There was once a
little page-boy, who was in service in a stately Castle. He was a
very good-natured little fellow, and did his duties so willingly and
well that everybody liked him, from the great Earl whom he served
every day on bended knee, to the fat old butler whose errands he
Now the Castle stood on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea, and
although the walls at that side were very thick, in them there was a
little postern door, which opened on to a narrow flight of steps
that led down the face of the cliff to the sea shore, so that anyone
who liked could go down there in the pleasant summer mornings and
bathe in the shimmering sea.
On the other side of the Castle were gardens and pleasure grounds,
opening on to a long stretch of heather-covered moorland, which, at
last, met a distant range of hills.
The little page-boy was very fond of going out on this moor when his
work was done, for then he could run about as much as he liked,
chasing bumble-bees, and catching butterflies, and looking for
birds' nests when it was nesting time.
And the old butler was very pleased that he should do so, for he
knew that it was good for a healthy little lad to have plenty of fun
in the open air. But before the boy went out the old man always gave
him one warning.
“Now, mind my words, laddie, and keep far away from the Fairy Knowe,
for the Little Folk are not to trust to.”
This Knowe of which he spoke was a little green hillock, which stood
on the moor not twenty yards from the garden gate, and folk said
that it was the abode of Fairies, who would punish any rash mortal
who came too near them. And because of this the country people would
walk a good half-mile out of their way, even in broad daylight,
rather than run the risk of going too near the Fairy Knowe and
bringing down the Little Folks’ displeasure upon them. And at night
they would hardly cross the moor at all, for everyone knows that
Fairies come abroad in the darkness, and the door of their dwelling
stands open, so that any luckless mortal who does not take care may
find himself inside.
Now, the little page-boy was an adventurous wight, and instead of
being frightened of the Fairies, he was very anxious to see them,
and to visit their abode, just to find out what it was like.
So one night, when everyone else was asleep, he crept out of the
Castle by the little postern door, and stole down the stone steps,
and along the sea shore, and up on to the moor, and went straight to
the Fairy Knowe.
To his delight he found that what everyone said was true. The top of
the Knowe was tipped up, and from the opening that was thus made,
rays of light came streaming out.
His heart was beating fast with excitement, but, gathering his
courage, he stooped down and slipped inside the Knowe.
He found himself in a large room lit by numberless tiny candles, and
there, seated round a polished table, were scores of the Tiny Folk,
Fairies, and Elves, and Gnomes, dressed in green, and yellow, and
pink; blue, and lilac, and scarlet; in all the colours, in fact,
that you can think of.
He stood in a dark corner watching the busy scene in wonder,
thinking how strange it was that there should be such a number of
these tiny beings living their own lives all unknown to men, at such
a little distance from them, when suddenly someone—he could not tell
who it was— gave an order.
“Fetch the Cup,” cried the owner of the unknown voice, and instantly
two little Fairy pages, dressed all in scarlet livery, darted from
the table to a tiny cupboard in the rock, and returned staggering
under the weight of a most beautiful silver cup, richly embossed and
lined inside with gold.
He placed it in the middle of the table, and, amid clapping of hands
and shouts of joy, all the Fairies began to drink out of it in turn.
And the page could see, from where he stood, that no one poured wine
into it, and yet it was always full, and that the wine that was in
it was not always the same kind, but that each Fairy, when he
grasped its stem, wished for the wine that he loved best, and lo! in
a moment the cup was full of it.
“’Twould be a fine thing if I could take that cup home with me,”
thought the page. “No one will believe that I have been here except
I have something to show for it.” So he bided his time, and watched.
Presently the Fairies noticed him, and, instead of being angry at
his boldness in entering their abode, as he expected that they would
be, they seemed very pleased to see him, and invited him to a seat
at the table. But by and by they grew rude and insolent, and jeered
at him for being content to serve mere mortals, telling him that
they saw everything that went on at the Castle, and making fun of
the old butler, whom the page loved with all his heart. And they
laughed at the food he ate, saying that it was only fit for animals;
and when any fresh dainty was set on the table by the scarlet-clad
pages, they would push the dish across to him, saying: “Taste it,
for you will not have the chance of tasting such things at the
At last he could stand their teasing remarks no longer; besides, he
knew that if he wanted to secure the cup he must lose no time in
So he suddenly stood up, and grasped the stem of it tightly in his
hand. “I’ll drink to you all in water,” he cried, and instantly the
ruby wine was turned to clear cold water.
He raised the cup to his lips, but he
did not drink from it. With a sudden jerk he threw the water over
the candles, and instantly the room was in darkness. Then, clasping
the precious cup tightly in his arms, he sprang to the opening of
the Knowe, through which he could see the stars glimmering clearly.
He was just in time, for it fell to with a crash behind him; and
soon he was speeding along the wet, dew-spangled moor, with the
whole troop of Fairies at his heels. They were wild with rage, and
from the shrill shouts of fury which they uttered, the page knew
well that, if they overtook him, he need expect no mercy at their
And his heart began to sink, for, fleet of foot though he was, he
was no match for the Fairy Folk, who gained on him steadily.
All seemed lost, when a mysterious voice sounded out of the
“If thou wouldst gain the Castle door,
Keep to the black stones on the shore.”
It was the voice of some poor mortal, who, for some reason or other,
had been taken prisoner by the Fairies— who were really very
malicious Little Folk—and who did not want a like fate to befall the
adventurous page-boy; but the little fellow did not know this.
He had once heard that if anyone walked on the wet sands, where the
waves had come over them, the Fairies could not touch him, and this
mysterious sentence brought the saying into his mind.
So he turned, and dashed panting down to the shore. His feet sank in
the dry sand, his breath came in little gasps, and he felt as if he
must give up the struggle; but he persevered, and at last, just as
the foremost Fairies were about to lay hands on him, he jumped
across the water-mark on to the firm, wet sand, from which the waves
had just receded, and then he knew that he was safe.
For the Little Folk could go no step further, but stood on the dry
sand uttering cries of rage and disappointment, while the triumphant
page-boy ran safely along the shore, his precious cup in his arms,
and climbed lightly up the steps in the rock and disappeared through
the postern. And for many years after, long after the little
page-boy had grown up and become a stately butler, who trained other
little page-boys to follow in his footsteps, the beautiful cup
remained in the Castle as a witness of his adventure.