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
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
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.