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Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales
Comic Tales


“Some tell about their sweethearts, how they tirled them to the winnock,
But I’ll tell you a bonny tale about a guid aitmeal bunnock.”

There lived an auld man and an auld wife at the side o’ a burn. They had twa kye, five hens and a cock, a cat and twa kittlins. The auld man lookit after the kye, and the auld wife span on the tow-rock.3 The kittlins aft grippit at the auld wife’s spindle, as it tussled owre the hcarthstane. “Sho, sho,” she wad say; “gae wa’,” and so it tussled about

Ae day, after parritch-time, she thought she would ha’e a bunnock. Sae she bakit twa aitmeal bunnocks, and set them to the fire to harden. After a while, the auld man came in, and sat down aside the fire, and takes ane o’ the bunnocks, and snappit it through the middle. When the tither ane sees this, it rins aff as fast as it could, and the auld wife after’t, wi’ the spindle in the tae hand and the tow-rock in the tither. But the wee bunnock wan awa’, and out o’ sight, and ran till it came to a guid muckle thack house, and ben it ran boldly to the fireside; and there were three tailors sitting on a muckle table. When they saw the wee bunnock come ben, they jumpit up, and gat in ahint the guidwife, that was cardin’ tow ayont the fire. “Hout,” quo’ she, "be na fleyt: it’s but a wee bunnock. Grip it, and I’ll gie ye a soup milk till’t.” Up she gets wi’ the tow-cards, and the tailor wi’ the goose, and the twa ’prentices, the ane wi’ the muckle shears, and the tither wi’ the lavbrod; but it jinkit them, and ran round about the fire; and ane o’ the ’prentices, thinking to snap it wi’ the shears, fell i’ the ase-pit. The tailor cuist the goose, and the guidwife the tow-cards; but a’ wadna do. The bunnock was awa’, and ran till it came to a wee house at the roadside; and in it rins, and there was a weaver sittin’ on the loom, and the wife winnin’ a clue o’ yam.

“Tibby,” quo’ he, “what’s tat?” “Oh,” quo’ she, “it’s a wee bimnock.” “It’s weel come,” quo’ he, “for our sowens were but thin the day. Grip it, my woman; grip it.” “Ay,” quo’ she; “what recks! That’s a clever burnock. Kep's Willie; kep, man.” “Hout,” quo’ Willie; “cast the clue at it.” But the bunnock whipit round about, and but the floor, and afi it gaed, and owre the knowe, like a new-tarred sheep or a daft yell cow. And forrit it runs to the neist house, and ben to the fireside. And there was the guidwife kirnin’. “Come awa’, wee bunnock,” quo’ she; “I’se hae ream and bread the day.” But the wee bunnock whipit round about the kirn, and the wife after’t, and i’ the hurry she had near-hand coupit the kirn. And afore she got it set right again, the wee bunnock was aff, and down the brae to the mill. And in it ran.

The miller was siftin' meal i’ the trough; but, looking up, “Ay,” quo’ he, “it’s a sign o’ plenty when ye’re rinnin’ about, and naebody to look after ye. But I like a bunnock and cheese. Come your wa’s ben, and I’ll gie ye a night’s quarters.” But the bunnock wadna trust itsel’ wi’ the miller and his cheese. Sae it turned and ran its wa’s out; but the miller didna fash his head wi’t. So it toddled awa’, and ran till it came to the smithy. And in it rins, and up to the studdy. The smith was making horse-nails. Quo’ he, “I like a bicker o’ guid yill and a weel-toastit bunnock. Come your wa’s in by here.” But the bunnock was frightened when it heard about the yill, and turned and aff as hard as it could, and the smith after’t, and cuist the hammer. But it whirlt awa’, and out o’ sight in a crack, and ran till it came to a farm-house wi’ a guid muckle peat-stack at the end o’t. Ben it rins to the fireside. The guidman was clovin’ line, and the guidwife hecklin’. “Oh, Janet,” quo’ he, “there’s a wee bunnock; I’se ha’e the hauf o’t.” “Weel, John, I’se ha’e the tither hauf. Hit it owre the hank wi’ the clove.” But the bunnock playt jink-about. Ilont tout,” quo’ the wife, and gart the heckle flee at it. But it was owre clever for her.

And aff and up the burn it ran to the neist house, and whirlt its wa’s ben to the fireside. The guidwife was stirrin’ the sowens, and the guidman plettin’ spret-binnings for the kye. “No, Jock,” quo’ the guidwife, “come here. Thou’s aye crying about a wee bunnock. Here’s ane. Come in, haste ye, and I’ll help thee to grip it.” “Ay, tnither, whaur is’t?” “See there. Bin owre o’ that side.” But the bunnock ran in ahint the guidman’s chair. Jock fell among the sprits. The guidinan cuist a binning, and the guidwife the spurtle. But it was owre clever for Jock and her baith. It was aff and out o’ sight in a crack, and through among the whins, and down the road to the neist house, and in, and ben to the fireside. The folk were just sittin’ down to their sowens, and the guidwife scartin’ the pat. “Losh,” quo’ he, “there’s a wee bunnock come in to warm itsel’ at our fireside.” “steek the door,” quo’ the guidman, “and we’ll try to get a grip o’t.” When the bunnock heard that, it ran but the house, and they after't wi’ their spunes, and the guidman cuist his bunnet. But it whirlt awa’, and ran, and better ran, till it came to another house. And when it gaed ben, the folk were just gaun to their beds. The guidman was castin’ afi his breeks, and the guidwife rakin’ the fire. “What’s tat?” quo’ he. “Oh,” quo’ she, “it’s a wee bunnock.” Quo’ he, “I could eat the hauf o’t, for a’ the brose I hae suppit.” “Grip it,” quo’ the wife, “and I’ll hae a bit too.” “Cast your breeks at it—kep—kep!” The guidman cuist the breeks, and had near-hand smoor’t it. But it warsl’t out, and ran, and the guidman after’t, wanting the breeks. And there was a clean chase owre the craft park, and up the wunyerd, and in amang the whins. And the guidman lost it, and had to come his wa’s trottin hame hauf nakit. But now it was grown dark, and the wee bunnock couldna see; but it gaed into the side o’ a muckle whin bush, and into a tod’s hole. The tod had gotten nae meat for twa days. “Oh, welcome, welcome,” quo’ the tod, and snappit it in twa i’ the middle. And that was the end o’ tha wee bunnock.

