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The Minister and the Fairy

Scottish Folktale

Not long since, a pious clergyman was returning home, after administering spiritual consolation to a dying member of his flock.  It was late of the night, and he had to pass through a good deal of uncanny land.  He was, however, a good and a conscientious minister of the Gospel, and feared not all the spirits in the country.  On his reaching the end of a lake which stretched along the roadside for some distance, he was a good deal surprised at hearing the most melodious strains of music.  Overcome by pleasure and curiosity, the minister coolly sat down to listen to the harmonious sounds, and try what new discoveries he could make with regard to their nature and source.  He had not sat many minutes before he could distinguish the approach of the music, and also observe a light in the direction from whence it proceeded gliding across the lake towards him.  Instead of taking to his heels, as any faithless wight would have done, the pastor fearlessly determined to await the issue of the phenomenon.  As the light and music drew near, the clergyman could at length distinguish an object resembling a human being walking on the surface of the water, attended by a group of diminutive musicians, some of them bearing lights, and others instruments of music, from which they continued to evoke those melodious strains which first attracted his attention.  The leader of the band dismissed his attendants, landed on the beach, and afforded the minister the amplest opportunities of examining his appearance.  He was a little primitive-looking grey-headed man, clad in the most grotesque habit the clergyman had ever seen, and such as led him at once to suspect his real character.  He walked up to the minister, whom he saluted with great grace, offering an apology for his intrusion.  The pastor returned his compliments, and, without further explanation, invited the mysterious stranger to sit down by his side.  The invitation was complied with, upon which the minister proposed the following question:—“Who art thou, stranger, and from whence?”

To this question the fairy, with downcast eye, replied that he was one of those sometimes called Doane Shee, or men of peace, or good men, though the reverse of this title was a more fit appellation for them.  Originally angelic in his nature and attributes, and once a sharer of the indescribable joys of the regions of light, he was seduced by Satan to join him in his mad conspiracies; and, as a punishment for his transgression, he was cast down from those regions of bliss, and was now doomed, along with millions of fellow-sufferers, to wander through seas and mountains, until the coming of the Great Day.  What their fate would be then they could not divine, but they apprehended the worst.  “And,” continued he, turning to the minister, with great anxiety, “the object of my present intrusion on you is to learn your opinion, as an eminent divine, as to our final condition on that dreadful day.”  Here the venerable pastor entered upon a long conversation with the fairy, touching the principles of faith and repentance.  Receiving rather unsatisfactory answers to his questions, the minister desired the “sheech” to repeat after him the Paternoster, in attempting to do which, it was not a little remarkable that he could not repeat the word “art,” but said “wert,” in heaven.  Inferring from every circumstance that their fate was extremely precarious, the minister resolved not to puff the fairies up with presumptuous, and, perhaps, groundless expectations.  Accordingly, addressing himself to the unhappy fairy, who was all anxiety to know the nature of his sentiments, the reverend gentleman told him that he could not take it upon him to give them any hopes of pardon, as their crime was of so deep a hue as scarcely to admit of it.  On this the unhappy fairy uttered a shriek of despair, plunged headlong into the loch, and the minister resumed his course to his home.

Folk-Lore and Legends: Scotland

Folk-Lore and Legends:

: Contains 33 Scottish folktales.

Author: Charles John Tibbitts
Published: 1889
Publisher: W. W. Gibbings, London

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