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Title: Tales From Scottish Ballads
Author: Grierson, Elizabeth Wilson
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Tales From Scottish Ballads" ***

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Black's Boys' and Girls' Library

TALES FROM SCOTTISH BALLADS



IN THE SAME SERIES


  TALES OF KING ARTHUR            by DOROTHY SENIOR
  MIKE (A Public School Story)    by P. G. WODEHOUSE
  THE CAVEMEN, A TALE OF
  THE TIME OF                     by STANLEY WATERLOO
  WONDER TALES OF THE
  ANCIENT WORLD                   by JAMES BAIKIE, D.D., F.R.A.S.
  THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD         by JOHN FINNEMORE
  ROBINSON CRUSOE                 by DANIEL DEFOE
  SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON           Edited by G. E. MITTON
  MOTHER GOOSE'S NURSERY RHYMES   Edited by L. E. WALTER, M.B.E., B.Sc.
  TOM BROWN'S SCHOOLDAYS          by THOMAS HUGHES
  IN THE YEAR OF WATERLOO       }
  FACE TO FACE WITH NAPOLEON    } by O. V. CAINE
  WITCH'S HOLLOW                  by A. W. BROOK
  MUCKLE JOHN                     by FREDERICK WATSON
  ANDERSEN'S FAIRY TALES
  ÆSOP'S FABLES
  THE ARABIAN NIGHTS
  GRIMM'S FAIRY TALES
  GRANNY'S WONDERFUL CHAIR        by FRANCES BROWNE
  BRITISH FAIRY AND FOLK TALES    by W. J. GLOVER
  THE ADVENTURES OF DON QUIXOTE   by MIGUEL DE CERVANTES
  COOK'S VOYAGES OF DISCOVERY
  MR. MIDSHIPMAN EASY
  TALES FROM HAKLUYT              Selected by FRANK ELIAS
  GREEK WONDER TALES            }
  OTTOMAN WONDER TALES          } by LUCY M. GARNETT
  GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
  THE HEROES                    }
  THE WATER BABIES              } by CHARLES KINGSLEY
  BOOK OF CELTIC STORIES          by ELIZ. W. GRIERSON

  _FOR GIRLS_

  A GIRL'S ADVENTURES IN KOREA   by AGNES HERBERT

  _SIMILAR TO THE ABOVE_

  CRANFORD.                     By Mrs. ELIZABETH GASKELL.
  With 8 Illustrations in Colour


  A. & C. BLACK, LTD., 4, 5 & 6 SOHO SQUARE, LONDON, W. 1



AGENTS


_New York_ THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

_Melbourne_ THE OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS

_Toronto_ THE MACMILLAN COMPANY OF CANADA

_Bombay Calcutta Madras_ MACMILLAN AND COMPANY, LTD.



[Illustration: "THIS VERY NIGHT WE WILL RIDE OVER INTO ETTRICK, AND LIFT
A WHEEN O' THEM." (P. 106)]



TALES FROM
SCOTTISH BALLADS

BY

ELIZABETH W. GRIERSON

AUTHOR OF "THE BOOK OF CELTIC STORIES"
"THE BOOK OF EDINBURGH" ETC.

WITH FOUR FULL-PAGE
ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR FROM DRAWINGS BY
ALLAN STEWART

A. & C. BLACK, LTD.

4, 5 & 6 SOHO SQUARE, LONDON, W. 1



_Printed in Great Britain_

_First Edition ("Children's Tales from Scottish Ballads")
published in 1906._

_New Edition published in 1916._

_Reprinted and included in Boys' and Girls' Library in 1925._

_Reprinted in 1930._



To

MY TWO FIRESIDE CRITICS

A. S. G. AND J. B. G.



CONTENTS


THE LOCHMABEN HARPER              1

THE LAIRD O' LOGIE               11

KINMONT WILLIE                   32

THE GUDE WALLACE                 63

THE WARLOCK O' OAKWOOD           81

MUCKLE-MOU'ED MEG               101

DICK O' THE COW                 125

THE HEIR OF LINNE               143

BLACK AGNACE OF DUNBAR          161

THOMAS THE RHYMER               195

LORD SOULIS                     214

THE BROWNIE OF BLEDNOCK         234

SIR PATRICK SPENS               244

YOUNG BEKIE                     259

THE EARL OF MAR'S DAUGHTER      274

HYNDE HORN                      291

THE GAY GOS-HAWK                310



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


IN COLOUR

FROM DRAWINGS BY ALLAN STEWART

  "This very night we will ride over into
  Ettrick, and lift a wheen o' them"           _Frontispiece_

                                                  FACING PAGE

  "My father eyed them keenly, his face
  growing grave as he did so"                              36

  "''Tis a God's-penny,' cried the guests in amazement"   158

  "When she approached he pulled off his
  bonnet and louted low"                                  198



THE LOCHMABEN HARPER

    "Oh, heard ye of a silly harper,
      Wha lang lived in Lochmaben town,
    How he did gang to fair England,
      To steal King Henry's wanton brown?"


Once upon a time, there was an old man in Lochmaben, who made his
livelihood by going round the country playing on his harp. He was very
old, and very blind, and there was such a simple air about him, that
people were inclined to think that he had not all his wits, and they
always called him "The silly Lochmaben Harper."

Now Lochmaben is in Dumfriesshire, not very far from the English border,
and the old man sometimes took his harp and made long journeys into
England, playing at all the houses that he passed on the road.

Once when he returned from one of these journeys, he told everyone how
he had seen the English King, King Henry, who happened to be living at
that time at a castle in the north of England, and although he thought
the King a very fine-looking man indeed, he thought far more of a frisky
brown horse which his Majesty had been riding, and he had made up his
mind that some day it should be his.

All the people laughed loudly when they heard this, and looked at one
another and tapped their foreheads, and said, "Poor old man, his brain
is a little touched; he grows sillier, and sillier;" but the Harper only
smiled to himself, and went home to his cottage, where his wife was busy
making porridge for his supper.

"Wife," he said, setting down his harp in the corner of the room, "I am
going to steal the King of England's brown horse."

"Are you?" said his wife, and then she went on stirring the porridge.
She knew her husband better than the neighbours did, and she knew that
when he said a thing, he generally managed to do it.

The old man sat looking into the fire for a long time, and at last he
said, "I will need a horse with a foal, to help me: if I can find that,
I can do it."

"Tush!" said his wife, as she lifted the pan from the fire and poured
the boiling porridge carefully into two bowls; "if that is all that thou
needest, the brown horse is thine. Hast forgotten the old gray mare thou
left at home in the stable? Whilst thou wert gone, she bore a fine gray
foal."

"Ah!" said the old Harper, his eyes kindling. "Is she fond of her foal?"

"Fond of it, say you? I warrant bolts and bars would not keep her from
it. Ride thou away on the old mare, and I will keep the foal at home;
and I promise thee she will bring home the brown horse as straight as a
die, without thy aid, if thou desire it."

"Thou art a clever woman, Janet: thou thinkest of everything," said her
husband proudly, as she handed him his bowlful of porridge, and then sat
down to sup her own at the other side of the fire, chuckling to herself,
partly at her husband's words of praise, and partly at the simplicity of
the neighbours, who called him a silly old harper.

Next morning the old man went into the stable, and, taking a halter from
the wall, he hid it in his stocking; then he led out his old gray mare,
who neighed and whinnied in distress at having to leave her little foal
behind her. Indeed he had some difficulty in getting her to start, for
when he had mounted her, and turned her head along the Carlisle road,
she backed, and reared, and sidled, and made such a fuss, that quite a
crowd collected round her, crying, "Come and see the silly Harper of
Lochmaben start to bring home the King of England's brown horse."

At last the Harper got the mare to start, and he rode, and he rode,
playing on his harp all the time, until he came to the castle where the
King of England was. And, as luck would have it, who should come to the
gate, just as he arrived, but King Henry himself. Now his Majesty loved
music, and the old man really played very well, so he asked him to come
into the great hall of the castle, and let all the company hear him
play.

At this invitation the Harper jumped joyously down from his horse, as if
to make haste to go in, and then he hesitated.

"Nay, but if it please your Majesty," he said humbly, "my old nag is
footsore and weary: mayhap there is a stall in your Majesty's stable
where she might rest the night."

Now the King loved all animals, and it pleased him that the old man
should be so mindful of his beast; and seeing one of the stablemen in
the distance, he turned his head and cried carelessly, "Here, sirrah!
Take this old man's nag, and put it in a stall in the stable where my
own brown horse stands, and see to it that it has a good supper of oats
and a comfortable litter of hay."

Then he led the Harper into the hall where all his nobles were, and I
need not tell you that the old man played his very best. He struck up
such a merry tune that before long everybody began to dance, and the
very servants came creeping to the door to listen. The cooks left their
pans, and the chambermaids their dusters, the butlers their pantries;
and, best of all, the stablemen came from the stables without
remembering to lock the doors.

After a time, when they had all grown weary of dancing, the clever old
man began to play such soft, soothing, quiet music, that everyone began
to nod, and at last fell fast asleep.

He played on for a time, till he was certain that no one was left awake,
then he laid down his harp, and slipped off his shoes, and stole
silently down the broad staircase, smiling to himself as he did so.

With noiseless footsteps he crept to the stable door, which, as he
expected, he found unlocked, and entered, and for one moment he stood
looking about him in wonder, for it was the most splendid stable he had
ever seen, with thirty horses standing side by side, in one long row.
They were all beautiful horses, but the finest of all, was King Henry's
favourite brown horse, which he always rode himself.

The old Harper knew it at once, and, quick as thought, he loosed it,
and, drawing the halter which he had brought with him out of his
stocking, he slipped it over its head.

Then he loosed his own old gray mare, and tied the end of the halter to
her tail, so that, wherever she went, the brown horse was bound to
follow. He chuckled to himself as he led the two animals out of the
stable and across the courtyard, to the great wrought-iron gate, and
when he had opened this, he let the gray mare go, giving her a good
smack on the ribs as he did so. And the old gray mare, remembering her
little foal shut up in the stable at home, took off at the gallop,
straight across country, over hedges, and ditches, and walls, and
fences, pulling the King's brown horse after her at such a rate that he
had never even a chance to bite her tail, as he had thought of doing at
first, when he was angry at being tied to it.

Although the mare was old, she was very fleet of foot, and before the
day broke she was standing with her companion before her master's
cottage at Lochmaben. Her stable door was locked, so she began to neigh
with all her might, and at last the noise awoke the Harper's wife.

Now the old couple had a little servant girl who slept in the attic, and
the old woman called to her sharply, "Get up at once, thou lazy wench!
dost thou not hear thy master and his mare at the door?"

The girl did as she was bid, and, dressing herself hastily, went to the
door and looked through the keyhole to see if it were really her master.
She saw no one there save the gray mare and a strange brown horse.

"Oh mistress, mistress, get up," she cried in astonishment, running into
the kitchen. "What do you think has happened? The gray mare has gotten a
brown foal."

"Hold thy clavers!" retorted the old woman; "methinks thou art blinded
by the moonlight, if thou knowest not the difference between a
full-grown horse and a two-months'-old foal. Go and look out again and
bring me word if 'tis not a brown horse which the mare has brought with
her."

The girl ran to the door, and presently came back to say that she had
been mistaken, and that it was a brown horse, and that all the
neighbours were peeping out of their windows to see what the noise was
about.

The old woman laughed as she rose and dressed herself, and went out with
the girl to help her to tie up the two horses.

"'Tis the silly old Harper of Lochmaben they call him," she said to
herself, "but I wonder how many of them would have had the wit to gain a
new horse so easily?"

Meanwhile at the English castle the Harper had stolen silently back to
the hall after he had let the horses loose, and, taking up his harp
again, he harped softly until the morning broke, and the sleeping men
round him began to awake.

The King and his nobles called loudly for breakfast, and the servants
crept hastily away, afraid lest it might come to be known that they had
left their work the evening before to listen to the stranger's music.

The cooks went back to their pans, and the chambermaids to their
dusters, and the stablemen and grooms trooped out of doors to look after
the horses; but presently they all came rushing back again,
helter-skelter, with pale faces, for the stable door had been left open,
and the King's favourite brown horse had been stolen, as well as the
Harper's old gray mare. For a long time no one dare tell the King, but
at last the head stableman ventured upstairs and broke the news to the
Master-of-the-Horse, and the Master-of-the-Horse told the Lord
Chamberlain, and the Lord Chamberlain told the King.

At first his Majesty was very angry, and threatened to dismiss all the
grooms, but his attention was soon diverted by the cunning old Harper,
who threw down his harp, and pretended to be in great distress.

"I am ruined, I am ruined!" he exclaimed, "for I lost the gray mare's
foal just before I left Scotland, and I looked to the price of it for
the rent, and now the old gray mare herself is gone, and how am I to
travel about and earn my daily bread without her?"

Now the King was very kind-hearted, and he was sorry for the poor old
man, for he believed every word of his story, so he clapped him on the
back, and bade him play some more of his wonderful music, and promised
to make up to him for his losses.

Then the wicked old Harper rejoiced, for he knew that his trick had
succeeded, and he picked up his harp again, and played so beautifully
that the King forgot all about the loss of his favourite horse.

All that day the Harper played to him, and on the morrow, when he would
set out for home, in spite of all his entreaties that he would stay
longer, he made his treasurer give him three times the value of his old
gray mare, in solid gold, because he said that, if his servants had
locked the stable door, the mare would not have been stolen, and,
besides that, he gave him the price of the foal, which the wicked old
man had said that he had lost. "For," said the King, "'tis a pity that
such a marvellous harper should lack the money to pay his rent."

Then the cunning old Harper went home in triumph to Lochmaben, and the
good King never knew till the end of his life how terribly he had been
cheated.



THE LAIRD O' LOGIE

    "I will sing if ye will hearken,
      If ye will hearken unto me;
    The king has ta'en a poor prisoner,
      The wanton laird o' young Logie."


It was Twelfth-night, and in the royal Palace of Holyrood a great masked
ball was being held, for the King, James VI., and his young wife, Anne
of Denmark, had been keeping Christmas there, and the old walls rang
with gaiety such as had not been since the ill-fated days of Mary
Stuart.

It was a merry scene; everyone was in fancy dress, and wore a mask, so
that even their dearest friends could not know them, and great was the
merriment caused by the efforts which some of the dancers made to guess
the names of their partners.

One couple in the throng, however, appeared to know and recognise each
other, for, as a tall slim maiden dressed as a nun, who had been dancing
with a stout old monk, passed a young man in the splendid dress of a
French noble, she dropped her handkerchief, and, as the young Frenchman
picked it up and gave it to her, she managed to exchange a whisper with
him, unnoticed by her elderly partner.

Ten minutes later she might have been seen, stealing cautiously down a
dark, narrow flight of stairs, that led to a little postern, which she
opened with a key which she drew from her girdle, and, closing it behind
her, stepped out on the stretch of short green turf, which ran along one
side of the quaint chapel. It was bright moonlight, but she stole behind
one of the buttresses that cast heavy shadows on the grass, and waited.

Nearly a quarter of an hour passed before another figure issued from the
same little postern and joined her. This time it was the young French
noble, his finery hidden by a guard's long cloak.

"Pardon me, sweetheart," he said, throwing aside his disguise and
putting his hand caressingly on her shoulder, "but 'tis not my fault
that thou art here before me. I had to dance a minuet with her Majesty
the Queen; she was anxious to show the court dames how 'tis done in
Denmark, and, as thou knowest, I have learned the Danish steps passably
well dancing it so often with thee. So I was called on, and Arthur
Seaton, and a mention was made of thee, but Gertrud Van Hollbell
volunteered to fill thy place."

"Gertrud is a good-natured wench, and I will tell her so; but did her
Majesty not notice my absence?"

"Nay, verily, she was so busy talking with me, and I gave her no time to
miss thee," said the young man, laughing, but his companion's face was
troubled. They had taken off their masks, and a stranger looking at them
would have taken them for what they seemed to be, a dark-haired,
black-eyed Frenchman, and a fair English nun. But Hugh Weymes of Logie
was a simple Scottish gentleman, in spite of his dress, and looks; and
the maiden, Mistress Margaret Twynlace, was a Dane, who had come over,
along with one or two others, as maid-in-waiting to the young Queen, who
had insisted on having some of her own countrywomen about her.

Mistress Margaret's fair hair, and fairer skin, so different from that
of the young Scotch ladies, had quite captivated young Weymes, and the
two had been openly betrothed.

They had plenty of chances of speaking to each other in the palace,
where Weymes was stationed in his capacity of gentleman of the King's
household, and the young man was somewhat at a loss to understand why
Margaret should have arranged a secret meeting which might bring them
both into trouble were it known, for Queen Anne was very strict, and
would have no lightsome maids about her, and were it to reach her ears
that Margaret had met a man in the dark, even although it was the man
she intended to marry, she would think nothing of packing her off to
Denmark at a day's notice.

Now, as this was the very last thing that Hugh wanted to happen, his
voice had a touch of reproach in it, as he began to point out the
trouble that might ensue if any prying servant should chance to see
them, or if Margaret's absence were noticed by the Queen.

But the girl hardly listened to him.

"What doth it matter whether I am sent home or not?" she said
passionately. "Thou canst join me there and Denmark is as fair as
Scotland; but it boots not to joke and laugh, for I have heavy news to
tell thee. Thou must fly for thy life. 'Tis known that thou hast had
dealings with my Lord of Bothwell, that traitor to the King, and thy
life is in danger."

The young man looked at her in surprise. "Nay, sweet Meg," he said, "but
methinks the Christmas junketing hath turned thy brain, for no man can
bring a word against me, and I stand high in his Majesty's favour.
Someone hath been filling thy ears with old wives' tales."

"But I know thou art in danger," she persisted, wringing her hands in
despair when she saw how lightly he took the news. "I do not understand
all the court quarrels, for this land is not my land, but I know that my
Lord Bothwell hates the King, and that the King distrusts my Lord
Bothwell, and, knowing this, can I not see that there is danger in thy
having been seen talking to the Earl in a house in the Cowgate? and,
moreover, it is said that he gave thee a packet which thou art supposed
to have carried hither. Would that I could persuade thee to fly, to take
ship at Leith, and cross over to Denmark; my parents would harbour thee
till the storm blew past."

Margaret was in deadly earnest, but her lover only laughed again, and
assured her that she had been listening to idle tales. To him it seemed
incredible that he could get into any trouble because he had lately held
some intercourse with his father's old friend, the Earl of Bothwell, and
had, at his request, carried back a sealed packet to give to one of the
officials at the palace, on his return from a trip to France. It was
true that Lord Bothwell was in disfavour with the King, who suspected
him of plotting against his person, but Hugh believed that his royal
master was mistaken, and, as he had only been about the court a couple
of months or so, he had not yet learned how dangerous it was to hold
intercourse with men who were counted the King's enemies.

So he soothed Margaret's fears with playful words, promising to be more
discreet in the future, and keep aloof from the Earl, and in a short
time they were back in the ballroom, and he, at least, was dancing as
merrily as if there was no such word as treason.

For two or three weeks after the Twelfth-night ball, life at Holyrood
went on so quietly that Margaret Twynlace was inclined to think that her
lover had been right, and that she had put more meaning into the rumours
which she had heard than they were intended to convey, and, as she saw
him going quietly about his duties, apparently in as high favour as
before with the King, she shook off her load of anxiety, and tried to
forget that she had ever heard the Earl of Bothwell's name.

But without warning the blow fell. One morning, as she was seated in the
Queen's ante-chamber, busily engaged, along with the other maids, in
sewing a piece of tapestry which was to be hung, when finished, in the
Queen's bedroom, Lady Hamilton entered the room in haste, bearing dire
tidings.

It had become known at the palace the evening before, that a plot had
been discovered, planned by the Earl of Bothwell, to seize the King and
keep him a prisoner, while the Earl was declared regent. As it was known
that young Hugh Weymes, one of the King's gentlemen, had been seen in
conversation with him some weeks before, he had been seized and his
boxes searched, and in them had been found a sealed packet, containing
letters to one of the King's councillors, who was now in France, asking
his assistance, and signed by Bothwell himself.

The gentleman had not returned--probably word had been sent to him of
his danger--but young Weymes had been promptly arrested, although he
disclaimed all knowledge of the contents of the packet, and had been
placed under the care of Sir John Carmichael, keeper of the King's
guard, until he could be tried.

"And there will only be one sentence for him," said the old lady grimly;
"it's beheaded he will be. 'Tis a pity, for he was a well-favoured
youth; but what else could he expect, meddling with such matters?" and
then she left the room, eager to find some fresh listeners to whom she
could tell her tale.

As the door closed behind her a sudden stillness fell over the little
room. No one spoke, although some of the girls glanced pityingly at
Margaret, who sat, as if turned to stone, with a still, white face, and
staring eyes. Gertrud Van Hollbell, her countrywoman and bosom friend,
rose at last, and went and put her arms round her.

"He is a favourite with the Queen, Margaret, and so art thou," she
whispered, "and after all it was not he who wrote the letter. If I were
in thy place, I would beg her Majesty, and she will beg the King, and he
will be pardoned."

But Margaret shook her head with a wan smile. She knew too well the
terrible danger in which her lover stood, and she rightly guessed that
the Queen would have no power to avert it.

At that moment the door opened, and the Queen herself entered, and all
the maidens stood up to receive her. She looked grave and sad, and her
eyes filled with tears as they fell on Margaret, who had been her
playmate when they were both children in far-away Denmark, and who was
her favourite maid-of-honour.

Seeing this, kind-hearted Gertrud gave her friend a little push. "See,"
she whispered, "she is sorry for thee; if thou go now and beg of her she
will grant thy request."

Slowly, as if in a dream, the girl stepped forward, and knelt at her
royal Mistress's feet, but the Queen laid her hand gently on her
shoulder.

"'Tis useless asking me, Margaret," she said. "God knows I would have
granted his pardon willingly. I do not believe that he meant treason to
his Grace, only he should not have carried the packet; but I have
besought the King already on his behalf and he will not hear me. Or his
lords will not," she added in an undertone.

Then the girl found her voice. "Oh Madam, I will go to the King myself,"
she cried, "if you think there is any chance. Perhaps if I found him
alone he might hear me. I shall tell him what I know is true, that Hugh
never dreamt that there was treason in the packet which he carried."

"Thou canst try it, my child," said the Queen, "though I fear me 'twill
be but little use. At the same time, the King is fond of thee, and thy
betrothal to young Weymes pleased him well."

So, with a faint hope rising in her heart, Margaret withdrew to her
little turret chamber, and there, with the help of the kind-hearted
Gertrud, she dressed herself as carefully as she could.

She remembered how the King had praised a dull green dress which she had
once worn, saying that in it she looked like a lily, so she put it on,
and Gertrud curled her long yellow hair, and fastened it in two thick
plaits behind, and sent her away on her errand with strong encouraging
words; then she sat down and waited, wondering what the outcome of it
all would be.

Alas! in little more than a quarter of an hour she heard steps coming
heavily up the stairs, and when Margaret entered, it needed no look at
her quivering face to know that she had failed.

"It is no use, Gertrud," she moaned, "no use, I tell thee. His Majesty
might have let him off--I saw by his face that he was sorry--but who
should come into the hall but my Lords Hamilton and Lennox, and then I
knew all hope was gone. They are cruel, cruel men, and they would not
hear of a pardon."

Gertrud did not speak; she knew that words of comfort would fall on deaf
ears, even if she could find any words of comfort to say, so she only
held out her arms, and gathered the poor heart-broken maiden into them,
and in silence they sat, until the light faded, and the stars came out
over Arthur's Seat. At last came a sound which made them both start. It
was the grating noise of a key being turned in a lock, and the clang of
bolts and bars, and then came the sound of marching feet, which passed
right under their little window. Gertrud rose and looked out, but
Margaret only shuddered. "They are taking him before the King," she
said. "They will question him, and he will speak the truth, and he will
lose his head for it."

She was right. The prisoner was being conducted to the presence of the
King and the Lords of Council, to be questioned, and, as he openly
acknowledged having spoken to the Earl of Bothwell, and did not deny
having carried the packet, although he swore that he had no idea of its
contents, his guilt was considered proved, and he was taken back to
prison, there to await sentence, which everyone knew would be death.

From the little window Gertrud watched the soldiers of the King's guard
lock and bar the great door, and give the key to Sir John Carmichael,
their captain, who crossed the square swinging it on his finger.

"Would that I had that key for half an hour," she muttered to herself.
"I would let the bird out of his cage, and old Karl Sevgen would do the
rest."

Margaret started up from the floor where she had been crouching in her
misery. "Old Karl Sevgen," she cried; "is he here?"

The old man was the captain of a little schooner which plied between
Denmark and Leith, who often carried messages backwards and forwards
between the Queen's maids and their friends.

"Ay," said Gertrud, glad to have succeeded in rousing her friend, and
feeling somehow that there was hope in the sound of the old man's
familiar name. "He sent up a message this evening--'twas when thou wert
with the King--and if we have anything to send with him it must be at
Leith by the darkening to-morrow. I could get leave to go, if thou hadst
any message," she added doubtfully, for she saw by Margaret's face that
an idea had suddenly come to her, for she sat up and gazed into the
twilight with bright eyes and flushed cheeks.

"Gertrud," she said at last, "I see a way, a dangerous one, 'tis true,
but still it is a way. I dare not tell it thee. If it fails, the blame
must fall on me, and me alone; but if thou canst get leave to go down to
Leith and speak with old Karl alone, couldst thou tell him to look out
for two passengers in the small hours of Wednesday morning? And say that
when they are aboard the sooner he sails the better; and, Gertrud, tell
him from me, for the love of Heaven, to be silent on the matter."

Gertrud nodded. "I'll do as thou sayest, dear heart," she said, "and
pray God that whatever plan thou hast in thy wise little head may be
successful; but now must thou go to the Queen. It is thy turn to-night
to sleep in the ante-room."

"I know it," answered the girl, with a strange smile, and without saying
any more she kissed her friend, and, bidding her good-night, left the
room.

Outside the Queen's bed-chamber was a little ante-chamber, opening into
a tiny passage, on the other side of which was a room occupied by the
members of the King's bodyguard, who happened to be on duty for the
week.

It was the Queen's custom to have one of her maids sleeping in the
ante-room in case she needed her attendance through the night, and this
week the duty fell to Margaret.

After her royal mistress had retired, the girl lay tossing on her narrow
bed, thinking how best she could rescue the man she loved, and by the
morning her plans were made.

"Gertrud," she said next day, when the two were bending over their
needlework, somewhat apart from the other maids, "dost think that Karl
could get thee a length of rope? It must be strong, but not too thick,
so that I could conceal it about my person when I go to the Queen's
closet to-night. Thou couldst carry it home in a parcel, and the serving
man who goes with thee will think that it is something from Denmark."

"That can I," said Gertrud emphatically; "and if I have not a chance to
see thee, I will leave it in the coffer in thy chamber."

"Leave what?" asked the inquisitive old dowager who was supposed to
superintend the maids and their embroidery, who at that moment crossed
the room for another bundle of tapestry thread, and overheard the last
remark.

"A packet for Mistress Margaret, which she expects by the Danish boat,"
answered Gertrud promptly. "I have permission from her Majesty to go
this evening on my palfrey to Leith, to deliver some mails to Captain
Karl Sevgen, and to receive our packets in return."

"Ah," said the old dame kindly, "'tis a treat for thee doubtless to see
one of thine own countrymen, even although he is but a common sailor,"
and she shuffled back placidly to her seat.

Margaret went on with her work in silence, blessing her friend in her
heart for her ready wit, but she dare not look her thanks, in case some
curious eye might note it.

Gertrud was as good as her word. When Margaret went up to her little
room late in the evening, to get one or two things which she wanted
before repairing to the Queen's private apartments, she found a packet,
which would have disarmed all suspicions, lying on her coffer. For it
looked exactly like the bundles which found their way every month or two
to the Danish maids at Holyrood. It was sewn up in sailcloth, and was
addressed to herself in rude Danish characters; but she knew what was in
it, and in case the Queen might ask questions and laughingly desire to
see her latest present from home, she slit off the sailcloth, which she
hid in the coffer, and, unfolding the coil of rope, she wound it round
and round her body, under her satin petticoat. Luckily she was tall, and
very slender, and no one, unless they examined her very closely, would
notice the difference in her figure. Then, taking up a great duffle
cloak which she used when riding out in dirty weather, she made her way
to her post.

It seemed long that night before Queen Anne dismissed her. The King
lingered in the supper chamber, and the gentle Queen, full of sympathy
for her favourite, sat in the little ante-room and talked to her of
Denmark, and the happy days they had spent there. At last she departed,
just as the clock on the tower of St Giles struck twelve, and Margaret
was at liberty to unwind the coil of rope, and hide it among the
bedclothes, and then, wrapping the warm cloak round her, she lay down
and tried to wait quietly until it was safe to do what she intended to
do.

There were voices for awhile in the next room--the King and Queen were
talking--then they ceased entirely; but still she waited, until one
o'clock rang out, and she heard the guards pass on their rounds.

Then she rose, and, taking off her shoes, crept gently across the tiny
room and stealthily opened the door of the Queen's bedroom, and
listened. All was quiet except for the regular breathing of the
sleepers. A little coloured lamp which hung from the ceiling was burning
softly, and by its light she could see the different objects in the
room. Stealing to the dressing-table, she looked about for any trinkets
that would answer her purpose. The King's comb lay there, carefully cut
from black ivory, with gold stars let in along the rim; and there, among
other dainty trifles, was the mother-of-pearl and silver knife, set with
emeralds, which his Majesty had given the Queen as a keepsake, about the
time of their marriage. Margaret picked up both of these, and then,
retracing her steps, she closed the door behind her, and flung herself
on her bed to listen in breathless silence in case anyone had heard her
movements, and should come to ask what was wrong.

But all was quiet; not a soul had heard.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The prisoner to be taken to the King now! Surely, fellow, thou art
dreaming." Sir John Carmichael, captain of the King's guard, sat up in
bed, and stared in astonishment at the soldier who had brought the
order.

"Nay," said the man stolidly. "But 'twas one of the Queen's wenches who
came to the guard-room, and told us, and as a token that it is true, and
no joke, she brought these from his Majesty," and he held out the gilded
comb and the little jewelled knife.

Sir John took them and turned them over in silence. He knew them well
enough, and, moreover, it was no uncommon thing for the King, when he
sent a messenger, as he often did, at an unaccustomed hour, to send also
some trinket which lay beside him at the moment, as a token; therefore
the honest gentleman suspected nothing, although he was loth to get out
of bed.

There was no help for it, however; the message had come from the King,
and King's messages must be obeyed, even though they seemed ill-timed
and ridiculous.

"What in the world has ta'en his Majesty now?" he grumbled, as he got up
reluctantly and began to hustle on his clothes. "Even though he wants to
question the lad alone, could he not have waited till the morning? 'Tis
the Queen's work, I warrant; she has a soft heart, and she will want his
Majesty to hear the young man's defence when none of the Lords of the
Council are by."

So saying, he took down the great key which hung on a nail at the head
of his bed, and went off with the soldiers to arouse young Weymes, who
seemed quite as surprised as Sir John at the sudden summons.

At the door of the Queen's ante-chamber they were met by the same
maid-of-honour who had taken the tokens to the guard, and she, modestly
shielding her face with a fold of her cloak, asked Sir John if he would
remain in the guard-room with the soldiers until she called for him
again, as the King wanted to question the prisoner alone in his chamber.

At the sound of her voice Hugh Logie started, although Sir John did not
seem to recognise it, else his suspicions might have been aroused. He
only waited until his prisoner followed the girl into the little room,
then he locked the door behind them as a precaution, and withdrew with
the soldiers into the guard-room, where he knew a bright fire and a
tankard of ale were always to be found.

Once in the ante-room, the young man spoke. "What means this,
Sweetheart?" he said. "What can the King want with me at this hour of
night?"

"Hush!" answered the girl, laying a trembling finger on her lips, while
her eyes danced in spite of the danger. "'Tis I who would speak with
thee, but on board Karl Sevgen's boat at Leith, and not here. See," and
she drew the rope from its hiding-place, "tie this round thy waist, and
I will let thee down from the window; by God's mercy it looks out on a
deserted part of the garden, where the guards but rarely come, and thou
canst steal over the ditch, and down the garden, and round the Calton
Hill, and so down to the sea at Leith. Karl's boat is there; he will be
watching for thee. Thou wilt know her by her long black hull, and by a
red light he will burn in the stern. Nay, Hugh," for he would have taken
her in his arms. "The danger is not over yet, and we will have time to
talk when we are at sea, for I am coming too; I dare not stay here to
face the King alone. Only I can steal out by that little door in the
tapestry"--luckily Sir John did not know that there was another way
out--"and meet thee in the garden."

The window was not very high, and the night was dark, and no one chanced
to pass that way as a figure slung itself down, and dropped lightly into
the ditch; and, when a guard did come round, Hugh lay flat among the mud
and nettles until he had passed, and by that time Margaret had stolen
out by the little postern, and was waiting for him at the foot of the
garden, and hand in hand they made their way over the rough uneven
fields which lay between them and Leith.