“Now, be ye lords or common ra,
Ye needna launch nor sneer,
For ye’ll be a’ i’ the tod’s hole
In less than a hunner year.”



There was at some time or other before now a widow, and she had one son. She gave him good schooling, and she was wishful that he should choose a trade for himself; but he sain he would not go to learn any art, but that he would be a thief.

His mother said to him: “If that is the art tha* thou art going to choose for thine nwnself, thine end is to be hanged at the bridge of Baile Cliabh, in Eirinn.”

But it was no matter, he would not go to any art, but to be a thief; and his mother was always making a prophecy to him that the end of him would be, hanging at the Bridge of Baile Cliabh, in Eirinn.

On a day of the days, the widow was going to the church to hear the sermon, and was asking the Shifty Lad, her son, to go with her, and that he should give over his bad courses; but he would not go with her; but he said to her: “The first art of which thou hearest mention, after thou hast come out of the sermon, is the art to which I will go afterwards.”

She went to the church full of good courage, hoping that she would hear some good thing.

He went away, and he went to a tuft of wood that was near to the church; and he went in hiding in a place where he could see his mother when she should come out of the church; and as soon as she came out he shouted, “Thievery! thievery! thievery!” She looked about, but she could not make out whence the voice was coming, and she went home. He ran by the way of the short out, and he was at the house before her, and he was seated within beside the fire when she came home. He asked her what tale she had got; and she said that she had not got any tale at all, but that “thievery, thievery, thievery, was the first speech she heard when she came out of the church.”

He said “That was the art that he would have.”

And she said, as she was accustomed to say: “Thine ending is to be hanged at the bridge of Baile Cliabh, in Eirinn.”

On the next day, his mother herself thought that, as nothing at all would do for her son but that he should be a thief, she would try to find him a good aid-to-learning; and she went to the black gallows bird of Aachaloinne, a very cunning thief who was in that place; and though they had knowledge that he was given to stealing, they were not finding any way for catching him. The widow asked the Black Rogue if he would take her son to teach him roguery. The Black Rogue said, “If he were a clever lad that he would take him, and if there were a way of making a thief of him that he could do it;” and a covenant was made between the Black Rogue and the Shifty Lad.

When the Shifty Lad, the widow’s son, was making ready for going to the Black Rogue, his mother was giving him counsel, and she said to him: “It is against my will that thou are going to thievery; and I was telling thee, that the end of thee is to be hanged at the bridge of Baile Cliabh. Eirinn;” but the Shifty Lad went home to the Black Rogue.

The Black Rogue was giving the Shifty Lad every knowledge he might for doing thievery; he used to tell him about the cunning things thst he must do, to get a chance to steal a thing; and when the Black Rogue thought that the Shifty Lad was good enough at learning to be taken out with him, he used to take him out with him to do stealing; and on a day of the=e days the BJack Rogue said to his lad—

“We are long enough thus, we must go and do something. There is a rich tenant near to us, and he has much money in his chest. It was he who bought all that there was of cattle to be sold in the country, and he took them to the fair, and he sold them; he has got the money in his chest, and this is the time to be at him, before the people are paid for their lot of cattle; and unless we go to seek the money at this very hour, when it is gathered together, we shall not get the same chance again.”

The Shifty Lad was as willing as himself; they went away to the house, they got in at the coming on of the night, and they went up upon the loft, and they went in hiding up there; and it wa« the night of Samhain (Halloween); and there assembled many people within to keep the Savain hearty as they used to do. They sat together, and they were singing songs, and at fun burning the nuts, and at merrymaking.

The Shifty Lad was wearying that the company was not scattering; he got up and he went down to the byre, and he loosed the bands off the necks of the cattle, and he returned and he went up upon the loft again. The cattle began goring each other in the byre, and roaring. All that were in the room ran to keep the cattle from each other till they could be tied again; and in the time while they were doing this, the Shifty Lad went down to the room and he stole the nuts with him, and he went up upon the loft again, and he lay down at the back of the Black Rogue.

There was a great leathern hide at the back of the Black Rogue, and the Shifty Lad had a needle and thread, and he sewed the skirt of the Black Rogue’s coat to the leathern hide that was at his back; and when the people of the house came back to the dwelling-room again, their nuts were away; and they were seeking their nuts; and they thought that it was some one who had come in to play them a trick that had taken away their nuts, and they sat down at the side of the fire quietly and silently.

Said the Shifty Lad to the Black Rogue, “I will crack a nut.”

“Thou shalt not crack one,” said the Black Rocue; “they will hear thee, and we shall be caught.”

Said the Shifty Lad, “I never yet was a Savain night without cracking a nut,” and he cracked one.

Those who were seated in the dwelling room heard him. and they said—

“There is some one up on the loft cracking our nuts; we will go and catch them.”

When the Black Rogue heard that, he sprang off the loft and he ran out, and the hide dragging at the tail of his coat. Every one of them shouted that there was the Black Rogue stealing the hide with him.

The Black Rogue fled, and the people of the house after him; and he was a great distance from the house before he got the hide torn from him, and was able to leave them. But in the time that the people of the house were running after the Black Rogue, the Shifty Lad came down off the loft; he went up about the house, he hit upon the chest where the gold and the silver was; he opened the chest, and he took out of it the bags in which the gold and silver was, that was in the chest; and he took with him a load of the bread, and of the butter, and of the cheese, and of everything that was better than another which he found within; and he was gone before the people of the house came back from chasing the Black Rogue.

When the Blank Rogue reached his home, and he had nothing, his wife said to him, “How hast thou failed?”

