(told by William Keating)
IN the parish of Drummor lived a farmer, whose name was Tom Connors. He had a nice bit of land and four cows. He was a fine, strong, honest man, and had a wife and five children.
Connors had one cow which was better than the other three, and she went by the name of Cooby. She got that name because her two horns turned in toward her eyes. They used to feed her often at the house, and she was very gentle, and had a heifer calf every year for five or six years.
On one corner of Connors' farm there was a fairy fort, and the cow Cooby used to go into the fort, but Connors always drove her out, and told his wife and boys to keep her away from the fort, "for," said he, "it isn't much luck there is for any cow or calf that is fond of going into these fairy forts."
Soon they noticed that Cooby's milk was failing her and that she was beginning to pine away, and though she had the same food at home as before, nothing would do her but to go to the fort.
One morning when Connors went to drive his cows home to be milked he found Cooby in the field and her forelegs broken. He ran home that minute for a knife, killed and skinned the cow, made four parts of the carcase, put the pieces in a hamper, and carried the hamper home on his back.
What of the meat himself and family didn't eat fresh he salted, and now and then of a Sunday evening or a holiday they had a meal of it with cabbage, and it lasted a long time.
One morning after Tom was gone to the bog to cut turf the wife went out to milk, and what should she see but a cow walking into the fort, and she the living image of Cooby. Soon the cow came out, and with her a girl with a pail and spancel.
"Oh, then," said Mrs. Connors, "I'd swear that is Cooby, only that we are after eating the most of her. She has the white spots on her back and the horns growing into her eyes."
The girl milked the cow, and then cow and girl disappeared. Mrs. Connors meant to tell her husband that night about the cow, but she forgot it, they having no meat for supper.
The following day Tom went again to cut turf, the woman went to milk, and again she saw the cow go into the fort, and the girl come out with a pail and a spancel. The girl tied the cow's legs, and sifting under her began to milk.
"God knows 'tis the very cow, and sure why shouldn't I know Cooby with the three white spots and the bent horns," thought Mrs. Connors, and she watched the cow and girl till the milking was over and thought, "I'll tell Tom to-night, and he may do what he likes, but I'll have nothing to do with fort or fairies myself."
When Connors came home in the evening, the first words before him were: "Wisha then, Tom, I have the news for you to-night."
"And what news is it?" asked Tom.
"You remember Cooby?"
"Why shouldn't I remember Cooby, and we after eating the most of her?"
"Indeed then, Tom, I saw Cooby to-day, and she inside in the fort and a girl milking her."
"Don't be making a fool of yourself. Is it the cow we are eating that would be in the fort giving milk?"
"Faith, then, I saw her and the three white spots on her back."
"But what is the use in telling me the like of that," said Tom, "when we haven't but two or three bits of her left inside in the tub?"
"If we haven't itself, I saw Cooby to-day."
'Well, I'll go in the morning, and if it's our Cooby that's in it I'll bring her home with me," said Tom, "if all the devils in the fort were before me."
"Ah, Tom, if it's to the fort you'll be going, don't forget to put holy water over you before you go."
Early in the morning Tom started across his land, and never stopped till he came to the fort, and there, sure enough, he saw the cow walking in through the gap to the fort, and he knew her that minute.
"Tis my cow Cooby," said Connors, "and I'll have her. I'd like to see the man would keep her from me."
That minute the girl came out with her pail and spancel and was going up to Cooby.
"Stop where you are; don't milk that cow!" cried Connors, and springing toward the cow he caught her by the horn. "Let go the cow," said Tom; "this is my cow. It's a year that she's from me now. Go to your master and tell him to come out to me."
The girl went inside the fort and disappeared; but soon a fine-looking young man came and spoke to Connors. "What are you doing here, my man," asked he, "and why did you stop my servant from milking the cow?"
"She is my cow," said Tom, "and by that same token I'll keep her; and that's why I stopped the girl from milking her."
"How could she be your cow? Haven't I this cow a long time, and aren't you after eating your own cow?"
"I don't care what cow I'm after eating," said Tom. "I'll have this cow, for she is my Cooby."
They argued and argued. Tom declared that he'd take the cow home. "And if you try to prevent me," said he to the man, "I'll tear the fort to pieces or take her with me."
"Indeed, then, you'll not tear the fort."
Tom got so vexed that he made at the man. The man ran and Tom after him into the fort. When Tom was inside he forgot all about fighting. He saw many people dancing and enjoying themselves, and he thought, "Why shouldn't I do the like myself?" With that he made up to a fine-looking girl, and, taking her out to dance, told the piper to strike up a hornpipe, and he did.
Tom danced till he was tired. He offered twopence to the piper, but not a penny would the piper take from him.
The young man came up and said, 'Well, you are a brave man and courageous, and for the future we'll be good friends. You can take the cow."
"I will not take her; you may keep her and welcome, for you are all very good people."
"Well," said the young man, "the cow is yours, and it's why I took her because there were many children in the fort without nurses, but the children are reared now, and you may take the cow. I put an old stray horse in place of her and made him look like your own beast, and it's an old horse you're eating all the year. From this out you'll grow rich and have luck. We'll not trouble you, but help you."
Tom took the cow and drove her home. From that out Tom Connors' cows had two calves apiece and his mare had two foals and his sheep two lambs every year, and every acre of the land he had gave him as much crop in one year as another man got from an acre in seven. At last Connors was a very rich man; and why not, when the fairies were with him?