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This Ballad is founded on a fact, which has been magnified by popular credulity and superstition into the terrible story which follows. It is here related, according to the best informed old people about Ettrick, as nearly as is consistent with the method pursued in telling it. I need not inform the reader, that every part of it is believed by them to be absolute truth.
'TWAS late, late, late on a Saturday's night,
The moon was set, an' the wind was lown; The lazy mist crept toward the height,
An' the dim, livid flame glimmer'd laigh on the downe.
O'er the rank-scented fen the bittern was warping,
An' far on the air cam the notes o' the owl.
When the lady o' Thirlestane rose in her sleep, An' she shrieked sae loud that her maid ran
Her een they war set, an' her voice it was deep, And she shook like the leaf o' the aspen trec.
"O where is the pedler I drave frae the ha', That pled sae sair to tarry wi' me?" "He's gane to the mill, for the miller sells ale, An' the pedler's as weel as a man can be."
"I wish he had stay'd, he sae earnestly pray'd,
And he hight a braw pearling in present to gie; But I was sae hard, that I would na regard, Tho' I saw the saut tear trickle down frae his ee.
"But O what a terrible dream I ha'e seen,
The pedler a' mangled-most shocking to see! An' he gapit, an' waggit, an' stared wi' his een, An' he seemed to lay a' the blame upo' me '
"I fear that alive he will never be seen,
An' the vera suspicion o't terrifies me: I wadna hae sickan a vision again
For a' the guid kye upon Thirlestane lee.
"Yet wha wad presume the poor pedler to kill? O, Grizzy, my girl, will ye gang and see? If the pedler is safe, an' alive at the mill,
A merk o' guid money I'll gie unto thee."
"O, lady, 'tis dark, and I heard the dead bell!
She sat till day, and she sent wi' fear
The miller said there he never had been;
She went to the kirk, and speered for him there, But the pedler in life was never mair seen.
Frae aisle to aisle she lookit wi' care;
Frae pew to pew she hurried her een; An' a' to see if the pedler was there,
But the pedler in life was never mair seen.
But late, late, late on a Saturday's night,
As the laird was walking along the lee, A silly auld pedler cam bye on his right, An' a muckle green pack on his shoulders had he.
"O whar are ye gaeing, ye beggarly lown? Ye's nauther get lodging nor fall frae me." He turn'd him about, an' the blude it ran down, An' his throat was a' hacker'd, an' ghastly was he.
Then straight, wi' a sound, he sank i' the ground,
He fainted: but, soon as he gather'd his breath, He tauld what a terrible sight he had seen: The devil a' woundit, an' bleedin' to death,
In shape o' a pedler upo' the mill-green.
The lady she shriekit, the door it was steekit, The servants war glad that the devil was gane; But ilk Saturday's night, when faded the light, Near the mil-house the poor bleeding pedler
An aye whan passengers bye war gaun
The place was harassed, the mill was laid waste, The miller he fled to a far countrie;
But aye at e'en the pedler was seen,
An' at midnight the voice cam frae the mill-ee.
The lady frae hame wad never mair budge,
From the time that the sun gaed over the hill; An' now she had a' the poor bodies to lodge,
As nane durst gae on for the ghost o' the mill.
But the minister there was a bodie o' skill,
To try if this impudent ghaist he cou'd see.
He pray'd, an' he read, an' he sent them to bed;
Wi' a shivering groan the pedler came on,
But he nouther had flesh, blude, nor bone,
The ducks they whackit, the dogs they howl'd,
Wi' a positive look he open'd his book,
An' charged him by a' the sacred Three, To tell why that horrible figure he took, To terrify a' the hale countrie?
"My body was butcher'd within that mill,
My banes lie under the inner mill-wheel; An' here my spirit maun wander, until
Some crimes an' villanies I can reveal:
"I robb'd my niece of three hundred pounds,
Which providence suffered me ne'er to enjoy ; For the sake of that money I gat my death's wounds;
The miller me kend, but he miss'd his ploy.
The money lies buried on Balderstone hill, Beneath the mid bourack o' three times three. O gi'e't to the owners, kind sir, an' it will
Bring wonderful comfort an' rest unto me.