The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 6/Folk-Lore of Sutherlandshire (December)

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The Folk-Lore Journal, Volume 6
Folk-Lore of Sutherlandshire (December)

THE FOLK-LORE OF SUTHERLANDSHIRE.

By Miss Dempster.

(Continued from page 189.)


CHAPTER II.

FAIRY STORIES.


i.—The Fairy Changeling.

ONCE upon a time there was a tailor and his wife who owned a small croft, or farm, and were well-to-do in the world, but they had only one son, a child that was more pain than pleasure to them, for it cried incessantly, and was so cross that nothing could be done with it. One day the tailor and his helpmeet meant to go to a place some miles distant, and after giving the child its breakfast they put it to bed in the kitchen, and bid their farm-servant look to it from time to time, desiring him also to thrash out a small quantity of straw in the barn before their return. The lad was late setting to work, but recollected before going off to the barn that he must see if the child wanted for anything. "What are you going to do now?" said the bairn sharply to Donald as he opened the kitchen door. "Thrash out a pickle of straw for your father; lie still, and do not girn, like a gude bairn." But the bairn got out of bed, and insisted there and then on being allowed to accompany the servant. "Go east, Donald," said the little master authoritatively, "go east, and when you come to the big brae, chap ye (Anglicé, rap) three times, and when they come, say ye are seeking Johnnie's flail." The astonished Donald did as he was bid; and by rapping three times called up a fairy ("little man"), who, giving him the flail, sent him off in an unenviable state of terror. Johnnie set to with a will, and in an hour's time he and Donald had threshed the whole of the straw in the barn. He then sent Donald back to the brae, where the flail was restored with the same ceremony, and went quietly back to bed. At dusk the parents returned, and the admiration of the tailor at the quantity and quality of the work done was so great that he questioned Donald as to which of the neighbours had helped him to thresh out so much straw. Donald, trembling, confessed the truth, and it became painfully evident to the tailor and his wife that the child was none of theirs. They agreed to dislodge it as soon as possible, and chose as the best and quickest way of doing so to put it into a creel (open basket), and set it on the fire. No sooner said than done; but no sooner had the child felt the fire than, starting from the creel, it vanished up the chimney. A low crying noise at the door attracted their attention. They opened, and a bonny little bairn (which the mother recognised by its frock to be her own) stood shivering outside. It was welcomed with rapture from its sojourn among the "little people," and grew up to be a douce and wise-like lâd says my informant.

[In the Icelandic version of this tale the mother whips the changeling, on which the fairies come for the elf. Its name in Icelandic means "the father of eighteen elves."—See Powell and Magnusson's Icelandic Tales.

"They prefer the south sides of hills."—Lilly's Life and Times.

"He wha tills the fairie's green
Nae luck shall hae;
He wha spills the fairie's ring,
Betide him want and wae;
For weirdly days and weary nights
Are his till his deein' day."

—"Lowland Rhymes," see Chambers' Popular Rhymes, p. 324.

Turkish women put a turquoise ring on the child's finger as a charm to prevent mischief.]

ii.— Hill haunted by Faries.

The burn of Invernauld, and the hill of Durchâ, on the estate of Rose hall, are still believed to be haunted by fairies who once chased a man into the sea, and destroyed a new mill, because the earth for the embankment of the mill-dam had been dug from the side of their hill. The hill of Durchâ is also the locality assigned for the following tale:—


iii.—The Man who Danced with the Fairies.

A man whose wife had just been delivered of her first-born set off with a friend to the town of Tain to have the child's birth entered in the sessions-books, and to buy a cask of whiskey for the christening fete. As they returned, weary with a day's walk (or, as it is called in the highlands, with "travelling"), they sat down to rest at the foot of this hill, near a large hole, from which they were ere long astonished to hear a sound of piping and dancing. The father, feeling very curious, entered the cavern, went a few steps in, and disappeared. The story of his fate sounded less improbable then than it would now, but his companion was severely animadverted on, and when a week elapsed, and the baptism was over, and still no signs of the lost one's return, he was accused of having murdered his friend. He denied it, and again and again repeated the tale of his friend's disappearance down the cavern's mouth. He begged a year and a day's law to vindicate himself, if possible, and used to repair at dusk to the fatal spot, and there call and pray. The term allowed him had but one more day to run, and, as usual, he sat in the gloaming by the cavern, when what seemed as his friend's shadow passed within it. He leant down, heard reel-tunes and pipes, and suddenly descried the missing man tripping merrily with the fairies. He caught him by the sleeve, stopped him, and pulled him out. "Bless me! why could you not let me finish my reel, Sandy?" cried the dancer. "Bless me!" rejoined Sandy, "have you not had enough of reeling this last twelvemonth?" "Last twelvemonth!" cried the other in amazement; nor could he believe the truth concerning himself till he found his wife sitting by the door with a yearling child in her arms. So quickly does time pass in the company of the "good people."


iv.—Observations on Fairies, Kelpies, &c.

The Highlanders distinguish between the water and the land or "dressed fairies." In Wales the fairies of the mines are called "knockers": they are about one foot and a half in height; but the "Bergmann" "Berggeist," gnome, and kobold, with their subterranean treasures, grotesque proportions, and great strength, are "powers of darkness," not acknowledged or classified in Sutherland. I have given one story which shows that the fairies are supposed to be "spirits in prison." It is not the only legend of the kind. In a Ross-shire narrative a beautiful lady is represented as appearing to an old man who sat reading the Bible. She sought to know if for such as her the Holy Scriptures held out any hope of salvation. The old man spoke kindly to her, but said that in those pages there was no mention of salvation for any but the sinful sons of Adam. She flung her arms over her head, screamed, and plunged into the sea. Fairies will not steal a baptized child, and "Bless you" said to an unbaptized one acts as a charm against their power.

A woman when out shearing laid her baby down under a hedge, and went back from time to time to look at it. She was going once to give it suck, when it began to yell and cry in such a frightful way that she was quite alarmed. "Lay it down and leave it, as you value your child," said a man reaping near her. Half an hour later she came back, and, finding the child apparently in its right mind again, she gave it the breast. The man smiled, and told her that he had seen her own infant carried off by the "good people," and a fairy changeling left in its place. When the "folk" saw that their screaming little imp was not noticed, and would get nothing, they thought it best to take it back at once, and replace the little boy.—(Betsey Ross, Altass.)

As fairies are represented as having abundance of food, riches, power, and merriment at their command, it cannot be temporal advantages that they seek for their children, probably some spiritual ones are hoped for by adoption or by a marriage with human beings (as in the romantic legend of Undine), and they are therefore tempted to foist their evil-disposed little ones on us. They never maltreat those they carry away.


v.—The Fairy asking about his Salvation.

An old man sat in the gloaming by a dyke in Strath Oikel. It was Sunday evening; he read in a Gaelic Psalm-book, and he was alone. Suddenly he perceived that the mist had rolled up close to him, and he felt a cold sough or swirl of wind in his face, so strong that it made him look up. A voice called "Geordie, are you seeing anything there for us?" "No," he said, when there was a loud, an exceedingly loud and sharp cry, as of one in distress, which wailed away among the echoes of the rocks till it died up the valley.


vi.—Donald Gow and the Fairy Hunt.

Three conical hills all much of the same- shape and size, and of which two have the same name (Torr Berrichan), are the principal haunts of the fairies in Sutherland. They are of the kind called "Dressed fairies," affecting green clothes, horns, bagpipes, reel-tunes, and hounds. They hunt three or four days in the week, and have their meets and morts like their betters. Donald Gow, as he sat resting after ploughing, once heard the hunt, and all "the horns of elfland" faintly blowing. Two strange-looking hounds, with hanging tongues and forbidding aspects, bounded up to him and sniffed at his knee. He was horribly frightened, when a voice cried, "Down! It's only old Donald Gow! Let him be."—(W. Graham's sister.)


vii.—A Badenoch Fairy.

