In short, this notice of fairy belief might be extended to fill volumes; every green knoll, every well, every hill in the Highlands, has some fairy legend attached to it. In the west, amongst the unlearned, the legends are firmly believed. Peasants never talk about fairies, for they live amongst them and about them. In the east the belief is less strong, or the believers are more ashamed of their creed. In the Lowlands, and even in England, the stories survive, and the belief exists, though men have less time to think about it. In the south the fairy creed of the peasants has been altered,
but it still exists, as is proved occasionally in courts of law. There is a ghost which walks under the North Bridge in Edinburgh; and even in the cultivated upper strata of society in this our country, in France, and elsewhere, fairy superstition has only gone down before other stronger beliefs, in which a table is made the sole partition between this world and the next, Whether we are separated from the other world by a deal board or a green mound, does not seem to make much difference; and yet that is the chief difference between the vagrant beliefs of the learned and unlearned.
An old highlander declared to me that he was once in a boat with a man who was struck by a fairy arrow. He had the arrow for a long time; it was slender like a straw for thickness. He himself drew it out of the temple of the other man, where it was stuck in the skin through the bonnet. They were then miles from the shore, fishing. A man, whom the fairies were in the habit of carrying about from island to island, told him that he had himself thrown the dart at the man in the boat by desire of them; "they made him do it."
My informant evidently believed he was speaking truth, as my more educated friends do when they tell me sgeulachd about Mr. Hume.
For my own part, I believe all my friends; but I cannot believe in fairies, or that my forbears have become slaves of a table to be summoned at the will of a quack. I believe that there is a stock of old credulity smouldering near a store of old legends, in some corner of every mind, and that the one acts on the other, and produces a fresh legend and a new belief whenever circumstances are favourable to the growth of such weeds. At all events, I am quite sure that the fairy creed of the peasantry, as I have learned it from them, is not a whit
more unreasonable than the bodily appearance of the hand of Napoleon the First to Napoleon the Third in 1860, as it is described in print; and the grave books which are written on "Spiritual Manifestations" at home and abroad. What is to be said of the table which became so familiar with a young lady, that it followed her upstairs and jumped on to the sofa!