“Well, it is not the
least use talking about it; there is not more than one loaf of bread
in the house or one bawbee in the stocking,” said the widow of
Rannoch to her three sons, Donald, Dougald, and Duncan. “So go, each
of you, and seek a fortune; and if a fortune you get, don’t forget
your old mother, for she’s tried to do her best by you for many a
And Donald, Dougald, and Duncan all agreed that she spoke the truth,
and that the best thing they could do for her now was to go at once,
returning as soon as good fortune would let them.
So the widow of Rannoch divided the loaf into four portions and gave
a bit to each, putting it in their wallets, and keeping one bit for
herself. Then she gave them her Messing, and off they started.
They set their faces towards the west, where lay the great ocean.
Perchance they would get a passage there in a ship to the south,
where the bright gold lay for the gathering, and that would be much
better than making for the east, where every one was as poor as
themselves, they knew already, only too well.
Over the moor they trudged, and Donald sang a song to cheer Dougald
and Duncan; and, when he was tired, Dougald told a story to while
away the time for Donald and Dunoan. When his story came to an end,
Duncan was just going to show them some other kind of diversion,
when he stopped, seized both of his brothers by the arms, and,
pushing them before him into a peat-hole, bade them for their life’s
sake hide among the high hags at its side, and not utter a syllable,
or make the slightest sound. “For,” said he, “I see the witch of Ben
e Bhreac coming in the distance towards us.”
And, sure enough, there she was, coursing over the moor in a direct
line with them, waving her magic staff. As she strode over the
pools, the water splashed upwards in brown foam before her; as she
clambered over the peat-hags, the divots and turves flew away on
every side; as she swept along the dry path, the dust in clouds
whirled behind her like an attendant spirit.
So she passed by them, without a thought of human creatures being so
near to her; for, you may be sure, they lay very close and still,
and did not move till the last trace of her vanished behind the
slopes of the Black Mountains.
“Now is our chance,” said Duncan, the youngest, to his two brothers.
“The old bird has gone on a journey; let us harry her nest.”
“Oh! but that would be stealing" said Donald.
“Stealing?” said Duncan; “stealing the stolen. How do you know we
won’t find some of our own goods there? At any rate, if they are not
ours, they are not hers, whoever it is they belong to.” So, as
Duncan was the clever one of the family, and never was contradicted,
although the youngest, there was no more to be said about the
matter, and off They started for Ben e Bhreac.
It did not take them long to arrive at the summit where the witch’s
home was, and where her well can be seen to this day, for they were
anxious to get through the business as soon as possible before the
good lady should return, and they were brave lads and had stout
hearts for a stiff brae, and fear gave them an extra toe to each
foot, as the saying is.
Up at the bothie they found all quiet, and they judged the witch had
gone for a long journey, for the door was fast locked, and no smoke
was to be seen coming out of the chimney.
Yet, in a very short time they made an entrance, by taking off the
divots from the roof, and getting in that way; but they were
disappointed at seeing very little of value inside. Certainly the
witch, if she had any valuables, did not keep them in that house.
“Now, we must have a good look round outside,” said Duncan; “but
before we do so, just let me prepare for the accident of her sudden
return. I know a trick that will checkmate the hag even if she does.
Only you do as I say, and all will be well.”
As usual the other two agreed, for they never ventured to contradict
Duncan, as I told you before, but believed in his genius implicitly.
“Donald, you go up and keep a good lookout, up the stack to the
north-east, and give an alarm if you see anybody coming. Dougald,
you turn your face towards the south-west and do the same.” So they
went out, and did as they were told.
