What happened was, about three hundred years ago there were two maids; Molly and Polly. Both worked on a large farm on the edge of Dartmoor and both shared a secret. Now the two girls were as different as furze and fuzz, Polly was happy and hard working and Molly was miserable and lazy. This usually meant that Polly did more than her fair share of the work whilst Molly lolled around and did as little as possible. Despite this they were good friends and on their days off would visit the local town together and meet with the young moor lads. It was always a mystery to everyone in the area how they both managed to dress in all the latest fashions and wear the finest of jewellery considering the low wages they were earning. This is where their secret came in, several years ago they came across two starving piskies and took them into the kitchen and gave both a veritable feast which probably saved their lives. From that day on, providing every night they left two mugs of milk beside the fire place both would contain a few gold coins in the morning. That was how they managed to afford the fine clothes, ribbons, bonnets and trinkets but not another living soul knew of their secret.
It was during a particularly busy harvest that both girls returned from the fields exhausted, in fact the girls were that tired that they forgot to put out the nightly mugs of milk. Both were just content to go to their room and collapse into their beds. It was not long before both Molly and Polly were sound asleep, Molly sounder than Polly because her snoring sounded like a pig truffle hunting. This commotion soon awoke Polly who for the rest of the night just had to suffer in silence. It must have been about two o’clock in the morning when Polly heard a scrabbling noise coming from the door. She tried to arouse the snoring Molly but she was having none of it. The noise got louder and louder until by the light of the moon Polly saw two piskies clamber through the keyhole. No sooner had they dropped to the floor than the little folk began to angrily twitter and chatter. The piskies cursed and cussed the girls all because they had not had their nightly mug of milk. Fingers pointed, heads shook and feet stomped and it was clear that the little men were not going to be satisfied until their mugs were filled. With a great deal of effort, Polly managed to drag her weary body from the warm cosy bed and she went over to waken the still snoring Molly. After nearly shaking the living daylights out of her Polly managed to get her friend to open one drooping eye. She explained what had happened and suggested they both get up, go downstairs and fill the piskies mugs with milk. Molly groaned that she “was not getting out of bed even if it meant upsetting all the piskies on Dartmoor,” and with that she pulled up the eiderdown and promptly resumed her snoring and sawing. Ever the worker, Polly reluctantly went downstairs and walked across to the dairy. At first she had resigned herself to filling both cups but as she walked across the yard Polly though about all the extra work she had done that day. She pictured the lazy Molly swanning around the field and when nobody was looking sleeping under the hedge whilst all the time she was doing her work. At this point a uncharacteristic stubborn side showed itself, why should she fill Molly’s mug after all it would be her who would lose out on the gold coins. So Polly filled one mug, took it back to the kitchen, placed it beside the fireplace and trawled back upstairs to bed.
At first there was no sign of the piskies, Polly decided that they must be down in the kitchen quaffing the milk. But suddenly she heard the now familiar scrabbling noise at the keyhole. This time a whole host of piskies dropped down and assembled at the foot of her bed. It seemed as if they were holding a court session, similar to what the tinners do on Crockern tor. Polly pretended to be asleep whilst all the time listening intently to their debate. It appeared that they were trying decide what punishment to exact on the lazy Molly who was still snuffling and snorting in the bed opposite. One rather ugly piskie suggested that they should all leap on her bed and pinch, nip, bite and bob the great slumbering dollup. Another loudly proclaimed that they should rip all her fine clothes to shreds. Other suggestions ranged from giving her toothache to making her nose turn as red as a rowan berry, all were dismissed. A rather regal piskie stood up and announced that he had decided that from tomorrow the lazy girl would wake up to find that she was lame in her right leg. This lameness would last for seven years or until a certain herb was rubbed on the crippled limb. The herb could be found growing on Dartmoor and the piskie in a loud voice named the herb. At this point Polly was feeling mighty guilty because if she had not been so petty and filled both mugs none of this would be happening. So to ensure her friend could be quickly healed and the spell broken she listened intently to the name of the herb. It had seven syllables which she could remember by it being the same as the number of years the lameness would last. Under her breath she then repeated the herb’s name time and time again so she could commit it to memory. Even as the last piskie was scrabbling back through the keyhole Polly was repeating the name of the herb. It was only when she knew the name as well as her own Polly dared to close her eyes and go to sleep.
A loud scream and an even louder crash abruptly awoke Polly and there to her dismay she saw the figure of Molly laying prone on the floor holding her right leg. At first it did not dawn on her what had happened but as she slowly recalled the events of the previous night Polly realised what had happened. She managed to get Molly back on her bed and then gently started to relate what had happened. To say Molly was distraught was an understatement, she wept and wailed snivelled and sobbed at her misfortune. But then Polly got to the final part of the story and told how if a certain herb was rubbed on the leg the spell would be broken. She dramatically paused for effect, placed a calming hand on Molly’s arm and triumphantly announced that the name of the herb was…, silence, nothing a huge awkward pause, Polly frantically searched every nook and cranny of her brain but was unable to find where she had left it. She knew it had seven syllables but for the life of her Polly could not remember it. She dashed down to the kitchen and got the cooks recipe book in the blind hope that it she would recognise it but to no avail. So, sadly as the piskie foretold Molly became a cripple, her right leg was as useful as two cocks in a empty hen house. For the next six years the poor girl hobbled along on a crutch. Luckily the farmer was a caring sort and he kept the maid on helping out in the kitchen.
The story does not end there, one day Molly had been sent out to gather some wild mushrooms in a nearby field. As she lay on the grass plucking the big plate-like fungi she spotted a queer, boss-eyed boy coming toward her, “my,” she thought, ” he’s ugly.” She also spotted that in his hand he was carrying the strangest looking plant she had ever seen. The lad approached and in a squeaky voice asked if she was “Molly the maid.” Cautiously she nodded and asked what he wanted. “Nothing,” he said “Just to give you this,” and with that he held up the plant and lashed it across her right leg. Immediately Molly felt the pain from the welting and then realised that for the first time in six and a bit years she actually felt some sensation in her leg. Scrabbling to her feet the young maid tossed away her crutch and gingerly danced around a bit, sure enough her leg was back to normal. Molly in her excitement had forgotten to thank the ugly, boss-eyed boy and when she looked around he had vanished into thin air.
From that day on Molly was a changed person, she worked as hard if not harder than Polly and although they both started going to town again none of them wore the fancy clothes. Simply put, they could not afford them on the paltry maids wages and there certainly was no longer any other way of getting money.