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Scottish Fairies

It was a delightful evening, still, breathless, clear, as we swept slowly across the broad breast of Loch Maree; and the red light of the sinking sun fell on many a sweet wild recess, amid the labyrinth of islands purple with heath, and overhung by the birch and mountain-ash; or slanted along the broken glades of the ancient forest; or lighted up into a blush the pale stony faces of the tall
pyramidal hills. A boat bearing a wedding party was crossing the lake to the white house on the opposite side, and a piper stationed in the bows, was discoursing sweet music that, softened by distance, and caught up by the echoes of the rocks, resembled no strain I had ever heard from the bagpipe before. Even the boatmen rested on their oars, and I had just enough of Gaelic to know that they were remarking how very beautiful it was. ‘I wish’, said my comrade, ‘you understood these men: they have a great many curious stories about the loch,
that I am sure you would like. See you that large island? It is Island-Maree. There is, they tell me, an old burying-ground on it, in which the Danes used to bury long ages ago, and whose ancient tombstones no man can read. And yon other island beside it is famous as the place on which the good people meet every year to make submission to their queen. There is, they say, a little loch in the island, and another little island in the loch; and it is under a tree on that inner island that the queen sits and gathers kain for the Evil One. They tell me that, for certain, the fairies have not left this part of the country yet.’ Hugh Miller (1802-1856)



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