Nell and Gé Geal
Many years ago, there was a little girl called Nell. She was ten years old. She lived with her mother and father in a small cottage in County Clare, in Ireland. They were very happy.
One fine summer’s day Nell’s mother said, ‘Let us go for a long walk in the woods.’
They packed an apple tart and a bottle of milk in a basket and set off.
The birds sang as they walked through the woods. The sun shone through the trees.
After a while, they came to a stream. They sat down under a tree and ate the apple tart and drank the milk. Then Nell’s father said to her, ‘Your mother and I are tired and will rest here for a while. You may play among the trees but do not go too far away.’
Nell went picking wild flowers and chasing butterflies. She strayed a long way from her mother and father.
Suddenly Nell saw a tall man with a horse. He held out a basket to her and said, ‘Come here, little girl and have some strawberries.’
When Nell saw the lovely red strawberries, she ran forward towards the man.
As soon as she took a strawberry, the man grabbed her and quickly tied her up with ropes. He then threw her up on the horse and rode away with great speed. Nell cried out, but she knew her parents were too far away to hear her. She was very frightened.
They travelled through the woods and then through the open countryside. The ropes hurt Nell’s hands and feet. She tried to remember everything she saw so that she would know her way back.
After a while, they came to a great high wall with a big gate. The man got off the horse and took a big gold key out of his pocket. He used the key to open the gate, and they went in.
There was a big house, and a garden and sheds at the back.
A fat woman stood at the door of the house. She laughed and said to the man, ‘You have brought me a servant-girl.’
When the man took the ropes off Nell, the woman told her, ‘You will have to work hard here. If you try to escape, I will catch you and smack you.’
Nell was put to work straight away. She had to rise early every morning and milk the cows. When no-one was looking, she often drank some milk from the bucket because the woman never gave her any breakfast.
Nell had to clean out the sheds used by the cows. She had to dig potatoes in the garden and wash them in cold water. She had to feed and take care of the geese. There were over twenty of them.
Every evening Nell went to the door of the big houses and the woman handed her a bowl of stew. This was Nell’s dinner. She was never allowed into the house but had to sleep every night on some straw in one of the cowsheds. Every night she wept and cried out, ‘I want to go home to Mammy and Daddy! I want to go home. I want to go home!’
But no one heard her.
One night as Nell lay in the shed crying, one of the geese came over to her and laid down beside her. The goose kept her nice and warm. Because this goose was whiter and brighter than the others, Nell called her Gé Geal, which is Irish for bright goose.
One day as Nell collected a basket of goose’s egg, she fell and broke some of them. The fat woman saw her and shouted, ‘You stupid girl! You’ll get no dinner tonight!’
Then she tried to smack Nell with a stick, but Gé Geal ran at the woman and pecked her viciously on the backside. The woman ran into the house screaming.
Every night as Nell lay in her bed of straw in the shed, she said to Gé Geal, ‘I must escape. I must escape. I need the key to the gate.’
One early morning while Nell was feeding the geese, she noticed that Gé Geal was not among them. The fat woman and the man were in the house having their breakfast. Then suddenly, Nell was amazed to see Gé Geal coming out of the house with the gold key in her beak.
Nell quickly took the gold key from Gé Geal and ran as fast as she could to the gate and opened it. Gé Geal followed her outside. Nell locked the gate, and the two of them ran like the wind. They rushed through the countryside. Nell had remembered the way home.
When she got hungry, she picked berries from the bushes. She gulped them down but saved a few for Gé Geal. It was dark when they entered the wood. Nell was very tired, and she laid down under a tree and fell asleep. It was very cold, but Gé Geal spread her wings over her and kept her warm all through the night.
When the sun had risen, Nell woke up and she and the goose began walking again. When they got near Nell’s house, her mother and father saw her through the window.
‘Nell, Nell, you have come home at last,’ they cried, and they threw their arms around her. They were filled with joy.
They sat down and had a lovely meal together. Nell told them about her dreadful time as a slave and how Gé Geal had helped her to escape.
Later, Nell’s mother and father went to the town of Lissycasey and sold the gold key for a large sum of money. They were able to buy nice furniture for the cottage and lovely clothes for Nell. They kept Gé Geal as a pet and allowed the goose to walk into the cottage whenever she wanted.
Nell and her mother and father lived happily in County Clare for many years.