Meanwhile, Sir John Carmichael drank ale, and talked with the guards,
and waited;--and waited, and talked with the guards, and drank ale,
until his patience was well-nigh gone. At last, just when the day was
breaking, he went to the door of the ante-room to listen, and hearing
nothing, he knocked, and receiving no answer, he unlocked the door and
peeped in, not wishing to disturb the maid-of-honour, but merely to
satisfy himself that all was right. The moment he saw the open window
and the rope, he shouted to the guards, and rushed across the floor, and
thundered at the door of the King's apartment, hoping against hope that
the prisoner was still there.

But the King had been sleeping peacefully, and when he heard the story,
he was very angry at first, and talked of arresting Sir John, and sent
off horsemen, who rode furiously to Leith, in the hope of catching the
Danish boat. But they came back with the news that she had sailed with
the tide at three o'clock in the morning, after having taken two
passengers on board; and, after all, he could say little to Carmichael,
for had he not received the comb and the knife as tokens?

"Thou shouldst not have lingered so long at supper," said the Queen
slyly, only too pleased at the turn events had taken. "Then hadst thou
slept lighter, and would have awaked when the wench stole in to take the
things."

King James burst into a great laugh. "By my troth, thou art right," he
said, slapping his thigh. "The wench has been too clever for all of us,
for the Lords of the Council, and Carmichael, and me, and she deserves
her success. They must stay where they are for a time, for appearances'
sake, but, heark 'ee, Anne, when thou art writing to Denmark, thou canst
say that thou thinkest that my wrath will not last for ever."

Nor did it, and before many months had passed Hugh Weymes of Logie came
home in triumph, bringing with him his young wife, who had dared so much
and acted so boldly for his sake.



KINMONT WILLIE

    "Oh, have ye na heard of the fause Sakelde?
      Oh, have ye na heard of the keen Lord Scroope?
    How they ha'e ta'en bauld Kinmont Willie,
      On Haribee to hang him up?"


I well remember the dull April morning, in the year 1596, when my
father, William Armstrong of Kinmont, "Kinmont Willie," as he was called
by all the countryside, set out with me for a ride into Cumberland.

As a rule, when he set his face that way, he rode armed, and with all
his men behind him, for these were the old reiving days, when we folk
who dwelt on the Scottish side of the Border thought we had a right to
go and steal what we could, sheep, or oxen, or even hay, from the
English loons, who, in their turn, would come slipping over from their
side to take like liberties with us, and mayhap burn down a house or two
in the by-going.

My father was aye in the thick and throng of these raids, for he was
such a big powerful man that he was more than a match for three
Englishmen, did he chance to meet them. Men called him an outlaw, but we
thought little of that; most of the brave men on our side had been
outlawed at one time or another, and it did them little ill: indeed, it
was aye thought to be rather a feather in their cap.

Well, as I say, my father was not riding on business, as it were, this
morning, for just then there was a truce for a day or two between the
countries, the two Wardens of the Marches, Sir Walter Scott of
Buccleuch, and My Lord Scroope, having sent their deputies to meet and
settle some affairs at the Dayholme of Kershope, where a burn divides
England from Scotland. My father and I had attended the Truce Muster,
and were riding homeward with but a handful of men, when I took a sudden
notion into my head, that I would like to cross the Border, and ride a
few miles on English ground.

My birthday had fallen the week before (I was just eleven years old),
and my father, aye kind to his motherless bairns, had given me a new
pony, a little shaggy beast from Galloway, and, as I was keen to see how
it would run beside a big man's horse, I had pled hard for permission to
accompany him on it to the Muster.

As a rule I never rode with him. "I was too young for the work," he
would say; but that day he gave his consent, only making the bargain
that there should be no crying out or grumbling if I were tired or
hungry long ere we got home again. I had laughed at the idea as I
saddled my shaggy little nag, and, to make matters sure, I had gone to
Janet, the kitchen wench, and begged her for a satchel of oatcakes and
cheese, which I fastened to my saddle strap, little dreaming what need I
would have of them before the day was out.

The Truce Muster had broken up sooner than he expected, so my father saw
no reason why he should not grant my request, and let me have a canter
on English soil, for on a day of truce we could cross the Border if we
chose without the risk of being taken prisoners by Lord Scroope's men,
and marched off to Carlisle Castle, while the English had a like
privilege, and could ride down Liddesdale in open daylight, if they were
so minded.

Scarce had we crossed the little burn, however, which runs between
low-growing hazel bushes, and separates us from England, when two of the
men rode right into a bog, and when, after some half-hour's work, we got
the horses out again, we found that both of them wanted a shoe, and my
father said at once that we must go straight home, in case they went
lame.

At this I drew a long face. I had never been into England, and it was a
sore disappointment to be turned back just when we had reached it.

"Well, well," said my father, laughing, ever soft-hearted where I was
concerned, "I suppose I must e'en take thee a ride into Bewcastle, lad,
since we have got this length. The men can go back with the horses; 'tis
safe enough to go alone to-day."

So the men turned back, nothing loth, for Bewcastle Waste was no unknown
land to them, and my father and I rode on for eight miles or so, over
that most desolate country. Its bareness and loneliness disappointed me.
Somehow I had expected that England would be quite different from
Scotland, even although they were all one piece of land, with only a
burn running between.

"Hast had enough?" said my father at last, noticing my downcast face,
and drawing rein. "Didst expect all the trees to be made of silver, and
all the houses to be built of gold? Never mind, lad, every place looks
much the same in the month of April, I trow, especially when it has been
a backward season; but if summer were once and here, I'll let thee ride
with the troop, and mayhap thou wilt get a glimpse of 'Merrie Carlisle,'
as they call it. It lies over there, twelve miles or more from where we
stand."

As he pointed out the direction with his whip, we both became aware of a
large body of men, riding rapidly over the moor as if to meet us. My
father eyed them keenly, his face growing grave as he did so.

"Who are they, father?" I asked with a sinking heart. I had lived long
enough at Kinmont to know that men did not generally ride together in
such numbers unless they were bent on mischief.

"It's Sakelde, the English Warden's deputy, and no friend o' mine," he
answered with a frown, "and on any other day I would not have met him
alone like this for a hundred merks; but the truce holds for three days
yet, so we are quite safe; all the same, lad, we had better turn our
horses round, and slip in behind that little hill; they may not have
noticed us, and in that case 'tis no use rousing their curiosity."

Alas! we had no sooner set our horses to the trot, than it became
apparent that not only were we observed, but that for some reason or
other the leader of the band of horsemen was desirous of barring our
way.

He gave an order,--we could see him pointing with his hand,--and at once
his men spurred on their horses and began to spread out so as to
surround us. Then my father swore a big oath, and plunged his spurs into
his horse's sides. "Come on, Jock," he shouted, "sit tight and be a man;
if we can only get over the hill edge at Kershope, they'll pay for this
yet."

[Illustration: "MY FATHER EYED THEM KEENLY, HIS FACE GROWING GRAVE AS HE
DID SO."]

I will remember that race to my dying day. It appeared to last for
hours, but it could not have lasted many minutes, ten at the most,
during which time all the blood in my body seemed to be pounding and
surging in my head, and the green grass and the sky to be flying past
me, all mixed up together, and behind, and on all sides, came the
pit-pat of horses' feet, and then someone seized my pony's rein, and
brought him up with a jerk, and my father and I were sitting in the
midst of two hundred armed riders, whose leader, a tall man, with a thin
cunning face, regarded us with a triumphant smile.

"Neatly caught, thou thieving rogue," he said; "by my troth, neatly
caught. Who would have thought that Kinmont Willie would have been such
a fool as to venture so far from home without an escort? But I can
supply the want, and thou shalt ride to Carlisle right well attended,
and shall never now lack a guard till thou partest with thy life at
Haribee."

As the last word fell on my ear, I had much ado to keep my seat, for I
turned sick and faint, and all the crowd of men and horses seemed to
whirl round and round. Haribee! Right well I knew that fateful name, for
it was the place at Carlisle where they hanged prisoners. They could not
hang my father--they dare not--for although he had been declared an
outlaw, and might perhaps merit little love from the English, was not
this a day of truce, when all men could ride where they would in safety?

"'Tis a day of truce," I gasped with dry lips; but the men around me
only laughed, and I could hear that my father's fierce remonstrance met
with no better answer.

"Thou art well named, thou false Sakelde," I heard him say, and his
voice shook with fury, "for no man of honour would break the King's
truce in this way."

But Sakelde only gave orders to his men to bind their prisoner, saying,
as he did so, "I warrant Lord Scroope will be too glad to see thee to
think much about the truce, and if thou art so scrupulous, thou needest
not be hanged for a couple of days; the walls of Carlisle Castle are
thick enough to guard thee till then. Be quick, my lads," he went on,
turning to his men; "we have a good fourteen miles to ride yet, and I
have no mind to be benighted ere we reach firmer ground."

So they tied my father's feet together under his horse, and his hands
behind his back, and fastened his bridle rein to that of a trooper, and
the word was given for the men to form up, and they began to move
forward as sharply as the boggy nature of the ground would allow.

I followed in the rear with a heavy heart. I could easily have escaped
had I wanted to do so, for no one paid any attention to me; but I felt
that, as long as I could, I must stay near my father, whose massive head
and proud set face I could see towering above the surrounding soldiers,
for he was many inches taller than any of them.

The spring evening was fast drawing to a close as we came to the banks
of the Liddle, and splashed down a stony track to a place where there
was a ford. As we paused for a moment or two to give the horses a drink,
my father's voice rang out above the careless jesting of the troopers.

"Let me say good-bye to my eldest son, Sakelde, and send him home; or do
the English war with bairns?"

I saw the blood rise to the English leader's thin sallow face at the
taunt, but he answered quietly enough, "Let the boy speak to him and
then go back," and a way was opened up for me to where my father sat, a
bound and helpless prisoner, on his huge white horse.

One trooper, kinder than the rest, took my pony's rein as I slid off its
back and ran to him. Many a time when I was little, had I had a ride on
White Charlie, and I needed no help to scramble up to my old place on
the big horse's neck.

My father could not move, but he looked down at me with all the anger
and defiance gone out of his face, and a look on it which I had only
seen there once before, and that was when he lifted me up on his knee
after my mother died and told me that I must do my best to help him, and
try to look after the little ones.

That look upset me altogether, and, forgetting the many eyes that
watched us, and the fact that I was eleven years old, and almost a man,
I threw my arms round his neck and kissed him again and again, sobbing
and greeting as any bairn might have done, all the time.

"Ride home, laddie, and God be with ye. Remember if I fall that thou art
the head of the house, and see that thou do honour to the name," he said
aloud. Then he signed to me to go, and, just as I was clambering down,
resting a toe in his stirrup, he made a tremendous effort and bent down
over me. "If thou could'st but get word to the Lord of Buccleuch,
laddie, 'tis my only chance. They dare not touch me for two days yet.
Tell him I was ta'en by treachery at the time o' truce."

The whisper was so low I could hardly hear it, and yet in a moment I
understood all it was meant to convey, and my heart beat until I thought
that the whole of Sakelde's troopers must read my secret in my face as I
passed through them to where my pony stood.

With a word of thanks I took the rein from the kindly man who had held
it, and then stood watching the body of riders as they splashed through
the ford, and disappeared in the twilight, leaving me alone.

But I felt there was work for me to do, and a ray of hope stole into my
heart. True, it was more than twenty miles, as the crow flies, to
Branksome Tower in Teviotdale, where my Lord of Buccleuch lived, and I
did not know the road, which lay over some of the wildest hills of the
Border country, but I knew that he was a great man, holding King James'
commission as Warden of the Scottish Marches, and at his bidding the
whole countryside would rise to a man. 'Twas well known that he bore no
love to the English, and when he knew that my father had been taken in
time of truce...! The fierce anger rose in my heart at the thought,
and, burying my face in my pony's rough coat, I vowed a vow, boy as I
was, to be at Branksome by the morning, or die in the attempt. I knew
that it was no use going home to Kinmont for a man to ride with me, for
it was out of my way, and would only be a waste of time.

It was almost dark now, but I knew that the moon would rise in three or
four hours, and then there would be light enough for me to try to thread
my way over the hills that lay between the valleys of the Teviot and
Liddle. In the meantime, there was no special need to hurry, so I
loosened my pony's rein, and let him nibble away at the short sweet
grass which was just beginning to spring, while I unbuckled the bag of
cakes which I had put up so gaily in the morning, and, taking one out,
along with a bit of cheese, did my best to make a hearty meal. But I was
not very successful, for when the heart is heavy, food goes down but
slowly, and Janet's oatcake and the good ewe cheese, which at other
times I found so toothsome, seemed fairly to stick in my throat, so at
last I gave it up, and, taking the pony by the head, I began to lead him
up the valley.

Although I had been down the Liddle as far as the ford once or twice
before, it had always been in daylight, and my father had been with me;
but I knew that as long as I kept close to the river I was all right for
the first few miles, until the valley narrowed in, and then I must
strike off among the high hills on my left.

It was slow work, for it was too dark to ride, and I dare not leave the
water in case I lost my way, and by the time we had gone mayhap four or
five miles, I had almost lost heart, for I was both tired and cold, and
it seemed to me that half the night at least must be gone, and at this
rate we would never reach Branksome at all.

At last, just when the tears were getting very near my eyes--for I was
but a little chap to be set on such a desperate errand--I struck on a
narrow road which led up a brae to my left, and going along it for a
hundred yards or so, I saw a light which seemed to come from a cottage
window. I stopped and looked at it, wondering if I dare go boldly up and
knock.

In those lawless days one had to be cautious about going up to strange
houses, for one never knew whether one would find a friend or an enemy
within, so I determined to tie my pony to a tree, and steal noiselessly
up to the building, and see what sort of place it was.

I did so, and found that the light came from a tiny thatched cottage
standing by itself, sheltered by some fir trees. There appeared to be no
dogs about, so I crept quite close to the little window, and peered in
through a hole in the shutter. I could see the inside of the room quite
plainly; it was poorly furnished, but beautifully clean. In a corner
opposite the window stood a rough settle, while on a three-legged stool
by the peat fire sat an old woman knitting busily, a collie dog at her
feet.

There could be nothing to fear from her, so I knocked boldly at the
door. The collie flew to the back of it barking furiously, but I heard
the old woman calling him back, and presently she peeped out, asking who
was there.

"'Tis I, Jock Armstrong of Kinmont," I said, "and I fain would be guided
as to the quickest road to Branksome Tower."

The old woman peered over my head into the darkness, evidently expecting
to see someone standing behind me.

"I ken Willie o' Kinmont; but he's a grown man," she said suspiciously,
making as though she would shut the door.

"He's my father," I cried, vainly endeavouring to keep my voice steady,
"and--and--I have a message to carry from him to the Lord of Buccleuch
at Branksome." I would fain have told the whole story, but I knew it was
better to be cautious. I was still no distance from the English Border,
and it would take away the last chance of saving my father's life, were
Sakelde to get to know that word of his doings were like to reach the
Scottish Warden's ears.

"Loshsake, laddie!" exclaimed the old dame in astonishment, setting the
door wide open so that the light might fall full on me, "'tis full
twenty miles tae Branksome, an' it's a bad road ower the hills."

"But I have a pony," I said. "'Tis tied up down the roadway there, and
the moon will rise."

"That it will in an hour or two, but all the same I misdoubt me that
you'll lose your road. What's the matter wi' Kinmont Willie, that he has
tae send a bairn like you his messages? Ye needna' be feared to speak
out," she added as I hesitated; "Kinmont Willie is a friend of mine--at
least, he did my goodman and me a good turn once--and I would like to
pay it back again if I could."

I needed no second bidding; it was such a relief to have someone to
share the burden, and I felt better as soon as I had told her, even
although the telling brought the tears to my eyes.

The old woman listened attentively, and then shook her fist in the
direction which the English had taken.

"He's a fause loon that Sakelde," she said, "and I'd walk to Carlisle
any day to see him hanged. 'Twas he who stole our sheep, two years past
at Martinmas, and 'twas your father brought them back again. But keep up
your heart, my man; if you can get to the Bold Buccleuch he'll put
things right, I'll warrant, and I'll do all I can for you. Go inbye, and
sit down by the fire, and I'll go down the road and fetch the nag.
You'll both be the better for a rest, and a bite o' something to eat,
and when the moon is risen I'll take you up the hill, and show you the
track. My goodman is away at Hawick market, or he would ha'e ridden a
bit of the road wi' ye."

When I was a little fellow, before my mother died, she used to read me
lessons out of her great Bible with the silver clasps, and of all the
stories she read to me, I liked the lesson of the Good Samaritan best,
and, looking back, now that I am a grown man, it seems to me that I met
the Good Samaritan that night, only he was a woman.

After Allison Elliot, for that was her name, had brought my pony into
her cow-house, and seen that he was supplied with both hay and water,
she returned to the cottage, and with her own hands took off my coarse
woollen hose and heavy shoon, and spread them on the hearth to dry, then
she made me lie down on the settle, and, covering me up with a plaid,
she bade me go to sleep, promising to wake me the moment the moon rose.

It was nearly eleven o'clock when she shook me gently, bidding me get up
and put on my shoon, as it was time to be going, and, sitting up, I
found a supper of wheaten bread and hot milk on the table, which she
told me to eat, while she wrapped herself in a plaid and went out for
the nag.

What with the sleep, and the dry clothes, and the warm food, I promise
you I felt twice the man I had done a few hours earlier, and I chattered
quite gaily to her as she led my pony up a steep hillside behind the
cottage, for the moon was only beginning to rise, and there was still
but little light. After we had gone some two miles, we struck a bridle
track, well trodden by horses' hoofs, which wound upwards between two
high hills.

Here Allison paused and looked keenly at the ground.

"This is the path," she said; "you can hardly lose it, for there have
been riders over it yesterday or the day before. Scott o' Haining and
his men, most likely, going home from their meeting at the Kershope
Burn. This will lead you over by Priesthaugh Swire, and down the Allan
into Teviotdale. Beware of a bog which you will pass some two miles on
this side of Priesthaugh. 'Tis the mire Queen Mary stuck in when she
rode to visit her lover when he lay sick at Hermitage. May the Lord be
good to you, laddie, and grant you a safe convoy, for ye carry a brave
heart in that little body o' yours!"

I thanked her with all my might, promising to go back and see her if my
errand were successful; then I turned my pony's head to the hills, and
spurred him into a brisk canter. He was a willing little beast, and
mightily refreshed by Allison Elliot's hay, and, as the moon was now
shining clearly, we made steady progress; but it was a long lonely ride
for a boy of my age, and once or twice my courage nearly failed me: once
when my pony put his foot into a sheep drain, and stumbled, throwing me
clean over his head, and again when I missed the track, and rode
straight into the bog Allison had warned me about, and in which the
little beast was near sticking altogether, and I lost a good hour
getting him to firm land and finding the track again.

The bright morning sun was showing above the Eastern horizon before I
left the weary hills behind me, but it was easy work to ride down the
sloping banks of the Allan, and soon I came to the wooded valley of the
Teviot.

Urging on my tired pony, I cantered down the level haughs which lay by
the river side, and it was not long before Branksome came in sight, a
high square house, with many rows of windows, flanked by a massive
square tower at each corner.

I rode up to the great doorway through an avenue of beeches and knocked
timidly on the wrought-iron knocker, for I had never been to such a big
house in my life before, and I felt that I made but a sorry figure,
splashed as I was with mud from head to foot.

The old seneschal who came to the door seemed to think so too, for he
looked me up and down with a broad grin on his face before he asked who
I was, and on what business I had come.

"To see my Lord of Buccleuch, and carry a message to him from William
Armstrong of Kinmont," I replied, with as much dignity as I could
muster, for the fellow's smile angered me, and I feared that he might
not think it worth his while to tell the Warden of my arrival.

"Then thou shalt see Sir Walter at once, young sir, if thou wilt walk
this way," said the man, mimicking my voice good-naturedly, and,
hitching my pony's bridle to an iron ring in the door-post, he led me
along a stone passage, straight into a great vaulted hall, in the centre
of which stood a long wooden table, with a smaller one standing
crossways on a dais at its head.

A crowd of squires and men-at-arms stood round the lower table, laughing
and jesting as they helped themselves with their hunting knives to
slices from the huge joints, or quaffed great tankards of ale, while up
at the top sat my Lord of Buccleuch himself, surrounded by his knights,
and waited on by smart pages in livery, boys about my own age.

As the old seneschal appeared in the doorway there was a sudden silence,
while he announced in a loud voice that a messenger had arrived from
William Armstrong of Kinmont; but when he stepped aside, and everyone
saw that the messenger was only a little eleven-years-old lad, a loud
laugh went round the hall, and the smart pages whispered together and
pointed to my muddy clothes.

When the old seneschal saw this, he gave me a kindly nudge.

"Yonder is my Lord of Buccleuch at the top of the table," he whispered;
"go right up to him, and speak out thy message boldly."

I did as I was bid, though I felt my cheeks burn as I walked up the
great hall, among staring men and whispering pages, and when I reached
the dais where the Warden sat, I knelt at his feet, cap in hand, as my
father had taught me to do before my betters.

Sir Walter Scott, Lord of Buccleuch, of whom I had heard so much, was a
young, stern-looking man, with curly brown hair and keen blue eyes. His
word was law on the Borders, and people said that even the King, in
far-off Edinburgh, stood in awe of him; but he leant forward and spoke
kindly enough to me.

"So thou comest from Armstrong of Kinmont, boy; and had Kinmont Willie
no better messenger at hand, that he had to fall back on a smatchet like
thee?"

"There were plenty of men at Kinmont, an' it please your lordship," I
answered, "had I had time to seek them; but a man called Sakelde hath
ta'en my father prisoner, and carried him to Carlisle, and I have ridden
all night to tell thee of it, for he is like to be hanged the day after
to-morrow, if thou canst not save him."

Here my voice gave way, and I could only cling to the great man's knee,
for my quivering lips refused to say any more.

Buccleuch put his arm round me, and spoke slowly, as one would speak to
a bairn.

"And who is thy father, little man?"

"Kinmont Willie," I gasped, "and he was ta'en last night, in truce
time."

I felt the arm that was round me stiffen, and there was silence for a
moment, then my lord swore a great oath, and let his clenched fist fall
so heavily on the table, that the red French wine which stood before him
splashed right out of the beaker, a foot or two in the air.

"My Lord of Scroope shall answer for this," he cried. "Hath he forgotten
that men name me the Bold Buccleuch, and that I am Keeper o' the
Scottish Marches, to see that justice is done to high and low, gentle
and simple?"

Then he gave some quick, sharp orders, and ten or twelve men left the
room, and a minute later I saw them, through a casement, throw
themselves astride their horses, and gallop out of the courtyard. At the
sight my heart lightened, for I knew that whatever could be done for my
father would be done, for these men had gone to "warn the waters," or,
in other words, to carry the tidings far and wide, and bid all the men
of the Western Border be ready to meet their chief at some given
trysting-place, and ride with him to the rescue.

Meanwhile the Warden lifted me on his knee, and began asking me
questions, while the pages gathered round, no longer jeering, but with
wide-open eyes.

"Thou art a brave lad," he said at last, after I had told him the whole
story, "and, with thy father's permission, I would fain have thee for
one of my pages. We must tell him how well thou hast carried the
message, and ask him if he can spare thee for a year or two."

At any other time my heart would have leapt at this unheard-of good
fortune, for to be a page in the Warden's household was the ambition of
every well-born lad on the Border; but at that moment I felt as if
Buccleuch hardly realised my father's danger.

"But he is lodged in Carlisle Castle, and men say the walls are thick,"
I said anxiously, "and it is garrisoned by my Lord Scroope's soldiers."

The Warden laughed.

"We will teach my Lord Scroope that there is no bird's nest that the
Bold Buccleuch dare not harry," he said, and, seeing the look on his
face, I was content.

Then, noticing how weary I was, he called one of the older pages, and
bade him see that I had food and rest, and the boy, who had been one of
the first to laugh before, but who now treated me with great respect,
took me away to a little turret room which he shared with some of his
fellows, and brought me a piece of venison pie, and then left me to go
to sleep on his low pallet, promising to wake me when there were signs
of the Warden and his men setting out.

I must have slept the whole day, for the little room was almost dark
again, and the rain was beating wildly on the casement, when the boy
came back. "My lord hath given orders for the horses to be saddled," he
said, "and the trysting-place is Woodhouselee. I heard one squire tell
another in the hall, for as a rule we pages know nothing, and are only
expected to do as we are bid. I know not if my lord means thee to ride
with him, but I was sent up to fetch thee."

It did not take me long to spring up and fasten my doublet, and follow
my guide down to the great hall. Here all was bustle and confusion; men
were standing about ready armed, making a hasty meal at the long table,
which never seemed to be empty of its load of food, while outside in the
courtyard some fifty or sixty horses were standing, ready saddled, with
bags of fodder thrown over their necks.

Every few minutes a handful of men would ride up in the dusk, and,
leaving their rough mountain ponies outside, would stride into the hall,
and begin to eat as hard as they could, exchanging greetings between the
mouthfuls. These were men from the neighbourhood, my friend informed me,
mostly kinsmen of Buccleuch, and lairds in their own right, who had
ridden to Branksome with their men to start with their chief.

There was Scott of Harden, and Scott of Goldilands, Scott of Commonside,
and Scott of Allanhaugh, and many more whom I do not now remember, and
they drank their ale, and laughed and joked, as if they were riding to a
wedding, instead of on an errand which might cost them their lives.

Buccleuch himself was in the midst of them, booted and spurred, and
presently his eye fell on me.

"Ha! my young cocksparrow," he cried. "Wilt ride with us to greet thy
father, or are thy bones too weary? Small shame 'twould be to thee if
they were."

"Oh, if it please thee, sire, let me ride," I said; "I am not too weary,
if my pony is not," at which reply everyone laughed.

"I hear thy pony can scarce hirple on three legs," answered my lord,
clapping me on my shoulder, "but I like a lad of spirit, and go thou
shalt. Here, Red Rowan, take him up in front of thee, and see that a
horse be led for Kinmont to ride home on."

I was about to protest that I was not a bairn to ride in front of any
man, but Buccleuch turned away as if the matter were settled, and the
big trooper who came up and took me in charge persuaded me to do as I
was bid. "'Tis a dark night, laddie, and we ride fast," he said, "and my
lord would be angered didst thou lose thy way, or fall behind," and
although my pride was nettled at first, I was soon fain to confess that
he was right, for the horses swung out into the wind and rain, and took
to the hills at a steady trot, keeping together in the darkness in a way
that astonished me. Red Rowan had a plaid on his shoulders which he
twisted round me, and which sheltered me a little from the driving rain,
and I think I must have dozed at intervals, for it seemed no time until
we were over the hills, and down at Woodhouselee in Canonbie, where a
great band of men were waiting for us, who had gathered from Liddesdale
and Hermitage Water.

With scarcely a word they joined our ranks, and we rode silently and
swiftly on, across the Esk, and the Graeme's country, until we reached
the banks of the Eden.

Here we came to a standstill, for the river was so swollen with the
recent rains that it seemed madness for any man to venture into the
rushing torrent; but men who had ridden so far, and on such an errand,
were not to be easily daunted.

"This way, lads, and keep your horses' heads to the stream," shouted a
voice, and with a scramble we were down the bank, and the nags were
swimming for dear life. I confess now, that at that moment I thought my
last hour had come, for the swirling water was within an inch of my
toes, and I clung to Red Rowan's coat with all the strength I had, and
shut my eyes, and tried to think of my prayers. But it was soon over,
and on the other side we waited a minute to see if any man were missing.
Everyone was safe, however, and on we went till we were close on
Carlisle, and could see the lights of the Castle rising up above the
city wall.

Then Buccleuch called a halt, and everyone dismounted, and some forty
men, throwing their bridle reins to their comrades, stepped to the
front. Red Rowan was one of them, and I kept close to his side.

Everything must have been arranged beforehand, for not a word was
spoken, but by the light of a single torch the little band arranged
themselves in order, while I watched with wide-open eyes. They were not
all armed, but they all had their hands full.

In the very front were ten men carrying hunting-horns and bugles; then
came ten carrying three or four long ladders, which must have been
brought with us on ponies' backs. Then came other ten, armed with great
iron bars and forehammers; and only the last ten, among whom was the
Warden himself and Red Rowan, were prepared as if for fighting.

At the word of command they set out, with long steady strides, and as no
one noticed me, I went too, running all the time in order to keep up
with them.

The Castle stood to the north side of the little city, close to the city
wall, and the courtyard lay just below it. We stole up like cats in the
darkness, fearful lest someone might hear us and give the alarm.
Everyone seemed to be asleep, however, or else the roaring of the wind
deadened the noise of our footsteps. In any case we reached the wall in
safety, and as we stood at the bottom of it waiting till the men tied
the ladders together, we could hear the sentries in the courtyard
challenge as they went their rounds.

At last the ladders were ready, and Buccleuch gave his whispered orders
before they were raised.

No man was to be killed, he said, if it could possibly be helped, as the
two countries were at peace with each other, and he had no mind to stir
up strife. All he wanted was the rescue of my father.

Then the ladders were raised, and bitter was the disappointment when it
was found that they were too short. For a moment it seemed as if we had
come all the weary way for nothing.

"It matters not, lads," said the Warden cheerily; "there be more ways of
robbing a corbie's nest than one. Bide you here by the little postern,
and Wat Scott and Red Rowan and I will prowl round, and see what we can
see."

Along with these two stalwart men he vanished, while we crouched at the
foot of the wall and waited; nor had we long to wait.

In ten minutes we could hear the bolts and bars being withdrawn, and the
little door was opened by Buccleuch himself, who wore a triumphant
smile. He had found a loophole at the back of the Castle left entirely
unguarded, and without much difficulty he and his two companions had
forced out a stone or two, until the hole was large enough for them to
squeeze through, and had caught and bound the unsuspecting sentries as
they came round, stuffing their mouths full of old clouts to hinder them
from crying out and giving the alarm.

Once we were inside the courtyard he ordered the men with the iron bars
and forehammers to be ready to beat open the doors, and then he gave the
word to the men with the bugles and hunting horns.

Then began such a din as I had never heard before, and have never heard
since. The bugles screeched, and the iron bars rang, and above all
sounded the wild Border slogan, "Wha dare meddle wi' me?" which the men
shouted with all their might. One would have thought that the whole men
in Scotland were about the walls, instead of but forty.

And in good faith the people of the Castle, cowards that they were, and
even my Lord Scroope himself, thought that they were beset by a whole
army, and after one or two frightened peeps from out of windows, and
behind doors, they shut themselves up as best they might in their own
quarters, and left us to work our will, and beat down door after door
until we came to the very innermost prison itself, where my father was
chained hand and foot to the wall like any dog.

Just as the door was being burst open, my lord caught sight of me as I
squeezed along the passage, anxious to see all that could be seen. He
laid his hand on the men's shoulders and held them back.

"Let the bairn go first," he said; "it is his right, for he has saved
him."

Then I darted across the cell, and stood at my father's side. What he
said to me I never knew, only I saw that strange look once more on his
face, and his eyes were very bright. Had he been a bairn or a woman I
should have said he was like to weep. It was past in a moment, for there
was little time to lose. At any instant the garrison might find out how
few in numbers we were, and sally out to cut us off, so no time was
wasted in trying to strike his chains off him.

With an iron bar Red Rowan wrenched the ring to which he was fastened,
out of the wall, and, raising him on his back, carried him bodily down
the narrow staircase, and out through the courtyard.

As we passed under my Lord Scroope's casement, my father, putting all
his strength into his voice, called out a lusty "good night" to his
lordship, which was echoed by the men with peals of laughter.

Then we hurried on to where the main body of troopers were waiting with
the horses, and I warrant the shout that they raised when they saw us
coming with my father in the midst of us, riding on Red Rowan's
shoulder, might almost have been heard at Branksome itself.

When it died away we heard another sound which warned us that the
laggards at the Castle had gathered their feeble courage, and were
calling on the burghers of Carlisle to come to their aid, for every bell
in the city was ringing, and we could see the flash of torches here and
there.

Scarcely had the smiths struck the last fetter from my father's limbs
than we heard the thunder of horses' hoofs behind us.

"To horse, lads," cried Buccleuch, and in another moment we were
galloping towards the Eden, I in front of Red Rowan as before, and close
to my father's side.

The English knew the lie of the land better than we did, for they were
at the river before us, well-nigh a thousand of them, with Lord Scroope
himself at their head. Apparently they never dreamed that we would
attempt to swim the torrent, and thought we would have to show fight,
for they were drawn up as if for a battle; but we dashed past them with
a yell of defiance, and plunged into the flooded river, and once more we
came safe to the other side. Once there we faced round, but the English
made no attempt to follow; they sat on their horses, glowering at us in
the dim light of the breaking day, but they said never a word.

Then my Lord of Buccleuch raised himself in his stirrups, and, plucking
off his right glove, he flung it with all his might across the river,
and, the wind catching it, it was blown right into their leader's face.
"Take that, my Lord of Scroope," he cried; "mayhap 'twill cure thee of
thy treachery, for if Sakelde took him, 'twas thou who harboured him,
and if thou likest not my mode of visiting at thy Castle of Carlisle,
thou canst call and lodge thy complaint at Branksome at thy leisure."

