All this happened long ago; but there are those who say that the covetous cobbler dances still, between sunset and sunrise, round Murdoch’s Rath.
In days gone by there lived a poor widow who had brought up her only child so well that the little lass was more helpful and handy than many a grown-up person.
When other women’s children were tearing and dirtying their clothes, clamouring at their mothers’ skirts for this and that, losing and breaking and spoiling things, and getting into mischief of all kinds, the widow’s little girl, with her tiny thimble on her finger, could patch quite neatly. She was to be trusted to put anything in its proper place, and when meals were over she would stand on a little stool at the table washing up the dishes. Moreover, she could darn stockings so well that the darn looked like a part of the stocking. The slatternly mothers, who spoiled and scolded their children by turns, and had never taught them to be tidy and obedient, used often to quote the widow’s little girl to their troublesome brats, and say, “Why don’t you help your mother as the widow’s daughter helps her?”
Thus it came about that the helpless, useless, untidy little girls hated the very name of the widow’s daughter, because they were always being told of her usefulness and neatness.
Now the widow’s child often earned a few pence by herding sheep or pigs for the farmers, or by darning stockings for their wives, and as she could be trusted, people were very glad to employ her. One day she was keeping watch over five little pigs in a field, and, not to waste time, was darning a pair of stockings as well, when some of the little girls who had a spite against her resolved to play her a trick.
Near the field where the little maid and the pigs were there was a wood, into which all children were strictly forbidden to go. For in the depths of the wood there lived a terrible Ogre and Ogress, who kidnapped all children who strayed near their dwelling. Every morning the Ogre threw a big black bag over his shoulder, and stalked through the forest, making the ground shake as he walked. If he found any truant children he popped them into his bag, and when he got home his wife cooked them for supper.
The trick played upon the widow’s daughter was this. Five little girls came up to the field where she was herding the five little pigs, and each chasing a pig, they drove them into the Ogre’s wood. In vain the little maid called to her flock; the pigs ran in a frightened troop into the wood, and she ran after them. When the five little girls saw that she had got them together again, they ran in to chase them away once more, and so they were all in the wood together, when the ground shook under them, upsetting the six little girls and the five little pigs; and as they rolled over the Ogre picked them up, and put them one after another into his bag.