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Seumas MacManus

Manis the Miller

There was a man from the mountain, named Donal, once married the daughter of a stingy old couple who lived on the lowland. He used to stay and work on his own wee patch of land all the week round, till it came to Saturday evening, and on Saturday evening he went to his wife's father's to spend Sunday with him.

Coming and going he always passed the mill of Manis, the miller; and Manis, who used to be watching him passing, always noticed, and thought it strange, that while he jumped the mill-race going to his wife's father's on a Saturday evening, he had always to wade through it coming back. And at last he stopped Donal one Monday morning, and asked him the meaning of it.

"Well, I'll tell you," says Donal, says he. "It's this: My old father-in-law is such a very small eater, that he says grace and blesses himself when I've only got a few pieces out of my meals; so I'm always weak coming back on Monday morning."

Manis, he thought over this to himself for a while, and then says he: "Would you mind letting me go with you next Saturday evening? If you do, I promise you that you'll leap the mill-race coming back."

"I'll be glad to have you," says Donal.

Very well and good. When Saturday evening came, Manis joined Donal and off they both trudged to Donal's father-in-law's.

The old man was not too well pleased at seeing Donal bringing a fresh hand, but Manis, he didn't pretend to see this, but made himself as welcome as the flowers in May. And when supper was laid down on Saturday night, Manis gave Donal the nudge, and both of them began to tie their shoes as if they had got loose, and they tied and tied away at their shoes, till the old man had eaten a couple of minutes, and then said grace and finished and got up from the table, thinking they wouldn't have the ill-manners to sit down after the meal was over.

But down to the table my brave Manis and Donal sat, and ate their hearty skinful. And when the old fellow saw this, he was gruff and grumpy enough, and it was little they could get out of him between that and bedtime.

But Manis kept a lively chat going, and told good stories, that passed away the night; and when bedtime came and they offered Manis a bed in the room, Manis said no, that there was no place he could sleep only one, and that was along the fireside.

The old man and the old woman both objected to this, and said they couldn't think of allowing a stranger to sleep there; but all they could say or do wasn't any use, and Manis said he couldn't and wouldn't sleep in any other place, and insisted on lying down there, and lie down there he did in spite of them all, and they all went off to their beds.

But though Manis lay down, he was very careful not to let himself go to sleep; and when he was near about two hours lying, he hears the room door open easy, and the old woman puts her head out and listens, and Manis he snored as if he hadn't slept for ten days and ten nights before.

When the old woman heard this, she came on up the floor and looked at him, and saw him like as if he was dead asleep. Then she hastened to put a pot of water on the fire, and began to make a pot of stir-about for herself and the old man, for this was the way, as Manis had well suspected, that they used to cheat Donal.

But just in the middle of the cooking of the pot of stir-about, doesn't Manis roll over and pretend to waken up? Up he sits, and rubs his eyes, and looks about him, and looks at the woman and at the pot on the fire.

"Ah," says he, "is it here ye are, or is it mornin' with ye?"

"Well, no," says she, "it isn't mornin', but we have a cow that's not well, and I had to put a mash on the fire here for her. I'm sorry I wakened ye."

"Oh, no, no!" says Manis, says he, "you haven't wakened me at all. It's this sore ankle I have here," says he, rubbing his ankle. "I've a very, very sore ankle," says he, "and it troubles me sometimes at night," he says, "and no matter how sound asleep I may be, it wakens me up, and I've got to sit up until I cure it." Says he: "There's nothin' cures it but soot—till I rub plenty of soot out of the chimney to it."

And Manis takes hold of the tongs, and he begins pulling the soot down out of the chimney from above the pot, and for every one piece that fell on the fire, there were five pieces that fell into the pot. And when Manis thought he had the posset well enough spiced with the soot, he raised up a little of the soot from the fire and rubbed his ankle with it.

"And now," says he, "that's all right, and I'll sleep sound and not waken again till mornin'." And he stretched himself out again, and began to snore.

The old woman was pretty well vexed that she had had her night's work spoiled, and she went up to the room to the old man and told him what had happened to the stir-about. He got into a bad rage entirely, and asked her was Manis asleep again, and she said he was. Then he ordered her to go down and make an oat scowder and put it on the ashes for him.

She went down, and got the oatmeal, and made a good scowder, and set it on the ashes, and then sat by it for the short while it would be doing.

But she hadn't it many minutes on the ashes when Manis let a cry out of him, as if it was in his sleep, and up he jumps and rubs his eyes and looks about him; and when he saw her, he said: "Och! is it here ye are? And I'm glad ye are," says he; "because I've a great trouble on me mind, that's lying a load over me heart and wouldn't let me sleep, and I want to relieve me mind to ye," says Manis; "an' then I'll sleep hearty and sound all the night after. I'll tell you the story," says he.

So he catches hold of the tongs in his two hands, and as he told the story he would stir them about through the ashes.

