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

Shan Ban and Ned Flynn

Shan ban and Ned Flynn were neighbouring farmers that wrought hard on their wee bits of farms to support themselves and their wives—but that same was more nor they could do; so says Shan Ban to Ned Flynn one day, "Ned," says he, "what do ye think if we start off to push our fortunes, and leave our wives to look out for themselves for a while?" "Why, I think," says Ned, says he, "it wouldn't be a bad idea at all." No sooner sayed than done, off both of them starts, and away afore them to push their fortunes. They thravelled away for the length of a day, without meeting with anything remarkable, and long afther night fell on them they were still wanderin' on when Shan sees a light away from him, and "Ned," says he, "I think we'll dhraw on that light." Well and good, on the light they dhrew, and when they come there, they found the light was shining from a great castle, and in they went to the castle, and finding or seeing no one there, they wandhered on through it from room to room, dumfoundered with all the gorgeous grandeur, goold an' silver, they saw everywhere. At last they come to a great dining-room, with a great dinner entirely, of all sorts of the richest and grandest, and nicest eating and drinking spread out on the tables. "Come, help ourselves," says Shan, "we'll line our insides anyhow." "A good job," says Ned; and both of them fell to, and made a hearty meal. Then all at once they heard music and the tramping of feet coming tor'st them. "We'll have to hide," says Shan; and "I think it's best," says Ned. So both of them took and hid themselves under a sofa where they couldn't be seen. Ned wasn't right under the sofa when he was fast asleep by reason of the big dinner he ate. But Shan kept wide awake, and peeping out through a little hole in the sofa cloth could see all that was going on. Into the room came a company of five hundred fairies, little men and women, all grandly dressed in every colour of silks and satins and ribbons, with forty little pipers playing before them, and they dancing along behind with their hands caught. When they come in, the forty pipers played three times round the dinner table till the rest of the company bowed to one another and got saited, and then the pipers laid aside their pipes and sat down themselves. Afther they had made a good dinner the decanthers of all sorts of whiskies and wines and rare drinks was put on the table, and then the little man that sat at the head give it out that every one present would have to sing a song, crack a joke, or tell a good tale. And round the table at once went the singing and the joking and the telling of the stories. Says one of the fairies, "I'll tell a good story;" and he begun to tell how the King's daughter was lying very ill, and all the great doctors of the country was attending to her; but it was all no use, for she was pining away day afther day under the fairies' spells, and there was nothing in the world could save her except three mouthfuls of the dandylion which grew on the Grey Forth, and which had the virtue of curing all diseases. Shan Ban's heart jumped when he heard this, and he waited patiently till, when day was going to break, the pipers got up and took their pipes, and the company got up, and the pipers played afore them out of the room, and the fairies danced out afther. Then Shan wakened up Ned, and taking him with him went out and up the Grey Forth, plucked the dandylion that grew there, never letting on to Ned what he meant by it, and both of them started away for the King's palace. When they were come there they knocked, and the sarvints axed them what they wanted, and Shan said he had come to try and cure the King's daughter. The sarvints of course only laughed at Shan, but the King hearing of him ordered him to be brought up. And when Shan was brought up into the princess's bed-chamber there that place was filled with great doctors, and when they heard Shan was coming to try to cure the princess they laughed hearty. But the King said they had their try and made nothing of it, and that Shan Ban might as well get his try, for he couldn't have worse luck nor them anyhow. Then Shan ordered all the doctors out of the room, and giving the princess one mouthful of the dandylion she got great aise entirely, then he gave her another mouthful, and she felt a deal better still; then he gave her the third mouthful, and she was completely cured. There was great rejoicement entirely at this, and the King in particular was beside himself with delight and offered Shan Ban the prencess in marriage. But Shan wouldn't have her on no account, for he said he wouldn't part his wife Molly at home for all the princesses in the world, no matter how beautiful they might be. Then the King filled two bags, one with goold and the