Billy Duffy was an Irishman, a blacksmith, and a drunkard. He had the Keltic aversion from steady work, and stuck to his forge only long enough to get money for drink; when that was spent, he returned to work.
Billy was coming home one day after one of these drinking-bouts, soberer than usual, when he exclaimed to himself, for the thirst was upon him, "By God! I would sell myself to the devil if I could get some more drink."
At that moment a tall gentleman in black stepped up to him, and said, "What did you say?"
"I said I would sell myself to the devil if I could get a drink."
"Well, how much do you want for seven years, and the devil to get you then?"
"Well, I can't tell exactly, when it comes to the push."
"Will £700 do you?"
"Yes; I'd take £700."
"And the devil to get you then?"
"Oh, yes; I don't care about that."
When Billy got home he found the money in his smithy. He at once shut the smithy, and began squandering the money, keeping open house.
Amongst the people who flocked to get what they could out of Billy came an old hermit, who said, "I am very hungry, and nearly starved. Will you give me something to eat and drink?"
"Oh, yes; come in and get what you like."
The hermit disappeared, after eating and drinking, and did not reappear for several months, when he received the same kindly welcome, again disappearing. A few months afterwards he again appeared.
"Come in, come in!" said Billy.
After he had eaten and drunk his full, the hermit said to Billy: "Well, three times have you been good and kind to me. I'll give you three wishes, and whatever you wish will be sure to come true."
"I must have time to consider," said Billy.
"Oh, you shall have plenty of time to consider, and mind they are good wishes."
Next morning Billy told the hermit he was ready. "Well, go on; be sure they're good wishes," said the hermit.
"Well, I've got a big sledge-hammer in the smithy, and I wish whoever gets hold of that hammer shall go on striking the anvil, and never break it, till I tell him to stop.