Now, the hag’s bothie was built over a well, and the way to it was
through the floor of the bothie by means of a trap-door set on iron
hinges; seeing which, Duncan loosened the hinges with his dirk, till
he felt sure a little added weight would send trap and all into the
water below. Then he put the hag’s chair on the top of the trap,
tying a stout cord to the leg of it, and one end of this he flung
over the iron girdle standing in the corner. Next, pulling the table
up towards the chair, he furnished the board with a large aschet and
a couple of knives, just as if a feast had been laid by her imps
against the return of their mistress. Then he collected a dozen
large stones, and set them up by the wall, to be handy if occasion
Well, scarcely had he finished all these arrangements, when a cry
from Dougald gave the alarm that the hag was returning full speed
from the direction of the Black Mountains; and, looking in that
direction, the three brothers saw her, sure enough, coursing over
the waste in a direct line with her home, waving her magic staff. As
she strode past the pools, the water splashed upwards in brown foam
before her; as she clambered over the peat-hags, the divots and
turves flew away on every side; as she swept along the dry paths,
the dust in clouds whirled behind her like an attendant spirit.
“Quick!” said Duncan, “Get in through the hole in the roof; sit down
both of you on the big aschet on the board; garnish your heads with
kale, shut your eyes, and don’t move or say a word, and all will be
So Donald and Dougald did as he told them. They crept in through the
hole in the roof, and got up on the table, and, sitting down on the
big aschet, they decorated their heads with kale and shut their
eyes. And Duncan hid behind the large girdle in the corner, holding
the cord light in his hand.
Thus they waited in silence for what was going to happen.
They had not to wait long, for the witch was soon at the door, which
sprang open at the touch of her staff, and disclosed the horrid hag
entering with upturned and snorting nose, for she had smelt food a
long way off, and could not make out whence came the scent.
“Ha, ha!” she muttered in delight. “By my troth, my imps have
provided a fair feast for me in my absence. ’Tis capital!” and she
flung her magic crutch into the corner, took up the knife and fork,
and sat down on the chair at the find of the table, ready to enjoy
her gruesome supper.
But the supper was not for her this time. Just as she was in the act
of sitting down, Duncan pulled the cord with a mighty tug, and the
chair flew away from under the witch, so that she came down with a
mighty crash on the trap-door, which, giving way, suddenly
precipitated her backwards into the bubbling water below!
“Now for it!” said Duncan; and the brothers, leaping down from the
table, seized the large stones that Duncan had placed in readiness
along the wall, and flung them down with all their force on to the
top of the old hag below. When these were all done, they turned the
table over the hole, and heaped on it everything they could lay
their hands on. Nothing that they could lift and move came amiss.
Then they sat themselves exhausted on the top of the pile to rest
and wipe their faces, for it had been a desperate hard job.
“No, you don’t,” said Duncan, leaping down as he saw the magic staff
creeping and crawling like a snake towards the door. But the crutch
was too sharp for him, and wriggled under the door, and, gliding
off, was soon lost among the heather and fern that surrounded the
summit of Ben e Bhreac.
Now, there had been no sound or disturbance from the well for some
time, so they concluded that the old hag was safely settled once
anil for all this time, and Duncan gave it as his opinion that they
might, now go and have a leisurely look round about the place to see
if there wan anything worth carrying off.
So Donald searched about the summit to the north, Dougald to the
south, and Duncan to the east- There was no use at all in going
towards the west, for a precipice went straight down on that side,
and it would have been waste of time to have done so.
To the north, where Donald went, was what one might call the garden,
if such a collection of weeds might be given that name. There Donald
went up and down, up and down, yet nothing of the slightest value to
himself or any one else did he see, and he felt disgusted at taking
all this trouble for nothing.
Well, he was just going to give up the search in despair, when he
espied a very handsome flower growing beside a rock at the further
end, and thought he would go and have a look at it before telling
his brothers of his unprofitable search. And the plant was a really
pretty one. It had a splendid yellow flower like a great gowan
growing on the top of a stout stalk which sprang from a bunch of
large green leaves below. lie certainly never had seen the like
before, and he stood there admiring it very much.
“I wonder what sort
of plant this can be?” said Donald.
“Oh, I’m a Thunder-plant,” said the flower.
“A what?” said Donald.
“A Thunder-plant,” said the flower again.
“Indeed; and what sort of kind can that be?” said Donald.
“Just smell me, and you will soon see,” said the flower.
Well, Donald was curious to know what sort of plant a Thunder-flower
could be, so he leaned down and gave a truly good sniff in the very
centre of ihe petals.
Bang! There was a startling report, and the echoes of it rolled and
rolled round the mountains, and Donald fell flat on his back with
astonishment and alarm.
