Gill, Lanesboro was struck by lightning while grazing along the banks of the Shannon about five years ago, there was a violent thunderstorm all over Ireland and in which many lost their lives and property. A man named Mr J Farrell of Balliamuck who lived in Ballinamuck had a lot of stock grazing in the fields, a violent thunderstorm arose and the lightning destroyed five cattle and two cocks of hay on him.
It happened to be in February about four years ago when a violent snowstorm and influenza raged in Ireland. They were snow-bound and had to walk 5 miles in the snow all the time when they uncovered three sheep and two lambs who had perished with cold and hunger. There was also lands flooded where cattle were feeding and they were drowned.
There was a big snow storm in The snow was very deep it was three feet high no one could travel. There was also a big frost in that people used to bring their horses on the Ice from Quaker Island and also they had to bring the corpse up the Shannon. It was very thick ice Motor cars could travel. During the big frost there were a lot of birds killed They died of starvation.
When seagulls come inland it is a sign of rain. Some people can tell when rain is coming by rheumatic pains. A puff on the chimney denotes rain. Smoke going up straight is not a good sign. Poultry starting off to peck for themselves immediately after a heavy shower is a sign of a fine evening. When a wall becomes damp it is a sign of rain.
Fog going up to the sky is a good sign. Dew falling too soon in the evening is not a good sign. When a dog eats grass it is a sign of rain. Noise travelling a great distance is a sign of frost. Bells ringing clearly and heard at a great distance is a good sign. When we hear Curlews chattering it is a sign of rain. When the snipe is heard at night fine weather will follow. If a cat scrapes a tree or timber it is a sign of rain. If Foxes bark much in October it is a sign of snow.
When we see shooting stars it is a. The people say that they were better and nicer then any basket you could buy. The old people also made their own churns. Barrel-Making: Barrel-making was very common among the people long ago. The barrels they used to make were called "eebers". Soap Making: The old people made a large amount of soap. The tools they used were called a "thimper". A "thimper" was an article with which they used to twist the rods for the baskets.
They also used a "daft" and a "lar". The birds show the following signs. If the robin sings on the top of a tree it is a sign of good weather, and if he goes down to the roots it is a sign of bad weather. If birds walk on the ground it is a sign of hard weather. If crows fly high it is a sign of good weather, and if they fly low and caw loudly it is a sign of rain.
If sea-birds come inland it is a sign of rain. If the blackbird has a sharp voice it is a sign of rain. If the swallows fly low it is a sign of rain. If the curlew screams loudly it is a sign of rain. If we see the owl or the crane in the fields it is a sign of rain. If we see wild geese it is a sign of snow. If we hear the peewit it is a sign of frost and snow. If geese rise off the ground and fly about it is a sign of a storm. The animals show us many signs of weather to come.
If the cat scrapes wood it is a sign of rain. If a dog rolls it is a sign of good weather and if he eats grass or drinks water it is a sign of rain. If a cat sits with her back to the fire it is a sign of storm,. It is peculiar that this district escapes damage by wind but gets more than its fair share of lightning.
The "Night of the Big Wind", about years ago is but vaguely mentioned. The storm of February did considerable damage to some house-roofs. Lightning seems to strike very much in the vicinity of Corn Hill. As iron stone is found in the bed of the Blacksticks River it thought that lightning may be attracted to this district by deposits of iron ore in the ground. During the past forty years at least four dwellings were struck by lightning and inmates injured, death resulted in one case.
Nothing is known about the time or circumstances of the "Big Snow". There was a great frost in which lasted for six weeks. A drought and great heat in lasted for three months. This caused a big shortage in grass and grain crops, but potatoes were good and plentiful. Shortage of water compelled some people to go several miles for water. A man named John McGibney who lived in my townland of Creevy in the parish of Abbeylara, Co Longford went out to look after his cattle, and one of them was missing, so he stood up on a mound of snow, as he took it to be, and immediately the "mound" began to shake, moved off, and he was.
These are the signs of snow:- the tongs cold. Wild geese coming from the North, Continued frost brings snow. The cat puts her back to the fire. The wind blows from the North or North East.
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- Under Milk Wood / Dylan Thomas.
These are the signs of fine weather. When the waterfall is heard plainly. When the fog comes down. These were added to by a jennet and a donkey next day. The local people going to see these drifts could walk on the snow and over the hood of the car. The snow lasted to its full depth for a week. No post, bus or vehicles of any kind came to the village for at least six days.
Supplies of coal, butter and flour were running very low but there are not many stories of any great hardships. The Doctor when trying to get to see his patients left with a car load of men armed with shovels. Three days in succession they had to return. At length a pass was broken into a field and Kells was reached by a circuitous route and by crossing fields. On Thursday 2nd March the first motor van came into the village from Bailieboro side.