Then, with a laugh, he turned his horse's head and led us homewards, as
the sun was rising and the world was waking up to another day.



THE GUDE WALLACE

    "Would ye hear of William Wallace,
      An' sek him as he goes,
    Into the lan' of Lanark,
      Amang his mortal foes?

    There were fyfteen English sojers,
      Unto his ladye came,
    Said, 'Gie us William Wallace,
      That we may have him slain.'"


I will tell you a tale of the Good Wallace, that brave and noble patriot
who rose to deliver his country from the yoke of the English, and who
spent his strength, and at last laid down his life, for that one end.

As all the world knows, the English King, Edward I., had defeated John
Baliol at Dunbar, and he had laid claim to the kingdom of Scotland, and
had poured his soldiers into that land.

Some of these soldiers, hearing of the strength, and wisdom, and prowess
of the young champion who had arisen, like Gideon of old, for the
succour of his people, determined to try to take him by stealth, before
venturing to meet him in the open field.

'Twas known that Wallace was in the habit of visiting a lady, a friend
of his, in the town of Lanark, so a band of these soldiers went to her
house, and surrounded it, while the captain knocked at the door. When
the lady opened it, and saw him, and saw also that her house was
surrounded by his men, she was very much alarmed, which perhaps was not
to be wondered at, for everyone was afraid of the English at that time.

The officer spoke to her in quite a friendly manner, however, and began
to tell her about his own country, and how much richer and finer
everything was there than in Scotland, and at last, when she was
thoroughly interested, he hinted that it was in her power to marry an
English lord if she cared to do so, and go and live in England
altogether.

Now I am afraid that the lady was both silly and discontented, and it
seemed to her that it would be a very fine thing indeed to be an English
nobleman's wife, so she blushed and bridled, and looked up and down, and
at last she asked how the thing could be managed.

"Well," said the officer cautiously, "there is only one condition, and
that doth not seem to me to be a very hard one. It hath been told me
that there is a rough and turbulent fellow who visits this house. His
name is William Wallace, and because he is likely to stir up riots among
the common people, it seems good to His Majesty, King Edward, that he
should be taken prisoner. Would it be possible," and here his voice
became very soft and persuasive, "for thee to let us know what night he
intends to visit thee?"

At first the lady started back, and was very indignant with him for
daring to suggest that she should do such a dishonourable thing.

"I am no traitor," she said proudly, "nor am I like Jael of old, who
murdered the man who took shelter in her tent."

But the captain's voice was low and sweet, and the lady's nature was
vain and fickle, and the prospect of marrying an English lord was very
enticing, and so it came about that at last she yielded, and she told
him how she was expecting young Wallace that very night at seven
o'clock, and she promised to put a light in the window when he arrived.

Then the false woman went into her house and shut the door, and the
soldiers set themselves to watch for the coming of their enemy.

How it happened I know not, but Wallace came, and walked boldly into the
house without one of them seeing him, and he ran upstairs and knocked at
the door of his friend's room.

When she opened it, he stood still, and stared at her in astonishment,
for her face was pale and wild, and she looked at him with terror in her
eyes. I warrant she had been wrestling with her conscience ever since
she had spoken with the soldiers, and she had seen what an awful thing
it is to be guilty of the blood of an innocent man.

"What ails thee?" cried Wallace, in his bluff, hearty way. "Thou lookest
all distraught, as if thou hadst seen a ghost."

Then he held out his hand as if to greet her, but she stretched forth
hers and pushed him away.

"Touch me not. I am like Judas,--Judas," she moaned, "who betrayed the
innocent blood, and whose fate is written in the Holy Book for a warning
to all poor recreants like to me."

Sir William Wallace thought that she had gone mad. "Vex not thyself," he
said kindly. "Methinks thou hast been reading, and thinking, till thou
hast fevered thy poor brain. Thou art no Judas, but mine own true
friend, in whose house I find safe shelter when I need to visit Lanark."

"Safe shelter!" she cried, with a bitter laugh, and she dragged him to
the window, and pointed out in the dusk the figures of four soldiers who
were leaning against the garden gate. "Safe shelter, say ye, when I have
betrayed thee to the English; for this house is watched by fifteen
soldiers; and I have but to put a lamp in the window, as a signal that
thou art within, and they will come and slay thee."

"And what is thy reward for this deed of treachery?" asked Wallace, a
look of contempt coming over his open face. "What pay did the English
loons promise thee?"

"They promised me an English lord for a husband," sobbed the wretched
woman, who now would have done anything in her power to undo the wrong
that she had done. "But oh, sir, I fear me I have wrought sore dule to
thee this day, and sore dule to Scotland. If thou canst get free from
this house, which I fear me thou wilt never do, thou canst denounce me
as a traitor. I care not if I die the death."

"Now Heaven forfend!" said Wallace, whose kindly heart was touched by
her distress, although he despised her for her false deed; "it shall
never be said that William Wallace avenged himself on a woman, no matter
what her crime might be. I trusted thee, and thou hast proved false, and
so from henceforth we must go our different ways; but if thou art truly
sorry, thou mayest yet help me, and, as for me, if once I get clear away
from these Southron knaves outside. I will think no more of the matter."

"But canst thou get clear away?" questioned the lady anxiously. "I fear
me, now that it is past seven o'clock, they will keep stricter watch
than they did when thou camest in. 'Twill be impossible for thee to pass
out in safety, and if thou remainest here, they will search the house
when they tire of waiting for my signal."

Wallace laughed.

"Impossible is not a word that I am well acquaint with, madam," he said,
"and if, for the sake of the friendship that was between us in the days
that are gone, thou wilt lend me some of thine attire, a gown and kirtle
maybe, and a decent petticoat of homespun, and a cap such as wenches
wear to shield their faces from the sun, I hope I may make good my
escape under the very noses of these fellows."

Wondering to herself, the lady did as he asked her. She brought him a
dark-coloured gown and kirtle, and a stout winsey petticoat, such as
serving-maids wear, and after long search she found at the bottom of a
drawer a milk-maid's cap.

Wallace proceeded to dress himself in these, and, when he had put them
all on, and had clasped a leather belt round his waist, and wound an
apron about his head, as lassies do to protect themselves from the rain
or sun, and put the milk-maid's bonnet on top of all, I warrant even his
own mother would not have known him.

"Now fetch me a milk-can," he said, "for I am no longer a soldier, but a
modest maiden going to the well to draw water."

When she had brought it he bent low over her hand and gave it one kiss
for the sake of old times; then he said farewell to her for ever, and
opened the door, and walked boldly down the garden.

The four soldiers at the gate looked at one another in surprise when a
tall damsel with a milk-can stood still at the foot of the garden path,
and waited for them to open it. They had not known that the lady had a
serving-maid.

"If it please thee, good sirs, to let me bye," broke in the maiden's
voice in the gloom. "My mistress hath a sharp temper, and this water
ought to have been fetched an hour ago."

She spoke with a lisp, and her accent was so outlandish that the men
scarce understood what she said; but this they saw, that she wanted to
go and draw water from the well, and they opened the gate to let her
pass.

"If I dare leave my post, I would fain come and draw for thee," said
one; "shame is it that such a pretty wench be left to go to the well
alone."

The maiden paid no heed to the fellow's words, but tossed her head, and
went quickly down the path to the well, taking such gigantic strides
that the men gazed after her in wonder.

"Marry, but she covers the ground," said one.

"Certs, but I would rather walk one mile with her than two," said
another.

"Methinks that we had better go after her and bring her back," cried a
third. "I have heard say that this William Wallace, whom we are in
search of, hath mighty long legs."

Horrified at the thought that they might have let the very man they were
looking for escape, they hurried down the path after the serving-maid,
and when they overtook her they found out in good sooth that she was
William Wallace, for she drew a sword from under her kirtle, and killed
all four of them, before they could lay hands on her.

When the four men lay dead before him, Wallace wasted no time over their
burial, but drawing their bodies under a bush, where they were somewhat
hidden from the passers-by, he hung the milk-can on a branch of a tree,
and walked quietly away in the gathering darkness. No one who met a
simple country girl walking out into the country ever dreamt of asking
her who she was, or where she was going, and ere morning came, I promise
you, her garments had been cast, and buried in a hole in the ground, and
Wallace was making his way northward as fast as ever he could.

He had to be very careful which way he travelled, for there were
soldiers quartered in many of the towns, who knew that there was a price
set on his head, and who were only too anxious to catch him.

So he dare not venture into the towns, or into the districts where there
were many houses, and it came to pass that, as he was nearing Perth, he
was like to famish for want of food.

He had eaten almost nothing for three days, nor had he money wherewith
to buy it.

Now, near to Perth there is a beautiful haugh or common, called the
North Inch, which stretches along the river Tay, and as he was crossing
that, he saw a pretty, rosy country girl washing clothes under a tree,
and spreading them out to bleach in the sun. She looked so kind and so
good-tempered that he thought he would speak to her, and mayhap, if he
found that she lived near, he would ask her to give him something to
eat.

So he went up to her, and greeted her pleasantly, and asked her what
news there was in that part of the world.

"News," said she, looking up at him with a roguish smile, for it was not
often that she had the opportunity of talking with such a gallant
knight. "Nay, by my troth, I have no news, for I am but a poor working
maiden, who toils hard for her living; but one thing I can tell thee,
an' if thou be a true Scot at heart, thou wilt do all in thy power to
shield him."

"To shield whom?" asked Wallace in surprise. "I know not of whom thou
speakest."

"Why! Sir William Wallace," answered the girl, "that gallant man who
will deliver this poor country of ours. 'Tis known that he is in these
parts; he hath been traced from Lanark, and 'tis thought that he is
making for the hills, where his followers are; and this very day a body
of these cursed English have marched into the town, in order to search
the country and take him. Look, seest thou that little hostelry yonder?
There hath a band of them gone in there not half an hour ago. Certs, had
I been a man, I would e'en have gone myself, and measured my strength
against theirs. I tell thee this, because thou seemest a gallant fellow,
and perchance thou canst do something to save the knight."

Wallace smiled. "Had I but a penny in my pocket," he said, "I would
betake me to that little inn, just to see these English loons."

The maiden hesitated. She was poor, as she had said, and had to work
hard for her living, but it chanced that that day she had half a crown
in her pocket, which she had intended to spend in the town on her way
home. But her kind heart was stirred with pity at the thought of such a
goodly young man having no money in his pocket, and at last she took out
the half-crown and gave it to him.

"Take this," she said, "and go and buy meat and drink with it, and if
thou knowest where Wallace is, for the love of Heaven, betray him not to
these English knaves."

"I will serve Wallace e'en as I serve myself," he said, "and more can no
man promise," and, thanking her heartily for the piece of silver, he
strode off in the direction of the little hostler-house, leaving her
wondering what he meant by his strange answer.

Wallace had not gone very far on his way before he met a beggar man,
coming limping along, clad in an old patched cloak. This was the very
thing the knight wanted.

"Hullo, old man," he said; "how goes the world with thee, and what news
is there abroad in Perth?"

"News, master?" said the beggar. "No news that I know of, save that 'tis
said that Sir William Wallace is somewhere hereabouts, and a party of
English soldiers have come to hunt for him. As I craved a bite of bread
at the door of that hostler-house down yonder, I saw fifteen of them
within, eating and drinking."

"Say ye so, old man?" said Wallace. "That is right good news to me, for
I have long had a desire to see an English soldier close at hand. See,"
and he drew the bright silver half-crown, which he had just received
from the maiden, from his pocket, "here is a piece of white money for
thee, if thou wilt sell me that old cloak of thine, and thy wallet.
Faith, there be as many holes as patches in the cloak; it can scarce
serve thee for a covering, and 'twill answer my purpose right well."

Joyfully the beggar agreed to the bargain, and Wallace was left with the
cloak, which he threw over his shoulders, and which covered him from
head to foot. Pulling his cap well over his eyes, and choosing a trusty
thorn cudgel from a neighbouring thicket, he went limping up to the door
of the little inn, and knocked.

The captain who was with the English soldiers opened it. He looked the
lame beggar up and down.

"What dost thou want, thou cruikit carle?" he asked haughtily.

"An alms, master," answered the beggar humbly. "I am a poor lame man,
and unable to work, and I travel the country from end to end, begging my
daily bread."

"Ah," thought the captain to himself, "this man must hear all the
country gossip. Likely enough he knows where Wallace is, or the
direction in which 'tis thought he will travel."

He took a handful of gold from his pouch, and held it before the
beggar's eyes.

"Did you ever hear of a man called William Wallace?" he asked slowly;
"the country folk hereabouts talk a great deal of him. They call him
'hero,' and such-like names. But he is a traitor to our rightful King,
King Edward, and I am here to take him, alive or dead. Hast ever heard
of the fellow?"

"Ay," said the beggar, "I have both heard of him and seen him.
Moreover," and he looked at the gold, "I know where he is to be found."

An eager look came into the English knight's face. "I will pay thee
fifty pounds down," he said, "fifty pounds of good red money, if thou
wilt lead me to Sir William Wallace."

"Tell down the money on this bench," cried the beggar, "for it is in my
power to grant thy request, and verily, I will never have a better
offer, no, not if I wait till King Edward comes himself."

The English captain counted down the money on the old worm-eaten wooden
bench that stood beside the door of the inn, and the beggar counted it
after him, and picked it up, and put it carefully away in his wallet.
Then he faced the Englishman with a strange gleam in his eyes.

"Thou wouldst fain see William Wallace," he said. "Then see him thou
shalt, and feel the might of his arm too, which is more, belike, than
thou bargainedst for," and, before the astonished captain could grasp
his sword, he had let the beggar's cloak fall to the ground, and,
lifting his stout cudgel, he had given him such a clout over the head,
that his skull cracked like a nut, and he fell dead at his feet.

Without waiting to take breath, Wallace drew his sword, and, running
lightly upstairs, he burst into the room where the soldiers were just
finishing their meal, and before they could rise from the table and
grasp their weapons, he had stabbed every one of them to the heart.

The innkeeper's wife, who had just come from the kitchen, and was
serving the men rather unwillingly, for she had no love for the English,
stood still and stared in amazement.

"God save us!" she said at last, as Wallace stopped and wiped his sword.
"But are ye a man, or do you come from the Evil One himself?"

"I am William Wallace," said the stranger, "and I wish that all English
soldiers who are in Scotland were even as these men are."

"Amen to that," said the old woman heartily, and then she dropped down
on her knees before the embarrassed knight. "Hech, sirs," she said
fervently, "to think that my eyes are looking on the Gude Wallace!"

"The Hungry Wallace, ye mean," said the knight with a laugh. "If ye love
me, woman, get up from thy knees, and set on meat and drink, for I have
scarce tasted food these three days, and my strength is well-nigh gone."

"That will I, right speedily," she cried, and, jumping up, she ran to
her husband and told him who the stranger was.

With great goodwill they began to prepare a meal, but hardly had it been
dished up, and placed upon the table, before another band of soldiers
marched up and surrounded the house. The beggar man had gone into Perth,
and told people about the mysterious knight who had bought his old cloak
in order that he might go and see the English soldiers, and when the
rest of the soldiers in the town got to hear of it, they had suspected
at once who he really was, and had come to the help of their companions.

Their suspicions proved true when they caught sight of Wallace through
one of the windows.

"Come out, come out, thou false knight," they cried exultingly, "and
think not that thou canst escape out of our hands. The tod[1] is taken
in his hole this time, and right speedily shall he die."

  [Footnote 1: Fox.]

With that they entered the house, and rushed upstairs, thinking that it
would be an easy matter to capture the Scottish leader, for they knew
that he had no follower with him. But the weak things of this world are
able sometimes to confound the mighty, and they had not reckoned that
the two old people to whom the inn belonged were prepared to shed the
last drop of their blood, rather than that Wallace should come to harm
in their house.

So the old man had taken down his broad claymore from the wall, and the
old woman had seized a lance, and they stood one on each side of their
guest, grasping their weapons with fevered zeal.

Then began a fierce and deadly onslaught in that little room, and many a
time it seemed as if the three brave defenders must go down; but
Wallace's arm had the strength of ten, and the old man laid on right
bravely, and the old woman gave many a deadly thrust with her lance from
behind, where she saw it was needed, and so it came to pass that at last
every Englishman was slain, and Wallace and his bold helpers were left
triumphant.

"Now, surely, I can eat in peace," said he, sitting down to his sorely
needed meal, "and then must I begone. For, with thy help, I have done a
work here this day that will raise all the English 'twixt Perth and
Edinburgh. Mayhap, goodman, thou canst get help to throw these bodies
into the river. 'Twill be better for thee that the English find them not
in thy house, for I must up and away."

"That can I," said the old man, "for the good folk of Perth think much
of thee, and very little of the English, therefore will they give me a
hand."[2]

  [Footnote 2: Help me.]

So once more Wallace took the road to the North, and as he retraced his
steps across the North Inch, he passed the rosy-cheeked maiden again,
busy at her work. She was laying the clothes out to bleach now, and she
gave him a friendly nod as he approached.

"I hope, fair sir, that thou hast seen the English," she said, "and that
thou hast come by food at the same time?"

"That have I," said Wallace; "thanks to thy gentle charity, I have eaten
and drunk to my heart's content. I have seen the English soldiers too,
and, by my troth, the English soldiers have also seen me. The day that I
visited that little hostler-house is not likely to be forgotten by the
English army."

Then he put his hand in his pocket, and drew out twenty pounds in good
red gold.

"Take that," he said to the astonished damsel, pressing the money into
her hand as he spoke. "Thy half-crown brought me luck, and this is but
thy rightful share of it."

So saying, he took his way quickly towards the hills, leaving the girl
so bewildered, that, had it not been for the money in her hand, she
would have been inclined to think that it was all a dream.

As it was, she never quite believed that it was a human being who had
taken away her silver half-crown, and brought her back twenty gold
pieces, but talked of ghosts, and visions; and some people, when they
heard of the thirty English soldiers who lay dead in the little
hostler-house, were inclined to be of her opinion.



THE WARLOCK O' OAKWOOD

    "Ae gloamin' as the sinking sun
      Gaed owre the wastlin' braes,
    And shed on Oakwood's haunted towers
      His bright but fading rays,

    Auld Michael sat his leafu' lane
      Down by the streamlet's side,
    Beneath a spreading hazel bush,
      And watched the passing tide."


The bright rays of the setting sun were shining over the valley of
Ettrick, and lighting up the stone turrets on the old tower of Oakwood.

For many a long year the old tower had stood empty, while its owner, Sir
Michael Scott, one of the most learned men who ever lived, wandered in
distant lands, far across the sea.

He had been a mere boy when he left it, to study at Durham and Oxford:
then the love of learning had carried him first of all to Paris, where
he had been famed for his skill in mathematics; then to Italy, and
finally to Spain, where he had studied alchemy under the Moors, and had
learned from them, so 'twas said, much of the magic of the East, so that
he had power over spirits, and could command them to come and go at his
bidding, and could read the stars, and cure the sick, and do many other
wonderful things, which made all men regard him as a wizard.

And now that he had come back to his old home once more, the country
folk avoided him, and gazed with awe at the great square tower where,
they said, he spent most of his time, practising his magic art, and
holding converse with the powers of darkness.

The King, on the other hand, thought much of this most learned knight,
and would fain have seen more of him at his court in Edinburgh, but Sir
Michael loved the country best, and spent most of his time there,
writing, or reading, or making experiments.

This evening, however, he was not in his tower, but was sitting by the
side of the Ettrick, studying with deepest interest all the sights and
sounds of nature which were going on around him. For he loved nature,
this studious, quiet, middle-aged man, and the sight of the little
minnows darting about in the water, and the trouts hiding under the
stones, and the partridges coming whirring across the cornfields, gave
him as much pleasure as all the wonderful sights which he had seen in
far-off lands.

Suddenly he raised his head and listened. Far away in the distance he
seemed to hear the sound of trumpets, and the "thud," "thud" of horses'
hoofs, as if a body of men were riding quickly towards him.

"Some strangers are approaching," he said to himself, "and if I am not
mistaken they are soldiers. I will hasten home and learn their errand.
Mayhap it is a message from his Majesty the King."

He rose to his feet slowly, for his limbs were somewhat cramped with
sitting, and walked with stately dignity to the tower.

The riders had just arrived, and, as he expected, they bore a message
from the King. As he approached, a knight clad in full armour rode
forward, preceded by a man-at-arms, and, bending low over his horse's
neck, presented to him a parchment packet, sealed with the Royal Seal.

"The King of Scotland, whom God preserve, sends greetings to his loyal
cousin Sir Michael Scott," he said, "and whereas various French sailors
have committed acts of piracy on the high seas, and have attacked and
robbed divers Scottish vessels, he lays on him his Royal commands that
he will betake himself to France with all speed, and deliver this packet
into the hands of the French King. And, further, that he will demand
that an answer to the writing contained therein be given him at once,
and that he hasten back with all dispatch, and draw not rein, nor tarry,
till he deliver the answer to the King in Edinburgh."

Sir Michael took the packet from the messenger's hand and bowed gravely.
He was accustomed to receive such orders, and everyone wondered at the
marvellously quick way in which he obeyed them.

"Carry my humblest greetings to his Majesty," he answered, "and assure
him that I will lose no time, but will at once set about making my
preparations. By dawn of day I will be gone, mounted on the swiftest
steed that ever the eye of mortal man gazed upon."

"Is it swifter than the horse which his Majesty keeps for his own use at
Dunfermline?" asked the soldier curiously. "For if it is, it must indeed
be a noble animal, and 'twould fetch a good price among the barons of
the court. Ever since his Majesty has turned his mind so much to horses,
his courtiers have vied with each other to see which of them could
become the possessor of the swiftest animal."

"My horse is not for sale," said Sir Michael shortly, "not though men
offered me his weight in gold."

The young officer bowed again. There was something in Sir Michael's tone
which forbade him asking to see the horse, much as he should have liked
to do so; so, giving a signal to his men, he turned his horse's head in
the direction of Edinburgh, and rode off, leaving Sir Michael standing
on the doorstep gazing after them, a strange smile on his face.

"A good price," he repeated; "by my troth, 'twould need to be a very
good price which would buy my good Diabolus from me. But I must go and
summon him."

Muttering strangely to himself, he turned and entered the tower.

He went up the narrow, winding, stone stairs until he reached a little
iron-studded door. This door was locked, but he opened it with a key
which hung from his girdle, and, entering the low-roofed attic-room to
which it led, he locked it again carefully behind him. The attic was at
the top of the tower, and through the narrow windows which pierced three
of its walls, a glorious view was to be had over the surrounding
country.

But Sir Michael had not come up there to admire the view; he had other
work to do--work which seemed to need mysterious preparations.

First of all, he proceeded to dress himself in a curiously shaped black
cloak, and a hunting cap made of hair, which he took down from a nail in
the wall. The cloak was very long, and completely enveloped his figure,
and, when he had pulled the hairy cap well down over his eyes, no one
would have taken him, I warrant, for the quiet, middle-aged, master of
Oakwood.

When he was dressed he took down a leaden platter from a shelf by the
door, and, opening a cupboard, he took out a little glass bottle full of
a clear amber-coloured liquid, which glowed like melted fire. Setting
down the platter on a little round table in the middle of the room, he
dropped one or two drops of this liquid on it, and in an instant they
broke into tongues of flame which curled up high above his head.

It was a strange and weird fire, enough to frighten any man, but the
still, dark-robed figure standing beside it never moved, not even when a
number of tiny little imps appeared, clad in scarlet, and green, and
blue, and purple, and danced round and round it on the table, tossing
their tiny arms, and twisting their queer little faces, as if they had
gone mad.

He waited patiently until the little creatures had finished their dance
and disappeared, then he seized the platter, and, going to one of the
narrow windows, he flung it open, and, pushing the platter through it,
he threw it, with its burning load, far out into the gathering twilight.

He watched the fire as it fell, in glowing fragments, among the oak
trees which surrounded the tower, then he opened a small, black,
leathern-bound book, which lay chained to a monk's desk which stood in a
corner. Opening it he read a few words in an unknown tongue, then he
turned to the window again and waved a little silver wand over his head
three times.

"Come, Diabolus. Come, Diabolus," he muttered, and then he knelt on the
floor and waited eagerly, his eyes fixed on the Western horizon.

The sun had sunk, but the sky was clear, and one or two stars had
appeared, and were shining out peacefully, like little candles set in a
golden haze.

Presently, however, big black clouds began to appear, and pile up, one
against another, till the little stars were blotted out, and the whole
sky became as black as night.

In a little time the dull muttering of thunder could be heard far away
over the woods. It came nearer and nearer--crash upon crash, and roar
upon roar--while the lightning flashed, and a perfect tempest of wind
arose and lashed the branches of the tall trees into fury. Truly it was
an awful storm.

The wizard felt the solid masonry of the tower rock beneath him, but he
was as calm as if only a little gust of wind had been passing on a
summer's day.

Still he knelt on, peering eagerly into the darkness. At last his eyes
grew bright and keen, for he saw a shadowy form come floating through
the air, driven by the wind. He knew now that his charm had worked, and
that this was his familiar spirit--the spirit over whom he had most
control--who had come in the form of a great black horse, with flaming
eyes, and flowing mane, to carry him over the sea to France.

With one bound he flew through the window, and alighted on its back.

"Now woe betide thee, Diabolus," he said, "if thou fliest not swiftly.
For I must be in Paris by daylight to-morrow."

The huge black horse shook its mane, and snorted fiercely, as if it
understood, and without more ado it flew on its way, its uncanny
black-cloaked rider seated on its back.

As soon as they had disappeared, the storm died away, and the moon rose,
and the little stars shone out over Oakwood Tower as clearly and quietly
as if there had never been a cloud in the sky. Meanwhile Sir Michael
Scott and his huge black charger were flying over hills, and valleys,
and rivers, in the darkness. They even flew over the sea itself, and
never halted until the day broke, and there, far below, lay the city of
Paris, dimly seen in the gray morning light.

In the King's Palace the lackeys were hardly awake. They gazed at one
another in astonishment when the heavy iron knocker on the great gate
fell with a knock that echoed through the courtyard.

"Who dares to knock so loudly at this early hour?" asked the fat old
porter in great indignation. "Whoever it be, I trow he may e'en wait
outside till I have broken my fast."

But before he had done speaking the knocker fell once more, and there
was something so commanding in the sound that the little man hurried
off, grumbling to himself, to get the key.

"Beshrew me if it doth not sound like a messenger from some great king,"
said a man-at-arms who was standing by, and the porter's heart misgave
him at the thought that perhaps by his tardiness he had got himself into
trouble.

But when he opened the great door, instead of the company of armed men
whom he dreaded to see, there was only a solitary rider, muffled in a
great black cloak, and wearing a hairy cap drawn down over his face,
seated on an enormous black horse. The stranger's dress was so
outlandish, and his horse so big, that the porter crossed himself.

"Surely 'tis the Evil One himself," he muttered; and when the lackeys
heard his words, they crowded round the doorway. They, too, were puzzled
at Sir Michael's appearance, and began to laugh and jeer at him.

"He is like a hooded crow," cried one.

"Nay, 'tis an old wife in her husband's clothes," shouted another.

"Surely the cloak belonged to Noah," cried a third.

But they started back in dismay when the muffled figure pushed up his
cap, and demanded an audience of the King.

"I come from the King of Scotland," he said haughtily, "and his business
brooks no delay."

A shout of laughter greeted his demand.

"Thou a messenger from the King of Scotland!" they cried. "A likely
story, forsooth! The King of Scotland sends not beggars, in old rusty
suits, as his ambassadors. No, no, my good fellow, thou askest us to
believe too much. Whatever thou art, thou art not a king's messenger."

"What!" cried Sir Michael. "Ye refuse to do my bidding! and all because
I am not decked out in crimson and gold, and ridest alone without a
retinue. Well, ye shall see that it is not always wise to judge of a man
by his outward appearance. Make way there." And without wasting any more
words, he leaped from his horse, and, throwing its bridle over a pillar,
he strode right through the middle of them, and made his way to the
King's private apartment, without even waiting to be announced.

Now the King of France was accustomed to be treated with great ceremony,
and when this dark-robed man strode into his bed-chamber, and held out
the parchment packet to him, demanding an instant answer, he was very
indignant, and refused to open it.

"Thou sayest that thou comest from the King of Scots," he said. "Well, I
believe thee not. If thou wert Sir Michael Scott, as thou sayest thou
art, thou wouldst have come with an armed escort, as befitted thy rank
and station. Therefore begone, Sirrah, and count thyself happy that I
have not had thee thrown into one of the palace dungeons, as a
punishment for thy insolence."

"By my troth," cried Sir Michael angrily, "if this is the way thou
wouldst answer my master's demands, I trow I can soon bring thee to a
better frame of mind."

Without waiting for an answer, he flung down the parchment packet on the
floor, and strode out of the room in the same way that he had entered,
leaving the angry King gazing after him in astonishment.

"The fellow is mad," he cried to the nobles who stood round. "See to it
that he is shut up until he comes to his senses."

But Sir Michael had already reached the courtyard, and passed through
the great door to where his horse was waiting outside. He lowered his
voice and spoke gently to the mighty beast.

"Stamp, my steed, and show the varlets that we are better than we seem
to be," he said. And at his bidding the gigantic creature lifted one of
its forefeet, and brought it down with all its might on the pavement.

In an instant it was as though an earthquake were passing over the city.
The great towers of the Palace which frowned overhead rocked and swayed,
and all the bells on a hundred church steeples chimed and jangled, until
the air was thick with the sound of them.

The King and his courtiers were very much alarmed at these strange
events, but they did not like to own that it was the mysterious stranger
who was the cause of them. All the same, the King called a hurried
council, and when the nobles were assembled, and seated in their places
in the great hall, he opened the parchment packet, and took out the
papers which it contained. When he had read them his face flushed with
anger. The King of Scotland's demands were very urgent, and moreover
they were stated in no uncertain language, and as he considered that he
was a much more powerful monarch than King Alexander, he did not like to
be dictated to.

"Ah," he said, "so my Lord of Scotland lays down his own terms with a
high hand. Methinks he must learn that this is not the way to obtain
favours from France."

"Ay, so in good sooth he must learn," repeated the nobles in one breath.
"And in order that the lesson be made plain, we advise that his
messenger be cast into prison, and that no notice be taken of his
requests."

"Your advice pleases me well," said the King. "Command that the officers
seize the fellow at once. Certs, he may think himself lucky that We
permit his head to remain on his shoulders."

The command was given, but Sir Michael had been growing more and more
impatient that no more notice seemed to be taken of his errand, and when
the officers of the guard appeared, and, instead of handing him the
French King's answer, as he had expected, laid their hands on him to
drag him off to prison, his anger knew no bounds.

"What," he cried, "doth the King still refuse to listen? By my troth, he
shall rue the delay," and once more he whispered in the black horse's
ear, and once more the mighty creature lifted its great forefoot and
brought it down with a crash on the pavement.

The effect was even more terrible than it had been before.

In an instant great thunder clouds rolled up from the horizon, and a
fearful storm broke over the city. The thunder rolled and the lightning
flashed, and strange and weird figures were seen floating in the air.
The great bells which hung in the steeple of the great Cathedral of
Notre Dame gave one awful crash, and then burst in two, while the towers
and pinnacles of the splendid church came tumbling down in the darkness.
The very foundations of the Palace were shaken, and rocked to and fro,
till everyone within it was thrown to the ground. The King himself was
hurled from his throne of state, and was so badly hurt that he cried
aloud with pain and fear.

As for the courtiers, they lay about the floor in all directions,
paralysed with terror, crossing themselves, and calling on the Saints to
help them. They were so terrified that not one of them thought of going
to their Royal Master's aid.

The King was the first to recover himself. "Alack! alack!" he groaned,
rising to his feet. "Woe betide the day that brought this fellow to our
land! Warlock or wizard, I know not which, but one of them he must be,
for no mere mortal man could have had the power to work this harm to our
city."

While he was speaking a loud trampling of feet was heard outside the
great hall, and all the lackeys came tumbling in, pell-mell, without
waiting to do their reverence, just as if the King had been any common
man.

"O Sire," they cried, "grant the fellow anything and everything he asks,
and let him be gone. He threatens that he will cause this awful beast to
stamp yet once again, and, if he does, the whole land of France will be
ruined. If your Majesty but knew what harm hath been wrought in the city
already!"

"Yes, let him begone," wailed the courtiers, slowly beginning to pick
themselves up from the floor, and feeling their bones to see if any of
them were broken.

And, indeed, the King was nothing loth to grant their request, for he
felt that if the mysterious stranger were allowed to stand at the door
much longer his whole kingdom would be tumbling to pieces about his
ears. Better far that the King of Scotland should be satisfied, even
although it was sorely against his inclinations.

With trembling fingers he picked up the papers and once more read them.
Then he wrote an answer promising to fulfil all the Scotch King's
demands and he sealed up the packet, and flung it to the nearest lackey.

"Give it to him and bid him begone," he cried, and a sigh of relief went
round the hall, as a minute later the man returned with the tidings that
the great black horse and its outlandish rider had vanished.

"Heaven grant that when next my Cousin of Scotland sends an ambassador,
he choose another man," said the King, and there was not a soul in all
the palace who did not breathe a fervent "Amen."

