Arawn thanked Powell heartily, and bade him see what he had done for him.
Then each one rode back, in his former likeness, to his kingdom.
Now at Anwyn, no one but Arawn himself knew that anything unusual had taken place. After dinner, and the evening story telling were over, and it was time to go to bed, Arawn's wife was surprised in double measure.
Two things puzzled her. Her husband was now very tender to her and also very talkative; whereas, for a whole year, every night, he had been as silent and immovable as a log. How could it be, in either case?
But this time, the wife was silent as a statue. Even though Arawn spoke to her three times, he received no reply.
Then he asked directly of her, why she was so silent. She made an answer that, for a whole year, no word had been spoken in their bedroom.
"What?" said he, "did we not talk together, as always before?"
"No," said she, "not for a year has there been talk or caress between us."
At this answer, Arawn was overcome with surprise, and as struck with admiration at having so good a friend. He burst out first in praise of Powell, and then told his wife all that had happened during the past twelve months. She, too, was full of admiration, and told her husband that in Powell he had certainly found a true friend.
In Dyfed, when Powell had returned to his own land and castle, he called his lords together. Then he asked them to be perfectly frank and free to speak. They must tell him whether they thought him a good king during the year past.
All shouted in chorus of approval. Then their spokesman addressed Powell thus:
"My lord, never was thy wisdom so great, thy generosity more free, nor thy justice more manifest, than during the past year."
When he ceased, all the vassals showed their approval of this speech.
Then Powell, smiling, told the story of his adventures in exchanging his form and tasks; at the end of which, the spokesman taking his cue from the happy faces of all his fellow vassals, made reply:
"Of a truth, lord, we pray thee, do thou give thanks to Heaven that thou hast formed such a fellowship. Please continue to us the form of the kingdom and rule, that we have enjoyed for a year past."
Thereupon King Powell took oath, kissing the hilt of his sword, and called on Heaven to witness his promise that he would do as they had desired.
So the two kings confirmed the friendship they had made. Each sent the other rich gifts of jewels, horses and hounds.
In memory of so wonderful and happy union, of a mortal and a fairy, Powell was thereafter, in addition to all his titles, saluted as Lord of Anwyn, which is only another name for the Land of the Fairies.
POWELL AND HIS BRIDE
Not far from the castle where King Powell had his court, there was a hillock called the Mount of Macbeth. It was the common belief that some strange adventure would befall anyone who should sit upon that mound.
He would receive blows, or wounds, or else he would see something wonderful.
Thus it came to pass, that none but peaceful bards had ever sat upon the mound. Never a warrior or a common man had risked sitting there. The general fear felt, and the awe inspired by the place, was too great.
But after his adventure of being King of Fairy Land for a whole year, everything else to Powell seemed dull and commonplace. So, to test his own courage, and worthiness of kingship, Powell assembled all his lords at Narberth.
After the night's feasting, revelry and story telling, Powell declared that, next day, he would sit upon the enchanted mound.
So when the sun was fully risen, Powell took his seat upon the mound, expecting that, all of a sudden, something unusual would happen.
For some minutes nothing, whether event or vision, took place. Then he lifted up his eyes and saw approaching him a white horse on which rode a lady. She was dressed in shining garments, as if made of gold. Evidently she was a princess. Yet she came not very near.
"Does anyone among you know who this lady is?" asked Powell of his chieftains.
"Not one of us," was the answer.
Thereupon Powell ordered his vassals to ride forward. They were to greet her courteously, and inquire who she was.
But now the predicted wonder took place. She moved away from them, yet at a quiet pace that suited her. Though the knights spurred their horses, and rode fast and furiously, they could not come any nearer to her.
They galloped back, and reported their failure to reach the lady.
Then Powell picked out others and sent them riding after the lady, but each time, one and all returned, chagrined with failure. A woman had beaten them.
So the day closed with silence in the castle hall. There was no merry making or story telling that night.
The next day, Powell sat again on the mound and once more the golden lady came near.
This time, Powell himself left his seat on the mound, leaped on his fleetest horse, and pursued the maiden, robed in gold, on the white horse.
But she flitted away, as she had done before from the knights. Again and again, though he could get nearer and nearer to her, he failed.
Then the baffled king cried out, in despair, "O maiden fair, for the sake of him whom thou lovest, stay for me."
