16th January

The Disenchantment

The observatory tower, now an empty, roofless shell, stands as a landmark on the hill, visible for many miles in all directions. People from the area, returning after a holiday or even years of absence, say that as soon as they can see the tower they know they are home.

It was built some two centuries ago for a local laird with an interest in the stars. It was not long before it fell into disuse – perhaps because the amateur astronomer found that he could see little more of the night sky from that lonely spot than he could from a room at the top of his own house. There might, however, have been another reason for its abandonment.

One summer’s night, studying the moon through his telescope, the laird found that he could see the lunar surface in the most remarkable detail. As he swivelled the instrument something astonishing came into view. He called to the servant waiting below with their horses.

‘Come up here and look through the glass!’ he shouted. ‘Tell me if you cannot see what appears to be a building of some kind on the moon.’

The servant had long ago concluded that his master was mad, yet through the telescope he too could see a tower, very similar to the one on which they stood, perched on a ridge of the moon.

‘You’re right,’ he said. ‘What’s more, there are two figures on the ram- parts, and they are mocking us.’

Frantically the laird pushed the man out of the way, and peered again.

After some minutes, during which time the laird’s whole demeanour became less and less animated, and more and more disconsolate, he stepped back. ‘No,’ he said. ‘It was a delusion after all, doubtless caused by shadows on the moon. Go back to the horses. I will be with you soon.’

The servant never again visited the observatory with his master. But years later, with a drink inside him at the fireside, he would recall what he had seen through the telescope: the men on the moon, their backs turned, their breeks dropped, their coat-tails flicked up, and their large, pale hindquarters gleaming at him across space.

Reader: Gerda Stevenson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Guitar: Sorren Maclean
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