Next day vans ran from the Kells road. Some of the drifts remained for a month. In there was a terrible wind. It did a lot of damage. It blew up trees from the roots and blew down houses also. About eighteen years ago there was a thunder storm. It killed a lot of cattle around Longford and it killed a man also. Twenty years ago there was a terrible snow-storm. The houses in Granard were covered and nothing could be seen but the tops of the chimneys.
The people had to dig snow away from. The old people say that when the wild geese are crying? The only one who could really manage Nollekens on his bad days was Nan, his very, very, very old nurse. She had known him from his cradle, and didn't so much manage him as order him. Nollekens took things from her he wouldn't stand from anybody else, and as he was still quite a young king, only twenty-one in fact, he hadn't dropped his habit of hanging on to her apron-strings. If you could help it, you could try to mend it.
That was yesterday. Today, as old Nan was sorting the linen-cupboard, she heard a great clatter-and-batter going on downstairs. She was a tiny little woman, which somehow made her severity more severe. Standing on the top of a step-ladder, she unfolded a sheet and shook her head again as it fell to tatters in her hands. The door of the linen-closet flew open and in ran young Jen, the between-maid, with her eyes popping. The bangings downstairs grew noisier and noisier, and the next moment John the Butler staggered in.
He's been down in the cellars finding fault with the cider-casks, the beer-barrels, the red wine, the white wine, the gooseberry wine, and me. And nothing wrong with any of us, Mrs Nan. I shall leave this day month. He's poked his nose in the flour-bin, the sugar-bags, the salt-cellars, the pepper-pots, the jam-jars, the dripping-tub, and the oven itself. Everything's wrong for him, though all's as right as rain. I won't stand such goings-on, that I won't. I leave this day month. The bangings downstairs were now positively deafening. Into the linen-closet stalked Jack the Gardener.
He was a stolid man, not given to speeches, and he stood and stared before him till old Nan said impatiently, 'Well, out with it! And dandelions is what I'm to grow in my flower-beds from this day forth. He pointed his finger in turn at the Butler, the Cook, the Dairymaid, and the Gardener. Your condiments! Your cream-pans! Your flower-beds! I shall do what I like with my bottles, my condiments, my cream-pans, my flower-beds! Old Nan beckoned to young Jen, who had stood shaking in her shoes during this angry scene. Hold up your arms, child, I'm not made of elastic.
Ditto pillow-slips. Ditto napkin. Bath towel. Face towel. Razor ditto. At his age! For though he was one-and-twenty, Nollekens would always be a little boy to her, and if he had been one-and-fifty it would have been all the same. Young Jen got along in no time, and old Nan fetched out a fresh linen handkerchief smelling of lavender. He came, hanging his head, and stood by the ladder, where his chin came level with the old woman's shoulder. It's one of my bad days. You know how it is,' explained Nollekens.
I've got a double nature, haven't I? And the bottom. The sheets are as full of holes as a sheet of postage-stamps. Look at that! She put her hand in the cupboard and shook out the sheet that was its very twin. Lift me down. The girls nowadays are all giddy gad-abouts or idle good-for-naughts. All of a sudden her old cheeks wrinkled and crinkled, and flopping down on the heap of flax she began to cry. Nollekens simply couldn't bear to see women cry. He picked up his little nurse, sat down on a chair, and jigged her up and down on his knee.
She did so very suddenly, and sat up on his knee exceedingly spry. Go picking some giddy gad-about, or an idle good-for-naught. I know you! King Nollekens pointed to the bundles of flax toppling out of the cupboard. She had fallen into a heavier doze than usual, as you are apt to do when you feel particularly comfortable inside. Mother Codling, coming back with the yeast from the baker's, found Doll nodding by the hearth.
Nobody else was in the kitchen, though it was close on dinner-time. Mother Codling put down her packet and asked,. She began to set the table for seven, three a side for her children and one at the top for herself. Poll came in, rather breathless, carrying her grass-filled creel.
That's no flounder. I'm sorry about the flounders, mawther, but there wasn't room in the creel for them both, and there's thousands and thousands of flounders but only one Silver Curlew in the world. Where's the bird-cage? Haven't them dumplings come agen yet , Doll? Here you! Stir your stumps, lads. Codling's four boys came through the door in single file. Abe, who was tall, came first, Sid, who was small, came next, Dave, who was fat, came third, and Hal, who was lean, came last.