Evidently the lady, who lived in the time of castles and courts, did not care to be wooed in the style of the cave men. Such manners did not suit her, but with a change of method of making love, her heart melted. Besides, she was a kind woman. She took pity on horses, as well as on men.
Sweet was her voice, as she answered most graciously:
"I will stay gladly, and it were better for thy horses, hadst thou asked me properly, long ago."
To his questions, as to how and why she came to him, she told her story, as follows:
"I am Rhiannon, descended from the August and Venerable One of old. My aunts and uncles tried to make me marry against my will a chieftain named Gwawl, an auburn-haired youth, son of Clud, but, because of my love to thee, would I have no husband, and if you reject me, I will never marry any man."
"As Heaven is my witness, were I to choose among all the damsels and ladies of the world, thee would I choose," cried Powell.
After that, it was agreed that, when a year had sped, Powell should go to the Palace of the August and Venerable One of old, and claim her for his bride.
So, when twelve months had passed, Powell with his retinue of a hundred knights, all splendidly horsed and finely appareled, presented himself before the castle. There he found his fair lady and a feast already prepared at which he sat with her. On the other side of the table, were her father and mother.
In the midst of this joyous occasion, when all was gayety, and they talked together, in strode a youth clad in sheeny satin. He was of noble bearing and had auburn hair. He saluted Powell and his knights courteously.
At once Powell, the lord of Narberth, invited the stranger to come and sit down as guest beside him.
"Not so," replied the youth. "I am a suitor, and have come to crave a boon of thee."
Without guile or suspicion, Powell replied innocently.
"Ask what you will. If in my power, it shall be yours."
But Rhiannon chided Powell. She asked, "Oh, why did you give him such an answer?"
"But he did give it," cried the auburn haired youth. Then turning to the whole company of nobles, he appealed to them:
"Did he not pledge his word, before you all, to give me what I asked?"
Then, turning to Powell, he said:
"The boon I ask is this, to have thy bride, Rhiannon. Further, I want this feast and banquet to celebrate, in this place, our wedding."
At this demand, Powell seemed to have been struck dumb. He did not speak, but Rhiannon did.
"Be silent, as long as thou wilt," she cried, "but surely no man ever made worse use of his wits than thou hast done; for this man, to whom thou gavest thy oath of promise, is none other than Gwawl, the son of Clud. He is the suitor, from whom I fled to come to you, while you sat on the Narberth mound."
Now, out of such trouble, how should the maiden, promised to two men, be delivered?
Her wit saved her for the nonce. Powell was bound to keep his word; but Rhiannon explained to Gwawl, that it was not his castle or hall. So, he could not give the banquet; but, in a year from that date, if Gwawl would come for her, she would be his bride. Then, a new bridal feast would be set for the wedding.
In the meantime, Rhiannon planned with Powell to get out of the trouble. For this purpose, she gave him a magical bag, which he was to use when the right time should come.
Quickly the twelve months passed and then Gwawl appeared again, to claim his bride, and a great feast was spread in his honor.
All were having a good time, when in the midst of their merriment, a beggar appeared in the hall. He was in rags, and carried the usual beggar's wallet for food or alms. He asked only that, out of the abundance on the table, his bag might be filled.
Gwawl agreed, and ordered his servants to attend to the matter.
But the bag never got full. What they put into it, or how much made no difference. Dish after dish was emptied. By degrees, most of the food on the table was in the beggar's bag.
"My soul alive! Will that bag never get full?" asked Gwawl.
"No, by Heaven! Not unless some rich man shall get into it, stamp it down with his feet, and call out 'enough.'"
Then Rhiannon, who sat beside Gwawl, urged him to attempt the task, by putting his two feet in the bag to stamp it down.
No sooner had Gwawl done this, than the supposed beggar pushed him down inside the bag. Then drawing the mouth shut, he tied it tight over Gwawl's head.
Then the beggar's rags dropped, and there stood forth the handsome leader, Powell. He blew his horn, and in rushed his knights who overcame and bound the followers of Gwawl.
Then they proceeded to play a merry game of football, using the bag, in which Gwawl was tied, as men in our day kick pigskin. One called to his mate, or rival, "What's in the bag?" and others answered, "a badger." So they played the game of "Badger in the Bag," kicking it around the hall.