Meanwhile, Sir Michael and his wonderful steed were speeding along on
their homeward way. They had crossed the north of France, and were
flying over the Straits of Dover, when the creature began to think that
it might work a little mischief on its own account.

It had taken a sudden fancy to remain in France for a while, and it
thought how nice it would be if it could pitch its master, whom it
rather feared than loved, over its head into the water, and so be rid of
him for ever.

It knew that as long as it was under his spell, it had to do his
bidding, but it knew also that there were certain words which could
break the spell even of a wizard, and it began to wonder if it would be
possible to make Sir Michael pronounce one of these.

"Master," it said at last slyly, for when it wanted it had the power of
speech, "I know little about Scottish ways, but I have oft-times been
told that the old wives and children there mutter some words to
themselves ere they go to bed. 'Tis some spell, I warrant, and I would
fain know it. Canst tell me the words?"

Now the wily animal knew perfectly well what words the children of
Scotland were taught to repeat as they knelt at night at their mother's
knee, but it hoped that its master would answer without thinking.

But Sir Michael had not studied magic for long years for nothing, and he
knew that if he answered that the women and children in Scotland bowed
their knees and said their Pater Noster ere they went to bed, the holy
words would break the spell, and he would be at the mercy of the fiend,
who, when he needed him, was obliged to take the form of a horse, or
serve him in any other way which he required.

So he shook the creature's bridle and answered sharply, "What is that to
thee, Diabolus? Attend to the business thou hast in hand, and vex not
thy soul with silly questions. If thou truly desirest to know what the
bairns are taught to say at bed-time, then I would advise thee, when
thou art in Scotland, and hast time to spare from thy wicked devices, to
go and stand by a cottage window, and learn for thyself. Mayhap the
knowledge will do thee good. In the meantime think no more of the
matter, unless thou wouldst feel the weight of my wand on thy flanks."

Now, if there was one thing which the great horse feared, it was the
wizard's magic wand, so he put his mind to his work, and flew with all
the swiftness he possessed northwards over England, and across the
Cheviots, until at last they came in sight of Edinburgh, and the Royal
Palace of Holyrood.

Here Sir Michael slid from his back, and dismissed him with a little
wave of his wand. "Avaunt, Diabolus," he said, and at the words the
magic horse vanished into thin air, and, strange to say, the black cloak
and hairy cap which the wizard had worn on the journey seemed to fall
from him and vanish also, and he was left standing, a middle-aged,
dignified gentleman, clad in a suit of sober brown.

He hurried down to the Palace, and sought an instant audience of the
King. The lackeys bowed low, and the doors flew open before him, as he
was led into his Majesty's presence, for at the Court of Holyrood Sir
Michael Scott was a very great person indeed.

But for once a frown gathered on King Alexander's face when he saw him.
Kings expect to be obeyed, and he was not prepared to see the man appear
whom he had ordered off to France with all speed the day before.

"What ho! Sir Michael," he said coldly. "Is this the way that thou
carriest out our royal orders. In good sooth I wish I had chosen a more
zealous messenger."

Sir Michael smiled gravely. "Wilt please my Sovereign Lord to receive
this packet from the hand of the King of France?" he said with a stately
bow. "Methinks that he will find that in it all his demands are granted,
and that I have obeyed his behests to the best of my power."

The King was utterly taken aback. He wondered if Sir Michael were
playing some trick on him, for it was absolutely impossible that he
could have gone and come from France in twenty-four hours.

When he opened the packet, however, he saw that it was no trick. In
utter amazement he called for his courtiers, and they crowded round him
to examine the papers. They were all in order, and all the requests had
been granted without more ado. Reparation was to be made for the damage
that had been done to the Scottish ships, and in future all acts of
piracy would be severely punished. It was evident that the papers had
been taken to Paris, for there was the French King's own seal, and there
was his name signed in his own handwriting, though how they had been
carried thither so quickly, nobody ventured to say.

"'Tis safer not to ask, your Majesty," whispered one old knight, making
the sign of the Cross as he spoke, "for there are strange tales afloat,
which say that the Lord of Oakwood keeps a familiar spirit in that
ancient tower of his, who is ready to do his bidding at all times; and,
by my soul, this goes far to prove it."

The King looked round uneasily, in case Sir Michael had heard this last
sentence. He felt that if this were true, and he were a wizard, as men
hinted, it was best not to incur his displeasure; but he need not have
been afraid. The Lord of Oakwood loved not courts, and now that he had
done his errand, and the papers were safe in the King's hand, he had
taken advantage of the astonishment of the courtiers to slip unobserved
through the crowd, and, having borrowed a horse from the royal stables,
he was now riding leisurely out of the city, on his way home to his old
tower on the banks of the Ettrick.



MUCKLE-MOU'ED MEG

    "O wha hasna heard o' the bauld Juden Murray,
      The Lord o' the Elibank Castle sae high?
    An' wha hasna heard o' that notable foray,
      Whan Willie o' Harden was catched wi' the kye?"


Of all the towers and castles which belonged to the old Border reivers,
there was none which was better suited to its purpose than the ancient
house of Harden. It stood, as the house which succeeded it stands to
this day, at the head of a deep and narrow glen, looking down on the
Borthwick Water, not far from where it joins the Teviot.

It belonged to Walter Scott, "Wat o' Harden," as he was called, a near
kinsman and faithful ally of the "Bold Buccleuch," who lived just over
the hill, at Branksome.

Wat was a noted freebooter. Never was raid or foray but he was well to
the front, and when, as generally happened, the raid or foray resulted
in a drove of English cattle finding their way over the Liddesdale
hills, and down into Teviotdale, the Master of Harden had no difficulty
in guarding his share of the spoil. The entrance to his glen was so
narrow, and its sides so steep and rocky, that he had only to drive the
tired beasts into it, and set a strong guard at the lower end, and then
he and his retainers could take things easily for a time, and live in
plenty, till some fine day the beef would be done, and his wife, Dame
Mary, whom folk named the "Flower of Yarrow" in her youth, would serve
him up a pair of spurs underneath the great silver cover, as a hint that
the larder was empty, and that it was full time that he should mount and
ride for more.

'Twas little wonder that his five sons grew up to love this free roving
life, to which they had always been accustomed, and that they took ill
with the change when, in 1603, at the Union of the Crowns, Scotland and
England became one country, and King James determined to put down
raiding and reiving with a high hand.

It was difficult at first, but gradually a change came about. Courts of
justice were established in the Border towns, where law-breakers were
tried, and promptly punished, and the heads of the most powerful clans
banded themselves together to put down bloodshed and robbery, and a time
of quietness bade fair to settle down on the distressed district.

To the old folk, tired of incessant fighting, this change was welcome;
but the younger men found their occupation gone, while as yet they had
no thought of turning to some more peaceable pursuit. The young Scotts
of Harden were no exceptions to this rule, and William, the eldest,
found matters, after a time, quite unbearable. Moreover, his father's
retainers were growing discontented with their quiet life, and scanty
fare, for beef was not so plentiful at Harden now that Border law
forbade its being stolen from England; so, without telling either his
father or his brothers of his intention, he took a band of chosen men,
and rode over, in the gray light of an early spring morning, to the
house of William Hogg of Fauldshope, one of the chief retainers of the
family.

William was a man of great bravery, and so fierce and strong that he had
earned for himself the name of the "Wild Boar of Fauldshope."

He was still in bed when the party from Harden arrived, but rose hastily
when they knocked. Great was his astonishment when he saw his young
master with a band of armed men behind him.

"What cheer, Master?" he said, "and what doest thou out at this time of
day? Faith, it minds me of the good old times, when some rider would
come in haste to my door, to tell me that Auld Buccleuch had given
orders to warn the water."[3]

  [Footnote 3: To call the countrymen to arms.]

"Heaven send that those times come back again," said young Harden
piously, "else shall we soon be turned into a pack of old wives. The
changes that have come to Harden be more than I can stand, Willie. Not
so many years past we were aye as busy as a swarm of bees. When we had a
mind, and had nought else to do, we leaped on our horses and headed
towards Cumberland. There were ever some kine to be driven, or a house
or two to be burned, or some poor widow to be avenged, or some prisoner
to be released. So things went right merrily, and the larder was always
full. But now that this cursed peace hath come, and King Jamie reigns in
London--plague on the man for leaving this bonnie land!--the place is as
quiet as the grave, and the horses grow fat, and our men grow lean, and
they quarrel and fight among themselves all day, an' all because they
have nought else to do. Moreover, the pastures round Harden grow rough
for want of eating. We need a drove of cattle to keep them down. So I
have e'en come over to take counsel with thee, Will, for thou art a man
after mine own heart, and I have brought a few of the knaves at my back.
What think ye, man, is there no one we could rob? Fain would I ride over
the Border to harry the men of Cumberland, but thou knowest how it is.
My kinsman of Buccleuch is Warden of the Marches, and responsible for
keeping the peace, and sore dule and woe would come to my father's house
were I to stir up strife now that we are supposed to be all one land."

"Ay, by my troth," said Will of Fauldshope, "the fat would be in the
fire if we were to ride into Cumberland nowadays; but, Master, the
Warden hath no right to interfere with lawful quarrels. There is the
Laird o' Elibank, for instance, old Sir Juden. Deil take me if anyone
could blame us if we paid him a visit. For all the world knows how often
some cows, or a calf or two, have vanished on a dark night from the
hillsides at Harden, and though a Murray hath never yet been ta'en
red-handed, it is easy to know where the larders o' Elibank get their
plenishing. Turn about is fair play, say I, and now that the pastures at
Harden are empty, 'tis time that we thought of taking our revenge. Sir
Juden was a wily man in his youth, and sly as a pole-cat, but men say
that nowadays he hath grown doited,[4] and does nought but sit with his
wife and his three ugly daughters from morning till night. All the same,
he hath managed to feather his nest right well. 'Twas told me at
Candlemas that he hath no less than three hundred fat cattle grazing in
the meadows that lie around Elibank."

  [Footnote 4: In his dotage.]

Willie o' Harden slapped his thigh.

"That settles the matter," he cried, with a ring in his voice at the
thought of the adventure that lay before him. "Three hundred kye are far
too many for one old man to herd. Let him turn his mind to his three
ill-faured[5] daughters, whom no man will wed because of their looks.
This very night we will ride over into Ettrick, and lift a wheen[6] o'
them. My father's Tower of Oakwood lies not far from Elibank, and when
once we have driven the beasts into the Oakwood byres, 'twill take old
Sir Juden all his time to prove that they ever belonged to him."

  [Footnote 5: Plain-looking.]

  [Footnote 6: Few.]

Late that afternoon Sir Juden Murray was having a daunder[7] in the
low-lying haughs which lay along the banks of the Tweed, close to his
old tower. His hands were clasped behind his back, under his coat tails,
and his head was sunk low on his breast. He appeared to be deep in
meditation, and so indeed he was. There was a matter which had been
pressing heavily on his mind for some time, and it troubled him more
every day.

  [Footnote 7: Gentle walk.]

The fact was, that it was a sore anxiety to him how he was going to
provide for his three daughters, for Providence had endowed them with
such very plain features that it seemed extremely unlikely that any gay
wooer would ever stop before the door of Elibank. Meg, the eldest, was
especially plain-looking. She was pale and thin, with colourless eyes,
and a long pointed nose, and, to make matters worse, she had such a very
wide mouth that she was known throughout the length and breadth of four
counties as "Muckle-Mou'ed Meg o' Elibank."

No wonder her father sighed as he thought of her, for, in spite of his
greed and his slyness, Sir Juden was an affectionate father, as fathers
went in those days, and the lot of unmarried ladies of the upper class,
at that time, was a hard one.

He was roused from his thoughts by someone shouting to him from the top
of the neighbouring hill. It was one of his men-at-arms, and the old man
stood for a moment with his hand at his ear, to listen to the fellow's
words. They came faintly down the wind.

"I fear evil betakes us, Sir Juden, for far in the distance I hear
bugles sounding at Oakwood Tower. I would have said that the Scotts of
Harden were riding, were it not for Buccleuch and his new laws."

Sir Juden shook his grizzled head. "Little cares Auld Wat o' Harden, or
any o' his kind, either for Warden or laws, notwithstanding that the
Warden is his own kith and kin. As like as not they have heard tell o'
my bonnie drove of cattle, and would fain have some of them. Run,
sirrah, and warn our friends; no one can find fault with us if we fight
in self-defence."

No sooner had the first man disappeared to do his master's bidding, than
another approached, running down the hillside as fast as he could. He
was quite out of breath when he came up to the Laird, and no wonder, for
he had run all the way from Philip-Cairn, one of the highest hills in
the neighbourhood.

"Oh, Sir Juden," he gasped, "lose no time, but arm well, and warn well,
if thou wouldst keep thine own. From the top of the hill I saw armed men
in the distance, and it was not long ere I knew the knaves. 'Tis a band
of reivers led by the young Knight of Harden, and, besides his own men,
he hath with him the Wild Boar of Fauldshope, and all the Hoggs and the
Brydons."

"By my troth, but thou bringest serious tidings," said Sir Juden,
thoroughly alarmed, for he knew what deadly fighters Willie o' Harden
and the Boar of Fauldshope were, and, without wasting words, he hurried
away to his tower to make the best preparations he could for the coming
fray.

He knew that even with all the friends who would muster round him, the
men of Plora, and Traquair, and Ashiestiel, and Hollowlee, Harden's
force would far outnumber his, and his only hope lay in outwitting the
enemy, who were better known for their bravery than for their guile.

So when all his friends were assembled, instead of stationing them near
the castle, he led them out to a steep hill-side, some miles away, where
he knew the Scotts must pass with the cattle, on their way to Oakwood.
As the night was dark, he bade each of them fasten a white feather in
his cap, so that, when they were fighting, they would know who were
their friends and who their foes, and he would not allow them to stand
about on the hill-side, but made them lie down hidden in the heather
until he gave them the signal to rise.

He knew well what he was doing, for he was as cunning as a fox, and
neither the Knight of Harden nor the Wild Boar of Fauldshope, brave
though they were, were a match for him.

They, on their part, thought things were going splendidly, for when they
rode up in the darkness of midnight to the Elibank haughs, all was
quiet; not so much as a dog barked. It was not difficult to collect a
goodly drove of fat cattle, and, as long as the animals were driven
along a familiar path, all went well. But all the world knows the saying
about "a cow in an unca loaning,"[8] and it held good in this case. The
moment the animals' heads were turned to the hills that lay between
Elibank and Oakwood the trouble began. They broke in confusion, and ran
hither and thither in the darkness, lowing and crying in great
bewilderment.

  [Footnote 8: A cow in a strange lane or milking-place.]

"Faith, but this will never do," exclaimed Will of Fauldshope; "if the
beasts bellow at this rate, they will awaken old Sir Juden and his sons,
and they will set on in pursuit. Not that that would matter much, but we
may as well do the job with as little bloodshed as possible. See, I and
my men will take a dozen or so, and push on over the hill. If once the
way be trodden the rest will follow."

So Will of Fauldshope and his men went their way cheerily up the hill,
and over its crest, and down the other side, on their way to Oakwood,
with a handful of cattle before them, little recking that Sir Juden and
his sons, whom they thought to be sleeping peacefully at Elibank, were
crouching among the heather with their friends and retainers, or that
they had ridden over a few of them on their way, and that, as soon as
they were past, and out of earshot, and young Harden came on with the
main body of the stolen cattle, the Murrays would rise and set on him
with sudden fierceness, and after a sharp and bloody conflict would take
him prisoner, and kill many a brave man.

Nor would Will have heard of the fight at all, until he had arrived at
Oakwood, and his suspicions had been aroused by the fact that young
Harden did not follow him, had it not been for a trusty fellow called
Andrew o' Langhope, who was knocked down in the fight, and who thought
that he could serve his master best by lying still. So he pretended to
be dead, and lay motionless until the fray was over, and poor young
Scott bound hand and foot, and carried off in triumph by the Murrays;
then he sprang to his feet, and ran off in pursuit of Will of Fauldshope
as fast as his legs could carry him.

Now, if there was one man on earth whom the Wild Boar of Fauldshope and
his men loved, it was the young Knight of Harden. He was so handsome,
and brave, and debonair, a very leader among men, that I ween there was
dire confusion among them when they heard Andrew o' Langhope's tale. A
great oath fell from Will's lips as he threw off his jerkin and helmet,
to ease his horse, and turned and galloped over the hill again, followed
by all his company.

But in spite of their haste they were too late. The dawn was breaking as
they reined up on the green in front of Elibank, and the gray morning
light showed them that the stout oak door was closed, and the great iron
gates made fast. By now young Harden was safe in the lowest dungeon, and
right well they knew that only once again would he breathe the fresh air
of heaven, and that would be when he was led out to die under the great
dule-tree on the green.

Bitter tears of grief and rage filled the Boar of Fauldshope's eyes at
the thought, but no more could be done, except to ride over to Harden,
and tell old Sir Walter Scott of the fate that had befallen his eldest
son.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Juden, Juden." It was the Lady of Elibank's voice, and it woke her
husband out of the only sound sleep he had had, for he had been terribly
troubled with bad dreams all night: dreams not, as one would have
imagined, of the fight which he had passed through, but of his eldest
daughter Meg, and her sad lack of wooers.

"What is it?" he asked drowsily, as he looked across the room to where
his worthy spouse, Dame Margaret Murray, already up and dressed, stood
looking out of the narrow casement.

"I was just wondering," she said slowly, "what thou intendest to do with
that poor young man?"

"Do," cried Sir Juden, wide awake now, and starting up in astonishment
at the question, for his wife was not wont to be so pitiful towards any
of his prisoners. "By'r Lady, but there is only one thing that I shall
do. Hang the rogue, of course, and that right speedily."

"What," said the Lady of Elibank, and she turned and looked at her angry
husband with an expression which seemed to say that at that moment he
had taken leave of his senses; "hang the young Knight of Harden, when I
have three ill-favoured daughters to marry off my hands! I wonder at ye,
Juden! I aye thought ye had a modicum of common sense, and could look a
long way in front of ye, but at this moment I am sorely inclined to
doubt it. Mark my words, ye'll never again have such a chance as this.
For, besides Harden, he is heir to some of the finest lands in Ettrick
Forest.[9] There is Kirkhope, and Oakwood, and Bowhill. Think of our
Meg; would ye not like to see the lassie mistress of these? And well I
wot ye might, for the youth is a spritely young fellow, though given to
adventure, as what brave young man is not? And I trow that he would put
up with an ill-featured wife, rather than lose his life on our
hanging-tree."

  [Footnote 9: These lands were sold to the Scotts of Buccleuch sometime
  afterwards, and the Duke of Buccleuch is the present owner.]

Sir Juden looked at his wife for full three minutes in silence, and then
he broke into a loud laugh. "By my soul, thou art right, Margaret," he
said. "Thou wert born with the wisdom of Solomon, though men would
scarce think it to look at thee." And he began to dress himself, without
more ado.

Less than two hours afterwards, the door of the dungeon where young
Scott was confined was thrown open with a loud and grating noise, and
three men-at-arms appeared, and requested the prisoner, all bound as he
was, to follow them.

Willie obeyed without a word. He had dared, and had been defeated, and
now he must pay the penalty that the times required, and like a brave
man he would pay it uncomplainingly, but I warrant that, as he followed
the men up the steep stone steps, his heart was heavy within him, and
his thoughts were dwelling on the bonnie braes that lay around Harden,
where he had so often played when he was a bairn, with his mother, the
gentle "Flower of Yarrow," watching over him, and which he knew he would
never see again.

But, to his astonishment, instead of being led straight out to the
"dule-tree," as he had expected, he was taken into the great hall, and
stationed close to one of the narrow windows. A strange sight met his
eyes.

The hall was full of armed men, who were looking about them with broad
smiles of amusement, while, on a dais at the far end of the hall, were
seated, in two large armchairs, his captor of the night before, Sir
Juden Murray, and a severe-looking lady, in a wondrous head-dress, and a
stiff silken gown, whom he took to be his wife.

Between them, blushing and hanging her head as if the ordeal was too
much for her, was the plainest-looking maiden he had ever seen in his
life. She was thin and ill-thriven-looking, very different from the
buxom lassies he was accustomed to see: her eyes were colourless; her
nose was long and pointed, and the size of her mouth would alone have
proclaimed her to be the worthy couple's eldest daughter, Muckle-Mou'ed
Meg.

Near the dais stood her two younger sisters. They were plain-looking
girls also, but hardly so plain-looking as Meg, and they were laughing
and whispering to one another, as if much amused by what was going on.

Sir Juden cleared his throat and crossed one thin leg slowly over the
other, while he looked keenly at his prisoner from under his bushy
eyebrows.

"Good morrow, young sir," he said at last; "so you and your friends
thought that ye would like a score or two o' the Elibank kye. By whose
warrant, may I ask, did ye ride, seeing that in those days peace is
declared on the Border, and anyone who breaks it, breaks it at his own
risk?"

"I rode at my own peril," answered the young man haughtily, for he did
not like to be questioned in this manner, "and it is on mine own head
that the blame must fall. Thou knowest that right well, Sir Juden, so it
seems to me but waste of words to parley here."

"So thou knowest the fate that thy rash deed brings on thee," said Sir
Juden hastily, his temper, never of the sweetest, rising rapidly at the
young man's coolness. He would fain have hanged him without more ado,
did prudence permit; and it was hard to sit still and bargain with him.

"So thou knowest that I have the right to hang thee, without further
words," he continued; "and, by my faith, many a man would do it, too,
without delay. But thou art young, William, and young blood must aye be
roving, that I would fain remember, and so I offer thee another chance."

Here the Lord of Elibank paused and glanced at his wife, to see if he
had said the right thing, for it was she who had arranged the scene
beforehand, and had schooled her husband in the part he was to play.

Meanwhile young Harden, happening to meet Meg Murray's eyes, and puzzled
by the look, half wistful, half imploring, which he saw there, glanced
hastily out of the little casement beside which he was standing, and
received a rude shock, in spite of all his courage, when he saw a strong
rope, with a noose at the end of it, dangling from a stout branch of the
dule-tree on the green, while a man-at-arms stood kicking the ground
idly beside it, apparently waiting till he should be called on to act as
executioner.

"So the old rascal is going to hang me after all," he said to himself;
"then what, in Our Lady's name, means this strange mummery, and how
comes that ill-favoured maiden to look at me as if her life depended on
mine?"

At that moment, old Sir Juden, reassured by a nod from Dame Margaret,
went on with his speech.

"I will therefore offer thee another chance, I say, and, moreover, I
will throw a herd of the cattle which thou wert so anxious to steal into
the bargain, if thou wilt promise, on thy part, to wed my daughter Meg
within the space of four days."

Here the wily old man stopped, and the Lady of Elibank nodded her head
again, while, as for young Harden, for the moment he was too astonished
to speak.

So this was the meaning of it all. He was to be forced to marry the
ugliest maiden in the south of Scotland in order to save his life. The
vision of his mother's beauty rose before him, and the contrast between
the Flower of Yarrow and Muckle-Mou'ed Meg o' Elibank struck him so
sharply that he cried out in anger, "By my troth, but this thing shall
never be. So do thy worst, Sir Juden."

"Think well before ye choose," said that knight, more disappointed than
he would have cared to own at his prisoner's words, "for there are
better things in this world than beauty, young man. Many a beautiful
woman hath been but a thorn in her husband's side, and forbye[10] that,
hast thou not learned in the Good Book--if ever ye find time to read it,
which I fear me will be but seldom--that a prudent wife is more to be
sought after than a bonnie one? And though my Meg here is mayhap no' sae
well-favoured as the lassies over in Borthwick Water, or Teviotdale, I
warrant there is not one of them who hath proved such a good daughter,
or whose nature is so kind and generous."

  [Footnote 10: Besides.]

Still young Harden hesitated, and glanced from the lady, who, poor
thing, had hidden her face in her hands, to the gallows, and from the
gallows back again to the lady.

Was ever mortal man in such a plight? Here he was, young, handsome,
rich, and little more than four-and-twenty, and he must either lose his
life on the green yonder, or marry a damsel whom everyone mocked at for
her looks.

"If only I could be alone with her for five minutes," he thought to
himself, "to see what she looks like, when there is no one to peep and
peer at her. The maiden hath not a chance in the midst of this
mannerless crowd, and methought her eyes were open and honest, as they
looked into mine a little while ago."

At that moment Meg Murray lifted her head once more, and gazed round her
like a stag at bay. Poor lassie, it had been bad enough to be jeered at
by her father, and flouted and scolded by her mother, because of the
unfortunately large mouth with which Providence had endowed her, without
being put up for sale, as it were, in the presence of all her father's
retainers, and find that the young man to whom she had been offered
chose to suffer death rather than have her for a bride.

It was the bitterest moment of all her life, and, had she known it, it
was the moment that fixed her destiny.

For young Willie of Harden saw that look, and something in it stirred
his pity. Besides, he noticed that her pale face was sweet and
innerly,[11] and her gray eyes clear and true.

  [Footnote 11: Confiding.]

"Hold," he cried, just as Sir Juden, whose patience was quite exhausted,
gave a signal to his men-at-arms to seize the prisoner, and hurry him
off to the gallows, "I have changed my mind, and I accept the
conditions. But I call all men to witness that I accept not the hand of
this noble maiden of necessity, or against my will. I am a Scott, and,
had I been minded to, I could have faced death. But I crave the honour
of her hand from her father with all humility, and here I vow, before ye
all, to do my best to be to her a loyal and a true man."

Loud cheers, and much jesting, followed this speech, and men would have
crowded round the young Knight and made much of him, but he pushed his
way in grim silence up the hall to where Meg o' Elibank stood trembling
by her delighted parents.

She greeted him with a look which set him thinking of a bird which sees
its cage flung open, and I wot that, though he did not know it, at that
moment he began to love her.

Be that as it may, his words to Sir Juden were short and gruff. "Sir,"
he asked, "hast thou a priest in thy company? For, if so, let him come
hither and finish what we have begun. I would fain spend this night in
my own Tower of Oakwood."

Sir Juden and his lady were not a little taken aback at this sudden
demand, for, now that the matter was settled to their satisfaction, they
would have liked to have married their eldest daughter with more state
and ceremony.

"There's no need of such haste," began Dame Margaret, with a look at her
lord, "if your word is given, and the Laird satisfied. The morn, or even
the next day might do. The lassie's providing[12] must be gathered
together, for I would not like it said that a bride went out of Elibank
with nothing but the clothes she stood in."

  [Footnote 12: Trousseau.]

But young Harden interrupted her with small courtesy. "Let her be
married now, or not at all," he said, and as the heir of Harden as a
prospective son-in-law was very different from the heir of Harden as a
prisoner, she feared to say him nay, lest he went back on his word.

So a priest was sent for, and in great haste William Scott of Harden was
wedded to Margaret Murray of Elibank, and then they two set off alone,
over the hills to the old Tower of Oakwood--he, with high thoughts of
anger and revenge in his heart for the trick that had been played
him;--she, poor thing, wondering wistfully what the future held in store
for her.

The day was cold and wet, and halfway over the Hangingshaw Height he
heard a stifled sob behind him, and, looking over his shoulder, he saw
his little woebegone bride trying in vain with her numbed fingers to
guide her palfrey, which was floundering in a moss-hole, to firmer
footing.

The sight would have touched a harder heart than Willie of Harden's, for
he was a true son of his mother, and the Flower of Yarrow was aye
kind-hearted; and suddenly all his anger vanished.

"God save us, lassie, but there's nothing to greet[13] about," he said,
turning his horse and taking her reins from her poor stiff fingers, and,
though the words were rough, his voice was strangely gentle. "'Tis not
thy fault that things have fallen out thus, and if I be a trifle
angered, in good faith it is not with thee. Come," and, as he spoke, he
stooped down and lifted her bodily from her saddle, and swung her up in
front of him on his great black horse. "Leave that stupid beast of thine
alone; 'twill find its way back to Elibank soon enough, I warrant. We
will go over the hill quicker in this fashion, and thou wilt have more
shelter from the rain. There is many a good nag on the hills at Harden,
and, when she hears of our wedding, I doubt not but that my mother will
have one trained for thee."

  [Footnote 13: Cry.]

Poor Meg caught her breath. She did not feel so much afraid of her
husband now that she was close to him, and his arm was round her;
besides, the shelter from the rain was very pleasant; but still her
heart misgave her.

"Thy Lady Mother, she is very beautiful," she faltered, "and doubtless
she looked for beauty in her sons' wives."

Then, for ever and a day, all resentment went out of Willie of Harden's
heart, and pure love and pity entered into it.

"If her sons' wives are but good women, my mother will be well content,"
he said, and with that he kissed her.

And I trow that that kiss marked the beginning of Meg Scott's happiness.

For happy she always was. She was aye plain-looking--nothing on earth
could alter her features--but with great happiness comes a look of
marvellous contentment, which can beautify the most homely face, and she
was such a clever housekeeper (no one could salt beef as she could), and
so modest and gentle, that her handsome husband grew to love her more
and more, and I wot that her face became to him the bonniest and the
sweetest face in the whole world.

Sons and daughters were born to them, strapping lads and fair-faced
lassies, and, in after years, when old Wat o' Harden died, and Sir
William reigned in his stead, in the old house at the head of the glen,
he was wont to declare that for prudence, and virtue, and honour, there
was no woman on earth to be compared with his own good wife Meg.



DICK O' THE COW

    "Now Liddesdale has layen lang in,
      There is na ryding there at a';
    The horses are a' grown sae lither fat,
      They downa stir out o' the sta'.

    Fair Johnie Armstrong to Willie did say--
      'Billy, a riding we will gae;
    England and us have lang been at feid;
      Ablins we'll light on some bootie.'"


It was somewhere about the year 1592, and Thomas, Lord Scroope, sat at
ease in his own apartment in Carlisle Castle. He had finished supper,
and was now resting in a great oak chair before a roaring fire. A
tankard of ale stood on a stool by his side (for my Lord of Scroope
loved good cheer above all things), and his favourite hound lay
stretched on the floor at his feet.

To judge by the look on his face, he was thinking pleasant thoughts just
then. He held the office of Warden of the English Marches, as well as
that of Governor of Carlisle Castle, and in those lawless days the post
was not an easy one. There was generally some raid or foray which had to
be investigated, some turbulent Scot pursued, or mayhap some noted
freebooter hung; but just at present the country-side was at peace, and
the Scotts, and Elliots, and Armstrongs, seemed to be content to stay
quietly at home on their own side of the Border.

So that very day he had sent off a good report to his royal mistress,
Queen Elizabeth, then holding her court in far-off London, and now he
was dreaming of paying a long deferred visit to his Castle of Bolton in
Lancashire.

A sharp knock at the door came as a sudden interruption to these dreams.
"Enter," he cried hastily, wondering to himself what message could have
arrived at the castle at that hour of night.

It was his own poor fool who entered, for in Carlisle Castle high state
was kept, and Lord Scroope had his jester, like any king.

The man was known to everyone as "Dick o' the Cow," the reason probably
being that his wife helped to eke out his scanty wages by keeping three
cows, and selling their milk to the honest burghers of Carlisle. He was
a harmless, light-hearted fellow, whom some men called half-witted, but
who was much cleverer than he appeared at first sight to be.

As a rule he was always laughing and making jokes, but to-night his face
was long and doleful.

"What ails thee, man?" cried Lord Scroope impatiently. "Methinks thou
hast forgot thine office, else why comest thou here with a face that
would make a merry man sad?"

"Alack, Master," answered the fool, "up till now I have been an honest
man, but at last I must turn my hand to thieving, and for that reason I
would crave thy leave to go over the Border into Liddesdale."

"Tush!" said the Warden impatiently, "I love not such jesting. I hear
enough about thieving and reiving, and such-like business, without my
very fool dinning it into my ears. Leave such matters for my Lord of
Buccleuch and me to settle, Sirrah, and bethink thee of thy duty. 'Tis
easier to crack jokes and sing songs in the safe shelter of Carlisle
Castle than to ride out armed against these Scottish knaves."

But Dick knelt at his master's feet.

"This is no jest, my lord," he said. "For once in his life this poor
fool is in earnest. For I am like to be ruined if I cannot have revenge.
Thou knowest how my wife and I live in a little cottage just outside the
city walls, and how, with my small earnings, I bought three milch cows.
My wife is a steady woman and industrious, and she sells the milk which
these three cows give, to the people in the city, and so she earns an
honest penny."

"In good sooth, a very honest penny," repeated Lord Scroope, laughing,
for 'twas well known in Carlisle that the milk which was sold by Dick o'
the Cow's wife was thinner and dearer than any other milk sold in the
town.

"Last night," went on the fool, "these Scottish thieves, the Armstrongs
of Liddesdale, rode past the house, and, of course, they must needs
drive these cows off, and, not content with that, they broke open the
door, and stole the very coverlets off my bed. My wife bought these
coverlets at the Michaelmas fair, and, I trow, what with the loss of
them, and the loss of the cows, she is like to lose her reason. So, to
comfort her, I have promised to bring them back. Therefore, my lord, I
crave leave of thee to go over into Liddesdale, and see what I can lay
my hands on there."

