Gateway to the Classics: In Chimney Corners by Seumas MacManus
In Chimney Corners by  Seumas MacManus

The Queen of the Golden Mines

Once on a time there was a King of Ireland, and he had three sons, Teddy, Billy, and Jack. Teddy and Billy was the two eldest, and they were brave able boys. But Jack was the youngest, a gauchy, dawnie sort of a lad that was good for nothing only feeding fowls and doing odd turns about the house. When they grew up to be men, Teddy and Billy one day said they'd go away to travel and see the world, for they'd only be good-for-nothing omadhauns if they'd stay here all their lives. Their father said that was good, and so off the both of them started. And that night when they halted from their travelling, who does they see coming up after them, but Jack; for it seems he commenced to think long, when he found them gone, and he was that lonesome that he couldn't stay behind them. And there he was dressed in his old tattered clothes, a spec-tacle for the world, and a disgrace to them; for of course, they were done off with the best of everything—rale gentlemen, as becomed their father's sons. They said to themselves they'd be long sorry to let that picthur with them—for he was a picthur, and no doubt of it—to be an upcast to them wherever they'd go. So before they started on again next mornin' they tied Jack to a millstone, and left him there. That night again, when they went to stop from their travellin', what would you have of it but there was me brave Jack once more, not a hundred parches behind them, and he dragging the millstone after him. Teddy and Billy said this was too bad entirely; and next day, before they started again, they tied another millstone to him, and they said, "Well, you'll not get away from here in a hurry anyhow, boy." So on they went again on their journey, laughing and cracking jokes, and telling passages, to pass the time; but that night again, when they went to stop from their journey, lo! and behold ye, who does they see coming tearing after them but my poor Jack, once more, with the two millstones dragging behind him. Then they were in a quandhary entirely, and they begun to consider what was best to do with him, for they saw there was no holdin', or tyin' of him, or keepin' him back at all, at all, for if they were to tie him to a mountain in the mornin', he'd be afther them with the mountain rattling at his heels again' night. So they come to the conclusion that it was best to take Jack with them, and purtend him to be their hired boy, and not their brother at all. Of course, me poor Jack, that was always agreeable, was only too ready to go on these terms; and on the three of them went, afore them, till at length they reached the King of England's castle. When the King of England heard Teddy and Billy was the King of Ireland's two sons, he give them ceud mile failte, was plaised and proud to see them, ordhered them to be made much of, then opened his hall door, an' asked in the nobility an' genthry of the whole counthry side to a big dinner and ball that he gave in their honour. But what do you have of it, but in the middle of the ball doesn't Teddy have a fall out with the King of England's son, and sthruck him, and then that was the play! The hubbub and hooroosh got up, and the King ordhered the ball to be stopped, and had Teddy taken pres'ner, and Billy and Jack ordhered away out of the kingdom. Billy and Jack went away, vexed in their hearts at leaving Teddy in jail, and they travelled away till they came to France, and the King of France's Castle. Here when the King of France heard that Billy, the King of Ireland's son, had come to see him he went out and welcomed him, an' asked in himself and Jack to come in and make a visit with him. And, like the King of England, he thought he couldn't make too much of the King of Ireland's sons, and threw open his hall door and asked in the whole nobility and clergy and genthry of all the country side into a great dinner and ball given in Billy's honour. But lo! and behould ye, doesn't it turn up at this ball, too, that Billy had a squabble with the King of France's son and struck him, and the ball was stopped by the King's ordhers, and the people sent home, and Billy taken prisoner, and there was poor Jack now left all alone. The King of France, taking pity on Jack, employed him as a boy. And Jack was getting along very well at Court, and the king and him used to have very great yarns together entirely. At length a great war broke out betwixt France and Germany; and the King of France was in great trouble, for the Germans were slaughtering and conquering all before them. Says Jack, says, he to the King one day, "I wish I had only half a rajimint of your men, and you'd see what I would do." Instead of this the King gave him a whole army, and in less nor three days there wasn't a German alive in the whole kingdom of France. It was the king was the thankful man to Jack for this good action, and said he never could forget it to him. After that Jack got into great favour at Court, and used to have long chats with the Queen herself. But Jack soon found that he never could come into the Queen's presence that he didn't put her in tears. He asked her one day what was the meaning of this, and she told him that it was because she never looked on him that he didn't put her in mind of her infant son that had, twelve months' before, been carried away by the Queen of the Golden Mines, and who she had never heard tale or tidings of from that day to this. "Well, be this and be that," says Jack, says he, "but I'm not the man to leave ye in your trouble if I can help it; and be this and be that over again," says he, "but I won't sleep two nights in the one bed, or eat two meals' meat in the one house, till I find out the Queen of the Golden Mines's Castle, and fetch back your infant son to ye—or else I'll not come back livin'." "Ah," says the Queen, "that would never do!" and "Ah," says the King, "that would never do at all, at all!" They pointed out and showed to him how a hundred great knights had gone on the same errand before him, and not one of them ever come back livin', and there was no use in him throwin' away his life, for they couldn't afford to lose him. But