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THE PRATTLING OLD WIFE.
ANY years ago, there lived in Kildavee, Cantire, a Chailleach bhearo, or prattling old wife, who possessed wonderful gifts. She had discovered
a medicinal well, to which she repaired every seventh year, in order that she might get her youth renewed; and many a time search has been made for this well, but it has not yet been discovered. But this might arise from the circumstance, that, whenever the old Wife paid her visit to the well for the purpose of renewing her youth, she was very careful not to meet with any person on the road: for, if she did, it would deprive the waters of the well of their medicinal charm.
She managed this very well for a length of years;
until one day, when she was going to the well, she accidentally met with a man; and although she went on and tried the well, yet its virtues had ceased, and its waters did not bring back her youth. This made her say—
Chairich mi m'fhear, is mo sheac mic,
"I buried my husband and my seven sons under a flag-stone in Kildavee; but that was not so much my loss as the man I met with yesterday."
This prattling old Wife had a son called Doirbhain, or "the Turbulent," because he was badnatured and disobedient to her; which made her swear that she would never show her face at his door. But when Doirbhain saw his mother out in the field, quite destitute, he went to her and led her backwards to his house, so that her oath was not violated. And he took care of her as long as she lived.
The people did not forget this; and whenever they saw a cross child they used to say, " May be he is like Doirbhain, and will make the best of the whole family!"
THE APPARITION OF ARRAN.
THINK it is evident, (said a Cantire friend), that the landscape of a locality, as presented before the eye, has an effect upon a studious mind. If the locality be mountainous, with high hills and deep valleys, rugged rocks, caverns, and waterfalls, and is solitary and but thinly inhabited, it has a tendency to excite and raise the sublime. In a calm dark night, when the owl and crane screech in search of prey, raising an echo that mingles with the monotonous voices of distant waterfalls! and the angry surge lashing the sullen rocks, a solitary individual, subject to timidity, would be ready to cherish the ideas of spirits, apparitions, and all other terrible objects that are conjured up by the heated imagination.
Now I think that it is in a great measure owing to their scenery that the people of Arran, who are among the best instructed and most pious of any island people in Scotland, should yet, more than any other Scottish islanders, put belief in ghosts
and supernatural beings. I will tell you an instance of this.
About a century ago there lived in Arran an old woman named Marie Nic Junraidh, or Mary Henderson, who was exceedingly diminutive, but very courageous and intelligent. She was returning home late, one dark night, and had to cross a bridge which had the reputation ofbe ing haunted by something awful, and at which bold strong men had been terrified. But although it was nighttime and dark, yet the bold little woman took courage to cross the bridge; and when she came to it, she saw something of an awful appearance standing before her. She would not turn back; so she spake to it, and it spake to her again, and then assumed a human shape, which she readily recognized, and said, "An tu Fionla?"—"Art thou Finlay?" The appearance answered that he was Finlay. She said that she had known him when he was alive, but that he had died some years before. He said it was quite true; and that he was the same Finlay.
"Then what is the reason," she said, " that you appear before a frail little woman, and seek thus to alarm me? Why did you not appear before strong men, if you had anything upon your mind that you wished to tell?"
"I did appear several times to strong men," answered the spirit; "but they were always frightened, and ran away without speaking to me.