Two Devonshire serving-maids declared, as an excuse perhaps for spending more money than they ought upon finery, that the pixies were very kind to them, and would often drop silver for their pleasure into a bucket of fair water, which they placed for the accommodation of those little beings every night in the chimney-corner before they went to bed. Once, however, it was forgotten; and the pixies, finding themselves disappointed by an empty bucket, whisked up-stairs to the maids’ bedroom, popped through the keyhole, and began, in a very audible tone, to exclaim against the laziness and neglect of the damsels.
One of them, who lay awake and heard all this, jogged her fellow-servant, and proposed getting up immediately to repair the fault of omission; but the lazy girl, who liked not being disturbed out of a comfortable nap, pettishly declared “That, for her part, she would not stir out of bed to please all the pixies in Devonshire.” The good-humoured damsel, however, got up, filled the bucket, and was rewarded by a handful of silver pennies found in it the next morning. But, ere that time had arrived, what was her alarm, as she crept towards the bed, to hear all the elves in high and stern debate consulting as to what punishment should be inflicted on the lazy lass who would not stir for their pleasure.
Some proposed “pinches, nips, and bobs,” others to spoil her new cherry-coloured bonnet and ribands. One talked of sending her the toothache, another of giving her a red nose, but this last was voted too severe and vindictive a punishment for a pretty young woman. So, tempering mercy with justice, the pixies were kind enough to let her off with a lame leg, which was so to continue only for seven years, and was alone to be cured by a certain herb, growing on Dartmoor, whose long and learned and very difficult name the elfin judge pronounced in a high and audible voice. It was a name of seven syllables, seven being also the number of years decreed for the chastisement.
The good-natured maid, wishing to save her fellow-damsel so long a suffering, tried with might and main to bear in mind the name of this potent herb. She said it over and over again, tied a knot in her garter at every syllable, in order to assist her memory, and thought she had the word as sure as her own name, and very possibly felt much more anxious about retaining the one than the other. At length she dropped asleep, and did not wake till the morning. Now, whether her head might be like a sieve, that lets out as fast as it takes in, or whether the over-exertion to remember caused her to forget, cannot he determined, but certain it is when she opened her eyes, she knew nothing at all about the matter, excepting that Molly was to go lame on her right leg for seven long years, unless a herb with a strange name could be got to cure her. And lame she went for nearly the whole of that period.
At length (it was about the end of the time) a merry, squint-eyed, queer-looking boy started up one fine summer day, just as she went to pluck a mushroom, and came tumbling, head over heels, towards her. He insisted on striking her leg with a plant which he held in his hand. From that moment she got well, and lame Molly, as a reward for her patience in suffering, became the best dancer in the whole town at the celebrated festivities of May-day on the green.
From Folk-lore and Legends: England and Scotland.Gibbins and Company, Limited. London, 1894.