“Well, we live and learn something new every day, certainly,” said
Donald as he got up rubbing his legs and elbows. “I’m not sure but
that you would be a good companion in a pinch, if you could always
do that when you were asked.”
“I don’t object to going with you as a companion,” said the flower.
“Dig me up carefully, and put me in your wallet. I may be of some
use to you on the way.”
So Donald dug the Thunder-plant up carefully with his knife and put
it in his wallet. “At any rate I shall not go home empty. A plant is
hotter than nothing,” quoth he; “though of what use a Thunder-plant
may be to me I assuredly do not know at present.”
“Time will show that,” said the Thunder-plant.
“Ay will it,” paid Donald.
In the meantime Dougald, the second brother, had gone to seek for
treasure on the south side of the bothy. Here at first he sought
most carefully, but could discover nothing of even the smallest
value, and, like Donald, getting tired of seeking, he was almost
giving up the hunt in despair, when he heard, or thought he heard, a
strange, weird chuckle, like laughter, proceed from behind a heap of
rank grass in the shade of the wall. Examining more closely, he
discovered the cause of the noise in a queer-looking gray hen,
seated amongst the rubbish. She had a bright red comb and a yellow
beak, and from her eyes came such a strange look, unusual in an
ordinary fowl, as she fixed them upon the stranger, that Dougald at
once understood the bird was something decidedly out of the common.
“Dear me,” said
Dougald, “what sort of fowl are you?”
“A Thunder-fowl,” said the bird.
“What?” said Dougald.
“I believe I answered loud enough," remarked the bird; “A
“Oh, I beg your pardon!” said Dougald; “you did so, but my good
mother has kept poultry for many a long year at home, and I have
never seen the sort before, and that astonished me.”
“Put the coop over my head, and leave me in the dark for. a short
space. Then take it of suddenly, and you will soon find out all
about it,” said she.
Well, Dougald did not like to refuse so civil-spoken a request,
especially as it was owing to his curiosity the bird suggested the
So he put the coop over her bead, and counted maybe twenty, and then
lifted the coop off again.
To say that he was astonished at the terrific crow the fowl emitted
is not an adequate expression: he was startled out of his wits. No
thunder could produce so mighty a report, or echoes more loud among
the mountains, than the sound which came up under his nose when once
more the light shone upnn the red hackles of the Thunder-fowl, and
Dougald fell flat on his back with astonishment and alarm.
“What do you think of that?” said the fowl.
“You don’t belie your name,” said Dougald. getting up and rubbing
his legs and elbows. “Don’t do that again without giving me warning.
Still, you would not be a bad companion at a pinch, if you could
trumpet like that whenever you were anked.”
“Why not take me with you as a comrade,” said the fowl. “It’s cold
enough and lonely enough living up here, anyway.”
“I can carry you in my wallet, if you don’t mind,” said Dougald.
“Capital,” said the fowl; “only, don’t cover my head, or you may be
startled when you least expect it.”
So Dougald put the Thunder-fowl in his walle1, and her head looked
out through a hole in the top, and, quite pleased with his
discovery, he went to seek his brothers.
Now, as for Duncan, the youngest brother, he went as was arranged to
the east side of the mountain, to see what he could find it the way
of a treasure, and, like the others, it was not long before he got
dead tired of searching. There was nothing to be seen but an
enclosure of stones ip which were a few unpleasant nettles growing,
and a pile of sticks set up on end in the corner for fuel. He kicked
up some of the nettles, to see if anything was hidden among them,
and stamped on the ground in all directions, to hear if it sounded
hollow underneath, but nothing did he gain by either performance,
and, getting cross, for ho did not care to be defeated in anything
he undertook, as a last resource before giving it up as a bad job,
he poked a long stake into the heap of sticks and rattled it up and
down in a very vicious manner.
Certes, but he was astonished, when from under the fagots arose a
pink, fresh-coloured pig, with beady eyes and a snout as black as
“You must find it a bit cold living upon this hilltop with so
miserable a shelter as these sticks,” said Duncan.
“I’m not a
common-bred pig,” said the brute.