They did not let the prisoner out of the bag, until he had promised to pay the pipers, the harpers, and the singers, who should come to the wedding of Powell and Rhiannon. He must give up all his claims, and register a vow never to take revenge. This oath given, and promises made, the bag was opened and the agreements solemnly confirmed in presence of all.
Then Gwawl, and every one of his men, knights and servants, were let go, and they went back to their own country.
A few evenings later, in the large banqueting hall, Powell and Rhiannon were married. Besides the great feast, presents were given to all present, high and low. Then the happy pair made their wedding journey to Gwawl's palace at Narberth. There the lovely bride gave a ring, or a gem, to every lord and lady in her new realm, and everybody was happy.
WHY THE BACK DOOR WAS FRONT
In the days when were no books, or writing, and folk tales were the only ones told, there was an old woman, who had a bad reputation. She pretended to be very poor, so as not to attract or tempt robbers. Yet those who knew her best, knew also, as a subject of common talk, that she was always counting out her coins.
Besides this, she lived in a nice house, and it was believed that she made a living by stealing babies out of their cradles to sell to the bad fairies.
It was matter of rumor that she would, for an extra large sum, take a wicked fairy's ugly brat, and put it in place of a mother's darling.
In addition to these horrid charges against her, it was rumored that she laid a spell, or charm, on the cattle of people whom she did not like, in order to take revenge on them.
The old woman denied all this, and declared it was only silly gossip of envious people who wanted her money. She lived so comfortably, she averred, because her son, who was a stone mason, who made much money by building chimneys, which had then first come into fashion. When he brought to her the profits of his jobs, she counted the coins, and because of this, some people were jealous, and told bad stories about her. She declared she was thrifty, but neither a miser, nor a kidnaper, nor a witch.
One day, this old woman wanted more feathers to stuff into her bed, to make it softer and feel pleasanter for her old bones to rest upon, for what she slept on was nearly worn through. So she went to a farm, where they were plucking geese, and asked for a few handfuls of feathers.
But the rich farmer's people refused and ordered her out of the farm yard.
Shortly after this event, the cows of this farmer, who was opposed to chimneys, and did not like her or her son, suffered dreadfully from the disease called the black quarter. As they had no horse doctors or professors of animal economy, or veterinaries in those days, many of the cows died. The rich farmer lost much money, for he had now no milk or beef to sell. At once, he suspected that his cattle were bewitched, and that the old woman had cast a spell on them. In those days, it was very easy to think so.
So the angry man went one day to the old crone, when she was alone, and her stout son was away on a distant job. He told her to remove the charm, which she had laid on his beasts, or he would tie her arms and legs together, and pitch her into the river.
The old woman denied vehemently that she possessed any such powers, or had ever practiced such black arts.
To make sure of it, the farmer made her say out loud, "The Blessing of God be upon your cattle!" To clinch the matter, he compelled her to repeat the Lord's Prayer, which she was able to do, without missing one syllable. She used the form of words which are not found in the prayer book, but are in the Bible, and was very earnest, when she prayed "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."
But after all that trouble, and the rough way which the rich farmer took to save his cattle, his efforts were in vain. In spite of that kind of religion which he professed—which was shown by bullying a poor old woman—his cattle were still sick, with no sign of improvement. He was at his wits' end to know what to do next.
Now, as we have said, this was about the time that chimneys came into fashion. In very old days, the Cymric house was a round hut, with a thatched roof, without glass windows, and the smoke got out through the door and holes in the walls, in the best way it could. The only tapestry in the hut was in the shape of long festoons of soot, that hung from the roof or rafters. These, when the wind blew, or the fire was lively, would swing or dance or whirl, and often fall on the heads, or into the food, while the folks were eating. When the children cried, or made wry faces at the black stuff, their daddy only laughed, and said it was healthy, or was for good luck.
But by and by, the carpenters and masons made much improvement, especially when, instead of flint hatchets, they had iron axes and tools. Then they hewed down trees, that had thick cross branches and set up columns in the center, and made timber walls and rafters. Then the house was square or oblong. In other words, the Cymric folks squared the circle.
Now they began to have lattices, and, much later, even glass windows. They removed the fireplace from the middle of the floor and set it at the end of the house, opposite the door, and built chimneys.
