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The Oxford Student

Many years ago there lived at the University of Oxford a young student named Fox. After he had seduced the daughter of a tradesman he wanted to hide the crime by murdering her. With this in mind he made an appointment to meet her one evening in a secluded field.

She came to the place considerably before the time agreed on for their meeting, and hid herself in a tree while waiting. When the student came to the spot shortly afterwards, he had a fellow student with him, so the girl did not climb down at once, but chose to wait a little and see what was about. Then she saw that they started to dig a grave. She at once suspected and feared it was her own grave they were digging, and did not leave the tree she was sitting and hiding in till the students gave up waiting for her and returned to the college.

Next day, when she was at the door of her father's house, he passed and saluted her as usual. She returned his greeting by saying these lines:

As I went out a moonlight night,
I climbed a tree and there sat high
Waiting for one to come by.
I looked for one, and saw two:
The boughs shook and my heart ached
I saw the hole the Fox made.

Astounded that she knew of what he had planned to do to her, he stabbed her to the heart in a moment of fury. The murder caused a violent conflict between the tradespeople and the students. The skirmish got so fierce that Brewer's Lane ran down with blood, people say. And if they do not exaggerate, so it was.

[Halliwell 1849, p. 49-50. Retold, by mixing a few versions of the tale and adding just a few points to it, in part to make the plot stand out clearer]


The Baker's Daughter

A long time ago there lived in a town in Herefordshire a baker who used to sell bread to all the folk around. He was a mean, greedy man, who sought in every way to put money by, and who did not scruple to cheat such people as he was able when they came to his shop.

He had a daughter who helped him in his business, being unmarried and living with him, and seeing how her father treated the people, and how he succeeded in getting money by his bad practices, she, too, in time came to do the like.

One day when her father was away, and the girl remained alone in the shop, an old woman came in.

"My pretty girl," said she, "give me a bit of dough I beg of you, for I am old and hungry."

The girl at first told her to be off, but as the old woman would not go, and begged harder than before for a piece of bread, at last the baker's daughter took up a piece of dough, and giving it to her, saying, "There now, be off, and do not trouble me any more."

"My dear," says the woman, "you have given me a piece of dough, let me bake it in your oven, for I have no place of my own to bake it in."

"Very well," replied the girl, and, taking the dough, she placed it in the oven, while the old woman sat down to wait till it was baked.

When the girl thought the bread should be ready she looked in the oven expecting to find there a small cake, and was very much amazed to find instead a very large loaf of bread. She pretended to look about the oven as if in search of something.

"I cannot find the cake," said she. "It must have tumbled into the fire and got burnt."

"Very well," said the old woman, "give me another piece of dough instead and I will wait while it bakes."

So the girl took another piece of dough, smaller than the first piece, and having put it in the oven, shut to the door. At the end of a few minutes or so she looked in again, and found there another loaf, larger than the last.

"Dear me," said she, pretending to look about her, "I have surely lost the dough again. There 's no cake here."

"It's a pity," said the old woman, "but never mind. I will wait while you bake me another piece."

So the baker's daughter took a piece of dough as small as one of her fingers and put it in the oven, while the old woman sat near. When she thought it ought to be baked, she looked into the oven and there saw a loaf, larger than either of the others.

"That is mine," said the old woman.

"No," replied the girl. "How could such a large loaf have grown out of a little piece of dough?"

"It is mine, it is sure," said the woman.

"It is not," said the girl, "and you shall not have it."

Well, when the old woman saw that the girl would not give her the loaf, and saw how she had tried to cheat her - for she was a fairy, and knew all the tricks that the baker's daughter had put upon her - she drew out from under her cloak a stick, and just touched the girl with it. Then a miraculous thing happened, for the girl all of a sudden was changed into an owl, and flying about the room, at last made for the door. And, finding it open, she flew out and was never seen again.

[Tibbits 1904, p. 122-24]


The Cold Lad of Hilton

In the old days at Hilton Hall in the pleasant valley of the Wear, there used to be a brownie called the cold lad. Every night the menservants who slept in the great hall heard him at work in the kitchen, knocking the things about if they had been set in order, or putting them straight, if the place was untidy.

The servant-folk soon resolved to banish him if they could, and the cold lad, who seemed to know of their design, was often heard singing in a melancholy tone,

"Woe is me! woe is me!

The acorn is not yet fallen from the tree,

That is to grow the wood,

That is to make the cradle,

That is to rock the bairn [child],

That is to grow to a man,

That is to lay me."

The maidservants knew the old way of banishing a brownie. One night they left a green cloak and hood for the cold lad by the kitchen fire, and remained on the watch. At midnight they saw him come in, gaze at the new clothes, try them on, and, apparently in great delight, go jumping and frisking about the kitchen. But at the first crow of the cock he vanished, crying,

"Here's a cloak, and here's a hood!

The cold lad of Hilton will do no more good;"

and he never again returned to the kitchen.

But it was said that he might still be heard at midnight singing those lines in a tone of melancholy in another room at Hilton Hall long called the cold lad's room. It was never used unless the house was full of company,. There, amany folk heard late and early the cold lad wailing:

"Here's a cloak, and here's a hood!

The cold lad of Hilton will do no more good."

[Rhys, 59-60. From the Durham district. According to Surtees's History and Antiquities of Durham (1820), the Cauld Lad (cold boy) of Hilton (Hylton) in Sunderland, Northern England, was the ghost of a stable lad who in the 1500s or 1600s had been killed by one of the barons of Hilton in an outburst of temper. Afterwards the ghost haunted Hylton castle where he worked like a brownie. There are many other stories and versions than the one above. For more, see Wikipedia, s.v. "Cauld Lad of Hilton"]



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