| The Laird And The Man Of Peace |
N THE HIGHLANDS of Scotland there once lived a Laird of Brockburn, who would not believe in fairies. Although his sixth cousin on the mother's side, as he returned one night from a wedding, had seen the Men of Peace hunting on the sides of Ben Muich Dhui, dressed in green, and with silver-mounted bridles to their horses which jingled as they rode; and though Rory the fiddler having gone to play at a christening did never come home, but crossing a hill near Brockburn in a mist was seduced into a 'Shian' or fairy turret, where, as all decent bodies well believe, he is playing still--in spite, I say, of the wise saws and experience of all his neighbours, Brockburn remained obstinately incredulous.
[Footnote 1: 'Shian', a Gaelic name for fairy towers, which by day are not to be told from mountain crags.]
Not that he bore any ill-will to the Good People, or spoke uncivilly of them; indeed he always disavowed any feeling of disrespect towards them if they existed, saying that he was a man of peace himself, and anxious to live peaceably with whatever neighbours he had, but that till he had seen one of the 'DaoinČ Shi' he could not believe in them.
[Footnote 2: 'Daoine Shi' (pronounced 'Dheener Shee') = Men of Peace.]
Now one afternoon, between Hallowmas and Yule, it chanced that the Laird, being out on the hills looking for some cattle, got parted from his men and dogs and was overtaken by a mist, in which, familiar as the country was to him, he lost his way.
In vain he raised his voice high, and listened low, no sound of man or beast came back to him through the thickening vapour.
Then night fell, and darkness was added to the fog, so that Brockburn needed to sound every step with his 'rung' before he took it.
[Footnote 3: 'Rung' = a thick stick.]
Suddenly light footsteps pattered beside him, then Something rubbed against him, then It ran between his legs. The delighted Laird made sure that his favourite collie had found him once more.
"Wow, Jock, man!" he cried; "but ye needna throw me on my face. What's got ye the night, that 'you' should lose your way in a bit mist?"
To this a voice from the level of his elbow replied, in piping but patronizing tones;
"Never did I lose my way in a mist since the night that Finn crossed over to Ireland in the Dawn of History. Eh, Laird! I'm weel acquaint with every bit path on the hill-side these hundreds of years, and I'll guide ye safe hame, never fear!"
The hairs on Brockburn's head stood on end till they lifted his broad bonnet, and a damp chill broke out over him that was not the fog. But, for all that, he stoutly resisted the evidence of his senses, and only felt about him for the collie's head to pat, crying:
"Bark! Jock, my mannie, bark! Then I'll recognize your voice, ye ken. It's no canny to hear ye speak like a Christian, my wee doggie."
"I'm nae your doggie, I'm a Man of Peace," was the reply. "Dinna miscall your betters, Brockburn: why will ye not credit our existence, man?"
"Seein's believin'," said the Laird, stubbornly; "but the mist's ower thick for seein' the night, ye ken."
"Turn roun' to your left, man, and ye'll see," said the Dwarf, and catching Brockburn by the arm, he twisted him swiftly round three times, when a sudden blaze of light poured through the mist, and revealed a crag of the mountain well known to the Laird, and which he now saw to be a kind of turret, or tower.
Lights shone gaily through the crevices or windows of the 'Shian', and sounds of revelry came forth, among which fiddling was conspicuous. The tune played at that moment was "Delvyn-side."
Blinded by the light, and amazed at what he saw, the Laird staggered, and was silent.
"Keep to your feet, man--keep to your feet!" said the Dwarf, laughing. "I doubt ye're fou, Brockburn!"
"I'm nae fou," said the Laird, slowly, his rung grasped firmly in his hand, and his bonnet set back from his face, which was deadly pale. "But--man-'is yon Rory?' I'd know his fiddle in a thousand."
"Ask no questions, and ye'll be tellt no lees," said the Dwarf. Then stepping up to the door of the 'Shian', he stood so that the light from within fell full upon him, and the astonished Laird saw a tiny but well-proportioned man, with delicate features, and golden hair flowing over his shoulders. He wore a cloak of green cloth, lined with daisies, and had silver shoes. His beautiful face quivered with amusement, and he cried triumphantly, "D'ye see me?--d'ye see me noo, Brockburn?"
"Aye, aye," said the Laird; "and seein's believin'."
"Then roun' wi' ye!" shouted the Man of Peace; and once more seizing the Laird by the arm, he turned him swiftly round--this time, to the right--and at the third turn the light vanished, and Brockburn and the Man of Peace were once more alone together in the mist.
"Aweel, Brockburn," said the Man of Peace, "I'll alloo ye're candid, and have a convincible mind. I'm no ill disposit to ye, and yese get safe hame, man."
As he spoke he stooped down, and picking up half-a-dozen big stones from the mountain-side, he gave them to the Laird, saying, "If the gudewife asks ye about the bit stanes, say ye got them in a compliment."
[Footnote 4: "In a compliment" = "as a present."]
Brockburn put them into his pocket, briefly saying, "I'm obleeged to ye;" but as he followed the Man of Peace down the hill-side, he found the obligation so heavy, that from time to time he threw a stone away, unobserved, as he hoped, by his companion. When the first stone fell, the Man of Peace looked sharply round, saying:
"It'll be me striking my rung upon the ground," said the Laird.
"You're mad," said the Man of Peace, and Brockburn felt sure that he knew the truth, and was displeased. But as they went on, the stones were so heavy, and bumped the Laird's side so hard, that he threw away a second, dropping it as gently as he could. But the sound of its fall did not escape the ears of the Man of Peace, who cried as before:
"It's jest a nasty hoast that I have," said the Laird.
[Footnote 5: "Hoast" = cough.]
"Man, you're daft," said the Dwarf, contemptuously; "that's what ails ye."
The Laird now resolved to be prudent, but the inconvenience of his burden was so great that after a while he resolved to risk the displeasure of the Man of Peace once more, and gently slipped a third stone to the ground.
"Third time's lucky," he thought. But the proverb failed him, for the Dwarf turned as before, shouting: "What's yon?"
"It'll be my new brogues that ye hear bumpin' Upon the muckle stanes," said the Laird.
[Footnote 6: "Brogues" = shoes.]
"Ye're fou, Brockburn, I tellt ye so. Ye're fou!" growled the Man of Peace, angrily, and the Laird dared not drop any more of the Dwarfs gifts. After a while his companion's good-humour seemed to return, and he became talkative and generous.
"I mind your great-grandfather weel, Brockburn. He was a hamely man, I found his sheep for him one nicht on this verra hill-side. Mair by token, ye'll find your beasties at hame, and the men and the dogs forebye."