But different as they were in shape and size, they all had one and the same thought in their heads. Then all four yokels undid their belts, sat down in their places at the table, thumped on it with their knives and forks, and shouted, 'Dinner! Fetch out them dumplings. Fetch 'em out, and we'll eat 'em as they are. She came to look over Doll's shoulder into the oven, and once again she threw up her hands. Mother Codling took Doll by the shoulders and shook her. Mother Codling paused to get her breath. Then she said heavily, 'You mean to tell me you've eat a whole bellyful of gurt big puffy duffy dumplings, and you haven't got a bellyache?
Didn't you say,' she asked her mother, 'the dumplings would come agen in half an hour? My darter ha' eat twelve dumplings. A dozen of dumplings my darter eat. In half an hour, she did, right off without stopping. All twelve of 'em. Twice six of 'em. Thrice four of 'em. I'm flummoxed. The whole round dozen in half an hour my darter did, the whole round dozen, she did.
And there stood a tall young man with a little old woman perched on his shoulder. The young man stooped his head, because of the little woman, and came into the kitchen, repeating his question. The whole round dozen of what? Mother Codling stared him up and down, from the gold crown on his head to the gold buckles on his shoes. The next moment she was on her feet dropping curtseys. Get on your hindlegs, you louts,' she ordered her sons, 'and do deference. He set the little old woman down on the floor, and introduced her.
Mother Codling ducked, and introduced her younger daughter, who was staring at Nollekens with eyes as round as saucers. Then Nollekens said for the third time, 'A round dozen of what? What were you saying just now? Why were you flummoxed? Mother Codling's face grew purple with embarrassment. She clutched at Poll and muttered, 'What'll I do? Twelve of 'em,' said Mother Codling, her voice rising in spite of herself. Mother Codling stared at her open-mouthed, but Poll only smiled and deftly twirled the spinning-wheel.
That's what flummoxed my mawther, if you please, sir. And I hope he's satisfied now ,' she said to herself. Whether he was or not she had no time to learn; for as soon as Poll had spoken, little Mrs Nan darted forward in a high state of excitement. No wonder you're all of a flummox,' she said to Mrs Codling. Nan turned her sharp eyes on Poll and pointed her finger.
She pointed towards the hearth; Nan and Nollekens turned and saw, for the first time, Doll looking placidly into the fire. Doll rose slowly from her seat, bobbed to the King, and stood looking at him with her sweet lazy smile. What I did flummoxed my mawther. I'm terrible sorry, ma'am, I couldn't help it. You couldn't help——! Pointing at Doll, she said to Nollekens, 'There stands your bride. Before Doll could answer, Mother Codling broke in quickly.
The gentry kowtowing and bowing to my Doll! Nollekens nodded. And look you here again. Three hundred and sixty-four days in the year she shall have all the vittles she likes to eat, all the gowns she likes to wear, and all the friends she likes to have about her. We're her friends, you know, as well as her family. But look you here again! I like you best with your head. Well, there's no time like the present, is there? So we'll prove it on the spot. He clapped his hands very loud, and the open door was immediately darkened by a crowd of people.
Three huge farm-carts drew up, one after the other, piled as high with unspun flax as carts at harvest-home are heaped with corn. At a sign from the king his servants began to unload the flax and bring it into the kitchen, stacking it all round the walls, on the table and chairs and dresser, and wherever they could find a place for it; while Mother Codling and her family looked on with their eyes popping out of their heads.
Now we will shut you in with all this lovely flax, and come again in half an hour. Doll looked at the mountain of flax, at her wheel, at the clock, at her mother, and at Nollekens. And if it isn't ——'. It wasn't——'. Mother Codling dragged her back before she could say any more. Out, mawther! Out, Poll! One after the other they went through the door, and Doll's round blue eyes followed them despairingly. The King was the last to go.
He stopped at the door, pulled out the key, and turned and smiled at his bride. Then he too went out, and turned the key in the lock. The kitchen was so full of flax that there was no room for the daylight to creep in at the window. The fire sent a flicker of glowing shadows over the heaped-up bundles, and by this red light Doll stared at the flax, at her wheel, and at her soft useless hands. What could she do? The best spinster living couldn't have spun all that flax in a month of Sundays; and instead of being the best, she was the worst spinster in Norfolk.
One little half hour she had to accomplish her task, and the clock on the wall was ticking the seconds away. In half an hour he'll come agen, and I'll have nothing to show. Well, if I can't, I can't. I shan't so much as try. I may as well enjoy my last half-hour in idleness. But what enjoyment, even in idleness, could there be for poor lazy Doll? She leaned her head on her wheel and sobbed and sighed. The fire on the hearth began to crackle and spit.
Something popped out of it just at Doll's feet. Thinking it must be a live coal she stooped to stamp it out, and what should she see but a little black imp with a long pointed tail, peering up at her. My mawther kneaded twelve dumplings for dinner and put 'em to bake in the oven.