Then the Black Rogne told his own tale, and he was in great fury at the Shifty Lad, and swearirg that he would serve him out when he got a chance at him.

At the end of a little while after that the Shifty Lad came in with a load upon him.

Said the wife of the Black Rogue, “But I fane that thou art the better thief!”

The Black Rogue said not a word till the Shifty Lad showed the bags that he had full of gold and silver; then said the Black Rogue, “But it is thou that wert the smart lad!”

They made two halves of the gold and silver, and the Black Rogue got the one half, and the Shifty Lad the other half. When the Black Rogue’s wife saw the share that came to them, she said, “Thou thyself art the worthy thief!” and she had more respect for him after that than she had for the Black Rogue himself.


The Black Rogue and the Shifty Lad went on stealing till they had got much money, and they thought that they had better buy a drove of cattle, and go to the fair with it to sell, and that people would think that it was at drovering they had made the money that they had got. The two went, and they bought a great drove of cattle, and they went to a fair that was far on the way from them. They sold the drove, and they got the money for them, and they went away to go home. When they were on the way, they saw a gallows on the top of a hill, and the Shifty Lad said to the Black Rogue, “Come up till we see the gallows; some say that the gallows is the end for the thieves at all events.”

They went up where the gallows was, and they were looking all about it. Said the Shifty Lad, “Might we not try what kind of death is in the gallows, that we may know what is before us, if we should be caught at roguery. I will try it myself first.”

The Shifty Lad put the cord about his own neck, and he said to the Black Rogue, “Here, draw me up, and when 1 am tired above I will shake my legs, and then do thou let me down.”

The Black Rogue drew the cord, and he raised the Shifty Lad aloft off the earth, and at the rad of a little blink the Shifty Lad shook his legs, and the Black Rogue let him down.

The Shifty Lad took the cord off his neck, and he said to the Black Rogue, “Thou thyself hast not ever tried anything that is so funny as hanging. If thou wouldst try once, thou wouldst have no more fear for hanging. I was shaking my legs for delight, and thou wouldst shake thy legs for delight too if thou wert aloft.”

Said the Black Rogue, “I will try it too, so that I may know what it is like.”

“Do,” said the Shifty Lad; “and when thou art tired above, whistle and I will let thee down.” .

The Black Rogue put the cord about his neck, and the Shifty Lad drew him up aloft; and when the Shifty Lad found that the Black Rogue was aloft against the gallows, he said to him, “Now, when thou wantest, to come down, whistle, and if thou art well pleased where thou art, shake thy legs.”

When the Black Rogue was a little blink above, he began to shake his legs and to kick; and the Shifty Lad would say, “Oh art thou not funny! art thou not funny! art thou not funny! When it seems to thee that thou art long enough above, whistle.”

But the Black Bogue has not whistled yet. The Shifty Lad tied the cord to the lower end of the tree of the gallows till the Black Rogue was dead; then he went where he was, and he took the money out of his pouch, and he said to him, “Now since thou hast no longer any use for this money, I will take care of it for thee.” And he went away, and he left the Black Rogue hanging there. Then he went home where was the house of the Black Rogue, and his wife asked where was his master?

The Shifty Lad said, “I left him where he was, upraised above the earth.”

The wife of the Black Rogue asked and asked him about her man, till at last he told her; but he said to her, that he would marry her himself. When she heard that, she cried that the Shifty Lad had killed his master, and he was nothing but a thief. When the Shifty Lad heard that he fled. The chase was set after him; but he found means to go in hiding in a cave, and the chase went past him. He was in the cave all night, and the next day he went another way, and he found means to fly to Eirinn.


He reached the house of a wright, and he cried at the door, "Let me in,”

“Who art thou?” said the wright.

“I am a good wright, if thou hast need of such,” said the Shifty Lad.

The wright opened the door, and he let in the Shifty Lad, and the Shifty Lad began to work at carpentering along with the wright.

When the Shifty Lad was a day or two in their house, he gave a glance thither and a glance hither about the house, and he said, “O choin! what a poor house you have, and the king’s store-house so near you.”

“What of that?” said the wright.

“It is,” said the Shifty Lad, “that you might get plenty from the king’s store-house if you yourselves were smart enough.”

The wright and his wife would say, “They would put us in prison if we should begin at the like of that.”

The Shifty Lad was always saying that they ought to break into the king’s store-house, and they would find plenty in it; but the wright would not go with him; but the Shifty Lad took with him some of the tools of the wright, and he went himself and he broke into the king’s store-house, and he took with him a load of the butter and of the cheese of the king, and he took it to the house of the wright. The things pleased the wife of the wright well, and she was willing that her own husband should go there the next night. The wright himself went with his lad the next night, and they got into the storehouse of the king, and they took with them great loads of each thing that pleased them best of all that was within in the king’s store-house.

But the king’s people missed the butter and the cheese and the other things that had been taken out of the store-house, and they told the king how it had happened.

The king took the counsel of the Seanagal about the best way of catching the thieves, and the counsel that the Seanagal gave them was that they should set a hogshead of soft pitch under the hole where they were coming in. That was done, and the next night the Shifty lad and his master went to break into the king’s store-house.

The Shifty Lad put his master in before him, and the master went down into the soft pitch to his very middle, and he could not get out again. The Shifty Lad went down, and he put a foot on each of his master’s shoulders, and he put out his two loads of the king’s butter and of the cheese at the hole; and at the last time, when he was coming out, he swept the head off his master, and he took the head with him, and he left the trunk in the hogshead of pitch, and he went home with the butter and with the cheese, and he took home the head, and he buried it in the garden.

