The more the merrier, the fewer the bel t her the cheer.” Have ye the kettle filled, Rosie? It might be bilin’ while Mickey is tellin’ his story. Fire away Mickey; ye’ll get no interruptin’ this night, anyhow.’

But Alickey was not as pleased as might have been expected. Airs. Casey’s interruptions served to give point to his eloquence, as well as an opportunity of showing his powers of repartee. He looked sadly, at his diminished audience, and began without his accustomed verve.

He began, as usual, with ‘Wancest upon a time, — an’ a very long time ago it is, too, — there was a widder woman, she was a born lady, but her husband lost all his money; an’ when he died, she had to go wid her daughters to a backward sort av a place where livin’ would be chape. She had three daughters. The two eldest av thim was rale beauties. The eldest wan had hair as black as the wing av a crow, an’ it curlin’ over her shoulders. She were tall an’ had a gran’ appearance. The second eldest wan was n’t as tall as her sisther, but there were many as thought she were even handsomer; she had a skin like crame an’ roses, an’ her hair was like a ripe wheat field, an’ the eyes av her was as blue as the sky on a summer marnin’. She was a rale beauty! The two av thim was the beauties av the wurrld. But if they was beauties, was n’t the youngest av them the ugliest iver ye seen? She was as brown as — ’ here he hesitated for a simile— ‘as bog-wather, only ye could n’t see much of it be raison that her face were all covered wid reddish hair; the only thing good about her was her eyes: they was as bright as the sun on a May marnin’, an’ they had such a nice, kind look in them that you’d forget how ugly she was wance ye got talkin’ to her. She was always civil an’ friendly to ivery wan, an’ ready to do a good turn to no matther who wanted wan.’

‘Like Rosie here,’said Mrs. Smith gently, putting her hand on the girl’s shoulder; and Rosie, who was sitting at her feet, looked lovingly up at the worn, sickly looking old face.

‘Begad an’ you ’re right,’ agreed Mickey; ‘only Hairy Mary, as they called her be raison av the hair on her face, were terr’ble ugly, an’ Rosie is n’t that. No matther if Molly were ugly, she were rale good, an’ the two beautiful sisthers was as proud an’ disagreeable as she was good an’ kind.'

‘I thought in stories it was always the pretty wans that were good, an’ the ugly wans bad,’said Patsey reflectively.

‘Well, it was n’t so this time,’ said Mickey angrily. ‘If you wants to tell the story get into the chair an’ tell it yersilf. Sure you ’re as bad as your owld gran, wid yer foolish chat.’

Patsey was crushed. The indignity of being compared with his ‘owld gran ’ was too much for him. Mickey continued triumphantly: —

‘An’ where was I at all? Sure ye put iverything out av me head wid yer gab.'

‘ You were sayin ’ that the two beautiful sisters were proud and disagreeable,’ said Rosie timidly.

‘Ay, that’s it. They was proud an’ disagreeable, an’ they had no sinse at all; but me poor Hairy Mary had sinse enough for the lot av thim; so, when the two sisthers said they was tired av livin’ at home wid no wan only the mother, an’ that they’d go out into the wide wurrld to see could they get married, as no dacent boys seemed to be coinin’ that way, Mary said she’d go too, for fear would they get into thrubblc wid their foolishness. The sisthers did n’t want her, bekase they thought she’d shame thim wid her ugliness; but they had not got to th’ ind av the bohereen that led to the road when Mary says to the mot her: “Give me the cake ye have on the griddle wid yer blessin’, an’ I’ll be aff afther thim, for fear they’d do somethin’ stupid an us.” So whin the sisthers turned on to the road, was n’t Hairy Mary at their heels?

‘“Go home wid ye,” ses they. “Sure it’s disgracin’ us you ’d be if we let you come wid us.”

But Mary would n’t go home for thim; so they tied her to a big stone that was on the side av t he road, an’ on they wint, thinkin’ they’d got rid av her intirely. But they had n’t gone a mile, when was n’t she beside thim again? They was rale mad, an’ when they come to a bog, did n’t they make her lie down, an haped a lot of turf sods over her? “She’s done for now,” ses they. But they had n’t gone far before she was afther thim agin.

‘The next time they tied her to a tree, an’ the knot they put on the rope had some sort av a charrum on it. But sorra the knot nor charrum could howld Hairy Mary, an’ before they’d got another mile, was n’t she up wid thim agin? So they had to give up, an’ said they’d let her walk behind thim, if she’d not let on that she was their sisthcr, only a sarvint girrl they’d brought to attind on thim. Well, Mary agreed to this; all she wanted was to see that the foolish girrls did n’t get into thrubble.