At this the little black Imp twirled more madly than ever. Yew hain't got spinnin' thumbs. Look at those! Dew yew want to lose yar pretty noddle, Doll? I'll spin yar flax for yew, Doll. At this the Imp twirled like a teetotum. He, he, he! Yew doon't know what I call meself, dew yew, Doll Codling? Nine guesses at my name is what I'll give yew. If yew dew guess it yew shall see me niver no more. That's the bargain, Doll Codling, that's my pay for spinning yar flax for yew.
If yew fail in nine yew're mine! The Imp stopped as suddenly as he had started, righted himself, and stared up at her with his eyes like hot coals. A year's a long time, and nine's a lot of guesses. I reckon there can't be much more than nine names all told. I reckon I'll guess yours in one of them. And then yew'll be mine, mine, mine! That is, if yew can. She couldn't have said if she had slept a minute or a year, but all through her slumber went a humming like millions of turning wheels, and the colour of her dream was as blue as flax-flower, and the smell of it was like linen fresh from the laundry.
The humming stopped and she woke with a start and began to rub her eyes. The daylight was streaming in through the window, and the open door was thronged with people uttering cries of surprise. Then Nollekens strode into the kitchen and beamed down on Doll, who was stretching her arms and yawning. Doll looked round, as surprised as the rest of them. The huge bundles of flax had disappeared, and in their place lay beautifully spun hanks of fine yarn, all ready to be woven into linen.
Well there! She smiled dreamily up at Nollekens with her flax-blue eyes. She had been examining the hanks of thread for flaws, and could find none. And had they not actually found Doll enjoying forty winks after accomplishing this astonishing feat in less than half an hour? Mrs Nan saw no point in delaying the royal wedding which would ensure the best spinster on earth as the King's bride; so, 'To church, to church! When the wedding had been celebrated and Doll became Queen of Norfolk, Mother Codling turned her mill over to the baker and followed her daughter to Court.
For a month or so they hung about the Royal Palace, and tried to settle down. But pretty soon Mother Codling missed her kitchen, for there wasn't room for two round Cookie's oven; and Abe and Sid and Dave and Hal missed their turmut-hoeing. So all five went back to the windmill, which was only a few miles along the coast, and instead of staying for life in the Royal Palace, they bundled themselves once a week into the blue waggon with red wheels, and came for Sunday dinner. In winter they had beef and Yorkshire and roast potatoes and cabbage and apple pie and cheese. In summer they had lamb and mint sauce and new potatoes and green peas and cherry tart and cream.
At Michaelmas they had roast goose and plum pudding, and at Christmas they had crown of pork and mince pies. Having eaten well and snoozed it off, they bundled back into the blue-and-red waggon drawn by grey Dobbin, who was used to carting sacks of flour on weekdays; and with Mother Codling and the four yokels full of dinner in the cart he didn't know the difference. But Poll stayed behind, and settled down with Doll in the palace for good. Both were as happy as the day was long. Doll had nothing to do but be waited on by a hundred servants. There was one to brush her hair, and another to lace her shoes, and a third to sew on her buttons, and a fourth to sugar her porridge.
And there were ninety-six more to save her the trouble of doing the ninety-six other things we all do every day of our lives. In short, Doll had not to lift a finger for herself, which suited her down to a T. And she was so pleasant-mannered, and so pleasing to look at, and so pleased with everything and everybody, that it was a pleasure to serve her. Every morning when it was time to order the meals and Doll couldn't think of anything but dumplings, it was Cookie who made the suggestions and settled it all. Every morning Jack the Gardener sent in an armful of the best flowers for her room, and young Jen filled the bowls with water and arranged them.
Every morning at eleven o'clock John the butler came up from his cellar with a glass of sherry wine, and Doll ran in from her dairy with a mug of rich milk, and, not to hurt their feelings, Doll drank them both. And every morning old Nan looked out fresh sheets for her bed and fresh towels for her rail; for since the wonderful spinning of the flax the linen-closet was now well stocked again. As for Nollekens, he was twice as easy to get on with as when he was a bachelor; or rather, he was only half as difficult.
He was devoted to his bride, who never set him on edge, and the batter-and-clatter in the palace had practically stopped. True, he had a little dust-up with Poll now and then, when they disagreed about something and started contradicting and calling names. But old Nan kept a sharp eye on them, punished them when she thought it was good for them, and made them ask each other's pardons before the sun went down.
At heart they rather liked each other really, in spite of an occasional squabble; and Nollekens showed his better side by indulging Doll and Poll in their every whim. Doll had silk gowns and soft pillows to her heart's content; and when Nollekens asked Poll what she would like most, she asked for a very big bird-cage that she could get right inside while she tended the Silver Curlew. So Nollekens had one built in the garden where the sea-breeze could blow through it.