When the king's people went into the store-house, they found a body without a head into the hogshead of pitch; bur they could not make out who it was. They tried if they could find any one at all that could know him by the clothes, but his clothes were covered with pitch so that they could not make him out. The king asked the counsel of the Seanagal about it; and the counsel that the Seanagal gave was, that they should set the trunk aloft on the points of the spears of the soldiers, to be carried from town to town, to see if they could find any one at all that would take sorrow for it; or to try if they could hear any one that would make a painful cry when they should see it; or if they should not see one that should seem about to make a painful cry when the soldiers should be going past with it. The body was taken out of the hogshead of pitch, and set on the points of the spears; and the soldiers were bearing it aloft on the points of their long wooden spears, and they were going from town to town with it; and when they were going past the house of the wright, the wright’s wife made a tortured scream, and swift the Shifty Lad out himself with the adze: and he kept saying to the wright’s wife, “The cut is not as bad as thou thinkest.”

The commander-in-chief, and his lot of soldiers, came in and they asked,

“What ailed the housewife?”

Said the Shifty Lad, “It is that I have just cut my foot with the adze, and she is afraid of blood;” and he would say to the wife of the wright, “Do not be so much afraid; it will heal sooner than thou thinkest.”

The soldiers thought that the Shifty Lad was the wright, and that the wife whom they had seen was the wife of the Shifty Lad; and they went out, and they went from town to town; but they found no one besides, but the wife of the wright herself, that mado cry or scream when they were coming past her.

They took the body home to the king’s house; and the king took another counsel from his Seanagal, and that was to hang the body to a tree in an open place, and soldiers to watch it that none should take it away, and the soldiers to be looking if any should come the way that should take pity or grief for it.

The Shifty Lad came past them, and he saw them; he went and he got a horse, and he put a keg of whisky on each side of the horse in a sack, and he went past the soldiers with it, as though he were hiding from them. The soldiers thought that it was so, or that he had taken something which he ought not to have; and some of them ran after him, and they caught the old horse and the whisky; but the Shifty Lad fled, and he left tho horse and the whisky with them. The soldiers took the horse and the kegs of whisky back to where the body was hanging against the mast. They looked what was in the kegs; and when they understood that it was whisky that was in them, they got a drinking cup, and they began drinking until at last every one of them was drunk, and they lay and they slept. When the Shifty Lad saw that, the soldiers were laid down and asleep and drunk, he returned and took the body on the mast. He set it crosswise on the horse’s back, and he took it home; then he went and he buried the body in the garden where the head was.

When the soldiers awoke out of their sleep, the body was stolen away; they had nothing for it but to go and tell the king. Then the king took the counsel uf the Seanagal; and the Seanagal said to them, all that were in his presence, that his counsel to them was, to take out a great black pig that was there, and that they should go with her from town to town; and when they should come to any place where the body was buried, that she would root it up. They went and they got the black pig, and they were going from farm to farm with her, trying if they could find out where the body was buried. They went from house to house with her, till at last they came to the house where the Shifty Lad and the wright’s widow were dwelling. When they arrived they let the pig loose aboui the grounds. The Shifty Lad said that he himself was sure that thirst and hunger was on them; that they had better go into the house, and that they should get meat and drink; and that they should let their weariness from off them, in the time when the pig should be seeking about his place.

They went in, and the Shifty Lad asked the wright’s widow that she should set meat and drink before the men. The widow of the wright set meat and drink on the board, and she set it before them; and in the time while they were eating their meat, the Shifty Lad went out to see after the pig; and the pig had just hit upon the body in the garden; and the Shifty Lad went and he got a great knife and he cut the head off her, and he buried herself and her head beside the body of the wright in the garden.

When those who had the care of the pig came out, the pig was not to be seen. They asked the Shifty Lad if he had seen her. He said that he had seen her, that her head was up and she was looting upwards, and going two or three steps now and again; and they went with great haste to the side where the Shifty Lad said the pig had gone.

When the Shifty Lad found that they had gone out of sight, he set everything in such a way that they should not hit upon the pig. They on whom the care of the pig was laid went and they sought her every way that it was likely she might be. Then when they could not find her, they had nothing for it but to go to the king’s house and tell how it had happened.

Then the counsel of the Seanagal was taken again; and the counsel that the Seanagal gave them was, that they should set their soldiers out about the country at free quarters; and at whatsoever place they should get pig’s flesh, or in whatsoever place they should see pig’s flesh, unless those people could show how they had got the pig’s flesh that they might have, that those were the people who killed the pig, and that had done every evil that had been done.

The counsel of the Seanagal was taken, and the soldiers sent out to free quarters about the country; and there was a band of them in the house of the wright’s widow where the Shifty Lad was. The wright’s widow gave their supper to the soldiers, and some of the pig’s flesh was made ready for them; and the soldiers were eating the pig’s flesh, and praising it exceedingly. The Shifty Lad understood what was the matter, but he did not let on. The soldiers were set to lie out in the barn; and when they ware asleep the Shifty Lad went out and he killed them. Then he went as fast as he could from house to house, where the soldiers were at free quarters, and he set the rumour afloat amongst the people of the houses, that the soldiers had been sent out about the country to rise in the night and kill the people in their beds; and he found means to make the people of the country believe him, so that the people of each house killed all the soldiers that were asleep in their barns; and when the soldiers did not come home at the time they should, some went to see what had happened to them; and when they arrived, it was so that they found the soldiers dead in the barns where they had been asleep; and the people of each house denied that they knew how the soldiers had been put to death, or who had done it.

The people who were at the ransacking for the soldiers went to the king’s house, and they told how it had happened; then the king sent word for the Seanagal to get counsel from him; the Seanagal came, and the king told him how it had happened, and the king asked counsel from him. This is the counsel that the Seanagal gave the king, that he should make a feast and a ball, and invite the people of the country; and if the man who did the evil should be there, that he was the man who would be the boldest who would be there, and that he would ask the king’s daughter herself to dance with him. The people were asked to the feast and the dance: and amongst the rest the Shifty Lad was asked, The people came to the feast, and amongst the rest came the Shifty Lad. When the feast was past, the dance began; and the Shifty Lad went and he asked the king’s daughter to dance with him; and the Seanagal had a vial full of black stuff, and the Seanagal put a black dot of the stuff that was in the vial on the Shifty Lad. But it seemed to the king’s daughter that her hair was not well enough in order, and she went to a side chamber to put it right and the Shifty Lad went in with her; and when she looked in the glass, he also looked in it, and he saw the black dot that the Seanagal had put upon him. When they had danced till the tune of music was finished, the Shifty Lad went and he got a chance to steal the vial of the Seanagal from him unknown to him, and he put two black dots on the Seanagal, and one black dot on twenty other men besides, and he put the vial back again where he found it.

