Page:Notes on the folk-lore of the northern counties of England and the borders.djvu/231

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209
AULD BETTY.

flings over them the scalding batter from his frying-pan, and they all vanish. The next day it was reported in the village that the shoemaker’s wife was burnt all over the body. Bold Jan showed no surprise at the news; he simply said that the castle would not be haunted any longer, which proved to be the case.

“Auld Betty,” the Halifax witch, of whom more will be said by-and-bye, once figured in the form of a cat. Mr. J. Stott writes of her: “An old man, whom I knew well in my boyhood, was said to have undertaken the dangerous task of catching this witch, and drawing blood from her. Armed with a threepronged table-fork he stationed himself beside the fire in the house where she was suspected of doing mischief, by night, in the form of a black cat. According to the directions for the capture of witches, he had a cake baking before the fire. All at once he perceived a large black cat sitting by the hearth washing its face, though he had not seen or heard it come in. ‘Cake burns,’ cried the cat. ‘Turn it, then,’ replied the witch-catcher. ‘Cake burns,’ it said once more, and he made the same answer again and again. The man had been especially charged on no account to mention any holy name while watching the doings of the cat, and for a long time he remembered this, but, worn out with watching, and worried by the continued cry of ‘Cake burns,’ he lost his temper, and answered with an imprecation. Instantly the cat sprang up the chimney, and after it scrambled the witch-catcher, trying to pierce it with the three-pronged fork. This he accomplished at last, but not till he had been dreadfully scratched by his antagonist. The next morning the old witch-woman was ill in bed, and continued there for some days, but the person who had been witched was relieved.”

Cats and witches appear together in the following Flemish story, from Thorpe’s Mythology (vol. iii. p. 237): “An inhabitant of Stockham, on the birth of a child, goes to acquaint his mother, and is astonished to find her already informed of the event, though she lived half-an-hour’s walk from the village, and no communication had taken place to his knowledge. On his way home the good man was molested by a perpetually increasing swarm of cats, who crowded about him and obstructed his way.