In the remote wilds of Erris, and overtopped by a high heath-clad mountain, the lonely cabin of Fergus O'Hara looked down towards the Owenmore, a rapid stream flowing into Tullaghan Bay, on the west coast of Mayo. His wife Rose, and her old mother Norah, were the sole companions of his humble home. Indeed it must be said, they lived in tolerable plight and contentment, on a few acres of poor land, let to them at a reasonable rent; while their goats, pigs, and poultry had an almost limitless range over the unenclosed hill sides. A potato garden and a field of oats were the chief care of Fergus every returning harvest.
One Sunday evening, in the beginning of winter, when the day's duties were nearly over, all three sat chatting before a turf fire that blazed on the hearth-stone. Many family affairs were discussed and arranged; plans for the coming winter were formed; and meantime, while the small pot of boiling potatoes was raising a foam, known as "the white horse," a little dripping or seasoned lard was left over live coals and slowly simmering in a frying pan. The table was likewise spread for their homely meal.
"Fwhy thin, I wish to goodness we could have iverything our own fwhay, Rose," said Fergus, in reply to some observation of his wife; "and we needn't fwear bud all would go right with huz"
No sooner were these words pronounced, than a shrill voice from above cried out, "Well, you just hit on the exact moment, Fergus O'Hara, when you can have your wish; and Fir Danig, the fairy, will give another wish to Rose, and one to old Norah, her mother. So now think well over the matter, before you all make this choice."
On looking upwards, they saw a diminutive creature, dressed in scarlet, with a high-peaked cap on his head. He had sharp features, piercing eyes, a mouth grinning from ear to ear; while the latter appendages seemed sticking out on either side of his head like those of a mouse. He sat cross-legged, like a tailor, on one of the couples, with silver-mounted pipes yoked on his tiny arms.
The trio of human beings felt sore afraid at first; but on second thought, they were assured the benevolent little elf had resolved to crown them with fortune. They took council together for some time, to know what it would be proper to demand; but the more the matter was considered, as in many other cases, the more was the council perplexed to arrive at any decision.
For a moment, Rose's thoughts were diverted to another idea, as she sat in contemplative yet vacant mood, stroking the tongs through the ashes in front of the fire. "Well," she ejaculated after a long pause, "as the good gintleman, sitting on the couple above, hash put huz in the way of being ruch for the remaindher o' our lives, I'm sorry fwhin I wash at the market yeshterday that I didn't buy from the price o' my brood of chickens, the fine hog's puddin' in Kitty Flanagan's shap. Troth and I'd like to have it frying there in the pan for our supper this evenin'."
No sooner said than done. In a moment a fine plump hog's pudding appeared on the pan, and its fatty exudations were soon commingling with the melted dripping, while a savoury odour began to spread through the house. Fergus looked at this addition to the evening meal, and instantly losing his temper, he turned in a passion towards his simple wife. Hoarse with rage, he then cried out, "Fwhy then, blood-an-agers ! ye Sraoilleog! isn't that a great wish o' yours, afther the chance you got! Ye heve no sinse whatever, to ax for fwhat'ud be eat up tonight and nothing left for tomorrow. Did ye ivir fwihind me sich an omadhawn? and as he maddened at the thought honest Fergus too forgot himself and added in excited strain, "I wish one end o' the hog's puddin' was sthuck to yer nose, you foolish craythur!"
Immediately the smoking viand flew from the pan, and formed an appendage to the member indicated; while poor Rose jumped in an agony of pain from the stool on which she sat, and shook her head with the vigour, but hardly with the grace, of a female elephant, winding her huge proboscis. She screamed and gesticulated hysterically, for the hog's pudding raised blisters around the top of her nose.
This grotesque appendage, and the agony in which her daughter was, soon roused the fears and ire of old Norah. Looking wildly and angrily at Fergus, she, in turn, exclaimed, "You unfortunate tambach, to thrate your wife in that fashion! shure enough, ye ought to feel ashamed of yoursel'; bud I only fwish the other ind o' the hog's puddin' was stuck out iv yer own nose: id 'ud be a just judgmint an ye! "
Here was the third wish exhausted in its actual accomplishment; for soon was the disengaged end affixed to Fergus' nasal organ; so that if Rose screamed loudly, her husband bellowed and roared with might and main. Both danced about the apartment like persons bewitched; until the old crone beside herself with horror, rushed forward to sever the connecting link. First she tried it with her attenuated fingers, which were burned to the very bone in her attempt. She next endeavored to cool them by blowing with her breath or sucking them with her lips; but she too screamed and danced about the house bewildered and terrified.
Meantime Fir Danig shook out his arms and began to ply the pipes vigorously; while his cackling husky laughter was heard as he gave out, in quick succession, these well known bagpipe tunes, "The wind that shakes the Barley," "God Speed the Plough," "Off she Goes," "The Humours of Glinn" with a host of other lively jigs and reels. Nothing but a chaos of strange noises was heard within the cabin; but the "Reel of Three" was never so fantastically executed than by the trio on the floor, who were nearly exhausted by the pain and the dancing which continued without intermission for fully a quarter of an hour. On the expiration of that time, Fir Danig gathered up his pipes, crowed like a cock, and the next instant turned a scraw off the roof. The moon peeped in through the opening, while he giving a somersault, was seen fleeting across its luminous surface.
No sooner had he disappeared, than old Norah recovered her presence of mind, rushed towards the dresser, and procuring a knife, with a quick stroke she severed the hog's pudding in the centre. After some little trouble and patience bestowed on the operation, she cut the remaining portions clean off the noses of both, yet not without leaving a mark behind, that appeared like a ringworm, when afterwards they ventured abroad. Notwithstanding their promises to hush up the foregoing incidents, and keep them concealed from the knowledge of their neighbours, mutual recriminations were sometimes indulged, in reference to their disagreeable reminiscences.
In fine, the story got vent through the country. At fair, market or gathering, their kind friends would often cast sly glance at those traces left on the most prominent facial developments of Fergus and Rose, reflect on the vanity of human wishes, and draw such a moral as comported with their feelings or ideas, generated by spleen, compassion, humour, or wisdom.
Sraoilleog - Untidy woman, Slattern
Omadhawn - Amadán - Gaelic word meaning fool.
Tambach - Lame Fool - Slow-witted