THERE was one time a poor widow woman he name of Cathleen the Hollow, for her house was down in a dip of the ground. She had two fine beautiful sons, Shan the Hollow and Hughie Cathleen. Shan was a dancer could step on a plate and not put a break in the delf; and Hughie could sing every ballad and song was ever heard tell of at all.
They were wild daring lads, too, the way there was great talk of them in the countryside. And the lamentations of the youth of the world were more nor a fright when news came round to the neighbours that Hughie was dead.
He lay down of a Friday night, and he in the best of health, on the Saturday morning the brother went to rouse him, and found him perished dead.
Well there was a most elegant wake, not a one in those parts but paid respect to the corpse. And there wasn't the least suspicion but that Hughie come by his death of some natural cause.
It was maybe a fortnight after the burying that the sleep quit Shan the Hollow entirely. If evenly he began for to doze in his bed he'd be roused up again by a rap on the door--but when he stepped out there was no person visible there.
"Oh mother," says he, "I'm thinking poor Hughie is walking the world."
"He is not," says she. "For he was a decent lad would find peace in the grave. But there is some person making free with this house, for not a day goes by but I miss some article of food."
Shan let it be, but his mind was uneasy for Hugh. And not a long after he heard a voice go past in the night, and it singing a beautiful song. He rose and he went to the door.
"Oh Hughie," says he, "is that your spirit travelling the earth?"
"It's myself is walking the world, and I not buried at all," says the voice. "The Good People have me away, and the corpse was an old image cut from bog stick that they left in my bed to deceive you."
"Then it's yourself is using the food from this house, my poor boy?" says Shan.
"Aye, indeed," says the voice, "and sometimes it's little I find. It does be hard on me to refuse the noble refreshment the fairies set out, but if I'd eat of the like I could never escape from their power. Do you tell herself to leave me a mug of sweet milk and a morsel of bread on the sill of the window, to keep me from hungering more."
"You'll have the best in the house left ready against you come," says Shan. "But will you tell me what way am I to contrive a rescue?"
"It's easy enough," says the voice. "But I'm diverting myself with the fairies, and I'll not be coming home for a while. They took me out oversea to America and showed me the wonders are there. Sure maybe it's in France I'll be at the dawning of day!"
"I'd liefer sit by our own fireside than travel the realms of the world with their like," says Shan. "Let you give them the slip and come home."
"I seen the King's daughter of Spain, and a Queen of the East," says the voice. "For let me be telling you there's few like myself with the fairies, the way they are showing me great respect."
Shan gets vexed at the words and he says: "Is it boasting forenenst your own brother you are? Sure we come of a poor stock of people, and I have heard tell there are lords of the fairies."
"It's my singing has them crazed about me," says the voice, "for they have right understanding for music and songs."
"Is there any man or woman of these parts excepting yourself abroad with them now?" asks Shan.
"Not a one at this present. But at dark to-morrow we are going for to lift young Cassidy's wife."
Well Shan kept inquiring of Hughie when would he like to come home. At long last the lad gave out he'd be ready in three weeks from that hour.
"Let you come to the fort," says he, "and meet the whole host of the fairies. We'll give them the slip at the gap." With that the voice went away off the street, singing till the sound dwined out in the distance. But my poor Shan was that put about he couldn't decide what to do. At the dawn of the morning he set off to visit the Priest, and he informed him every word he was after hearing. Well his Reverence couldn't believe there was anything in it only a dream of the night.
"Let your Reverence go to the Cassidy's and keep herself from their hands," says Shan. "For the Good People are determined to lift her away."
"Go home now and attend to your farm," says the Priest. "'Tis the raving of grief is on you for the brother you lost."
Still and all his Reverence set out for Cassidy's that evening to see was anything wrong. Didn't he find the Good People before him and they had herself brought away. "Oh if only I had come in time," says he. "But I might be some hindrance to them yet."
With that he went down to the hollow, and Shan was sitting within in the house. Says the Priest: "Let you not stir from this for the calling of voices that pass. You are after informing me of an intention you have for to rescue your brother on a set and certain night. Now give me your promise to make no attempt of the sort--for it's into the power of the fallen angels you'd go, and you'd not get him rescued at all."
"I be to make an offer anyway," says Shan.
"Very well," says the Priest. "I'll send four strong men of this parish to rope you down in your bed on that ill night."
Didn't they hold my poor Shan from his offer to bring home the brother, and surely it was well done for his own destruction was in it. But the voice came no more to the window and the bread lay uncut on the sill.