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Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend
Chapter IX. A Vision of the Dead

There once dwelt in Nithsdale a woman who was enabled by fairy aid to see the spirits of the dead in the Other World. This was how it came about. One day she sat spinning wool in her house. Her baby lay in a cradle beside her, listening to the soft humming sound of the spinning wheel and her mother's sweet song. Suddenly a rustling, like the rustling of dead leaves in the wind, was heard at the door. The woman looked up and saw a beautiful lady, clad in green and carrying a baby. She entered, and smiling sweetly, spoke and said: "Will you nurse my bonnie baby until I return?"

The woman answered: "Yes, I shall do that."

She took the baby in her arms, and the lady went away, promising to return. But the day went past and night came on, and still she did not come back for her child. The woman wondered greatly, but she wondered even more next morning when she awoke to find beside her bed beautiful new clothes for her children, and some delicious cakes. Being very poor she was glad to dress her children in the new clothes, and to find that they fitted well. The cakes were of wheaten bread and had a honey flavour. It was a great delight to the children to eat them.

The lady did not return that day or the next day. Weeks went past, and the woman nursed the strange child. Months went past, and still the lady stayed away. On many a morning wheaten cakes with honey flavour were found in the house, and when the children's clothes were nearly worn out, new clothing was provided for them as mysteriously as before.

Summer came on, and one evening the lady, clad in green, again entered the house. A child who was playing on the floor stretched forth her hands to grasp the shining silver spangles that adorned her gown, but, to his surprise, his hands passed through them as if they were sunbeams. The woman perceived this, and knew that her visitor was a fairy.

Said the fairy lady: "You have been kind to my bonnie baby; I will now take her away."

The woman was sorry to part with the child, and said: "You have a right to her, but I love her dearly."

Said the fairy: "Come with me, and I shall show you my house."

The woman went outside with the fairy. They walked through a wood together, and then began to climb a green hill on the sunny side. When they were half-way to the top, the fairy said something which the woman did not understand. No sooner had she spoken than the turf on a bank in front of them lifted up and revealed a door. This door opened, and the two entered through the doorway. When they did so, the turf came down and the door was shut.

The woman found herself in a bare chamber which was dimly lighted.

"Now you shall see my home," said the fairy woman, who took from her waist-belt a goblet containing a green liquid. She dropped three drops of this liquid in the woman's left eye, and said: "Look now."

The woman looked, and was filled with wonder. A beautiful country stretched out in front of her. There were green hills fringed by trees, crystal streams flashing in sunshine, and a lake that shone like burnished silver. Between the hills there lay a field of ripe barley.

The fairy then dropped three drops of the green liquid in the woman's right eye, and said: "Look now."

The woman looked, and she saw men and women she had known in times past, cutting the barley and gathering fruit from the trees.

She cried out: "I see many who once lived on earth and have long been dead. What are they doing here?"

Said the fairy: "These people are suffering punishment for their evil deeds."

When she had spoken thus, the fairy woman passed her hand over the woman's eyes, and the vision of green hills and harvest fields and reapers vanished at once. She found herself standing once more in the bare, dimly-lighted chamber. Then the fairy gave her gifts of cloth and healing ointments, and, leading her to the door, bade her farewell. The door opened, the turf was lifted up, and the woman left the fairy's dwelling and returned to her own home.

For a time she kept the power of seeing the fairies as they went to and fro near her house. But one day she spoke to one of them, and the fairy asked: "With which eye do you see me?"

Said the woman: "I see you with both my eyes."

The fairy breathed on her eyes, and then was lost to sight. Never again did the woman behold the fairies, for the power that had been given her was taken away from her eyes by this fairy to whom she had spoken.

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