NOT many years since a farmer lived in Bosfrancan in St Burrien, who had a very fine red-and-white cow called Daisey. The cow was always fat, with her dewlaps and udder sweeping the grass. Daisey held her milk from calf to calf; had an udder like a bucket, yet she would never yield more than a gallon or so of milk, when one might plainly see that she had still at least two gallons more in her udder. All at once, when the milk was in full flow, she would give a gentle bleat, cock up her ears, and the milk would stop at once. If the milkmaid tried to get any more from her after that, she would up foot, kick the bucket, and spill all the milk, yet stand as still as a stock, and keep chewing her cud all the time. Everybody would have thought the cow bewitched, if she hadn’t been always fat and held her milk all the year round; besides, everything prospered with the farmer, and all the other cows had more milk than any of the neighbours. No one could tell what the deuce could be the matter with Daisey; and they tried to drive her to Burrien Church-town fair, that they might, be rid of her, as she was always fit for the butchers. All the men and boys on the farm couldn’t get her to Church-town. As fast as they drove her up Alsie Lane, she would take down Cotneywilley, through by the Crean, down the Bottoms, and up the Gilley, and be in the field again before the men and boys would be half way home.
One midsummer’s day in the evening, the maid was later than usual milking, as she had been down to Penberth to the games. The stars were beginning to blink when she finished her task. Daisey was the last cow milked, and the bucket was so full she could scarcely lift it to her head. Before rising from the milking-stool, the maid plucked up a handful of grass and clover to put in the head of her hat, that she might carry the bucket the steadier. She had no sooner placed the hat on her head, than she saw hundreds and thousands of Small People. swarming in all directions about the cow, and dipping their hands into the milk, taking it out on the clover blossoms and sucking them. The grass and clover, all in blossom, reached to the cow’s belly. Hundreds of the little creatures ran up the long grass and clover stems, with buttercups, lady’s smocks, convolvuluses, and foxglove flowers, to catch the milk that Daisey let flow from her four teats, like a shower, among them. Right under the cow’s udder the maid saw one much larger than the others lying on his back, with his heels cocked up to the cow’s belly. She knew he must be a Piskie, because he was laughing, with his mouth open from ear to ear. The little ones were running up and down his legs, filling their cups, and emptying them into the Piskie’s mouth. Hundreds of others were on Daisey’s back, scratching her rump, and tickling her round the horns and behind the ears. Others were smoothing down every hair of her shining coat into its place.
The milkmaid wasn’t much startled to see them, as she had so often heard of fairies, and rather wished to see them. She could have stayed for hours, she said, to look at them dancing about among the clover, which they hardly bent any more than the dew-drops.
The cows were in the field called Park-an-Ventan, close under the house. Her mistress came out into the garden between the field and the house, and called to know what was~ keeping the maid so long. When the maid told what she had seen, her mistress said she couldn’t believe her unless she had found a four-leaved grass. Then the maid thought of the handful of grass in the head of her hat. In looking it over by the candlelight, she found a bunch of three-leaved grass, and one stem with four leaves. They knew that it was nothing strange that she should see the Small People, but they didn’t know what plan to take to get rid of them, so that they might have the whole of Daisey’s milk, till the mistress told her mother about it. Her mother was a very notable old dame, who lived in Church-town. The old woman knew all about witches, fairies, and such things; was noted for being a sharp, careful old body; for when she happened to break the eye of her stocking darning-needle, she would take it to the blacksmith that he might put a new eye to it. The smith always charged her twopence. She would rather pay that than throw it away.
Our Betty told her daughter that everybody knowed that the Small People couldn’t abide the smell of fish, nor the savour of salt or grease; and advised her to rub the cow’s udder with fish brine to drive the Small People away. Well, she did what her mammy told her to do. Better she had let it alone. From that time Daisey would yield all her milk, but she hadn’t the half; nor quarter, so much as before, but took up her udder, so that one could hardly see it below her flanks. Every evening, as soon as the stars began to twinkle, the cow would go round the fields bleating and crying as if she had lost her calf; she became hair-pitched, and pined away to skin and bone before the next Burrien fair, when she was driven to Church-town and sold for next to nothing. I don’t know what became of her afterwards; but nothing throve with the farmer, after his wife had driven the Small People away, as it did before.
-Popular Romances of the West of England-