Thursday, 25 September 2008

The Luck of Dragon Hall.

My version of a tale around the so-called Luck of Eden Hall,
a house in Cumbria demolished in 1930.
The cup is in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

This happened a long, long time ago so I find. It was recorded in an old book that I bought in a secondhand bookshop. I thought it only a kind of folktale or something similar, but I it is also recorded in Josiah Snodgrass & Filbertus Gaskin's book, 'Strange Occurrences in Britain such as have been ill-considered and found to be, etc...', and dated 1763. So I suspect that perhaps it may have some basis in fact, despite the mention of the faeries in it. Surely, nobody with any sense still believes in such things in our ultra-modern 21st century, do they?

And yet... and yet, sometimes I find myself wondering. Still, I shall put down the story here from the two recorded events and you shall judge for yourselves.

It appears that during the medieval ages, close to a well, a servant came across a faerie banquet. Sure that none would believe him if he told of it, he quietly pocketed a beautiful glass cup while the faeries were dancing. As he sneaked away, the loss was discovered and the High Lady of those faeries called out,

If this cup should break or fall,
Farewell good luck to Dragon Hall!

The servant, terrified ran away with the cup and handed it to his master the Duke of Bagpuisz as a gift, for which he was well rewarded. However, the faeries had not forgot the theft and the servant found that he could not stop dancing. He found himself compelled to dance towards the bluebell woods and was trapped there, dancing until the world should end. His body was found some days later, the feet and legs still twitching, which much amazed the medical men of the time. Yet it was said that during dusk or dawn in the twilight, anyone passing through the trees might see where the bluebells grow, the faint figure of a man dancing with a look of terror on his face. In any case, once he was dead, it was thought that the faeries would have had their revenge and there would be an end of it.

Some years later however, while the then Duke was holding a ball, an old woman dressed in green and red entered the ballroom and approached the Duke. The servants would not stop her and indeed some of them were seen to bow or curtsey to her, tho' the Lords and Ladies did not know why, for she looked nothing special. The Duke smiled politely and asked her what he might do for her, being of a charitable mind.

"You have something that was taken from me," she said shortly, "And I should like it returned."

The Duke could not conceive what he might have that would belong to the old woman, but on asking her what that was, she said clearly,

"My glass cup, taken from my own banquet some years ago by a servant of yours."

The Duke instinctively knew what cup she meant, but perhaps being surrounded by his friends and in his own house, he refused to return it, telling the old woman that it was bought in good faith.

"It was stolen in the first instance, but you may keep it if you wish. The price I will insist on is higher I fancy than you will like, but it will be paid until the cup is returned to me. If it breaks your luck will cease altogether and your house will fall. If it is protected you alone will prosper, but in misery dwell unless it is returned." she answered.

The Duke, furious at what he perceived was a threat, made to grab her by the arms and eject her from the house, but she vanished, much to the wonder of the guests. There was much talk at first, but then the music started up and the guests began to dance, some in pink satin slippers, others in pale blue slippers. They whirled about the ballroom, close in each others arms feeling the music wrap itself about them until it filled the room, not loudly, but melodious and elegant... and insistent. The servants too began to feel a compulsion to dance in their ordinary black shoes. The food went unremarked, the wine was drunk on the go, as it were and the dancing would not stop. Before very long the Duke, Duchess and their guests and servants became exhausted, but found they could not stop. They must dance on, the music insisted on it.

However, a young serving maid, Mary realising what had happened left the room. She had hung about her neck a small crucifix made of iron by her sweetheart the village blacksmith and this protected her from the faerie magic. She found the precious glass and took it out of the Hall. In the pale light of a full moon, she ran through the gardens carefull to keep the glass cup safe until she reached the well. Nearby there, upon a flat stone, she placed the cup and ran back to the house. A little way from the stone she turned and saw hands reach up from the stone and take the cup down into the stone.

The Duke of Bagpuisz left Dragon Hall soon after and removed to London, where it is said he never danced another step in his life. It is to be expected that his guests felt somewhat similarly about dancing also, for the party season that year was very sparsely attended.

Mary married her sweetheart and they prospered, soon buying the Hall and moving into it. Her children were given strict instructions about respecting the property of others and what would happen if they did not.

1 comment:

madameshawshank said...

the music wrap itself about them

as music does music does..

I wonder if music notes are aware of their wrapability?