Duncan, surnamed Mohr, a respectable farmer in Badenoch, states as follows:—A matter of thirty summers ago, when I was cutting peats on the hill, my old mother that was was keeping the house. It was sowens that she had in her hand for our supper, when a little old woman walked in, and begged a lippie of meal of her. My mother not knowing her face, said, "And which of the glens do you come from?" "I come from our own place, and am short of meal." My mother, who had plenty in the house, spake her civil, and bound her the meal on her back, following her a few steps from the door. She noticed that a little kiln on the hillside was smoking. The wifie saw this, too, and said, "Take back your meal; we shall soon have meal of our own." My mother pressed ours on her; but she left the poke lying, and when she came to the running burn she went out of sight. So my mother just judged that it was a fairy.


viii.—The Man who Flew with the Fairies.

Five generations ago two men were walking on a Thursday morning to attend the sacramental preachings in the parish of Dornoch, to which one of them now belonged. The other was a native of Lairg. G. (the Dornoch man) asked the other of his welfare, who replied that his health, under Providence, was but middling. "Rory," said G., "I would like to hear of yourself concerning a point that troubles me," "And what is that?" "They say that you are now taken up with creatures which we are little acquainted with." Rory could not deny the impeachment, but confessed that he was in the power of the "little people," that they called him away at any time, carrying him off, when he flew like a bird, having once been as high as the steeple of Dornoch cathedral, spending sometimes weeks, sometimes days and nights, in their society. G. inquired anxiously what they gave him to eat, when he replied that the food was much the same as he had at home, but that everything—beef, bread, or fish—had the same taste, and was like so much cork. This is all of their conversation that has been recovered. My informant, an old woman, had it from her grandfather, whose grandfather is the G. of the tale.

CHAPTER III.

OF WITCHES AND KELPIES.


i.—The Wakes of Loch Manaar.

Once upon a time in Strathnaver there lived a woman who was both poor and old. She was able to do many wonderful things by the power of a white stone which she possessed, and which had come to her by inheritance.

One of the Gordons of Strathnaver having a thing to do wished to have both her white stone, and the power of it. When he saw that she would not lend it or give it up he determined to seize her, and to drown her in a little loch. The man and the woman struggled there for a long time, till he took up a heavy stone with which to kill her. She plunged into the lake, throwing her magic stone before her, and crying, "May it do good to all created things save to a Gordon of Strathnaver." He stoned her to death in the water, she crying, "Manaar! wawaar!"("Shame! shame!") And the loch is called the Lake of Shame to this day.


ii.—Lauchlin-Dhumohr and the Witch.

It came to pass that at a feast, when Fhion or Fin Maccoul or Fingal sat at meat with the giants that were his companions, he passed round to each the cup from which he drank—to all but to Dhumohr, the darkest man of all, the third for strength, and of great courage. So Dhumohr's anger rose in his breast, and he left the place and the service of Fhion, and took ship to Denmark, to the place where Lauchlin, the enemy of Fhion, lived. Wild was the shore in the land of Lauchlin, and great the waves, but the ship of Dhumohr came safe to land, and he pulled her up with his right hand till she was high on the beach. "Who is this?" said the men of Lauchlin. "This is one of the heroes of Fhion. When he comes we shall know him by his face." And they found that it was Dhumohr, third in strength of all the men of Morven.

Then Lauchlin made a feast of heroes, and Dhumohr sat by the queen (for he had made his head and his arm over to the foes of Fingal). "Let the feast be served," said the king, and the table creaked with the weight of the venison, and the hall was filled with music. "Did you ever see such feasting, or hear such music before with Fingal, tell us, Dhumohr?" said Lauchlin. "Lower not the land, though we have left it," said Dhumohr aside to his servant, and then to the king. "In Morven, Lauchlin! every servant of Fhion could eat such a feast, or carry it all unassisted." "Bring more," said the king, astonished; and the table was served more largely.

"Did you ever feast, then, so largely with Fingal?" said the queen, with a smile at Lauchlin. "Every night, at the supper of Fingal, the dogs eat the remainder, and their portion is greater than this." "Then bring more," said Lauchlin, in anger; and the table was still served more largely, till the room would not hold all the dishes. "Tell us, Dhumohr," said the king, "if so great is the supper of Fingal?" "A greater portion than this eat daily three servants of Fingal." Then the queen said to Lauchlin, "Never will I speak with you more till you fetch me, bound (for my servants) from Morven, these three servants of Fingal." But in Denmark there was no man would venture, nor would Dhumohr serve against Fingal.

At last the witch in the kitchen, that lived on the floor among the ashes, rose up and said to Lauchlin, that if he would feed her, and keep her, she would bring to the queen, captive from Scotland, the three great servants of Fingal. "The sea is rough, and the men are strong," said Dhumohr, "that fight with Fingal in Morven, and you will lose that old grey hare, if she ventures."

The breath of the witch in Scotland killed 800,000 men; but at Nigg, in Ross-shire, she was taken, and on this wise:[1]—Twenty men with sharp spears lay in wait in a cave, and twenty giants with spears drove her into it, and she died on the points of twenty spears.

So the old grey hare never returned to Lauchlin. And as for Dhumohr, he died in Denmark.

(N.B.—The witch ate before starting nine bolls of oats, and nine stone of butter.)—(D. M., Stack.)

iii.—The Lord's Prayer.

Kerstie, the witch of PortMahomack, killed both the wives of the minister of the parish in succession within a year after their marriage. Dr. B. was told that she was to blame for it, nor did she deny the accusation. "Then, Kerstie," said the doctor, "if you had been to kill anybody I wish you had taken me first." "But I had no power over you," said the witch, "for when you close your eyes at night, it is aye with the Lord's Prayer, and when you open them again in the morning it is with the same prayer."—(Miss Fraser, Dornoch.)


iv.—The Vaugh, the Poacher, and the Dog.

Once upon a time two men at Inveran were in the habit of poaching in the Shin, and they carried on their depredations in this way:—When they had reason to believe that there was a fish in any pool they dragged it with a small net, one man holding it on one side till his companion caught the rope tied to a stone which was flung to him. They repaired to the place singly so as to avoid suspicion. One night John threw the rope across the pool, and called to his friend as he did so. He received the usual whistle in reply; and having dragged the pool, pulled a fine salmon ashore. Again he drew the net, and again his prize was a beautiful fish. The third time the result was the same. And then it dawned on John's guilty mind that his accomplice on the present occasion could be no less than the Vaugh of the Shin. He caught up net and salmon, and calling his dog to follow him, ran off as hard as he could. "Halves I Ian," cried a voice; and lo! the Vaugh was at his side, revolting in face, and dressed in green. A struggle began, for Ian was not inclined to part with the wages of iniquity. The dog at last disposed of the Vaugh, but he lost all his hair in the scuffle. The poacher became grey from terror in a single night, and we have reason to believe he did not again visit the pools of the Shin after dusk for any illicit purposes.—(D. M., Stack)

[Vaugh-vie in Little Russia is a kobold, or nixie.]

v.—The Vaugh of the Laxford.

