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Main > Irish folktales > Fairy tale "The Big Poor People"

The Big Poor People

He saw the door in the hill open and he walked in. And there he found himself in a hall, dim and high. A row of dim lamps hung along the hall, and he saw the smoke of them rise up to the roof, where many old banners, faded and torn, stirred a little in the light breeze that came in by the open door. And the light of the lamps shone down and glistened on the bright armor of rows of men who sat with their steel helmets bowed upon the table, and behind them were rows of horses, with their saddles and their bridles on, ready for their riders.

"There was no sound in the cave but the shuffle of his own foot, and the stillness and the sight that he saw made him afraid. His hand trembled, and a bridle that he had fell upon the floor. The noise echoed and echoed through the cave, and the warrior who sat nearest to the poor man raised his head. 'Is it time?' the warrior said.

"'Not yet, but soon will be,' the man answered, and the warrior's head sank again upon the table. The man went out of the cave as quickly as he could, and he never could find the door of it again.

"They say that Earl Gerald's horse has silver shoes. They were half an inch thick when the Earl's sleep began. When they are worn as thin as a cat's ear it will be time. Then a miller's son, who will have six fingers on each hand, will blow a trumpet, and Earl Gerald and all his warriors will come out of the cave. They will fight a great battle and will conquer the enemies of Ireland. Then the country will be peaceful and prosperous and happy, and Gerald will be its King for forty years."

Peter's mind could not be set at rest by any such stories as this to-night. "What's the good of all thim old tales to us?" he asked, "Can we pay our rint wid the knowledge that Earl Gerald will be King of Ireland for forty years? They do be all the time fortellin' and prophesyin' and predictin' this thing and that thing and the other thing in thim old tales, and nothin' ever comes o' thim. Did you ever know, now, Mrs. O'Brien—I ask you—will you tell me this—did ye ever know of any of the prophecies in any of thim old woman's tales comin' thrue?

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