Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 279
Publication Date: 1901
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This is a collection of Scottish folklore which will appeal to all ages. There are animal tales, stories of the fairies of Scotland including Brownies, Bogles, Kelpies, Mermaids and others, comic tales, literary tales, and tales of Witches and of Giants. While many of the themes are similar to other European folk-tales, this collection emphasizes specifically Scottish aspects of the stories.
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"WELL, it is not the least use talking about it; there is not more than one loaf of bread in the house or one bawbee in the stocking," said the widow of Rannoch to her three sons, Donald, Dougald, and Duncan. "So go, each of you, and seek a fortune; and if a fortune you get, don't forget your old mother, for she's tried to do her best by you for many a long day."
And Donald, Dougald, and Duncan all agreed that she spoke the truth, and that the best thing they could do for her now was to go at once, returning as soon as good fortune would let them.
So the widow of Rannoch divided the loaf into four portions and gave a bit to each, putting it in their wallets, and keeping one bit for herself. Then she gave them her blessing, and off they started.
Now, they set their faces towards the west, where lay the great ocean. Perchance they would get a passage there in a ship to the south, where the bright gold lay for the gathering, and that would be much better than making for the east, where every one was as poor as themselves, they knew already, only too well.
Over the moor they trudged, and Donald sang a song to cheer Dougald and Duncan; and, when he was tired, Dougald told a story to while away the time for Donald and Duncan. When his story came to an end, Duncan was just going to show them some other kind of diversion, when he stopped, seized both of his brothers by the arms, and, pushing them before him into a peat-hole, bade them for their life's sake bide among the high hags at its side, and not utter a syllable, or make the slightest sound. "For," said he, "I see the witch of Ben e Bhreac coming in the distance towards us."
And, sure enough, there she was, coursing over the moor in a direct line with them, waving her magic staff. As she strode over the pools, the water splashed upwards in brown foam before her; as she clambered over the peat-hags, the divots and turves flew away on every side; as she swept along the dry path, the dust in clouds whirled behind her like an attendant spirit.
So she passed by them, without a thought of human creatures being so near to her; for, you may be sure, they lay very close and still, and did not move till the last trace of her vanished behind the slopes of the Black Mountains.
"Now is our chance," said Duncan, the youngest, to his two brothers. "The old bird has gone on a journey; let us harry her nest."
"Oh! but that would be stealing!" said Donald.
"Stealing?" said Duncan; "stealing the stolen. How do you know we won't find some of our own goods there? At any rate, if they are not ours, they are not hers, whoever it is they belong to." So, as Duncan was the clever one of the family, and never was contradicted, although the youngest, there was no more to be said about the matter, and off they started for Ben e Bhreac.
It did not take them long to arrive at the summit where the witch's home was, and where her well can be seen to this day, for they were anxious to get through the business as soon as possible before the, good lady should return, and they were brave lads and had stout hearts for a stiff brae, and fear gave them an extra toe to each foot, as the saying is. Up at the bothie they found all quiet, and they judged the witch had gone for a long journey, for the door was fast locked, and no smoke was to be seen coming out of the chimney. Yet, in a very short time they made an entrance, by taking off the divots from the roof, and getting in that way; but they were disappointed at seeing very little of value inside. Certainly the witch, if she had any valuables, did not keep them in that house,
"Now, we must have a good look round outside," said Duncan; "but before we do so, just let me prepare for the accident of her sudden return. I know a trick that will checkmate the hag even if she does. Only you do as I say, and all will be well."
As usual the other two agreed, for they never ventured to contradict Duncan, as I told you before, but believed in his genius implicitly.
"Donald, you go up and keep a good lookout, up the stack to the north-east, and give an alarm if you see anybody coming. Dougald, you turn your face towards the south-west and do the same." So they went out, and did as they were told.
Now, the hag's bothie was built over a well, and the way to it--was through the floor of the bothie by means of a trap-door set on iron hinges; seeing which, Duncan loosened the hinges with his dirk, till he felt sure a little added weight would send trap and all into the water below. Then he put the hag's chair on the top of the trap, tying a stout cord to the leg of it, and one end of this he flung over the iron girdle standing in the corner. Next, pulling the table up towards the chair, he furnished the board with a large aschet and a couple of knives, just as if a feast had been laid by her imps against the return of their mistress. Then he collected a dozen large stones, and set them up by the wall, to be handy if occasion required.
Well, scarcely had he finished all these arrangements, when a cry from Dougald gave the alarm that the hag was returning full speed from the direction of the Black Mountains; and, looking in that direction, the three brothers saw her, sure enough, coursing over the waste in a direct line with her home, waving her magic staff. As she strode past the pools, the water splashed upwards in brown foam before her; as she clambered over the peat-hags, the divots and turves flew away on every side; as she swept along the dry paths, the dust in clouds whirled behind her like an attendant spirit.