Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales, by George Douglas, , at sacred-texts.com
ONE of the principal characteristics of the brownie was his anxiety about the moral conduct of the household to which he was attached. He was a spirit very
much inclined to prick up his ears at the first appearance of any impropriety in the manners of his fellow-servants. The least delinquency committed either in barn, or cow-house, or larder, he was sure to report to his master, whose interests he seemed to consider paramount to every other thing in this world, and from whom no bribe could induce him to conceal the offences which fell under his notice. The men, therefore, and not less the maids, of the establishment usually regarded him with a mixture of fear, hatred, and respect; and though he might not often find occasion to do his duty as a spy, yet the firm belief that he would be relentless in doing so, provided that he did find occasion, had a salutary effect. A ludicrous instance of his zeal as guardian of the household morals is told in Peeblesshire. Two dairymaids, who were stinted in their food by a too frugal mistress, found themselves one day compelled by hunger to have recourse to the highly improper expedient of stealing a bowl of milk and a bannock, which they proceeded to devour, as they thought, in secret. They sat upon a form, with a space between, whereon they placed the bowl and the bread, and they took bile and sip alternately, each putting down the bowl upon the scat for a moment's space after taking a draught, and the other then taking it up in her hands, and treating herself in the same way. They had no sooner commenced their mess than the brownie came between the two, invisible, and whenever the bowl was set down upon the scat took also a draught; by which means, as he devoured fully as
much as both put together, the milk was speedily exhausted. The surprise of the famished girls at finding the bowl so soon empty was extreme, and they began to question each other very sharply upon the subject, with mutual suspicion of unfair play, when the brownie undeceived them by exclaiming, with malicious glee--
"Ha! ha! ha!
Brownie hast a' I"
179:1 Chambers, Popular Rhymes of Scotland.