LONG hundreds of years ago there was a fine palace on a mountain sloping up from the sea. It was like a palace in a dream, built of shining marble of all colours and having great doors covered with gold.
In it there lived the mighty Wizard who had made it for himself by his spells. But his hatred of other people was as great as his power, and he would not allow any person to come near him except his own servants, and they were evil spirits. If any man dared to go to see the palace, to ask for work or to beg for charity, he would never be heard of again. His friends might search for him, but they would never find him. Soon people began to whisper that some of the blocks of granite near the palace were like the men who had gone up the mountain and never came back. They began to believe that the Wizard had caught them and frozen them into grey stone. At length the Wizard became the terror of the whole island, so that no person would pass within several miles of his palace. The people of that side of the island fled from their homes, and the place was lonely and desolate.
So things went on for three years, until one day a poor man going on the houses happened to travel on that side of the island, not knowing anything of this Wizard. His road took him over the mountain, where the Wizard lived, and as he came near it, he was astonished to see the place so silent and desolate. He had been looking forward to the usual food and shelter, with the friendly welcome, but he found the houses empty ruins and the kindly country people gone. And where was the straw and hay which made such a snug bed in the barn? Weeds and stones were lying thick in the fields. Night came on him, and he walked and walked; but never a bit of shelter could he find, and he did not know where to go to get a bed. 'It's a middlin' dark night,' he thought; 'but it's better to go on than back--a road a body is used on is no throuble to them, let it be night or not.' He was travelling on the old road over the mountain, going ahead singing 'Colcheragh Raby' for company to himself, and after a long while he saw a light in the distance. The light got brighter and brighter until he came to a grand palace with every window lit up. The singing was all knocked out of him.
'In the name of Fortune where am I at all? This is a dreadful big house,' he said to himself; 'where did it come from, for all? Nobody never seen the like of it on this bare breas' before--else where am I at all, at all?'
He was hard set to get to the door with the blocks of stone lying about like frozen men.
'I'd swear,' he said to himself as he stumbled over one, 'that this was lil' Neddy Hom, the dwarf man tha's missin', only it's stone.'
When he came to the big door it was locked. Through one of the windows he saw a table, and supper ready on it, but he saw no person. He was very tired and hungry, but he was afraid to knock at the door of such a fine place.
'Aw, that place is too gran' for the likes of me!' said he.
He sat down on one of the marble seats outside, saying:
'I'll stretch meself here till mornin', it's a middlin' sort of a night.'
That day meat and bread had been given to him at the last town he had passed through. He was hungry and he thought he would eat, so he opened his wallet and took out a piece of bread and meat, then he put his hand into his pocket and drew out a pinch of salt in a screw of paper. As he opened the paper some grains of salt fell out, on to the ground. No sooner had this happened than up from the ground beneath came the sound of most terrible groans, high winds blew from every airt out of the heavens, lightnings flashed in the air, dreadful thunder crashed overhead, and the ground heaved beneath his feet; and he knew that there was plenty of company round him, though no man was to be seen. In less than a moment the grand palace burst into a hundred thousand bits, and vanished into the air. He found himself on a wide, lonely mountain, and in the grey light of dawn no trace of the palace was to be seen.
He went down on his knees and put up a prayer of thanksgiving for his escape, and then ran on to the next village, where he told the people all that he had seen, and glad they were to hear of the disappearance of the Wizard.