Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pixie Led

Pixies are mischievous, but not unkind unless you provoke them by bad behavior. Consider the milk-maid who lived at Sheeps Tor back when I was young. Many of those living there way back then were of Pixie kind. They were descendants of Pixies through their sons. Pixie sons don’t usually pixify. They look just like you, assuming you’re a more or less normal human male.

The parson’s milk-maid was not native to Devon, certainly not native to Dartmoor, and not at all related to Pixies. She was slothful and slovenly and rude. We tend not to like any one of those qualities, and when found in one person they tend to draw our attention. But we do try to be tolerant. Not everyone can be a Pixie, and not everyone has our values. But tolerance has limits. She passed them.

The parson wasn’t of Pixie sort either, but out of deference for local practice he left out milk and bits of food for us at night. It was good food too. Of course it was, because his housekeeper is my fifth cousin, and she could really cook solid English meals. She is the one who encouraged him to leave the bowl of milk and the choice morsels.

When his offerings disappeared into our tummies, he first thought the villagers were playing tricks on him. He stayed up late to watch the table, and we stood next to him well blended and hidden from his eye, trying not to giggle and waiting for sleep to fill his eyes. Then we’d drink his milk and eat the food. One of my Pixie cousins took to kissing his cheek in thanks, but that’s another story. I’ll not tell it now; besides everyone knows you can only kiss a man’s cheek so often before you want to kiss other bits of him. My cousin and the parson make pretty pixie babies.

So, back to my story: The milk-maid was hired away from a stable in Plymouth, which isn’t all that far from Sheeps Tor. She was such an unclean thing, slatternly in both senses of the word. She did not keep her bucket rinsed, and she did not tend the cow’s udder. Her straw was not raked. This meant that our milk was fouled. This is not excusable.

I watched her carefully. I saw her disregard for simple good dairy practice. Even in the 1730’s most milk-maids knew the importance of a clean pail and a clean churn. What to do about her slovenly neglect became the topic of debate. My cousin, who was falling in love with the parson, wanted to take her off to Pembroke and sell her to the fairies. Of course, we didn’t do that. We never do that, and she wasn’t all that serious anyway.

I pinched her butt. When ever she was neglectful, I just reached over and pinched that sweaty none-too-clean thing. Because we are hard to see when we wish to be, she thought the goblins were haunting her. The parson, sensible man that he was, told her there were no goblins. So she suspected witchcraft.

Now every pixie knows that witches are pretenders. Magic of the sort they lay claim to is a myth. It doesn’t exist. But back then witches were still hunted, and her talk caused concern in neighboring villages. The Bishop of Plymouth sent someone to see if the reports of witchcraft had substance. He left satisfied that the slattern was mad and that there were no witches in Sheeps Tor, this despite the milk-maids desire to show him the bruises on her butt. He, of course, politely declined the offer.
She slept in the stable loft, not uncommon among folk of her sort back then. This led to the final (shall we say decisive?) punishment.

I observed that she found mice hateful creatures. That is unfair. They have very poor hygiene and are scatter-brained, but they’re not hateful. (True they tend to complain about their lot in life, being very discontent creatures. But they’re still not hateful.) So, having observed this, I spent a good hour in conversation with the eldest of the mice. You have to placate them and cater to their sensibilities, you know. So it takes a while to convince them to do anything. But I finally convinced them that it was fitting that they pay a late night social call on the wench in the loft.

The result was very gratifying. She woke to twenty or so mice crawling over her body and face. Her scream must have been heard clear to Land’s End! She was gone by morning, and no one seemed to care what her destination was.

Pixies know how to milk a cow. We took turns doing that for a while, until a new milk maid was found. It was the milking that finally convinced the parson that we just might be real. Other things finally assured him that suspicion was correct.

We never abuse humans just to abuse them. All those claims of being Pixie Led and such come from tipsy tradesmen and mindless peasants. We don’t do that – unless you are neglectful.

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