THERE was once a man living in the south of the island whose name was Colcheragh. He was a farmer, and he had poultry on his street, sheep on the mountain, and cattle in the meadow land alongside the river.
His cows were the best cows in the parish. Nowhere could you see such a fine head of cattle as he had; they were the pride of his heart, and they served him well with milk and butter.
But after a time he began to think that something was amiss with the cows. He went to the cow-house the first thing every morning, and one morning he noticed the cows looking so tired they could hardly stand. When it came to milking time they found not a drop of milk. The girls, who went out to milk the cows, came back with empty cans, saying:
'The milk has gone up into the cows' horns!'
Colcheragh began to think that some one had put an evil eye on his cows, so he swept up some of the dust from the cross four-roads close by, in a shovel, and sprinkled it on their backs. But the cows got no better. Then he wondered if some one was coming at night to steal the milk. He made up his mind to sit in the cow-house all night to see if he could catch the thief.
So one night after everyone had gone to bed he crept out of the house and hid himself under some straw in a corner of the cow-house. Hour after hour of the dark lonesome night crept on, and he heard nothing but the cows' breathing and their rustle in the straw. He was very cold and stiff, and he had just made up his mind to go into the house, when a glimmering light showed under the door; and then he heard Things laughing and talking--queer talk--he knew that they were not right people. The cow-house door opened and in came a whole lot of Little Men, dressed in green coats and leather caps. Keeking through the straw, he saw their horns hung by their sides, their whips in their hands, and scores of little dogs of every colour--green, blue, yellow, scarlet, and every colour you can think of--at their heels. The cows were lying down. The Little Fellows loosed the yokes from the cows' necks, hopped on their backs, a dozen, maybe, on each cow, and cracked their little whips. The cows jumped to their feet and Themselves galloped off!
Colcheragh ran to the stable, got on a horse, and made chase after his cows. The night was dark, but he could hear the whizz of the little whips through the air, the click of the cows' hoofs on stones, and the little dogs going:
'Yep, yep, yep!'
He heard, too, the laughing of Themselves. Then one of them would be singing out to the dogs, calling them up by name, giving a call out of him:
'Ho la, ho la, la!'
Colcheragh followed these sounds, keeping close at their heels. On and on they went, helter-skelter over hedges and over ditches till they got to the Fairy Hill, and Colcheragh was still following them, though on any other night he would not have gone within a mile of the great green mound. When the Little Fellows came to the hill they sounded a tan-ta-ra-ra-tan on their horns. The hill opened, bright light streamed out, and sounds of music and great merriment. Themselves passed through, and Colcheragh slid off his horse and slipped unnoticed in after them. The hill closed behind them and he found himself in a fine room, lit up till it was brighter than the summer noonday. The whole place was crowded with Little People, young and old, men and women, all decked out for a ball, that grand--he had never looked on the like. Among them were some faces that he thought he had seen before, but he took no notice of them, nor they of him. In one part there was dancing to the music of Hom Mooar--that was the name of the fiddler--and when he played all men must follow him whether they would or no. The dancing was like the dancing of flowers in the wind, such dancing as he had never seen before.
In another part his cows were being killed and roasted, and after the dance there was a great feast, with scores of tables set out with silver and gold and everything of the best to eat and drink. There was roast and boiled, and sollaghan and cowree, and puddings and pies, and jough and wine--a feast fit for the Governor himself. When they were taking their seats one of them, whose face he thought he knew, whispered to him: 'Don't thee taste nothin' here or thou will be like me, and never go back to thy ones no more.'
Colcheragh made up his mind to take this advice. When the feast was coming to an end there was a shout for the Jough-y-dorrys, the Stirrup Cup. Some one ran to fetch the cup. The one among the Little People, who seemed to be their king, filled it with red wine, drank himself, and passed it on to the rest. It was going round from one to another until it came to Colcheragh, who saw, when he had it in his hands, that it was of fine carved silver, and more beautiful than anything ever seen outside that place. He said to himself: 'The little durts have stolen and killed and eaten my cattle--this cup, if it were mine, would pay me for all.' So standing up and grasping the silver cup tightly in his hand, he held it up and said:
'Shoh Slaynt!' which is the Manx toast.
Then he dashed the cupful of wine over Themselves and the lights. In an instant the place was in black darkness, save for a stime of grey dawn light which came through the chink of the half-closed door. Colcheragh made for it, cup in hand, slammed the door behind him, and ran for his life.
After a moment of uproar Themselves missed the cup and Colcheragh, and with yells of rage they poured out of the hill after him, in full chase. The farmer, who had a good start, ran as he had never run before. He knew he would get small mercy at their hands if he was caught; he went splashing through the wet mire and keeping off the stepping stones; he knew they could not take him in the water. He looked over his shoulder and caught a glimpse of the whole Mob Beg behind him, close at his heels, waving their naked arms in the light of the torch each one held up. On they came, shrieking and howling in Manx:
Put thy foot on the stone,
And do not put it in the wet!
But he ran in the water till he came to the churchyard, and they could not touch him there. When he went into the cowhouse the next morning the cows had all come home and they got rest after that.
He put the cup in the Church at Rushen, and they are saying it was there for many years; then it was sent to London. It is said that after this the farmer would not go out of his house of an evening after dark.