it was all no use; Jack was bound on goin', and go he would. So, the very next morning he was up at cock-crow, and afther leavin' good-bye with the whole of them, and leavin' the King and the Queen in tears, he started on his journey. And he travelled away afore him, inquiring his way to the Castle of the Queen of the Golden Mines; and he travelled and tramped for many a weary day, and for many a weary week, and for many a weary month; till at last when it was drawing on twelve months from the day he left the Castle of the King of France, one day tors't evening he was travelling through a thick wood, when he fell in with an old man, resting, with a great bundle of sticks by his side; and "Me poor old man," says Jack, says he, "that's a mighty great load entirely for a poor man of your years to be carryin'. Sure, if ye'll allow me, I'll just take them with me, for ye, as far as you're goin'." "Blissins on ye!" says the ould man; "an' an ould man's blissin' atop of that; an' thanky." "Nobbut, thanky, yerself, for your good wishes," says Jack, says he, throwin' the bundle of sticks on his shoulder, an' marchin' on by the ould man's side. And they thravelled away through the wood till they come at last to the ould man's cabin. And the ould man axed Jack to come in and put up with him for the night, and such poor accommodation as he had, Jack was heartily welcome to them, Jack thanked him and went in and put up the night with him, and in the morning Jack told the ould man the arrand he was on and axed if he'd diract him on his way to the Queen of the Golden Mines's Castle. Then the ould man took out Jack, and showed him a copper castle glancing in the sun, on a hill opposite, and told him that was his journey's end. "But, my poor man," says he, "I would strongly advise ye not to go next or near it. A hundred knights went there afore you on the self-same errand, and their heads are now stuck on a hundred spears right afore the castle; for there's a fiery dragon guards it that makes short work of the best of them." But seeing Jack wasn't to be persuaded off his entherprise nohow, he took him in and gave him a sword that carried ten men's strength in it along with that of the man that wielded it. And he told Jack, if he was alive again' night, and not killed by the dhragon, to come back to his cabin. Jack thanked him for the sword, and promised this, and then he set out for the castle. But lo! and behold ye, no sooner did Jack come anear the castle than a terrible great monsther of a dhragon entirely, the wildest ever Jack seen or heard tell of, come out from the castle, and he opened his mouth as wide as the world from side to side, and let a roar that started the old grey eagle on top of Croaghpathrick mountain at home in Ireland. Poor Jack thrimbled from head to foot—and small wonder he did—but, not a bit daunted, he went on to meet the dhragon, and no sooner were they met than he to it and the dhragon to it, and they fought and sthrove long and hard, the wildest fight by far that poor Jack ever entered into, and they fought that way from early mornin' till the sun went down, at one time Jack seemin' to be gettin' the betther of the dhragon, and the next minute the dhragon gettin' the betther of Jack; and when the sun went down they called a truce of peace till next day; and Jack dragged himself back to the cabin in small hopes of being able to meet the dhragon more, for he was covered over with wounds from head to foot. But when he got to the cabin the ould man welcomed him back alive, and he took down a little bottle of ointment and rubbed it over Jack, and no sooner did he rub it over him than Jack's wounds were all healed as well as ever again. And Jack went out a new man the next mornin' to give the dhragon another try for it this day. And just as on the day afore the fiery dhragon come down the hill meeting poor Jack; and the dhragon opened his mouth as wide as the world, and gave a roar that shook the nails on the toes of the great grey eagle on top of Croaghpathrick mountain at home in Ireland, and then he fell on Jack, and Jack fell on him, and the dhragon to it, and Jack to it; and the dhragon gave Jack his fill, and Jack gave the dhragon his fill; and if they fought hard the day afore they fought double as hard this day, and the dhragon put very sore on Jack entirely till the sun went down. Then again they agreed on a truce of peace till the next mornin', and Jack dragged himself back as best he could to the cabin again, all covered over with cuts and bruises, and streaming down with blood. And when he came there the ould man took down a little bottle of ointment and rubbed Jack over with it, and he was healed as well as ever again. Next morning Jack was up quite fresh and ready for another day's battling, and the ould man told Jack that, win or lose, this day was like to end the battle. And he said if Jack happened (as God send) to come off victorious, he was to go into the castle, and there he would find a great number of beautiful virgins running about in great confusion to prevent Jack from discovering their mistress the Queen of the Golden Mines, and every one of them axing, "Is it me ye want? Is it me ye want?" But he told Jack he was to heed none of them, but press through room after room till he come to the sixth room, and there he would find the Queen herself asleep, with the little child by her side. So Jack went meeting the dhragon this third day again, and the dhragon come meeting Jack. And he opened his mouth as wide as the world, and let a roar that rattled the eyes in the sockets of the great grey eagle on top of Croaghpathrick mountain at home in Ireland, and then fell on Jack, and Jack fell on him; and he to it, and Jack to it, and both of them to it; and if the fight was wild and terrible the first two days it was ten times wilder and terribler this day. And harder and harder it was getting the more they warmed to the work; and one time it was Jack was getting the better of the dhragon, and the next time it was the dhragon was getting the better of poor Jack; and at last coming on tor'st night the dhragon was putting very hard on Jack entirely, and it was very nearly being all over with him, when he stepped back, and