Says he: "I want to tell you that my father afore he died was a very rich man and owned no end of land. He had three sons, myself and Teddy and Tom; and the three of us were three good hard workers. I always liked Teddy and Tom; but however it came out, Tom and Teddy hated me, and they never lost a chance of trying to damage me with my father and turn him against me. He sent Teddy and Tom to school and gave them a grand education, but he only gave me the spade in my fist and sent me out to the fields. And when Teddy and Tom came back from school, they were two gentlemen, and use to ride their horses and hunt with their hounds; and me they always made look after the horses and groom them and saddle them and bridle them, and be there in the yard to meet them when they would come in from their riding, and take charge of their horses, give them a rubbing down, and stable them for them.

"In my own mind, I use to think that this wasn't exactly fair or brotherly treatment: but I said nothing, for I liked both Teddy and Tom. And prouder and prouder of them every day got my father, and more and more every day he disliked me, until at long and at last, when he came to die, he liked Teddy and Tom that much, and he liked poor Manis that little, that he drew up his will and divided his land into four parts and left it in this way:

"Now, supposin'," says Manis, says he, digging the point of the tongs into the scowder, "supposin'," says he, "there was my father's farm. He cut it across this way," says he, drawing the tongs through the scowder in one way. "Then he cut it across this way," says he, drawing the tongs through the scowder in the other direction; "and that quarter," says he, tossing away a quarter of the scowder with the point of the tongs, "he gave to my mother. And that quarter there," says he, tossing off the other quarter into the dirt, "he gave to Teddy, and this quarter here," says he, tossing the third quarter, "he gave to Tom. And this last quarter," says Manis, says he, digging the point of the tongs right into the heart of the other quarter of the scowder, and lifting it up and looking at it, "this quarter," says he, "he gave to the priest," and he pitched it as far from him down the floor as he could. "And there," says he, throwing down the tongs, "he left poor Manis what he is today—a beggar and an outcast! That, ma'am," says he, "is my story, and now that I've relieved my mind, I'll sleep sound and well till morning." And down he stretched himself by the fireside, and begins to snore again.

And the old woman she started up to the room, and she told the old man what had happened to the scowder; and the old fellow got into a mighty rage entirely, and was for getting up and going down to have the life of Manis, for he was starving with the hunger. But she tried to soothe him as well as she could. And then he told her to go down to the kitchen and make something else on the fire for him.

"O, it's no use," says she, "a-trying to make anything on the fire, for there'll be some other ache coming on that fellow's ankle or some other trouble on his mind, and he'll be getting up in the middle of it all to tell me about it. But I'll tell you what I'll do," says she, "I'll go out and I'll milk the cow, and give you a good jug of sweet milk to drink, and that will take the hunger off you till morning."

He told her to get up quick and do it, or she would find him dead of the hunger.

And off she went as quickly as she could, and took a jug off the kitchen dresser, and slipped out, leaving Manis snoring loudly in the kitchen. But when Manis thought that she had had time to have the jug near filled from the cow, he slips out to the byre, and as it was dark he talked like the old man: "And," says he, "I'll die with the hunger if you don't hurry with that."

So she filled the jug, and she reached it to him in the dark, and he drank it off, and gave her back the empty jug, and went in and lay down.

Then she milked off another jug for herself and drank it, and came slipping in, and put the jug easy on the dresser, so as not to waken Manis, and went up to the room.

When she came up, the old fellow was raging there. Says he: "You might have milked all the cows in the county since, an' me dead with hunger here waitin' on it. Give me my jug of milk," says he.

"And what do ye mean?" says she.

"What does yourself mean, you old blatherskite?" says the old man, says he.

Says she, "Didn't you come out to the byre and ask me for the jug of milk there, an' didn't I give it to you, and didn't you drink it all?"

"Be this and be that," says he, "but this is a nice how-do-ye-do. It's that scoundrel," says he, "in the kitchen, that's tricked ye again. An' be this an' be that," says he, "I'm goin' down now to have his life."

And when she heard how she had been tricked, she was not a bit sorry to let him go and have Manis's life.

But Manis had been listening with his ear to the keyhole to hear what was going on, and when he heard this, and while the man was preparing to go down and take his life, he hauled in a calf, and put it by the fireside where he had been lying, and threw the cover over it.

And when the man came down with the sledge-hammer, he went to the place where he knew Manis had been lying, and he struck with all his might, and he drove the hammer through the calf's skull, and the calf only just gave one moo!  and died. And then the old fellow went back to his bed content, and the miller went out and off home again.

When the old fellow and his woman got up in the morning early to go and bury the miller, they found the trick he had played on them, and they were in a pretty rage. But when the breakfast was made this morning, and Donal and all of them sat down, I can tell you the old fellow was in no hurry saying grace, and Donal he got his hearty fill for once in his life anyhow, and so did he at night.

And when Donal was going back home on Monday morning, he leapt the mill-race, and Manis came out, and gave him a cheer. He took Manis's both hands, and he shook them right hearty.

And every Monday morning after, for the three years that the old fellow lived, Manis always saw Donal leap the mill-race as easy as a sparrow might hop over a rod.

At the end of the three years, the old fellow died, and Donal went to live on the farm altogether, and there was no friend ever came to see him that was more heartily welcomed than Manis the Miller.