Between that and the end of another while, the Shifty Lad came again and he asked the king’s daughter to dance. The king’s daughter had a vial also, and she put a black dot on the face of the Shifty Lad; but the Shifty Lad got the vial whipped out of her pocket, unknown to her; and since there were two black dots on him, he put two dots on twenty other men in the company, and four black dots on the Seanagal. Then when the dancing was over, some were sent to see who was the man on whom were the two black dots. When they looked amongst the people, they found twenty men on whom there were two black dots, and there were four black dots on the Seanagal; and the Shifty Lad found means to go swiftly where the king’s daughter was, and to slip the vial back again into her pocket. The Seanagal looked and he had his black vial; the king’s daughter looked and she had her own vial; then the Seanagal and the king took counsel; and the last counsel that they made was that the king should come to the company, and say, that the man who had done every trick that had been done must be exceedingly clever; if he would come forward and give himself up, that he should get the king’s daughter to marry, and the one half of the kingdom while the king was alive, and the whole of the kingdom after the king’s death. And every one of those who had the two black dots on their faces came and they said that it was they who had done every cleverness that had been done. Then the king and his high counsel went to try how the matter should be settled; and the matter which they settled was, that all the men who had the two black dots on their faces should be put together in a chamber, and they were to get a child, and the king’s daughter was to give an apple to the child, and the child was to be put in where the men with the two black dots on their faces were seated, and to whatsoever one the child should give the apple, that was the one who was to get the king’s daughter.

That was done, and when the child went into the chamber in which the men were, the Shifty Lad had a shaving and a drone, and the child went and gave him the apple. Then the shaving and the drone were taken from the Shifty Lad, and he was seated in another place, and the apple was given to the child again; and he was taken out of the chamber, and sent in again to see to whom he would give the apple; and since the Shifty Lad had the shaving and the drone before, the child went where he was again, and he gave him the apple. Then the Shifty Lad got the King’s daughter to marry.

And shortly after that the king’s daughter and the Shifty Lad were taking a walk to Baile Cliabh; and when they were going over the bridge of Baile Cliabh, the Shifty Lad asked the king’s daughter what was the name of that place; and the king’s daughter told him that it was the bridge of Baile Cliabh, in Eirinn; and the Shifty Lad said—

“Well, then, many is the time that my mother said to me, that my end would be to be hanged at the bridge of Baile Cliabh, in Eirinn; and she made me that prophecy many a time when I might play her a trick.”

And the king’s daughter said, “Well, then, if thou thyself shouldst choose to hang over the little side wall of the bridge, I will hold thee aloft a little space with my pocket napkin.”

And they were at talk and fun about it; but at last it seemed to the Shifty Lad that he would do it for sport, and the king’s daughter took out her pocket napkin, and the Shifty Lad went over the bridge, and he hung by the pocket napkin of the king’s daughter as she let it over the little side wall of the bridge, and they were laughing to each other.

But the king’s daughter heard a cry, “The King’s castle is going on fire!” and she started, and she lost her hold of the napkin; and the Shifty Lad fell down, and his head struck against a stone, and the brain went out of him; and there was in the cry but the sport of children; and the king’s daughter was obliged to go home a widow.



Tom being grown up to year and ago of man, thought himself wiser and slyer than his father; and there were several things about the house which he liked better than to work; so he turned to be a dealer amongst brutes, a cowper of horses and cows, etc., and even wet ware, amongst the brewers and brandy shops, until he cowped himself to the toom halter, and then his parents would supply him no more. He knew his grandmother had plenty of money, but sho would give him none; but the old woman had a good black cow of her own, which Tom went to the fields one evening and catches, and takes her to an old waste house which stood at a distance from any other, and there he kept her two or three days, giving her meat and drink at night when it was dark, and made the old woman believe somebody had stolen the cow for their winter’s mart, which was grief enough to the old woman, for the loss of her cow. However, she employs Tom to go to a fair that was near by, and buy her another; she gives him three pounds, which Tom accepts of very thankfully, and promises to buy her one as like the other as possibly he could get; then he takes a piece of chalk, and brays it as small as meal, and steeps it in a little water, and therewith rubs over the cow’s face and back, which made her baith brucket and pigget. So Tom in the morning takes the cow to a public-house within a little of the fair, and left her till the fair was over, and then drives her home before him; and as soon as they came home, the cow began to rout as it vised to do, which made the old woman to rejoice, thinking it was her own cow; but when she saw her white, sighed and said, “Alas! thou’ll never be like the kindly brute my Black Lady, and ye rout as like her as ony ever I did hear.” But says Tom to himself, “’Tis a mercy you know not what she says, or all would be wrong yet.” So in two or three days the old woman put forth her bra’ rigget cow in the morning with the rest of her neighbours’ cattle, but it came on a sore day of heavy rain, which washed away all the white from her face and back; so the old woman’s Black Lady came home at night, and her rigget cow went away with the shower, and was never heard of. But Tom’s father having some suspicion, and looking narrowly into the cow’s face, found some of the chalk not washed away, and then he gave poor Tom a hearty beating, and sent him away to seek his fortune with a skin full of sore bones.