‘Well, they walked on till they was clane bet out; an’ at last they comes to a house an’ axes for a night’s lodgin’. It was a giant wid his wife an’ three daughters as lived in th’ house, an’ they said they might come in for the night, but they must lave agin in the mornin’.

‘Hairy Mary did n’t like the looks av thim at all. The lot av thim had long, sharp teeth, an’ their nails was like the claws av a big bird. There was three beds in the room behind the kitchen; the giant an’ his wife slep’ in wan bed, an’ the three daughters in the next biggest bed, an’ th’ other bed was close beside it, an’ Hairy Mary an’ her sisthers was put into it.

‘Well, Hairy Mary misdoubted but that there were some mischief schamed; so she waited till they was all asleep, an’ then she tuk the hair necklaces that was on the necks av hersilf an’ the sisthers, an’ put thim on the necks av the giant’s three daughters; an’ she tuk the gran’ necklaces that was all gould an’ jools aff av the necks av the giant’s daughters, an’ put them on hersilf an’ her sisthers; an’ then she lay down beside thim, an’ waited till she’d see what ud happen,

‘Well, the giant an’ his wife were sittin’ beside the kitchen fire, an’ ses he: “Won’t thim three girrls make the gran’ pie for our dinner to-morrer?”

‘“Aye, will they,” ses she; “ but I’ll have a job to singe the hairy wan.” An’ wid that they both laughed as if it were a line joke.

'“Rut how’ll I tell the differ in the dark?” ses the giant.

‘“Just feel the necks av thim. The strange girrls has only hair necklaces on thim, an’ our wans have illigant gould necklaces on thim. It’s aisy tellin’ the differ,” ses she.

‘ Well, when he thought all was asleep, the giant takes a sharp knife in his han’, an’ crep’ softly to the bed wid Hairy Mary an’ the sisthers in it. She felt the giant’s big hands on her neck, but she lay as still as anythin’, purtendin’ she VOL. 129—NO. 5 was asleep; an’ whin he felt the gould necklace an her, ses he to himsilf, “Begad, an’ was n’t I near makin’ a cpiare mistake. I might ha’ been afther killin’ me own beautiful girrls instead av these strangers. So he goes to the next bed an’ cuts the throats av the three in it, an’ not a screech out av thim.

‘Hairy Mary did n’t. get much sleep that night; an’ as soon as she sees the first light of day, she wakes the sisthers very careful. “Get up,” ses she, “an’ don’t let a sound out av yees; we must be aff oul av this at wance.”

‘So up they gets, an’ stales out av the door; an’ as soon as the yard-gate was open, out they goes. They had n’t gone far when they heerd the giant, roaring aft her thim to stop. The two sisthers begins to shout an’ screech, but me brave Alary catches thim be th’ arrms. “Ah! Can’t yees stop that noise?” ses she. “We’ll want all the breath in our bodies to get away from the giant! Run for your lives!” ses she.

‘An’ bedad they run as they niver run before in all their born days, till they come to a river that was between the giant’s land, an’ the King av Spain’s lan’s; an’ if Hairy Mary did n’t make a buck lep over it, wid the two sisthers houldin’ an to her, an’ all three av thim landed on th’ other side safe from the giant, bekase he did n’t dare set fut on the King av Spain’s land. He sat down on the bank an’ looks at Hairy Mary an’ the two sisthers on the bank foreninst him.

“‘You ’re there, are yees?” ses he.

‘“Aye are we, an’ no thanks to ye,” ses she.

‘“Ye’re afther killin’ me three beautiful girrls an me,” ses he.

‘“You’re afther thryin’ to kill mesilf an’ me two sisthers,” ses she.

“‘Wait till I catch ye,” ses he.

‘“Wait till ye do,” ses she. An’ wid that she turns roun’, an’ the three of thim walks up the hill quite cool till they comes to the King av Spain’s castle. An’ when the people in it seen the beautiful sisthers, an’ the gran’ necklaces on the three av thim, they was brought in an’ got great entertainment from the whole coort .

‘The King av Spain had three sons, an’ did n’t th’ eldest av them fall in love wid th’ eldest sisther? an’ th’ second eldest fell in love wid th’ second eldest sisther, the fair-haired wan; but th’ youngest av the princes was the best av the lot, an’ me poor Hairy Mary fell in love wid him; but he would n’t look the same side av the room wid her.