The blood rose to the Warden's face. "By my troth, but thou art not
frightened to speak, Sirrah," he cried. "Am I not set here to preserve
law and order, and thou wouldst have me give thee permission to steal?"

"Nay, not to steal," said the fool slyly; "I only crave leave to get
back my own, or, at least, the money's worth for what was my own."

Lord Scroope pondered the request for a minute or two.

"After all," he thought to himself, "what can this one poor man do
against such a powerful clan as the Armstrongs? He will be killed, most
likely, and that will be the end of it. So there can be no great harm in
letting him go."

"If I give thee leave, wilt thou swear that thou wilt steal from no one
but those who stole from thee?" he asked at last.

"That I will," said Dick readily. "I give thee my troth, and there is my
right hand upon it. Thou canst hang me for a thief myself, if I take as
much as a bannock of bread from the house of any man who hath done me no
harm."

So my Lord of Scroope let him go.

A blithe man was Dick o' the Cow as he went down the streets of Carlisle
next morning, for he had money in his pocket, and a big scheme floating
in his brain. It mattered little to him that men smiled to each other as
they passed him, and whispered, "There goes my Lord of Scroope's poor
jester."

"He laughs the longest who laughs the last," he thought to himself, "and
mayhap all men will envy me before long."

First of all, he went and bought a pair of spurs, and a new bridle,
which he carefully hid in his breeches pocket, then he turned his back
on Carlisle and set out to walk over Bewcastle Waste into Liddesdale. It
was a long walk, but he footed it bravely, and at last he arrived at
Pudding-burn House, a strongly fortified place, held by John Armstrong,
"The Laird's Jock," as he was called, son of the Laird of Mangerton, and
a man of importance in the clan. He was known to be both just and
generous, and the poor fool thought that he would go to him, and tell
him his story, in the hope that he would force the rest of the
Armstrongs to give him back his three cows. But when he came near the
Pudding-burn House, he found to his dismay that the two Armstrongs who
had stolen his cows, Johnie and Willie, had stopped there, on their way
home, with all their men-at-arms, and, from the sounds of feasting and
mirth which he heard as he approached, he suspected that one, at least,
of his three cows had been killed to provide the supper.

"Ah well," thought he to himself, "I am but a poor fool, and there are
three-and-thirty armed men against me. To fight is impossible, so I must
e'en set my wits to work against their strength of arms."

So he walked boldly up to the house, and demanded to see the Laird's
Jock. There was much laughter among the men-at-arms as he was led into
the great hall, for everyone had heard of my Lord of Scroope's jester,
and, when they knew that it was he, they all crowded round to see what
he was like.

He knew his manners, and bowed right low before the master of the house.
"God save thee, my good Laird's Jock," he said, "although I fear me I
cannot wish so well to all thy company. For I come here to bring a
complaint against two of these men--against Johnie and Willie Armstrong,
who, with their followers, broke into my house near Carlisle these two
nights past, and drove away my three good milk cows, forbye stealing
three coverlets from my bed. And I crave that I get my own again, and
that justice may be meted out to the dishonest varlets."

These words were greeted by a shout of laughter, for these were rough
and lawless times, when might was right, and the strong tyrannised over
the weak, and it seemed ridiculous to see this poor fool standing in the
middle of all these armed moss-troopers, and expecting to be heard.

"He deserves to be hanged for his insolence," said Johnie Armstrong, who
had been the leader of the company.

"Run him through with a sword," said Willie, laughing; "'tis less
trouble, and 'twill serve the same end."

"No," cried another. "'Tis not worth while to kill him. He is but a fool
at the best. Let us give him a good beating, and then let him go."

But the Laird's Jock heard them, and his voice rang out high above the
rest. "Why harm the poor man?" he said. "After all, he hath but come to
seek his own, and he must be both hungry and footsore." Then, turning to
the fool, he added kindly, "Sit thyself down, my man, and rest thee a
little. I am sorry that we cannot exactly give thee thy cattle back
again, but at least we can give thee a slice from the leg of one of
them. Beshrew me if I have tasted finer beef for many a long day."

Amid roars of laughter a slice of beef was cut from the enormous leg
which lay roasted on the great table, and placed before Dick. But he
could not eat it, he could only think what a fine cow it had been when
it was alive. At last he slipped away unobserved out of the house, and,
looking about for somewhere to sleep, he found an old tumble-down house
filled with peats.

He crept into it, and lay there, wondering and scheming how he could
avenge himself.

Now it had always been the custom at Mangerton Hall, where the Laird's
Jock had been brought up, that whoever was not in time for one meal had
to wait till the next, and he made the same rule hold good at
Pudding-burn House.

As the poor fool lay among the peats, he could see what was going on
through a crack in the door, and he noticed that, as the Armstrongs' men
were both tired and hungry, they did not take time to put the key away
safely after attending to their horses and locking the stable door, but
flung it hastily up on the roof, where it could easily be found if it
were wanted, and hurried off in case they were late for their supper.

"Here is my chance," he thought to himself, and, as soon as they were
all gone into the house, he crept out, and took down the key, and
entered the stable. Then he did a very cruel thing. He cut every horse,
except three, on one of its hind legs, "tied it with St Mary's knot," as
it was called; so that he made them all lame. Then he hastily drew the
spurs and the new bridle out of his breeches pocket. He buckled on the
spurs, and began to examine the three horses which he had not lamed. He
knew to whom they belonged. Two of them, which were standing together,
belonged to Johnie and Willie Armstrong, and were the very horses they
had ridden when they stole the cows. The third, a splendid animal, which
had a stall to itself, plainly belonged to the Laird's Jock.

"I will leave the Laird's Jock's," thought Dick to himself, "for I
cannot take three, and he is a kind man; but Johnie's and Willie's must
go. 'Twill perhaps teach them what comes of dishonest ways."

So saying, he slipped the bridle over the head of one horse, and tied a
rope round the neck of the other, and, opening the stable door, he led
them out quietly, and then, mounting one of them, he galloped away as
fast as he could.

The next morning, when the men went to the stable to see after their
horses, there were shouts of anger and consternation. And no wonder. For
it was easy to be seen that thirty of the horses would never put foot to
the ground again; other two were stolen; and there was only one, the
beautiful bay mare which belonged to the Laird's Jock, which was of any
use at all.

"Now who hath done this cruel thing?" cried the master of the house in
great anger. "Let me know his name, and by my soul, he shall be
punished."

"'Twas the varlet whom we all took to be such a fool," cried Johnie;
"the rascal who came here last night whining for his precious cows. A
thousand pities but we had done as I said, and hanged him on the nearest
tree."

"Hold thy tongue and take blame to thyself," said the Laird's Jock
sharply. "Did I not tell thee, ere thou rode to Carlisle, thou and
Willie and thy thieving band, that the two countries were at peace, and
if thou began this work once more, 'twas hard to say where it would end?
Truly the tables are indeed turned. For this poor fool, as thou callest
him, hath befooled us all, for the men's horses are maimed and useless,
thine own and thy brother's are stolen, and there but remains this good
bay mare of mine. Beshrew me, but it seems as if the fellow had some
gratitude left that he did not touch her, for I love her as I never
loved a horse before."

"Give her to me," cried Johnie Armstrong quickly, stung by this
well-earned reproof, "and I will bring the two horses back, and the
cunning fool with them, either alive or dead. 'Tis a far cry from here
to Carlisle, and I trow he could ride but slowly in the darkness."

"A likely story," said the Laird's Jock. "The fool, as thou callest him,
hath already stolen two good horses, and to send another after him would
but be sending good siller after bad."

"An' dost thou think that he could take the horse from me?" asked Johnie
indignantly, and he pleaded so hard to be allowed to pursue Dick, that
at last the Laird's Jock gave him leave.

He wasted no time in seeking his armour, but, snatching up hastily his
kinsman's doublet, sword, and helmet, he leaped on the bay mare and
galloped away.

He rode so furiously that by midday he overtook Dick on Canonbie Lee,
not far from Longtown.

The poor fool had had to ride slowly, for he was not very much
accustomed to horses, and it was not easy for him to manage two. He
looked round in alarm when he heard the thunder of hoofs behind him, but
his face cleared when he saw that Johnie Armstrong was alone.

"I have outwitted a whole household," he thought to himself; "beshrew me
if I cannot tackle one man, even although it be Johnie Armstrong."

All the same he put his horses to the gallop, and went on as fast as he
could.

"Now hold, thou traitor thief, and stand for thy life," shouted Johnie
in a passion.

Dick glanced hastily over his shoulder, and then he pulled his horses
round suddenly. He could fight better than most men thought, when he was
put to it.

"Art thou alone, Johnie?" he said tauntingly. "Then must I tell thee a
little story. I am an unlettered man, being but a poor fool, as thou
knowest, but I try to do my duty, and every Sunday I go to church in
Carlisle city with my betters. And at our church we have a right good
preacher, though his sermons run through my poor brain as if it were a
sieve; but there are three words which I aye remember. The first two of
these are 'faith' and 'conscience,' and it seems to me that ye lacked
both of them when ye came stealing in the dark to my humble cottage,
knowing full well that I could not defend myself, and stole my cows, and
took my wife's coverlets. What the third word is, I cannot at this
moment remember, but it means that when a man lacks faith and conscience
he deserves to be punished, and therefore have I punished thee."

Johnie Armstrong felt that he was being laughed at, and, blind with
fury, he took his lance and flung it at the fool, thinking to kill him.
But he missed his aim, and it only glanced against Dick's doublet, and
fell harmless to the ground.

Dick saw his advantage, and rode his horse straight at his enemy, and,
taking his cudgel by the wrong end, he struck Johnie such a blow on the
head that he fell senseless to the ground.

Then was the fool a proud man. "Lord Scroope shall hear of this,
Johnie," he said to himself, with a chuckle of delight, as he
dismounted, and stripped the unconscious man of his coat-of-mail, his
steel helmet, and his two-handed sword. He knew that if he went home
empty-handed, and told his master that he had fought with Johnie
Armstrong and defeated him, Lord Scroope would laugh him to scorn, for
Johnie was known to be one of the best fighters on the Borders; but
these would serve as proofs that his story was true.

Then, taking the bay mare by the bridle, he mounted his horse once more,
and rode on to Carlisle in triumph.

When Johnie Armstrong came to his senses, he cursed the English and all
belonging to them with right goodwill. "Now verily," he said to himself,
as he turned his face ruefully towards Liddesdale, "'twill be a hundred
years and more ere anyone finds me fighting with a man who is called a
fool again."

When Dick o' the Cow rode into the courtyard of Carlisle Castle with his
three horses, the first man he met was My Lord of Scroope. Now the
Warden knew the Laird's Jock's bay mare at once, and at the sight of her
he flew into a violent passion. For he knew well enough that if Dick had
stolen three horses from the Armstrongs, that powerful clan would soon
ride over into Cumberland to avenge themselves, and had he not written
to Queen Elizabeth, not three days before, of the peace which prevailed
on the Borders?

"By my troth, fellow," he said in deep vexation, "I'll have thee hanged
for this."

Poor Dick was much taken aback at this unlooked-for welcome. He had
expected to be greeted as a hero, instead of being threatened with
death.

"'Twas thyself gave me leave to go, my Lord," he said sullenly.

"Ay, I gave thee leave to go and steal from those who stole from thee,
an thou couldst," said Lord Scroope in reply; "but beshrew me if I ever
gave thee leave to steal from the good Laird's Jock. He is a peaceful
man, and a true, and meddles not the Border folk. 'Twas not he who stole
thy cows."

Then Dick held up the coat-of-mail, and the helmet, and the two-handed
sword. "On my honour, I won them all in fair and open fight," he cried.
"Johnie Armstrong stole my cows, and 'twas he who followed me on the
Laird's Jock's mare, and clad in the Laird's Jock's armour. He would
fain have slain me with his lance, but by God's grace it glanced from my
doublet, and I felled him to the ground with my cudgel."

"Well done!" cried the Warden, slapping his thigh in his delight. "By my
soul, but it was well done. My poor fool is more of a man than I thought
he was. If the horse be the fair spoil of war, then will I buy her of
thee. See, I will give thee fifteen pounds for her, and throw a milk cow
into the bargain. 'Twill please thy wife to have milk again."

But Dick was not satisfied with this offer. "May the mother of all the
witches fly away with me," he said, "if the horse is not worth more than
fifteen pounds. No, no, my Lord, twenty pounds is her price, an if thou
wilt not pay that for her, she goes with me to-morrow to be sold at
Morton Fair."

Now Lord Scroope happened to know the worth of the mare, so he paid the
money down without more ado, and he kept his word about the milk cow.

As Dick pocketed the money, and took possession of the cow, he thought
what a very clever fellow he was, and he held his head high as he rode
out of the courtyard, and down the streets of Carlisle, still leading
one horse, and driving the cow in front of him.

He had not gone very far before he met Lord Scroope's brother.

"Well met, fool," he cried, laying his hand on Dick's bridle rein.
"Where in all the world didst get Johnie Armstrong's horse? I know 'tis
his by the white feet and white forelock. Has my brother been having a
fray with Scotland?"

"No," said the fool proudly, "but I have. The horse is mine by right of
arms."

"Wilt sell him me?" asked the Warden's brother, who loved a good horse
if only he could get him cheaply. "I will give thee ten pounds for him,
and a milk cow into the bargain."

"Say twenty pounds," said Dick contemptuously, "and keep thy word about
the milk cow, else the horse goes with me to Morton Fair."

Now the Warden's brother needed the horse, and, besides, it was not dear
even at twenty pounds, so he paid down the money, and told the fool
where to go for the milk cow.

An hour later Dick appeared at his own cottage door, and shouted for his
wife. She rubbed her eyes and blinked with astonishment when she saw her
husband mounted on a good black horse, and driving two fat milk cows
before him.

Like everyone else, she had always counted him a fool, and had never
looked for much help from him. So the loss of the three cows had been a
serious matter to her, for the money which their milk brought had done
much towards keeping up the house, and clothing the children.

"Here, woman," he cried joyously, leaping from his horse, and emptying
the gold out of his pockets into her apron. "Thou madest a great to-do
over thy coverlets, but I trow that forty pounds of good red money will
pay for them fully, and the three cows which we lost were but thin,
starved creatures, compared with these two that I have brought back, and
here is a good horse into the bargain."

It all seemed too good to be true, and Dick's wife rubbed her eyes once
more. "Take care that they be not taken from thee," she said. "Methinks
the Armstrongs will demand vengeance."

"They will not get it from My Lord of Scroope," answered Dick, "for
'twas he who gave me leave to go and steal from them. But mayhap we live
too near the Borders for our own comfort, now that we are so rich. When
a man hath made his fortune by his wits, as I have, he deserves a little
peace in his old age. What wouldst thou think of going further South
into Westmoreland, and taking up house near thy mother's kinsfolk?"

"I would think 'twas the wisest plan that ever entered that silly pate
of thine," answered his wife, who had never liked to live in such an
unsettled region.

So they packed up their belongings, and, getting leave from Lord
Scroope, they went to live at Burghunder-Stanmuir, where they passed for
quite rich and clever people.



THE HEIR OF LINNE

    "Lithe and listen, gentlemen,
      To sing a song I will beginne;
    It is of a lord of faire Scotland,
      Which was the unthrifty heire of Linne."


There was trouble in the ancient Castle of Linne. Upstairs in his
low-roofed, oak-panelled chamber the old lord lay dying, and the
servants whispered to one another, that, when all was over, and he was
gone, there would be many changes at the old place. For he had been a
good master, kind and thoughtful to his servants, and generous to the
poor. But his only son was a different kind of man, who thought only of
his own enjoyment; and John o' the Scales, the steward on the estate,
was a hard task-master, and was sure to oppress the poor and helpless
when the old lord was no longer there to keep an eye on him.

By the sick man's bedside sat an old nurse, the tears running down her
wrinkled face. She had come to the castle long years before, with the
fair young mistress who had died when her boy was born. She had taken
the child from his dying mother's arms, and had brought him up as if he
had been her own, and many a time since he became a man she had mourned,
along with his father, over his reckless and sinful ways.

Now she saw nothing before him but ruin, and she shook her head sadly,
and muttered to herself as she sat in the darkened room.

"Janet," said the old lord suddenly, "go and tell the lad to speak to
me. He loves not to be chided, and of late years I have said but little
to him. It did no good, and only angered him. But there are things which
must be said, and something warns me that I must make haste to say
them."

Noiselessly the old woman left the room, and went to do his bidding, and
presently slow, unwilling footsteps sounded on the staircase, and the
Lord of Linne's only son entered.

His father's eye rested on him with a fondness which nothing could
conceal. For, as is the way with fathers, he loved him still, in spite
of all the trouble and sorrow and heartache which he had caused him.

He was a fine-looking young fellow, tall and strong, and debonair, but
his face was already beginning to show traces of the wild and reckless
life which he was leading.

"I am dying, my son," said his father, "and I have sent for thee to ask
thee to make me one promise."

A shadow came over the young man's careless face. He feared that his
father might ask him to give up some of his boon companions, or never to
touch cards or wine again, and he knew that his will was so weak, that,
even if he made the promise, he would break it within a month.

But his father knew this as well as he did, and it was none of these
things that he was about to ask, for he knew that to ask them would be
useless.

"'Tis but a little promise, lad," he went on, "and one that thou wilt
find easy to keep. I am leaving thee a large estate, and plenty of gold,
but I know too well that in the days to come thou wilt spend the gold
and sell the land. Thou canst not do otherwise, if thou continuest to
lead the life thou art leading now. But think not that I sent for thee
to chide thee, lad; the day is past for that. Promise only, that when
the time I speak of hath come, and thou must needs sell the land, that
thou wilt refuse to part with one corner of it. 'Tis the little lodge
which stands in the narrow glen far up on the moor. 'Tis a tumble-down
old place, and no man would think it worth his while to pay thee a price
for it. It would go for an old song wert thou to sell it. Therefore I
pray thee to give me thy solemn promise that when thou partest with all
the rest, thou wilt still remain master of that. For remember this,
lad," and in his eagerness the old man raised himself in his bed, "when
all else is lost, and the friends whom thou hast trusted turn their
backs and frown on thee, then go to that old lodge, for in it, though
thou mayest not think so now, there will always be a trusty friend
waiting for thee. Say, wilt thou promise?"

"Of course I will, father," said the young man, much moved; "but I never
mean to sell any of the land. I am not so bad as all that. But if it
makes thee happier, I swear now in thy presence that I will never part
with the old lodge."

With a sigh of satisfaction the old lord fell back on his pillow, and
before his son could call for help he was dead.

For the first few weeks after his father's death, the Heir of Linne
seemed sobered, and as if he intended to lead a better life; but after a
little while he forgot all about it, and began to riot and drink and
gamble as hard as ever. He filled the old house with his friends, and
wild revelry went on in it from morning till night.

He had always been wild and reckless; he was worse than ever now.

His father's friends shook their heads when they heard of his wild
doings. "It cannot go on," they said. "He is doing no work, and he is
throwing away his money right and left. Had he all the gold of the
Indies, it would soon come to an end at this rate."

And they were right. It could not go on.

One day the young man found that not one penny remained of all the money
which his father had left him, and there seemed nothing for it but to
sell some of his land. Money must be got somehow, for he was deeply in
debt. Besides, he had to live, and he had never been taught to work,
and, even if he had, he was too lazy and idle to do it.

So away he went, and told his dilemma to his father's steward, John o'
the Scales, who, as I have said, was a hard man, and a rogue into the
bargain. He knew far more about money matters than his master's son, and
when he heard the story which he had to tell him, his wicked heart gave
a throb of joy.

Here, at last, was the very opportunity which he had been looking for:
for, while the heir had been wasting his time, and spending his money,
instead of looking after his estates, the dishonest steward had been
filling his own pockets; and now he would fain turn a country gentleman.

So, with many fair words, and a great show of sympathy, he offered to
buy the land for himself.

"Young men would be young men," he said, "and 'twas no wonder that a
dashing young fellow, like the Heir of Linne, should wish to see the
world, rather than stay quietly at home and look after his land. That
was only fit for old men when they were past their prime. So, if he
desired to part with the land, he would give him a fair price for it,
and then there would be no need for him to trouble any more about money
matters."

The foolish young man was quite ready to agree to this. All that he
cared about was how to get money to pay his debts, and to enable him to
go on gambling and drinking with his companions.

So when John o' the Scales named a price for the land, and drew up an
agreement, he signed it readily, never dreaming that the cunning steward
was cheating him, and that the land was worth at least three times as
much as he was paying for it. There was only one corner of the estate
which he refused to sell, and that was the narrow glen, far out on the
hillside, where the old tumble-down lodge stood.

For the Heir of Linne was not wholly bad, and he had enough manliness
left in him to remember the promise which he had made to his dying
father.

So John o' the Scales became Lord of Linne, and a mighty big man he
thought himself. He went to live, with his wife Joan, in the old castle,
and he turned his back on his former friends, and tried to make everyone
forget that up till now he had only been a steward.

Meanwhile the Heir of Linne, as people still called him--though, like
Esau, he had sold his birthright--went away quite happily now that his
pockets were once more filled with gold, and went on in his old ways,
drinking, and gambling, and rioting, with his boon companions, as if he
thought that this money would last for ever.

But of course it did not, and one fine day, nearly a year after he had
sold his land, he found that his purse was quite empty again, except for
a few small coins.

He had no more land to sell, and for the first time in his life he grew
thoughtful, and began to wonder what he should do. But he never took the
trouble to worry about anything, and he trusted that in the end it would
all come right.

"I have no lack of friends," he thought to himself, "and in the past I
have entertained them right royally; surely now it is their turn to
entertain me, and by and by I shall look for work."

So with a light heart he travelled to Edinburgh, where most of his fine
friends lived, never thinking but that they would be ready to receive
him with open arms. Alas! he had yet to learn that the people who are
most eager to share our prosperity are not always those who are readiest
to share our adversity. With all his faults he had ever been open-handed
and generous, and had lent his money freely, and he went boldly to their
doors, intending to ask them to lend him money in return, now that he
was in need of it.

But, to his surprise, instead of being glad to see him, one and all gave
him the cold shoulder.

At the first house the servant came to the door with the message that
his master was not at home, though the heir could have sworn that a
moment before he had seen him peeping through the window.

The master of the next house was at home, but he began to make excuses,
and to say how sorry he was, but he had just paid all his bills, and he
had no more money by him; while at the third house his friend spoke to
him quite sharply, just as if he had been a stranger, and told him that
he ought to be ashamed of the way he had wasted his father's money, and
sold his land, and that certainly he could not think of lending gold to
him, as he would never expect to see it back again.

The poor young man went out into the street, feeling quite dazed with
surprise.

"Ah, lack-a-day!" he said to himself bitterly. "So these are the men who
called themselves my friends. As long as I was Heir of Linne, and master
of my father's lands, they seemed to love me right well. Many a meal
have they eaten at my table, and many a pound of mine hath gone into
their pockets; and this is how they repay me."

After this things went from bad to worse. He tried to get work, but no
one would hire him, and it was not very long before the Heir of Linne,
who had been so proud and reckless in his brighter days, was going about
in ragged clothes, begging his bread from door to door. No one who saw
him now would have known him to be the bright-faced, handsome lad of
whom the old lord had been so proud a few years before.

At last, one day when his courage was almost gone, the words which his
father had spoken on his death-bed, and which he had forgotten up till
now, flashed into his mind.

"He said that I would find a faithful friend in the little lodge up in
the glen, when all my other friends had forsaken me," he said to
himself. "I cannot think what he meant, but surely now is the time to
test his words, for surely no man could be more forsaken than I am."

So he turned his face from the city, and wended his way over hill and
dale, moor and river, till he came to the little lodge, standing in the
lonely glen, high up on the moors near the Castle of Linne.

He had hardly seen the tumble-down old place since he was a boy, and
somehow, from his father's words, he expected to find someone living in
it--his good old nurse, perhaps. He was so worn out and miserable that
the tears came into his eyes at the mere thought of seeing her kindly
face. But the old building was quite deserted, and, when he forced open
the rusty lock, and entered, he found nothing but a low, dark,
comfortless room. The walls were bare and damp, and the little window
was so overgrown with ivy that scarcely any light could get in. There
was not even a chair or a table in it, nothing but a long rope with a
noose at the end of it, which hung dangling down from the ceiling.

As his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, he noticed that on the
rafter above the rope there was written in large letters--

"_Ah, graceless wretch, I knew that thou wouldst soon spoil all, and
bring thyself to poverty. So, to hide thy shame, and bring thy sorrows
to an end, I left this rope, which will prove thy best friend._"

"So my father knew the straits which my foolishness would bring me to,
and he thought of this way of ending my life," said the poor young man
to himself, and he felt so heart-broken, and so hopeless, that he put
his head in the noose and tried to hang himself.

But this was not the end of which his father had been thinking when he
wrote the words; he had only meant to give his son a lesson, which he
hoped would be a warning to him. So, when he put his head in the noose,
and took hold of the rope, the beam that it was fastened to gave way,
and the whole ceiling came tumbling down on top of him.

For a long time he lay stunned on the floor, and when at last he came to
himself, he could hardly remember what had happened. At last his eye
fell on a packet, which had fallen down with the wood and the mortar,
and was lying quite close to him.

He picked it up and opened it.

Inside there was a golden key, and a letter, which told him, that, if he
would climb up through the hole in the ceiling, he would find a hidden
room under the roof, and there, built into the wall, he would see three
great chests standing together.

Wondering greatly to himself, he climbed up among the broken rafters,
and he found that what the letter said was true. Sure enough there was a
little dark room hidden under the roof, which no one had known of
before, and there, standing side by side in the wall, were three
iron-bound chests.

There was something written above them, as there had been something
written above the rope, but this time the words filled him with hope.
They ran thus:--

    "_Once more, my son, I set thee free;
      Amend thy Life and follies past:
    For if thou dost not amend thy life,
      This rope will be thy end at last._"

With trembling hands the Heir of Linne fitted the golden key into the
lock of one of the chests. It opened it easily, and when he raised the
lid, what was his joy to find that the chest was full of bags of good
red gold. There was enough of it to buy back his father's land, and when
he saw it he hid his face in his hands, and sobbed for very
thankfulness.

The key opened the other two chests as well, and he found that one of
them was also full of gold, while the other was full of silver.

It was plain that his father had known how recklessly he would spend his
money, and had stored up these chests for him here in this hidden place,
where no one was likely to find them, so that when he was penniless, and
had learned how wicked and stupid he had been, he might get another
chance if he liked to take it.

He had indeed learned a lesson.

With outstretched hands he vowed a vow that he would follow his father's
advice and mend his ways, and that from henceforth he would try to be a
better man, and lead a worthier life, and use this money in a better
way.

Then he lifted out three bags of gold, and hid them in his ragged cloak,
and locked up the chests again, and took his way down the hill to his
father's castle.

When he arrived, he peeped in at one of the windows, and there he saw
John o' the Scales, fat and prosperous-looking, sitting with his wife
Joan at the head of the table, and beside them three gentlemen who lived
in the neighbourhood. They were laughing, and feasting, and pledging
each other in glasses of wine, and, as he looked at them, he wondered
how he had ever allowed the sleek, cunning-looking steward to become
Lord of Linne in his father's place.

With something of his old pride he knocked at the door, and demanded
haughtily to speak with the master of the castle. He was taken straight
to the dining-hall, and when John o' the Scales saw him standing in his
rags he broke into a rude laugh.

"Well, Spendthrift," he cried, "and what may thine errand be?"

The heir wondered if this man, who, in the old days had flattered and
fawned upon him, had any pity left, and he determined to try him.

"Good John o' the Scales," he said, "I have come hither to crave thy
help. I pray thee to lend me forty pence."

It was not a large sum. John o' the Scales had often had twice as much
from him, but the churlish fellow started up in a rage.

"Begone, thou thriftless loon," he cried; "thou needst not come hither
to beg. I swear that not one penny wilt thou get from me. I know too
well how thou squandered thy father's gold."

Then the heir turned to John o' the Scales' wife Joan. She was a woman;
perhaps she would be more merciful.

"Sweet madam," he said, "for the sake of blessed charity, bestow some
alms on a poor wayfarer."

But Joan o' the Scales was a hard woman, and she had never loved her
master's son, so she answered rudely, "Nay, by my troth, but thou shalt
get no alms from me. Thou art little better than a vagabond; if we had a
law to punish such, right gladly would I see thee get thy deserts."

Now one of the guests who sat at the board with this rich and prosperous
couple was a knight called Sir Ned Agnew. He was not rich, but he was a
gentleman, and he had been a friend of the old lord, and had known the
Heir when he was a boy, and now, when he saw him standing, ragged and
hungry, in the hall that had once been his own, he could not bear that
he should be driven away with hard and cruel words. Besides, he felt
very indignant with John o' the Scales, for he knew that he had bought
the land far too cheaply. He had not much money to lend, but he could
always spare a little.

"Come back, come back," he cried hastily, as he saw the Heir turn as if
to leave the house. "Whatever thou art now, thou wert once a right good
fellow, and thou wert always ready to part with thy money to anyone who
needed it. I am a poor man myself, but I can lend thee forty pence at
least; in fact I think that I could lend thee eighty, if thou art in
sore want." Then, turning to his host, he added, "The Heir of Linne is a
friend of mine, and I will count it a favour if thou wilt let him have a
seat at thy table. I think it is as little as thou canst do, seeing that
thou hadst the best of the bargain about his land."

John o' the Scales was very angry, but he dare not say much, for he knew
in his heart that what the knight said was true, and, moreover, he did
not want to quarrel with him, for he liked to be able to go to market,
where people were apt to think of him still as the castle steward, and
boast about "my friend, Sir Ned."

"Nay, thou knowest 'tis false," he blustered, "and I'll take my vow
that, far from making a good bargain, I lost money over that matter,
and, to prove what I say, I am willing to offer this young man, in the
presence of you all, his lands back again, for a hundred merks less than
I gave for them."

"'Tis done," cried the Heir of Linne, and before the astonished John o'
the Scales could speak, he had thrown down a piece of money on the table
before him.

"'Tis a God's-penny," cried the guests in amazement, for when anyone
threw down a piece of money in that way, it meant that they had accepted
the bargain, and that the other man could not draw back.

[Illustration: "'TIS A GOD'S-PENNY,' CRIED THE GUESTS IN AMAZEMENT."]

Then the Heir pulled out the three bags of gold from under his cloak,
and threw them down on the table before John o' the Scales, who began to
look very grave. He had never dreamt, when he offered to let the young
man buy back the land, that he would ever be able to do it. He had meant
it as a joke, and the joke was very much like turning into a reality.
His face grew longer and longer as the Heir emptied out the good red
gold in a heap.

"Count it," he cried triumphantly. "It is all there, and honest money.
It is thine, and the land is mine, and once more I am the Lord of
Linne."

Both John o' the Scales and his wife were very much taken aback; but
there was nothing to be done but to count the money and to gather it up.
John would fain have asked to be taken back as steward again, but the
young lord knew now how dishonest he had been, and would not hear of
such a thing.

"No, no," he said, "it is honest men whom I want now, and men who will
be my friends when I am poor, as well as when I am rich. I think I have
found such a man here," and he turned to Sir Ned Agnew. "If thou wilt
accept the post, I shall be glad to have thee for my steward, and for
the keeper of my forests, and my deer, as well. And for everyone of the
pence which thou wert willing to lend me, I will pay thee a full pound."

So once more the rightful lord reigned in the Castle of Linne, and to
everyone's surprise he settled down, and grew so like his father, that
strangers who came to the neighbourhood would not believe the stories
which people told them of the wild things which he had done in his
youth.



BLACK AGNACE OF DUNBAR

    "Some sing o' lords, and some o' knichts,
      An' some o' michty men o' war,
    But I sing o' a leddy bricht,
      The Black Agnace o' Dunnebar."


It was in the year 1338, when Bruce's son was but a bairn, and Scotland
was guided by a Regent, that we were left, a household of women, as it
were, to guard my lord's strong Castle of Dunbar.

My lord himself, Cospatrick, Earl of Dunbar and March, had ridden off to
join the Regent, Sir Andrew Moray, and help him to drive the English out
of the land. For the English King, Edward III., thought it no shame to
war with bairns, and since he had been joined by that false loon, Edward
Baliol, he had succeeded in taking many of our Scottish fortresses,
including Edinburgh Castle, and in planting an English army in our
midst.

Now the Castle of Dunbar, as all folk know, is a strong Castle, standing
as it doth well out to sea, on a mass of solid rock, and connected with
the mainland only by one narrow strip of land, which is defended by a
drawbridge and portcullis, and walls of solid masonry. Its other sides
need no defence, for the wild waters of the Northern Sea beat about them
with such fury that it is only at certain times of the tide that even
peaceful boatmen can find a safe landing. Indeed, 'tis one of the
strongest fortresses in the country, and because of its position, lying
not so far from the East Border, and being guard as it were to the
Lothians, and Edinburgh, it is often called "The Key of Scotland."

My lord deemed it impregnable, as long as it was well supplied with
food, so he had little scruple in leaving his young wife and her two
little daughters alone there, with a handful of men-at-arms, too old,
most of them, to be of any further service in the field, to guard them.

She, on her part, was very well content to stay, for was she not a
daughter of the famous Randolph, and did she not claim kinship with
Bruce himself? So fear to her was a thing unknown.