Then they set the beds at the side, and made sleeping rooms. This was done by stretching curtains between partitions. They had also a loft, in which to keep odds and ends. They hung up the bacon and hams, and strings of onions, and made a mantle piece over the fireplace. They even began to decorate the walls with pictures and to set pewter dishes, china cats, and Dresden shepherds in rows on the shelves for ornaments.
Now people wore shoes and the floor, instead of being muddy, or dusty, with pools and puddles of water in the time of rainy weather and with the pigs and chickens running in and out, was of clay, beaten down flat and hard, and neatly whitewashed at the edges. Outside, in front, were laid nice flat flagstones, that made a pleasant path to the front door. Flowers, inside and out, added to the beauty of the home and made perfume for those who loved them.
The rich farmer had just left his old round hut and now lived in one of the new and better kind of houses. He was very proud of his chimney, which he had built higher than any of his neighbors, but he could not be happy, while so many of his cows were sick or dying. Besides, he was envious of other people's prosperity and cared nothing, when they, too, suffered.
One night, while he was standing in front of his fine house and wondering why he must be vexed with so many troubles, he talked to himself and, speaking out loud, said:
"Why don't my cows get well?"
"I'll tell you," said a voice behind him. It seemed half way between a squeak and a growl.
He turned round and there he saw a little, angry man. He was dressed in red, and stood hardly as high as the farmer's knee. The little old man glared at the big fellow and cried out in a high tone of voice:
"You must change your habits of disposing of your garbage, for other people have chimneys besides you."
"What has that to do with sickness among my cows?"
"Much indeed. Your family is the cause of your troubles, for they throw all their slops down my chimney and put out my fire."
The farmer was puzzled beyond the telling, for he owned all the land within a mile, and knew of no house in sight.
"Put your foot on mine, and then you will have the power of vision, to see clearly."
The farmer's big boot was at once placed on the little man's slipper, and when he looked down he almost laughed at the contrast in size. What was his real surprise, when he saw that the slops thrown out of his house, did actually fall down; and, besides, the contents of the full bucket, when emptied, kept on dripping into the chimney of a house which stood far below, but which he had never seen before.
But as soon as he took his foot off that of the tiny little man, he saw nothing. Everything like a building vanished as in a dream.
"I see that my family have done wrong and injured yours. Pray forgive me. I'll do what I can to make amends for it."
"It's no matter now, if you only do as I ask you. Shut up your front door, build a wall in its place, and then my family will not suffer from yours."
The rich farmer thought all this was very funny, and he had a hearty laugh over it all.
Yet he did exactly as the little man in the red cloak had so politely asked him. He walled up the old door at the front, and built another at the back of the house, which opened out into the garden. Then he made the path, on which to go in from the roadway to the threshold, around the corners and over a longer line of flagstones. Then he removed the fireplace and chimney to what had been the front side of the house, but was now the back. For the next thing, he had a copper doorsill nailed down, which his housemaid polished, until it shone as bright as gold.
Yet long before this, his cows had got well, and they now gave more and richer milk than ever. He became the wealthiest man in the district. His children all grew up to be fine looking men and women. His grandsons were famous engineers and introduced paving and drainage in the towns so that to-day, for both man and beast, Wales is one of the healthiest of countries.
THE RED BANDITS OF MONTGOMERY
When chimneys were first added to houses in Wales, and the style of house-building changed, from round to square, many old people found fault with the new fashion of letting the smoke out.
They declared they caught colds and sneezed oftener, than in the times gone by. The chimneys, they said, cost too much money, and were useless extravagances. They got along well enough, in the good old days, when the smoke had its own way of getting out. Then, it took plenty of time to pass through the doors and windholes, for no one person or thing was in a hurry, when they were young. Moreover, when the fireplace was in the middle of the floor, the whole family sat around it and had a sociable time.
It was true, as they confessed, when argued with, that the smell of the cooking used to linger too long. The soot also, hung in long streamers from the rafters, and stuck to the house, like old friends.
But the greatest and most practical objection of the old folks to the chimneys was that robbers used them to climb down at night and steal people's money, when they were asleep. So, many householders used to set old scythe blades across the new smoke holes, to keep out the thieves, or to slice them up, if they persisted.
In Montgomery, which is one of the Welsh shires, there was an epidemic of robbery, and the doings of the Red Bandits are famous in history.