She seems to have been rather migratory in her habits, for it was by a loch on the south side of Ben Stack tliat a man met her. Now this man had a large white and yellow dog which his neighbours had often advised him to kill, as it had the "bad name" which is fatal to one of his species. However, it proved useful on this occasion, for it attacked the Vaugh. Whether from his size and courage, or from being, as was supposed, a devil, he prevailed. Both woman and dog fell over the steep terraces of the north side of the hill, where they disappeared.—(J. Macleod, Laxford.)

[Some ascribe this feat to DonaldDuival Mackay.]


vi.—The Mohr Bhain,

An Assynt witch—but the stories of her are disjointed and half-forgotten, excepting the circumstances of her death by strangulation.

Some boys attacked her one Sunday, and fastened a rope to her neck. She struggled, and managed to get them outside the door, but the knot in the rope would not yield, and, as they continued dragging it, the unfortunate creature died, predicting for them and for their descendants violent or self-inflicted deaths. The story is well-known, and the last inheritor of the curse was drowned not many years ago, the rest having in the interim all perished: one hung himself, another fell over a precipice. Another was lost at sea, and so on. The memory of the Mohr Bhain lives, but her manes are now appeased.


vii.—The Vaugh of MoulinnaVuagha.

[Vaugh, or Baugh, is a water-fairy, attached to this mill. The word is spelt "fouah" in the maps and survey of the estate made when it was bought by Captain J. Hamilton Dempster.

This story was told by widow Mary Calder, a pauper, in Gaelic, to D. M., gamekeeper, and transcribed by him for C. H. D.]

One of John Ray Bethune's forbears, who lived at Inveran, laid a bet that he would seize the kelpie of MoulinnaVaugha, or Moulinna Glannan, and bring her bound to the inn at Inveran. He procured a "brown, right-sided maned horse," and a brown black-muzzled dog, and by the help of the latter, having secured the Vaugh, he tied her on the horse behind him, and galloped away. She was very fierce, but he kept her quiet by pinning her down with an awl and a needle. Crossing the burn at the further side of Loch Migdall, she became so restless that he stuck the shoemaker's and the tailor's weapons into her with great violence. She cried out, "Och! och! cur anum am minme crourm; L' cum asum au' hail chiul rouach" which is, being interpreted, "Pierce me with the crooked awl, but keep that small sharp needle out of me."

When he reached the clachan of Inveran, where his companions were anxiously waiting for him, he called out to them to come out and see the Vaugh. Then they came out, with lights, but as the light fell upon her she dropped off, and fell to earth, like the remains of a fallen star,—a small lump of jelly.

[These jellies are often seen on the moors, and are called "dropped stars."]


viii.—The Brolachan Mac Vaugh.

In the MoulinnaGleannan there lived long ago a cripple of the name of Murray; better known as AllaynaMoulin. He was maintained by the charity of the miller, and of his neighbours, who, when they removed their meal, put each a handful into the lamiter's bag. This lad slept usually in the mill, and it came to pass that one night who should enter but the brolachan, the son of the Vaugh. Now the brolachan has eyes and a mouth, and can say two words only, "myself" and "yourself." Besides that he has no speech, and also no shape. He lay all his lubber length by the dying fire, and Murray threw a fresh peat on the embers, which made them fly about, red-hot, till brolachan was severely burnt. So he screamed in an awful way, and soon comes the Vaugh, very fierce, crying, "Och! my brolachan, who then burnt you?" But all he could say was "me," and then he said "you"; and she replied, "Were it any other, would not I be revenged." Murray slipped the peck measure over himself, and hid among the machinery, so as to look as like a sack as possible, ejaculating at times, "May the Lord preserve me." So he escaped unhurt, and the Vaugh and her brolachan left the mill.

That same night a woman, going by the place, was chased by the still infuriated parent, and could not have been saved had she not been nimble enough to reach her own door in time to leave nothing for the Vaugh to catch but her heel. This heel was torn off, and the woman went lame all the rest of her days.—(Widow M. Calder.)

[This creature is called a glashan, or brounie, in the Isle of Man. At Skipness, in Argyllshire, he is called grugach. He is the boneless bug or goblin mentioned by Reginald Scot in his Witchcraft.']


ix.—The Cailleach Mohr of Clibrek.

This great witch was once suspected of having enchanted all the deer of the Reay forest, by which means they became bullet-proof. Lord Reay, who was exceedingly angry, was yet at a loss how to remedy the evil, or to break the spell. His man, William, promised to find out all about it. He watched the witch for a whole night, and by some counter-spell contrived to be present in the morning, when he detected her milking the hinds. They stood about round the door of her hut, but one of them took a fancy to a skein of blue worsted that hung from a nail, and ate it. The witch, in a rage, struck the animal. "Ah!" she cried, "the spell is off you now, and Lord Reay's bullet will be your death to-day." William repeated this to his master, who would, however, hardly believe that he had spent the night in the hut of the great witch. But a fine hind was ' shot that very day, and a hank of blue yarn found in her stomach established at once the reputation of the servant and of the Calleach mohr of Ben Clibrek.

William determined to pay her another visit, well-knowing that this wicked old woman, though very rich, never gave anything away, and had never asked any one to sit down in her house. He accordingly walked into her kitchen. She turned round, and craved to know the stranger's name and his destination. "I come from the south, and I am going to the north," he answered curtly. "But what is your name?" "My name is William Sitdoun." "Sit-doun!" she repeated: whereupon he flung himself into a chair. She gave an angry cry. "This do I willingly," he said, "when the mistress bids me." She was very much provoked, and taking out a bannock, as white and as round as the moon, began to eat without taking any more notice of him. "Your piece seems a dry one, mistress," he said at last. "Ah, the fat side is towards me," gruffly answered the witch, who had indeed spread one side with butter almost an inch thick. "The side that is to you shall be to me," cried William, and, making a dash at the cake, he ran out of the hut, carrying the witch's supper with him as a trophy. The old woman began to curse, and to hope that the morsel might kill him; but William was too wise to eat anything that was fashioned by such uncanny hands. The witch it was who ate up in a fury all that her visitor did not carry off, so she died of her unhallowed meal, to the great joy of Lord Reay and of all her neighbours.


x.—Magical disappearance of a Witch.

A herd-woman of the parish of Criech had "that coming to see her which we dare not name." One Saturday morning she was observed to dress herself with great care, as if for church. Her daughter said, "Why, mother, it is not Sabbath to-day." "No," she said, "but I am going out to meet a man I am acquainted wi'." The neighbours, thinking this suspicious, followed her, but when she came to the Alt-na-Criech, a rough, rapid burn, she went out of sight, and was never seen again, nor were her clothes recovered, which her family seemed to consider as the greater misfortune of the two.—(Peggy Munroe.)


xi.—Wise Man of the Rock.

A boddach, or wise-man, lives in a rock called The Raven's, in one of our woods. He frightens people extremely in the evening (the rock commands a long hill on the road), but there is no proof that he has killed any one as yet.—(D. M.)

xii.—The Banshee, or Vaugh, or Weird Woman of the Water.

Four or five miles from Skibo there is a lake called Migdall, with a great granite rock of the same name to the north, of it. At one end a burn runs out past MoulinnaVauglia, or the kelpie's mill. It is also haunted by this banshee, which the miller's wife saw about three years ago. She was sitting on a stone, quiet, and beautifully dressed in green silk, the sleeves of which were curiously puffed from the wrist to the shoulder. Her long hair was yellow, like ripe corn, but on a nearer view she turned out to have no nose.—(Miller's wife.)


xiii.—The Web-footed Kelpie.

A very old, coarse, and dirty banshee belongs to a small sheep-farm of Mr. Dempster's. A shepherd found her lying, apparently crippled, at the edge of a moss, and compassionately offered her a lift on his back. In going, he espied her feet, which were dangling down his back, and seeing she was web-footed, he threw her off, flung away the plaid on which she had lain, and ran as if for his life.