I, who was a woman of fifty then, and am well-nigh ninety now, can truly
say that in all the course of a long life, I never saw courage like to
hers.

I remember, as though it were yesterday, that cold January morning when
my lord set off to the Burgh Muir, where he was to meet with the Regent.
When all was ready, and his men were mounted and drawn up, waiting for
their master, my lady stepped forth joyously, in the sight of them all,
and buckled on her husband's armour.

"Ride forth and do battle for thy country and thine infant King, poor
babe," she said, "and vex not thy heart for us who are left behind. We
deserve not the name we bear, if we cannot hold the Castle till thy
return, even though it were against King Edward himself. Thinkest thou
not so, Marian?" and she turned round to where I was standing, a few
paces back, with little Mistress Marjory clinging to my skirts, and
little Mistress Jean in my arms.

For though I was but her bower-woman, I was of the same clan as my lady,
and had served in her family all my life. I had carried her in my arms
as I now carried her little daughter, and, at her marriage, I had come
with her to her husband's home.

"Indeed, Madam, I trow we can, God and the Saints helping us," I
answered, and at her brave words the soldiers raised a great cheer, and
my lord, who was usually a stern man, and slow to show his feelings, put
his arm round her and kissed her on the lips.

"Spoken like my own true wife," he said. "But in good troth, Sweetheart,
methinks there is nothing to fear. For very shame neither King Edward
nor his Captains will war against a woman, and, e'en if they do, if thou
but keep the gates locked, and the portcullis down, I defy any one of
them to gain admittance. And, look ye, the well in the courtyard will
never run dry--'tis sunk in the solid rock--and besides the beeves that
were salted down at Martinmas, and the meal that was laid in at the end
of harvest, there are bags of grain hidden down in the dungeons, enough
to feed a score of men for three months at least."

So saying, he leaped into his saddle, and rode out of the gateway, a
gallant figure at the head of his troop of armed men, while we climbed
to the top of the tower, and stood beside old Andrew, the watchman, and
gazed after them until the last glint of their armour disappeared behind
a rising hill.

After their departure all went well for a time. Indeed, it was as though
the years had flown back, and my lady was once more a girl, so
light-hearted and joyous was she, pleased with the novelty of being left
governor of that great Castle. It seemed but a bit of play when, after
ordering the house and setting the maidens to their tasks, she went
round the walls with Walter Brand, a lame archer, who was gently born,
and whom she had put in charge of our little fighting force, to see that
all the men were at their posts.

And mere play it seemed to her still, when, some two weeks after my
lord's departure, as she was sitting sewing in her little chamber, whose
windows looked straight out over the sea, and I was rocking Mistress
Jean's cradle, and humming a lullaby, little Mistress Marjory, who was
five years old, and stirring for her age, came running down from the
watch-tower, where she had been with old Andrew, and cried out that a
great host of men on horseback were coming, and that old Andrew said
that it was the English.

We were laughing at the bairn's story, and wondering who the strangers
could be, when old Andrew himself appeared, a look of concern on his
usually jocund face.

"Oh, my lady," he cried, "there be a body of armed men moving towards
the Castle, led by a knight in splendid armour. A squire rides in front
of him, carrying his banner; but the device is unknown to me, and I fear
me it was never wrought by Scottish hands."

"Ah ha," laughed the Countess, rising and throwing away her tapestry.
"Thou scentest an Englishman, dost thou, Andrew? Mayhap thy thoughts
have run on them so much of late, that the habit hath dimmed thine
eyes."

"Nay, nay, my lady," stammered old Andrew, half hurt by her gentle
raillery, "mine een are keen enough as yet, although my limbs be old."

"'Tis but my sport, Andrew," she answered kindly. "I have always loved a
jest, and I have no wish to grow old and grave before my time, even if I
have the care of a whole Castle on my shoulders. But hark, there be the
stranger's trumpets sounding before the gate. See to it that Walter
Brand listens to his message, and answers it as befits the dignity of
our house: and thou, do thou mount to thy watch-tower, and keep a good
lookout on all that passes."

We waited in silence for some little space; we could hear the sound of
voices, but no distinct words reached us.

At last Walter Brand came halting to the door and knocked. Like old
Andrew, he wore an anxious look. He was devoted to the Countess, and was
aye wont to be timorous where she was concerned.

"'Tis the English Earl of Salisbury," he said, "who desires to speak
with your Grace. I asked him to entrust his message to me, and I would
deliver it, but he gave answer haughtily, that he would speak with no
one but the Countess."

"Then speak with me he shall," said my lady, with a flash of her eye,
"but he must e'en bring himself to catch my words as they drop like
pearls from the top of the tower. Summon the archers, Walter, and let
them stand behind me for a bodyguard: no man need know how old and frail
they be, if they are high enough up, and keep somewhat in the
background. And thou, Marian, attend me, for 'tis not fitting that the
Countess of Dunbar and March should speak with a strange knight in her
husband's absence, without a bower-woman standing by."

Casting her wimple round her, she ascended the steep stone stairs, and,
as we followed, Walter Brand put his head close to mine. "I like it
not," he said in his sober way, "for this Earl of Salisbury is a bold,
brazen-faced fellow, and to my ears his voice rings not true. I fear me,
he wishes no good to our lady. They say, moreover, that he is one of the
best Captains that the King of England hath, and he hath at least two
hundred men with him."

"Trust my lady to look after her own, and her husband's honour," I said
sharply, for, good man though he was, Walter Brand aye angered me; he
seemed ever over-anxious, a character I love not in a man.

All the same my heart sank, as we stepped out on the flat roof of the
tower, and glanced down over the battlements.

I saw at once that Walter had spoken truly. Montague, Earl of Salisbury,
had a bold, bad face, and his words, though honeyed and low, had a false
ring in them.

"My humblest greetings, fair lady," he cried; "my life is at thy
service, for I heard but yesterday that thy lord, caitiff that he be,
hath left thee alone among rough men, in this lonely wind-swept Castle.
Methinks thou art accustomed to kinder treatment and therefore am I come
to beg thee to open thy gates, and allow me to enter. By my soul, if
thou wilt, I shall be thy servant to the death. Such beauty as thine was
never meant to be wasted in the desert. Let me enter, and be thy friend,
and I will deck thee with such jewels,--with gold and with pearls, that
thou shalt be envied of all the ladies in Christendom."

My lady drew herself up proudly; but even yet she thought it was some
sport, albeit not the sport that should have been offered to a noble
dame in her husband's absence.

"Little care I for gold, or yet for pearls, my Lord of Salisbury," she
said in grave displeasure. "I have jewels enough and to spare, and need
not that a stranger should give them to me. As for the gates, I am a
loyal wife, and I open them to no one until my good lord return."

Now, had my Lord of Salisbury been a true knight, or even a plain,
honest, leal soldier, this answer of my lady's would have sufficed, and
he would have parleyed no more, but would have departed, taking his men
with him. But, villain that he was, his honeyed words rose up once more
in answer.

"Oh, lady bright, oh, lady fair," he cried, "I pray thee have mercy on
thy humble servant, and open thy gates and speak with him. Thou art far
too beautiful to live in these cold Northern climes, among rough and
brutal men. Come with me, and I will dress thee in cloth-of-gold, and
take thee along with me to London. King Edward will welcome thee, for
thy beauty will add lustre to his court, and we shall be married with
all speed. I warrant the Countess of Salisbury will be a person of
importance at the English court, and thou shalt have a retinue such as
in this barren country ye little dream of. Thou shalt have both lords
and knights to ride in thy train, and twenty little page boys to serve
thee on bended knee; and hawks, and hounds, and horses galore, so thou
wouldst join in the chase. Think of it, lady, and consider not thy rough
and unkind lord. If he had loved thee in the least, would he have left
thee in my power?"

Now the English lord's words were sweet, and he spoke in the soft
Southern tongue, such as might wile a bird from the lift,[14] if the
bird chanced to have little sense, and when he ceased I glanced at my
lady in alarm, lest for a moment she were tempted.

  [Footnote 14: Sky.]

Heaven forgive me for the thought.

She had drawn herself up to her full height, and her face of righteous
anger might have frightened the Evil One himself; and, by my Faith, I am
not so very sure that it was not the Evil One who spoke by the mouth of
my Lord of Salisbury.

The Countess was very stately, and of wondrous beauty. "Black Agnace,"
the common folk were wont to call her, because of her raven hair and jet
black eyes. Verily at that moment these eyes of hers burned like stars
of fire.

"Now shame upon thee, Montague, Earl of Salisbury," she cried, and
because of her indignation her voice rang out clear as a trumpet. "Open
my gates to _thee_, forsooth! go to London with _thee_, and be married
to _thee_ there, and bear thy name, and ride in the chase with thy
horses and hounds, as if I were thy lawful Countess. Shame on thee, I
say. I trow thou callest thyself a belted Earl, and a Christian Knight,
and thou comest to me, the wife of a belted Earl--who, thank God, is
also a Christian Knight, and a good man and true, moreover, which is
more than thou art--with words like these. Yea," and she drew a dainty
little glove from her girdle, and threw it down at the Earl's feet, "I
cry thrice shame on thee, and here I fling defiance in thy face. Keep
thy cloth-of-gold for thine own knights' backs; and as for thy squires
and pages, if thou hast so many of them, give them each a sword, and set
them on a horse, and bring them here to swell thy company. Bring them
here, I say, and let them try to batter down these walls, for in no
other way wilt thou ever set foot in Dunbar Castle."

A subdued murmur, as if of applause, ran through the ranks of the armed
men, who stood drawn up in a body behind the English Earl. For men love
bravery wherever they chance to meet it, and I trow we must have seemed
to them but a feeble company to take upon us the defence of the Castle,
and to throw defiance in the teeth of their lord.

But the bravery of the Countess did not seem to strike their leader;
possibly he was not accustomed to receive such answers from the lips of
women. His face flushed an angry red as his squire picked up my lady's
little white glove and handed it to him.

"Now, by my soul, Madam," he cried, "thou shalt find that it is no light
matter to jeer at armed men. I have come to thee with all courtesy,
asking thee to open thy Castle gates, and thou hast flouted me to my
face. Well, so be it. When next I come, 'twill be with other words, and
other weapons. Mayhap thou wilt be more eager to treat with me then."

"Bring what thou wilt, and come when thou wilt," answered my lady
passionately, "thou shalt ever find the same answer waiting thee. These
gates of mine open to no one save my own true lord."

With a low mocking bow the Earl turned his horse's head to the South,
and galloped away, followed by his men.

We stood on the top of the tower and watched them, I, with a heart full
of anxious thoughts for the time that was coming, my lady with her head
held high, and her eyes flaming, while the men stood apart and whispered
among themselves. For we all knew that, although the English had taken
themselves off, it was only for a time, and that they would return
without fail.

When the last horseman had disappeared among the belt of trees which lay
between us and the Lammermuirs, my lady turned round, her bonnie face
all soft and quivering.

"Will ye stand by me, my men?" she asked.

"That will we, till the death, my lady," answered they, and one after
another they knelt at her feet and kissed her hand, while, as for me, I
could but take her in my arms, as I had done oft-times when she was a
little child, and pray God to strengthen her noble heart.

Her emotion passed as quickly as it had come, however, and in a moment
she was herself again, laughing and merry as if it had all been a game
of play.

"Come down, Walter; come down, my men," she cried; "we must e'en hold a
council of war, and lay our plans; while old Andrew will keep watch for
us, and tell us when the black-faced knave is like to return."

And when we went downstairs into the great hall, and found that the
silly wenches had heard all that had passed, and were bemoaning
themselves for lost, and frightening little Mistress Marjory and
Mistress Jean well-nigh out of their senses, I warrant she did not spare
them, but called them a pack of chicken-hearted, thin-blooded baggages,
and threatened that if they did not hold their tongues, and turn to
their duties at once, she would send them packing, and then they would
be at the mercy of the English in good earnest.

After that we set to work and made such preparations as we could. We set
the wenches to draw water from the well, and to bake a good store of
bannocks to be ready in time of need, for the men must not be hungry
when they fought. Walter Brand and two of the strongest men-at-arms set
to work to strengthen the gates, by laying ponderous billets of wood
against them, and clasping these in their places by strong iron bars;
while the rest, led by old Andrew, went round the Castle, looking to the
loopholes, and the battlements, and examining the cross-bows and other
weapons.

Upstairs and downstairs went my lady, overlooking everything, thinking
of everything, as became a daughter of the great Randolph, while I sat
and kept the bairns, who, poor little lassies, were puzzled to know what
all the stir and din was about.

And indeed it was none too soon to look to all these things, for
although the country seemed quiet enough through the hours of that short
afternoon, when night fell, and I was putting the bairns to bed, my lady
helping me--for, when one bears a troubled heart (and her heart must
have been troubled, in spite of her cheerful face), it aye seems lighter
when the hands are full--a little page came running in to tell us that
there were lights flickering to Southward among the trees.

"Now hold thy silly tongue, laddie," said I, for I was anxious that we
should at least get one good night's rest before the storm and stress of
war came upon us.

My lady looked up with a smile from where she was kneeling beside
Mistress Jean's cradle. "Let him be, Marian," she said; "the lad meant
it well, and 'tis good to know how the danger threatens. Come, we will
go up and watch with old Andrew."

So, as soon as the bairns were asleep, we threw plaids over our heads,
and crept up the narrow stairs to where old Andrew was watching in his
own little tower, which stood out from the great tower like a
corbie's[15] nest, and, crouching down behind the battlements to gain
some shelter from the cruel wind, we watched the flickering lights
coming nearer and nearer from the Southward, and listened to the
shouting of men, and the tramp of horses' hoofs, which we could hear at
times coming faintly through the storm.

  [Footnote 15: Crow's.]

For two long hours we waited, and then, as we could only guess what was
taking place, it being far too dark to see, we crept down the narrow
stairs again, stiff and chilled, and threw ourselves, all dressed as we
were, on our beds.

The gray winter dawn of next morning showed us that the English Earl
meant to do his best to reduce our fortress in good earnest, for a small
army of men had been brought up in the night, from Berwick most likely,
and they were encamped on a strip of greensward facing the Castle. They
must have spent a busy night, for already the tents had been pitched,
and fires lit, and the men were now engaged in cooking their breakfast,
and attending to their horses. At the sight my heart grew heavier and
heavier; but my lady's spirits seemed to rise.

"'Tis a brave sight, is it not, Marian?" she said. "In good troth, my
Lord of Salisbury does us too much honour, in setting a camp down at our
gates, to amuse us in our loneliness. Methinks that is his own tent,
there on the right, with the pennon floating in front of it; and there
are the mangonells behind," and she pointed to a row of strange-looking
machines, which were drawn up on a hill a little way to the rear. "Well,
'tis a stony coast; his lordship will have no trouble in finding stones
to load them with."

"What be they, madam?" I asked, for in all my life I had never seen such
things before.

My lady laughed as she turned her head to greet Walter Brand, who came
up the stairs at that moment.

"Welcome, Walter," she said merrily. "We are just taking the measure of
our foes, and here is Marian, who has never seen mangonells before,
wondering what they are. They are engines for shooting stones with,
Marian; for well the knaves know that arrows are but poor weapons with
which to batter stone walls. But see, the fray begins, for yonder are
the archers approaching, and yonder go the men down to the sea-shore to
gather stones for the mangonells. Thou and I must e'en go down and leave
the men to brave the storm. See to it, Walter, that they do not expose
themselves unduly; we could ill afford to lose one of them."

Then began the weary onslaught which lasted for so many weeks. In good
faith it seems to me that, had we known, when that first rush of arrows
sounded through the air, how long it would be ere we were quiet again,
we scarce would have had the courage to go on. And when those infernal
engines were set off, and their volleys of stones and jagged pieces of
iron sounded round our ears, the poor silly wenches lost their heads,
and screamed aloud, while the bairns clung to my skirts, and hid their
chubby faces in the folds.

But even then my lady was not daunted. Snatching up a napkin, she ran
lightly up the stairs, and before anyone could stop her, she stepped
forward to the battlements, and there, all unheeding of the danger in
which she stood from the arrows of the enemy, she wiped the fragments of
stone, and bits of loose mortar daintily from the walls, as if to show
my Lord of Salisbury how little our Castle could be harmed by all the
stones he liked to hurl against it.

It was bravely done, and again a murmur of admiration went through the
English ranks; and--for I was peeping through a loophole--I trow that
even the haughty Earl's face softened at the sight of her.

The story of that first day is but the story of many more days that
followed. Showers of arrows flew from the cross-bows, volleys of stones
fell from the mangonells, until we got so used to the sound of them,
that by the third week the veriest coward among the maidens would go
boldly up and wipe the dust away where a stone had been chipped, or
another displaced, as calmly as our lady herself had done on that first
terrible morning.

Their archers did little harm, for our men were so few, and our places
of shelter so many, that they ran small risk of being hurt, and although
one or two poor fellows were killed, and half a dozen more had wounds,
it was nothing to be compared with the loss which the English suffered,
for our archers had the whole army to take aim at, and I wot their
shafts flew sure.

In vain they brought battering-rams and tried to batter down the doors.
Our portcullis had resisted many an onslaught, and the gates behind it
were made of oak a foot thick, and studded all over with iron nails, and
they might as well have thought to batter down the Bass Rock itself.

So, in spite of all, as the weeks went by, we began to feel fairly safe
and comfortable, although my lady never relaxed her vigilance, and went
her round of the walls, early and late. At Walter's request she began to
wear a morion on her head, and a breast-plate of fine steel, to protect
her against any stray arrow, and in them, to my mind, she looked bonnier
than ever. In good sooth, I think the very English soldiers loved her,
not to speak of our own men; for whenever she appeared they would raise
their caps as if in homage, and hum a couplet which ran in some wise
thus--

    "Come I early, come I late,
    I find Annot at the gate,"

as if they would praise her for her tireless watchfulness. One day, Earl
Montague himself, moved to admiration by the manner in which Walter
Brand had sent his shaft through the heart of an English knight, cried
out in the hearing of all his army, "There comes one of my lady's
tire-pins; Agnace's love-shafts go straight to the heart." At which
words all our men broke into a mighty shout, and cheered, and cheered
again, till the walls rang, and the echoes floated back from far out
over the sea.

In spite of their admiration at our lady's bravery, however, the English
were determined to conquer the Castle, and after a time, when they saw
that their battering-rams and mangonells availed little, they bethought
them of a more dangerous weapon of warfare.

It was somewhere towards the end of February, when one fine day a mighty
sound of hammering arose from the midst of their camp.

"What are they doing now, think ye, Walter?" asked my lady lightly. "Is
it possible that they look for so long a siege that they are beginning
to build houses for themselves? Truly they are wise, for if my Lord of
Salisbury means to stay there until I open my gates to him, he will grow
weary of braving these harsh East winds in no better shelter than a
tent."

But for once Walter Brand had no answering smile to give her.

"I fear me 'tis a sow that they are making," he said, "and if that be so
we had need to look to our arms."

"A sow," repeated the Countess in graver tones. "I have oft heard of
such machines, but I never saw one. Thy words hint of danger, Walter. Is
a sow then so deadly that our walls cannot resist its onslaught?"

"It is deadly because it brings the enemy nearer us, my lady," answered
Walter. "Hitherto our walls have been our shelter; without them we could
not stand a moment, for we are outnumbered by the English a score of
times over. These sows, as men name them, are great wooden buildings,
which can hold at least forty men inside, and with a platform above
where other thirty can stand. They be mounted on two great wheels, and
can be run close up to the walls, and as they are oft as high as a
house, 'twill be an easy matter for the men who stand on the platform to
set up ladders and scale our walls, and after that what chance will
there be for our poor handful of men? 'Tis not for myself I fear," he
went on, "nor yet for the men. We are soldiers and we can face death;
but if thou wouldst not fall into the hands of this English Earl, my
lady, I would advise that thou, and Marian, and little Mistress Marjory
and Mistress Jean, should set out in the boat the first dark night, when
it is calm. 'Tis but ten miles to the Bass, and thou couldst aye find
shelter there."

Thus spake honest Walter, who was, as I have said, ever timorous where
my lady was concerned; but at his words she shook her head.

"And leave the Castle, Walter?" she said. "That will I never do till I
open its doors to my own true lord. As for this English Earl and his
sows--tush! I care not for them. If they have wood we have rock, my lad,
and I warrant 'twill be a right strong sow that will stand upright after
a lump of Dunbar rock comes crashing down on its back; so keep up thy
courage, and get out the picks and crowbars. If they build sows by day,
we can quarry stones by night."

So saying, my lady shook her little white fist, by way of defiance, in
the direction of the tents which studded the greensward opposite, while
Walter went off to do her bidding, muttering to himself that the famous
Randolph himself was not better than she, for she had been born with the
courage of Bruce, and the wisdom of Solomon.

So it came about, that, while the English gave over wasting arrows for a
time, and turned their attention to the building of two great clumsy
wooden structures, we would steal down in a body on dark nights to the
little postern that opened on the shore, when the waves were dashing
against the rocks, and making enough noise to deaden the sound of the
picks, and while we women held a lanthorn or two, the men worked with
might and main, hewing at the solid rock which stretched out to seaward
for a few yards at the foot of the Castle wall. Then, when some huge
block was loosened, ropes would be lowered, and with much ado, for our
numbers were small, the unwieldy mass would be hoisted up, and placed in
position on the top of the Castle, hidden, it is true, behind the
battlements, but with the stones in front of it displaced, so that it
could be rolled over with ease at a given signal.

We all took a turn at the ropes, and our hands were often raw and frayed
with the work. 'Twas my lady who suffered most, for her skin was fine,
and up till now she had never known what such labour meant.

At last the day came when the English mounted their great white sows on
wheels, and filled them with armed men, and loaded the roofs of them
with broad-shouldered, strapping fellows, who carried ladders and irons
with which to scale our walls. When all was ready the mighty machines
began to move forward, pushed by scores of willing arms, while we
watched them in silence.

My lady and I were hidden in old Andrew's tower, for no word that Walter
Brand could say could persuade her to go down beside Mistress Marjory,
and Mistress Jean, and the serving wenches.

Instead of shooting, our archers stood motionless, stationed in groups
behind the great boulders of rock, ready for Walter's signal.

On came the sows, until we could look down and see the men they carried,
with upturned faces, and hands busy with the ladders they were raising
to place against the walls. They were trundled over the narrow strip of
land which connected us with the mainland, and stood still at last,
close to our very gates.

"Now, lads," shouted Walter, and before a single ladder could be placed,
our great blocks of rock went crashing down on them, hurling the top men
in all directions, and driving in the wooden roofs on those who were
inside.

Woe's me! Although they were our enemies, our hearts melted at the
sight. The timbers of the sows cracked and fell in, and we could see
nought but a mass of mangled, bleeding wretches. Had it not been that my
lady feared treachery, and that she had sworn not to open the gates
except to her husband, I ween she would fain have taken us all out to
succour them.

As it was, we could only watch and pity, and keep the bairns in the
chambers that looked on the sea, so that their young eyes should not
gaze on so ghastly a scene.

And when night fell, and there was no light to guide our archers to
shoot, though I trust that, in any case, mercy would have kept them from
it, the English stole across the causeway, and pulled away the broken
beams, and carried off the dead and wounded, and burned what remained of
the sows.

After that day we had no more trouble from any attempts to storm the
Castle.

But what force cannot do, hunger may. So my Lord of Salisbury, still
sitting in front of our gates with his army, in order to prevent help
reaching us from the land, set about starving us into submission. As yet
we had had no need to trouble about food, for, as I have said, we had a
store of grain, enough to last for some weeks yet, in the dungeon, and,
long ere it was done, we looked for help reaching us by the sea, if it
could not reach us by land.

It was soon made plain to us, however, that not only my Lord of
Salisbury, but his royal master, King Edward, was determined that the
"Key of Scotland" should fall into his hand, for one fine March morning
a great fleet of ships came sailing round St Abb's Head, and took up
their station betwixt us and the Bass Rock, and then we were left,
without hope of succour, until our stock of provisions should be eaten
up, and starvation forced us to give in.

Ah me! but it was weary work, living through the ever-lengthening days
of that cold bleak springtime, waiting for the help which never came,
which never could come, so it seemed to us, with that army watching us
from the land, and that fleet of ships girding us in on the sea.

And all the time our store of food sank lower and lower, and the
wenches' faces grew white, and the men pulled their belts tighter round
their middles, and poor little Mistress Jean would turn wearily away
from the water gruel which was all we had to give her, and moan and cry
for the white bread and the milk to which she was accustomed. Mistress
Marjory, on the other hand, being five years old, and wise for her
years, never complained, though oft-times she would let the spoon fall
into her porringer at supper-time, and, laying her head against my
sleeve, would say in a wistful little voice that went to my very heart,
"I cannot eat it, Marian; I am not hungry to-night."

As for my lady, she went about in those days in silence, with a stern,
set face. It must have seemed to her that when the meal was all gone she
must needs give in, for she could not see her children die before her
eyes.

But Providence is aye ready to help those who help themselves, and, late
one evening, towards the latter end of May, when we had held the castle
for five long months, I chanced to be sitting alone in my chamber, when
the Countess entered, looking very pale and wan.

"Wrap a plaid round thee, and come to the top of the tower, Marian," she
said. "I cannot sleep, and I long for a breath of fresh air. It doth me
no good to go up there by day, for I can see nothing but these English
soldiers in front, and these English ships behind. But by night it is
different. It is dark then, and I forget for a time how closely beset we
are, and how few handfuls of meal there are in the girnels.[16] I will
tell thee, Marian," and here her voice sank to a whisper, "what as yet
only myself and Walter Brand know, that if help doth not come within a
week, we must either open our gates, or starve like rats in a hole."

  [Footnote 16: Meal-barrels.]

"But a week is aye a week," I said soothingly, for I was frightened at
the wildness of her look, "and help may come before it passes."

All the same my heart was heavy within me as I threw a wrap round my
head, and followed her up the narrow stone stairs, and out on to the
flat roof of the tower.

The footing was bad in the darkness, for although the battlements had
been built up again since the day that we destroyed the sows, there were
stones and pieces of rock lying about in all directions, and not being
so young and light of foot as I once had been, I stumbled and fell.

"Do not stir till I get a light," cried my lady; "it is dangerous up
here in the dark, and a twisted ankle would not mend matters."

She felt her way over to Andrew's watch-tower, and the old man lighted
his lanthorn for her, and she came quickly back again, holding it low in
case the enemy should see it, and send a few arrows in our direction. By
its light I raised myself, and we went across to the northern turret,
which looked straight over to the Bass Rock, and stood there, resting
our arms on the wall.

Suddenly a speck of light shone out far ahead in the darkness. It
flickered for a second and then disappeared. In a moment or two it
appeared again, and then disappeared in the same way. I drew my lady's
attention to it.

"'Tis a light from the Bass," she said in an excited whisper. "Someone
is signalling. It can hardly be to the English, for the Rock is held by
friends. Is it possible they can have seen our lanthorn? Let us try
again. The English loons are likely to be asleep by now; they have had
little to disturb their rest for some weeks back, and may well have
grown lazy."

Cautiously she raised the lanthorn, and flashed its rays, once, twice,
thrice over the waves. It was only for a second, but it was enough. The
spark of light appeared three times in answer, and then all was dark
again.

"Run and tell Walter," whispered my lady, and her very voice had
changed. It was once more full of life and hope. The Bass Rock was but
ten miles off, and if there were friends there watching us, and
doubtless making plans to help us, was not that enough?

When Walter came we tried our test for the fourth time, and the answer
came back as before.

"We must watch the sea, my lady," he said, when we were safely down in
the great hall again. "Help will only come that way, and it will come in
the dark. Heaven send that the English sailors have not seen what we
have, and keep a double watch in consequence."

After that, we hardly slept. Night after night, we strained our eyes
through the darkness in the direction of the Bass, and for five nights
our watching was in vain.

But on the sixth, a Sunday, just on the stroke of twelve, the silence
which had lasted so long was broken by the sound of shouting, and lights
sprang up all round us, first on the ships and then on the land.

With anxious hearts we crowded round the loopholes, for we knew that
somewhere, out among the lights, brave men were making a dash for our
rescue, and we women, who could do nothing else, lifted up our hearts,
and prayed that Heaven and the Holy St Michael would aid their efforts.

Meanwhile, the men manned the walls, ready to shoot if the English ships
came within bow-shot, which they were scarce likely to do, as the coast
was wild and rocky, and fraught with danger to those who were
unacquainted with it.

Presently Walter called for wood to make a fire outside the little
postern which opened on the rocks, and we ceased our prayers, and fell
to work with a will, with the kitchen-wenches' choppers, on the empty
barrels which were piled up in a corner of a cellar. We even drained our
last flagon of oil to pour over them, and soon a fire was blazing on the
rudely-cut-out landing-stage, and throwing its beams far out over the
sea.

And there, dim and shadowy at first, but aye coming nearer and nearer,
guided by its light, we saw a boat, not cut in any foreign fashion, but
built and rigged near St Margaret's Hope. It was full of men; we could
hear them cheering and shouting in our own good Scots tongue, which fell
kindly on our ears after the soft mincing English which had been thrown
at our heads for so many months.

They were safe now, for, as I have said, the ships through which they
had slipped dare not follow them too near the coast, in case they ran
upon the rocks, and the Castle sheltered them from any arrows which
might be sent from the land. It sheltered us too, and we crowded down to
the little landing-stage, and watched with breathless interest the boat
which was bringing safety and succour to us.

"Bring down the bairns, Marian," said my lady. "Marjory at least is of
an age to remember this."

I hastened to do her bidding, and, calling one of the wenches, we ran up
and roused the sleeping lambs, telling them stories of the wonderful
boat which was coming over the sea, bringing them nice things to eat
once more; for, poor babes, the lack of dainty fare had been the hardest
part of all the siege for them.

We had hardly got downstairs again, when the boat ran close up to our
roughly constructed landing-stage, which was little more than a ledge of
rock, and willing hands seized the ropes which were flung out to them.

Then amidst such cheering as I shall never forget, her crew jumped out.
Forty men of them there were, strong, stalwart, strapping fellows,
looking very different from our own poor lads, who were pinched and thin
from long watching, and meagre fare. Their leader was Sir Alexander
Ramsay of Dalhousie, one of the bravest of Scottish knights, and most
chivalrous of men, who had risked his life, and the lives of his men, in
order to bring us help.

"Now Heaven and all the Saints be thanked, we are in time," he cried, as
his eyes rested on my lady, who was standing at the head of the steps
which led up to the little postern, with one babe in her arms, and the
other clinging to her gown, "for dire tales have reached us of
pestilence and starvation which were working their will within these
walls."

Then he doffed his helmet, and ran up to where she was standing, and I
wot there was not a dry eye in the crowd as he knelt and kissed her
hand.

"Here greet I one of the bravest ladies in Christendom," he said, "for,
by my troth, as long as the Scots tongue lasts, the story of how thou
kept thy lord's castle in his absence will be handed down from father to
son."

"Nay, noble sir," she answered, and there was a little catch in her
voice as she spoke, "it hath not been so very hard after all. My men
have been brave and leal, my walls are thick, and although the wolf hath
come very near the door, he hath not as yet entered."

"Nor shall he," said Sir Alexander cheerily, as he picked up Mistress
Marjory and kissed her, "for we have brought enough provisions with us
to victual your Castle twice over."

And in good sooth they had. It took more than half an hour to unload the
boat, and to carry its contents into the great hall. There had been kind
hands and thoughtful hearts at the loading of it. There was milk for the
bairns, and capons, and eggs. There was meat and ale for the men, and
red French wine and white bread for my lady, and bags of grain and meal,
and many other things which I scarce remember, but which were right
toothsome, I can tell you, after the scanty fare on which we had been
living.

And so ended the famous siege of Dunbar Castle, for on the morrow, the
English, knowing that now it was hopeless to think of taking it, struck
their camp, and by nightfall they were marching southwards, worsted by a
woman.

And ere another day had passed, another band of armed men came riding
through the woods that lie thickly o'er the valley in which lies the
Lamp of Lothian;[17] but this time we knew right well the device which
was emblazoned on the banners, and the horses neighed, as horses are
wont to do when they scent their own stables, and the riders tossed
their caps in the air at the sight of us.

  [Footnote 17: The Abbey of Haddington (an old name for it).]

And I trow that if my lady had wished for reward for all the weary
months of anxiety which she had passed through, she had it in full
measure when at long last she opened the Castle gates, and saw the look
on her husband's face, as he took her in his arms, and kissed her, not
once, but many times, there, in the courtyard, in the sight of us all.



THOMAS THE RHYMER

    "True Thomas lay on Huntly bank;
      A ferlie he spied with his e'e;
    And there he saw a ladye bright,
      Came riding down by the Eildon tree."


More than six hundred years ago, there lived in the south of Scotland a
very wonderful man named Thomas of Ercildoune, or Thomas the Rhymer.

He lived in an old tower which stood on the banks of a little river
called the Leader, which runs into the Tweed, and he had the marvellous
gift, not only of writing beautiful verses, but of forecasting the
future:--that is, he could tell of events long before they happened.