Tom being now turned to his own shifts, considered with himself how to raise a little more money; and so gets a string as near as he could guess to be the length of his mother, and to Edinburgh he goes, to a wright who was acquainted with his father and mother. The wright asked him how he did; he answered him, very soberly, he had lost a good dutiful mother last night, and there’s a measure for the coffin. Tom went out and stayed for some time, and then comes in again, and tells the wright he did not know what to do, for his father had ordered him to get money from such a man, whom he named, and he that day was gone out of town. The wright asked him how much he wanted. To which he answered, a guinea and a half. Then Tom gave him strict orders to be out next day against eleven o’clock with the coffin, and he should get his money altogether. So Tom set off to an ale-house with the money, and lived well while it lasted. Next morning the wright and his two lads went out with the coffin; and as they were going into the house they met Tom’s mother, who asked the master how he did, and where he was going with that fine coffin? Not knowing well what to say, being surprised to see her alive, at last he told her that her son brought in the measure the day before, and had got a guinea and a half from him, with which he said he was to buy some necessaries for the funeral. “Oh, the rogue!” said she, “has he play’d me that?” So the wright got his lent money, and so much for his trouble, and had to take back his coffin with him again.


Tom being short of money, began to think how he could raise a fresh supply; so he went to the port among the shearers, and there he hired about thirty of them, and agreed to give them a whole week’s shearing at tenpence a-day, which was twopence higher than any had got that year; this made the poor shearers think he was a very honest, generous, and genteel master, as ever they met with; for he took them all into an ale-house, and gave them a hearty breakfast. “Now,” says Tom, “when there is so many of you together, and perhaps from very different parts, and being unacquainted with one another, I do not know but there may be some of you honest men and some of you rogues; and as you are all to be in one barn together, any of you who has got money, you will be surest to give it to me, and I’ll mark it down in my book with your names, and what I receive from each of you, and you shall have it all again on Saturday night, when you receive your wages.” “Oh, very well, goodman, there’s mine; take mine.” said every one faster than another. Some gave him five, six, seven, and eight shillings—even all that they had earned thro’ the harvest, which amounted to near seven pounds sterling. So Tom, having got all their money, he goes on with them till about three miles out of town, and coming to a field of standing corn, though somewhat green, yet convenient for his purpose, as it lay at some distance from any house—so he made them begin work there, telling them he was going to order dinner for them, and send his own servants to join them. Then he sets off with all the speed he could, but takes another road into the town lest they should follow and catch him. Now when the people to whom the corn belonged saw such a band in their field, they could not understand the meaning of it; so the fanner whose corn it was went off, crying always as he ran to them to stop; but they would not, until he began to strike at them, and they at him, he being in a great passion, as the corn was not fully ripe. At last, by force of argument, and other people coming up to them, the poor shearers were convinced they had got the bite, which caused them to go away sore lamenting their misfortune.

Two or three days thereafter, as Tom was going down Canongate in Edinburgh, he meets one of his shearers, who knew and kept fast by him, demanding back his money, and also satisfaction for the rest. “Whisht, whisht,” says Tom, “and you’ll get yours and something else beside.” So Tom takes him into the gaol, and calls for a bottle of ale and a dram, then takes the gaoler aside, as if he had Veen going to borrow some money from him, and says to the gaoler, “This man is a great thief. I and other two have been in search for him these three days, and the other two men have the warrant with them; so if you keep this rogue here till I run and bring them, you shall have a guinea in reward.” “Yes,” says the gaoler, “go, and I’ll secure the rogue for you.” So Tom gets off, leaving the poor innocent fellow and the gaoler struggling together, and then sets out for England directly.


Tom having now left his owe native country, went into the county of Northumberland, where he hired himself to an old miser of a farmer, where he continued for several years, performing his duty in his service very well, though sometimes playing tricks on those about him. But his master had a naughty custom, he would allow them no candle at night, to see with when at supper. So Tom one night sets himself next to his master, and as they were all about to fall on, Tom puts his spoon into the heart of the dish, where the crowdy was hottest, and claps a spoonful into his master’s mouth. “A pox on you for a rogue,” cried his master, “for my mouth is all burnt.” “A pox on you for a master,” says Tom, “for you keep a house as dark as Purgatory, for I was going to my mouth with the soup and missed the way, it being so dark. Don’t think, master, that I are such a big fool as to feed you while I have a mouth of my own.” So from that night that Tom burnt his master’s mouth with the hot crowdy, they always got a candle to show them light at supper. for his master would feed no more in the dark while Tom was present.

There was a servant girl in the house, who always when she made the beds neglected to make Tom’s and would have him do it himself. “Well, then,” says Tom, “I have harder work to do, and I shall do that too.” So next day when Tom was at the plough, he saw his master coming from the house towards him. He left the horses and the plough standing in the field, and goes away towards his master, who cried, “What is wrong or is there anything broke with you?” “No, no,” said Tom; “but I am going home to make my bed; it has not been made these two weeks, and now it is about the time the maid makes all the rest, so I’ll go and make mine too.” “No, no,” says his master, “go to your plough, and I'll cause it to be made, every night.” “Then,” says Tom, “I’ll plough two or three furrows more in the time.” So Tom gained his end.