A weird woman, magnificently adorned, with gold and silken gear, was once seen by our old keeper running violently down a steep brae, on the east side of the river Shin. She disappeared in one of its deepest pools, but not before she had been seen by half-a-dozen trustworthy witnesses.


xiii.—Water-Kelpies.

The Highlanders distinguish between these fairies (dressed fairies) and the water-kelpies, who are more unmitigatedly mischievous in their tendencies. The kelpies preside over mills and fords, where they do a great deal of harm.

One William Monroe, and the grandfather of the person from whom we have this story, were one night leading half-a-dozen pack-horses across a ford in the Oikel, on their way to a mill. When they neared the river-bank, a horrid scream from the water struck their ears. "It is the Vaugh," cried the lad, who was leading the first horse; and, picking up some stones, he sent a shower of them into the deep pool at his feet. She must have been repeatedly hit, as she emitted a series of the most piercing shrieks. "I am afraid," said Monroe, "that you have not done that right, and that she will play us an ugly trick at the ford." "Never mind, we will take more stones," he answered, arming himself with a few. But the kelpie had had enough of stones for one night.—(D. Murray, Stack.)


xiv.—Honeysuckle as a Charm against Witchcraft.

Honeysuckle has great power against witchcraft, and it should be worn by women with child. Our gamekeeper's wife tells me she has often seen a piece stitched inside the body of a gown.


CHAPTER IV.

GOOD AND BAD SERPENTS.


i.—Farquhar the Physician.

Now Farquhar was one time a drover in the Reay country, and he went from Glen Gollich to England to sell a drove of black cattle, and the staff that he had in his hand as he walked was hazel. One day a doctor met him." "What's that," he said, "you have in your hand?" "It is a staff of hazel." "And where did you cut that?" "In Glengollig north, in Lord Reay's country." "Do you mind the place and the tree?" "That I do." "Could you get the tree?" "Easy." "Well, I will give you gold more than ye can lift if ye will go back there and bring me a wand of that hazel-tree; and take this bottle, and bring me something more, and I will give ye gold as much again. Watch at the hole at the foot, and put the bottle to it. Let the six serpents go that come out first, but put the seventh into the bottle, and tell no man, but come back straight with it here." So Farquhar went back to the hazel glen alone, and when he had cut some boughs off the tree he looked about for the hole that the doctor spoke of. A hole there was, and Farquhar sat to watch it; and what should come out but six serpents, brown and barred like adders. These he let go, and clapped the bottle to the hole's mouth to see would anything more come out. By-and-by a white snake came rolling through. Farquhar had him in the bottle in a minute, tied him down, and hurried back to England with him.

The doctor gave him siller enough to buy the Reay country, but asked him to stay and help him with the white snake. They lit a fire with the hazel-sticks, and put the snake into a pot to boil; the doctor then bid Farquhar watch it, and not let any one touch it, and not to let the steam escape (for fear, he said, folk might know what they were at). He wrapped paper round the pot-lid; but he had not made all straight, for when the water began to boil the steam began to come out at one place. Well, Farquhar saw this, and thought he would push the paper down round the thing; so he put his finger to the bit that was wet, and then his finger into his mouth, for it was wet with the bree. Lo! he knew everything, and the eyes of his mind were opened. "I will keep it quiet though," he said to himself. Presently the doctor came back, and took the pot from the fire. He lifted the lid, and, dipping his finger in the steam drops, sucked it. But the virtue had gone out of it, and it was no more than water to him. "Who has done this?" he cried, and saw in Farquhar's face that it was he. "Since you have taken the bree of it, take the flesh too," he said in a rage, and threw the pot at him (ma dohl us a sugh ith n' fheol).

Now Farquhar had become all wise, and he set up as a doctor, and there was no secret hid from him, and nothing that he could not cure. He went from place to place and healed them, so that they called him Farquhar the physician. Now he heard that the king was sick, so he went to the city of the king to know what would ail him. It was his knee, said all the folk, and he has many doctors, and pays them all greatly, and whiles they can give him relief, but not for long, and then it is worse than ever with him, and you can hear him roar and cry with the pain that is in his knee, and in the bone of it. One day Farquhar walked up and down before king's house (N'daol dubh, vis a' chnaumh gheal). "The black beetle to the white bone," he cried out. The people looked at him, and said that the strange man of the Reay country was through other (mad). The next day Farquhar stood at the gate, and cried, "The black beetle to the white bone." And the king sent to know who it was that cried outside, and what was his business. "The man," they said, "was a stranger, and men called him the physician." So the king, who was wild with pain, said to call him in, and Farquhar stood before the king and aye. "The black beetle to the white bone," said he. And so it was proved. The doctors, to keep the king ill and get their money, put at whiles a black beetle into the wound which the king had in his knee; and the beast was eating his bone and his flesh, and made him to cry day and night. Then the doctors took it out again for fear he should die; and when he was better they put it back again that it might eat him more. This Farquhar. knew by the serpent's wisdom that he had whenever he laid his finger under his teeth. And the king was cured, and had all the doctors hung. Then he said to Farquhar that he would give him lands or gold or whatever he asked. Then Farquhar asked him the king's daughter, and all the isles that the sea runs round from Point of Storr to Stromness in the Orkneys. So the king gave him a grant of all the isles. But Farquhar the physician never came to be Farquhar the king, for he had an ill-wisher that poisoned him, and he died.—(J. MacLeod, Laxford.)

[I have taken the story as it was told me, bad grammar and all, and got the chief sentences in Gaelic. It was by serpents' tree that Michael Scott got his knowledge, and the wisdom of the mouth is said, in county Clare, to have belonged to Fingal, who began life as a herd-boy on the Shin. Some giants came to him one day, and bade him roast a fish for them, threatening to kill him if he burnt it. He did so on one small spot. On this spot he quickly put his finger, and as quickly transferred the hot finger to his mouth (putting it under his teeth). A gift of omniscience was the result, and this quality became the foundation of his future greatness. Cassandra had been licked by a serpent before she became a prophetess.]

ii.— The Dragon of Loch CorrieMohr.

At Loch CorrieMohr there lived for many years a flying serpent, so terrible and wild that nobody could fish in the loch, nor come within a mile of it. At last one summer, when there was a drought and a dearth, a man said to his son, "Let us go and fish in Loch CorrieMhor, and maybe the serpent will not heed us." So they went; but they had not made two casts when they see her coming, swimming across the loch. The man said, "It is time we should be out of this." And they ran together, but the serpent outran them, and they could feel her hot breath. "Run you, my son, for my hour is come," said the man. So the lad fled, and his father went up into a tree, having put his cap upon his sword, and struck that into the trees root, hoping to frighten the beast. But she snuffed at the cap, and knocked down the sword, and began to wind round the tree. Then he began to shoot arrows at her; but she pulled them out with her teeth as fast as he put them into her. The last arrow had an iron head and two barbs, and was of the kind which men call saidth baiseh, or the death arrow, which they do not part with till the last struggle. Just as the serpent reached him, and opened her jaws to seize his feet, he shot at her open jaws with the two-barbed dart. It fastened there, and could not be pulled out. So, after a struggle, the terrible beast died, and the man got home to tell the tale.

N.B.—A whole kid was taken out of the serpent at her death.—(D. M., Stack.)


iii.—The Two Dragons on Loch Merkland.

There were a pair of dragons, one of them had wings and another had not. They lived one on each side of the loch. They were in girth about twice that of a man, and the flying one roared so as to be heard a mile off. A carrier killed the one and a soldier the other and rendered the place safe for travellers.—(J. MacLeod.)

