Shiana/Chapter 1

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By the fireside. Peg, Nora, Abbie, little Sheila, and Kate Buckley.

Nora.—Peg, tell us a story.
Peg.—I like that! Tell a story yourself.
Abbie.—She's no good, Peg; we would rather have your story.
Sheila.—Do tell one, Peg; we will be very quiet.
Peg.—How well you kept quiet last night, didn't you? when I was telling "The Dog with the Eight Legs!"
Sheila.—Yes, because Kate Buckley wouldn't stop pinching me.
Kate.—What a story! I wasn't pinching you, you little witch!
Abbie.—Don't mind her, Kate. There was nobody pinching her she is only pretending that there was.
Sheila.—There was, indeed; and if there hadn't been I wouldn't have screamed.
Nora.—Tell Peg that you won't scream now, and she will tell us a story.
Sheila.—I won't scream, Peg, whatever happens to me.
Peg.—Well, then, sit here near me, so that no one can pinch you unknown to me.
Kate.—I'll engage the cat will pinch her. You little hussy, we would be having a fine story but for you and your screeching.
Abbie.—Hush, Kate, or you'll make her cry and we'll have no story. If we make Peg angry she won't tell a story to-night. Now, Peg, everybody's quiet, waiting for a story from you.

Peg.—There was a man long ago, and his name was Shiana, and he was a shoemaker. He had a nice cosy little house at the foot of a hill, on the sheltered side. He had a soogaun[1] chair which he had made for himself, and he used to sit in it in the evening when the day's work was done, and when he sat in it he was very comfortable. He had a malvogue[2] of meal hanging up near the fire, and now and then he used to put his hand into it and take a handful of the meal, and chew it at his leisure. He had an apple-tree growing outside his door, and when he used to be thirsty from chewing the meal he would put his hand into the tree and take one of the apples, and eat it.

Sheila.—Oh, Peg, wasn't it nice!
Peg.—Which was nice, the chair or the meal or the apple?
Sheila.—The apple, to be sure.
Kate.—I would rather have the meal. The apple wouldn't take one's hunger away.
Abbie.—I would rather have the chair, and I would make Peg sit in it and tell stories.
Peg.—You are good at flattery, Abbie.
Abbie.—You are better at stories, Peg. How did it go with Shiana?

Peg.—One day, as he was making shoes, he found that he had no more leather, nor thread, nor wax. He had put on the last patch, and had made the last stitch, and he had to go and get materials before he could make any more shoes. He set out in the morning, with three shillings in his pocket, and he was not more than a mile from the house when he met a poor man asking for alms.

"Give me alms for the Saviour's sake, and for the souls of your dead, and for your health," said the poor man.

Shiana gave him a shilling, and then he had only two shillings. He said to himself that perhaps the two shillings would do for what he wanted. He was only another mile from home when he met a poor woman, who was bare-footed.

"Give me some help," said she, "for the Saviour's sake, and for the souls of your dead, and for your health."

He had pity on her, and gave her a shilling, and she went away. He had only one shilling then, but he went on, trusting that he might meet with some good fortune that would enable him to do his errand. Soon afterwards he met a child crying with cold and hunger.

"For the Saviour's sake," said the child, "give me something to eat."

There was an inn close by, and Shiana went into it and bought a loaf of bread and brought it to the child. When the child received the bread his appearance changed. He grew tall, and a strange light glowed in his eyes and in his features, so that Shiana was terrified.

Sheila.—Oh, dear me, Peg, I suppose poor Shiana fainted.

Peg.—He did not faint, but indeed it was all he could do to keep from it. As soon as he could speak he said,

"What sort of person are you?" And the answer he got was,

"Shiana, God is gracious to you. I am an angel. I am the third angel to whom you have given alms to-day for the Saviour's sake. And now you are to have three wishes from the God of Glory. Ask now of God any three wishes you please, and you will get them. But I have one piece of advice to give you. Don't forget Mercy."

"And do you tell me that I shall get my wish?" said Shiana.

"Certainly I do," said the angel.

"Very well," said Shiana. "I have a nice little soogaun chair at home, and every dalteen[3] that comes in must needs sit in it. The next person that sits in it, except myself, may he stick in it!"

"Oh, fie, fie, Shiana!" said the angel; "there is a beautiful wish gone to waste. You have two more; don't forget Mercy."

"I have," said Shiana, "a little malvogue of meal at home, and every dalteen that comes in must needs push his fist into it. The next person that puts his hand into that malvogue, except myself, may he stick in it!"

"Oh, Shiana, Shiana, you have not an atom of sense!" said the angel. "Now you have only one wish more. Ask the Mercy of God for your soul."

"Oh, you are right," said Shiana; "I was near forgetting it. I have a little apple-tree beside my door, and every dalteen that comes the way must needs put up his hand and pull an apple and carry it off. The next person, except myself, that puts his hand into that tree, may he stick in it!—Oh, people," said he, as he burst out laughing, "won't I make fun of them!"

When he came out of his laughing-fits, he looked up, and the angel was gone. He thought for a good while of the position he was in. At last he said to himself, "Well now, there isn't a greater fool in Ireland than I! If I had three people stuck by this time, one in the chair, and one in the malvogue, and one in the tree, what good would that do me, far from home, without food or drink or money?"

No sooner had he said it than he saw opposite him, in the place where the angel had been, a tall, slight, black-haired man, who was staring at him, with a sort of electric fire coming out of his eyes like baneful sparks. He had two horns, like those of a he-goat, and a long, coarse, steel-grey "goatee" beard; a tail like a fox's tail, and a hoof like a bull's hoof on one of his feet. Shiana's mouth and eyes opened wide, and he ceased speaking. After a while the Black Man spoke.

"Shiana," said he, "you need not be afraid of me. I do not mean to do you harm. I would like to do you good if you would take my advice. I heard you say just now that you were without food or drink or money. I would give you as much money as you could want, on one small condition only."

"And, be hanged to you!" said Shiana, his speech returning to him, "couldn't you say that without paralysing a man with your staring, whoever you may be?"

"You need not care who I am; but I will give you money enough now to buy as much leather as will keep you working for thirteen years, on this condition—that you will come with me then."

"And if I make the bargain with you, where will we go then?"

"Won't it be time enough for you to ask that question when the leather is used up and we shall be starting?"

"You are sharp-witted. Have your way. Let us see the money."

"You are sharp-witted. Look here!"—the Black Man put his hand into his pocket and drew out a large purse, and from the purse he let out upon his palm a little heap of fine yellow gold.

"Look," said he, and he stretched out his hand and put the heap of beautiful glittering pieces up under the eyes of poor Shiana. Shiana held out both his hands, and the fingers of the hands spread themselves toward the gold.

"Gently!" said the Black Man, drawing the gold back to him; "the bargain is not made yet."

"Let it be a bargain," said Shiana.

"Without fail?" said the Black Man.

"Without fail," said Shiana.

"By the virtue of the Holy Things?" said the Black Man.

"By the virtue of the Holy Things," said Shiana.

  1. súgán, hay-rope.
  2. mealḃóg, a leather bag. (These Irish words are used by English-speakers without translation.)
  3. dailtín, a youngster (especially, an impudent youngster).