It had three compartments: a bedroom filled with grass, round which a curtain could be drawn, a bathroom with a shallow tank full of sea-water, and a morning-room strewn with shingle, sand, and shells. Here Poll spent half her days, and sometimes half her nights, with the Silver Curlew, who fed from her hand and grew neither better nor worse. Poll went down daily to the shore, with a creel for fish, a pail for salt-water and seaweed, and a bag for silver sand to make the Curlew's cage a home from home.
She was farther from Charlee's shack than she used to be, but sometimes she chanced to meet him on the shore, and then she would ask him how long it would be before the Curlew would be cured; but all he would say was, 'Time alone can tell. Poll loved her Curlew so dearly that she felt her heart would break when its wing was mended and she saw it fly away; but if the wing never mended she would be sorrier still.
She had plenty besides to interest her in the palace. Cookie often let her stone raisins and stem currants in the warm kitchen, and Megs let her skim the cream off the pans in the cool dairy, and Jack let her pull up chickweed and bindweed in the gay garden, and John would let her draw the King's supper-beer in the dim cellar. Moreover, they didn't seem to mind her asking questions about why you must beat batter in a draught, and which end of a blindworm was the blind one, and why you must never shake up a bottle of port though you always must shake up a bottle of medicine , and why cream rose to the top if you left it alone.
So Poll did not have much time to miss the mill, and if she suddenly longed to see Mother Codling and her brothers during the week, she could always saddle Noodles, the King's donkey, and ride there and back along the coast. On Sundays she saw them as regular as clockwork. So the months passed very agreeably, and before the year was up the bells of Norfolk were set ringing again in honour of the birth of a baby princess.
Nollekens ordered a salvo to be fired from a blunderbuss, but Nanny thought gunpowder was dangerous, so he popped his popgun three times instead from the top of the cliff. In a few weeks more the palace was as busy as a beehive with preparations for the Christening. Cookie made and iced a huge cake full of currants and raisins and almonds and spice and rosewater. It had three tiers thick with sugar like drifted snow. The lowest and biggest tier was like a sugar flower-garden, the second tier was like a dovecot full of sugar doves, and the top tier was like a little temple with a baby's cradle inside it and a ring of sugar cupids dancing round it.
When it was done the cake was seven foot high, and it took four able-bodied men to lift it. Abe and Sid and Dave and Hal were to have the honour of conveying it to the nursery. They had arrived the day before the Christening, so as to be in good time in the morning. In the afternoon everybody was bustling about, draping new muslin curtains and tying them up with ribbons, and putting flowers everywhere, and polishing everything that could be polished, and carrying cans of hot water, and jugs of warm milk, and trays of powder and soap, and little downy pillows with lawn ruffles, and little fine vests and woolly shoes, and lacey veils and tissue paper—everything, in short, that goes with the christening of a baby princess.
And Nollekens was getting in everybody's way, with his nose in an enormous book which he was reading from cover to cover. He bumped into Poll on her way downstairs; she was going to the beach to get things for the Silver Curlew, but stopped to rub her elbow and say,. Poll is your right name because you are Poll. You couldn't be Jemima if you tried. I'll see that my baby is glad of its name when it grows up. Nolly flattened himself against the wall to make room for Nanny to pass, and Poll ran on down to the beach.
There she found Charlee Loon, writing in the wet sand with a pointed stick. Right inside. You get back home now, there's a sea-mist coming up. When I drew up my fishing-net What d'ye think was in it? A green-eyed sea-maid white and wet Singing sweet 's a linnet. Poll ran along the sand with the opal shell to her ear. Her footsteps filled with water as she ran. The baby was being bathed when Poll got back. It was the hour when everybody made some excuse to pass through the nursery, where Doll sat with a warm towel on her knees and the baby cooing inside it. For this was a thing that Doll found she wanted to do herself, and she did it as though she had done it all her life.
Her hands, that could not spin, found that they could soap and dry and powder a baby, slip its waving arms and legs into its tiny garments, and brush up the soft gold down on its head into a little shining quiff, as deftly as need be. Mother Codling and old Nan stood on either side telling her to do it this way, or advising her to do it that way, while Doll went on calmly doing it her own way, and tickled her baby till it smiled, and cuddled it till it drowsed. While she cuddled it, Doll crooned:. Which she proceeded to do just as Poll looked into the room before going along to see her Curlew.
I'm your aunt. There, Poll, you can lay her in the cradle if you like. Cookie came into the nursery with a bowl of gruel for Doll. She bent over the cradle to say, 'Pretty little dear. As they went out Megs came in with a jug of cream for Doll's gruel. She stooped to chuck the baby under the chin. He paused by the baby's cradle and said, with great dignity, 'Kutchykoo! Diddle-iddle-ickums, then. She took the baby from her mother and kissed and cuddled it.