“Would it be rude to ask what breed you are?” said Duncan.
“Not at all,” replied the pig. “I’m a Thunder pig, at your service.”
“What sort of breed is that?” said Duncan.
“If you want to know, just kiss me once between the eyes; it will
save a lot of explanation.”
Now, Duncan was not accustomed to kiss swine between the eyes, or
anywhere else, for the matter of that, but he thought he had better
not decline, ap it was his fault that the pig had been disturbed,
and one never knows what may be got by being civil to anything, man
or beast, and the pig looked clean as pigs go.
So he kissed the pig between the eyes.
The next moment Duncan felt himself flat on the ground, for such a
grunt came from the porker that he fell over backwards from alarm
and astonishment at the terrific explosion. And the mountain-tops so
long resounded with the report, that you would think the echoes were
never going to cease talking about it to one another.
“It’s lucky you don’t produce lightning as well,” said Duncan,
getting up with a wry face and bruised elbows. “I would rather have
you for a friend than a foe any day.”
"I am quite willing to be the first,” said the pig. “For myself, I
don’t mind if I go with you as a companion; I am rather sick of the
life up here,”
“I, too, shall be glad of your company, and that’s a bargain,” said
Duncan; “and now, let me introduce you to my brothers whom I see
coming towards us.”
So the three brothers met and told their discoveries, and introduced
each to the other his new companion; then, having nothing more to do
at the summit, they descended to the glen below.
Even to this day there is more thunder round Ben e Bhreac than any
of the mountains in the neighbourhood, and when storms are at their
loudest round its crags, “Hark,” say the good wives of Kannoch;
“’tis the witch of Ben e Bhreac working with her thunder servants.”
And the mountain is avoided to this day.
So, towards the west these three brothers, with their new friends,
travelled all that afternoon; and just as they arrived at the head
of Glen Nevis, the sun set. So they rested for the night under the
shadow of Bennein Beg, since not for all the world would they have
ventured to pass through that glen after nightfall for fear of the
three green men who inhabited it, and who were reported savage and
fierce to all travellers.
It was very early the
next morning that the three brothers arose, for Dougald had put the
Thunder-fowl under his plaid when they went to sleep, quite
forgetting what would happen if he took it off suddenly in the
morning sunshine. This very thing really occurred quite unexpectedly
at sunrise, for the wind blowing up the valley flung a corner of the
plaid aside, and a beam of light glancing on the red comb of the
bird made that creature crow as only it of feathered creatures could
The mountains rattled with the report, and the three brothers awoke
with a jump. The folk dwelling in the neighbourhood put their heads
out of their bofhy windows, and said to one another, “Ha. thunder in
a clear sky; strange!” and a good many things, both man and beast,
awoke that morning earlier than their usual.
But our heroes knew better by this time what it was; and so they
arose, and slung their wallets over their backs, and, with the
Thunder-pig trotting beside Duncan, they proceeded on their way.
But not far had they travelled before the bothy of the first green
man met their view rising beside the pathway. A queer building it
looked—circular, flat-topped, and without windows; for Trolls and
such like can bear but little light. Nothing, in fact, broke the
plain appearance of the building but a small, low door, formed of
three slabs of stone, one at each side, and one for the lintel, and
that not even high enough for the evil creature to creep through
“Now,” said Duncan to
Donald, “you go and try your luck with the first green man, while
Dougald and I wait here. When you give us a call, or require
assistance, we shall be at hand.”
Donald did not dispute the matter with Duncan, for, though the
youngest, he was the cleverest. But I told you that before.
So, taking up his wallet, which contained the Thunder-plant, he went
to the bothy of the green man and gave a good rap at the door.
“There is nobody at home,” said the Troll within; “go away.”
“But it is just that nobody I want to see,” said Donald, and he gave
the door a kick and crept in.
There he saw an ugly Troll, squatting by a turf lire, and that Troll
had green eyes and a green plaid mantle cast over his shoulders, and
green hair twisted; in plaits hung down behind.
“That’s a very vulgar trick to play in another man’s house.” said
the Troll;-“what is your business?”