One day a butcher came and brought a fat calf from Tom’s master, and Tom laid it on the horse’s neck, before the butcher. When he was gone, “Now;" says Tom, “what will you hold, master, but I'll steal the calf from the butcher before he goes two miles of off?” Says his master, "I’ll hold a guinea you don’t.” “Done,” says Tom. Into the house he goes, end takes a good hoe of his master’s, and runs another way across a field, till he got before the butcher, near the corner of a hedge, where there was an open and turning of the way: here Tom places himself behind the hedge, and throws the shoe into the middle of the highway; so, when the butcher came up riding, with his calf before him, “Hey,” said he to himself, “there’s a good shoe! If 1 knew how to get on my calf again, I would light for it; but what signifies one shoe without its neighbour?” So on he rides and lets it lie. Tom then slips out and takes up the shoe, and runs across the fields until he got before the butcher, at another open of a hedge, about half-a-mile distant, and throws out the shoe again on the middle of the road; then up comes the butcher, and seeing it, says to himself: “Now I shall have a pair of good shoes for the lifting;” and down he comes, lays the calf on the ground, and tying his horse to the hedge, runs back, thinking to get the other shoe, in which time Tom whips up the calf and shoe, and home he comes, demanding his wager, which his master could not refuse, being so fairly won. The poor butcher not finding the shoe, came back to his horse, and missing the calf, knew not what to do; but thinking it had broke the rope from about its feet, and had run into the fields, the butcher spent the day in search of it amongst the hedges and ditches, and returned to Tom’s master at night, intending to go in search again for it next day, and gave them a tedious relation how he came to lose it by a cursed pair of shoes, which he believed the devil had dropped in his way and taken the calf and shoes along with him, but he was thankful he had left his old horse to carry him home. Next morning Tom set to work, and makes a line white face on the calf with chalk and water; then brings it out and sells it to the butcher, which was good diversion to his master and other servants, to see the butcher buy his own calf again. No sooner was he gone with it, but Tom says, “Now, master, what will you hold but I’ll steal it from him again ere he goes two miles off?” “No, no,” says his master, “I’ll hold no more bets with you; but I’ll give you a shilling if you do it.” “Done,” says Tom, “it shall cost you no more;” and away he runs through the fields, until he came before the butcher, hard by the place where he stole the calf from him the day before; and there he lies down behind the hedge, and as the butcher came past, he put his hand on his mouth and cries baw, baw, like a calf. The butcher hearing this, swears to himself that there was the calf he had lost the day before: down he comes, and throws the calf on the ground, gets through the hedge in all haste, thinking he had no more to do but to take it up; but as he came in at one part of the hedge, Tom jumped out at another, and gets the calf on his back; then goes over the hedge on the other side, and through the fields he came safely home, with the calf on his back, while the poor butcher spent his time and labour in vain, running from hedge to hedge, and hole to hole, seeking the calf. So the butcher returning to his horse again, and finding his other calf gone, he concluded that it was done by some invisible spirit about that spot of ground, and so went home lamenting the loss of his calf. When Tom got home he washed the white face off the stolen calf, and his master sent the butcher word to come and buy another calf, which he accordingly did in a few days after, and Tom sold him the same calf a third time, and then told him the whole affair as it was acted, giving him his money again. So the butcher got fun for his trouble.


As I was a-walking one morning in the spring.
I heard a young ploughman so sweetly to sing.
And as he was singing these words he did say,
No life is like the ploughman’s in the month of May.

The lark in the morning rises from her nest,
And mounts in the air with the dew on her breast,
And with the jolly ploughman she’ll whistle and she’ll sing,
And at night she’ll return to her nest back again.

If you walk in the fields any pleasure to find,
You may see what the ploughman enjoys in his mind;
There the corn he sows grows and the flowers do spring,
And the ploughman’s as happy as a prince or a king.

"When his day’s work is done that he has to do,
Perhaps to some country walk lie will go;
There with a sweet lass he will dance and sing,
And at night return with hia lass back again.

Then he rises next morning to follow his team,
Like a jolly ploughman so neat and so trim;
If he kiss a pretty girl he will make her his wife.
And she loves her jolly ploughman as dear as her lift.

There’s Molly and Dolly, Nelly and Sue;
There’s Ralph, John, and Willie, and young Tommy too;
Each lad takes his lass to the wake or the fair,
Adzooks; they look rarely I vow and declare.



Mr. Georqe Buchanan was a Scotsman born, and though of mean parentage, made great progress in learning. As for his understanding and ready wit, he excelled all men then alive in the age that ever proposed questions to him. He was servant or teacher to King James the Sixth, and one of his private counsellors, but publicly acted as his fool.

George happened one time to be in company with a bishop, and so they fell to dispute anent education, and he blanked the bishop remarkably, and the bishop himself owned he was worsted. Then one of the company addressed himself to him in these words: “Thou, Scot,” said he, “should not have left thy country.” “For what?” says he. “Because thou hast carried all the wisdom that is in it hither with thee.” “No, no,” says he; “the shepherds in Scotland will dispute with any bishop in London, and exceed them very far in education.” The bishops then took this as an affront, and several noblemen affirmed it to be as the Scot had said: both were laid on each side, and three of the bishops were chosen, and sent away to Scotland to dispute it with the shepherds, accompanied with several others, who were to bear witness of what they should hear pass between them. Now George, knowing which way they went, immediately took another road and was in Scotland before them. He then made an acquaintance with a shepherd on the border, whose pasture lay on the wayside where the bishops were to pass; and there he mounted himself in shepherd’s dress; and when he saw the bishops appear, he conveyed his flock to the roadside, and fell a-chanting at a Latin ballad. When the bishops came up to George, one of them asked him in French what o’clock it was? To which he answered in Hebrew, “It is directly about the time of day it was yesterday at this time.” Another asked him, in Greek, what countryman he was? To which he answered in Flemish, “If ye knew that, you would be as wise as myself.” A third asked him, in Dutch, “Where were you educated?” To which he answered, in Earse, “Herding my sheep between this and Lochaber.” This they desired him to explain into English, which he immediately did. “Now,” said they one to another, “we need not proceed any farther.” “What,” says George, “are you butchers? I’ll sell you a few sheep.” To this they made no answer, but went away shamefully, and said they believed the Scots had been through all the nations in the world for their education, or the devil had taught them. Now, when George had ended this dispute with the bishops, he stripped off his shepherd’s dress, and up through England he goes, with all the haste imaginable, so that he arrived at the place from whence they set out three days before the judges, and went every day asking if they were come, so that he might not be suspected. As soon as they arrived, all that were concerned in the dispute, and many more, came crowding in, to hear what news from the Scottish shepherds, and to know what was done. No sooner had the three gentlemen declared what had passed between the bishops and the shepherds, whom they found on the Scots border, but the old bishop made answer, “And think yon,” said he, “that a shepherd could answer these questions? It has been none else but the devil; for the Scots ministers themselves could not do it; they are but ignorant of such matters, a parcel of beardless boys.” Then George thought it was time to take speech in hand. “Well, my lord bishop,” says George, “you call them a parcel of ignorant, beardless boys. You have a great long beard yourself, my lord bishop, and if grace were measured by beards, you bishops and the goats would have it all, and that would be quite averse to Scripture.” “What,” says the bishop, “are you a Scot?” “ Yes,” says George, “I am a Scot.” “Well,” says the bishop, “and what is the difference between a Scot and a sot?” “Nothing at present,” says George, “but the breadth of the table,”—there being a table betwixt the bishop and George. So the bishop went off in a high passion, while the whole multitude were like to split their jaws with laughter.