other with silver, and give them to Shan. When Shan got outside the castle he handed the two bags to Ned and told him to take them home with him, and give his (Shan's) wife the bag of goold and keep the bag of silver for himself; and that he wouldn't go home himself till he would thravel further and see were there any more adventures. Then both of them parted, Ned for home with the bags of money and Shan travelling away further before him. Shan travelled on that day till at night falling he was getting into a wood, when what does he see sitting on a sycamore leaf but the identical same little fairy that told at the supper the story about the King's daughter. "Shan Ban, Shan Ban," says the little fellow, "you hid and listened to our stories the other night and heard me tell the secret of the King's daughter and the dandylion on the Grey Forth, and then ye went and cured the princess. What did ye do that for?" "Well, small blame to me," says Shan, "I had to hide, and I couldn't help hearing yer story; and sure I'd be an onnatural man, out and out, if I didn't save the poor princess's life when I had it in my power to do it so aisy. Small blame to me, I say again," says Shan. "Well, that's surely true," says the fairy, "but that's a mighty great saicret, that about the dandylion, and if it got out it's I would be blamed for it, and I would never hear the last of it nor get any living afther from the rest of the fairies, and I would be made a miserable devil entirely." "Well, if that's so," says John, "the saicret's a saicret yet, for man or mortial didn't hear it from me; and if it's a consolation to ye I promise ye it'll be so." "Thanky, very much," says the fairy; "it's certainly a consolation and a great one, and I know I may depend on yer promise. And, when you're so mighty kind, Shan Ban," says he, "I'll be every bit as kind. Here's a napkin for ye that ye have only to spread it out and wish for what ye like, and as much as ye like, of aitables and drinkables, and immediately they will be placed on it. And here's a wishing cap," says he, "ye have only to put on yer head and wish to be any place in the world ye like, and immediately ye'll be there. And here's a purse filled with money, that no matther how much ye take out of it it will never get empty." He handed over to Shan the napkin, the wishing cap, and the purse, and then disappeared without even waiting to be thanked. Shan was feeling just hungry enough, and he spread out the napkin to try it. He wished for a nice supper for himself, and, lo and behold ye! all at once there was the rarest supper, aiting and drinking, ever he laid his two eyes on, spread on the napkin. He ate and drunk heartily, and then spread himself out under the trees to sleep. In the morning Shan got up and spread his napkin and wished for a breakwus, and had the finest of aiting and drinking again, his hearty fill, and then he set off on his journey once more. Tor'st evening he was travelling in a very bare and barren country, without any people, or anything growing that a man could ate, or anything flowing that a man could drink. And here, as he spread his napkin and had a beautiful dinner on it, who should come up to him, weary and worn, but a piper: and John axed him to sit down and help him with dinner. Nothing loath, down the piper sat, for he was most dead with the hunger; and both of them ate as good a dinner as ever they ate in their lives afore. When they were finished the piper pulled out a horn, and commenced to play his pipes, and four hundred thousand troopers—Light Dhragoons, Heavy Dhragoons, Hussians, Grenadiers, and Kilties—come troopin' out of the horn, and begun dancing to the music. Then the piper told Shan he was under great distress entirely, because for the last five days, being in this barren country, he hadn't a bit to put in the mouths of his troopers, and they were dying with hunger. Then says Shan, "I'll soon relieve them," and he spread his napkin and wished for aiting and drinking for four hundred thousand troopers, and immaidiately it was on the napkin, and the troopers all ate and drunk to their satisfaction, and went in to the horn again. "Well," says the piper, "that is a wondherful great napkin entirely, and I wouldn't care if I had it instead of my horn of troopers—for what use are they to me if I can't feed them?" "I'll swap with ye, the napkin for the horn," says Shan. "Done," says the piper, and handing over to Shan the horn, he took the napkin and started off. But when my brave Shan found himself in possession of the horn and four hundred thousand troopers he axed himself how was he going to get them fed at all, at all. And says he, "If I only had the napkin now to feed them I'd be a happy man." At once he ordhered the troopers out of the horn, and they come tumbling out, Light Dhragoons, Heavy Dhragoons, Hussians, Grenadiers, and