‘Well, they had great feastin’, an’ the next mornin’ ses the King av Spain to Hairy Mary: “The other two is rale beauties, but you’re the cliver wan. If ye can bring me the talkin’ quilt aff the giant’s bed, I’ll give me consint to my eldest prince marryin’ your eldest sisther,”ses he.

‘“I’ll thry me best,”ses she. “But the giant an’ his wife is terr’ble light sleepers, an’ what’ll I do if I get cot?" ses she.

‘“The divvle would n’t catch you, Molly,” ses the King av Spain. “Afther the cliver way you got safe out av the giant’s house. There’s many a wan met his death in it.”

“‘Maybe I’ll meet my death in it, too,” ses me poor Hairy Mary; “but I’ll have a thry at it annyhow.”

‘Well, whin the giant, an’ his wife was fast asleep in bed, an’ th’ talkin’ quilt over thim, did n’t the quilt feel some wan pullin’ soft at it? “Who are ye at all?” ses the quilt. “Aisy now,”ses Hairy Mary, “sure it‘s only mesilf.” — “Masther! Masther! wake up,”ses the quilt; “there’s somebody takin’ me away! ”

'" An’ who’s takin’ ye away?” ses the giant. “It’s only mesilf,” roars the quilt. “Then let only mesilf quit wid his nonsense, an’ not be annoyin’ us,” ses the giant; “ bekase I want to go to sleep.” An the next minit he was snorin’ fit to raise the roof off the house.

‘Whin Hairy Mary heerd the snores av him she takes another good pull at the quilt an’ pulls it clane aff the bed, an’ away wid her an’ the quilt over her shouldhers. “Masther! Masther! Only mesilf is carryin’ me off,” ses the quilt, but the giant tuk no notice.

‘Afther a bit the giant’s wife began to feel cowld, so she wakes him, an’ ses somebody made away wid th’ quilt ; or maybe it was bewitched and walked away wid itsilf.

‘ So the giant gets up an goes out to th’ yard, an’ whin he seen the gate open, — for Mary was in such a hurry she did n’t wait to put the lock on it, — “Holy Moses!” ses he, “if that villin av a Hairy Mary has n’t walked off wid me illigant quilt! There’s no other wan wud be cliver enough to do it.”

‘Wid that he puts on his boots, an’ away wid him afther her; but Mary got a good start, an’ was over the river before he could catch her. “Have ye got me talkin’ quilt?” ses he, shoutin’ acrass t he strame.

‘ “ I have,” scs she. “ I tuk it to get me eldest sisther married.”

“‘An’ when will ye come agin?'’ ses the giant.

‘ “ The next time I wants annything,” ses she makin’ aff to give the quilt to the King. An’ it was coverin’ his bed that night, an’ himself an’ the queen had great divarshion out av it.

‘Well, the eldest sisther got married, an’ there was great doin’s intirely; but me poor Hairy Mary was out av it all, be raison that she was so ugly the two sisthers thought she’d have thim shamed; so she spint the day talkin’ to a poor thravelin’ woman that come from her part av the counthry an’ brought her news av her mother an’ the neighbors at home.

‘The next marnin’ the King ses to Hairy Mary: “If ye’ll bring me the swoord av light that hangs beside the giant’s bed, I’ll give me consint,” ses he, “to me second eldest son gettin’ married to your second eldest sisther, the wan wid the light hair.”

‘“That’s a hard job ye ’re givin’ me,”ses she, “but I can only do me best. I’ll have a thry at it annyhow.” An’ wid that, out she goes to the thravelin’ woman who had a lodgin’ near the castle, to consult wid her what she could do.

‘Well, the next night, when the giant’s wife was boilin’ the stir-about for the giant’s supper, was n’t me brave Hairy Mary sittin’ above on the roof an’ pourin’ salt down the chimbley into the pot ?

‘“Ye put too much salt into the stirabout,” ses the giant; “it’s that, salt I can’t ait it at all.” “Ah, what’s thrubblin’ ye?” ses the wife. “I just put in the same as usual, nayther more nor less. You’re gettin’ terr’ble particular these times,” ses she. “Ait it up, man, an’ quit yer nonsinse.”

‘Well, the giant had to ait it up an’ say no more; but that night he could n’t get a wink av sleep be raison av the drought that was on him. An’ ses he to the wife, “Get up an’ fetch me a drink av wather, for I ’m destroyed intirely wid the thirst that’s on me.”

‘Well, she sarched the whole house, an’ sorra the drop of wather she could get, bekase Hairy Mary had crep’ in when they was sleepin’ an’ emptied out ivery can of wather she could find. “Well,” ses he, “ye must wake up the sarvint boy an’ sind him wid a can to the well till he fetches me a drink.”