Mother Codling nodded defiantly at old Nan, who merely said, 'Mammies have the right to the last say. She turned her attention to the salver in the Butler's hands, and rapped the book with her knuckles. Nollekens shook his head decidedly. A single syllable! What will the Fairy Godmothers think of us? You could never call a child with four fairy godmothers merely Joan.
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At that moment a carrier pigeon flew into the nursery, dropped four letters at Nolleken's feet, and flew out again. She will preside with pleasure. Here's a gold envelope. From the Noontide Fairy. She's delighted to act. So there we are. Our baby will have her four Fairy Godmothers. Not— not Joan,' said Nollekens to Doll, speaking very firmly. Well, it's a pity. Nicodemus is a splendid name. But I suppose it's too late to change it. The women bustled away with the bath-water and the damp towels, leaving Poll and Doll and Nollekens with the baby.
Nollekens shut the Book of Names regretfully.
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Well, all I can say is, it's a pity. Come to daddy,' he said, taking the baby out of Doll's arms and examining it critically. Hair as fair as flax and eyes as blue as flax-flower. And that reminds me,' he said, handing the baby back. Twice as much as last year. Isn't that splendid! And today you must spin it or lose your lovely noddle.
What have you got against me? I've got nothing against you, nothing whatsoever. I'm prouder of you than if you were the Queen of Sheba. Aren't you the champion spinster in East Anglia? Nobody expected her to twirl a spindle. I wish I was a lily in the field. They don't have to spin a record crop of flax. It's unfair—it's unreasonable, that's what it is! It's unkind. This put the King's dander up. Unfair, yes! I am not fair. Unreasonable, I grant you! I've never been reasonable. But unkind? How can I be un kind when that's the kind I am? Poll jumped to her feet and ran at him full tilt.
I've a good mind to have it banished. Nursing a sick curlew all the year round! Don't you stamp at my little girl,' she cried. How can a body think with this rumpus going on? You've made me mix the sugar with the salt. For the next two minutes nothing was heard but a hubbub of 'Flax! Old Nan was in their midst, looking from one to another with severe disapprobation. The hubbub stopped instantly, and there was dead silence. She looked Nollekens up and down with her bright beady eyes.
Nollekens got very red. Nollekens shuffled to the door, hanging his head. When he got there he turned and made a face at Poll. Old Nan pounced on her. A-thousand and-one, mind, the pair of you. And no skipping. She marched them out of the room. Mother Codling, Cookie, and the Butler faded after them, and the Gardener faded out of the window. Fair as the flax, blue as the flax-flower, and a record crop to spin.
Whatever shall I do, oh me, oh me? I'll never live to see your Christening-day. And at the thought of the roomful of flax awaiting her, Doll fell from sighing to sobbing, with her face in her hands. Then she took her hands from her face, and uttered a little scream. Yar mine! So sure as I dew live that's a little baby. We'll see about that,' said the Imp. Becos I hain't got a heart, and yew can't not have what yew hain't not got. Guess me in nine or yar mine, mine, mine!
Come now, what's my name? Now Doll was fairly frightened, for she had only two guesses left. In a shaking voice she said,. Thar goos eight! What should Doll say? Were there any more names in the world? She felt too dazed to think. As she looked about her in despair, her eyes lit on the big Book of Names which Nolly had left on the salver. Thar goos nine! Come along o' me, Yar mine, mine, mine! A pretty little baby, tew be sure. Say farewell to yar little baby, Doll. The Imp reached out his little black hand, but before he had touched her his eyes filled with cunning, and he said,. I'll tell you wat I'll dew.
I'll let yew bring yar little baby with you. And yar baby's a bewtiful baby tew live in it. I like yar baby as much as I like yew. I'll tell yew what I'll dew. I'll strike a bargain. I'll give yew another night tew think it over, and tomorrow when I come agin yew shall have three more guesses at me, and if yew doon't guess me that time, yew and yar baby shall come tew me for iver. Doll thought, and said, 'It's all or nothing then, and that's a bargain.
But—oh me, oh me, oh me! But yew'd best come along o' me this instant minute. Three guesses you've promised me, and I'm certain sure I'll guess you in one of them. Nobody can't niver guess my name, in three times three and ninety times nine. I'll keep my promise and yew'll keep yours, Queen Doll. He got muddled in the Seven Hundreds and had to begin again. I'm your aunt,' she said, peering into the cradle, but the cradle was empty. Oh, you've got her. Can I? Doll was clasping the baby tightly in her arms. Poll reached up and took her.
