IN the west of Ireland there was a lake,
and no doubt it is there still, in which many young men had been at various
times drowned. What made the circumstance remarkable was, that the bodies of the
drowned persons were never found. People naturally wondered at this: and at
length the lake came to have a bad repute. Many dreadful stories were told
about that lake; some would affirm, that on a dark night its waters appeared
like fire - others would speak of horrid forms which were seen to glide over
it; and every one agreed that a strange sulphurous smell issued from out of
There lived, not far distant from this
lake, a young farmer, named Roderick Keating, who was about to be married to
one of the prettiest girls in that part of the country. On his return from
Limerick, where he had been to purchase the wedding-ring, he came up with two
or three of his acquaintance, who were standing on the shore, and they began
to joke with him about Peggy Honan. One said that young Delaney, his rival,
had in his absence contrived to win the affection of his mistress ; - but
Roderick's confidence in his intended bride was too great to be disturbed at
this tale, and putting his hand in his pocket, he produced and held up with a
significant look the wedding-ring.
As he was turning it between his
fore-finger and thumb, in token of triumph, somehow or other the ring fell
from his hand, and rolled into the lake: Roderick looked after it with the
greatest sorrow; it was not so much for its value, though it had cost him
half-a-guinea, as for the ill-luck of the thing; and the water was so deep,
that there. was little chance of recovering it. His companions laughed at him,
and he in vain endeavoured to tempt any of them by the offer of a handsome
reward to dive after the ring: they were all as little inclined to venture as
Roderick Keating himself; for the tales which they had heard when children
were strongly impressed on their memories, and a superstitious dread filled
the mind of each.
"Must I then go back to Limerick to
buy another ring?" exclaimed the young farmer. "Will not ten times
what the ring cost tempt any one of you to venture after it?"
There was within hearing a man who was
considered to be a poor, crazy, half-witted fellow, but he was as harmless as
a child, and used to go wandering up and down through the country from one
place to another. When he heard of so great a reward; Paddeen, for that was
his name, spoke out, and said, that if Roderick Keating would give him
encouragement equal to what he had offered to others, he was ready to venture
after the ring into the lake; and Paddeen, all the while he spoke, looked as
covetous after the sport as the money.
"I'll take you at your word,"
said Keating. So Paddeen pulled off his coat, and without a single syllable
more, down he plunged, head fore-most, into the lake: what depth he went to,
no one can tell exactly; but he was going, going, going down through the
water, until the water parted from him, and he came upon the dry land; the
sky, and the light, and every thing, was there just as it is here; and he saw
fine pleasure-grounds, with an elegant avenue through them, and a grand house,
with a power of steps going up to the door.
When he had recovered from his wonder at
finding the land so dry and comfortable under the water, he looked about him
and what should he see but all the young men that were drowned working away in
the pleasure-grounds as if nothing had ever happened to them. Some of them
were mowing down the grass, and more were settling out the gravel walks, and
doing all manner of nice work, as neat and as clever as if they had never been
drowned; and they were singing away with high glee: -
"She is fair as Cappoquin :
Have you courage her to win ?
And her wealth it far outshines
Cullen's bog and Silvermines.
She exceeds all heart can wish;
Not brawling like the Foherish,
But as the brightly-flowing Lee,
Graceful, mild, and pure is she! "
Well, Paddeen could not but look at the
young men, for he knew some of them before they were lost in the lake; but he
said nothing, though he thought a great deal more for all that, like an oyster
: - no, not the wind of a word passed his lips; so on he went towards the big
house, bold enough, as if he had seen nothing to speak of; yet all the time
mightily wishing to know who the young woman could be that the young men were
singing the song about.
When he had nearly reached the door of the
great house, out walks from the kitchen a powerful fat woman, moving
along like a beer-barrel on two legs, with teeth as big as horses' teeth, and
up she made towards him.
"Good morrow, Paddeen," said
"Good morrow, Ma'am," said he.
"What brought you here?" said
" 'Tis after Rory Keating's
gold ring," said he, " I'm come."
" Here it is for you," said
Paddeen's fat friend, with a smile on her face that moved like boiling
"Thank you, Ma'am," replied
Paddeen, taking it from her : -" I need not say the Lord increase you,
for you're fat enough already. Will you tell me, if you please, am I to go
back the same way I came?"
"Then you did not come to marry me
?" cried the corpulent woman, in a desperate fury.
"Just wait till I come back again, my
darling," said Paddeen: "I'm to be paid for my message, and I must
return with the answer, or else they'll wonder what has become of me."
"Never mind the money," said the
fat woman : "if you marry me, you shall live for ever and a day in that
house, and want for nothing."
Paddeen saw clearly that, having got
possession of the ring, the fat woman had no power to detain him; so without
minding any thing she said, he kept moving and moving down the avenue, quite
quietly, and looking about him; for, to tell the truth, he had no particular
inclination to marry a fat fairy.
When he came to the gate, without
ever saying good b'ye, out he bolted, and he found the water coming all about
him again. Up he plunged through it, and wonder enough there was, when Paddeen
was seen swimming away at the opposite side of the lake; but he soon made the
shore, and told Roderick Keating, and the other boys that were standing there
looking out for him, all that had happened. Roderick paid him the five guineas
for the ring on the spot; and Paddeen thought himself so rich with such a sum
of money in his pocket, that he did not go back to marry the fat lady with the
fine house at the bottom of the lake, knowing she had plenty of young men to
choose a husband from, if she pleased to be married.