ONE time there was a woman named Colloo, in Close ny Lheiy, near Glen Meay, and she had a child that had fallen sick in a strange way. Nothing seemed wrong with him, yet crosser and crosser he grew, nying nyanging night and day. The woman was in great distress. Charms had failed, and she didn't know rightly what to do.
It seems that when about a fortnight old, the child, as fine a child for his age as you would see in a day's walk, was left asleep while the mother went to the well for water. Now Herself forgot to put the tongs on the cradle, and when she came back the child was crying pitifully, and there was no quieting for him. And from that very hour the flesh seemed to melt off his bones till he became as ugly and as wizened a child as you would see between the Point of Ayr and the Calf. He was that way, his whining howl filling the house, for four years, lying in his cradle without a motion on him to put his feet under him. Not a day's rest nor a night's sleep had the woman these four years with him. She was fairly scourged until there came a fine day in the spring, while Hom Beg Bridson, the tailor, was in the house sewing. Hom is dead now, but there's many alive that remember him yet. He was wise tremendous, for he was going from house to house sewing, and gathering wisdom as he was going.
Well, before that day the tailor was seeing lots of wickedness in the child. When the woman would be out feeding the cows and pigs, he would be hoisting his head up out of the cradle and making faces at the tailor, winking and slicking, and shaking his head, and saying 'What a lad I am!'
That day the woman wanted to go to the shop to sell some eggs that she had, and says she to the tailor: 'Hom, man, keep your eye on the chile that the bogh won't fall out of the criddle an' hurt himself, while I slip down to the shop.'
When she was gone the tailor began to whistle, low and slow, to himself, as he stitched, the tune of a little hymn.
'Drop that, Hom Beg,' said a little harsh voice.
The tailor, scandalised, looked round to see if it was the child that had spoken, and it was.
'Whush, whush, now; lie quate,' said the tailor, rocking the cradle with his foot, and as he rocked he whistled the hymn tune louder.
'Drop that, Hom Beg, I tell ye, an' give us something light an' handy,' said the little fella back to him, middling sharp.
'Aw, anything at all to plaze thee,' said the tailor, whistling a jig.
'Hom,' said my lad, 'can thou dance anything to that?'
'I can,' said the tailor. 'Can thou?'
'I can that,' said my lad. 'Would thou like to see me dance?'
'I would,' said the tailor.
'Take that oul' fiddle down, then, Hom, man,' he said; 'an' put "The tune of the Big Wheel" on it.'
'Aw, I'll do that for thee, an' welcome,' said the tailor.
The fiddle quits its hook on the wall, and the tailor tunes up.
'Hom,' said the little fella, 'before thou begin to play, clear the kitchen for me--cheers an' stools, everything away--make a place for me to step out to the music, man.'
'Aw, I'll do that for thee, too,' said the tailor. He cleared the kitchen floor, and then he struck up 'Tune y wheeyl vooar.'
In a crack the little fella bounced from his cradle on to the floor with a 'Chu!' and began flying round the kitchen.
'Go it, Hom--face your partner--heel an' toe does it. Well done, Hom--more power to your elba, man.'
Hom plays faster and faster, till my lad was jumping as high as the table. With a 'Chu!' up goes his foot on top of the dresser, and 'Chu!' then on top of the chimney piece, and 'Chu!' bang against the partition; then he was half flying, half footing it round the kitchen, turning and going that quick that it put a reel in Hom's head to be looking at him. Then he was whirling everything round for a clear space, even Hom himself, who by degrees gets up on the table in the corner, and plays wilder and faster, as the whirling jig grows madder and swifter.
'M'Yee!' said the tailor, throwing down the fiddle. 'I mus' run, thou're not the chile that was in the criddle! Are thou?'
'Houl' man! thou're right enough,' said the little fella. 'Strike up for me--make has'e, make has'e, man--keep joggin' your elba.'
'Whush!' said the tailor, 'here's Herself comin'.'
The dance suddenly ceased. The child gave a hop, skip, and jump into the cradle.
'Go on with thy sewing, Hom; don't say a word,' said the little fella, covering himself up in the clothes till nothing was left of him to be seen except his eyes, which keeked out like a ferret's.
When Herself came in the house, the tailor, all of a tremble, was sitting cross-legged on the round table and his spec's on his nose and letting on that he was busy sewing; the child in the cradle was grinning and crying as usual.
'What in all the earthly worl' ----! But it's the quare stitching, altogether, there's been goin' on here, an' me out. An' how thou can see the needle in that dark corner, Hom Bridson, let alone sew, it bates me,' said she, siding the place. 'Well, well--then, well, well--on the boghee millish. What is it at all, at all, that's doin' on the veen? Did he think Mammy had gone an' left him then, the chree? Mammy is goin' to feed him, though.'
The tailor had been thinking mighty with himself what he ought to do, so he said:
'Look here, woman, give him nothing at all, but go out an' get a creelful of good turf an' a whisp of feern.'
She brought the turf, and throws a bundle of fern on it.
The tailor gave a leap off the table down to the floor, and it wasn't long till he had the fine fire.
'Thou'll have the house put on fire for me, Hom,' said Herself.
'No fear, but I'll fire some of them,' said the tailor. The child, with his two eyes going out of his head watching to see what the tailor was going to do, was slowly turning his whining howl into a kind of call--to his own sort to come and fetch him, it's like.
'I'll send thee home,' said the tailor, drawing near the cradle, and he stretches out his two hands to take the child and put him on the big, red turf fire.
Before he was able to lay a hand on him, the little fella leaped out of the cradle and took for the door.
'The back of me han' an' the sole of me fut to you!' said he, 'if I would only a-had another night I could have showed thee a trick or two more than that yet.'
Then the door flew open with a bang, as though some one had thrown it open, and he took off with himself like a shot. A hullabaloo of laughing and making fun was heard outside, and the noise of many running little feet. Out of the door of the house goes Herself, and Hom after her; they see no one, but they caught sight of a flock of low-lying clouds shaped like gulls chasing each other away up Glen Rushen, and then came to their ears, as if afar off from the clouds, sharp whistles and wicked little laughs as if making mock of them. Then as they were turning round to come back, she suddenly sees right before her, her own sweet, rosy, smiling child, with thumb in mouth, lying on a mossy bank. And she took all the joy in the world of the child that he was back again safe and sound.