[The wings with which dragons are endowed are only the emblem of the promptitude with which the serpent pounces on his prey, or in order to seize it gets into trees.—The Philosophy of Magic, by Eusébe Salverte.]

CHAPTER V.

OF DREAMS AND OF GOOD AND BAD LUCK.


Lucky Dreams.

Lucky to dream of deer.

Lucky to dream of blue.

Unlucky to dream of red.

Unlucky to dream of white.

Unlucky to dream of yellow.

Unlucky to dream of waves close to you.

Unlucky to dream of water.

Unlucky to dream of babies.

Unlucky to dream of copper money.

Unlucky to dream of a serpent or of its sting.

Unlucky to dream of black.

Unlucky to dream of green.

Unlucky to dream of the sea.


Lucky Omens.

To have a mole on the body.

To be the seventh son in a family where there are no daughters.

To let a thing drop into the fire from your hand.

To sneeze.

To find and pick up a pin.

To find and pick up a horseshoe.

To wash a baby with a piece of gold in its hand.

To have new clothes on New Year's Day.

To see a person of the opposite sex first on New Year's Day.


Unlucky Omens.

To see the new moon through a pane of glass.

To see the first lamb of the year with its tail towards you.

To turn to the left.

To hear furniture cracking (this means removal).

To destroy a swallow's nest.

To break a glass or cup.

To bake bread while a corpse is in the house.

To see a woman the first thing on New Year's Day.

To turn back when you have started on a journey.

To hear a dog howl at night.

To see the candle go out suddenly, leaving the room in darkness.

To stumble in going into a house.

To meet a hare or an old woman.

[A Breton peasant takes off his hat to the new moon, and calls her madame, repeating a pater.

In Greece it is believed that you can get what you wish for when you first see the new moon.

In Brittany the peasants think bread baked on St. Thomas' Day turns bad; but bread baked on Christmas Eve will keep for ten years. They think Thursday and Saturday as lucky as Friday is the reverse.]

Thursday and Saturday are good days for women born in April. Friday and Monday are unlucky days.

A servant-maid will not go to a new situation on Monday.

It is very unlucky to turn the mattrass of a sick person on Friday night.

A tree planted on Friday never thrives.

A boat launched on Friday sinks.

A vessel ought to sail on Sunday, and start by going round in the direction of the sun.

[In the valley of the Garonne "a Friday tree" means an enterprise that has miscarried, a marriage that has turned out badly.

"Among the Finns whoever undertakes any business on a Monday must expect very little success."—Tooke's Russia.]

Three very unlucky Mondays:

First Monday in April, when Cain was born and Abel slain.
Second Monday in August, when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.
Last Monday in December, when Judas was born.

W. L. Burleigh's Precepts to his Sonne, 1636.

Silver.

A new-born infant must be washed with a piece of silver in the water: the larger the sum the better the luck. The midwife's fee of five shillings is generally put in the bath; but to make matters safe, in poor houses, where there is no fee, the midwife wears a silver ring.

[In Russia children are generally baptised in a silver font. A rich Greek merchant will make a point if this for luck, and even a Presbyterian minister will use a silver basin at a christening.]


Miscellaneous Sayings, &c.

"Deine nan seachd satharn ort!" or, "The fag end of seven Saturdays befall you!" You must not wish evil to the fairies, or indeed say any harm of them, except on a Friday. On that day they are "at home," and not anywhere in man's vicinity (witches' sabbath), then say, "Beannachd nan suibhal a's nan imeachd! Sé 'n diugh di n'aoin, cha, chlimm iod Linne"; or "Blessed (ironical) be their travelling and their departing! This day is Friday, and they do not hear us. "Bithidh di h'aoin au aghaid na seachain," or, "Friday is contrary to the week."


Of the Weather.

If February is mild, the winter is past. A gloomy Friday makes a wet Saturday. A fair Sabbath a fair week. When the sun shines in the evening of a very rainy day they say, "Am fear a wharbhadh a mhathair a chianamh bheireadh e veò nois "; or, "The man who killed his mother is now trying to bring her alive again." Of the winds they say, "Gaoth a deas, teas, ajus, toradh. Gaoth au rar vasg is bainne. Gaoth a tuath, fuachd is gaillshion. Gaoth au carmeas air crannaibhe"; or, "The south wind brings warmth and fertility, the west fish and milk, the north cold and storm, the east fruitfulness of trees."

CHAPTER VI.

RIDDLES AND RHYMES.


Riddles.

What comes, and goes, and yet never leaves the spot?—(A door.)

[" Qu'est ce qui va, qui vient, et ne quitte pas sa place."—(Les Soirees Amusantes. Par Attigny. Ardennes, 1856.)]

A little white house, well shaped but without doors or windows. — (An egg.)

I see to me,

I see from me,

Two miles over the sea,

A little blue man.

In a green boatee:

His shui; is lined with a skein of red.—(The rainbow.)

The lad that eats his own flesh and drinks his own blood.—(A candle.)

[De qu'es acò? De qu'es acò?

Que bien soun sang

E minja sous budels?—Dialect of Lower Languedoc.]

Three times four and four times three.

That make only two and four.— (24.)


Poetical Sayings. (Older than 1750.)

1.

Tha è nios air slige firimn.

He is now on the journey of truth—viz. dying.

2.

Tha è mios air ford na firimn. He lies now under the turf of truth.

3.

Uigh air uigh thig an t-slaint, 's na torma mòr au ca slainte— or, Health comes gradually, but in huge billows cometh ailment.

4.

Thig ail fhren a mach le tutaist—or,
Truth will come out with misfortune.


5.

Thig math a mulad.
Good comes out of sadness.

6.

"Après moi le deluge." In Gaelic,
Nuair Chios mise thall, gearr an drochaid.
Break the bridge when I have got over it.


7.

Yesterday, a woman said to me of a poor girl dying slowly of consumption, —"Oh, poor lassie, I am thinking she is just passing her time."


8.

An indifferent matter is like the Sunday-plucked herb; it does neither good nor harm: or, "Mar lus au' donaich gun auhath na dolaihd aun."


9.

Green are the hillocks that are far distant.


A Rhyme.

Ka falbh diluan,
Lua gluais di mairt
Tha dicendein craobhach,
Is tha dirdavin dilach
Di-h, aoue cha'n 'eile buag hail
'S cha dual dhurt falbh a mairach.

Say this to any one leaving on Saturday.


An Evil Proverb.

"Math air seaun duine, math air fall duine, is math air beanaibh beagh, tri mathau cailte."—Namely,

Good done to an old man, a bad man, and a little infant, are three goods cast away.

A Local Rhyme.

There is a caillaich in Skibo,
There is two in Ardalie,
There is three in' Kirkton.
And four in Culmailie.
Chorus—And they long live,
They long live;
They long live, the Carlins!


CHAPTER VII.

SECOND SIGHT.


i.—The Road.

A carpenter assures us that when he was a boy, in Assynt, he was one day herding sheep on the limestone cliffs of Stronchrubie (which commands the head of Loch Assynt), when he beheld a four-wheeled carriage (a thing he had never seen in his life), with a pair of horses, and harness that shone in the sun, coming down at a quick pace a spur of one of the most rugged hills in Sutherland (Glashbhein). He thought no more of the apparition, though it was sufficiently wonderful, considering that on that side of the loch there was not a yard of road. He left Assynt, nor did he return there till a very few years ago, when the road that now runs from Assynt to GlenDhu was made.