“Oh! I am come about a situation: perhaps you may want a servant,”
“No, no, go away,” said the Troll; “I have enough to do to find room
“But just listen,” said Donald; “I am a first-rate gardener, and
could put your kale-patch in order in a jiffy. It is desperate
untidy, and I am sure it wants tidying badly.”
“Oh! very well, then, go and dig your fill in the garden,” said the
Troll, with more urbanity than Donald expected; “go along and dig,
go along and delve.” The fact was, the Troll was much upset in his
mind that morning, and he felt too sick to go on arguing, having
heard thunder (which, you know, is fatal to Trolls), and he wanted
to get rid of the intruder at any price. He also considered that, as
soon as Donald was the other side of the door, he would be able to
bolt it within, and if Donald got in again after that, well then,
the Troll would be much surprised indeed.
As soon as Donald got outside the door, he looked round carefully
and quickly, and, when he was sure the Troll was not looking, he
swiftly planted the Thunder-plant in the centre of the kale-patch
between the bothy and the road.
In an instant the Thunder-plant raised its stalk and spread its
leaves around, while the blossom at the top unfurled itself like a
“Oh, do come out, do
come out, dear master, and see the lovely flower that has grown in
your kale-patch!” said Donald.
“Not if I know it,” thought the Troll, and he sat silent. But Donald
continuing to call out the same thing, the Troll thought he might
just as well have a look and see what really was going on. So he
peeped through a crack in the side of the door.
And astonished he was at the size and beauty of the plant. He could
not make out for the life of him how the plant got there; he had not
seen it before. Then he thought this must be inquired into, for
Trolls, of all creatures, are the most curious, and, knowing
nothing, want to understand everything.
So the Troll forgot all about the thunderstorm, and opened the door,
putting his ugly head through the aperture.
“What’s the use of that plant?” said the Troll.
“Oh! it has the most lovely smell you ever smelt in the world for
one thing,” said Donald. “Come out and smell it.”
“Smell it yourself,” said the Troll.
“I have already done so,” said Donald, “and was oh, so astonished!”
Which was anything but a Story on his part, you will readily admit.
“Bring the plant here,” said the Troll; “for I won’t come out for
you or any plant.”
“Oh, then,” said Donald, “I shall carry it down the glen somewhere
else, if you don’t think it worth coming out even to smell it.”
Now to think anything of his was being carried off made the Troll
very angry; also he was seized with a desire to smell the plant, so
he persuaded himself there was no danger in going out just this
little way. Throwing open the door, he crawled out, waddled up to
the Thunder-plant, and took a good long sniff with his ugly snout.
Bang! and you know what happened then.
But the Troll, thinking that the thunder was bursting under his very
nose, as in truth it was, fled helter-skelter back to his bothy so
swiftly, that, forgetting to bob his head on entering the low
doorway, he dashed his brains out on the lintel and fell dead on the
threshold, and that was the end of him.
Then Donald cried out to his brothers, and they came running up, and
these three together ransacked the bothy, finding, as they expected,
gems and jewels, silver and gold, hidden in the four corners,
besides a lump of fiery-coloured crystal above price, stowed away
below the hearthstone.
“Now, Donald, do you stay here,” said Duncan. “Keep what you have
fairly earned, while I and Dougald go a bit further on and try our
luck with the other two green men of the glen.”
So Donald stopped behind and waved a farewell to his two brothers as
they went down the valley under the shade of Ben Nevis.
And it was not long before they saw a round tower like the first,
built in the middle of the glen close to the roadside.
That’s the bothy of the second green man,” said Duncan. “Go you,
Dougald, and try your luck. I will wait lor you here with the
Thunder-pig till I hear you call out.”
So off Dougald went with the Thunder-fowl looking out of his wallet.
“Is any one within?” said Dougald, rapping with his stick at the
little, low door.
“No,” said a harsh voice, which he knew was the Troll’s; “go about
“A word with you first,” said Dougald.
“That word will be your last, then,” said the Troll, “if you don’t
“Flatly, I won’t move on,” said Dougald; “I must and will speak to
“In the name of all that’s ugly, tell your business, then!” said the
Troll, opening the door and showing his hideous green face to
“Well,” said Dougald, “I am a master cook, and cook broth out of
nothing; and I am on the lookout for a situation.”
