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Beg and More

A Halloween Tale of Two Peters and a Hump

Once upon a time (and this is a story that took place, once upon a time, at Halloween time, in ancient Ireland), there were two brothers. One, Peter Beg, was a good, fun-loving, kind-hearted, and decent fellow. He was always the life of the party, the apple of his mother's eye, a joy to be around; careless, footloose, and fancy-free. And, well, all of this despite the fact that he was born with a horrid hump on his back.

The other brother (they both had the same mother), was called Peter More, and he was just the opposite of his brother Peter Beg. He was a mean, ugly, wretched, and covetous old thing, always swearing, always cursing his unhappy, unlucky fate, which had made him a beggar of crusts and a picker of rags. Nobody liked him, not even the neighborhood dogs (who made a real effort to chase him down a few lanes, and even up a few trees, and who terrified him into wetting his breeches when he heard them barking).

However, much to his blessing, unlike his unfortunate brother, Peter More did NOT have an ungainly hump on his back. He was straight and, while not too tall, at least he was not stooped, knotted; an object to be pitied. Like his brother.

And he was secretly happy that fate had so cursed his brother, and seen fit, in this one instance, to pass a restrained hand over his life.

Well, one dark, lonely Halloween night, when the owls did howl and the beasts did bay, and the banshees did whatever banshees do, Peter Beg was passing through a place called the Valley of Kirk-Havens, when, all of a sudden, a weird, spectral light began to glow in the distance. It was soon he saw a strange, glowing house beyond a gate, and he knew he was, just then, in the presence of the "Good Folk." 

He came to the door and was forthwith invited in. Inside, all glowed with a spectral, amber light, and the "Good Folk" danced a merry dance, and the fire was warm, and the ale ran freely.

Peter Beg was delighted with what he saw, and he said to his hosts, "Tis a wondrous place to eat and drink, to warm one's bones and dry one's clothes, so that one fair wished he might never have to leave!"

And at this, the Good People (the Fairy Folk, that is) laughed, and their laughter was like the tinkling of crystal, and their merry faces twisted into delightful grins beneath their fairy noses, and their fairy eyes sparkled and blazed beneath their enchanted brows. And they said, "Friend Peter, stay as long as thou wilt, and go whenever it pleaseth thou to go. Thou art, truly, always welcome."

Well, time passed differently in that enchanted land, so that what seemed only a few hours might, in reality, be days or weeks, or even longer; and so, soon, Peter More began to miss his brother, Peter Beg. So he took up a torch and his walking stick, and he went down into that enchanted valley to fetch his "good fer nuthin', lazy, slack-jawed miscreant of a brother, Peter Beg."

Well, he searched and searched, but he could not see the enchanted house, as the fairies had put a spell on it. The fairies said to each other, "Aye, that is the brother of our friend, Peter Beg! Let's let him come inside, and join us, and make the party that much merrier!"

And so they lifted the spell that rendered their humble home invisible, and Peter More saw the glowing golden house, and crept inside.

Once inside, his brother and the fairies raced forward to pat him on the back, and greet him, and invite him to their party. But Peter More was having none of it.

"Curse ye!" he spat, waving his crooked finger in their fairy faces. "Ye have kept my lazy, hump-backed, good fer nuthin' brother here nigh on two weeks, with yer partyin'; and yer gimcracks, yer songs and dances and foolishness! And who, do ya suppose had ta' milk them coos all this time? ME! that's who. And who do you suppose ploughed the O'Malley's field? ME! That's who. And who did all the other chores what needed doin', all the moppin' and sweepin' and churnin' o' butter and the like? ME! That's who!"

And Peter More went two shades of bright purple. The fairies, not expecting such hostile ingratitude, nor such foul, rude mannerisms from a guest, let alone a HUMAN one, scratched their chins and narrowed their eyes, and looked at each other cautiously, and spoke in their weird, musical, tinkling voices the fairy language.

It was as if they were trying to decide, exactly, what to do with such a barbarous, ill-mannered guest. (And, unluckily for Peter More, that is EXACTLY what they were doing.)

Finally, they acted. They grabbed Peter Beg, and, twirling him about, took the hump straight off his back. Just as easy as that. Presto! It was gone.

Peter Beg stood up tall and straight for the first time in his life. Falling to his knees, his hands folded as if in prayer, he began to weep. "Oh, thank you! Thank you! I can never repay the kindness you have shown to me!"

Smiling, the Fairy "King" (for what else to designate him as, we don't know), said, "You need not worry about that, old friend! Your gratitude is payment enough!"

And then, taking the miserable hump they had just plucked, as if it were nothing, from the back of Peter Beg, the fairies placed the hump...on the back of the outraged Peter More!

"That will teach thee to be a rude pig of a house guest, when thou hast been so privileged as to be among the Good Folk!"

And so, the rest of the days of his life, Peter More was cursed to wear his brother's hump, and go stooped and knock-kneed, and beg at divers' places, and reek of rotten eggs. All because of his bad behavior one lonely, Irish Halloween night.

But of course, now they are long, long dead.

No Beg, No More... 

(The End?)

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