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BRA ES 0
ONE who has spent a winter in Mar need not be informed what is meant by. the word “ Forenicht." From mid-autumn until Spring—sweet maiden-has well-nigh sped her welcome course darkness falls earlier, and morning dallies longer than most people would wish. The time, then, which intervenes between nightfall and bedtime is what is called the “Forenicht.”
We have no theatres in the Braes o’ Mar, nor those many entertainments which in towns aid multitudes in whiling away what otherwise might be thought weary hours. Yet our winter is not the dull, languishing time which many may imagine it to be. From early childhood we have thought of, and longed for, the songs, the dance, the ghost tales of the winter evening. The "forenicht” is a joyous, laughing, right merry time. How merrily the peats blaze in the wide kitchen-chimney! How cheerful, red and rosy with healthful life, those that sit round that bright fire ! The goodwife, seated on her low bench in her own cosy corner, plying bravely the knitting-wires, ends the semicircle: the goodman heads it, gathering lore from the newspapers, or from some venerable old tome. One of the blithe young daughters will be at the spinning-wheel ; the others, with canny skill and busy fingers, guide the tiny needle ; while the sons keep life in them by their merry talk. The joke, and the laugh, and the gay prattle go round and round, and make time speed lightly by.
The “forenicht” circle includes not merely the members of the family, but visitors from the neighbourhood. Young and old receive and return these visits as a matter of course, and this serves much to add to the mirth of those evenings. The pack of cards, well browned with smoke and frequent usage, is generally in request on these occasions, and becomes the source
of unending merriment. The draft-board, too_“dam-brod,” they call it—a faded, dusty, traditional heirloom, is brought forth. Many the hard battles, much the skill, craft, and cunning, innumerable the victories and defeats it has witnessed. Or the politics of the day are spoken of—the wars, the skill of generals, the conduct of the soldiery—all the news of the time are talked over and discussed with no small degree of shrewdness and intelligence. The past furnishes anecdotes innumerable, ghost-stories, tales of fairies, glorious exploits of heroes ancient and modern, to pass amusingly the long winter evenings. To some few of those “forenichts,” good reader, you owe the pleasure-I hope I may call it pleasure
of reading these Legends of the Braes o' Mar.
LONG, LONG AGO. LONG, long ago, Braemar was famed over all Scotland for its romantic scenery, splendid forests, abundance of all kinds of game; but most of all for the beauty and grace of its women, and the bravery and strength of its men. These were the times of the race of iron-barbarous in its manners, it is true, but still maintaining an open hospitality, bearing a frank heart, and rigid in the execution of its promises.
Long, long ago, in those times, an old man, wearing a strange costume, and speaking a strange tongue, came journeying painfully up the water o'Dee.” He went from door to door begging a crust of bread and the hospitality of the owner ; but his suffering march, and the sad, sunk, and melancholy air of his face, showed that he was sparingly supplied and little pitied.
Still the old man toiled on, and one summer evening, thirsty and tired, entered Inverey leaning twofold over the long staff
, with round head of horn, that supported his steps. He spoke of a new doctrine and a new religion, trying to explain it to them in a few words of barbarous Celtic, which he ħad learned by the way. His new views found little credit with the people, and the poor old man was refused even a drink of water to quench his
thirst. He went on, crossing the Ey, which was tepid with the heat, and nauseou with the juice of mountain “mosses” and bogs; he went on, and, climbing the brae on the other side, he found the waters of a small fountain that sprung up in a hollow on the top. He seated himself on the green grass, and drank copiously of the pure water. In the effusion of his gratitude he dedicated the well to the Blessed Virgin, and, as the name fell from his lips, he thought of his fair France, and the rich swells of beautiful Champagne. The memory of its happy days, the memory of its tender ties, and perhaps the regret of those times, and the depth of those affections, filled even his old
eyes with tears, and wrapt his spirit, so that he did not perceive the approach of another personage.
“ Curse the fountain,” exclaimed rudely the new-comer, “that gave thee the life-continuing draught."
“Curse it not,” said the stranger, with mildness," for I have blessed it, and it shall be blessed.”
“ And Í,” cried the countryman, furiously—“I curse it with a thousand curses, and I insult it and the blessing thou hast given it.” At the same time he bent down, and, taking a handful of the slime and mud of the rivulet, he dashed
it into the eye of the fountain as he finished the malediction. The eye for a moment seemed to sparkle with anger, clear and pure, through the muddy water, and then it bubbled up no more.
“ Friend, the fountain did thee no harm, and I have done thee no wrong; why shouldst thou curse or insult us?”
“I am a Druid priest, and thou tellest the people of another religion.”
" As the fountain shall spring up again,” said the stranger, rising, and speaking like a prophet, “ through the dark mass of earth that covers it, pure and sparkling, so shall the ancient truth and the unchangeable word that I speak as a servant, and as one unworthy, shine with primal lustre to you as to the whole world.”
The fountain at this moment burst open a new source in a better place, fairer, purer, and sweeter than ever.
“Oh! master,” cried the Druid, falling at the stranger's feet, “ the power and the truth of the Great Being is with thee.”
God prospered the efforts of the French priest, others came to help him, and the Druid became one of the most ardent in propagating the good work. So the well of St Mary at Inverey is always mentioned in connection with the conversion of the Braes of Mar to Christianity.
Long, long ago, in the times of the days of old, as Ossian would have it, years after the French missionary had slept with his fathers, the Braes of Mar became a new land. The seed which had been sown found a grateful soil. The Druidical superstitions vanished, little chapels arose in every rugged glen, and Christianity assumed its beneficent sway.