I'm glad you're not crying any more. Was it because Nolly was a pig? Pooh, Nolly!
Softly Cries the Curlew
But look at what you did last year! If you did it then you can do it now. We all of us saw that flax spun as fine as fine. If it wasn't you, who did? Doll did not answer, and something in her manner as she sat there made her little sister look at her attentively for the first time. Laying the baby back in its cradle, Poll knelt down and put both her arms round Doll's waist.
Poll took her by the shoulders and gave her a shake. You've never been mysterious before. Talk, talk, talk! The words came tumbling out of Doll's mouth pell-mell, like dried peas pouring through a hole in a paper bag. And if I can't he'll come and make me his. So I think, a year's a long time, I think, so yes, I says. And today the twelve-month's up, and that little sooty twirling imp has come for me.
Poll took her arms away from Doll's waist, and threw them round the cradle instead. He'll have my niece? I'd like to see him! Oh me, if only I knew his ugly name! Nine guesses I made, all wrong. Three guesses I'll make—and they'll be wrong too, they will. It's farewell to you all for my baby and me.
Poll sprang to her feet and clenched her fists. I will. I'll find out his name. Doll gave Poll a warning look, but old Nan didn't seem to expect an answer. She thought they were still discussing the Christening, and her attention was diverted by Nollekens, who just then came to the door, counting carefully.
There, Nanny! My Doll mustn't cry, you know, that won't do at all. But of course,' cried Nollekens merrily, ' of course my darling Doll shall spin her flax. Just take a look at it! He unlocked a door that led into an adjoining room, where Abe and Sid and Dave and Hal were stuffing flax ceiling-high, one bale on top of another. But Nollekens was rubbing his hands and didn't hear her.
He fussed round the four yokels, directing them here and there. Pick up our baby and run away. Run away from Nolly. Run away from that little black imp. There's no saying where that'll pop up next. Poll looked round, startled, and saw a queer little black thing leering at her out of a bundle of flax in the next room. As swiftly as it had shown itself it vanished again.
Up with you, Dollikins. The flax is all in, so in you go too. Time we went by-byes. There's the moon coming up. Who's Nanny's ickle oozie-woozie-woo? Doll was locked in the room from which the faint whirr of spinning might have been heard through the keyhole, if anyone had cared to put an ear to it. But nobody did. Everyone took it for granted that what Doll had done last year she would do this. The baby was asleep in old Nan's room, and one after another Mother Codling, Cookie, Megs, and young Jen had tiptoed in to peep at it before they too went to bed.
Nollekens was up in the garret, where he was laying out the rails and points and signals for his train. When he thought everybody was asleep he sneaked down to the coal-cellar to get some real coal for the coal-wagon, which Nanny would be sure to disapprove of; so he took off his shoes and crept in his stocking-feet. Before he came up again he passed the larder, which made him feel hungry very suddenly; so he looked in and helped himself to a slice of pie and a lump of cake. Then he began to creep up again; but on the way he passed his bedroom door, and the pillows looked so inviting that he thought he would lie down on them to eat his pie before he went back to his train.
Half-way through the pie he fell asleep, and was soon snoring with his cheek on the lump of cake. Only Poll was awake. She had slipped out of the palace before her mother could order her to bed, just as she was about to begin her great adventure. But first she went to wish her curlew good night. It was preening its silver plumage, and did not pay her much attention, and she stepped out of the cage feeling rather lonely. The world seemed very big, and she felt very little, and she had not the least idea where the Spindle-Imp lived, or which way to turn to find him.
Meanwhile he was spinning away for Doll's dear life in the flax-room; but he would not be there long. If last year he had accomplished the huge task in half an hour, this year he would do it in an hour at most. It was no use trying to tackle him face to face; he would sneer and jeer and fleer, and never let her trick his name out of him.
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Her best plan, thought Poll, was to find his home before he got back, hide near by, and hope to hear him addressed by those whom he lived with. She could see the light in Doll's room from where she crouched by the bird-cage. He's still there, thought Poll; would it be better, after all, to wait awhile in the garden on the chance of seeing him leave the palace, and following?
Yes, that was the best plan. So Poll crouched on, watching the moon rise, and the pale moths come out, and the white owl flit, and the stocks in the garden double their scent. Before she knew it she had fallen into a doze. When she opened her eyes the moon was high in the sky and the lights in the palace windows were out. Far away the bells in Cromer church tower were chiming midnight.
Oh you silly! You've missed your chance. He's gone, and what will you do now? She could have cried with vexation for her carelessness. Now she must start her adventure without any idea whether she should go north to Wells or south to Caister or west to Aylsham or east into the sea.