Now there was a young widow, whose husband had been killed by the footpads, or road robbers. She was left alone in the world, with a little boy baby in the cradle and only one cow in the byre. She had hard work to pay her rent, but as there were three or four scythes set in the chimney, and the cow stable had a good lock on it, she thought she was safe from burglars or common thieves.
But the Reds picked out the most expert chimney-climber in their gang, and he one night slipped down into the widow's cottage, without making any noise or cutting off his nose, toes, or fingers. Then, robbing the widow of her rent money, he picked the lock of the byre and drove off the cow. In the morning, the poor woman found both doors open, but there was no money and no cow.
While she was crying over her loss, and wringing her hands, because of her poverty, she heard a knock at the door.
"Come in," said the widow.
There entered an old lady with a kindly face. She was very tall and well dressed. Her cloak, her gloves, and shoes, and the ruffles under her high peaked Welsh head dress, were all green. The widow thought she looked like an animated leek. In her right hand was a long staff, and in her left, under her cloak, she held a little bag, that was green, also.
"Why do you weep?" asked the visitor.
Then the widow told her tale of woe—the story of the loss of her husband, and how a red robber, in spite of the scythe blades set in the chimney, had come down and taken away both her money and her cow.
Now, although she had sold all her butter and cream, she could neither pay her rent, nor have any buttermilk with her rye bread and flummery.
"Dry your tears and take comfort," said the tall lady in the green peaked hat. "Here is money enough to pay your rent and buy another cow." With that, she sat down at the round table near the peat fire. Opening her bag, the shining gold coins slid out and formed a little heap on the table.
"There, you can have all this, if you will give me all I want."
At first, the widow's eyes opened wide, and then she glanced at the cradle, where her baby was sleeping. Then she wondered, though she said nothing.
But the next moment, she was laughing at herself, and looking around at her poor cottage. She tried to guess what there was in it, that the old lady could possibly want.
"You can have anything I have. Name it," she said cheerfully to her visitor.
But only a moment more, and all her fears returned at the thought that the visitor might ask for her boy.
The old lady spoke again and said:
"I want to help you all I can, but what I came here for is to get the little boy in the cradle."
The widow now saw that the old woman was a fairy, and that if her visitor got hold of her son, she would never see her child again.
So she begged piteously of the old lady, to take anything and everything, except her one child.
"No, I want that boy, and, if you want the gold, you must let me take him."
"Is there anything else that I can do for you, so that I may get the money?" asked the widow.
"Well, I'll make it easier for you. There are two things I must tell you to cheer you."
"What are they?" asked the widow, eagerly.
"One is, that by our fairy law, I cannot take your boy, until three days have passed. Then, I shall come again, and you shall have the gold; but only on the one condition I have stated."
"And the next?" almost gasped the widow.
"If you can guess my name, you will doubly win; for then, I shall give you the gold and you can keep your boy."
Without waiting for another word, the lady in green scooped up her money, put it back in the bag, and moved off and out the door.
The poor woman, at once a widow and mother, and now stripped of her property, fearing to lose her boy, brooded all night over her troubles and never slept a wink.
In the morning, she rose up, left her baby with a neighbor, and went to visit some relatives in the next village, which was several miles distant. She told her story, but her kinsfolk were too poor to help her. So, all disconsolate, she turned her face homewards.
On her way back she had to pass through the woods, where, on one side, was a clearing. In the middle of this open space, was a ring of grass. In the ring a little fairy lady was tripping around and singing to herself.
Creeping up silently, the anxious mother heard to her joy, a rhymed couplet and caught the sound of a name, several times repeated. It sounded like "Silly Doot."
Hurrying home and perfectly sure that she knew the secret that would save her boy, she set cheerily about her regular work and daily tasks. In fact, she slept soundly that night.
Next day, in came the lady in green as before, with her bag of money. Taking her seat at the round table, near the fire, she poured out the gold. Then jingling the coins in the pile, she said:
"Now give up your boy, or guess my name, if you want me to help you."
The young widow, feeling sure that she had the old fairy in a trap, thought she would have some fun first.
"How many guesses am I allowed?" she asked.
"All you want, and as many as you please," answered the green lady, smiling.
The widow rattled off a string of names, English, Welsh and Biblical; but every time the fairy shook her head. Her eyes began to gleam, as if she felt certain of getting the boy. She even moved her chair around to the side nearest the cradle.
"One more guess," cried the widow. "Can it be Silly Doot?"