‘So the boy tuk the can to go to th’ well, but Mary was standin’ behint the door wid a handful av sand in her hands, an’ she dashes the sand in his eyes till he was near blinded wid it. “O Masther!” ses he, runnin’ back into th’ room, “it’s that dark I can’t see me way to the well!” — “Ye grate omadhaun!” ses the giant in a rage, “take the swoord av light, an’ it’ll show ye the way to the well.”

‘So the boy tuk the swoord, an’ he puts it down beside him when he wint to draw the wather; an’ did n’t Hairy Mary pick it up, an she waves it over his head till he was near blinded wid th’ light av it. “Go home wid ye,” ses she, “or I’ll cut the head off ye.” An’ away wid her over hill an’ holler, till she gets to the river. It was swelled that night bekase there had been a good lot av rain in the day; but she made the terr’blest lep iver she made, an’ just clared it in time to get safe away from the giant who was close on her heels. He made a lep too, bekase the swoord av light was the most preeiousest thing he had an’ he was loath to lose it; but he only got his toes on the bank foreninst him, an’ did n’t. he fall back head over heels into the river? an’ the splash he made you ’d hear a mile away. He were a long time gettin’ out, be raison that he was so heavy the bank ’ud give way under him ivery time he’d get near the top av it; an’ when he was out at last, Hairy Mary was clane out av sight.

‘Well, this time she did n’t wait to be sint for to give the swoord of light to the King, but she runs into his room, where he an’ the Queen were, as bowld as brass. “Take yer swoord,” ses she; “it was the hardest job iver I had; the giant nearly had me cot, only I lep the river just as he got up beside me. He tried to lep it afther me,” ses she, thryin’ to keep herself from laughing, “an’ maybe he’s in it yet. I wisht ye heerd the splash he made in the wather whin he fell in on the broad av his back!” An she runs out av the room bekase it was not respectful to laugh before the King an’ Queen.

‘“That’s the cliverest girl iver I seen,” ses the King to the Queen, “‘If she was n’t so terr’ble ugly, I’d give her our youngest son. He ’s the best av the lot,” ses he, “but. he’s a bit soft, an’ it ’ud take a cliver wife to sharpen him up.”

‘“Handsome is as handsome does,” ses the Queen. “Maybe he’d not think her so bad whin he got used to lookin’ at her. I’d rather have her, not the two beauties that thinks this worrld is n’t good enough for the likes of thim.”

‘Well, the second eldest son an’ the second eldest sisther got married the next day, an’ you’d think th’ owld King would ha’ been contint, an’ not set me poor Hairy Mary anny more hard jobs to do. But not a bit av him! He heerd tell av a wondherful buck goat the giant had, wid gould bells hangin’ on a collar round his neck; an’ nothin’ would satisfy him but he must have that goat. So ses he to Hairy Mary, “If ye’ll fetch me the giant’s white goat wid the collar an’ gould bells, I’ll give ye me youngest son for a husband for yerself.”

‘Well, Mary was goin’ to refuse; but she had a great wish for the youngest son, so all she said was that she thought he would n’t take her, be raison av her bein’ so ugly an’ not like the two beautiful sisthers.

‘“Bedad an’ I will have ye!” ses the prince, who was not such a fool as they thought him. “There’s no denyin’ that ye ’re no beauty, but ye have si use enough for a dozen av yer sisthers, an’ ye’re good too, an’ that’s betther nor beauty anny day.” He was for gettin’ married at wancest, an’ niver mindin’ the goat; but th’ owld miser av a King stuck to his bargain.

‘So Hairy Mary wint out in sarch av the thravelin’ woman to see could she help her; but she was not in. Well, Mary got some of the marrer that’s undher the elder-tree bark, and she crep’ into the goat’s sthable an’ stuffs his bells wid th’ marrer the way they could n’t ring; an’ thin she lades the goat out av the sthable. But no sooner was he outside, but he began to rare an’ cut all sorts av capers, till he shuck the marrer out av the bells an’ they rang loud enough to wake the dead.

‘Out comes th’ owld giant, wid his wife an’ the sarvint boy; an’ if they did n’t catch poor Hairy Mary an’ bring her into the house.

‘“Now me brave girrl, I’ve cot ye at last,” ses the giant. “What ’ud ye do to me if ye had me cot?” ses he makin’ fun av her.

“What ’ud I do to you, ye owld vagabone,” ses she, not a bit afeeard av him. “I ’d put ye in a sack, ye owld villin,” ses she, “an’ I’d hang the sack to the bame that’s across the top av the ceilin’ in the kitchen, an’ I’d lave ye hangin’ there till mornin’. How ’ud ye like that?” ses she.

