Brownie has got a cowl and
And never more will work a jot.
ALTHOUGH this mysterious and very
useful agent has
now become very rare among the Highland
mountains, it appears that, at one time, he was the common appendage of
every family of rank in those countries. Hence, his history and character
are well known; and his memory still retains a powerful interest in the
minds of the inhabitants. It may not, therefore, be improper to give a
condensed account of the most prominent traits of the Highland Brownie’s
character, to enable the reader to compare his manners and habits with
those of the Brownie of Bodspeck, or any other Brownie with the manners of
whom he may happen to be acquainted.
With regard to the Brownie’s origin,
it is a point that is involved in much obscurity. It was always a peculiar
trait in his character, that he never would favour his earthly
acquaintances with any information regarding his own private affairs. From
some resemblance the Brownie bore to the Fairy, joined to a similarity of
habits, it was shrewdly suspected by the more discriminating sort of
people, that if he were not actually a member of the Fairy people—he was,
at least, a mongrel species of them. But on this important topic the
sagacious Brownie himself opened not his mouth; leaving them to argue the
matter as they thought proper.
In his personal appearance, the
Highland Brownie was highly interesting. His person was not quite so tall
as that of the Fairy, but it was well proportioned and comely; and, from
the peculiar brownness of his complexion, lie received the appellation of
In his manners and habits he
differed widely from all the supernatural beings of his day; inasmuch as
he was laborious and faithful to his master’s interest—content to labour
day and night for no other fee or reward than a scanty diet, and
occasionally a suit of cast-off apparel. Hence, the possession of so cheap
and useful an agent was an acquisition highly desirable. But he was what
neither money nor interest could procure. Having once united himself to
the founder of an ancient family, he adhered to him and to his issue so
long as he had any lineal posterity; and hence it is, that the Brownie was
only found the heir-loom of an ancient and honour-able family.
Unexampled for his fidelity, he was
the indefatigable guardian and promoter of his adopted master’s interest;
and, from his powers of prophecy and information, his services were truly
invaluable. Over the servants he was always a vigilant and faithful spy,
ready to give faithful account of their good or bad actions; and hence it
followed, that with these he was very seldom on a good understanding. So
that, if the Brownie was left to the servants’ mercy, he would not, in all
likelihood, fare the better for his fidelity. But if the master had any
regard to his own interest, he was careful to have seen hint properly
cared for in his meat and in his drink, which care was rewarded by the
most unlimited devotion to his interest.
The last two brownies known in this
quarter of the Highlands were long the appendages of the ancient family,
of Tullochgorm in Strathspey. They were male and female, and, for aught we
know, they might likewise, have been man arid wife. The male was of an
exceedingly jocose and humorous disposition, often indulging in little
sports at the expence of his fellow-servants. He had, in particular, a.
great trick of flinging clods at the passengers, and from thence he got
the name of "Brownie-Clod. He had, however, with all his humour, a
great deal of, simplicity about him, and became, in his turn, the dupe of
those on whom he affected to play. An eminent instance of this appears
from a contract into which he foolishly entered with the servants of
Tullochgorm, whereby, be bound and obliged himself to thrash as much corn
and straw as two men could do for the space of a whole winter, on
condition he was to be gratified with an old coat and a Kilmarnock cowl,
pieces of apparel for which, it seems, he had a great liking. While the
servants were reclining themselves at their ease upon the straw,
Brownie-Clod thrashed on unremittingly, and performed such Herculean tasks
as no human constitution could bear for a week together. Some time before
the expiry of the contract, the lads, out of pure gratitude and pity, left
the coat and cowl for him on a mow of corn in the barn, on receipt of
which he instantly struck .work, and, with the greatest triumph at the
idea of taking in his acquaintances, he sneeringly told them, that, since
they were so foolish as to give him the coat and cowl before he had
wrought for them, he would now decline to thrash another sheaf.
"Huar Prownie coad agus curochd
Agus cha dian
Prownie opar tullidh."
The female was more pawky in her
ways; and, instead of being a laughing-stock to the female-servants with
whom she wrought, she was a sort of a mistress over them. She was seldom
on good terms with them, in consequence of the fidelity with which she
reported their neglect of duty to their master or mistress. It was her
custom to wear a superabundance of hair, in consequence of which, she was
commonly called "Maug
Vuluchd," or "Hairy Mag."
Mag was an honest and excellent housekeeper, and had the service of the
table generally assigned her, in which capacity she was extremely useful.
The dexterity and care with which she covered the table, always invisible,
was not less amusing to strangers than it was convenient to their host.
Whatever was called for came as if it floated on the air, and lighted on
the table with the utmost ease and celerity; and, for cleanliness and
attention, she had not her equal in this land.