Thursday, 3 April 2008
It is said in our village that a young man once stole a cow from the faeries of the wild meadows. Those cows are special it's said. They always look fat and sleek and are said to give the best milk, which has sometimes been given when the faeries of the wild meadows are especially pleased with someone in the village. So naturally farmers leave their cows in the wild meadows to graze in the hope that their cows will turn out just like the faerie ones.
But as my old granny used to say, you should always be very careful with the faeries for their moods are like dragonflies, they can change direction just as quickly. Now I've only been told about this young man and it was a long time ago. His name was Philippe or something like that. It seems that this Philippe didn't have a wise granny like mine. He was up in the wild meadows in the late evening when it was neither day or night. He was out hunting for deer, but when he saw the faerie herd he became excited at the thought that one of them might be his for the taking. For you should know that there were no faerie herdsmen or women watching over their herd. Or if they were, he couldn't see any and that was all he wanted.
He got his rope together - he had it in case he got a deer so he could tie up the carcass and bring it home - and he tried to herd the cows along the track towards his barn. Most of the cows were too canny for him and they scattered away from him in their leisurely way. They lowed gently and strolled away all but one beautiful cow. This one stood watching him and when she lowered her head to graze he crept up alongside her and put his rope about her neck and gently tugged her away with him. He got her home to his farm and put her in the barn with plenty of straw and food for her. Oh he meant to look after her alright. She was a prize after all.
The next morning it rained and it thundered in the wild meadows. Lightning flashed and crashed all over the village, frightening the farm girls and the children. But the women put a stop to all that for there was still work to be done. Then the people heard the calling of cows through the village and they guessed that the faeries were at work in all this hullabaloo. When the sound reached Philippe's farm the cow in his barn answered it. At that, it's said, the calling cows stopped their lowing. They knew who was answering them and in the farmhouse, Philippe went pale with worry all of a sudden. He knew very suddenly that he shouldn't have done what he had done.
Even tho' the thunder was growling all over the valley and the lightning was being hurled all over and the rain was lashing down with all the fury of a cat in a temper - even so he knew he had to make it all good. So he went out of the farmhouse, the rain soaking him to the bones in like water bees and dashed into the warmth of the barn. But he saw that the poor cow's udders were full and he couldn't let her go like that or it would make things worse. So he took a clean pail and began to milk her. He filled that pail and went back into the farmhouse to get another. That was filled too. The more pails were emptied, the more milk flowed from the faerie cow. The women emptied the pails into the bathtub. They filled every bowl in the house and every bottle. They were forced to go through the village and fetch more vessels to put all the milk in. Still the rain fell upon them, still Philippe milked the cow and still her udders were full and the milk flowed free. Everyone was kept busy trying to fill the vessels and find more. Everyone began to churn the milk to butter and to make cheese with it. All the babies were filled up drinking it, the cats and dogs were all spoilt by being given it, but still the milk came until the village had nothing more to fill with the milk.
Then the villagers grew afraid and they insisted that Philippe should take the cow back to the wild meadows. The village priest came to the barn and spoke to the cow reminding her of where the Christ child was born and of almighty god. The cow was not impressed. She was after all a cow, but also a faerie cow and the faeries are not a sacred people. She lowed and licked the priest's face and groaned to be milked.
Philippe covered the cow in a fine blanket and let the poor animal to the wild meadows. The rain let up around her, but Philippe was drenched and while he managed to lead her up to the pastures, when he returned to the village he was forced to go straight to bed for a month with a severe cold.
The milk made excellent cheeses and butter. It sold out very quickly at the nearest town. But it had one major peculiarity. The cheese made people who ate it suddenly dance until they dropped. The butter made all the lawyers start telling the truth and all the robbers hand themselves in to the police. It made all the babies ugly for three months so that their eyes had a spiteful look and they bit their wet-nurses when they shouldn't have.
Philippe sold his herd when he had recovered and stuck to growing crops instead. It was probably better that way.