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Beside the old tradition on which this ballad is founded, there are some modern incidents of a similar nature, which cannot well be accounted for, yet are as well attested as any occurrence that has taken place in the present age. The relation may be amusing to some readers.
A man in the parish of Traquair, and county of Peebles, was busied one day casting turf in a large open field opposite to the mansion-house—the spot is well known, and still pointed out as rather unsafe; his daughter, a child seven years of age, was playing beside him, and amusing him with her prattle. Chancing to ask a question at her, he was surprised at receiving no answer, and, looking behind him, he perceived that his child was not there. He always averred that, as far as he could remember, she had been talking to him about half a minute before; he was certain it was not above a whole one at most. It was in vain that he ran searching all about like one distracted, calling her name;—no trace of her remained. He went home in a state of mind that maybe better conceived than expressed, and raised the people of the parish, who searched for her several days with the same success. Every pool in the river, every bush and den on the mountains around was searched in vain. It was remarked that the father never much encouraged the search, being thoroughly persuaded that she was carried away by some invisible being, else she could not have vanished so suddenly. As a last resource, he applied to the minister of Inverlethen, a neighbouring divine of exemplary piety and zeal in religious matters, who enjoined him to cause prayers be offered to God for her in seven Christian churches, next Sabbath, at the same instant of time; "and then," said he, "if she is dead, God will forgive our sin in praying for the dead, as we do it through ignorance; and if she is still alive, I will answer for it, that all the devils in hell shall be unable to keep her." The injunction was punctually attended to. She was remembered in the prayers of all the neighbouring congregations, next Sunday, at the same hour, and never were there such prayers for fervour heard before. There was one divine in particular, Mr Davidson, who prayed in such a manner that all the hearers trembled. As the old divine foreboded, so it fell out. On that very day, and within an hour of the time on which these prayers were offered, the girl was found, in the Plora wood, sitting, picking the bark from a tree. She could
give no perfect account of the circumstances which had befallen to her, but she said she did not want plenty of meat, for that her mother came and fed her with milk and bread several times a-day, and sung her to sleep at night. Her skin had acquired a bluish cast, which wore gradually off in the course of a few weeks. Her name was Jane Brown, she lived to a very advanced age, and was known to many still alive. Every circumstance of this story is truth, if the father's report of the suddenness of her disappearance may be relied on.
Another circumstance, though it happened still later, is not less remarkable. A shepherd of Tushilaw, in the parish of Ettrick, whose name was Walter Dalgleish, went out to the heights of that farm, one Sabbath morning, to herd the young sheep for his son, and let him to church. He took his own dinner along with him, and his son's breakfast. When the sermons were over, the lad went straight home, and did not return to his father. Night came, but nothing of the old shepherd appeared. When it grew very late his dog came home—seemed terrified, and refused to take any meat. The family were ill at ease during the night, especially as they never had known his dog leave him before; and early next morning the lad arose and went to the height to look after his father and his flock. He found his sheep all scattered, and his father's dinner unbroken, lying on the same spot where they had parted the day before. At the distance of 20 yards from the spot, the plaid which the old man wore was lying as if it had been flung from him, and a little farther on, in the same direction, his bonnet was found, but nothing of himself. The country people, as on all such occasions, rose in great numbers, and searched for him many days. My father, and several old men still alive, were of the party. He could not be found or heard of, neither dead nor alive, and at length they gave up all thoughts of ever seeing him more.
On the 20th day after his disappearance, a shepherd's wife, at a place called Berry-bush, came in as the family was sitting down to dinner, and said, that if it were possible to believe that Walter Dalgleish was still in existence, she would say yonder was he coming down the hill. They all ran out to watch the phenomenon, and as the person approached nigher, they perceived that it was actually he, walking without his plaid and his bonnet. The place where he was first descried is not a mile distant from that where he was last seen, and there is neither brake, hag, nor bush. When he came into the house, he shook hands with them all—asked for his family, and spoke as if he had been absent for years, and as if convinced something had befallen them. As they perceived something singular in his looks and manner, they unfortunately forebore asking him any questions at first, but desired him to sit and share their dinner. This he readily complied with, and began to sup some broth with seeming eagerness. He had only taken one or two spoonfuls when he suddenly stopped, a kind of rattling noise was heard in his breast, and he sunk back in a faint. They put him to bed, and from that time forth, he never spoke another word that any person could make sense of. He was removed to his own home, where he lingered a few weeks, and then died. What befel him remains to this day a mystery, and for ever must.
Note XVI. But oft the list'ning groups stood'still, For spirits talked along the hill.—P. 204. The echoes of evening, which are occasioned by the voices or mirth of different parties not aware of each other, have a curious and striking effect. I have known some country people terrified almost out of their senses at hearing voices and laughter among cliffs, where they knew it impossible for human being to reach. Some of Bb