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The Story of Bottle Hill
by Grainne Rowland

Mike Purcell lived with his wife Molly and their small children in Co. Cork, three miles from Mallow and thirteen miles from Cork City. They were very poor, but managed to pay the rent each year. That is, they paid the rent until the year everything went wrong.

In this particular year the pig got sick and died. The rains came and caused mold to grow on all their crops. The horse fell down the hill and broke its leg. The children were sick and what money Mick and Molly had went to pay the doctor. The roof got a hole in it and had to be fixed. All in all, it was a terrible year and the rent was nearly due!

"What will we do when the landlord comes?" cried Molly. "We have not a penny to give him."

Mick replied, "There is but one thing to do, and that is to sell the cow."

"But that is all we have," wailed Molly. "The children will have nothing if we sell the cow!"

"We have no choice," said Mick. "We will be worse off if we have no house to live in."

"I suppose you are right, Mick, but sell the cow for the highest price you can get."

Mick set off the next morning, and a fine morning it was. The sun shone and the flowers bloomed brightly. There was a gentle breeze and the bees buzzed busily.

As Mick climbed the hill next to his farm, he was suddenly joined by a small, bumpy-faced man. The man's eyes were glowing red, and Mick felt very nervous with the man walking next to him. Mick tried to ignore the man, but the stranger continued to walk beside Mick. Neither man spoke a word.

Mick tried to speed up the cow, but the man kept up with them. The strange man seemed to float along the ground. Mick could not see anything of the man's body, for he was covered in a huge black cloak.

Finally, the man spoke.

"Mick Purcell, where are you going with that cow?"

Mick didn't want to talk to the small man, but he was afraid not to.

"I am taking the cow to sell at the market," replied Mick.

Said the small man, "What if there are many cows at the market and you can not get a good price? What if the cow should fall over this hill before you get to market? Or what if you did get a good price for the cow and then got robbed on the way back?"

Mick was getting even more nervous at the man's words.

"If any of that should happen, then I would have to deal with it," said Mick.

"I will buy the cow from you," said the man. "And I will give you a better price for it than any you could get at market!"

"What would you give me for the cow?" asked Mick. "You don't look as if you are all that rich."

"I will give you this bottle," said the man, "and you will be rich forever."

Mick looked at the bottle. It was empty!

"What kind of trick are you trying to play on me?" yelled Mick. "This bottle is empty, and it's going to make me rich? Go away from me, you rascal!"

"If I do, you and your family will be poor forever. If you take this bottle, you will have all you could ever want for your children. If you send me away, you will never have this chance again," said the small man, gazing at Mick with those red, glowing eyes.

Mick was afraid not to do what the strange-looking man said, for his companion seemed to be very sure of himself.

Taking the bottle, Mick handed the cow's rope to the man.

"Take the cow then, but tell me how this bottle will make me rich!" declared Mick.

"Well, then," said the man, "listen and do exactly as I say."

And he began to tell Mick what to do.

As Mick walked home, he knew Molly was not going to be happy. This bottle had better work, thought Mick.

"Mick," said Molly, "are you back already? Surely you have not been to Cork and back in this short time! Did you sell the cow to someone on the road? How much did you get for her? Will we have money left after paying the rent? You know the children need shoes."

Mick said, "Molly, please sit down and let me tell you what has happened."

So Mick told the whole story of the little man. He showed the bottle to his wife, and told her what they should do with it.

"You sold the cow for an empty bottle!" cried Molly. "You fool! How could you believe such a daft story as that? Whatever will we do now? You have been the ruin of us!"

"Well," said Mick, "since I have the bottle, let's at least try it out and see if it works. Maybe the stranger was right and it will make our fortune."

"Surely it will make you a bigger fool!" replied Molly.

But she got the broom and began to sweep the floor until it was spotless. She cleaned the house until it glowed. Then she carefully put her one nice cloth on the table.

Mick took the bottle and set it on the table.

"Do your duty," he said to the bottle.

Instantly, two tiny men jumped out of the bottle and scurried around the table. They set gold and silver plates on the table. They set the best food on the plates. They even set flowers on the table. All in all, it was a table set for a king! Then the two creatures jumped back into the bottle.

