The Fisherman and the Piskies Legends of old England by Edwin Hartland

JOHN TAPRAIL, long since dead, moored his boat one evening beside a barge of much larger size, in which his neighbour John Rendle traded between this place and Plymouth; and as the wind, though gusty, was not sufficient to cause any apprehension, he went to bed and slept soundly. In the middle of the night he was awoke by a voice from without bidding him get up, and "shift his rope over Rendle's," as his boat was in considerable danger. Now, as all Taprail's capital was invested in his boat and sear, we may be sure that he was not long in putting on his sea-clothes, and going to its rescue. To his great chagrin, he found that a joke had been played upon him, for the boat and barge were both riding quietly at their ropes. On his way back again, when within a few yards of his home, he observed a crowd of the little people congregated under the shelter of a boat that was lying high and dry on the beach. They were sitting in a semicircle, holding their hats towards one of their number who was engaged in distributing a heap of money, pitching a gold piece into each hat in succession, after the manner in which cards are dealt. Now John had a covetous heart; and the sight of so much cash made him forget the respect due to an assembly of piskies, and that they are not slow to punish any intrusion on their privacy; so be crept slyly towards them, hidden by the boat, and, reaching round, managed to introduce his hat without exciting any notice When the heap was getting low, and Taprail was awaking to the dangers of detection, he craftily withdrew his hat and made off with the prize. He had got a fair start before the trick was discovered; but the defrauded piskies were soon on his heels, and he barely managed to reach his house and to close the door upon his pursuers. So narrow indeed was his escape, that he had left the tails of his sea-coat in their hands. Such is the evidently imperfect version of an old legend, as it is remembered by the fishermen of the present generation. We may suppose that John Taprail's door had a key-hole; and there would have been poetical justice in the story, if the elves had compelled the fraudulent fisherman to turn his hat or pocket inside out.