People also gave him the name of True Thomas, for they said that he was
not able to tell a lie, no matter how much he wished to do so, and this
gift he had received, along with his gift of prophecy, from the Queen of
the Fairies, who stole him away when he was young, and kept him in
fairyland for seven years and then let him come back to this world for a
time, and at last took him away to live with her in fairyland
altogether.

I do not say that this is true; I can only say again that Thomas the
Rhymer was a very wonderful man; and this is the story which the old
country folk in Scotland tell about him.

One St Andrew's Day, as he was lying on a bank by a stream called the
Huntly Burn, he heard the tinkling of little bells, just like fairy
music, and he turned his head quickly to see where it was coming from.

A short distance away, riding over the moor, was the most beautiful lady
he had ever seen. She was mounted on a dapple-gray palfrey, and there
was a halo of light shining all around her. Her saddle was made of pure
ivory, set with precious stones, and padded with crimson satin. Her
saddle girths were of silk, and on each buckle was a beryl stone. Her
stirrups were cut out of clear crystal, and they were all set with
pearls. Her crupper was made of fine embroidery, and for a bridle she
used a gold chain.

She wore a riding-skirt of grass-green silk, and a mantle of green
velvet, and from each little tress of hair in her horse's mane hung nine
and fifty tiny silver bells. No wonder that, as the spirited animal
tossed its dainty head, and fretted against its golden rein, the music
of these bells sounded far and near.

She appeared to be riding to the chase, for she led seven greyhounds in
a leash, and seven otter hounds ran along the path beside her, while
round her neck was slung a hunting-horn, and from her girdle hung a
sheaf of arrows.

As she rode along she sang snatches of songs to herself, or blew her
horn gaily to call her dogs together.

"By my faith," thought Thomas to himself, "it is not every day that I
have the chance of meeting such a beauteous being. Methinks she must be
the Virgin Mother herself, for she is too fair to belong to this poor
earth of ours. Now will I hasten over the hill, and meet her under the
Eildon Tree; perchance she may give me her blessing."

So Thomas hasted, and ran, and came to the Eildon Tree, which grew on
the slope of the Eildon Hills, under which, 'tis said, King Arthur and
his Knights lie sleeping, and there he waited for the lovely lady.

When she approached he pulled off his bonnet and louted[18] low, so that
his face well-nigh touched the ground, for, as I have said, he thought
she was the Blessed Virgin, and he hoped to hear some words of benison.

  [Footnote 18: Bowed.]

But the lady quickly undeceived him. "Do not do homage to me," she said,
"for I am not she whom thou takest me for, and cannot claim such
reverence. I am but the Queen of Fairyland, and I ride to the chase with
my horn and my hounds."

Then Thomas, fascinated by her loveliness, and loth to lose sight of
her, began to make love to her; but she warned him that, if he did so,
her beauty would vanish in a moment, and, worse still, she would have
the power to throw a spell over him, and to carry him away to her own
country. But I wot that her spell had fallen on Thomas already, for it
seemed to him that there was nothing on earth to be compared to her
favour.

"Here pledge I my troth with thee," he cried recklessly, "and little
care I where I am carried, so long as thou art beside me," and as he
said this, he gave her a kiss.

What was his horror, as soon as he had done so, to see an awful change
come over the lady. Her beautiful clothes crumbled away, and she was
left standing in a long ash-coloured gown. All the brightness round her
vanished; her face grew pale and colourless; her eyes turned dim, and
sank in her head; and, most terrible of all, one-half of her beautiful
black hair went gray before his eyes, so that she looked worn and old.

[Illustration: "WHEN SHE APPROACHED, HE PULLED OFF HIS BONNET, AND
LOUTED LOW."]

A cruel smile came on her haggard face as she cried triumphantly, "Ah,
Thomas, now thou must go with me, and thou must serve me, come weal,
come woe, for seven long years."

Then she signed to him to get up behind her on her gray palfrey, and
poor Thomas had no power to refuse. He glanced round in despair, taking
a last look at the pleasant country-side he loved so well, and the next
moment it vanished from his eyes, for the Eildon Hills opened beneath
them, and they sank in gloomy caverns, leaving no trace behind.

For three days Thomas and the lady travelled on, in the dreadful gloom.
It was like riding through the darkness of the darkest midnight. He
could feel the palfrey moving beneath him; he could hear, close at hand,
the roaring of the sea; and, ever as they rode, it seemed to him that
they crossed many rivers, for, as the palfrey struggled through them, he
could feel the cold rushing water creeping up to his knees, but never a
ray of light came to cheer him.

He grew sick and faint with hunger and terror, and at last he could bear
it no longer.

"Woe is me," he cried feebly, "for methinks I die for lack of food."

As he spoke these words, the lady turned her horse's head in the
darkness, and, little by little, it began to grow lighter, until at last
they emerged in open daylight, and found themselves in a beautiful
garden.

It was full of fruit trees, and Thomas feasted his eyes on their cool
green leaves and luscious burden; for, after the terrible darkness he
had passed through, this garden seemed to him like the Garden of
Paradise.

There were pear trees in it, covered with pears, and apple trees laden
with great juicy apples; there were dates, and damsons, and figs, and
grapes. Brightly coloured parrots were flitting about among the
branches, and everywhere the thrushes were singing.

The lady drew rein under an apple tree, and, reaching up her hand, she
plucked an apple, and handed it to him. "Take this for thine arles,"[19]
she said; "it will confer a great gift on thee, for it will give thee a
tongue that cannot lie, and from henceforth men shall call thee 'True
Thomas.'"

  [Footnote 19: Money paid at the engagement of a servant.]

Now, I am sorry to say that Thomas was not very particular about always
being truthful, and this did not seem to him to be a very enviable gift.
He wondered to himself what he would do if ever he got back to earth,
and was always obliged to tell the truth, whether it were convenient or
not.

"A bonnie gift, forsooth!" he said scornfully. "My tongue is my own, and
I would prefer that no one meddled with it. If I am obliged always to
tell the truth, how shall I fare when I once more go back to the wicked
world? When I take a cow to market, have I always to point out the horn
it hath lost, or the piece of skin that is torn? And when I talk to my
betters, and would crave a boon of them, must I always tell them my real
thoughts, instead of giving them the flattery which, let me tell you,
Madam, goes a long way in obtaining a favour?"

"Now hold thy peace," said the lady sharply, "and think thyself favoured
to see food at all. Many miles of our journey lie yet before us, and
already thou criest out for hunger. Certs, if thou wilt not eat when
thou canst, thou shalt have no more opportunity."

Poor Thomas was so hungry, and the apple looked so tempting, that at
last he took it and ate it, and the Grace of Truth settled down on his
lips for ever: that is why men called him "True Thomas," when in after
years he returned to earth.

Then the lady shook her bridle rein, and the palfrey darted forward so
quickly that it appeared to be almost flying. On and on they flew, until
they came to the World's End, and a great desert stretched before them.
Here the lady bade Thomas dismount and lean his head against her knee.
"I have three wonders to show thee, Thomas," she said, "and it is thus
that thou canst see them best."

Thomas did as he was bid, and when he laid his head against the Fairy
Queen's knee, he saw three roads stretching away before him through the
sand.

One of them was a rough and narrow road, with thick hedges of thorn on
either side, and branches of tangled briar hanging down from them, and
lying across the path. Any traveller who travelled by that road would
find it beset with many difficulties.

The next road was smooth and broad, and it ran straight and level across
the plain. It looked so easy a way that Thomas wondered that anyone ever
wanted to go along the narrow path at all.

The third road wound along a hillside, and the banks above it and below
it were covered with beautiful brackens, and their delicate fronds rose
high on either side, so high, indeed, that they would shelter the
wayfarer from the burning heat of the noonday sun.

"That is the best road of all," thought Thomas to himself; "it looks so
fresh and cool, I should like to travel along it."

Then the lady's voice sounded in his ears. "Seest thou that narrow
path," she asked, "all set about with thorns and briars? That is the
Path of Righteousness, and there be but few, oh, so few! who ever ask
where it leads to, or who try to travel by it. And seest thou that
broad, broad road, that runs so smoothly across the desert? That is the
Path of Wickedness, and I trow it is a pleasant way, and easy to travel
by. Men think it so, at least, and, poor fools, they do not trouble to
ask where it leads to. Some would fain persuade themselves that it leads
to Heaven, but Heaven was never reached by an easy road. 'Tis the narrow
road through the briars and thorns that leads us thither, and wise are
the men who follow it. And seest thou that bonnie, bonnie road, that
winds up round the ferny brae? That is the way to Fairyland, and that is
the road which lies before us."

Here Thomas was about to speak, and to remonstrate with her for carrying
him away, but she interrupted him.

"Hush," she said, "thou must be silent now, Thomas; the time for speech
is past. Thou art on the borders of Elfland, and if ever mortal man
speak a word in Elfland, he can nevermore go back to his own country."

So Thomas held his peace, and climbed sadly on the palfrey's back, and
once more they started on their awful journey. On and on they went. The
beautiful road through the ferns was soon left behind, and great
mountains had to be crossed, and steep, narrow valleys, until at last,
far away in the distance, a splendid castle appeared, standing on the
top of a high hill.

It was built of pure white marble, with massive towers, and lovely
gardens stretched in front of it.

"That castle is mine," said the lady proudly. "It belongs to me, and to
my husband, who is the King of this country. He is a jealous man, and
one greatly to be feared, and, if he knew how friendly thou and I have
been, he would kill thee in his rage. Remember, therefore, what I told
thee about keeping silence. Thou canst talk to me, an thou wilt, if an
opportunity offers, but see to it that thou answerest no one else. There
are knights and squires in abundance at my husband's court, and
doubtless they would fain question thee about the country from whence
thou art come, but thou must pay no heed to them, and I shall pretend
that thou talkest in an unknown tongue, and that I learned to understand
it in thine own country."

While she was speaking, Thomas was amazed to see that a great change had
passed over her again. Her face grew bright, and her gray gown vanished,
and the green mantle took its place, and once more she became the
beauteous being who had charmed his eyes at the Huntly Burn. And he was
still more amazed when, on looking down, he found that his own raiment
was changed too, and that he was now dressed in a suit of soft, fine
cloth, and that on his feet he wore velvet shoon.

The lady lifted the golden horn which hung from a cord round her neck,
and blew a loud blast. At the sound of it all the squires, and knights,
and great court ladies came hurrying out to meet their Queen, and Thomas
slid from the palfrey's back, and walked humbly at her elbow.

As she had foretold, the pages and squires crowded round him, and would
fain have learned his name, and the name of the country to which he
belonged, but he pretended not to understand what they said, and so they
all came into the great hall of the castle.

At the end of this hall there was a dais, and on it were two thrones.
The King of Fairyland was sitting on one, and when he saw the Queen, he
rose, and stretched out his hand, and led her to the other, and then a
rich banquet was served by thirty knights, who offered the dishes on
their bended knees. After that all the court ladies went up and did
homage to their Royal Mistress, while Thomas stood, and gazed, and
wondered at all the strange things which he saw.

At one side of the hall there was a group of minstrels, playing on all
manner of strange instruments. There were harps, and fiddles, and
gitterns, and psalteries, and lutes and rebecks, and many more that he
could not name. And when these minstrels played, the knights and the gay
court ladies danced or played games, or made merry jokes amongst
themselves; while at the other side of the hall a very different scene
went on. There were thirty dead harts lying on the stone floor, and
stable varlets carried in dead deer until there were thirty of them
stretched beside the harts, and the dogs lay and licked their blood, and
the cooks came in with their long knives and cut up the animals, in the
sight of all the court.

It was all so weird and horrible that Thomas wondered what manner of
folk he had come to dwell among, and if he would ever get back to his
own country.

For three days things went on in the same manner, and still he looked
and wondered, and still he spoke to no one, not even to the Queen.

At last she spoke to him. "Dress thee, and get thee gone, Thomas," she
said, "for thou mayest not linger here any longer. Myself will convey
thee on thy journey, and take thee back safe and sound to thine own
country again."

Thomas looked at her in amazement. "I have only been here three days,"
he said, "and methought thou spakest of seven years."

The lady smiled.

"Time passes quickly in this country, Thomas," she replied. "It may not
appear so long to thee, but it is seven long years and more, since thou
camest into Fairyland. I would fain have kept thee longer; but it may
not be, and I will show to thee the reason. Every seven years an evil
spirit comes, and chooses someone out of our court, and carries him away
to unknown regions, and, as thou art a stranger, and a goodly fellow
withal, I fear me his choice would fall on thee; and although I brought
thee here, and have kept thee here for seven years, 'twill never be said
that I betrayed thee to an evil spirit. Therefore this very night we
must be gone."

So once more the gray palfrey was brought, and Thomas and the lady
mounted it, and they went back by the road by which they had come, and
once more they came to the Eildon Tree.

The sun was shining when they arrived, and the birds singing, and the
Huntly Burn tinkling just as it had always done, and it seemed to Thomas
more impossible than ever that he had been away from it all for more
than seven years.

He felt strangely sorry to say farewell to the beautiful lady, and he
asked her to give him some token that would prove to people that he had
really been in Fairyland.

"Thou hast already the Gift of Truth," she replied, "and I will add to
that the Gift of Prophecy, and of writing wondrous verses; and here is a
harp that was fashioned in Fairyland. With its music, set to thine own
words, no minstrel on earth shall be to thee a rival. So shall all the
world know for certain that thou learnedst the art from no earthly
teacher; and some day, perchance, I will return."

Then the lady vanished, and Thomas was left all alone.

After this, he lived at his Castle of Ercildoune for many a long year,
and well he deserved the names of Thomas the Rhymer, and True Thomas,
which the country people gave him; for the verses which he wrote were
the sweetest that they had ever heard, while all the things which he
prophesied came most surely to pass.

It is remembered still how he met Cospatrick, Earl of March, one sunny
day, and foretold that, ere the next noon passed, a terrible tempest
would devastate Scotland. The stout Earl laughed, but his laughter was
short, for by next day at noon the tidings came that Alexander III.,
that much loved King, was lying stiff and stark on the sands of
Kinghorn. He also foretold the battles of Flodden and Pinkie, and the
dule and woe which would follow the defeat of the Scottish arms; but he
also foretold Bannockburn, where

    "The burn of breid
    Shall run fow reid,"

and the English be repulsed with great loss. He spoke of the Union of
the Crowns of England and Scotland, under a prince who was the son of a
French Queen, and who yet had the blood of Bruce in his veins. Which
thing came true in 1603, when King James, son of the ill-fated Mary, who
had been Queen of France as well as Queen of Scots, began to rule over
both countries.

In view of these things, it was no wonder that the fame of Thomas of
Ercildoune spread through the length and breadth of Scotland, or that
men came from far and near to listen to his wonderful words.

       *       *       *       *       *

Twice seven years came and went, and Scotland was plunged in war. The
English King, Edward I., after defeating John Baliol at Dunbar, had
taken possession of the country, and the doughty William Wallace had
arisen to try to wrest it from his hand. The tide of war ebbed and
flowed, now on this side of the Border, now on that, and it chanced that
one day the Scottish army rested not far from the Tower of Ercildoune.

Beacons blazed red on Ruberslaw, tents were pitched at Coldingknowe, and
the Tweed, as it rolled down to the sea, carried with it the echoes of
the neighing of steeds, and of trumpet calls.

Then True Thomas determined to give a feast to the gallant squires and
knights who were camped in the neighbourhood--such a feast as had never
been held before in the old Tower of Ercildoune. It was spread in the
great hall, and nobles were there in their coats of mail, and high-born
ladies in robes of shimmering silk. There was wine in abundance, and
wooden cups filled with homebrewed ale.

There were musicians who played sweet music, and wonderful stories of
war and adventure went round.

And, best of all, when the feast was over, True Thomas, the host, called
for the magic harp which he had received from the hands of the Elfin
Queen. When it was brought to him a great silence fell on all the
company, and everyone sat listening breathlessly while he sang to them
song after song of long ago.

He sang of King Arthur and his Table, and his Knights, and told how they
lay sleeping under the Eildon Hills, waiting to be awakened at the Crack
of Doom. He sang of Gawaine, and Merlin, Tristrem and Isolde; and those
who listened to the wondrous story felt somehow that they would never
hear such minstrelsy again.

Nor did they. For that very night, when all the guests had departed, and
the evening mists had settled down over the river, a soldier, in the
camp on the hillside, was awakened by a strange pattering of little feet
on the dry bent[20] of the moorland.

  [Footnote 20: Withered grass.]

Looking out of his tent, he saw a strange sight.

There, in the bright August moonlight, a snow-white hart and hind were
pacing along side by side. They moved in slow and stately measure,
paying little heed to the ever-increasing crowd who gathered round their
path.

"Let us send for Thomas of Ercildoune," said someone at last; "mayhap he
can tell us what this strange sight bodes."

"Yea, verily, let us send for True Thomas," cried everyone at once, and
a little page was hastily despatched to the old tower.

Its master started from his bed when he heard the message, and dressed
himself in haste. His face was pale, and his hands shook.

"This sign concerns me," he said to the wondering lad. "It shows me that
I have spun my thread of life, and finished my race here."

So saying, he slung his magic harp on his shoulder, and went forth in
the moonlight. The men who were waiting for him saw him at a distance,
and 'twas noted how often he turned and looked back at his old tower,
whose gray stones were touched by the soft autumn moonbeams, as though
he were bidding it a long farewell.

He walked along the moor until he met the snow-white hart and hind;
then, to everyone's terror and amazement, he turned with them, and all
three went down the steep bank, which at that place borders the Leader,
and plunged into the river, which was running at high flood.

"He is bewitched! To the rescue! To the rescue, ere it be too late!"
cried the crowd with one voice.

But although a knight leaped on his horse in haste, and spurred him at
once through the raging torrent, he could see nothing of the Rhymer or
his strange companions. They had vanished, leaving neither sign nor
trace behind them; and to this day it is believed that the hart and the
hind were messengers from the Queen of the Fairies, and that True Thomas
went back with them to dwell in her country for ever.



LORD SOULIS

    "Lord Soulis he sat in Hermitage Castle,
      And beside him Old Redcap sly;--
    'Now, tell me, thou sprite, who art meikle of might,
      The death that I must die.'

    They roll'd him in a sheet of lead,
      A sheet of lead for a funeral pall;
    They plunged him in the cauldron red,
      And melted him, lead, and bones, and all."


And so thou hast seen the great cauldron at Skelf-hill, little Annie,
standing high up on the hillside, and thou wouldst fain hear its story.

'Tis a weird tale, Sweetheart, and one to make the blood run cold, for
'tis the story of a cruel and a wicked man, and how he came by a violent
and a fearsome death. But Grannie will tell it thee, and when thou
thinkest of it, thou must always try to remember how true it is what the
Good Book says, that "all they that take the sword, shall perish with
the sword," which means, I take it, that they who show no mercy need
expect none at the hands of others.

'Tis a tale of spirits and of witchcraft, child, things that in our days
we do not believe in; but I had it from my grandfather, who had heard it
when he was a laddie from the old shepherds out on the hills, and they
believed it all and feared to pass that way in the dark.

But to come to the story itself. Long, long ago, in far bygone days,
William de Soulis, Lord of Liddesdale, kept high state in his Castle of
Hermitage. The royal blood of Scotland flowed in his veins, for he was
sixth in descent from Alexander II., and could an ancestress of his have
proved her right, he might have sat on the throne of Scotland.

Besides owning Liddesdale, he had lands in Dumfriesshire, and in the
Lothians, and he might have been like the "Bold Buccleuch," a succourer
of widows, and a defender of the oppressed and the destitute.

But instead of this he worked all manner of wickedness, till his very
name was dreaded far and near. He oppressed his vassals; he troubled his
neighbours; he was even at enmity with the King himself. And because he
feared that his Majesty might come against him with an army, he had
fortified his castle with much care. In order to do this thoroughly, he
forced his vassals to work like beasts of burden, putting bores[21] on
their shoulders, and yoking them to sledges, on which they drew all
kinds of building material to the castle.

  [Footnote 21: Yokes.]

No wonder, then, that he was hated by rich and poor alike, and no wonder
that his heart would quail at times, reckless and hardened though he
was, for it is an ill thing not to have a friend in this world. Servants
may be hired for money, but 'tis love, and love only, that can buy true
friendship. Aye remember that, little Annie, aye remember that.

I say that he had no friends, but I am mistaken. 'Twas said he had one,
and mayhap he would have been as well without him. For men would have it
that Hermitage Castle was haunted by a familiar spirit.

As a rule he dwelt in a wooden chest, bound with rusty bars of iron; but
occasionally, when Lord Soulis was alone, he would come out and talk
with him. "Old Redcap," the country folk used to call him, and they said
that he was a wee, wee man, with a red pirnie[22] and twisted legs; but
whether that be true or no, 'tis not for me to say.

  [Footnote 22: Nightcap.]

'Twas also said that, one day, when Soulis and his uncanny friend were
alone, Soulis asked him what his end would be; if he would die at home
in his bed, or out on the hillside in fair fight with his foes? And
Redcap made answer that he would throw his spell over him, and that that
spell would keep him from all common dangers, from all weapons of war,
and from all devices of peace; from arrows, and lances, and knives; from
chains, and even from hempen ropes. He would be safe from all these, but
there was one thing, and one thing alone, which the charm could not do,
and that was to save him if ever men could take him and bind him with
ropes of sifted sand.

Methinks I can hear Lord Soulis' laugh as Redcap told him this. "Ropes
of sand, forsooth!" he would say. "Did ever man hear of ropes of sand?"

But he had forgotten that the Wizard of the North, Sir Michael Scott of
Balwearie--the same who studied the wisdom of the East under the Moors
at Toledo, in Spain, who could read the stars, and command familiar
spirits to come and go at his bidding--had found out the way to forge
ropes out of sand, and that, though Michael was dead, his Spae-book yet
remained, in which he had written down all his magic.

"Moreover," added Redcap, "if ever danger threatens thee, knock thrice
on this old chest, and the lid will rise, and I will speak; but beware
lest thou lookest into it. When the lid begins to rise, turn thine eyes
away, or the spell will be broken."

Now it chanced soon after this, that one morning, just as the day was
breaking, Lord Soulis, as was his wont, sent one of his little pages up
to the top of the tower, to look out over the country far and near, to
see if there were any travellers who took the road to Hermitage. At
first the boy saw nothing, but, as it grew lighter, the figure of a
horseman, clad in the royal livery, appeared, riding down the hillside.

"Now what may thine errand be?" cried the page.

"I carry a message to Soulis of Hermitage from the King of Scotland,"
replied the stranger; "and he bids me tell that cruel Knight, that the
report of his ill deeds has come to his Majesty's ears at Holyrood
House, and that if ever again such stories reach him, he will send his
soldiers to burn the castle, and put its lord to death."

Then the page hasted, and ran, and delivered this message to his master,
whose face grew white with rage when he heard it. For he was an awful
man, little Annie, an awful man, who in general feared neither God nor
the King, and who could not brook to be reproved.

Under the castle there was a deep dungeon, cut out of the solid rock,
and the entrance to it was by a hole in the courtyard, which was covered
by a great flat stone. The stone rested on beams of oak, and Lord Soulis
gave orders that the guards were to keep the King's messenger waiting
outside the gate, and pretend to be very kind to him, giving him a
tankard of ale, and a hunch of bread, until some of the men inside the
castle had cut away those great oak beams.

Then they opened the gate, and told the poor man that Lord Soulis would
speak with him if he would ride into the courtyard; and he rode in, and
as soon as his horse stepped on the big flat stone that covered the
mouth of the dungeon, it gave way beneath its weight, and both man and
horse fell down, and were crushed to pieces on the hard stone floor,
full thirty feet below.

The King was right wroth when he heard how his messenger had been
treated, but before he could set off for Liddesdale to punish Lord
Soulis, the punishment came from nearer home.

It chanced that the young Lord of Buccleuch wooed a lovely lady called
May o' Gorranberry. 'Twas said that she was the bonniest lass in all
Teviotdale, and in all Liddesdale, and the wedding day was fixed. But
the wicked Lord Soulis, puffed up with pride at the way in which he had
got rid of the King's messenger, and relying, doubtless, on Redcap's
charm to protect him from danger, took it into his sinful head that he
would like May o' Gorranberry for his wife.

And he sent, and took her, as she was walking on the hillside above her
father's house, and brought her to his grim old Castle of Hermitage.

The poor lassie was almost mad with terror, and tore her hair, and cried
continually for her lover, until the cruel man threatened that if she
did not hold her tongue he would send men to burn down Branksome Tower,
and kill all its inmates.

And next morning, because she would not stop weeping, he called his
chief man-at-arms, a brave, fearless fellow called Red Ringan, and told
him to gather a band of spearmen, and ride over the hills to Teviotdale,
and attack the old castle which was the home of the Lords of Buccleuch.

Now it chanced that that very morning, young Buccleuch set out alone to
hunt the roe-buck and the dun deer which roamed in the woods that
surrounded his castle. He had fine sport, and he went on, and on, and
never noticed how far up among the hills he was getting, or how fast the
day was passing, until it began to get dark.

Suddenly he looked up, and, to his astonishment, he saw, riding down the
glen to meet him, a company of spearmen. He thought they were his own
retainers, and walked boldly up to them, and never knew his mistake
until he was seized, and bound hand and foot. They were really Lord
Soulis' men, with Red Ringan at their head, and Red Ringan had thrown a
glamour over his eyes, so that he could not distinguish between friends
and foes. Of course Red Ringan was delighted at this piece of good luck,
and he set the poor young man on a horse, and sent him over the hills to
Hermitage, guarded by a handful of spearmen, while he rode on with the
rest of his troop to Branksome, to see what mischief he could work
there.

Thou canst think with what triumph my Lord Soulis would greet his
prisoner, and with what bitter tears May o' Gorranberry would see him
brought in, for she would know about the dungeon, and shudder to think
what his fate would be.

'Twas said that the cruel lord mocked at young Buccleuch as he rode
under the archway, and cried out to him, as if in jest--

"Thrice welcome, Buccleuch, thrice welcome to my castle. Nathless 'tis
as a wedding guest thou comest. Certs, my bonnie May well deserves such
a gallant groomsman."

Next morning the sun rose blood red, and just as its rays touched the
gray stones of the grim old keep, the page came running to say that Red
Ringan was riding down the hillside all alone. Methinks the wicked
lord's heart gave a throb of fear, as he hurried out to the gate to meet
his henchman.

"Where have ye stabled my gallant steeds?" he cried, "and wherefore do
thy comrades tarry, whilst thou ridest home all alone?"

Red Ringan shook his head mournfully. "I bring thee heavy tidings,
Master," he said. "The steeds are stabled, sure enough, but 'tis in a
stable where they will rest till the Crack of Doom, and their riders lie
beside them. Thou knowest Tarras Moss, and how fair and pleasant it
lies, and how deep and cruel it is? My men mistook the path in the dark,
and rode right into it, and, had it not been for my good brown mare, not
one of us had been left to tell the tale. She struggled to firm footing
right nobly, and brought me out alive on her back; but when I looked
around me, I was all alone, Master, I was all alone."

Lord Soulis made no reply. With heavy steps he sought the low dark room
where the great chest stood, with its iron bands, and its three rusty
locks.

He shut the door behind him, and then, with clenched fist, he knocked
thrice on the heavy lid. The first time he knocked, and the second time,
such a groan came from the chest that his very blood ran cold; but at
the third knock the locks opened, and the lid began to rise.

Lord Soulis turned away his head as Redcap had told him to do, and stood
listening with all his might. A strange sullen muttering came from the
chest, of which he could only distinguish these mysterious words,
"Beware of a coming tree," and then the lid shut as slowly as it had
opened, and the locks were locked with a jerk, as if by unseen hands.

Meanwhile, over the hills in Teviotdale there had been confusion and
dismay when the young Lord of Buccleuch failed to return, and when news
came by the country folk that he had been seen, bound hand and foot,
being taken to Hermitage by Lord Soulis' men, the anger of the whole
clan knew no bounds. For, as it is to-day, little Annie, so it was then.
The Scotts of Buccleuch were strong and powerful, and held in honour far
and near.

The young lord had one brother, Bold Walter by name. He was a mighty
fighter and a right strong man, who carried a bow that no other man
could bend, and who loved nothing better than to ride on a foray with
all his father's moss-troopers at his back. Methinks Lord Soulis had
forgotten Bold Walter when he meddled with his brother and his bride.

It did not take this brave knight long, when he heard the news, to send
his riders out to North, and South, and East, and West, to call on his
friends and clansmen to ride with him to the fray. And because he had
heard of Old Redcap, and knew that Lord Soulis would be protected by his
charms, he sent all the way to the Tower of Ercildoune for True Thomas,
that wondrous Rhymer, who had been for seven years in Fairyland, and
who, on his return to earth, had gone to the Abbey Church of St Mary, at
Melrose, and had taken Sir Michael Scott's Spae-book from its dread
hiding-place, for its writer had been buried with it in his arms.

So, before the next sun had set, Bold Walter had raised as fair an army
as that which the King in Edinburgh had thought to send to Hermitage.
The news of this army spread like wildfire over the country, ay, and
over the hills to Hermitage, and I ween Lord Soulis' heart sank still
lower when he heard of it, and once more he went for counsel to the
magic chest. Again he knocked, and again the hollow groan rang out; but
as the lid lifted, he forgot in his haste to turn his eyes away, and in
a moment the charm was broken. The spirit spoke indeed, but it spoke
sullenly and angrily.

"Alas," it said, "thou art undone. Thou hast forgotten my warning, and,
instead of turning away thy head, thou hast raised thine eyes to look on
me. Therefore thou must lock the door of this chamber, and give the key
into my keeping, and for seven long years thou must not return, and I
must remain silent."

The wicked may flourish like the green bay tree, little Annie, but
vengeance will always overtake them at last; and I trow that Lord Soulis
felt that vengeance was close on his heels, as he left that mysterious
chamber, and locked the door, and drew the key from the lock, where it
had always rested, in his life-time at least, and threw it over his left
shoulder, which is, men say, the right way to give things to wizards and
witches, and such-like beings.

The key sank in the ground, and there it remains for aught I know, and
'tis said that even to this day, at the end of every seven years, if
anyone cares to listen, they may hear strange and awful sounds coming
from that long-locked chamber.[23]

  [Footnote 23: "Somewhere about the autumn of 1806, the Earl of
  Dalkeith, being encamped near the Hermitage Castle, for the
  amusement of shooting, directed some workmen to clear away the
  rubbish from the door of the dungeon in order to ascertain its
  ancient dimensions and architecture. To the great astonishment of
  the labourers, a rusty iron key of considerable size was found among
  the ruins a little way from the dungeon door. The well-known
  tradition passed from one to another, and it was generally agreed
  that the malevolent demon who had so long retained possession of the
  key of the castle dungeon now found himself obliged to resign it to
  the heir-apparent of the domain."--Note on "Lord Soulis" in _Leyden's
  Life and Works_.]

Yet Lord Soulis' heart was not humbled, and he made up his mind, that,
come what might, young Buccleuch should die. And in the wickedness and
cruelty of his heart he determined that he himself should choose the
manner of it.

So he had him brought before him. "What wouldst thou do, young Scott, if
thou hadst me as I have thee?" he asked, in his cruel mocking voice.

"I would take thee to the good greenwood," answered Buccleuch haughtily,
"and I would hang thee there, and I would make thine own hand wale[24]
the tree."

  [Footnote 24: Choose.]

"Good," answered Lord Soulis; "then thou shalt do as thou hast said, and
if bonnie May refuse to marry me, then she shall hang on a bush beside
thee."

So they led him out to a wood full of tall trees, far up on whose upper
branches sat hooded crows, looking down on them in solemn silence.

The first tree that Lord Soulis made his men halt under was a fir.

"Say, wilt thou hang on a fir tree, and let the hooded crows pick thy
bones?" he asked roughly.

Young Buccleuch shook his head. "Nay, not so, my Lord of Soulis," he
answered in mock humility, "for on windy nights at Branksome, the fir
trees rock by the old towers, and the fir cones come pattering to the
ground like rain. I heard them when I was a bairn, as I lay awake at
night in my cot. Thou surely wouldst not have the heart to hang me on a
tree which I have loved all my life."

Then Soulis told his men to pass on, and as they went through the wood
their prisoner kept peeping and peering from side to side, and muttering
to himself, as if he were looking for something. The men-at-arms could
not hear what he was saying, and methinks they would have been much
astonished if they had. For he knew the spirit that his brother was of,
and he knew that he would not let him hang without an attempt at rescue,
and he was saying over and over again to himself, "This death is no' for
me, this death is no' for me."

At last they halted again under an aspen tree, whose leaves were
quivering mournfully in the wind. Lord Soulis was growing impatient.

"Choose, and choose quickly," he cried, "or methinks I must choose for
thee."

But again Buccleuch shook his head. "Not on an aspen tree, my lord, not
on an aspen tree. I love its gray leaves better than any other, for it
was under their shade that May o' Gorranberry and I first plighted our
troth."

So on they went, and still the young man peered and looked, first in
this direction, then in that, until at last he saw what seemed to be a
bank of hazel branches pressing through the trees towards them. Then he
gave a great shout, and leaped high in the air. "Methinks I spy a coming
tree," he cried, and at the words Lord Soulis' face grew pale, for they
recalled to him Redcap's warning, and he feared that his hour had come.