The children were screaming with excitement!

"Mammy, look! Look at all the food! Can we eat now?"

Mick was astonished at what had happened.

"It really did work!" he exclaimed as he gazed at the laden table. "Well, let's eat!"

Mick, Molly, and the children ate till they could eat no more. The food was the best they had ever tasted.

"Dad," asked the oldest son, "will we eat like this at supper, too?"

"We'll see," said Mick, "we'll see."

"Do you think those two little men will carry off the plates now?" asked Molly.

They waited, but the men did not come back, so Molly cleaned the plates and put them away.

And so it happened at every meal. When Mick spoke to the bottle, the two tiny men appeared and set a feast on the table. Every meal was placed on gold and silver plates.

Soon the pile of gold and silver plates was huge, and Mick carried some of them to Cork to sell. Soon the family was rich! Mick bought a cow, some pigs, and a horse and cart.

Before long, everyone in the area knew of Mick's wealth. They all wondered how Mick had done it!

"Surely the farm has not made you rich!" said the landlord.

Mick did not wish to tell about the bottle. But no one would stop bothering him about it. Finally, Mick told them the story.

After several months, the landlord offered Mick the whole farm forever if Mick would let him have the bottle. Mick and Molly thought they were rich enough to live for the rest of their lives in luxury. So they traded the bottle for the farm.

But Mick and Molly had gotten used to being rich and spending money whenever they wanted. It wasn't long before they were as poor as before! So Mick was forced to take the cow to market to sell. He hoped to see the strange man again and get another bottle.

As Mick climbed the hill next to his farm, he suddenly heard a familiar voice. It was the stranger once more!

"Well, Mick Purcell, did I not tell you that you would be a rich man?"

"Yes, but I am not rich any more. Have you another bottle for this cow?" asked Mick.

"Oh, aye, and here it is," answered the man. "You know what to do with it. But this is the last time I will see you, Mick Purcell."

"Thank you kindly," said Mick. "I will name this hill Bottle Hill, and so it will be known."

So, humming a happy tune, Mick ran back home.

"I have it, wife, I have it!" he yelled as he neared his house. He held up the bottle for Molly to see.

So Molly cleaned the house till it was spotless. She spread the one nice cloth on the table. Mick put the bottle on the table as before.

"Do your duty," cried Mick happily.

But two small men did not come from the bottle to lay a feast. Instead, two huge men jumped from the bottle and treated Mick and his wife so roughly, they were terrified. Then, the men went back into the bottle.

With his head still spinning, Mick picked up the new bottle and ran to the landlord's house. The landlord saw that Mick had another bottle in his hand.

Mick said, "I have a new bottle now. Would you like to see it?"

"Indeed I would. Is it as good as the old one?" asked the man.

"See for yourself, answered Mick. He stood the bottle on the floor.

"Do your duty," said the landlord. Out came the two huge men and treated the landlord the same as they had Mick and Molly.

"Mick, call off these two!" begged the landlord.

"I will, indeed, when you give me back the old bottle," said Mick.

"It is there on the shelf. Take it!"

Mick reclaimed the old bottle and the new one. He ran home to Molly, and they immediately called out the tiny men of the old bottle. They all ate well that night.

And so Mick and Molly became rich again. They always remembered to share their wealth with all who needed help. They made friends again with the landlord. Their oldest son married the landlord's daughter. Mick and Molly lived to be very old, and they had many grandchildren.

Their family used the bottles wisely for many generations. No one now knows how or when, but the bottles disappeared. Perhaps it was the strange little man of Bottle Hill who took them back?

Index of All Children's Stories

 

Fri, Nov 3, 2017


Instructions of King Cormac, King of Cashel

Be not too wise, nor too foolish
Be not too conceited, nor diffident
Be not too haughty, nor too humble
Be not too talkative, nor too silent
Be not too hard, nor too feeble.

If you be too wise, men will expect too much of you
If you be too foolish, you will be deceived
If you be conceited, you will be thought difficult
If you be too humble, you will be without honour
If you be too talkative, you will not be heeded
If you be silent, you will not be regarded
If you be too hard, you will be broken
If you be too feeble, you will be crushed.


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