gathering all his strength mounted into the air with one spring, and come down atop of the dhragon's head, and struck his sword into his heart, leaving him over dead. Then Jack went into the castle, and no sooner did he go in than there was lots of the most beautiful virgins, running in great commotion, and asking Jack, "is it me ye want?" "Is it me ye want?" But Jack never heeded them till he come into the sixth room, where he saw the beautiful Queen of the Golden Mines asleep, with the Queen of France's child asleep beside her. Jack bent over her and gave her one kiss, for she was a lovely picthur. Then he took up the child in his arms, and picking up a beautiful garter all glancing with diamonds, that was lying by the Queen's bedside, and taking with him a loaf of bread that could never be eaten out, a bottle of wine that could never be drunk out, and a purse that could never be emptied, he started away. He stopped that night with the ould man, who took down his bottle of ointment and healed up all the wounds Jack got that day. In the morning Jack started for France, leaving with the ould man to keep till the Queen of the Golden Mines would call for it the purse that never could be emptied. When Jack reached France, and presented back to the Queen her darling child, that was the rejoicement and the joy! There was a great faist given, and at the faist Jack said he had a little wondher he fetched with him, that he'd like to show; and he produced his bottle, and sent it round the prences, and nobility, and genthry that were all assembled at the faist, and axed them all to drink the Queen's health out of it. This they all did; and lo! and behold ye, when they had finished the bottle was as full as when they commenced; and they all said that bate all ever they knew or heerd tell of; and the King said it bate all ever he knew or heerd tell of, too, and that the same bottle would be of mighty great sarvice to him, to keep his troops in drink when he'd go to war, and axed Jack on what tarms he'd part with it. Jack said he couldn't part with it entirely, as it wasn't his own, but if the King relaised his brother he'd leave the bottle with him till such times as the Queen of the Golden Mines might call for it. The Queen agreed to this. Jack's brother was relaised, and himself and Jack started off for England. When they were come there the King of England gave a great faist in their honour, too, and at this faist Jack said he'd like to show them a little wonder he fetched with him, and he produced the loaf, and axed the King to divide all round. And the King cut off the loaf, and divided all round, over all the prences and nobility and gentry that was there; and when he had finished they were all lost in wondherment, for the loaf was still as big as when the King commenced to cut. The King said that would be the grand loaf for feeding his troops whenever he went to war, and axed Jack what would he take to part with it. Jack said the loaf wasn't his to part with, but if the King relaised his brother out of prison he'd give him the loaf till such times as the Queen of the Golden Mines might call for it. The King agreed to this, and relaised Jack's other brother, and then the three of them started for home together. And when they were come near home the two older brothers agreed that Jack when he'd tell his story would disgrace them, and they'd put him to death. But Jack agreed if they'd let him live he would go away and push his fortune, and never go back near home. They let him live on these conditions, and they pushed on home, where they were received with great welcomes, and told mortial great things entirely of all the great things they done while they were away. Jack come to the castle in disguise and got hired as a boy and lived there.

The Queen of the Golden Mines, when she woke up and learned of the young gentleman that had killed the dhragon, and carried off the child and the other things, and kissed her, said he must be a fine fellow entirely, and she would never marry another man if she couldn't find him out. She got no rest till she started, herself and her virgins, and away to find out Jack. She first come to the old man, where she got her purse, and he directed her to the King of France. When she come to the Coort of the King of France she got her bottle, and he said Jack went from there to go to see the King of 52 England. From the King of England she got her loaf, and he diracted her to Ireland, telling her that Jack was no other than the King of Ireland's son. She lost no time then reaching the court of the King of Ireland, where she demanded his son who had killed the fiery dhragon. The King sent out his eldest son, and he said it was him that had killed the fiery dhragon, and she asked him for tokens, but he could give none, so she said he wasn't the man she wanted. Then the King's second son come out and said it was him killed the fiery dhragon. But he couldn't show her no tokens either, so he wouldn't do. Then the King said he had no other son, but a good-for-nothing droich who went away somewhere and never come back; but that it wasn't him anyhow, for he couldn't kill a cockroach. She said she'd have to see him, and converse with him, or otherwise she wouldn't go away till she'd pull down his castle. Then the whole house was upside down, and they didn't know what to do. And Jack, who was doing something about the yards axed what it was all about; and they told him, and he axed to have a minute's convarsing with her. But they all laughed at him; and one gave him a knock, and another gave him a push, and another gave him a kick. And Jack never minded them one bit, but went out and said it was him that kilt the fiery dhragon. They all set up another big roar of a laugh at this. Then the Queen asked him to show his tokens, and Jack fetched from his pocket the beautiful garter, all shining with jewels, and held it up, and the Queen came and threw her arms about Jack's neck and kissed him, and said he was the brave man she'd marry, and no other. And my brave Jack, to the astonishment of them all, confessed who he was, and got married to her, and was ever afther the King of the Golden Mines.

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