In which we celebrate the Gift of Stories with a Welsh fairy tale
The Fairy Reward (Wales)
A man once lived by himself in a cottage on a hillside. One cold and windy night after he had gone to bed he heard a noise outside the door of the house. He opened his window and said, "Who is there? And what do you want?"
He was answered by a small silvery voice, "It is room and a warm place and water we want, to dress our children."
The man went down and opened the door: a dozen small beings entered carrying tiny babies in their arm; they remained in the cottage for some hours, washing the infants and themselves. Just before daybreak, they went away, leaving some money on the hearth as a reward for the kindness they had received.
After this, the man would to keep his fire banked and burning all night long. He would leave a vessel of water on the hearth, and bread on the table, taking care also to remove everything made of iron before going to bed.
The fairies often visited his cottage at night, and after each visit he found money left for him on the hearth. The man gave up working, and lived very comfortably on the money which he received in return for his hospitality from the Good Neighbors. His income from this source was more than enough to keep himself in comfort, so in time, he married a wife.
The wife did not bother about the way in which he got his money before she married him, but after the knot had been tied she became very curious.
The man refused to tell her, and this of course made her more inquisitive than ever. "I don't believe you get it honestly," she said. The man denied by wood, field and mountain that there was anything dishonest about his means of livelihood.
She gave him no peace, however. "Nine shames on you," she said, "for having a bad secret from your own dear wife."
"But," he said to her, "if I tell you the secret, I'll never get any more money."
"Ah," she said (she had already had her doubts about his nightly preparations of fire and hot water), "then it's the fairies."
"Drato," said he, "yes,the fairies it is."
With that he thrust his hands down in his breeches pocket in a sullen manner and left the house. He had seven shillings in his pockets up to that minute, but after telling his secret, he found they were gone. In place of them were some pieces of paper, no good even to light his pipe.
From that day the fairies brought him no more money, and he had once more to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, which is a more scriptural but less pleasant method of earning a living than gathering up fairy money.