Late one night, so the story goes, a great doctor, who lived near Lough Neagh, was awoke by the sound of a carriage driving up to his door, followed by a loud ring. Hastily throwing on his clothes, the doctor ran down, when he saw a little sprite of a page standing at the carriage door, and a grand gentleman inside.
“Oh, doctor, make haste and come with me,” exclaimed the gentleman. “Lose no time, for a great lady has been taken ill, and she will have no one to attend her but you. So come along with me at once in the carriage.”
On this the doctor ran up again to finish his dressing, and to put up all that might be wanted, and was down again in a moment.
“Now quick,” said the gentleman, “you are an excellent good fellow. Sit down here beside me, and do not be alarmed at anything you may see.”
So they drove like mad–and when they came to the ferry, the doctor thought they would wake up the ferryman and take the boat; but no, in they plunged, carriage and horses, and all, and were at the other side in no time without a drop of water touching them. Now the doctor began to suspect the company he was in; but he held his peace, and they went on up Shane’s Hill, till they stopped at a long, low, black house, which they entered, and passed along a narrow dark passage, groping their way, till, all at once, a bright light lit up the walls, and some attendants having opened a door, the doctor found himself in a gorgeous chamber all hung with silk and gold; and on a silken couch lay a beautiful lady, who exclaimed with the most friendly greeting–
“Oh, doctor, I am so glad to see you. How good of you to come.”
“Many thanks, my lady,” said the doctor, “I am at your ladyship’s service.”
And he stayed with her till a male child was born; but when he looked round their was no nurse, so he wrapped it in swaddling clothes and laid it by the mother.”
“Now,” said the lady, “mind what I tell you. They will try to put a spell on you to keep you here; but take my advice, eat no food and drink no wine, and you will be safe; and mind, also, that you express no surprise at anything you see; and take no more than five golden guineas, though you may be fifty or a hundred, as your fee.”
“Thank you, madam,” said the doctor, “I shall obey you in all things.”
With this the gentleman came into the room, grand and noble as a prince, and then he took up the child, looked at it and laid it again on the bed.
Now there was a large fire in the room, and the gentleman took the fire shovel and drew all the burning coal to the front, leaving a great space at the back of the grate; then he took up the child again and laid it in the hollow at the back of the fire and drew the coal over it till it was covered; but, mindful of the lady’s advice, the doctor said never a word. Then the room suddenly changed to another still more beautiful, where a grand feast was laid out, of all sorts of meats and fair fruits and bright red wine in cups of sparkling silver.
“Now, doctor,” said the gentleman, “sit down with us and take what best pleases you.” “Sir,” said the doctor, “I have made a vow neither to ear nor drink till I reach my home again. So please let me return without further delay.”
“Certainly,” said the gentleman, “but first let me pay you for your trouble,” and he laid down a bag of gold on the table and poured out a quantity of bright pieces.
“I shall only take what is my right and no more,” said the doctor, and he drew over five golden guineas, and placed them in his purse. “And now, may I have the carriage to convey me back, for it is growing late?”
On this the gentleman laughed. “You have been learning secrets from my lady,” he said. “However, you have behaved right well, and you shall be brought back safely.”
So the carriage came, and the doctor took his cane, and was carried back as the first time through the water–horses, carriage, and all–and so on till he reached his home all right just before daybreak. But when he opened his purse to take out the golden guineas, there he saw a splendid diamond ring along with them in the purse worth a king’s ransom, and when he examined it he found the two letters of his own name carved inside. So he knew it was meant for him, a present from the fairy prince himself.
All this happened a hundred years ago, but the ring still remains in the doctor’s family, handed down from father to son, and it is remarked, that whoever wears it as the owner for the time has good luck and honour and wealth all the days of his life.
“And by the light that shines, this story is true,” added the narrator of the tale, using the strong form of asseveration by which the Irish-speaking peasants emphasize the truth of their words.