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Folklore of Nova Scotia
Chapter XII. Mermaids

Mermaids were believed to be water nymphs who lived in beautiful palaces under the sea. They were frequently seen combing their hair on the crest of the waves. One mermaid was reported to have remained three days off the Cape Breton coast, a short distance from the shore. Apart from this one incident, I have not found any other story of their actually having been seen in Nova Scotia. But I took from Mary MacDonaldís dictation a tale of a mermaid which she heard when she was a little girl. Unfortunately, she could not tell me whether or not its setting was local.

An elderly man was one day walking on the beach near his home when he saw a mermaid arise from the water, holding in her hand a very beautiful shell. He kept beckoning to her to come nearer, until she came right up to the shore. He asked her for the shell she was carrying, but she refused, saying that she could not go back to the water without it. With that, he seized the shell and set out for his house. She followed pleading piteously for her treasure, but he would not give it to her. When they reached the house she had to stay there, for he took the precaution of burying the shell in a secret place.

Some time afterwards she married the old manís son. Although she tried to be happy, she always longed for her home under the sea. To her children she told all about its beauties and its wonders.

One day the children were playing in the hay mow. They dug their way down to the bottom, and there they discovered something very beautiful. They went to the house and fairly dragged their mother to the barn to see their find. She recognized her shell, and told them that she could stay with them no longer, for she was going to the beautiful home under the sea, of which she had told them so often. They went with her to the shore, where they saw a thousand mermaids rejoicing at her coming, and beckoning her on. The children began to weep at the thought of losing their mother. She covered her face with her hair so as not to see their tears, told them to tell their father and grandfather, who were away fishing, that she had gone home and they would never see her again, then she plunged into the sea and joined her companions. All disappeared into the ocean.

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