If I could take you with me up to Scotland,—take you, for instance, along the Tay, up the pass of Dunkeld, or up Strathmore towards Aberdeen, or up the Dee towards Braemar,—I could show you signs, which cannot be mistaken, of the time when Scotland was, just like Spitzbergen or like Greenland now, covered in one vast sheet of snow and ice from year’s end to year’s end; when glaciers were ploughing out its valleys, icebergs were breaking off the icy cliffs and floating out to sea; when not a bird, perhaps, was to be seen save sea-fowl, not a plant upon the rocks but a few lichens, and Alpine saxifrages, and such like—desolation and cold and lifeless everywhere. That ice-time went on for ages and for ages; and yet it did not go on in vain. Through it Madam How was ploughing down the mountains of Scotland to make all those rich farms which stretch from the north side of the Frith of Forth into Sutherlandshire. I could show you everywhere the green banks and knolls of earth, which Scotch people call “kames” and “tomans”—perhaps brought down by ancient glaciers, or dropped by ancient icebergs—now so smooth and green through summer and through winter, among the wild heath and the rough peat-moss, that the old Scots fancied, and I dare say Scotch children fancy still, fairies dwelt inside. If you laid your ear against the mounds, you might hear the fairy music, sweet and faint, beneath the ground. If you watched the mound at night, you might see the fairies dancing the turf short and smooth, or riding out on fairy horses, with green silk clothes and jingling bells. But if you fell asleep upon the mounds, the fairy queen came out and carried you for seven years into Fairyland, till you awoke again in the same place, to find all changed around you, and yourself grown thin and old.
These are all dreams and fancies—untrue, not because they are too strange and wonderful, but because they are not strange and wonderful enough: for more wonderful sure than any fairy tale it is, that Madam How should make a rich and pleasant land by the brute force of ice.
And were there any men and women in that old age of ice? That is a long story, and a dark one too; we will talk of it next time.
CHAPTER VI—THE TRUE FAIRY TALE
You asked if there were men in England when the country was covered with ice and snow. Look at this, and judge for yourself.
What is it? a piece of old mortar? Yes. But mortar which was made Madam How herself, and not by any man. And what is in it? A piece of flint and some bits of bone. But look at that piece of flint. It is narrow, thin, sharp-edged: quite different in shape from any bit of flint which you or I ever saw among the hundreds of thousands of broken bits of gravel which we tread on here all day long; and here are some more bits like it, which came from the same place—all very much the same shape, like rough knives or razor blades; and here