THE STOLEN OX
THE tacksman (i. e. tenant) of the farm of Auchriachan in Strathavon, while searching one day for his goats on a hill in Glenlivat, found himself suddenly enveloped in a dense fog. It continued till night came on when he began to give himself up to despair. Suddenly he beheld a light at no great distance. He hastened toward it, and found that it proceeded from a strange-looking edifice. The door was open, and he entered, but great was his surprise to meet there a woman whose funeral he had lately attended. From her he learned that this was an abode of the fairies for whom she kept house, and his only chance of safety, she said, was in being concealed from them; for which purpose she hid him in a corner of the apartment. Presently in came a troop of fairies, and began calling out for food. An old dry-looking fellow then reminded them of the miserly, as he styled him, tacksman of Auchriachan, and how he cheated them out of their lawful share of his property, by using some charms taught him by his old grandmother. "He is now from home," said he, "in search of our allies, [a] his goats, and his family have neglected to use the charm, so come let us have his favourite ox for supper." The speaker was Thomas Rimer, and the plan was adopted with acclamation. "But what are we to do for bread?" cried one. "We'll have Auchriachan's new baked bread," replied Thomas; "his wife forgot to cross the first bannock." So said, so done. The ox was brought in and slaughtered before the eyes of his master, whom, while the fairies were employed about their cooking, his friend gave an opportunity of making his escape.
The mist had now cleared away and the moon was shining. Auchriachan therefore soon reached his home. His wife instantly produced a basket of new-baked bannocks with milk and urged him to eat. But his mind was running on his ox, and his first question was, who had served the cattle that night. He then asked the son who had done it if he had used the charm, and he owned he had forgotten it. "Alas! alas!" cried he, "my favourite ox is no more." "How can that be?" said one of the sons, "I saw him alive and well not two hours ago." "It was nothing but a fairy stock," cried the father. "Bring him out here." The poor ox was led forth, and the farmer, after abusing it and those that sent it, felled it to the ground. The carcase was flung down the brae at the back of the house, and the bread was sent after it, and there they both lay untouched, for it was observed that neither cat nor dog would put a tooth in either of them.
[a] "The goats are supposed to be upon a very good understanding with the fairies, and possessed of more cunning and knowledge than their appearance bespeaks."--Stewart: see Wales.