At this sound, the fairy turned red with rage. At the same moment, the door opened wide and a blast of wind made the hearth fire flare up. Leaving her gold behind her, the old woman flew up the chimney, and disappeared over the housetops.
The widow scooped up the gold, bought two cows, furnished her cottage with new chairs and fresh flowers, and put the rest of the coins away under one of the flag stones at the hearth. When her boy grew up, she gave him a good education, and he became one of the fearless judges, who, with the aid of Baron Owen, rooted out of their lair the Red Bandits, that had robbed his mother. Since that day, there has been little crime in Wales—the best governed part of the kingdom.
THE FAIRY CONGRESS
One can hardly think of Wales without a harp. The music of this most ancient and honorable instrument, which emits sweet sounds, when heard in a foreign land makes Welsh folks homesick for the old country and the music of the harp. Its strings can wail with woe, ripple with merriment, sound out the notes of war and peace, and lift the soul in heavenly melody.
Usually a player on the harp opened the Eistedfodd, as the Welsh literary congress is called, but this time they had engaged for the fairies a funny little fellow to start the programme with a solo on his violin.
The figure of this musician, at the congress of Welsh fairies, was the most comical of any in the company. The saying that he was popular with all the mountain spirits was shown to be true, the moment he began to scrape his fiddle, for then they all crowded around him.
"Did you ever see such a tiny specimen?" asked Queen Mab of Puck.
The little fiddler came forward and drawing his instrument from under his arm, proceeded to scrape the strings. He had on a pair of moss trousers, and his coat was a yellow gorse flower. His feet were clad in shoes made of beetles' wings, which always kept bright, as if polished with a brush.
When one looked at the fiddle, he could see that it was only a wooden spoon, with strings across the bowl. But the moment he drew the bow from one side to the other, all the elves, from every part of the hills, came tripping along to hear the music, and at once began dancing.
Some of these elves were dressed in pink, some in blue, others in yellow, and many had glow worms in their hands. Their tread was so light that the flower stems never bent, nor was a petal crushed, when they walked over the turf. All, as they came near, bowed or dropped a curtsey. Then the little musician took off his cap to each, and bowed in return.
There was too much business before the meeting for dancing to be kept up very long, but when the violin solo was over, at a sign given by the fiddler, the dancers took seats wherever they could find them, on the grass, or gorse, or heather, or on the stones. After order had been secured, the chairman of the meeting read regrets from those who had been invited but could not be present.
The first note was from the mermaids, who lived near the Green Isles of the Ocean. They asked to be excused from traveling inland and climbing rocks. In the present delicate state of their health this would be too fatiguing. Poor things!
It was unanimously voted that they be excused.
Queen Mab was dressed, as befitted the occasion, like a Welsh lady, not wearing a crown, but a high peaked hat, pointed at the top and about half a yard high. It was black and was held on by fastenings of scalloped lace, that came down around her neck.
The lake fairies, or Elfin Maids, were out in full force. These lived at the bottom of the many ponds and pools in Wales. Many stories are told of the wonderful things they did with boats and cattle.
Nowadays, when they milk cows by electric machinery and use steam launches on the water, most of the water sprites of all kinds have been driven away, for they do not like the smell of kerosene or gasoline. It is for these reasons that, in our day, they are not often seen. In fact, cows from the creameries can wade out into the water and even stand in it, while lashing their tails to keep off the flies, without any danger, as in old times, of being pulled down by the Elfin Maids.
The little Red Men, that could hide under a thimble, and have plenty of room to spare, were all out. The elves, and nixies and sprites, of all colors and many forms were on hand.
The pigmies, who guard the palace of the king of the world underground, came in their gay dresses. There were three of them, and they brought in their hands balls of gold, with which to play tenpins, but they were not allowed to have any games while the meeting was going on.
In fact, just when these little fellows from down under the earth were showing off their gay clothes and their treasures from the caves, one mischievous fairy maid sidled up to their chief and whispered in his ear:
"Better put away your gold, for this is in modern Wales, where they have pawn shops. Three golden balls, two above the one below, which you often see nowadays, mean that two to one you will never get it again. These hang out as the sign of a pawnbroker's shop, and what you put in does not, as a rule, come out. I am afraid that some of the Cymric fairies from Cornwall, or Montgomery, or Cheshire, might think you were after business, and you understand that no advertising is allowed here."