The Curlew Cried - Oodgeroo Noonuccal - Poem - Australian Poetry Library
Her knees felt stiff, and putting her hand down on the ground to help herself up she felt something in the grass. It was the opal shell which the sea had drifted that day into Charlee's palm. She put it to her ear, and heard the wash of the wind and the whisper of waves. The wind goes everywhere, thought Poll, the wind knows everything. It goes all over the world and you can't stop it. You can keep out the sun and the rain, but you can't keep the wind out.
It can go through cracks and keyholes and down chimneys. Wherever that black imp lives, the wind has been there one time or another. I wish I could speak the language of the wind. I wish it could answer questions. I wish my shell could speak in my ear what the wind is saying. Poll shut her eyes and began to whisper to the shell, hushing her voice to a sort of muzzy murmur, hoping it was a sound the shell would understand and answer. Shell, shell, murmuring shell, tell, tell, tell me the name, tell in my ear the name, the name, tell, tell, tell his name who comes to claim our dear, our dear, shell, shell, tell me his name.
But surely this sound did not issue from the shell? Surely Poll heard it through her open ear. She unclosed her eyes, which felt a little sticky from being so fast-shut. At first the moonlight made everything swimmy and she could only see a sliding silver movement over the grass that seemed to be the wind made visible.
Then as her eyes cleared Poll caught and held her breath. What did she see? She saw the Silver Curlew floating above the flower-beds like a large moth. It rose a little, dipped, rose a little higher, and slid to earth again. Poll watched its movements anxiously. It stepped through the dewy grass as though it were stepping through seaweed, and stopped beside the fountain to wet its bill. Refreshed, it began to try its wings again. You can fly! For now the bird rose higher in the moonlight, and glided with its old grace along the wind. Some minutes passed while it pursued its delicate dance, half in air, half on earth, ascending higher in each flight, and descending to its foothold as its wings tired.
At last it seemed to have gained full confidence in its powers, and rose so high that Poll could only see a silver spark in the sky. She reached out her hands, crying to it——. The next moment the bird swooped down like a shooting-star, and Poll could not tell whether she had shrunk to the size of a mouse or the Curlew had swelled to the size of an angel. All she knew was that she became enveloped in a cloud of moonshine, and was wafted away like a tuft of gossamer.
The moonglade on the sea made a road from the edge of the shore to the horizon. It was broad where the shallow waves lapped the sand, and tapered to a point where it touched the rim of the sky. Charlee was done for the day. He had beached his boat and supped his cold plum porridge, and pulled his whistle out of his pocket. At the first notes the three puffins came paddling about him, hopeful of a tune to dance to. Charlee lay at ease on his back, and set them off with a few stray notes; then he sat up with his hair full of sand, and made a song for them.
The puffins puffed and pranced with solemn enjoyment, but whether they had really had muffins for tea is a very moot point. Presently all three stopped as one puffin, their heads cocked on one side. Out of the air came a far-off cry of 'Char—lee! In the twink of an eye the puffins scuttled away. Charlee put his whistle in his pocket and stood up, gazing into the sky. In the distance appeared what seemed first to be a little wind-driven cloud; but no cloud ever sailed so swiftly across the moonlit dome as this one on silver-feathered wings that grew larger and larger, and soon glided down to the shore in the shape of a great bird with a little girl on its back.
Poll looked round in puzzlement. Her wits were still spinning from her flight through the sky. Only a moment before she had been in the King's garden, and now here she was on the beach. He offered the Curlew a herring from his catch. She took it daintily in her beak and tossed it away. The bird paid him no more heed than she had Poll. Her dipping movements turned into a dance. She seemed to weave it like a silver thread, and suddenly she hunched her feathers into a squat shape, and twirled round and round. She's shrunk herself into a dwarf like—like who? The Curlew rose a little above the sand, and her shadow hopped there grotesquely as she moved.
Poll clutched Charlee's arm. She's taken the shape of the worst thing in the Witching-Wood. She was sure the Curlew had brought her here for this. With the name on her tongue she could save the baby and Doll. But Charlee did not answer. A mist was rising and blowing in off the sea, and when Poll looked at him it seemed also to rise in his eyes. After a long and anxious pause he shook his head. Charlee stood like a stone, seeming to think, but the mist that dimmed the moonglade dimmed his wits. He went to his shack and kicked the rickety door ajar. On the inner side flapped a queer limp hide, as black as tar.
Charlee fetched it off its nail and held it up between his two forefingers and thumbs, spreading its shape on the air. Poll looked at it closer and gave a little shudder. Charlee let the skin drop at his feet, saying, 'It's things like that you'll meet in the Witching-Wood. And if they catch sight of you I'm sorry for you. I've got to find out that little black imp's name. I've got to, Charlee.