NEAR the town of Aberdeen, in Scotland, lived James Campbell, who had one daughter, named
[paragraph continues] Mary, who, was married to John Nelson, a young man of that neighbourhood. Shortly after their marriage, they being a young couple, they went to live in the town of Aberdeen, where he followed his trade, being a goldsmith; they lived loving and agreeable together until the time of her lying-in, when there was female attendants prepared suitable to her situation; when near the hour of twelve at night they were alarmed with a dreadful noise, at which of a sudden the candles went out, which drove the attendants in the utmost confusion; soon as the women regained their half-lost senses, they called in their neighbours who, after striking up lights, and looking towards the lying-in woman, found her a corpse, which caused great confusion in the family. There was no grief could exceed that of her husband, who, next morning, prepared ornaments for her funeral; people of all sects came to her wake, amongst others came the Rev. Mr. Dodd, who, at first sight of the corpse, said, "It's not the body of any Christian, but that Mrs. Nelson was taken away by the fairies, and what they took for her was only some substance left in her place." He was not believed, so he refused attending her funeral; they kept her in the following night, and the next day she was interred.
Her husband, one evening after sunset, being riding in his own field, heard a most pleasant concert of music, and soon after espied a woman coming towards him dressed in white; she being veiled, he could not observe her face, yet he rode near her, and asked very friendly who she was that chose to walk
alone so late in the evening? at which she unveiled her face, and burst into tears, saying, I am not permitted to tell you who I am. He knowing her to be his wife, asked her in the name of God, what disturbed her, or what occasioned her to appear at that hour? She said her appearing at any hour was of no consequence; for though you believe me to be dead and buried, I am not, but was taken away by the fairies the night of my delivery; you only buried a piece of wood in my place; I can be recovered if you take proper means; as for my child, it has three nurses to attend it, but I fear it cannot be brought home; the greatest dependence I have on any person is my brother Robert, who is a captain of a merchant ship, and will be home in ten days hence. Her husband asked her what means he should take to win her? She told him he should find a letter the Sunday morning following, on the desk in his own room, directed to her brother, wherein there would be directions for winning her. Since my being taken from you I have had the attendance of a queen or empress, and if you look over my right shoulder you will see several of my companions; he then did as she desired, when, at a small distance, he saw a king and queen sitting, beside a moat, 1 on a throne, in splendour.
She then desired him to look right and left, which he did, and observed other kings on each side of the king and queen, well, guarded. He said, I fear it is an impossibility to win you from such a place. No,
says she, were my brother Robert here in your place, he would bring me home; but let it not encourage you to attempt the like, for that would occasion the loss of me for ever; there is now severe punishment threatened to me for speaking to you; but, to prevent that, do you ride up to the moat, where (suppose you will see no person) all you now see will be near you, and do you threaten to burn all the old thorns and brambles that is round the moat, if you do not get a firm promise that I shall get no punishment; I shall be forgiven; which he promised. She then disappeared, and he lost sight of all he had seen; he then rode very resolutely up to the moat, and went round it, vowing he would burn all about it if he would not get a promise that his wife should get no hurt. A voice desired him to cast away a book that was in his pocket, and then demand his request; he answered he would not part with his book, but grant his request, or they should find the effect of his rage. The voice answered, that upon honour she should be forgave her fault, but for him to suffer no prejudice to come to the moat, which he promised to fulfil, at which he heard most pleasant music. He then returned home, and sent for the Rev. Mr. Dodd, and related to him what he had seen; Mr. Dodd stayed with him till Sunday morning following, when as Mr. Nelson looked on the desk in his room, he espied a letter, which he took up, it being directed to her brother, who in a few days came home; on his receiving the letter he opened it, wherein he found the following:
"DEAR BROTHER,--My husband can relate to you my present circumstances. I request that you will (the first night after you see this) come to the moat where I parted from my husband: let nothing daunt you, but stand in the centre of the moat at the hour of twelve at night, and call me, when I, with several others, will surround you; I shall have on the whitest dress of any in company; then take hold of me, and do not forsake me; all the frightful methods they shall use let it not surprise you, but keep your hold, suppose they continue till cock crow, when they shall vanish all of a sudden, and I shall be safe, when I will return home and live with my husband. If you succeed in your attempt, you will gain applause from all your friends, and have the blessing of your ever-loving and affectionate sister,
No sooner had he read the letter than he vowed to win his sister and her child, or perish in the attempt; he returned to the ship, and related to his sailors the contents of the letter; he delayed till ten at night, when his loyal sailors offered to go with him, which he refused, thinking it best to go alone. As he left his ship a frightful lion came roaring towards him; he drew his sword and struck at the lion,--which he observed was of no substance, it being only the appearance of one, to terrify him in his attempt; it only encouraged him, so that he proceeded to the moat, in the centre of which he observed a white handkerchief
spread; on which he was surrounded with a number of women, the cries of whom were the most frightful he ever heard; his sister being in the whitest dress of any round him, he seized her by the right hand, and said, With the help of God, I will preserve you from all infernal imps: when of a sudden, the moat seemed to be on fire around him. He likewise heard the most dreadful thunder could be imagined; frightful birds and beasts seemed to make towards him out of the fire, which he knew was not real; nothing daunted his courage; he kept hold of his sister for the space of an hour and three-quarters, when the cocks began to crow; then the fire disappeared, and all the frightful imps vanished. He held her in his arms, and fell on his knees, and gave God thanks for his proceedings that night: he believing her clothing to be light, put his outside coat on her; she then embraced him, saying she was now safe, as he put any of his clothing on her; he then brought her home to her husband, which occasioned great rejoicing. Her husband and he began to conclude to destroy the moat in revenge of the child they had away, when instantly they heard a voice, which said, you shall have your son safe, and well, on condition that you will not till the ground within three perches of the moat, nor damage bushes or brambles round that place, which they agreed to, when, in a few minutes, the child was left on his mother's knee, which caused them to kneel and return thanks to God.
The circumstance of this terrifying affair was occasioned by leaving Mrs. Nelson, the night of her
lying-in, in the care of women who were mostly intoxicated with liquor!
138:2 Sir Walter Scott, ibid., "from a broadside still popular in Ireland."
140:1 A rising ground, a knoll.