One day, lying again above the tarn, he saw an open carriage and pair of horses come quickly along the new road, at the very spot where his prophetical vehicle had, thirty years before, crossed the steep incline, from Glashbhein to the lake.—(Graham.)


ii.— The Funeral Procession.

On an autumn evening, one of our tenants was standing at his own door, when he saw a funeral coming along the road. So common are such warnings in this country that he paid it comparatively little attention, till a man distinguished from the others, by wearing whitish trousers, stepped out of the ranks, and ran across the grass in front of the house as if to speak to him. Then the figure vanished, and my friend went to bed. Next day, at twelve o'clock, a funeral did pass Mr. _____'s door. This was not strange; but it is a fact, and a curious one, that a man in whitish trousers, a friend from a distant part of the county, did leave the procession, and walking quickly across the grass, shook hands with G., and asked after his health and family. — (Graham, Cuthil.)

X. came to ask a tenant of ours to cross the ferry with him, and to go to Tain, for the fair held there. The man refused, because he had been warned of God in a dream that many would be drowned by the capsizing of the boat. X. laughed at him, went to Tain, and was among the eighty-eight persons drowned the following day. This happened on 16th August, 1809.


iii. — Warning of Death.

A miller, of the name of Munro (a tenant and clansman of Mr. Munro of Novar), added to his calling the lawful one of carpenter and the unlawful one of distiller of whisky. One Saturday evening late he was drying and preparing some malt in the mill. His wife had gone to bed, but had left, as he found when his work was finished, a good fire in the room (not the kitchen) from which their bed-closet opened. To his horror he found a corpse, or its similitude, lying, as X. says, in linens, below the window. He looked at it for some lime, feeling very sad (he had often had board-rattling and warnings of coffins required in the neighbourhood) : he did not like to pass it, but, going by the other side of the fire, slipped into the little room where his wife slept. He undressed, but looked out again to see if the horrid occupant of his house was still there, which it was, stiff, and white, and still. In the morning of course it had vanished; but it had a great effect on Munro, and when X. met him eight days after he thought him looking grave and unwell. Six days later word came to X. to come quickly to Mrs. Munro, for the mill-stone had broken suddenly, and her husband and a lad who worked with him had both been killed by the fragments. X. made what arrangements he could, but being a contractor and master mason it was impossible for him to get up to the mill that day. Next day, however, he went to the bye-wake, and started painfully on going into the room to see poor Munro's mangled body, rolled in fair linen cloths, and lying under the window, to the right of the fire, in the same spot where the dead man had seen the warning repose.

X. was the only person to whom the miller had told the vision (which he had concealed from his wife), and he has never forgotten the fate of his poor friend.—(Graham.)


iv.—The Hour and the Man.

Some workmen, trenching by the side of a river in Sutherland long, long ago, heard, one day, an unearthly voice cry: "The hour is come, but not the man." Half-an-hour later they descried a man running at full speed, as if with the intention of crossing the stream. One of them started off to try and intercept him, because the river was then in "speat," or "spate," and he was very likely, from his haste, to plunge in without noticing how heavily it was running. The man, a stranger, seemed eager and breathless, and, indeed, what is called "fey," for he refused to listen to the workmen, and shook them off. They, familiar with the pools and shallows of the river, used force to prevent his running so great a risk; and finding he would not listen to reason, they carried him off, and locked him up in our Lady's Chapel, not far off. Thither they returned to seek him, when work hours were over, and, to their horror, found that he had drowned himself in the font. The "man" could not pass his "hour."—(Dell.)


v.—A Wraith.

Farther on there is a hill covered with birch and oak copse, through which the high-road to Bonar Bridge also passes. One morning, in winter, and in deep snow, a man, proceeding slowly westward, saw ahead of him another man in a long hooded cloak of blue homespun. He recognised him, though the figure had its back to him, to be the father of one of our small tenants, a man of the name of Murray. Eager to overtake him, the traveller quickened his pace, but it was not easy to make much way in the snow, which was a good deal drifted, but in which he now saw, to his horror, the man in front of him had left no foot-marks. He then ran, getting nearly alongside the supposed Murray, and called to him, when the apparition vanished.

[An architect, residing in Glasgow, required to see his friend and partner, Mr. H., who resided at a short distance. Mr. T., the architect, started to walk to the house, and was delighted, in a lane near the dwelling of Mr. H., to see that his friend was coming towards him on foot. The number of yards between them was so few that T. was amazed to perceive that Mr. H., instead of drawing nearer, turned, opened the wicket-gate of the shrubbery of his house, and disappeared. T. was vexed, as the business was pressing, but was almost immediately shown into the library, where, to his amazement, Mr. H. sat in his dressing-gown and slippers. He had not left his house or room that day.

Mrs. G. A., having just parted from a relative who was on his way to India, was amazed to see him seated on the sofa in her room. She never doubted the reality of his presence, as he moved and seemed about to speak. The room was found to be empty, and she fainted.

J. de L., when busy at his desk, saw a friend, whom he believed to be in Oxford, walk past the window. An hour later he was summoned by the mother of this friend, who had just been drowned at Oxford.]


CHAPTER VIII.

SUPERSTITIONS.


i. — The Triple Jewel of Ben Stack.

At midnight, in a stormy season and on a "fearsome" night, Donald Murray saw blazing on the north side of Ben Stack, where three streams fall straight down from the brows of the hill, a triple light, one above the other, the highest being brightest. It has been seen before, and he says it is a diamond, and sacred, probably, to some powers of storm and darkness.

[A hill near Loch Maree is named Ben Ailleagan: a jewel.

Jewels in general figure but little in Highland lore; but the jewel of Gemshid pales before the three-fold diamond of Ben Stack.]


ii.—The Spectral Hosts.

Part of the estate of Embo, recently bought by the Duke of Sutherland, consists of an open moor sloping almost to the sea. On this piece of ground spectral hosts have been repeatedly seen charging and repulsing each other, and people crossing the moor have been noticed by others to be surrounded by these armies, of which they themselves saw nothing. It is most common before sunrise, and may be supposed (though the country people think it uncanny) to resemble the figures seen by travellers in the Erzegebirge.—(Miss Leslie, Dornoch.)


iii.—AltnaHierinn, or The Burn of the Maiden.

One of the march burns here has this name because tradition says that a girl was once murdered beside it; under what circumstances I do not know. She haunts it still; and this spring a spectral dog and man were observed near it. All parties agree that on the spot on which her blood was spilt the snow never lies; it is exposed summer and winter, night and day, to the angry eye of heaven.—(Peggy Munro, Achlach.)


The Sea.

In 1806 a number of people were drowned at the Mickel ferry (between Ross and Sutherland) owing to overloading the boat. On the anniversary of this accident nothing could have induced our gamekeeper to draw his net in a little arm of Skibo, and near the said ferry. I do not know what he was afraid of; perhaps of some misfortune to himself, certainly of bad luck in his fishing, or he may have had some lingering fear of drawing in a dead body.—(D. M.)

The sea, they say, does not always cast up those who have been drowned either by accident (as falling from a rock or pier) or by stress of weather; but the corpse of one murdered and thrown into it is sure to float ashore. "The sea will not keep what it did not seek."—(Matheson, Clackmore.)

Tide.

Death is looked for early in the morning—between twelve and two; but it is also looked for as the tide recedes.


The Wraith.

Before a death the wraith is often heard in the carpenter's shops selecting boards for the coffin. Linen for the shroud is said to be chosen with equal care by the provident spirit. But the rattling of board and tools may be considered a sign of rapidly approaching dissolution.


