A Poor Woman Bewitched

This is another piece from Highways & Byways in The Border:

It was up in Teviot, in the days when witches flourished, that a poor woman lived, whose end was rather more merciless than that inflicted on most other kind. A man’s horse and died suddenly – elf-struck or overlooked by a witch of course. To break whatever spell the witch or elf might have cast over other animals the owner of the dead horse cut out and burnt its heart. When the fire was at its fiercest and the heart sizzling in the glow, there rushed up a large black greyhound flecked all over with foam and evidently in the last stage of fatigue, which tried persistently to snatch the heart from the fire. One of the spectators suspecting evil, seized a stick and struck the animal a heavy blow over the back, whereupon, with a fearful yell, it fled, and disappeared. Almost at the at instant a villager ran up, saying that his wife had suddenly been taken violently ill; and when those who had been engaged burning the heart went in to the man;s cottage, they found his wife, a dark-haired, black-eyed woman, ling gasping and breathless, with her back to their thinking, broken. She, for woman, was probably suffering from a sudden and particularly acute attack of lumbago. but to those wise men another inference was all too obvious. She was, of course, a witch and it was she who, in the guise of he greyhounds had tried to snatch he horse’s heart from the fire, and who had then got a stroke across her back that broke it. They insisted that she should repeat the Lord’s prayer – an infallible test, for if she were a witch she would be sure to say:” Lead us into temptation, and deliver us not from evil”. And so, when the poor woman in her pain failed to get through the prayer to their satisfaction they bound her carried her away ad burnt her alive in the fire where the horse’s heart had been roasted.


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