(a Welsh folktale)
One morning long ago, old Dermot Gwynne set off to walk to the next town to buy some cheese from the cheesemaker. It was his wife, Fiona, who sent him on the errand. “And don’t be dawdling,” she said as he departed, for she knew her husband had a way of taking his time.
On his way, as Dermot wound through the lonely hills, he noticed something on the road, gleaming. A gold coin! He picked it up and dropped that coin into his pocket. “Lucky day, lucky man,” he whistled as he walked.
When he reached the village, instead of heading to the cheesemaker’s, he stopped at the tavern. There he sat, spending his newfound money, drinking and singing with the fellows.
Soon he was ready to leave. He walked outside, but when he saw the sun was setting, he forgot all about his dear wife’s request for the cheese and headed for home.
When he was near the loneliest spot in the hills, the same spot where just that morning he had found the coin, he heard the sweetest music floating through the air. A moment later a line of fairies danced across his path, and they quickly encircled him.
While those fairies danced around him, Dermot looked up and saw brightly lit houses he had never before noticed.
“How strange; I don’t remember those,” he said, and he scratched his head, trying to remember. He was as puzzled as could be when suddenly one of those fairies held out her little hands and beckoned to him, “Dermot, come to our house and visit, won’t you please?”
The fairy was a lovely, friendly creature, and Dermot felt drawn, so naturally he said, “Of course.” He followed the fairy to one of the houses.
When he stepped inside, he gasped, for the place was gleaming with gold. It was bright and warm, and dozens of fairies were dancing and singing, and Dermot had never seen anything quite so beautiful and welcoming and fine.
“What’ll you have for supper?” the fairies asked, but before he could answer, before he had time to think, those fairies began to bring him great platters of food. There was black pudding and mutton, oysters and Cashel Blue cheese, curly kale and salmon and cod and rhubarb tarts. Dermot ate his fill and more, and all the time he was thinking what a lucky man he was to feast in the house of the fairies.
All of a sudden he was so tired, he could not stop yawning, and the fairies picked him up and carried him to a big soft bed. He closed his eyes and was fast asleep. He slept like the dead, a dreamless, dark, long sleep so gentle that he felt as if he were sleeping on clouds.
But when Dermot woke, he was shivering with cold, and everything felt itchy and uncomfortable. He didn’t understand what was going on until he rubbed his eyes open, and saw he was outside under the hazy morning sun, lying in a field of gorse, not a fairy in sight.
He quickly scrambled up and hurried out of those hills, back into the dales and his village.
Fiona was standing at the door, and when she saw him she cried, “Dermot Gwynne, what’s the matter with you, staying out all night long?”
“But Fiona,” he said, “I was with the fairies, and I feasted, and we sang, and they danced.”
“And where’s my cheese?” she asked, hands on her hips, a glare in her eye.
He hung his head. After all that, he’d forgotten the cheese. Then he remembered his fairy gold. “Ah, Fiona, look,” he said as he reached into his pocket. “I found a coin –” but now he felt only a hole in his pocket.
Fiona shook her head. “I see,” she said, “the fairies gave you money, and you spent it foolishly at the tavern and so they’ve punished you. And now I shall too!”
Dermot understood. He knew, just as everyone knows, it is the wise man who honors the gifts of the fairies, and the selfish fool will pay a price.