小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 儿童英文小说 » North Cornwall Fairies and Legends » The Piskeys who did Aunt Betsy’s Work
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
The Piskeys who did Aunt Betsy’s Work
In our great-great-grandmothers’ days people very seldom went away visiting, and when little Nannie Sando received an invitation from her Aunt Betsy—great-aunt really—who lived quite twenty miles from her home on a lonely moor, near Liskard, there was great excitement in Nannie’s home.

Nannie’s father did not like the thought of her going away so far from home, and her mother did not like it either, but she said Aunt Betsy was well-to-do, and had a stockingful of gold hidden away somewhere; it would not do for them to offend her by refusing to let the child go. So the invitation was accepted, and Nannie was sent off by coach, and met by her aunt in a donkey-cart in Horn Lane, at Liskard, where the coach put up; and that same evening she reached the little house on the moor.

It was quite a nice little house, with two rooms up and two down, and a large garden behind, sheltered by granite boulders fantastically piled one on top of the other. In front of the house were the moors, which, at the time Nannie came to stay with [168]her aunt, were gorgeous with the bloom of heather and other flowers.

Nice as the house was, and beautiful as the moors were, with their background of Kilmar and other Cornish tors, it was a lonely spot for a child to come and stay at, with only an elderly woman for company. But, then, there was the charm of novelty, and there were delights in the shape of her aunt’s donkey and cow, and a big black tom-cat called Tinker, to say nothing of the far-stretching moors, which were so beautiful to look at and run wild on.

When Nannie was leaving to go and stay with Aunt Betsy, her mother, with a view to possessing some of the old lady’s golden hoard some day, told her little daughter to be very attentive to her aunt. ‘Get up when she does,’ she said, ‘and help her to do her work, and make yourself very useful;’ and the child said she would.

Nannie, when she was going to bed on the evening of her arrival, remembered her mother’s injunction, and said to her aunt:

‘Please call me when you get up; I want to help you to clean up the houseplace.’

But the old woman did not call her grand-niece, and let her stay in bed till breakfast-time; and when the child came down she found all the work done, and everything clean and shining.

‘You never called me, Aunt Betsy,’ said Nannie reproachfully. ‘Mother did so want me to help you.’

‘Did she?’ cried the old woman sharply. ‘If your [169]mother told you to help me, she had a motive for it. I know your mother’s little ways!’

‘She said you were getting up in years,’ said Nannie innocently, ‘and that the young should spare the old as much as they could.’

‘The dear little Brown Piskeys spare my old legs,’ said the old woman, looking at the child. ‘They come in and do my work before the world gets up.’

‘The Piskeys!’ cried the child. ‘Who are the Piskeys? I never heard of them before.’

‘You must be a very ignorant little girl not to have heard tell of the Piskeys,’ cried Aunt Betsy, lifting her hands in surprise. ‘They are dear Little People who take strange likes and dislikes to human beings. If they happen to like people very much, they come into their house and do their work for them. They have taken quite a fancy to me, and come into my house every night and clean up the houseplace, polish the candlesticks till they shine like gold, scour the pots and pans, and wash and clean everything that wants cleaning.’

‘How very kind of them!’ said Nannie. ‘They must be dear Little People. I do wish I could see them doing your work, Aunt Betsy. It would be something to tell father and mother when I go home.’

‘I don’t expect you will have the good fortune to see the Piskeys,’ said the old woman. ‘They are little invisible Men and Women, and nobody ever sees them unless they happen to be Piskey-eyed. As you have never heard about these dear Wee [170]Folk till now, it is quite certain you have not the gift.’

‘Are you Piskey-eyed, Aunt Betsy?’ asked Nannie eagerly.

Her aunt did not answer, and told her little grand-niece to sit up at table and eat her breakfast.

The child was too full of the Little People to eat much breakfast, and the more she thought about them, the more anxious she became to see those dear Wee Folk, who were so very, very kind to her Aunt Betsy.

The next morning Nannie got up ever so early, with the hope of seeing the Piskeys, but, early as it was, Aunt Betsy was down before her. The work was all done, and the table laid for breakfast, as on the previous day.

‘The Piskeys came and did it long before I was up,’ remarked her aunt, not noticing the child’s face of disappointment, glancing round the big kitchen, with its stone-flagged floor, just washed, and looking as blue as the tors, and up at the dresser, with its china looking as if it had been washed in sunshine, it was so sparkling; and as for the tall brass candlesticks on the high mantelpiece, they were dazzling in their brightness.

‘It isn’t fair that the Little People should come in and do all your work when I wanted to help,’ said Nannie.

‘I am used to Piskeys, but not to children,’ returned the old woman. ‘If you really want to do something [171]for me, you shall go out on the moors and pick me a nosegay of wild flowers. It will make the kitchen look nice, and will complete the work of the Piskeys.’

Nannie was willing, as she had nothing to do, and she put on her sun-bonnet to go.

‘The clover is in blossom,’ said her aunt, as the child was going out at the door, ‘and if you happen to find one with four leaves you may perhaps get Piskey-eyed, and if you also find a Wee’s Nest1 you will have the good fortune to see all the Little People in Cornwall!’

