It is needless to pursue further these strange details, which however form a valuable appendix to the records at that time.
It would seem as if the violence of this popular delirium began after 1662 to relax. An interval of six years now occurs without a trial for this crime, while the record bears that James Welsh* was ordered to be publicly whipped for accusing several individuals of it,-a fate which he was hardly likely to have encountered some years before. Fountainhall, in noticing the case of the ten poor women convicted on their own confession in 1678f, obviously speaks of the whole affair with great doubt and hesitation. And Sir George Mackenzie, in his 6 Criminal Law/ the first edition of which appeared in the same year, though he does not yet venture to deny the existence of the crime or the expediency of its punishment, lays down many principles very inconsistent with the practice of the preceding century. " From the horridness of the crime," says he, " I do conclude that of all crimes it requires the clearest relevancy and most convincing probature ; and I condemn, next to the wretches themselves, those cruel and too forward judges who burn persons by thousands as guilty of this crime." And accordingly, acting on these humane and cautious principles, Sir George, in his Report to the Judges in 1680, relative to a number of persons then in prison for this crime, stated that their confessions had been procured by torture, and that there seemed to be no other proof against them, on which they were set at liberty. " Since which time," adds Lord Royston, " there has been no trial for this crime before that court, nor before any other court, that I know of, except one at Paisley by commission from the Privy Council in anno 1697." This observation of Lord Royston is not altogether correct. The trial at Paisley to which he alludes is evidently the noted case of the Renfrewshire witches, tried on a charge of sorcery against a girl named Christian Shaw, the daughter of Shaw of Bargarran. The conviction of the accused appears to have taken place principally on the evidence of the girl herself, who in the presence of the commissioners played off a series of ecstasies and convulsion fits, similar to those by which the nuns of Loudon had sealed the fate of Grandier the century before. In this atrocious case, the Commissioners (in the Report presented by them to the Privy Council, 9th March, 1697), reported that there were twenty-four persons, male and female, suspected of being concerned in the sorceries ; and among them, it is to be observed, is a girl of fourteen, and a boy not twelve years of age. After this, we almost feel surprised that out of about twenty who were condemned, only five appear to have been executed. They were burnt on the green at Paisley. The last trial before the Court of Justiciary was that of Elspet Rule, tried before Lord Anstruther, on the Dumfries circuit, 3rd of May, 1708, where the prisoner, though convicted by a plurality of voices, was merely sentenced to be bmned on the cheek and banished Scotland for life. The last execution which took place was that of an old woman in the parish of Loth, executed at Dornoch in 1722, by sentence of the Sheriff depute of Caithness, Captain David Ross, of Little Dean. " It is said, that being brought out for execution, the weather proving very severe, she sat composedly warming herself by the fire, while the other instruments of death were made ready !"
* Taking the form, of foul and ominous birds was a favourite practice of witches in all ages. Apuleius, in his character of Lucius, thus describes the metamorphosis of his hostess at Larissa :-
"Painphile divested herself of all her garments, and opening a certain cabinet took out of it a number of boxes. From one of these she selected a salve, and anointed herself from head to foot ; and after much muttering, she began to rock and wave herself to and fro. Presently a soft down covered her limbs, and a pair of wings sprang from her shoulders : her nose became a beak : her nails talons. Pamphile was now in form a complete owl. Then uttering a low shriek she began to jump from the floor, and after a brief while flew out of the window and vanished. She wmged her way, I was assured by Fotis, to some expectant lover. And this was the last I saw of the old lady".
* Just. Eecords. Jan. 27, 1G62. f Vol. i. Decisions, p. 14.