Now the Troll considered for a moment. He had not had a good meal
for a day or two, owing to the thundery weather, especially to the
violent reports heard both yesterday and that very morning, and
being unable to go out and procure food, and feeling really very
hungry, the thought of broth made his chops water. “Besides,” said
he, “what need have I to be afraid of this intruder? If he fails in
his cooking me the broth, it won’t take long to destroy him and stew
him into broth instead.”
So he said aloud, “Broth, indeed! Well, cook it and serve it; but if
you fail, and it proves not savoury to my taste, cook or no cook,
off goes your head in a trice,” and he scraped and scrubbed a long
dirk on the threshold to sharpen it and to give point to his words.
“Oh! you’ll find it savoury enough to last for a long time,” said
Dougald. “Give me that kale-pot with the cover on it that I see
lying behind the door.” So the Troll gave him the kale-pot with the
cover on, and Doiigald carried it outside, as if to fill it with
water at the burn. But when he was below the bank, out of sight of
the Troll, he deftly put the Thunder-fowl into it instead, and shut
down the lid.
Then he brought the pot back again to the bothy, and placed it on
the ground before the Troll.
“Now take yon spoon up,” said Dougald; “wait till I count twenty,
then lift up the lid and see what sort of broth I can cook. Take my
word for it, my friend, you will never want to taste any other after
“Oon, da, tre, cahir,” counted Dougald, and scarcely had he got to
the word “fichead” when the impatient Troll flung aside the lid,
and, plunging the iron spoon into the pot, stirred up the
Thunder-fowl that was sitting quietly at the bottom.
And the light from
the chimney above smote suddenly on the red comb of the
Thunder-fowl, and she gave such a crow that the walls of the bothy
shook as if it were stricken with a thunderbolt.
Then up leaped the Troll, and fled shrieking with dismay towards the
door, for he thought the fire had come through the roof; but so full
of terror was he, that he quite forgot to bob his head, and so,
dashing out his brains on the lintel, he lay dead and still on the
threshold, and that was the end of him.
Then Dougald called out to his brother Duncan, who was keeping watch
as he had promised, a short way up the road, and Duncan and the
Thunder-pig came up to his call as quick as they could.
Indeed, it was not long before they had unearthed the Troll’s
treasure—gems and jewels, silver and gold, hidden in the four
corners of the bothy, and a large slab of golden topaz, worth a
king’s ransom, stowed away under the hearthstone.
“Now,” said Duncan, “you stop here and look after your possessions,
while I go to the end of the glen with the Thunder-pig. Wait for me
here till I return—I hope with treasure,—then we will pick up Donald
and go home together.”
So Dougald remained in possession of the second green man’s bothy,
and Duncan and the Thunder-pig went on alone down the glen towards
Just as he had expected, on emerging from the glen, he saw, on the
right-band side of the road, a bothy exactly like the last, enclosed
within a dyke of loose stones. There was no sign of life about it,
and it looked so particularly forbidding, that Duncan determined to
have a good look round, and inspect the place from every side,
before he knocked at the door.
Getting over the dyke he crept quietly round the back of the bothy,
and there, on a level with his head, he saw a window, just big
enough to crawl in or out of, filled with wattles twisted up and
across like bars.
“This will be of some use, I feel sure,” said Duncan; and he then
asked the Thunder-pig to be so good as to lie down under the window
and to wait till he called.
Oh! the Thunder-pig was quite agreeable to do so.
Having settled that, Duncan went to the little door in front, and
knocked and knocked, but no sign or answer came from within. But he
felt sure the green man must he at home, for Trolls never steal
abroad in the daytime, but love the dark gloaming and night alone.
“This Troll must be either deaf or very uncivil,” said Duncan; and
so saying, he took a short run and gave the door such a fierce kick
that he sent it crashing inwards, bolts and fastenings flying into
the middle of the chamber.
“How dare you intrude in my bothy, you good-for-nothing scamp, you?”
said the Troll; for, of course, as soon as he saw there was no
further use of concealment, the ill-omened creature emerged from
behind a heap of turf in the corner.
