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The Mermaid Wife

Source: Folk-lore And Legends Scotland

A story is told of an inhabitant of Unst, who, in walking on the sandy
margin of a voe, saw a number of mermen and mermaids dancing by
moonlight, and several seal-skins strewed beside them on the ground. At
his approach they immediately fled to secure their garbs, and, taking
upon themselves the form of seals, plunged immediately into the sea. But
as the Shetlander perceived that one skin lay close to his feet, he
snatched it up, bore it swiftly away, and placed it in concealment. On
returning to the shore he met the fairest damsel that was ever gazed upon
by mortal eyes, lamenting the robbery, by which she had become an exile
from her submarine friends, and a tenant of the upper world. Vainly she
implored the restitution of her property; the man had drunk deeply of
love, and was inexorable; but he offered her protection beneath his roof
as his betrothed spouse. The merlady, perceiving that she must become an
inhabitant of the earth, found that she could not do better than accept
of the offer. This strange attachment subsisted for many years, and the
couple had several children. The Shetlander's love for his merwife was
unbounded, but his affection was coldly returned. The lady would often
steal alone to the desert strand, and, on a signal being given, a large
seal would make his appearance, with whom she would hold, in an unknown
tongue, an anxious conference. Years had thus glided away, when it
happened that one of the children, in the course of his play, found
concealed beneath a stack of corn a seal's skin; and, delighted with the
prize, he ran with it to his mother. Her eyes glistened with rapture--she
gazed upon it as her own--as the means by which she could pass through
the ocean that led to her native home. She burst forth into an ecstasy
of joy, which was only moderated when she beheld her children, whom she
was now about to leave; and, after hastily embracing them, she fled with
all speed towards the sea-side. The husband immediately returned,
learned the discovery that had taken place, ran to overtake his wife, but
only arrived in time to see her transformation of shape completed--to see
her, in the form of a seal, bound from the ledge of a rock into the sea.
The large animal of the same kind with whom she had held a secret
converse soon appeared, and evidently congratulated her, in the most
tender manner, on her escape. But before she dived to unknown depths,
she cast a parting glance at the wretched Shetlander, whose despairing
looks excited in her breast a few transient feelings of commiseration.

"Farewell!" said she to him, "and may all good attend you. I loved you
very well when I resided upon earth, but I always loved my first husband
much better."

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