Why the Back Door is Front

00.00.00 00.00.00 loading
Funny house


A Traditional Story from Wales
Dedicated to Orlandyne in Australia

Read by Natasha

In the days when there were no books, or writing, 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 that she had plenty of money and was always counting out her coins.

What’s more the rumour went that she herself was a witch, and if she did not like someone, she would put a spell on their cattle to make them sick.

Besides this, she lived in a nice house, and people gossiped that she made a living by stealing babies out of their cradles to sell to the bad fairies.
They said that for or an extra large sum, she would take a wicked fairy's ugly brat, and put it in place of a mother's darling.

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 swore, because her son, who was a stonemason, who made much money by building chimneys, which had then first come into fashion. When he brought t 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 that she was good at saving money, but she was 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. 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 suffered dreadfully from the disease called the black quarter. As they had no veterinary doctors in those days, many of the cows died. The rich farmer lost much money, for he had 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. In fact many old women were falsely accused of witchcraft, put on trial for their imaginary crimes, and done away with.

The angry man went to the old crone, when she was alone, and her strong son was away on a faraway job. He ordered her to remove the charm, which she had laid on his beasts, or he would tie her arms and legs together, and throw her into the river.

The old woman denied vehemently that she possessed any magical powers, or had ever practiced the 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, and was very earnest, when she prayed.

But after all that trouble, and the rough way which the rich farmer took to save his cattle, his efforts were in came to nothing. . 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.

But after all that trouble, and the rough way which the rich farmer took to save his cattle, his efforts were in came to nothing. . 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, a Welsh 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. Long garlands of soot hung from the 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.

But by this time, things were improving, and buildings were starting to have chimneys.

Then they set the beds at the side, and made sleeping rooms. 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 hats, and china shepherds in rows on the shelves for ornaments.
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.

One night, while he was standing in front of his fine house and wondering why he must have 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 be more careful about throwing out your rubbish , 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 and rubbish 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. He could see right into the man’s house, and yes, it was true, it was just in the place where his family threw the slopps. The stinky, rotten mess was landing on the fairy house and leaking down the chimney.

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 new front door.

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.