The Page-boy And The Silver Goblet

: The Scottish Fairy Book

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


"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


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


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 Castle."

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 doing so.

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 hands.

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 darkness:

"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.