The servants in a large Irish House are grateful to a Pooka who comes every night to do their work for them. At Christmas, they decide to give him a present - which perhaps they regret.
Adapted by Bertie.
Read by Elizabeth.
Proofread by Jana Elizabeth.
The house at Rathmore was a fine building in the Georgian style. It took twenty servants to keep it going. One night, about 100 years ago, the scullery boy went to sleep in front of the kitchen stove. Sometime after midnight, the clanging of pots and pans awoke him. He opened his eyes and turned over to see who among the servants was keener to wash and scrub than to sleep. Did they not do enough of that in the day? he wondered. Only the strangest of persons could feel such a desire.
As it happened, what he saw was stranger than strange. A creature, half man, half donkey, was standing with his front hooves in the sink. When the long eared fellow had finished with the pots, he filled a bucket, and began to mop the floor. Finally he came over to the stove, ignoring the boy, and threw water over the logs. He cleaned the grate, took out the ashes, brought in new logs, and relit the fire. At last, he clip-clopped out of the door, briefly letting in a cool gust of wind.
When the boy told this pretty tale in the morning, you might have expected his fellow servants to accuse him of pranking, or at least of dreaming. However there was no denying that a good deal of work had been done.
“Musha!” exclaimed Molly. “If the Pooka is so keen to clean and scrub, why should we break our backs doing it?”
For what the boy had described was indeed a Pooka, which often takes the form of a donkey or a goat or a horse.
Everyone agreed that Molly had never spoken a wiser word. That night, and every night for the following weeks, the servants left piles of plates and pots for the Pooka to clean, and no matter how much work they left for him, it was always done in the morning. Sometimes they heard him hard at work, but nobody dared to go down and take a look at their most welcome visitor. At last, one night towards Christmas, a brave young lad made up his mind to speak to the Pooka to ask if there was anything he wanted in return for all he was doing. He sat up late in a big chair in the corner of the kitchen. As the clock struck one in the morning, the back door opened, and in trotted the Pooka. This night he began by scrubbing the great oak table around which the servants ate their meals.
“If you will be excusing me Mr Pooka?” the brave boy said. “But we servants are curious to know who you are who has been doing us such fine favours?”
“I shall be glad to tell you,” replied the Pooka. “My name is Danny Neil, and in my time I was a servant in this great house. I was the laziest fellow who ever received warm food and lodgings in return for doing little more than sleep. When my time came to face the judgement of the Next World, my punishment was to grow these ears, this hairy back, and these hooves that you see, and to return here to do all the work that I avoided throughout my lazy life.”
“Thank you, good Pooka, for telling me your tale, and be assured that we servants are grateful for all that you do. It is the season to show gratitude and give gifts, and we wondered what you would be liking?”
“Well,” said the Pooka, “That is kind of you indeed. Since my passing to the other side I have felt the cold awfully, and I could be doing with a good coat.”
The next day the boy reported to the servants all that the Pooka had told him. They were grateful indeed to this strange creature for freeing their lives from the burden of cleaning. Each one of them was happy to put a few pennies towards a good piece of material that Molly made into a coat for the Pooka. On the night of St Stephen, the day that followed Christmas, when the used pots and pans were piled almost to the ceiling, the boy waited up late in the kitchen. When the Pooka arrived for work as usual, he presented the gift to him.
“I am touched by your kindness,” said the Pooka with a tear in his big donkey eye. He put his four legs through the holes that Molly had cut for him and said: “It is a fine coat indeed for a Pooka such as I. Do not forget to pass on my regards and thanks to the servants of this great house.” And then he started to clip-clop towards the door.
“Just one moment,” called out the boy, “the pots and pans are waiting for you.”
“I shan’t be bothering with them this evening,” replied the Pooka. “Nor any other any more, for my punishment was to clean and to scrub until the day that someone thought my work worthy of reward. That day has arrived. Thank you, and now I shall enjoy some peace.”
And from that evening on the lazy servants had to do all their own work.
And that was the story of the Pooka in the Kitchen. It’s one of a number of traditional Irish stories that I’m reading for Storynory.com. It was freely adapted by Bertie from a collection of tales edited by the poet, WB Yeats. Do visit Storynory.com for more original and traditional tales from all over the world.