‘A Wee’s Nest is a thing that is never found,’ said Nannie; ‘but I’ll look for a four-leaved clover till I find it. P’raps you found a four-leaved clover, and that is how you can see the Piskeys,’ looking round at her aunt with a smile.

The old woman was not given to answering questions, and she only said that four-leaved clovers were not so easy to find as she imagined.

There was an abundance of flowers everywhere on the moors, and Nannie soon gathered a great big nosegay; but although she looked for a four-leaved clover, she could not find one.

Her aunt was very pleased with the flowers when she took them to her, and told her to put them into an earthenware pot, which she did; and when she had had her dinner, she went on the moors again. Tinker, the great tom-cat, with whom she had already made friends, followed her. [172]

Nannie stayed out on the moors till it was almost bedtime, searching for a four-leaved clover, but she searched in vain.

The next morning, the child, hearing her aunt dressing, got up and dressed too, and, being young and nimble, she was dressed and down first.
Nannie went on the moors again, and Tinker followed her.

Nannie went on the moors again, and Tinker followed her.

When she got to the kitchen, she heard the clatter of pans and [173]a tripping to and fro of tiny feet, and little bursts of laughter came from the big spence at the upper end of the kitchen; but she saw nothing living, except Tinker, cleaning his face in front of the fire, and then she heard a patter of small feet going towards the outer kitchen door, and there was silence.

‘You have driven away the Piskeys, you young good-for-nothing!’ cried Aunt Betsy, coming into the kitchen, buttoning the sleeve of her gown as she came. ‘The Little People don’t like to be spied on when they are busy working. You should not have got up so early.’

The old woman seemed as much put out as the Piskeys, and she flew round the kitchen doing the work the Small People had left undone, and would not allow Nannie to help at all, not even to lay the cloth for breakfast.

After breakfast, the child, in order to put her aunt in a better mood, went out on the moors to get another nosegay of wild flowers, and she gathered one of every sort she could find.

As she was picking them, Tinker, the cat, who had followed her again to the moors, put his paw on a clover and mewed; and, fearing a bee had stung him, she looked to see, and quite close to his paw was a white four-leaved clover!

‘I shall be able to see the Piskeys now!’ said Nannie joyfully; and she and Tinker returned to the house. [174]

Aunt Betsy was out at the back looking for a hen who had stolen her nest, and she did not come in till dinner-time.

Nannie amused herself meanwhile in arranging the flowers, and when she had done that to her own satisfaction, she passed the four-leaved clover over her eyes three times, and looked round the kitchen to see what she could see. She saw nothing unusual, but she thought she saw a tiny brown laughing face peeping round the kitchen door.

When Aunt Betsy came in from watching the hen, the child told her she had found the four-leaved clover, thanks to Tinker.

Her aunt looked at her queerly, and asked her to show the clover which she had found; and when she saw that it was a four-leaved one, she only said: ‘But you have not yet found the Wee’s Nest, and you must not expect to see the dear little Brown Piskeys unless you do.’

Nannie hoped she would, all the same, and this hope made her so excited she could not sleep; and when daylight began to creep into the sky she got up, and without waiting to put on more than her little petticoat, she crept downstairs, holding the four-leaved clover in her hand. When she got to the door of the kitchen, leading into it from the passage, she opened it softly and peeped in; and to her delight she saw scores and scores of Little People, all as busy as bees in a field of clover. Some were sweeping the flagged stones, some were washing the [175]cloam2 and scouring the pots and pans, some were polishing the candlesticks with a soft leather, and others were in the big spence scrubbing the stone benches and doing it all as keenly3 as Aunt Betsy herself, which was most wonderful, she thought, considering how tiny they were. For they were not much bigger than a miller’s thumb.4

It was the Little Women Piskeys who were the busiest workers. The Little Men were less industrious; and when Tinker came into the kitchen, they stopped their work of cleaning the milk-pans to pull his great bushy tail and his whiskers. One little scamp of a Piskey—perhaps unconscious that Nannie was now Piskey-eyed—put his thumb to his nose, after the manner of naughty little boys, and made a face at her.

The Piskeys were a merry little lot, and laughed at their work as if it were all play, which perhaps it was; and one little red-capped Piskey danced a hornpipe on the table as several of his companions were about to lay the cloth for Aunt Betsy’s breakfast. They stood on the edge of the table, waiting for him to finish his dance, and as he did not seem inclined to do this, they caught hold of him by his legs and tickled him.

The little Piskey who was being tickled, and those who tickled him, looked so comical that Nannie laughed, which made them stop and look round.

‘There is a little maid watching us from the door!’ said one of the Piskeys in a whisper. ‘She is Piskey-eyed, the same as Aunt Betsy, and she will be spying upon us now, sure as eggs are eggs. I think we had better forsake this house and go and do work for some other old woman.’ And, to Nannie’s distress, they went, and ever after Aunt Betsy had to do her own work, which made her so cross that she sent poor Nannie home to her parents at the first opportunity she had; and when she died, which was not a great while after, she left her little hoard of gold to strangers. Nannie’s father said ’twas a great pity, but that his wife was to blame, for if she had not urged their little maid to help the old lady to do her work with the unworthy motive of having some of her gold, Nannie would never have wanted to see the Piskeys doing Aunt Betsy’s work.


欢迎访问英文小说网http://novel.tingroom.com

©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533

鲁ICP备05031204号