To trace out the wide field of witchcraft which was opened to him by the confessions of the accused, as they were successively examined, was an employment highly congenial to the credulous mind of James, prone to every superstition, and versed in all the traditionary lore of Sprenger and Bodinus. Day after day he attended the examinations in person, was put into a " wonderful admiration" by every new trait of grotesque horror which their confessions disclosed, and even carried his curiosity so far as to send for Gellie Duncan herself, who had, according to the confession of another witch, Agnes Sampson (the wise wife of Keith), played a reel or dance before the witches, as they moved in procession to meet the devil in the kirk of North Berwick, in order that he might himself listen to this infernal air-" who upon the like trumpe did play the said dance before the King's majestie, who, in respect of the strangeness of these matters, took great delight to be present at these examinations".
All these disclosures, however, it may he anticipated, were not without a liberal application of the usual comprdsitor in such cases-the torture. The chief sufferer was a person named Cuningham, who figures in the trials under the name of Dr. Fian, a schoolmaster near Tranent, and apparently a person of dissolute character, although, as appeared from his conduct on this inquisition, also of singular strength of mind and firmness of nerve. He was put to the question, "first, by thrawing of his head with a rope, whereat he woidd confess nothing; secondly, he was persuaded by fair means to confess his folly," (woidd it not have been as natural to have tried the fair means first ?) " but that would prevail as little; lastly, he was put to the most cruel and severe pain in the world, called the Boots'*, who, after he had received three strokes, being inquired if he would confess his damnable acts and wicked life, his tongue would not serve him to speak." Being released from this instrument of torture, he appears, under the influence of the agony produced by it, to have subscribed a confession, embracing not only the alleged charges of conspiracy against the King by means of witchcraft, but a variety of particulars relative to his own life and conversation, by no means of an edifying character.
* We need hardly remind our readers of the torture of Macbriar by the Boots, before the Privy Council, in the c Tales of my . Landlord'.