Long, long ago, before threshing-machines were thought of, the farmer who resided at C , in going to his barn one day, was surprised at the extraordinary quantity of corn that had been threshed the previous night, as well as to discover the mysterious agency by which it was effected. His curiosity led him to inquire into the matter; so at night, when the moon was up, he crept stealthily to the barn-door, and looking through a chink, saw a little fellow, clad in a tattered suit of green, wielding the ‘dreshel’ (flail) with astonishing vigour, and beating the floor with blows so rapid that the eye could not follow the motion of the implement. The farmer slunk away unperceived, and went to bed, where he lay a long while awake, thinking in what way he could best show his gratitude to the piskie for such an important service. He came to the conclusion at length, that, as the little fellow’s clothes were getting very old and ragged, the gift of a new suit would be a proper way to lessen the obligation; and, accordingly, on the morrow he had a suit of green made, of what was supposed to be the proper, which he carfied early in the evening to the bam, and left for the piskie’s acceptance. At night the farmer stole to the door again to see how his gift was taken. He was just in time to see the elf put on the suit, which was no sooner accomplished than, looking down on himself admiringly, he sung: ‘Piskie fine, and piskie gay, Piskie now will fly away’ (Hunt 129).
‘No doubt,’ said the tinner after a pause, ‘Piskey threshed the corn and did other odd jobs for the old man of Boslow, as long as he lived, and they said that after his death he worked some time for the old widow, till he took his departure from the place about three score years ago. Some say…’
‘Stop a minute, my son, I can tell ’e a story about that,’ said Capt Peter, taking the pipe from his mouth, and holding up his finger.
‘One night, when the hills were covered with snow and winter had come severely, the old widow of Boslow left in the barn for Piskey a larger bowl than usual of gerty milk (boiled milk, thickened with pillas, or oatmeal). Being clear moonlight she took a turn round the town-place, stopped at the barn-door, and looked in to see if Piskey were come to eat his supper while it was hot. The moonlight shone through a little window right on the barn-boards, and there, sitting an a sheaf of oats, she saw Piskey eating his gerty milk very hearty. He soon emptied his wooden bowl, and scraped it with the wooden spoon as clean as if it had been washed out. Having placed the ‘temberan dish and spoon’ in a corner, he stood up and patted and stroked his stomach, and smacked his lips in a way that was as much as to say, ‘that’s good of ’e old dear; see ef I don’t thresh well for ’e to-night.’ But when Piskey turned round, the old woman was sorry to see that he had nothing on but rags and a very little of them.’
‘How poor Piskey must suffer with the cold,’ she thought and said to herself, ‘to pass .great part of his time out among the rushes in the boggy moors or on the downs with this weather, his legs all naked, and a very holey breeches. I’ll pitch about it at once, and make the poor fellow a good warm suit of homespun. We all know ragged as Piskey es, he’s so proud that he won’t wear cast-off clothes, or else he should have some of my dear old man’s – the Lord rest him.’
‘No sooner thought than she begun; and, in a day or two, made a coat and breeches, knitted a pair of long sheep’s-black stockings, with garters, and a nightcap, knitted too.’
‘When night came the old woman placed Piskey’s new clothes, and a bowl of gerty milk on the barn-boards, where the moonlight would shine on them to show them best. A few minutes after leaving the bam she came back to the door, opened its upper part a little, and, looking in, saw Piskey standing up, eating his milk, and squinting at the clothes at the same time. Laying down his empty bowl he took the new breeches on the tip of his hand-staff, carried it to the window, and seeing what it was, put it on over his rags, dragged on the stockings, and gartered them, donned coat and cap, then jumped over the barn-boards, and capered round the barn, like a fellow light in the head, singing:
‘Piskey fine and Piskey gay,
Piskey now will run away.’
‘And, sure enow, run away he did; for when he came round to the door opening into the mowhay he bolted out and took himself off without as much as saying, ‘I wish ’e well ’till I see again’ to the old woman, who stood outside the other door looking at Am.. Piskey never came back and the old woman of Boslow died that winter (Bottrell, II, 168-169).’
The Pisky Thrasher. ‘On a farm near here, a pisky used to come at night to thrash the farmer’s corn. The farmer in payment once put down a new suit for him. When the pisky came and saw it, he put it on, and said:
Pisky fine and pisky gay,
Pisky now will fly away.
And they say he never returned.’ (Evans-Wentz, 1911, 172)