In a moment, each of the three leaders thrust his ball into his bosom. It made his coat bulge out, and at this, some of the fairies wondered, but all they thought of was that this spoiled a handsome fellow's figure. Or was it some new idea? To tell the truth, they were vexed at not keeping up with the new fashions, for they knew nothing of this latest fad among such fine young gallants.
Much of the chat and gossip, before and after the meeting, was between the fairies who live in the air, or on mountains, and those down in the earth, or deep in the sea. They swapped news, gossip and scandal at a great rate.
There were a dozen or two fine-looking creatures who had high brows, who said they were Co-eds. This did not mean that these fairies had ever been through college. "Certainly the college never went through them," said one very homely fairy, who was spiteful and jealous. The simple fact was that the one they called Betty, the Co-ed, and others from that Welsh village, called Bryn Mawr, and another from Flint, and another from Yale, and still others from Brimbo and from Co-ed Poeth, had come from places so named and down on the map of Wales, though they were no real Co-ed girls there, that could talk French, or English, or read Latin. In fact, Co-ed simply meant that they were from the woods and lived among the trees; for Co-ed in Welsh means a forest.
The fairy police were further instructed not to admit, and, if such were found, to put out the following bad characters, for this was a perfectly respectable meeting. These naughty folks were:
The Old Hag of the Mist.
The Invisible Hag that moans dolefully in the night.
The Tolaeth, a creature never seen, but that groans, sings, saws, or stamps noisily.
The Dogs of the Sky.
All witches, of every sort and kind.
All peddlers of horseshoes, crosses, charms, or amulets.
All mortals with brains fuddled by liquor.
All who had on shoes which water would not run under.
All fairies that were accustomed to turn mortals into cheese.
Every one of these, who might want to get in, were to be refused admittance.
Another circle of rather exclusive fairies, who always kept away from the blacksmiths, hardware stores, smelting furnaces and mines, had formed an anti-iron society. These were a kind of a Welsh "Four Hundred," or elite, who would have nothing to do with anyone who had an iron tool, or weapon, or ornament in his hand, or on his dress, or who used iron in any form, or for any use. They frowned upon the idea of Cymric Land becoming rich by mining, and smelting, and selling iron. They did not even approve of the idea that any imps and dwarfs of the iron mines should be admitted to the meeting.
One clique of fairies, that looked like elves were in bad humor, almost to moping. When one of these got up to speak, it seemed as if he would never sit down. He tired all the lively fairies by long-winded reminiscences, of druids, and mistletoes, and by telling every one how much better the old times were than the present.
President Puck, who always liked things short, and was himself as lively as quicksilver, many times called these long-winded fellows to order; but they kept meandering on, until daybreak, when it was time to adjourn, lest the sunshine should spoil them all, and change them into slate or stone.
It was hard to tell just how much business was disposed of, at this session, or whether one ever came to the point, although there was a great deal of oratory and music. Much of what was said was in poetry, or in verses, or rhymes, of three lines each. What they talked about was mainly in protest against the smoke of factories and collieries, and because there was so much soot, and so little soap, in the land.
But what did they do at the fairy congress?
The truth is, that nobody to-day knows what was done in this session of the fairies, for the proceedings were kept secret. The only one who knows was an old Welshman whom the story-teller used to meet once in a while. He is the one mortal who knows anything about this meeting, and he won't tell; or at least he won't talk in anything but Welsh. So we have to find out the gist of the matter, by noticing, in the stories which we have just read what the fairies did.
THE SWORD OF AVALON
Many of the Welsh tales are about fighting and wars and no country as small as Wales has so many castles. Yet these are nearly all in ruins and children play in them. This is because men got tired of battles and sieges.
Everybody knows that after King Arthur's knights had punched and speared, whacked and chopped at each other with axe and sword long enough, had slain dragons and tamed monsters, and rescued princesses from cruel uncles, and good men from dark dungeons, even the plain people, such as farmers and mechanics, had enough and wanted no more. Besides this, they wished to be treated more like human beings, and not have to work so hard and also to keep their money when they earned it.
Even King Arthur himself, towards the end of this era, saw that fashions were changing and that he must change with them. Hardware was too high in price, and was no longer needed for clothing. He was wise enough to see that battle axes, maces, swords, lances and armor had better be put to some better use, when iron was getting scarce and wool and linen were cheaper. Even the stupid Normans learned that decency and kindness cost less, and accomplished more in making the Welshery loyal subjects of the king.
