Popeil and the Mice (A Polish Folk Tale)
by: Wheeler, Les
If ye ivver gyang tae Goplo Loch, een o the biggest lochs in Poland, ye’lI see a lang bit strip o land stickin oot intae the waaters o the loch. On this bittie o land stauns the ruins o an aul, hich, steen toor. Naebody kens jist fu aul the toor is, for it’s bin there for hunners o years. Fowk dee ken, tho, that it wis eence the hame o the coorsest, aul cyaard o a laird that ivver ruled ower fowk an the fowk jist couldna thole him, but they wir ower feart tae dee muckle aboot it.
He wis that coorse that even his ain femlie tried tae dee awa wi him an wir affen plottin tae kill him. But, he hid spies aa wye fa fun oot aboot the plots an he hid a gey puckle o his relations pit tae daith an that gart fowk tak a bigger ill-will tae at him than ivver. Naebody at aa hid a decent wird tae say for him an neen o the neeboring lairds an princes could pit up wi him.
Popiel kent himsel that ae day een o his subjects wid fine a wye tae pit an enn tae him an this jist made him mair coorse than iver.
Ae day Popiel wis waakin alang the shore wi a pucklie o his gairds fan, aa at eence, he fun himsel neb tae neb wi a wierd aul wife. He nivver saa her comin an got a bit o a fleg.
“Get oot o my wye, umman!” he roared.”Fit div ye mean by comin up tae yir laird in siccan a mainner?”
The aul wife didna move. She pintit her finger at the laird an in a hich,skirlin voice said, ”Popiel, ye hivna mony days left. Ye killt a lot o fowk an a lot o fowk wid like tae see ye deed. Yiv devoured yir ain flesh an bleed an them that are left will devour ye!”
Syne, she began tae lauch an lauch - a lang, dreich skirl that fair fleggit aa that heard it an gart Popiel shak, he got siccan a fear. “Seize that aul hag!” roared Popiel tae his gairds. An they wir quick tae dee his biddin but as they loupit at the aul wife she disappeared like a puff o reek an aa that could be heard wis her hich, skrauchin lauch. An as the lauch gaed roon an roon Popiel kent that something gey orra wid befa him.
He took aff at a rin an niver stoppit till he got tae the toor an lockit himsel in his chaumer. Efter a while he began tae think he’d bin richt feel tae act the coord in front o his ain sodjers an fan he wis queeler he began tae consider fat he could dee tae mak himsel safe fae his relations fa micht caase his daith. He spent a lot o time wirkin oot different ploys an aa the time he wis at it he could hear the fremmit lauch o the aul wife.
He wisna feart o the weemin an bairns o his femilie, for he didna think they could dee him ony hairm. But twal o his uncles wir still livin an he kent that ony een o them wad like tae see him deid sae they could get thir hauns on his land. They aa hid gweed caase tae hate him tae, for he’d deen some affa coorse things tae ilk een o them.
He sat an thocht for a lang lang time, an syne as coorse a ploy as ivver ye’ll hear o cam intae his heid. He wad get rid o his twal uncles aa at eence an syne he’d hae naething left tae fear.
Tae cairry oot his plan he sterted tae mak on that he wis affa sorry for aa the coorse things he’d deen afore. He caad aa his servants thegither an said, “I’m gyan tae hae a muckle gran feast an aa the male members o my femlie are tae be invited. Mak siccar that aa the best maet is got ready an that the wine is the best siller can buy. I’m weary o aa the misery an ill-will I’ve caased an I’m needin tae hear the soond o lauchin in the castle eence mair.
The servants thocht they wir hearin things. The aul, coorse laird hid nivver spak like yon afore. This jist didna seem like the same chiel at aa. For years the toor hid bin as quaet as a grave, forbye fan some peer vratch wis bein tortured. But this wis at an en, they thocht, an set aboot preparin the gran feast.
Fan Popiel’s uncles got thir invitations they wir gey suspicious at the sudden chynge in thir nephew. ‘Fat wis the aul de’il up til, noo?” they thocht tae themsels. But fan they heard o the gran preparations gyan on at the toon they thocht differently. “Maybe he his chynged his wyes,” they said,” an this’ll jist be his wye o showin gweed-will. We’d better gie him a chunce.”
Fan the time cam for the banquet Popiel gaithert his servants thegither eence main. “Yiv tae mak siccar that my guests get aathing they wint.” he commanded. “This his tae be the grannest feast that iver there’s bin. It’s sae important that I’ll serve the last tassie o wine wi my ain hauns!”
Weel, the lairds aa arrived for the pairty an the castle wis lit up wi muckle lanterns an lamps. The ha table wis set oot wi the maist delicious o maet an a piper skirlt awa at jigs, strathspeys an reels. The castle hadna seen sic happiness for mony a lang day.
“Walcome! Walcome!” cried Popiel. “Lat’s aa get thegither in a gran feast an forget aa aboot the quaarels an rows o the past. I’ve made up my mine tae mak life happier for aa the fowk that bide on my estates an I hope ye’ll help me dae it.”
Noo, aa the guests win fair gled tae hear this an ait an drank weel intae the sma oors. Ilk een there seen forgot the past an Popiel got tae his feet an said,”My ain dear uncles, afore ye aa win hame, I’d like ye tae drink ae last tassie o wine I’ve kept for a special occasion. Ye’ll nivver hae tasted anything like it an jist tae prove tae ye that I’m nae langer the orra aul cyaard I eesed tae be an, as a sign o fu hummle I feel, I’ll serve the wine mysel. I ken I’ve deen a lot o wrang tae ye aa in the past but that’s aa bye wi an this is my token o gweed luck tae ye aa.”
But he wis aye the same Popiel. He pit poison in ilka tassie, but neen in his ain. The guests raised thir tassies tae thir lips an drank a toast tae Popiel, syne ilk een drappit doon tae the grun, deid!
“Gweed riddance tae ye aa,” lauched Popiel. “Noo there’s naebody left tae plot agin me an I’m safe noo.”
But jist as he wis spikkin he wis fleggit by the same mockin lauchin he’d heard afore. It ran roon an roon the ha. Horrible, waesome lauchin wis heard aawye. Syne a vice fillt his held. “Yir poison his devoured them, noo they’ll devour ye!”
Aa at eence he heard wee wheeps an cheeps an they grew looder an looder an hunners o wee mice cam rinnin intae the chaumer. Fae aa ower they cam an wir seen aa ower the terrified Popiel. He ran aff up the stair tae the tapmaist chaumer o the toor but the mice followed him an mair an mair o them cam at him, scrattin an chawin till seen there wis nithin left o Popiel at aa. An the mice? Weel, it wis gey queer thon. They disappeared jist as fest as they’d cam an o Popiel there wis nae trace at aa. He’d bin devoured by the mice. Sae the wirds o the aul umman cam true an the lan wis rid o the orraist cyaard that hid ivver hin the rank o laird!
Nearby the shore o Goplo Loch
A ruined toor still stauns.
Its muckle steens are spread aboot
As if some giant’s hauns
Hid torn them doon fae aff the waas.
For noo the eerie hoolet caas
Tae leave them happit wi moss sae dank
Alang the slopin steeny bank.
Fowk say that fan the meen is bricht
Ye’ll see the loch in ghaistly Iicht,
An jist afore the midnicht oor
Fremmit lauchs rin roon the toor.
Hine, in the very tapmaist room
A coorse aul cyaard there met his doom.