“How dare you kirk my furniture about in that way? Where are your
manners? I tell you, if your parents ever taught you any, they
taught you them upside down.”
“Oh!” said Duocan, putting on an air of complete composure, “1 heard
you were a bit lonely, and so I came in to call on you in a friendly
sort of way in passing.”
“Who told you I was lonely? I’m not lonely, d’ye hear?” screamed the
Troll: “I’m not lonely! and I don’t care if she never comes back
“Oho!” thought Duncan. “She never comes back again? There’s a she in
it I’m on the scent of something." So he said as a shot: “Oh! then
she has not come back yet. That’s very curious.”
“Hush! hush!" said the Troll, putting out both his hands as if to
hide some horrible vision. “I see you know all about it. No, she has
not come back; but I am desperately afraid she will. Look what she
did this morning,” said he, pointing to the broken furniture and
crockery that strewed the floor.
For you must know the Troll had that day had a fierce and fearful
quarrel with his spouse, which ended in his turning her out into the
road, and she had marched off fuming, and threatening to return in a
very short time with her brother, a more powerful Troll, and so be
“That accounts for the hubbub I heard a short while ago up the
glen,” said Duncan. “I have no doubt at all she is coming back very
“Oh! now, don’t you say that; it is too horrible! What shall I do?
what do yon advise me to do?” said the Troll; for by this time he
was thoroughly frightened. “You don’t know what a nasty, spiteful,
revengeful thing my wife is.”
“Well,” said Duncan,
laughing to himself at how the simple Troll let out his secret.
“I’ll tell you what to do in the first place. I would put the house
a bit in order and remove all signs of the quarrel. You do this room
up, and I will make that little chamber yonder tidy, for I am a good
hand as a house servant, and then, don’t you see, when your wife
comes hack to pay you out for this morning’s work, you can easily
say she must have dreamt it all.”
“Capital!” said the Troll, much relieved; “you shall have a nice
reward if I succeed in this.” But the evil thing only wanted an
opportunity to give him a smack on the head as soon as he had the
chance, you may rely on it.
So Duncan went to the recess in the wall where the little window
was, and where he saw the Troll-wife’s bed lying in an untidy heap
on the ground, and while the old Troll was busily engaged in redding
up the large chamber, he whistled softly to the Thunder-pig outside.
It came to the window, and lifting it in through the wattles, he
made it lie down in the bedclothes.
Then he fixed the Troll’s nightcap on the Thunder-pig’s head, tying
it under the chin, and having pulled a plaid up as far as its neck,
he tucked it in all round, so that nothing was seen but a pink face
under a nightcap. He then hade the Thunder-pig lie still, and not
move till he got the word.
“Oh my!” cried Duncan, coming into the middle chamber; “here’s a
fine thing happened! There’s something strange asleep in the bed; it
must surely he your wife come back unknown to you.”
“Good life!” said the Troll, sitting down with a plump on the hard
floor; “you don’t say so?”
“But I do say so,” said Duncan.
“Whatever am I to do?” said the Troll. “Come, you won’t mind putting
on my clothes and pretending to he me for a bit while I hide. Yes,
do; I'll make it worth your while, and she will be thit terrible
when she ivakes; oh, I think I shall have a fit!”
“Nonsense!” said Duncan. “I’ll tell you a much better plan; it’s the
very chance for you. Just you creep in quietly and wake her with a
good sound kiss between her eyes. Take my word for it, you won’t
hear any more on the subject.”
“Think so?” said the Troll. “I’m not so sure; she’s so revengeful.”
“Think so?” said Duncan. “I say so; I’ll stake my life on it if it
don’t succeed, or if you have an other row with jour wife after you
have done so, I’ll tell you what, I promise to marry her myself.”
And Duncan laughed to himself to think what a real, honest truth he
“Done with you!” said the Troll, as he crept carefully on tiptoe to
the recess over there. Sure enough, he saw something pink, with
closed eyes, snoring in his wife’s bed. So without more ado or
further investigation, for now he was alarmed to think his wife
might wake up before he gave her the peace making caress, he bent
over the sleeping figure and gave it a good sound kiss between the
“Wake up, my lass, wake up!” said the Troll in a cheery voice.