So when, after many battles, King Arthur went out to have a little war of his own, and to enjoy the fight, in which he was mortally wounded, he showed his greatness, even in the hour of death. In truth, it is given to some men, like Samson, to be even mightier when they die, than when following the strenuous life. So it was with this great and good man of Cymry. His love for his people never ceased for one moment, and in his dying hour he left a bequest that all his people have understood and acted upon.
Thus it has come to pass that the Welsh have been really unconquerable, by Saxon or Norman, or even in these twentieth century days by Teutons. Though living in a small country, they are among the greatest in the world, not in force, or in material things, but in soul. When Belgium was invaded, they not only stood up in battle against the invader, but they welcomed to their homes tens of thousands of fugitives and fed and sheltered them.
Brave as lions, their path of progress has been in faithfulness to duty, industry, and patience, and along the paths of poetry, music and brotherhood. Their motto for ages has been, "Truth against the World."
Now the manner of King Arthur's taking off and his immortal legacy was on this fashion:
After doing a great many wonderful things, in many countries, King Arthur came back to punish the wicked man, Modred. In the battle that ensued, he received wounds that made him feel that he was very soon to die. So he ordered his loyal vassal to take his sword to the island of Avalon. There he must cast the weapon into the deep water.
But the sword was part of the soul of Arthur. It would not sink out of sight, until it had given a message, from their king to the Welsh, for all time.
After it had been thrown in the water, it disappeared, but rose again. First the shining blade, and then the hilt, and then a hand was seen to rise out of the flood.
Thrice that hand waved the sword round and round.
This was the prophecy of "the deathless from the dead." King Arthur's body might be hid in a cave, or molder in the ground, but his soul was to live and cheer his people. His beloved Cymric nation, with their undying language, were to rise in power again.
And the resurrection has been glorious. Not by the might of the soldier, or by arms or war—though the Welsh never flinch from duty, or before the foe—but by the power of poet, singer and the narrator of stories, that touch the imagination, and fire the soul to noble deeds, have these results come.
Arthur's good blade, thus waved above the waters, became a veritable sword of the Spirit.
Men of genius arose to flush with color the old legends. Prophets, preachers, monks, missionaries carried these all over Europe, and made them the vehicles of Christian doctrine. In their new forms, they fired the imagination and illuminated, as with ten thousand lamps, many lands and nations, until they held every people in spell. In miracle and morality play, they reappeared in beauty. They attuned the harp and instrument of the musician and the troubadour, and these sang the gospel in all lands, north and south, while telling the stories of Adam, and of Abraham, of Bethlehem, and of the cross, of the Holy Grail, and of Arthur and his Knights. All the precious lore of the Celtic race became transfigured, to illustrate and enforce Christian truth. The symbolical bowl, the Celtic caldron of abundance, became the cup of the Eucharist and the Grail the symbol of blessings eternal.
By the artists, in the stained glass, and in windows of the great churches, which were built no longer of wood but of stone, that blossomed under the chisel, the old legends were, by the new currents of truth, given a mystic glow. As wonderful as the rise of Gothic architecture and the upbuilding of cathedrals, as glorious as the light and art, that beautify the great temples of worship, was this re-birth of the Arthurian legends.
For now, again, the old virtues of the knightly days—loyalty, obedience, redress of wrongs, reverence of womanhood, and the application of Christian ethics to the old rude rules of decency, lifted the life of the common people to a nobler plane and ushered in the modern days.
Then, after seven hundred years, a host of singers, Tennyson leading them all, attuned the old Celtic harp. They reset for us the Cymric melody and colorful incidents in "the light that never was on sea or land." The old days live again in a greater glory.
Lady Guest put the Mabinogion into English, and Renan, and Arnold, and Rolleston, and Rhys, in prose, competed in praise of the heritages from the old time. Popular education was diffused. The Welsh language rose again from the dead. Cardiff holds in pure white marble the most thrilling interpretation of Welsh history, in the twelve white marble statues of the great men of Wales. The Welsh people, by bloodless victory, have won the respect of all mankind.
They set a beacon for the oppressed nations. In the World War of 1914-1918, they helped to save freedom and civilization. They were in the van.
Long may the sword of Arthur wave!