In the Western Isles of Scotland there lived a very rich man, of the name of Gregory, who had two beautiful daughters, to whom he was inordinately attached, but being vastly rich, he would not suffer either of them to go for an hour out of his presence without a strong detachment of the inmates of his house accompanying them wherever they went; and for the purpose of defending them from violent attacks that might be made upon them, or being carried off by the lawless banditti who at that time infested that part of the country.
It happened, however, one day when they were at their usual walk and recreation, a little distance from their house, there came up to them a gentleman with his servant on horseback, who accosted them in a rather familiar way, asking them if those men they saw at a little distance were attendants of theirs? They were answered in the affirmative. He also put some other questions to them which they did not choose to answer.
One of the ladies then wished to know how he was so impertinent; when he replied that, being much attached to the elder of the two, her beauty being so enchanting, he broke through the rules of good breeding.
As flattery has too often the desired effect of gaining its purpose over silly minds, it wrought upon this lady like a charm, and made her the more attentive to his bewitching strain, Having so far gained her heart and confidence, he next got all the information that he wanted regarding her place of residence, and other particulars, with liberty to visit her as a suitor.
These preliminaries having been settled, the ladies returned home, attended by the stranger gentleman, who gave his name as Mr. Greenwood, proprietor of an extensive tract of land on one of the neighbouring islands. His visits becoming so frequent, and himself so familiar, that at length he entreated the lady, his sweetheart, to pay a visit in return to his castle, as it was but a short way off, to which she consented.
The necessary instructions were given her for finding the castle secretly, as she could not go openly for fear of her father, he not permitting her to go anywhere without her usual guard of attendants. She behoved, therefore, to steal away in his absence.
The time for this purpose being agreed upon, as it was expected her father would leave home in a few days; but as some secret forebodings of evil preyed much upon her mind, she thought it advisable to go to the place he had appointed some days previous to the time they were to meet. The impropriety of venturing alone, and to a place she knew not, and to meet with one with whom she was so little acquainted, seemed very improper. Having deliberately weighed the matter in her own mind, she thought it better to go in disguise and reconnoitre his dwelling and circumstances. Accordingly, she got herself dressed in all the tattered and torn habiliments of an old beggar woman, and went as proposed, asking alms on her way thither.
On her arriving at Greenwood's castle, she knocked loudly, but as no one appeared, she ventured in, as the door was unlocked, and destitute of a bolt for its security. Her first movement was to examine the contents of a pot which boiled on the fire, but on looking in, she saw such a sight as quite horrified her�it was part of a human body! She next observed a bundle of rusty keys to lie on a table in the kitchen. When taking them up, she applied one of them to the door of a room which was adjoining the kitchen. In this room hung men's clothes of every description; out of each dress she cut a swatch, which having pocketed, she went to another room, when having opened it also, there she found women's dresses of great variety; some new, and some old. Out of each of them she cut again. Her next adventure was down a small trap-door, where, when she arrived at the bottom, she was up to the knees in blood, at which she greatly wondered ; but in the midst of her astonishment, from one of the dark corners of this dreadful vault, a voice said:
O, dear lady Maisry, be not so bold,
Lest your warm heart blood soon turn as cold.
On hearing these words, she immediately fled from this ocean of blood, and ascended with a quick though palsied step, till she arrived at its summit. On beholding the light, she was put to her wits' end how she should make her escape from this place of skulls, which she never thought of till now.
On ruminating on these things, her eyes were shocked with the cannibal owner of the place and his servant dragging triumphantly by the hair of the head, the dead body of a murdered female. As they came hurriedly into the room upon her, she had little time to seek a hiding place, or meditate her escape; so fled behind a door which stood half open between them, but so placed as she could hear and see what passed without being observed by the other party.
Near this place lay a large bloodhound, to which she threw a piece of bread and thereby gained his favour. Greenwood then cut off one of the female's hands and threw it to the dog; but as Maisry had so lately given him a piece of bread, she was suffered to take it up and carry it away.
Having continued in this precarious situation for a wearyful length of time, Greenwood remarked to his man, that he smelled fresh blood. The servant, with some difficulty, got him persuaded that the smell arose from the hand which he had so recently cut off from the dead body and thrown to the dog.
He was also with some reluctance appeased in his rage towards one of his domestics that had offended him. However, he determined that on going to bed, all the doors should be well secured inside, so that none could make their escape ere morning, if any were in the house that did not belong to it; and for their better security, should have their beds made at one of the back doors of the castle. On their going to bed, as fate would have it, sleep took such strong hold of their senses that they were soon in the arms of the drowsy god and snored aloud.
It was now time for the lady to think of saving herself by flight, which she accomplished in the following surprising manner. She opened the door, and at once made such a spring over both of their bodies, as cleared them and the place of her confinement. She then fled with the rapidity of lightning. The jump which she took awoke Greenwood, who said, surely someone had escaped; but the servant insisted that it was only the flutter of a bird that had passed the door. Unconcernedly they then went to sleep again.
The lady having reached her father's house, caused a great party of her friends and acquaintances to be invited to a feast which was to be prepared for their entertainment, about the time that Greenwood had promised to give her a call. All things being ready, and the guests at supper set, Greenwood among the rest, when all were merry, and all seemed to enjoy the entertainment.
Supper at length being ended, it was proposed that a few songs for the amusement of the company, should be sung by those who could, and those who could not sing should tell some story or tale. This being agreed upon by all, songs were sung and tales were told by all till it came to Maisry's turn, who said, as she could do neither she would tell a dream she dreamed last night; and looking over to Greenwood, remarked that it was concerning him.
All seemed anxious to hear it, but none more so than Greenwood, when she began thus:
I thought that I disguised myself as a common pauper, and went to your castle to ask alms, but after loudly knocking, and finding no one to make answer, I ventured in, and seeing a pot boiling on the fire, a thought struck me to look into it, I saw what I could scarcely believe, a part of a human body. This having raised my curiosity, I went a step farther and on finding a bunch of keys lying on a table near where I stood; I opened an apartment near the kitchen, and found a variety of men's clothes; next I went into another, where I found women's and cut a piece out of each of them, which I brought along. I also ventured down a small trap stair, when I found myself up to the knees among blood, and a voice saying:O, dear lady Maisry, be not so bold,
Lest your warm heart blood soon turn as cold.
Greenwood could contain himself no longer, but interrupting her said, "Women's dreams are fabulous, and so are women's thoughts. Jack, saddle your horse, and we will go ride."
But she would not consent to this, but continued to tell the rest of her dream, much against his wish or inclination; but there was no avoiding hearing her out, so she went on, "On arriving at the top of the trap stair which I went down to the vault of blood, I observed you and your man dragging by the hair of her head, the body of a dead lady. You cut off one of her hands and threw it to a greedy bloodhound which lay near where I stood. The hand I took up, and see here it is," producing the bloody hand before them all; when, to his mortification and confusion, he and his servant were secured. He to be burned in the midst of his castle, which was in a remote and secret place of a large wood; the servant to be drowned; which were immediately put into execution, to the no small satisfaction and amazement of all who heard his murderous history.
Source: Peter Buchan, Ancient Scottish Tales: An Unpublished Collection Made by Peter Buchan, pp. 21-24.