* The title continues,—" Among the Low Country Scots, as they are described by those who have the second sight, and now, to occasion farther enquiry, collected and compared by a circumspect enquirer residing among the Scottish-Irish (i. e. the Gael, or Highlanders) in Scotland." It was printed with the author's name in 1691, and reprinted, Edinburgh, 1815, for Longman and Co.
It was by no means to be supposed that the elves, so iealous and irritable a race as to be incensed against those who spoke of them under their proper names, should be less than mortally offended at the temerity of the reverend author, who had pried so deeply into their mysteries, for the purpose of giving them to the public. Although, therefore, the learned divine's monument, with his name duly inscribed, is to be seen at the east end of the churchyard at Aberfoyle, yet those acquainted with his real history do not believe that he enjoys the natural repose of the tomb. His successor, the Rev. Dr. Grahame, has informed us of the general belief, that as Mr. Kirke was walking one evening in his nightgown upon a Dun-shi, or fairy mount, in the vicinity of the manse or parsonage, behold ! he sunk down in what seemed to be a fit of apoplexy, which the unenlightened took for death, while the more understanding knew it to be a swoon produced by the supernatural influence of the people whose precincts he had violated. After the ceremony of a seeming funeral, the form of the Reverend Robert Kirke appeared to a relation, and commanded him to go to Grahame of Duchray, ancestor of the present General Graham Stirling. " Say to Duchray, who is my cousin, as well as your own, that I am not dead, but a captive in Fairy Land ; and only one chance remains for my liberation. When the posthumous child, of which my wife has been delivered since my disappearance, shall be brought to baptism, I will appear in the room, when, if Duchray shall throw over my head the knife or dirk which he holds in his hand, I may be restored to society ; but if this opportunity is neglected, I am lost for ever." Duchray was apprized of what was to be done. The ceremony took place, and the apparition of Mr. Kirke was visibly seen while they were seated at table ; but Grahame of Duchray, in his astonishment, failed to perform the ceremony enjoined, and it is to be feared that Mr. Kirke still " drees his weird in Fairy Land," the Elfin state declaring to him, as the Ocean to poor Falconer, who perished at sea, after having written his popular poem of the Shipwreck,—
" Thou hast proclaimed our power—be thou our prey!"
Upon this subject the reader may consult a very entertaining little volume, called Sketches of Perthshire,* by the Rev. Dr. Grahame of Aberfoyle. The terrible visitation of fairy vengeance which has lighted upon Mr. Kirke has not intimidated his successor, an excellent man and good antiquary, from affording us some curious information on fairy superstition. He tells us that these capricious elves are chiefly dangerous on a Friday, when, as the day of crucifixion, evil spirits have most power, and mentions their displeasure at any one who assumes their accustomed livery of green, a colour fatal to several families in Scotland, to the whole race of the gallant Grahames in particular ; insomuch that we have heard that in battle a Grahame is generally shot through the green check of his plaid; moreover, that a veteran sportsman of the name, having come by a bad fall, he thought it sufficient to account for it that he had a piece of green whip-cord to complete the lash of his hunting whip. I remember, also, that my late amiable friend, James Grahame, author of The Sabbath, would not break through this ancient prejudice of his clan, but had his library table covered with blue or black cloth, rather than use the fated colour commonly employed on such occasions.
* Edinburgh, 1812.
To return from the Perthshire fairies, I may quote a story of a nature somewhat similar to that of Mas. Robert Kirke. The life of the excellent person who told it was, for the benefit of her friends and the poor, protracted to an unusual duration ; so I conceive that this adventure, which took place in her childhood, might happen before the middle of last century. She was residing with some relations, near the small seaport town of North Berwick, when the place and its vicinity were alarmed by the following story :—
An industrious man, a weaver in the little town, was married to a beautiful woman, who, after bearing two or three children, was so unfortunate as to die during the birth of a fourth child. The infant was saved, but the mother had expired in convulsions ; and as she was much disfigured after death, it became, an opinion among her gossips that, from some neglect of those who ought to have watched the sick woman, she must have been carried off by the elves, and this ghastly corpse substituted in the place of the body. The widower paid little attention to these rumours, and, after bitterly lamenting his wife for a year of mourning, began to think on the prudence of forming a new marriage, which, to a poor artisan with so young a family, and without the assistance of a housewife, was almost a matter of necessity. He readily found a neighbour with whose good looks he was satisfied, whilst her character for temper seemed to warrant her good usage of his children. He proposed himself, and was accepted, and carried the names of the parties to the clergyman (called, I believe; Mr. Matthew Reid) for the due proclamation of bans. As the man had really loved his late partner, it is likely that this proposed decisive alteration of his condition brought back many reflections concerning the period of their union, and with these recalled the extraordinary rumours which were afloat at the time of her decease, so that the whole forced upon him the following lively dream. As he lay in his bed, awake as he thought, he beheld, at the ghostly hour of midnight, the figure of a female dressed in white, who entered his hut, stood by the side of his bed, and appeared to him the very likeness of his late wife. He conjured her to speak, and with astonishment heard her say, like the minister of Aberfoyle, that she was not dead, but the unwilling captive of the Good Neighbours. Like Mr. Kirke, too, she told him that, if all the love which he once had for her was not entirely gone, an opportunity still remained of recovering her, or winning her back, as it was usually termed, from the comfortless realms of Elfland. She charged him, on a certain day of the ensuing week, that he should convene the most respectable housekeepers in the town, with the clergyman at their head, and should disinter the coffin in which she was supposed to have been buried. " The clergyman is to recite certain prayers, upon which," said the apparition, " I will start from the coffin, and fly with great speed round the church, and you must have the fleetest runner of the parish " (naming a man famed for swiftness) " to pursue me, and such a one, the smith, renowned for his strength, to hold me fast after I am overtaken; and in that case I shall, by the prayers of the church and the efforts of my loving husband and neighbours, again recover my station in human society." In the morning, the poor widower was distressed with the recollection of his dream, but, ashamed and puzzled, took no measures in consequence. A second night, as is not very surprising, the visitation was again repeated. On the third night she appeared with a sorrowful and displeased countenance, upbraided him with want of love and affection, and conjured him, for the last time, to attend to her instructions, which, if he now neglected, she would never have power to visit earth or communicate with him again. In order to convince him there was no delusion, he "saw in his dream" that she took up the nursling, at whose birth she had died, and gave it suck ; she spilled also a drop or two of her milk on the poor man's bed-clothes, as if to assure him of the reality of the vision.