Burg Hill's on Fire
by Elizabeth W. Grierson
Once upon a time there was a rich farmer
a thrifty wife. She used to go out and gather all
the little bits of wool which she could find on the
hillsides, and bring them home. Then, after her
family had gone to bed, she would sit up and card
the wool and spin it into yarn, then she would
weave the yarn into cloth to make garments for
But all this work made her feel very tired, so
that one night, sitting at her loom, she laid down
her shuttle and cried:--
"Oh, that some one would
come from far or near, from land or sea, to help me!"
No sooner had the words left her lips than she
heard some one knocking at the door.
"Who is there?" cried
"Tell Quary, good housewife," answered a
wee, wee voice. "Open the door to me. As long
as I have you'll get."
She opened the door and there on the threshold
stood a queer, little woman, dressed in a green
gown and wearing a white cap on her head.
The good housewife was so astonished that she
stood and stared at her strange visitor; but without
a word the little woman ran past her, and
seated herself at the spinning-wheel.
The good housewife shut the door, but just then
she heard another knock.
"Who is there?" said
"Tell Quary, good housewife. Open the door
to me," said another wee, wee voice. "As long
as I have you'll get."
And when she opened the door there was another
queer, little woman, in a lilac frock and a green
cap, standing on the threshold.
She, too, ran into the house
without waiting to say, "By your leave," and
picking up the distaff, began to put some wool on it.
Then before the housewife could get the door
shut, a funny little manikin, with green trousers
and a red cap, came running in, and followed the
tiny women into the kitchen, seized hold of a handful
of wool, and began to card it. Another wee,
wee woman followed him, and then another tiny
manikin, and another, and another, until it
seemed to the good housewife that all the fairies
and pixies in Scotland were coming into her
The kitchen was alive with them. Some of them
hung the great pot over the fire to boil water to
wash the wool that was dirty. Some teased the
clean wool, and some carded it. Some spun it
into yarn, and some wove the yarn into great webs
And the noise they made was like
to make her head run round. "Splash! splash! Whirr! whirr!
Clack! clack!" The water in the pot bubbled
over. The spinning-wheel whirred. The shuttle
in the loom flew backwards and forwards.
And the worst of it was that all the Fairies cried
out for something to eat, and although the good
housewife put on her griddle and baked bannocks
as fast as she could, the bannocks were
eaten up the moment they were taken off the
fire, and yet the Fairies shouted for more.
At last the poor woman was so troubled that
she went into the next room to wake her husband.
But although she shook him with all her might,
she could not wake him. It was very plain to see
that he was bewitched.
Frightened almost out of her senses, and leaving
the Fairies eating her last batch of bannocks, she
stole out of the house and ran as fast as she could
to the cottage of the Wise Man who lived a mile
She knocked at his door till he got up and put
his head out of the window, to see who was there;
then she told him the whole story.
"Thou foolish woman," said he, "let
this be a lesson to thee never to pray for things thou
dost not need! Before thy husband can be loosed from
the spell the Fairies must be got out of the house
and the fulling-water, which they have boiled,
must be thrown over him. Hurry to the little hill
that lies behind thy cottage, climb to the top of
it, and set the bushes on fire; then thou must shout
three times: `BURG HILL'S ON FIRE!' Then will all the
little Fairies run out to see if this be true, for they
live under the hill. When they are all out of the
cottage, do thou slip in as quickly as thou canst,
and turn the kitchen upside down. Upset everything
the Fairies have worked with, else the things
their fingers have touched will open the door to
them, and let them in, in spite of thee."
So the good housewife hurried
away. She climbed to the top of the little hill back
of her cottage, set the bushes on fire, and cried out
three times as loud as she was able: "BURG HILL'S
And sure enough, the door of the cottage was
flung wide open, and all the little Fairies came
running out, knocking each other over in their
eagerness to be first at the hill.
In the confusion the good housewife slipped
away, and ran as fast as she could to her cottage;
and when she was once inside, it did not take her
long to bar the door, and turn everything upside
She took the band off the spinning-wheel, and
twisted the head of the distaff the wrong way. She
lifted the pot of fulling-water off the fire, and
turned the room topsy-turvy, and threw down the
Scarcely had she done so, when the Fairies
returned, and knocked at the door.
"Good housewife! let us in," they
"The door is shut and bolted, and I will not
open it," answered she.
"Good spinning-wheel, get up and open the
door," they cried.
"How can I," answered the spinning-wheel,
"seeing that my band is undone?"
"Kind distaff, open the door for us," said
"That would I gladly do," said the distaff,
"but I cannot walk, for my head is turned the
"Weaving-loom, have pity,
and open the door."
"I am all topsy-turvy, and cannot move," sighed
"Fulling-water, open the door," they
"I am off the fire," growled the fulling-water,
"and all my strength is gone."
"Oh! Is there nothing that will come to our
aid, and open the door?" they cried.
"I will," said a little
barley-bannock, that had lain hidden, toasting on the
hearth; and it rose and trundled like a wheel quickly
across the floor.
But luckily the housewife saw
it, and she nipped it between her finger and thumb, and,
because it was only half-baked, it fell with a "splatch" on
the cold floor.
Then the Fairies gave up trying to get into the
kitchen, and instead they climbed up by the windows
into the room where the good housewife's
husband was sleeping, and they swarmed upon
his bed and tickled him until he tossed about
and muttered as if he had a fever.
Then all of a sudden the good housewife
remembered what the Wise Man had said about the
fulling-water. She ran to the kitchen and lifted a
cupful out of the pot, and carried it in, and threw
it over the bed where her husband was.
In an instant he woke up in his right senses.
Then he jumped out of bed, ran across the room
and opened the door, and the Fairies vanished.
And they have never been seen from that day to