Everyone soon saw what the strange thing was which was coming towards
them. It was Bold Walter of Buccleuch and his men, and each of them had
stuck a branch of witch's hazel in his basnet, for 'tis said that a twig
of hazel protects its wearer from the arts of magic, and they had no
mind to be bewitched by the Lord of Hermitage.

So this was the coming tree that Redcap had warned Lord Soulis to beware
of, and it had come in right earnest.

But Soulis remembered the charmed life that he bore, and he tried to
shake fear from his heart.

"Ay, many may come, but few shall go back," he cried defiantly;
"besides, ye come on a bootless errand. There is not a man in broad
Scotland who hath the power to wound me."

"By my troth," replied Bold Walter, "but we shall soon prove that," and,
drawing his bow, he sent an arrow straight in Lord Soulis' face.

Sure enough it fell harmless to the ground, and there was not even a
scratch on the wicked lord's skin, and for a moment Buccleuch was
baffled.

But Thomas of Ercildoune stepped forward. "He is bewitched, Sire," he
said, "and protected by the charms of Redcap. No steel can break that
charm, but mayhap if thy men bore him down with their lances, he might
be taken."

In vain the spearmen crowded round, and struck him to the earth. The
lances glanced harmlessly off his body, and never left so much as a mark
on him.

Then they bound him hand and foot with hempen ropes, but, to their
amazement, he burst them as if they had been threads of wool. Then
someone brought chains of forged steel, and they bound those round his
limbs, thinking that now they surely had him in their power; but he
burst them as easily as if they had been made of tow.

At this everyone was daunted, and would have let him go, but Thomas of
Ercildoune cried cheerily, "We'll bind him yet, lads, whatever betide."

As he spoke, he drew out from his bosom a little black leather-covered
book, and at the sight of it all the spearmen fell back in awe. For it
was Sir Michael Scott's "Book of Might," and, as I have said, Sir
Michael was a wizard himself, and knew all about warlocks and witches,
with their charms and spells, and he could undo everyone of them, and he
had written all this knowledge down in his black Spae-book. When he
died, the book had been buried deep in his grave in the Abbey at
Melrose, and True Thomas had gone there, and recovered it, and he had
brought it with him to aid Bold Walter of Buccleuch in rescuing his
brother.

He turned over the leaves, and at last he found the place where Sir
Michael had told how it was possible to bind a charmed man.

"Ye cannot bind a wizard with ropes," he read, "unless they be ropes of
sifted sand."

"Where can we get some sifted sand?" he asked, and everyone looked round
in dismay, for there was no sand there, under the trees.

"Come to the Nine-stane Rig," cried a man; "there is a burn[25] runs
past the bottom of it, and we will find plenty of sand there."

  [Footnote 25: Stream.]

Thou knowest the Nine-stane Rig, little Annie, the hill that slopes down
to Hermitage Water, with the circle of great stones standing on it,
which, 'tis said, were placed there by wild and heathen men, hundreds of
years ago. Well, they carried Lord Soulis there, and hurried him down to
the burn, and they shaped ropes out of the sand that lies smooth and
clean by the water-side.

But, shape the ropes as they might, they would neither twist nor twine;
the dry sand just ran through their fingers, and once again they were
baffled. Once more True Thomas turned to the spae-book, and this time he
found that the sand would twist more easily if it were mixed with barley
chaff, and the men of Teviotdale ran down the valley until they came to
a field of growing barley. They pulled the ripe grain and beat it in
their hands, and it was not long ere they returned with a napkin full of
chaff. They mixed nine handfuls of it with the sand, for it was thus the
"Book of Might" directed, and once more they tried to twist the ropes,
but once more they failed.

"This is some of the wee man's work," muttered the country folk, who
were standing looking on; and they were right. Old Redcap had not
deserted his master, although the spell which caused the magic chest to
open was broken, and he was at hand, doing his utmost to save him,
though unseen by mortal eyes.

Again True Thomas turned over the leaves of Sir Michael's book, in the
hope of finding something which would break even the most powerful
spell, and at last he came to a page where it told how, if all else
failed, the wizard must be boiled in lead.

Ay, thou mayst well shudder, little Annie, and hide thy face in my gown.

'Twas a terrible thing to do, but they did it.

They kindled a fire on the Nine-stane Rig, in the middle of the old
Druid stones, and there they placed the great brass cauldron. They
heated it red hot, and some of them hasted to Hermitage Castle, and
stripped a sheet of lead from the roof, and they wrapped the wicked lord
in it, and plunged him in, and stood round in solemn silence till the
contents of that awful pot melted--lead, and bones, and all--and nought
remained but a seething sea of molten metal.

So came the sinful man by his end, and to this day the cauldron remains,
as thou knowest, child. It was brought over to the Skelf-hill, and there
it stands, a fearful warning to evil-doers, while, on the spot where it
was boiled, within the circle of stones on the Nine-stane Rig, the
ground lies bare and fallow, for the very grass refuses to grow where
such a terrible deed was done.



THE BROWNIE OF BLEDNOCK

    "There came a strange wight to our town en',
      An' the fient a body did him ken;
    He twirled na' lang, but he glided ben,
      Wi' a weary, dreary hum.

    His face did glow like the glow o' the West,
      When the drumly cloud had it half o'ercast;
    Or the struggling moon when she's sair distrest.
      O, Sirs! it was Aiken-Drum."


Did you ever hear how a Brownie came to our village of Blednock, and was
frightened away again by a silly young wife, who thought she was
cleverer than anyone else, but who did us the worst turn that she ever
did anybody in her life, when she made the queer, funny, useful little
man disappear?

Well, it was one November evening, in the gloaming, just when the
milking was done, and before the bairns were put to bed, and everyone
was standing on their doorsteps, having a crack about the bad harvest,
and the turnips, and what chances there were of good prices for the
stirks[26] at the Martinmas Fair, when the queerest humming noise
started down by the river.

  [Footnote 26: Bullocks.]

It came nearer and nearer, and everyone stopped their clavers[27] and
began to look down the road. And, 'deed, it was no wonder that they
stared, for there, coming up the middle of the highway, was the
strangest, most frightsome-looking creature that human eyes had ever
seen.

  [Footnote 27: Idle talk.]

He looked like a little wee, wee man, and yet he looked almost like a
beast, for he was covered with hair from head to foot, and he wore no
clothing except a little kilt of green rashes which hung round his
waist. His hair was matted, and his head hung forward on his breast, and
he had a long blue beard, which almost touched the ground.

His legs were twisted, and knocked together as he walked, and his arms
were so long that his hands trailed in the mud.

He seemed to be humming something over and over again, and, as he came
near us we could just make out the words, "Hae ye wark for Aiken-Drum?"

Eh, but I can tell you the folk were scared. If it had been the Evil One
himself who had come to our quiet little village, I doubt if he would
have caused more stir.[28] The bairns screamed, and hid their faces in
their mothers' gown-tails; while the lassies, idle huzzies that they
were, threw down the pails of milk, which should have been in the
milkhouse long ago, if they had not been so busy gossiping; and the very
dogs crept in behind their masters, whining, and hiding their tails
between their legs. The grown men, who should have known better, and who
were not frightened to look the wee man in the face, laughed and hooted
at him.

  [Footnote 28: Excitement.]

"Did ye ever see such eyes?" cried one.

"His mouth is so big, he could swallow the moon," said another.

"Hech, sirs, but did ye ever see such a creature?" cried a third.

And still the poor little man went slowly up the street, crying
wistfully, "Hae ye wark for Aiken-Drum? Any wark for Aiken-Drum?"

Some of us tried to speak to him, but our tongues seemed to be tied, and
the words died away on our lips, and we could only stand and watch him
with frightened glances, as if we were bewitched.

Old Grannie Duncan, the oldest, and the kindest woman in the village,
was the first to come to her senses. "He may be a ghost, or a bogle, or
a wraith," she said; "or he may only be a harmless Brownie. It is beyond
me to say; but this I know, that if he be an evil spirit, he will not
dare to look on the Holy Book." And with that she ran into her cottage,
and brought out the great leather-bound Bible which aye lay on her
little table by the window.

She stood on the road, and held it out, right in front of the creature,
but he took no more heed of it than if it had been an old song-book, and
went slowly on, with his weary cry for work.

"He's just a Brownie," cried Grannie Duncan in triumph, "a simple,
kindly Brownie. I've heard tell of such folk before, and many a long
day's work will they do for the people who treat them well."

Gathering courage from her words, we all crowded round the wee man, and
now that we were close to him, we saw that his hairy face was kind and
gentle, and his tiny eyes had a merry twinkle in them.

"Save us, and help us, creature!" said an old man reprovingly, "but can
ye no speak, and tell us what ye want, and where ye come from?"

For answer the Brownie looked all round him, and gave such a groan, that
we scattered and ran in all directions, and it was full five minutes
before we could pluck up our courage and go close to him again.

But Grannie Duncan stood her ground, like a brave old woman that she
was, and it was to her that the creature spoke.

"I cannot tell thee from whence I come," he said. "'Tis a nameless land,
and 'tis very different from this land of thine. For there we all learn
to serve, while here everyone wishes to be served. And when there is no
work for us to do at home, then we sometimes set out to visit thy land,
to see if there is any work which we may do there. I must seem strange
to human eyes, that I know; but if thou wilt, I will stay in this place
awhile. I need not that any should wait on me, for I seek neither wages,
nor clothes, nor bedding. All I ask for is the corner of a barn to sleep
in, and a cogful of brose set down on the floor at bedtime; and if no
one meddles with me, I will be ready to help anyone who needs me. I'll
gather your sheep betimes on the hill; I'll take in your harvest by
moonlight. I'll sing the bairns to sleep in their cradles, and, though I
doubt you'll not believe it, you'll find that the babes will love me.
I'll kirn your kirns[29] for you, goodwives, and I'll bake your bread on
a busy day; while, as for the men folk, they may find me useful when
there is corn to thrash, or untamed colts in the stables, or when the
waters are out in flood."

  [Footnote 29: A churn.]

No one quite knew what to say in answer to the creature's strange
request. It was an unheard-of thing for anyone to come and offer their
services for nothing, and the men began to whisper among themselves, and
to say that it was not canny, and 'twere better to have nothing to do
with him.

But up spoke old Grannie Duncan again. "'Tis but a Brownie, I tell you,"
she repeated, "a poor, harmless Brownie, and many a story have I heard
in my young days about the work that a Brownie can do, if he be well
treated and let alone. Have we not been complaining all summer about bad
times, and scant wages, and a lack of workmen to work the work? And now,
when a workman comes ready to your hand, ye will have none of him, just
because he is not bonnie to look on."

Still the men hesitated, and the silly young wenches screwed their
faces, and pulled their mouths. "But, Grannie," cried they, "that is all
very well, but if we keep such a creature in our village, no one will
come near it, and then what shall we do for sweethearts?"

"Shame on ye," cried Grannie impatiently, "and on all you men for
encouraging the silly things in their whimsies. It's time that ye were
thinking o' other things than bonnie faces and sweethearts. 'Handsome is
that handsome does,' is a good old saying; and what about the corn that
stands rotting in the fields, an' it past Hallowe'en already? I've heard
that a Brownie can stack a whole ten-acre field in a single night."

That settled the matter. The miller offered the creature the corner of
his barn to sleep in, and Grannie promised to boil the cogful of brose,
and send her grandchild, wee Jeannie, down with it every evening, and
then we all said good-night, and went into our houses, looking over our
shoulders as we did so, for fear that the strange little man was
following us.

But if we were afraid of him that night, we had a very different song to
sing before a week was over. Whatever he was, or wherever he came from,
he was the most wonderful worker that men had ever known. And the
strange thing was that he did most of it at night. He had the corn safe
into the stackyards, and the stacks thatched, in the clap of a hand, as
the old folk say.

The village became the talk of the countryside, and folk came from all
parts to see if they could catch a glimpse of our queer, hairy little
visitor; but they were always unsuccessful, for he was never to be seen
when one looked for him. One might go into the miller's barn twenty
times a day, and twenty times a day find nothing but a heap of straw;
and although the cog of brose was aye empty in the morning, no one knew
when he came home, or when he supped it.

But wherever there was work to be done, whether it was a sickly bairn to
be sung to, or a house to be tidied up; a kirn that would not kirn, or a
batch of bread that would not rise; a flock of sheep to be gathered
together on a stormy night, or a bundle to be carried home by some weary
labourer; Aiken-Drum, as we learned to call him, always got to know of
it, and appeared in the nick of time. It looked as if we had all got
wishing-caps, for we had just to wish, and the work was done.

Many a time, some poor mother, who had been up with a crying babe all
night, would sit down with it in her lap, in front of the fire, in the
morning, and fall fast asleep, and when she awoke, she would find that
Aiken-Drum had paid her a visit, for the floor would be washed, and the
dishes too, and the fire made up, and the kettle put on to boil; but the
little man would have slipped away, as if he were frightened of being
thanked.

The bairns were the only ones who ever saw him idle, and oh, how they
loved him! In the gloaming, or when the school was out, one could see
them away down in some corner by the burn[30]-side, crowding round the
little dark brown figure, with its kilt of rushes, and one would hear
the sound of wondrous low sweet singing, for he knew all the songs that
the little ones loved.

  [Footnote 30: Stream.]

So by and by the name of Aiken-Drum came to be a household word amongst
us, and although we so seldom saw him near at hand, we loved him like
one of our ain folk.

And he might have been here still, had it not been for a silly,
senseless young wife who thought she knew better than everyone else, and
who took some idle notion into her empty head that it was not right to
make the little man work, and give him no wage.

She dinned[31] this into our heads, morning, noon, and night, and she
would not believe us when we told her that Aiken-Drum worked for love,
and love only.

  [Footnote 31: Impressed this upon us.]

Poor thing, she could not understand anyone doing that, so she made up
her mind that she, at least, would do what was right, and set us all an
example.

"She did not mean any harm," she said afterwards, when the miller took
her to task for it; but although she might not mean to do any harm, she
did plenty, as senseless folk are apt to do when they cannot bear to
take other people's advice, for she took a pair of her husband's old,
mouldy, worn-out breeches, and laid them down one night beside the
cogful of brose.

By my faith, if the village folk had not remembered so well what
Aiken-Drum had said about wanting no wages, they would have found
something better to give him than a pair of worn-out breeks.

Be that as it may, the long and the short of it was, that the dear wee
man's feelings were hurt because we would not take his services for
nothing, and he vanished in the night, as Brownies are apt to do, so
Grannie Duncan says, if anyone tries to pay them, and we have never seen
him from that day to this, although the bairns declare that they
sometimes hear him singing down by the mill, as they pass it in the
gloaming, on their way home from school.



SIR PATRICK SPENS

    "The king sits in Dunfermline town,
      Drinking the blude-red wine;
    'O whare will I get a skeely skipper,
      To sail this new ship o' mine?'

     *       *       *       *       *

    Half owre, half owre to Aberdour,
      'Tis fifty fathoms deep,
    And there lies gude Sir Patrick Spens,
      Wi' the Scots lords at his feet."


Now hearken to me, all ye who love old stories, and I will tell you how
one of the bravest and most gallant of Scottish seamen came by his
death.

'Tis the story of an event which brought mourning and dule to many a
fair lady's heart, in the far-off days of long ago.

Now all the world knows that his Majesty, King Alexander the Third, who
afterwards came by his death on the rocks at Kinghorn, had one only
daughter, named Margaret, after her ancestress, the wife of Malcolm
Canmore, whose life was so holy, and her example so blessed, that, to
this day, men call her Saint Margaret of Scotland.

King Alexander had had much trouble in his life, for he had already
buried his wife, and his youngest son David, and 'twas no wonder that,
as he sat in the great hall of his Palace at Dunfermline, close to the
Abbey Church, where he loved best to hold his Court, that his heart was
sore at the thought of parting with his motherless daughter.

She had lately been betrothed to Eric, the young King of Norway, and it
was now full time that she went to her new home. So a stately ship had
been prepared to convey her across the sea; the amount of her dowry had
been settled; her attendants chosen; and it only remained to appoint a
captain to the charge of the vessel.

But here King Alexander was at a loss. It was now past midsummer, and in
autumn the Northern Sea was wont to be wild and stormy, and on the
skilful steering of the Royal bark many precious lives depended.

He thought first of one man skilled in the art of seamanship, and then
he thought of another, and at last he turned in his perplexity to his
nobles who were sitting around him.

"Canst tell me," he said, fingering a glass of red French wine as he
spoke, "of a man well skilled in the knowledge of winds and tides, yet
of gentle birth withal, who can be trusted to pilot this goodly ship of
mine, with her precious burden, safely over the sea to Norway?"

The nobles looked at one another in silence for a moment, and then one
of them, an old gray-haired baron, rose from his seat by Alexander's
side.

"Scotland lacks not seamen, both gentle and simple, my Liege," he said,
"who could be trusted with this precious charge. But there is one man of
my acquaintance, who, above all others, is worthy of such a trust. I
speak of young Sir Patrick Spens, who lives not far from here. Not so
many years have passed over his head, but from a boy he has loved the
sea, and already he knows more about it, and its moods, than
white-haired men who have sailed on it all their lives. 'Tis his bride,
he says, an' I trow he speaks the truth, for, although he is as fair a
gallant as ever the eye of lady rested on, and although many tender
hearts, both within the Court, and without, beat a quicker measure when
his name is spoken, he is as yet free of love fancies, and aye bides
true to this changeful mistress of his. Truly he may well count it an
honour to have the keeping of so fair a flower entrusted to him."

"Now bring me paper and pen," cried the King, "and I will write to him
this instant with mine own hand."

Slowly and laboriously King Alexander penned the lines, for in these
days kings were readier with the sword than with the pen; then, folding
the letter and sealing it with the great signet ring which he wore on
the third finger of his right hand, he gave it to the old baron, and
commanded him to seek Sir Patrick Spens without loss of time.

Now Sir Patrick dwelt near the sea, and when the baron arrived he found
him pacing up and down on the hard white sand by the sea-shore, watching
the waves, and studying the course of the tides. He was quite a young
man, and 'twas little wonder if the story which the old baron had told
was true, and if all the ladies' hearts in Fife ached for love of him,
for I trow never did goodlier youth walk the earth, and men said of him
that he was as gentle and courteous as he was handsome.

At first when he began to read the King's letter, his face flushed with
pride, for who would not have felt proud to be chosen before all others
in Scotland, to be the captain of the King's Royal bark? But the smile
passed away almost as soon as it appeared, and a look of great sadness
took its place. In silence he gazed out over the sea. Did something warn
him at that moment that this would prove his last voyage;--that never
again would he set foot in his beloved land?

It may be so; who can tell? Certain it is--the old baron recalled it to
his mind in the sad days that were to come--that, when the young sailor
handed back the King's letter to him, his eyes were full of tears.

"'Tis certainly a great honour," he said, "and I thank his Majesty for
granting it to me, but methinks it was no one who loved my life, or the
lives of those who sail with me, who suggested our setting out for
Norway at this time of year."

Then, anxious lest the baron thought that he said this out of fear, or
cowardice, he changed his tone, and hurried him up to his house to
partake of some refreshment after his ride, while he gave orders to his
seamen to get everything ready.

"Make haste, my men," he shouted in a cheerful, lusty voice, "for a
great honour hath fallen to our lot. His Majesty hath deigned to entrust
to us his much loved daughter, the Princess Margaret, that we may convey
her, in the stately ship which he hath prepared, to her husband's court
in Norway. Wherefore, let every man look to himself, and let him meet me
at Aberdour, where the ship lies, on Sunday by nightfall, for we sail
next day with the tide."

So on the Monday morning early, ere it struck eight of the clock, a
great procession wound down from the King's Palace at Dunfermline to the
little landing-stage at Aberdour, where the stately ship was lying, with
her white sails set, like a gigantic swan.

Between the King and his son, the Prince of Scotland, rode the Princess
Margaret, her eyes red with weeping, for in those days it was no light
thing to set out for another land, and she felt that the parting might
be for ever. And so, in good sooth, it proved to be, in this world at
least, for before many years had passed all three were in their graves;
but that belongs not to my tale.

Next rode the high and mighty persons who were to accompany the Princess
to her husband's land, and be witnesses of the fulfilment of the
marriage contract. These were their Graces the Earl and Countess of
Menteith, his Reverence the Abbot of Balmerino, the good Lord Bernard of
Monte-Alto, and many others, including a crowd of young nobles, five and
fifty in all, who had been asked to swell the Princess's retinue, and
who were only too glad to have a chance of getting a glimpse of other
lands.

Next came a long train of sumpter mules, with the Princess's baggage,
and that of her attendants. And last of all, guarded well by
men-at-arms, came the huge iron-bound chests which contained her dowry:
seven thousand merks in good white money; and there were other seven
thousand merks laid out for her in land in Scotland.

Sir Patrick Spens was waiting to receive the Princess on board the ship.
Right courteously, I ween, he handed her to her cabin, and saw that my
Lady of Menteith, in whose special care she was, was well lodged also,
as befitted her rank and station. But I trow that his lip curled with
scorn when he saw that the five and fifty young nobles had provided
themselves with five and fifty feather beds to sleep on.

He himself was a hardy man, as a sailor ought to be, and he loved not to
see men so careful of their comfort.

At last the baggage, and the dowry, and even the feather beds were
stowed away; and the last farewells having been said, the great ship
weighed anchor, and sailed slowly out of the Firth of Forth.

Ah me, how many eyes there were, which watched it sail away, with
husband, or brother, or sweetheart on board, which would wait in vain
for many a long day for its return!

Sir Patrick made a good voyage. The sea was calm, the wind was in his
favour, and by the evening of the third day he brought his ship with her
precious burden safe to the shores of Norway.

"Now the Saints be praised," he said to himself as he cast anchor, "for
the Princess is safe, let happen what may on our return voyage."

In great state, and with much magnificence, Margaret of Scotland was
wedded to Eric of Norway, and great feasting and merry-making marked the
event. For a whole month the rejoicing went on. The Norwegian nobles
vied with each other who could pay most attention to the Scottish
strangers. From morning to night their halls rang with music, and
gaiety, and dancing. No wonder that the young nobles;--nay, no wonder
that even Sir Patrick Spens himself, careful seaman though he was,
forgot to think of the homeward journey, or to remember how soon the
storms of winter would be upon them.

In good sooth they might have remained where they were till the spring,
and then this tale need never have been told, had not a thoughtless
taunt touched their Scottish pride to the quick.

The people of Norway are a frugal race, and to the older nobles all this
feasting and junketing seemed like wild, needless extravagance.

"Our young men have gone mad," they said to each other; "if this goes
on, the country will be ruined. 'Tis those strangers who have done it.
It would be a good day for Norway if they would bethink themselves, and
sail for home."

That very night there was a great banquet, an' I warrant that there was
dire confusion in the hall when a fierce old noble of Royal blood, an
uncle of the King, spoke aloud to Sir Patrick Spens in the hearing of
all the company.

"Now little good will the young Queen's dowry do either to our King or
to our country," he said, "if it has all to be eaten up, feasting a
crowd of idle youngsters who ought to be at home attending to their own
business."

Sir Patrick turned red, and then he turned white. What the old man said
was very untrue; and he knew it. For, besides the young Queen's dowry, a
large sum of money had been taken over in the ship, to pay for the
expenses of her attendants, and of the nobles in her train.

"'Tis false. Ye lie," he said bluntly; "for I wot I brought as much
white money with me as would more than pay for all that hath been spent
on our behalf. If these be the ways of Norway, then beshrew me, but I
like them not."

With these words he turned and left the hall followed by all the
Scottish nobles. Without speaking a word to any of them, he strode down
to the harbour, where his ship was lying, and ordered the sailors to
begin to make ready at once, for he would sail for home in the morning.

The night was cold and dreary; there was plainly a storm brewing. It was
safe and snug in the harbour, and the sailors were loth to face the
dangers of the voyage. But their captain looked so pale and stern, that
everyone feared to speak.

"Master," said an old man at last--he was the oldest man on board, and
had seen nigh seventy years--"I have never refused to do thy bidding,
and I will not begin to-night. We will go, if go we must; but, if it be
so, then may God's mercy rest on us. For late yestreen I saw the old
moon in the sky, and she was nursing the new moon in her arms. It needs
not me to tell thee, for thou art as weather-wise as I am, what that
sign bodes."

"Say ye so?" said Sir Patrick, startled in spite of his anger; "then, by
my troth, we may prepare for a storm. But tide what may, come snow or
sleet, come cold or wet, we head for Scotland in the morning."

So the stately ship set her sails once more, and for a time all went
well. But when they had sailed for nigh three days, and were thinking
that they must be near Scotland, the sky grew black and the wind arose,
and all signs pointed to a coming storm.

Sir Patrick took the helm himself, and did his best to steer the ship
through the tempest which soon broke over them, and which grew worse and
worse every moment. The sailors worked with a will at the ropes, and
even the foolish young nobles, awed by the danger which threatened them,
offered their assistance. But they were of little use, and certs, one
would have laughed to have seen them, had the peril not been so great,
with their fine satin cloaks wrapped round them, and carrying their
feathered hats under their arms, trying to step daintily across the
deck, between the rushes of the water, in order that they might not wet
their tiny, cork-heeled, pointed-toed shoes.

Alack, alack, neither feathered hats, nor pointed shoon, availed to save
them! Darker and darker grew the sea, and every moment the huge waves
threatened to engulf the goodly vessel.

Sir Patrick Spens had sailed on many a stormy sea, but never in his life
had he faced a tempest like this. He knew that he and all his gallant
company were doomed men unless the land were near. That was their only
hope, to find some harbour and run into it for shelter.

Soon the huge waves were breaking over the deck, and the bulwarks began
to give way. Truly their case was desperate, and even the gay young
nobles grew grave, and many hearts were turned towards the homes which
they would never see again.

"Send me a man to take the helm," shouted Sir Patrick hoarsely, "while I
climb to the top of the mast, and try if I can see land."

Instantly the old sailor who had warned him of the coming storm, the
night before, was at his side.

"I will guide the ship, captain," he said, "if thou art bent on going
aloft; but I fear me thou wilt see no land. Sailors who are out on their
last voyage need not look for port."

Now Sir Patrick was a brave man, and he meant to fight for life; so he
climbed up to the mast head, and clung on there, despite the driving
spray and roaring wind, which were like to drive him from his foothold.
In vain he peered through the darkness, looking to the right hand and to
the left; there was no land to be seen, nothing but the great green
waves, crested with foam, which came springing up like angry wolves,
eager to swallow the gallant ship and her luckless crew.

Suddenly his cheek grew pale, and his eyes dark with fear. "We are dead
men now," he muttered; for, not many feet below him, seated on the crest
of a massive wave, he saw the form of a beautiful woman, with a cruel
face and long fair hair, which floated like a veil on the top of the
water. 'Twas a mermaid, and he knew what the sight portended.

She held up a silver bowl to him, with a little mocking laugh on her
lips. "Sail on, sail on, my guid Scots lords," she cried, and her sweet,
false voice rose clear and shrill above the tumult of the waves, "for I
warrant ye'll soon touch dry land."

"We may touch the land, but 'twill be the land that lies fathoms deep
below the sea," replied Sir Patrick grimly, and then the weird creature
laughed again, and floated away in the darkness.

When she had passed Sir Patrick glanced down at the deck, and the sight
that met him there only deepened his gloom.

Worn with the beating of the waves, a bolt had sprung in the good ship's
side, and a plank had given way, and the cruel green water was pouring
in through the hole.

Verily, they were facing death itself now; yet the strong man's heart
did not quail.

He had quailed at the sight of the mermaid's mocking eyes, but he looked
on the face of death calmly, as befitted a brave and a good man. Perhaps
the thought came to him, as it came to another famous seaman long years
afterwards, that heaven is as near by sea as by land, and in the thought
there was great comfort.

There was but one more thing to be done; after that they were helpless.

"Now, my good Scots lords," he cried, and I trow a look of amusement
played round his lips even at that solemn hour, "now is the time for
those featherbeds of thine. There are five and fifty of them; odds take
it, if they be not enough to stop up one little hole."

At the words the poor young nobles set to work right manfully,
forgetting in their fear, that their white hands were bruised and
bleeding, and their dainty clothes all wet with sea-water.

Alack! alack! ere half the work was done, the good ship shivered from
bow to stern, and went slowly down under the waves; and Sir Patrick
Spens and his whole company met death, as, in their turn, all men must
meet him, and passed to where he had no more power over them.

So there, under the waters of the gray Northern Sea he rested, lying in
state, as it were, with the Scottish lords and his own faithful sailors
round him; while there was dule and woe throughout the length and
breadth of Scotland, and fair women wept as they looked in vain for the
husbands, and the brothers, and the lovers who would return to them no
more.

And, while the long centuries come and go, he is resting there still,
with the Scots lords and his faithful sailors by him, waiting for a Day,
whose coming may be long, but whose coming will be sure, when the sea
shall give up its dead.



YOUNG BEKIE

    "Young Bekie was as brave a knight
      As ever sailed the sea;
    And he's done him to the Court of France
      To serve for meat and fee.

    He hadna been in the Court of France
      A twelvemonth, nor sae lang,
    Till he fell in love with the King's daughter,
      And was thrown in prison strang."


It was the Court of France: the gayest, and the brightest, and the
merriest court in the whole world. For there the sun seemed always to be
shining, and the nobles, and the fair Court ladies did not know what
care meant.

In all the palace there was only one maiden who wore a sad and troubled
look, and that was Burd Isbel, the King's only daughter.

A year before she had been the lightest-hearted maiden in France. Her
face had been like sunshine, and her voice like rippling music; but now
all was changed. She crept about in silence, with pale cheeks, and
clouded eyes, and the King, her father, was in deep distress.

He summoned all the great doctors, and offered them all manner of
rewards if only they would give him back, once more, his light-hearted
little daughter. But they shook their heads gravely; for although
doctors can do many things, they have not yet found out the way to make
heavy hearts light again.

All the same these doctors knew what ailed the Princess, but they dare
not say so. That would have been to mention a subject which nearly threw
the King into a fit whenever he thought of it.

For just a year before, a brave young Scottish Knight had come over to
France to take service at the King's Court. His name was Young Bekie,
and he was so strong and so noble that at first the King had loved him
like a son. But before long the young man had fallen in love with Burd
Isbel, and of course Burd Isbel had fallen in love with him, and he had
gone straight to the King, and asked him if he might marry her;--and
then the fat was in the fire.

For although the stranger seemed to be brave, and noble, and good, and
far superior to any Frenchman, he was not of royal birth, and the King
declared that it was a piece of gross impertinence on his part ever to
think of marrying a king's daughter.

It was in vain that the older nobles, who had known Burd Isbel since she
was a child, begged for pity for the young man, and pointed out his good
qualities; the King would not listen to them, but stamped, and stormed,
and raged with anger. He gave orders that the poor young Knight should
be shut up in prison at once, and threatened to take his life; and he
told his daughter sharply that she was to think no more about him.

But Burd Isbel could not do that, and she used to creep to the back of
the prison door, when no one was near, and listen wistfully, in the hope
that she might hear her lover's voice. For a long time she was
unsuccessful, but one day she heard him bemoaning his hard fate--to be
kept a prisoner in a foreign land, with no chance of sending a message
to Scotland of the straits that he was in.

"Oh," he murmured piteously to himself, "if only I could send word home
to Scotland to my father, he would not leave me long in this vile
prison. He is rich, and he would spare nothing for my ransom. He would
send a trusty servant with a bag of good red gold, and another of bonnie
white silver, to soften the cruel heart of the King of France."

Then she heard him laugh bitterly to himself.

"There is little chance that I will escape," he muttered, "for who is
likely to carry a message to Scotland for me? No, no, my bones will rot
here; that is clear enough. And yet how willingly I would be a slave, if
I could escape. If only some great lady needed a servant, I would gladly
run at her horse's bridle if she could gain me my liberty. If only a
widow needed a man to help her, I would promise to be a son to her, if
she could obtain my freedom. Nay, if only some poor maiden would promise
to wed me, and crave my pardon at the King's hand, I would in return
carry her to Scotland, and dower her with all my wealth; and that is not
little, for am I not master of the forests, and the lands, and the
Castle of Linnhe?"

Many a maiden would have been angry had she heard her lover speak these
words; but Burd Isbel loved him too much to be offended at anything
which he said, so she crept away to her chamber with a determined look
on her girlish face.

"'Tis not for thy lands or thy Castle," she whispered, "but for pure
love of thee. Love hath made maidens brave ere now, and it will make
them brave again."

That night, when all the palace was quiet, Burd Isbel wrapped herself in
a long gray cloak, and crept noiselessly from her room. She might have
been taken for a dark shadow, had it not been for her long plait of
lint-white hair and her little bare feet, which peeped out and in
beneath the folds of her cloak, as she stole down the great polished
staircase.

Silently she crept across the hall, and peeped into the guard-room.

All the guards were asleep, and, on the wall above their heads hung the
keys of the palace, and beside them a great iron key. That was the key
of the prison. She stole across the floor on tip-toe, making no more
noise than a mouse, and, stretching up her hand, she took down the heavy
key, and hid it under her cloak. