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The Piskeys who Carried their Beds
Many years ago the Piskeys used to dance on a grassy place on the top of the cliffs overlooking Newtrain Bay in the parish of Padstow. They danced there so often that the grass was worn quite bare, and until the cliffs on which they danced were undermined and broken down by the rough sea, the marks of their tiny feet were plainly seen.

An old woman who lived a short distance from Newtrain Cliffs used to tell people interested in fairies that she had often seen them dancing there. ‘They danced two and two,’ she said, ‘and so near the edge of the cliff, you would have thought they would dance over. But they never did; they were far too clever for that.’

Jinnie Chapman was the name of this old woman. She was quite a character in her way, and almost as interesting as the Small People she loved to talk about.

She was a little quick woman, with twinkling dark eyes, and whenever she went over to Newtrain to watch the Piskeys, she wore a black cottage-bonnet over her neat jinnie-guick cap, a blue print apron, [180]and a quaint little black turnover with a wide border of red cones. This turnover she called a ‘q’ shawl, because the cones on its border were the shape of q’s, she said.

It was the great pleasure of her dull, uneventful life to see the Piskeys dancing, which she was simple enough to believe they did to give her pleasure; and she embraced every opportunity to get to the Newtrain Cliffs to watch them.

Jinnie had watched the Small People so often that she knew every one of them by sight, and how many there were that danced.

They never took any notice of the little old woman in the cottage-bonnet, the quaint shawl, and blue print apron, watching them dancing near a low stone hedge green and gold with samphire; and they laughed and talked to each other just the same as if she were not present.

They never danced, as far as Jinnie knew, except when the moon was high, and they left off dancing when the moon set like a ball of fire over the great headlands. But she did not know where they went after the moon had gone down.

One very bright moonlight night in the early autumn, when the Piskey-stools1 were thick on Newtrain Cliffs, old Jinnie came again to watch the Piskeys; and when she got there, there were not any to be seen. She could not understand it, and she went and looked at the Piskey-stools to see if they [181]were sitting on any of them having a chat, which they sometimes did when they were tired of dancing; but every Piskey-stool on the cliffs was unoccupied.

As she was wondering what had become of the Piskeys, she heard shrieks of tiny laughter, like the giggles of kittiwakes, coming up from Newtrain Bay under the cliffs; and she hastened down the steep road leading to the bay—which was romantic-looking, and almost shut in by tall cliffs—as fast as her old legs would take her.

When she got to the bottom of the road, she met four little Piskeys coming up, carrying a large Piskey-bag between them; and being very anxious to know what they were going to do with the dark-brown thing, she said:

‘My little dears, will you kindly tell me what you are going to do with the Piskey-bag?’

They were evidently too surprised to answer the old woman at once, for she had never spoken to them before, and they stared up at her open-mouthed.

‘To sleep in when the cold weather comes,’ answered a Piskey at last.

‘They are ever so comfortable to snuggle under when the snow is on the ground,’ said another little Piskey.

‘Sleep in them, do you?’ cried old Jinnie, greatly interested. ‘To think of it now! I expect they are as warm as the blanketing the blanket-weavers weave in their looms at Padstow. But I never [182]knew before you slept in the bags; I thought you kept your money in them.’

‘We don’t, then,’ cried the Piskeys, grinning all over their little elf faces, which were almost as brown as the Piskey-bag they were carrying. ‘We use the tiny young bags to keep our money in, not big ones like this.’

‘Up we go!’ cried one of the Piskeys to his companions, giving the one nearest him a poke in his ribs; and the four little Brown Men began to ascend the steep road, carrying the Piskey-bag by its four tails, swinging it to and fro, and shrieking with laughter as they swung it.

Jinnie watched them for a few minutes, and then went down to the pebbly beach, where she saw dozens of little Brown Men in companies of four, each company bearing a Piskey-bag between them.

There was a long string of these Little People from the water’s edge to where she met them, which was about a dozen yards from the foot of the steep road.

The little Brown Men took no notice of her, and swung the bags just as did the first quartette, seemingly unconscious that she was watching them, and laughed and joked among themselves as they swung them.

Old Jinnie followed them up the beach and road, and she wondered to herself where they were going to take the bags; but she never knew, for when they reached the top of the cliff where they danced, they vanished, Piskey-bags and all!


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