Kilties, and away he sent them after the piper to take the napkin from him. And when they brought Shan the napkin he ordered them again into their horn, and said he'd now go for home. So he put the wishing cap on his head and wished to be home. And when he got there and looked about him he couldn't know it was the same country at all, at all, for there, in the place where Ned Flynn's house used to be, was a great castle with gardens, and lawns, and parks all round it. He come up to the door of his own house, and Molly was the glad woman to see him back. "And what," says he to Molly, "is the meanin' of that great castle where Ned Flynn's cabin used to be?" "Oh," says Molly, says she, "sure Ned Flynn was away, no one knows where, pushing his fortune, and he come home with no end of bags of money with him, and had up that grand castle and all them parks and lawns before ye'd have time to look about ye. He's now very rich entirely, and, doesn't know his own wealth." "And Molly," says Shan, "was he any way kind to you when he come back with so much money, or did he make ye ever a present?" "Kind!" says Molly; "kind's no name for it. He give me five shillings the day afther he come home, and has ordhered me an' allowance of half-a-crown a week ever since." Says Shan, "I must set off to see him." "Oh, no, ahasky, Shan," says Molly, "ye couldn't go to see him in them old clothes, or he'd ordher you to be shot." But Shan set off to Ned Flynn's castle, and when he was come there he inquired of the servants to see Lord Flynn. But they told him they couldn't let him into his lordship's presence at all, at all, in such old clothes as he had on him. But Lord Flynn heard that Shan Ban was at the door wanting to get in to see him, and he ordhered the servants to let him in and bring him upstairs to him. He shook hands heartily with Shan, and said he was glad to see him home again. John thanked him, and said his wife, Molly, was telling him that he had been very good to her, and he thanked him entirely for this. Then Lord Flynn said he was going to give a great ball, and, to show he had no ill-will again' Shan, axed himself and his wife to come to it. Shan and Molly attended the ball, and then axed Lord Flynn and his wife to come to their house to a ball next night. When Shan got home, says Molly to him, says she, "Shan, do ye intend enthertaining Lord Flynn and his wife? Sure ye haven't a proper house to take them to; nor ye have no money to buy provisions to enthertain them properly." "Oh, we'll soon rightify that," says Shan. He took out the purse and covered the floor with gold, and filled up a room full of it. He then ordhered out his four hundred thousand troopers out of the horn, and set them to work building a great castle, and before the next night he had the castle up, and all its walls lined with silver, and its floors of beaten gold, and he had a gold walk right from the door of it to Lord Flynn's castle. And when Lord Flynn and his wife come they were all in wondherment and didn't know what to make of it at all. And Shan Ban and Molly welcomed them, and they dressed up in the most gorgeous dresses, and Molly with two diamonds hanging from her ears, the size of turf. Then there was no end of sarvints in waiting, and the napkin was spread, and Shan wished for the grandest supper that ever was, and immediately the grandest that ever was seen, afore or since, was before them. And when Lord Flynn got home, he sent a messenger to the King to tell him of the wondherful napkin Shan Ban had, and that it would be of great sarvice to the King in times of war, and axed the King to send his sojers for it. So the King sent thirty sojers to demand the napkin of Shan; but Shan turned out sixty sojers out of his horn who fell on the King's sojers and killed them all but one, who went home and told the King. Then the King sent ten thousand troopers; but Shan turned fifty thousand troopers out of the horn, and killed all the King's men to one, again. Then the King sent a hundred thousand troopers; and Shan now turned out of the horn his four hundred thousand troopers—Light Dhragoons, Heavy Dhragoons, Hussians, Grenadiers, and Kilties, and they fell on the King's men, and not one of them at all, at all, escaped this time. Then the King come to parley with Shan, and he made paice with him, and said it was Lord Flynn who had told him about the napkin, and put him up to taking it from Shan. So Shan once again turned out his troopers—Light Dhragoons, Heavy Dhragoons, Hussians, Grenadiers, and Kilties—and ordhered them up to Lord Flynn's to blow up his castle and not lay a trace of him or his on the earth. And this they did, and Lord Flynn and his wife were killed, and Shan Ban and Molly, spent the remainder of their days ever afther in paice and plinty.

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