Old- World Survivals in Ross-shire. 381
Rory looked at me in a knowing way he affects sometimes, and somehow the conversation drifted into reminiscent yarns of smugglers and their doings, stills, mountain dew, and gaugers. Our district is rather a favourite hunting-ground of these latter gentry, and the stories told of their exploits and how they have been outwitted are legion. But that is "another story."
To return to the fairies. Though no longer visible to our wise eyes, they are most emphatically there ! If not, why does the milkmaid always spill a little drop of each milking as an offering for the little folks ? Why does the housewife leave a little meal on her baking-board for the fairies? Why are all the newly-born babies bathed in Uisge Or, if there were no fairies to steal them and leave in their stead fairy changelings ? strange, unsatisfactory little beings who never thrive, who are always wizened and elfish-looking, and who finally die. Why, even yet I have a vague uncanny feeling in passing the fairy hillock which in childhood I used to scurry past with bated breath and beating heart, if by any chance I happened to pass it at night, dreading to look lest I should see crowds of pursuing elves after me. One young fellow I know, solemnly declared to me the other day that nothing would induce him to walk past Cnoc-na-Sith (hill of the fairies) at mid- night. To be precise, what he really said was, I wouldn't take a thousand pounds to pass there at twelve o'clock at night." I hope he will never hear that I gave him away so shockingly. To be sure, the Cnoc in question is a weird eerie place, a round hillock rising abruptly out of the moor- land, just the sort of place that fairies do love, miles away from anywhere. From time immemorial it has been re- garded as haunted.
Perhaps one of the quaintest of old-world customs which still survives in some out-of-the-way places is the prepara- tion of the Struan Michael, or cakes sacred to the celebration of Michaelmas Day It is more peculiarly a