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63 in order to make the chimney perfectly secure a bed quilt was spread over the incumbent sod and matters having “progressed” so far the party who were to keep watch outside retired with a lighted candle to the barn all well armed – one young man with a loaded gun and the remainder with good blackthorn cudgels, pitchforks and other weapons calculated to keep at a respectful distance all devils with brains in their sculls. The object of having this rural “constabulary” in attendance was to prevent Satan and his crew from tearing down the house about the poor man’s ears in order to get at the powerful charm which was to work them so much evil. The operator inside the house then shut the door, carefully closed every chink through which a breath of air might pass and, to make things secure, he rolled an immense stone against the door which no devil with ordinary muscles might force. He then filled a pot with the bewitched cow’s milk into which he put twelve cobbler’s awls and setting the pot upon the fire, he “hodged and blew” with almost as much force as did the “old gentleman piper in Tam O’Shanter.50 The fire blazed, the milk boiled and the awl blades rolled fearfully through its foaming whiteness, but all was still as the dead calm which precedes an Alpine thunder-storm – the devil came not, but he was hourly expected and long and anxious were the looks which the “conservative” party in the barn cast in the gathering darkness as the moon gradually sunk behind the clouds of the west; and anxiously did they scrutinize their weapons as each sleepless mouse peered from its little den and rustled among the surrounding straw. Business was commenced at the “hour of night’s black keystone” and it was now two o’clock in the morning, neither devil nor witch was to be heard or seen, the candle nearly burned out and the part felt a general inclination to fall into the arms of “Murphy”. They therefore gallantly determined that since the devil would not come to look for them, they would go and look for the devil and forth they sallied, “Andro and his cutty gun” leading the way as it was wisely considered that a “long shot” like Bob Acres was the safest way of dealing at first with an unknown enemy. The procession then cautiously advanced to the door and called to the conjurer within. No answer was returned. A louder call, accompanied by an effort to push in the door was then made; but all was silent as an echo sleeping on the moonlit side of Scraba or Sliabh Cruib. A louder call, and still more energetic efforts were then made when a few hollow moans from within were faintly heard and it was believed that Satan, by some invisible aperture, effected an entrance and done his work in silence. With some difficulty the 50 This was a common form of counter-magic used by wise-women or cunning-folk. The ‘old gentleman’ is a reference to the Devil taken from Robert Burns’ poem Tam O’Shanter.

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