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The Wonderful Goat of Laxey

by Bernadette Weyde

There was once an old woman living in Laxey Valley that had a wonderful queer goat. White she was, with curving horns at her and amber eyes. There wasn’t another goat anywhere that gave such rich creamy milk, winter and summer, and the old woman was never short of milk and cheese.

Lhiannan-Shee,” she was calling the goat, “Fairy Sweetheart or Fairy Woman,” and she was thinking diamonds of her. “Tisn’ lucky to be callin’ a beas’ after one of Themselves,” they were saying in the valley, and true enough, when the moon was at the full the white goat would leap the wall and away with her, no-one knew where. In the morning she would be back again, quietly waiting to be milked, her amber eyes strange as ever.

The little house was very lonely, away up the Valley, where scarcely anybody ever came. The old woman had a few hens, a patch of ground where she grew potatoes and cabbage and once in a while she would go down to the village for meal and flour, tea and sugar, and other such things as she could afford.

It happened one winter’s day that she was over-taken by the dark before she could get home. It was still light enough to see the road before her, and if she turned her head, the few lights twinkling in the valley. She didn’t often turn though but kept plodding along, thinking how glad she would be to get back to her own fireside.

Suddenly she heard the sound of music, gay lilting music and, raising her head, she saw, round the bend of the road, her own little house, the windows lighted, music and light streaming out into the dark.

“What in the worl’…?” said the old woman, stopping short and rubbing her eyes, “I’m sayin’ the house is bewitched.”

She crept a little nearer and looked through the window. There in the middle of the floor stood the goat, a wreath of flowers round her neck, her amber eyes glowing as if they were made of glass.

All around and about her were a crowd of Little People. Some were dancing, and singing, swaying backwards and forwards in time to the music, while others were running about the room, spreading the table with all the food they could find and piling peat on the fire.

“Aw the dirts!” cried the old woman. “Robbin’ me right and lef’ they are an’ me own goat standing an’ sayin’ nawthen.”

So saying, she lifted the latch and burst into the room. Instantly there was a soft rush and bustle, she was swept backwards and when she regained her footing, the house was dark and empty and the fire nearly out.

The old woman put down her basket, stirred the fire, hung the kettle over and sat herself down to regain her breath. Then, grumbling and muttering she went to the shed where the goat should have been. As she expected, the door was wide, the shed empty and the cold moonlight streaming in.

“I’ll take an’ sell her in Rhamsaa market, so I will,” she muttered, “I’ll not be havin’ me place over-run with Them Wans.” For although there wasn’t a trace of Themselves, the fresh pat of butter had vanished and the bowl of cream.

“Aw, yis, yis, theer’s two can play at that game,” said the old woman, “The clivar thou are, Lhiannan-Shee, thou will get l’ave.”

Long after she lay in bed, she thought she heard whisperings and rustlings and a faint chuckle of laughter.

In the morning, there was the white goat, waiting to be milked, as meek as a mouse. Only a bit of a glint in her amber eyes showed what she might be thinking.

The old woman was fond of the goat and she couldn’t make up her mind to sell her. “Where will I get me milk if I sell me goat?” she said. “An’ I couldn’ be puttin’ anawther in her place at all.”

So the goat stayed and though she still wandered on moonlight nights, nothing else happened.

Next time the old woman had occasion to go to the village she tied the goat with a strong rope, shut the door of the shed and put a stone against it. “Theer’ll be no capers at thee this time, I’m thinkin’,” said she, and she went off, her basket over her arm. But lo and behoul’ yer. The same thing happened again. The lights, the music, Themselves making free in her house and the goat capering and dancing with a wreath of flowers round her neck.

And this time They ran off with a new-baked bonnag, as well as the butter and the cream.

“The imperence of a white stone, Thim Wans has,” said the old woman, and she would have taken a stick to the white goat if that one hadn’t made herself scarce.

This time she still couldn’t make up her mind to sell the goat, and at last she thought of a plan. She’d take the goat to the parson in the village and ask him to put good words on her so she wouldn’t be up to her tricks. So off she set, leading the goat, as meek as a mouse, to the parson’s house in the valley.

“What can I do for you misthress,” says the parson.

“Tis me goat, Masthar,” says the old woman, “caperin’ shockin’ she is, an’ fillin’ me house with Themselves when I’m from home. Could yer put good words on her so she’d stay in her shed like a Christian?”

The parson looked at the goat and the goat looked at the parson and which of them blinked first, I wouldn’t like to say.

“A queer beast she is,” said the parson.

“Quare uncommon,” says the old woman, “but a gran’ milker, yer honour.”

“Leave her with me,” says the parson, “she’ll not try any of her tricks here. Night and morning I’ll put good words on her, so thou won’t know her at all.”

So the old woman left the goat and went back to her house and though she had to go without milk for a whole week, she comforted herself with thinking the goat would come back meek and mild.

At the end of the time, down she went into the valley.

“Tis a quare thing,” thought she, “theer’s no person at all moving in the village.”

No smoke rose from the chimneys, there wasn’t a sound in the still air. The doors of the shops and houses were open but nobody was seen. Even the parsonage door stood wide with only the white cat mewing on the doorstep.

“Shee bannee mee!” said the old woman. “Theer’s witchcraft doin’ on us, I’m thinkin’.”

She stood in the village street not knowing what to do.

“I may as well take me groceries,” says she, and she filled her basket in the shop and laid the money on the counter.

Just as she stepped outside she heard music in the distance, the same kind of music she had heard in her little house. Shading her eyes, she saw, coming along the road from the mountains, a crowd of people, led by the parson and the white goat, which had a wreath of flowers round her neck.

“Shee bannee mee!” said the old woman again, “the capers thass at them.” For all the people were dancing and the parson was dancing too.

To and fro they jigged across the road with the white goat tossing her head and her amber eyes glinting in the light.

All at once the Church bells began to ring. “Come to Church, to Church, to Church,” they rang and at that moment a cock flew up on a wall and began to crow. “Cock-a-doodle-doo. Cock-a-doodle-doo.”

Instantly the white goat vanished. The parson and the people all stopped dancing, rubbed their eyes, as if they had been dreaming, and went into their shops and houses as if nothing had happened.

“Could I be takin’ me goat home, Masthar?” says the old woman.

“Dear me, yes,” says the parson, “I left her tired up at home.”

The rope was there but the goat wasn’t. No doubt she was a fairy goat and if the sexton hadn’t got locked in the Church tower by accident and rung the bells, who knows what would have happened, or where she would have led the people? But ’tis well known Themselves can’t bear the sound of Church bells.

The parson gave the old woman another goat, brown, with white spots, but though she was a good milker, the old woman never loved her as she had loved her Lhiannan-Shee.

And that was the last that was seen of the wonderful goat of Laxey.

Shee bannee mee! = Bless me; Peace on me; God bless me; Oh dear; Gosh; My word; My goodness.

(source: More Fairy Tales from the Isle of Man by Dora Broome)

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