‘“Troth an’ it is n’t a bad notion,” ses the giant. So he takes a big sack that was lyin’ in a corner av the kitchen, an’ puts her into it head an’ feet, and he ties her up to the bame that was acrost the kitchen. When he had her safe tied, ses he to the wife, “Stay ye here an’ mind her, till I go to the rassan1 wid the boy, to gather some green sticks to make a fire that’ll smother her; an’ then we’ll be quit av her,” ses he.

‘So away wid himsilf an’ the boy to the rassan, that was near a mile away; an’ the faymale giant puts on the pot to make the stir-about for the giant’s supper before he’d be back. When she was stirrin’ the pot, what does she hear but Mary shoutin’ an’ laughin’ as if she were havin’ a gran’ trate.

“‘What are ye laughin’ at?” ses the faymale giant.

“‘I ’m laughin’,” ses me cute Molly, “bekase th’ owld giant thought it was punishmint he was givin’ me; but it’s a trate it is, bekase the sack’s full of gould an’ jools, an’ niver fear but I’ll get out an’ be a rich woman for the rest av me days. I whisht ye was in here wid me, till ye’d see the dimonds, an’ grand joolery there’s in it, an’ I fillin’ me pockets as quick as I can. I would n’t ha’ tould ye wan worrd about it, only that ye was always a good friend to me,” ses Mary, humbuggin’ her, “an’ I’d like to do ye a good turrn.”

‘Well, after more perswashion, the faymale giant cuts Mary down, an’ she gets into the sack, an’ Mary ties her up to the bame; “For,” ses she, “ye’ll not get a sight av the gran’ things till ye’s up near the ceilin’.”

‘Mary had a hard job to lift up the sack, but she did it at last, an’ away wid her to the sthable to get th’ goat, lavin’ the faymale giant screechin’ murder an’ all sorts.

‘Well, to make a long story short, the goat wint wid her an’ passed no remarks an’ the two av thim run till they got to ihe river; an’ did n’t the two av thim Iep elane over it to th’ other side?

' Whin the owld giant got back to the kitchen, what did he see but the sack lyin’ on the flure, an’ not a sight av his wife annywhere could he see.

‘“How did ye get loose?” ses he, givin’ the sack a powerful kick; an’ his wife let a screech out av her fit to raise the roof afi’ av the house. “I’ll larn ye,” ses he, “1o stop where 1 put ye.” An’ wid that he begins to bate the sack, an’ the wife inside screechin’ that it was herself that was in it.

’While th’ owld giant was batin’ his wife, the sarvint boy runs to the sthable to see was ihe goat all right, an’ back he comes roarin’ that Hairy Mary was away wid him, an’ to quit batin’ the misthress for he had her near kilt. Away goes th’ owld giant as quick as he could leg it; but when he got to the river, there was Hairy Mary an’ the goat on th’ other side, an’ the two av them laughin’ at him fit to kill thimselves; an’ then away wid thim to the King av Spain’s castle. An’ if he was n’t plazed to see the goat, who was? But the youngest prince was n’t too well plazed, bekase the night’s adventure had made me poor Hairy Mary uglier nor iver; but he stuck to his worrd, an’ said he’d marry her all the same; an’ the weddin’ was fixed for the next day.

‘When they was all startin’ for the chapel, Mary axed could she bring only the thravelin’ woman in the gran’ coach wid hcrsilf, an’ the youngest prince was to ride on horseback an’ meet her there. But when he got down aff av his horse an’ wint to open the dure av the coach till the bride wud get out, what did he see but a beautiful lady; the two sisthers was n’t a patch on her!

‘She had the kind look of Hairy Mary in the blue eyes av her, an’ a smile like her on the red lips; but her skin was like roses an’ lilies, an’ crame an’ buttermilk, an’ the hair av her was curlin’ like threads av gould. Well, an’ was n’t the prince glad when he seen what a rale beauty he was gettin’ for a wife. So she towld him that the thravelin’ woman was a fairy as put a charrm on her when she was a babby, that she’d be ugly enough to frighten the crows till she’d find some wan that’d marry her in spite av her looks, an’ think only av the goodness av her.

‘So they got married widout any more delay, an’ th’ only wans that was not plazed was the two sisthers, whin they seen that me poor Hairy Mary that they made a joke av was a greater beauty nor ayther av thim. An’ if Hairy Mary an’ the prince don’t live happy, that you an’ I may!'

  1. A small wood, with undergrowth of brushwood.