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The Legend of the Kind but Mischievous Pixies

A Story from the Storey Gardens

by Clive Cox

A long, long time ago there was a young man called Jim.  Jim lived with his wife Annie in one of the cottages that used to stand in front of Lancaster Castle.  They had a daughter Patty.  Patty’s full name was Patience Ann but everybody called her Patty.  There was also a son Tom who was younger than Patty.

Jim and Annie were gardeners.  They worked in Meeting House Lane in what is now called the Storey Gardens.

There they looked after the chickens, tended the flower beds, mowed the grass, grew the vegetables and cared for the fruit trees.

On the whole they liked the work as they enjoyed being outdoors and had a work shed where they could shelter if the rain became too heavy.

One summer day, however, Jim cut himself pruning a tree.  There was a nasty wound and he developed an infection.  Over the next few days his condition worsened and he became weaker and weaker.

His wife Annie and the two children became very worried. 

Annie had to spend much of her time at home nursing Jim, so she sent the two children to go to the gardens to do some of the simpler chores such as feeding the chickens and watering the vegetables. 

As Patty and Tom entered the gardens by a back gate, they saw three small people throwing apples at each other. 

Patty approached them thinking they were other children but as she got closer she could see from their faces that they were older.

When the visitors saw the two children, they stopped what they were doing and looked in astonishment.  The tallest of the three said: “Who are you?  Where are the two people who work here?”

“Never mind who I am” replied Patty.  “What do you think you’re doing?”

“We are playing” was the reply.

“You mustn’t throw apples about” said Patty.

“It doesn’t matter because we only throw the apples if they don’t taste nice” said the one who had done all the talking so far.

Patty was cross.  “Of course the apples on that tree don’t taste good.  They aren’t ripe yet.  They won’t be ripe for at least a month.”

“What does ripe mean?” asked another of the visitors.

“Apples take time to grow and become sweet enough to eat.  That’s when they’re ripe.  If you pick them early they’re too bitter” explained Patty.  “Anyway who are you?”

“We’re pixies.  We come here most evenings at this time of year to play.  We know if the man and woman who work in the gardens are still here because they’re always whistling and singing.  In that case we hide.  Sometimes we eat some of the fruit.  You didn’t whistle or sing so we didn’t hear you coming.”

“The gardeners are our parents” said Tom.   “Our father is very poorly at the moment.  Mummy’s really worried he might die although she tells us he’s going to get better.”

The three pixies asked Patty and Tom what was wrong with their father.  When they heard what the children said, they started whispering to each other. 

The tallest of the three who seemed to act as spokesperson said “We’ve seen your father although I reckon he doesn’t see us.  We like your Mum and Dad for all the fruit they grow.  We think we may be able to help.  Come back tomorrow evening and we’ll have some presents for you.”

Patty and Tom were desperate to help their father so after they had fed the chickens they walked back home agreeing not to mention the pixies to their mother.

The following evening Patty and Tom went back to the gardens hoping to see the pixies.  Sure enough there were the pixies standing by the work shed. 

“Hello” said Patty.

“Good to see you” said one of the pixies who was carrying a large bag.  “We’ve brought some presents that may help your father.”

The pixie took from the bag an earthenware pot. 

“In this pot is an ointment to heal the cut.  It’s made from balsam”.  The children looked in the pot and could see a green, sticky looking substance.

The pixie brought out a second pot.  “This contains special nourishing food to give your father his strength back.  It’s made from pears“.

Finally the pixie produced a flask with a cork in its top.  “This is a special drink made from apple juice that will take away the fever.  We were given it by our aunt who lives in Greaves.”

The children thanked the pixies and gratefully took the three gifts home to their mother.  When Patty explained how they came by the presents, their mother didn’t really believe the bit about the pixies.  Jim’s condition, however, was very serious so she decided to use the presents anyway.

After Jim had had some of the special drink and eaten some of the food he started to feel stronger and Annie put the ointment on his cut.

The next morning Jim was feeling a lot better and the cut was starting to heal.  Over the next few days he became stronger and stronger and the next week he was able to join Annie back at work in the gardens.

When Jim was better, he and Annie asked Patty and Tom again how they came by the three gifts.

The parents were still not sure they believed in pixies.  However, they remembered the times they had found partially eaten apples and pears in the gardens.  Perhaps there was truth in the story after all.  Jim and Annie were certainly grateful for the presents the pixies had given. 

Because of the kindness of the pixies, Jim and Annie put three large flat stones in the gardens.  The stones had words carved on them and were memorials to the pixies and their gifts.  These stones are still there today.

However, there was still the matter of the pixies eating the unripe fruit.

One day Jim said to Patty “Perhaps we should put a sign up on each of the fruit trees to say when the fruit is ripe.  Then the pixies won’t eat the fruit until it’s ripe and it won’t be wasted.  I hate to see fruit wasted.”

Patty looked at her father.  “That’s a good idea but I’m not sure pixies can read.  I know.  We’ll put up a sign with a sad face until the fruit is ripe.  Then we’ll replace it with a different sign with a smiley face.  That should work.”

This explains why in the gardens today there is still the tradition of putting up signs with sad and smiling faces to tell the pixies and other visitors when the fruit is ripe.

The people who work in the gardens these days don’t whistle or sing, yet they never see pixies.  At least, that’s what they say…

Find out more about the beautiful Storey Gardens

Comments (1)

Apr 16, 2023

Wonderful! I'll keep my eyes peels for these little blighters next time I'm at the Storey!

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