Wake up? indeed, it
was wake up! Had the thunder got into his wife’s inside? Bang, bang,
bang! It took but two steps for the Troll to cross the floor of his
bothy in his rush for the door, where, forgetting just like the
other two to hob his head, so great was his anxiety to leave the
plane, he: dashed his brains out against the lintel and fell dead,
crumpled up in an ugly mass on the threshold, and that was the end
Well, it did not take Duncan long to find out where the treasure
lay, for he knew well enough now where to look for it. In the four
corners of the bothy were hidden gems and jewels, silver and gold,
while, stowed away under the hearthstone, he found three bags of
pearls, shining so clear and clean, they must have come from the
mussel-beds of Leven, so pure were they.
So he filled his wallet and his pockets with the treasure, and,
whistling to the Thunder-pig, he marched up the glen to where his
brother Dougald was waiting for him at the bothy of the second green
man, and, finding him, they passed on together to the bothy of the
first green man, where the eldest, Donald, expected them.
Then wi*h mutual congratulations, and in cheerfuJ companionship,
they all went up the glen homewards to Rannoch. and on the way
Duncan Cot>ld not help boasting of how cleverly he had managed the
whole proceedings in this way and that way. And the two elder
brothers did not contradict him, because, though Duncan was the
youngest, he was so much the cleverest, and <=o—oh, but I beg your
pardon! I Lave told you all that before.
Oh but they were glad when they saw once more the fair loch of
Rannocb shining in the evening sun, and looked again upon the
clachan, and the bothies of their old friends at home, and heard the
Tobias sieging in the fir-trees. There, too, they saw their old
mother bringing, in the washing she had hung out to dry on the
rowan-lushes, for it had been a fine summer day after tie
thunderstorm, and die west wind blew softly.
She was surprised, you may be sure, to see them so soon returning
with such queer companions and such full pouches. And they all three
kissed her, and she kissed them, bidding them each a hearty welcome
So they told their tale, and showed her all their treasures, and
they blessed themselves that they never need leave dear Rannoch and
Well, what? you won’t be satisfied till you hear what happened to
the Thunder-creatures? Oh, ah! yes, I forget to tell you that.
The very next
morning, when Duncan and Iiis brothers went to the byre behind the
bothy where they had lodged their companions for the night, what was
their surprise to see a handsome young man, clad in tartan, standing
by the door, and two fair maidens seated by him on the cheese-press.
“Your servant, sir,” said the young man. “May I introduce myself as
MacSwiney of Glen Muick, and these are my two sisters, Flora and
Foula, both of whom you remember, I am sure, as the Thunder-plant
and Thunder-fowl. I, I need hardly add, am the Thunder-pig, at your
service. We were enchanted by the witch of Ben e Bhreac, from which
thraldom you have released us, for which receive our thanks.”
Having said this, the young man bowed again, and his sisters got up
and curtsied their acknowledgments.
And Donald went up to Flora, and Dougald went up to Foula, and
begged them to remain and in their wives, and both Flora and Foula
said, “Thank you kindly; we will.”
But Duncan, hearing all this, turned round on his heel and went hack
into the bothy, and sitting down by his mother, hid his face in her
apron, and refused to Fay a word to anybody.
Then both Donald and Dougald laughed to themselves, because for the
first time Duncan had made a mistake, and they had got sweet wives,
and Duncan had got none, for all his cleverness. But he looked so
very unhappy about it, that MacSwiney came up to him and said,
“Cheer up; I have a sister at home as beautiful as Flora or Foula. I
will send for her, and she will make you a good wife, and you will
be as happy as the others.”
So it came to pass;
and they were all married on the same day, MacSwiney giving his
sisters away; and the wedding feast was a splendid one, for had not
they the Trolls’ treasure to buy provisions with?
One thing I do hope,—that the brides and their brother forgot their
old tricks of thunder-making, nor played any such games on the
wedding guests. I am certain it would have disturbed much the whole
proceedings. I know for one, I should have felt, like the Trolls,