One night a Highland drover chanced to have a drinking bout with an English captain of a ship, and at last they came to be very hearty over their cups, so that they called in their servants to have a share of their liquor. The drover’s servant looked like a wild man, going without breeches, stockings, or shoes, not so much as a bonnet on his head, with a long peeled rung in his hand. The captain asked the drover how long it was since he catched him! He answered, “It is about two years since I hauled him out of the sea with a net, and afterwards ran into the mountains, where I catched him with a pack of hounds.” The captain believed it was so. “But,” says he, “I have a servant, the best swimmer in the world.” “Oh, but,” says the drover, “my servant will swim him to death.” “No, he will not,” says the captain; “I’ll lay two hundred crowns on it.” “Then,” says the drover, “I'll hold it one to one,” and staked directly, the day being appointed when trial was to be made. Now the drover, when he ran to himself, thinking on what a bargain he had made, did not know what to do, knowing very well that his servant could swim none. He, hearing of George being in town, who was always a good friend to Scotsmen, went unto him and told him the whole story, and that he would be entirely broke, and durst never return home to his own country, for he was sure to lose it. Then George railed the drover and his man aside, and instructed them how to behave, so that they should be safe and gain too. So accordingly they met at the place appointed. The captain’s man stripped directly and threw himself into the sea, taking a turn until the Highlandman was ready, for the drover took some time to put his servant in order. After he was stripped, his master took his plaid, and rolled a keb buck of cheese, a big loaf and a bottle of gin in it, and this he bound on his shoulder, giving him directions to tell his wife and children that he was well, and to be sure he returned with an answer against that day se’nnight. As he went into the sea, he looked back to his master, and called out to him for his claymore. “And what waits he for now?” says the captain's servant. “He wants his sword,” says his master. “His sword,” says the fellow; “what is he to do with a sword?” “Why,” says his master, if he meets a whale or a monstrous beast, it is to defend his life; I know he will have to fight his way through the north seas, ere he get to Lochaber.” “Then,” cried the captain’s servant, “I'll swim none with him, if he takes his sword.” “Ay, but,” says his master, “you shall, or lose the wager; take you another sword with you.” “No,” says the fellow; “I never did swim with a sword, nor any man else, that ever I saw or heard of. I know not but that wild man will kill me in the deep water; I would not for the whole world venture myself with him and a sword.” The captain, seeing his servant afraid to venture, or if he did he would never see him again alive, therefore desired an agreement with the drover, who at first seemed unwilling; but the captain putting it in his will, the drover quit him for half the sum. This he came to through George’s advice.


George was met one day by three bishops, who paid him the following compliments:—Says the first, “Good-morrow, Father Abraham; ” says the second, “Good-morrow, Father Isaac;” says the third, “Good-morrow, Father Jacob.” To which he replied, “I am neither Father Abraham, Father Isaac, nor Father Jacob; but I am Saul, the son of Kish, sent out to seek my father’s asses, and, lo! I have found three of them.” Which answer fully convinced the bishops that they had mistaken their man.


A poor Scotchman dined one day at a public-house in London upon eggs, and not having money to pay, got credit till he should return. The man, bring lucky in trade, acquired vast riches; and after some years, happening to pass that way, called at the house where he was owing the dinner of eggs. Having called for the innkeeper, he asked him what he had to pay for the dinner of eggs he got from him such a time. The landlord, seeing him now rich, gave him a bill of several pounds; telling him, as his reason for so extravagant a charge, that these eggs, had they been hatched, would have been chickens; and these laying more eggs, would have been more chickens; and so on, multiplying the eggs and their product, till such time as their value amounted to the sum charged. The man, refusing to comply with this demand, was charged before a judge. He then made his case known to George, his countryman, who promised to appear in the hour of cause, which he accordingly did, all in a sweat, with a great basket of boiled pease, which appearance surprised the judge, who asked him what he meant by these boiled pease? Says George, “I am going to sow them.” “When will they grow?” said the judge. “They will grow,” said George, “when sodden eggs grow chickens.” Which answer convinced the judge of the extravagance of the innkeeper’s demand, and the Scotsman was acquitted for two-pence halfpenny.


George was professor of the College of St. Andrews, and slipped out one day in his gown and slippers, and went on his travels through Italy and severa! other foreign countries, and after seven years returned with the same dress he went off in; and, on entering the college, took possession of his seat there, but the professor in his room quarrelling him for so doing. “Ay,” says George, “it is a very odd thing that a man cannot take a walk out in his slippers, but another will take up his seat.” And so set the other professor about his business.


Two drunken fellows one day fell a beating one another on the streets of London, which caused a great crowd of people to throng together to see what it was. A tailor being at work up in a garret, about three or four storeys high, and he hearing the noise in the street, looked over the window, but could not well see them. He began to stretch himself, making a long neck, until he fell down out of the window, and alighted on an old man who was walking on the street. The poor tailor was more afraid than hurt, but the man he fell on died directly. His son caused the tailor to be apprehended and tried for the murder of his father. The jury could not bring it in wilful murder, neither could they altogether free the tailor. The jury gave it over to the judges, and the judges to the king. The king asked George’s advice on this hard matter. “Why,” says George, “I will give you my opinion in a minute: you must cause the tailor to stand in the street where the old gentleman was when he was killed by the tailor, and then let the old gentleman’s son, the tailor’s adversary, get up to the window from whence the tailor fell, and jump down, and so kill the tailor as he did his father.” The tailor’s adversary hearing this sentence passed, would not venture to jump over the window, and so the tailor got clear off.

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