Death Struggle.[2]

They open the door during the death struggle to facilitate the departure of the spirit. A plate of salt is often laid on the dead body, which it is the custom to watch with candles.


Passing and Funeral Bell.

Old people remember when it was the custom for a man to walk alongside of a funeral ringing a bell (to drive away evil spirits); and when the earth began to be shovelled into the grave the church bells, which had been slowly tolling, rang out a loud violent peal; I believe with a view of warning the devil more effectually off the premises.—(R. Gordon.)


Omens of Death.

Some days before the death of Dr. Bethune, some time minister of the parish of Dornoch (1816), a large cormorant was observed sitting on the steeple of the cathedral church. The whole town took this as a sign that the incumbent was not long for this world. One of the same birds was seen flying and lighting on parts of the building in 1850. The vulgar predicted from this a similar event, and the result justified the saying, for the then clergyman sickened and died after a short illness.

[Before the death of the Tzar Nicholas a great sea eagle came into St. Petersburg, and sat on the Winter Palace. Crowds collected to look at the bird, which must have come from some distant part of Finland. Its appearance was held to be ominous, and it was often referred to after the illness of the Tzar became known in the city.

The grebes which fly up the Bosphorus in the mornings and return at night are said to be the spirits of the Sultan's wives.]


Spiritual Visitors.

There lived on our property some twenty years ago an old woman named Christy Boss. She was not only the last of her family, who had all lived and died on the croft, but was also so very infirm that Mrs. Dempster was anxious to persuade her to change her house, and to go to another, where there were neighbours able and willing to be of use to her in case of sickness or death. This she steadfastly refused, saying the kindness was well-meant, but that she could not abandon what had been her home and her people's home. "At night," she said, "she heard a man's voice praying by her bedside, and sweet music as of singing." She had no doubt it was her father and brothers, and no doubt but that in a strange house she would miss this happiness, one which she valued above neighbours or help.


Holy Wells.

A well in the black isle of Cromarty (near Rosehaugh) has miraculous healing powers. A countrywoman tells me that about forty years ago she remembers its being surrounded by a crowd of people every first fine day in June, who bathed or drank of it before sunrise. Each patient tied a string on a rag to one of the trees that overhung it before leaving. It was sovereign for headaches.—(Peggy Munro.)

[A well at Skibo Castle, called St. Mary's, used to be visited by patients who hung the trees round with bits of red rags.

A well at Biel, near East Linton, is called the "Rood, or Rude, Well." It has no healing properties but is haunted by a very tiny figure.

St. Anthony's Well, near Edinburgh, is still frequented on May mornings by youths and maidens who wash their faces in the well, though the custom is not so universal now as it was one hundred years ago.

At Balokali, a village near Constantinople, there is a sacred well. Visitors go there to eat fish fried on one side! The Greek patriarch comes once a year to plunge the Cross into the water. The sick, who have been lying all night on the floor of the church, are then sprinkled with the water, of which bottles are carried away for the cure of disease.

Bottles of water from the Jordan are believed to be of use to sick people, and the water of the well at Lourdes is now in great request.

Votive rags may be seen in the Island of Chalki (Sea of Marmora) stuck round the window of the cells where the hermits live who are resorted to as healers.

St. Lawrence's Well, Peterborough, and St. Edmund's Well, at Oxford, used to be visited.

The Vandals had a well at Glamutz to which they offered sacrifices. It was a giver of presages rather than of health.]


The Evil Eye.

The evil eye is very common. Children, cattle (milch cows), and poultry, suffer most from it. But the evil wishes, it is remarked, often fall back on the utterer, because to the "mischief" it is a matter of indifference on which of the two the spell or the wish falls.

[A Turkish nurse objects just as a Sutherland woman does to your looking at the baby. A pasha's daughter explained to a friend of mine that this was because of the evil eye.

I do not know if the Jews believe in the evil eye; but Offenbach, the composer, who was of Jewish extraction, was believed by Christians to have this horrid power, and was often avoided because of the jettatura.

Turquoises are said to be a preservative against it. I have never heard whether blue eyes or dark ones had the power of doing harm.]


Cure of the Evil Eye.

A woman, Ann Macrae, on this estate cures cows, &c., by incantations. She has a bag of stones as a "medicine," and a large practice, being sent for from place to place, but seems rather feared than loved. Water in which one of these stones is boiled cures the effect of the evil eye. They are hereditary in her family.

A man, also our tenant, cures pains in persons at a distance by magic. The patients send him their names sealed up; he requires no diagnosis, but from the moment he receives the paper the pain or fever begins to mend. This was tried by a girl weeding in the garden here last autumn, but without success. I must say that the failure did not shake her faith, at which, as she had been for half a year one of my pupils in a Bible-class, I was not a little scandalised.


Verses of Scripture.

I remember an old woman, now dead, who never went an hour from home without making one of her neighbours open the Bible and see what the first verse said. If the verse was to her mind, she then said, "I will go in God's name." The Book of Psalms is the one most used for this purpose. She was very superstitious, assembled the whole kirk session of elders once to hear of a revelation she had from heaven, and frequently told us that she "seed the Mischief sitting up in a tree, and girning at her." She prayed a great deal, but was so cross as to be almost mad, or, as her neighbours said, "very thro' other at the full of the moon."

If a young woman wished to know who is to be her husband, let her read the third chapter of Ruth, and put the Bible under her head at night on Hallow-e'en. The intended will appear to her in a dream.—(Peggy Monro, Achlach.)


CHAPTER IX.

ANIMALS AND CHIMERAS.


The Golden Horse of LochnaGillie.

A loch on this estate, now small and muddy, but once much larger, at the time when it received its name from the following sad event:—A dozen lads were playing by its banks, riding and chasing the ponies which grazed among the reeds and rushes. They all quarrelled who should mount a beautiful horse which grazed among the others, but was finer than any they had ever seen; its skin was smooth, bay-coloured, and shining like gold. Two boys jumped up. "There is room for three," said the next, and got on. "There is room for four," said the fourth lad, and so there was; for the more boys mounted him the more the golden horse lengthened. At last all the boys sat on him, but two who were brothers. "Come let us up," said the youngest, touching the horse with his forefinger; but lo! the finger stuck there, it had grown to the golden skin. "Take your knife, Ian, and cut it off," he cried. His brother did so, and the two ran home together, too much frightened to look behind them and to see the fate of the rest. That no one saw, but by an hour after the hair and entrails of the boys were scattered all over the water. The golden horse had plunged in with all his victims, and the loch is called by their name to this day.—(Widow Galder.)

[Loch Laggan, also on this property, boasts of a water-horse, and at night a bright light is seen to swim up and down the middle of the lake. Then they say, "The water-horse moves."—(W. M., sheriff's officer.)

A golden horse was once seen, born of the waters of the Fleet, It tempted a woman to follow it and try to drive it, but she was warned in time, and so it was foiled of its aim to lure her to a watery grave.

The Grahams of Morphie, in the Mearns, are said to have caught and bridled the water-horse, and made him draw stones for their new castle. This unwilling workman's curse lay on the family for ever, and caused their ruin.

Apropos of manes, a family of Munro, having many generations ago intermarried with the Vaugha of Ben-na-Caulting, were said to have manes and tails till within the last four generations.]


The Seven Herds of Sallachie and the Water-Horse.

