DREAMS THAT HAVE NO MORAL
The friend who heard about Maive and the hazel-stick went to the workhouse another day. She found the old people cold and wretched, “like flies in winter,” she said; but they forgot the cold when they began to talk. A man had just left them who had played cards in a rath with the people of faery, who had played “very fair”; and one old man had seen an enchanted black pig one night, and there were two old people my friend had heard quarrelling as to whether Raftery or Callanan was the better poet. One had said of Raftery, “He was a big man, and his songs have gone through the whole world. I remember him well. He had a voice like the wind”; but the other was certain “that you would stand in the snow to listen to Callanan.” Presently an old man began to tell my friend a story, and all listened delightedly, bursting into laughter now and then. The story, which I am going to tell just as it was told, was one of those old rambling moralless tales, which are the delight of the poor and the hard driven, wherever life is left in its natural simplicity. They tell of a time when nothing had consequences, when even if you were killed, if only you had a good heart, somebody would bring you to life again with a touch of a rod, and when if you were a prince and happened to look exactly like your brother, you might go to bed with his queen, and have only a little quarrel afterwards. We too, if we were so weak and poor that everything threatened us with misfortune, would remember, if foolish people left us alone, every old dream that has been strong enough to fling the weight of the world from its shoulders.
There was a king one time who was very much put out because he had no son, and he went at last to consult his chief adviser. And the chief adviser said, “It’s easy enough managed if you do as I tell you. Let you send some one,” says he, “to such a place to catch a fish. And when the fish is brought in, give it to the queen, your wife, to eat.”
So the king sent as he was told, and the fish was caught and brought in, and he gave it to the cook, and bade her put it before the fire, but to be careful with it, and not to let any blob or blister rise on it. But it is impossible to cook a fish before the fire without the skin of it rising in some place or other, and so there came a blob on the skin, and the cook put her finger on it to smooth it down, and then she put her finger into her mouth to cool it, and so she got a taste of the fish. And then it was sent up to the queen, and she ate it, and what was left of it was thrown out into the yard, and there was a mare in the yard and a greyhound, and they ate the bits that were thrown out.
And before a year was out, the queen had a young son, and the cook had a young son, and the mare had two foals, and the greyhound had two pups.