Lang syne, when men, and flocks, and herds were plenty in Sutherland, there were seven herds watching their flocks by Loch Shin, and it was evening. They all quarrelled who should mount a beautiful horse which grazed among the others. Said one herd to the other, "That is my father's horse." "No, it is my father's horse:" and they fell to fighting (for the horse looked different to each of them). The first jumped up. "There is room for two," said the second, and jumped up also. The others were angry. "It is a bonny horse, too," said a girl that came by, when they were all up but one. And she patted its shining skin, but her hand had stuck to it. "Oh! Annach," cried her brother, "will ye die with the others, or want your hand?" "Oh! take off the hand and let us run." So he took the hand off, and they two ran home, and the seven herds of Sallachie were never seen again.—(Mr. Young, Lairg.)

This is nearly the same as the legend of LochnaGillie; and a third story is current of Loch Badandarroch, or the loch of the oak branches, where two girls were the victims, and no one remained to tell the tale.

In Ben-na-Caulting one day, the Vaugh called to D. MacRobb, "Will you eat any charcoal, Donald?" "No," he said, "my wife will give me supper when I get home."

[Pliny speaks of a mysterious affinity between serpents and the hazel-tree.

In Brittany a stick or wand cut from an apple-tree leads by a mysterious wisdom. Repeat this rhyme:—

"Conduis-mois
Par les mers,
Par les terres,
Partout ou aller
Voudras."—Le Naer.

In the Lowlands of Scotland the bourtree or elder is revered. In Upper India a tree of the mimosa tribe is called wise. It sleeps all day, wakes all night, and is a charm against witches.—See Heber's Journal So much for the Rowan, or Mountain Ash of established reputation.]


The Otter King.

The mythical zoology of Sutherland contains also a white otter. These animals have a king, sometimes all white, sometimes dun with a white star. He has a jewel in his forehead, and is only vulnerable in one spot on the breast. I do not know whether it is an elective or hereditary sovereignty.

The Dun Otter (Ouar Hoo).

Such an animal was killed in Assynt by the man who told me the story. It had a white spot on the forehead, and one on each side of the muzzle, with one under each shoulder, and a large white place on the breast. It is always the seventh in the hole, and said to be the king, and that the others cater for it. The skin is much larger than that of the other otters, and is a profitable thing to have; for, owing to some superstition on the part of ship captains here, they are afraid to let the skin go out of the ship, if it has once been in it, and so any one taking a skin to a ship to sell it may name his own price. It is very fierce, and called in Gaelic Ouar Hoo. It is supposed to be invulnerable, except in the breast, but my friend shot it in the hind quarter.


The Great White Snake.

It is not uncommon in Sutherland, and has been sometimes but not often killed. It never rests by day or by night, and besides running along the ground has a revolving motion peculiar to itself, turning over and over through an ivory ring, which is loose in its body. This is formed from its own slime, and sometimes drops off, in which case the snake makes another, and the finder of the ring is safe against all disasters and enchantments. Another great serpent has been seen by the natives, the last was nine feet long, and covered with hair; it had a mane, and was a bodily manifestation of the Evil One.—(Widow Mary Calder, pauper, aged 70.)


Why the Wolf is Stumpy Tailed.

One day the wolf and the fox were out together, and they stole a dish of crowdie. Now the wolf was the biggest beast of the two, and he had a long tail like a greyhound, and great teeth. The fox was afraid of him, and did not dare to say a word when the wolf ate the most of the crowdie, and left only a little in the bottom of the dish for him. But he determined to punish him for it: so, the next night, when they were out together, the fox said, "I smell a very nice cheese, and" (pointing to the moonshine on the ice) "there it is, too!" "And how will you get it?" said the wolf. "Well! stop you here till I see if the farmer is asleep, and if you keep your tail on it, or put it through the ice, nobody will see you, or know that it is there: keep it steady, though I may be some time of getting back." So the wolf lay down, and laid his tail on the moonshine in the ice; and there he kept it for an hour, till it was fast. Then the fox, who had been watching him, ran in to the farmer and said,—"The wolf is there, he will eat up the children—the wolf, the wolf!" Then the farmer and his wife came out with sticks to kill the wolf, but the wolf ran off, leaving his tail behind him: and that is why the wolf is stumpy, and the fox has a long brush.—(J. Macleod, Laxford.)


The Fox and the Cock and Hen.

One day the fox chanced to see a fine cock and a fat hen, off whom he would much have liked to dine, but at his approach they flew up into a tree. He did not lose heart, however, and soon began to make talk with them, inviting them at last to go a little way with him. There was no danger, he said, no fear of his hunting them, for there was peace now between men and beasts, and among all animals.

At last, after much parleying, the cock said to the hen, "My dear, do you not see a couple of hounds coming across the field?" "Yes," said the hen, "and they will soon be here." "If that is the case, it is time I should be off," said the fox, "for I am afraid these stupid hounds may not have heard of the peace," and with that he took to his heels, and never drew breath till he reached his den.—(D. M., and J. Macleod.)


The Fox and the Goose.

One day the fox succeeded in catching a fine, fat goose, asleep, by the side of a loch. He held her by the wing, and making a joke of her cackling, hissing, and fears, he said: "Now, if you had me in your mouth, as I have you, tell me what you would do?" "Why," said the goose, "that is an easy question. I would fold my hands, shut my eyes, say a grace, and then eat you." "Just what I mean to do," said Rory, and folding his hands, and looking very demure, he said a pious grace, with his eyes shut. But, alack! while he did this, the goose had spread her wings, and was now half-way over the loch: so the fox was left to lick his lips for supper. "I will make a rule of this," he exclaimed, in disgust, "never, in all my life, to say a grace again till after I feel the meat warm in my belly."—(J. Macleod, fisherman on the LaxFord.)


The Fox and the Wrens.

A fox had noticed for some days a family of wrens, off which he much wished to dine. He might have been satisfied with one, but he determined to have the whole lot—father and eighteen sons; and all so like, he could not tell the one from the other, or the father from his children. "It is of no use to kill one son, because the old cock will take warning and fly away with seventeen: I wish I knew which was the old gentleman." He set his wits to work to find out, and one day, seeing them all threshing in a barn, he sat down to watch them. Still he could not be sure." "Now I have it," he said. "Well done, the old man's stroke, he hits true," he cried. "Ah!" replied the one he often suspected of being the head of the family, "if you had seen my grandfather's strokes you might have said so." The sly fox pounced on the cock, ate him up in a trice, and then soon caught and disposed of the eighteen sons, all flying in terror about the barn.


The Fox and the Fox Hunter.

Once upon a time a fox-hunter had been very anxious to catch our friend, the fox, and had stopped all the earths in cold weather. One evening he fell asleep in his hut, and saw, when he opened his eyes the fox sitting very demurely at the other side of the fire. It had entered by the hole under the door, provided for the convenience of the dog, the cat, the pig, and the hen. "Oh! ho!" said the fox-hunter, "Now I have you I shall keep you," and he went and sat down at the hole to prevent Reynard's escape. "Oh! ho!" said the fox, "I shall soon make that stupid fellow get up:" so he found the man's shoes, and, putting them into the fire, wondered if that would make the enemy move. "I shan't get up for that, my fine gentleman," cried the fox-hunter. Stockings followed the shoes, coat and trousers shared the same fate, but still the man sat over the hole. At last the fox, having set the bed and bedding on fire, put a light to the straw on which his jailor lay. It blazed up to the ceiling. "No, that I cannot stand," shouted the man, jumping up; and the fox, taking advantage of the smoke and confusion, made good his exit,—(D. M.)

  1. Ford, the Icelandic witch or troll, could only be killed before sunrise on Whit-Sunday."—Powell and Magnusson's Icelandic Tales.
  2. Same customs in Northumberland and Leicestershire. Moreton says salt is the emblem of immortality, and the candle is the Egyptian hieroglyphic for life. A light set on the head of a corpse is a Jewish custom.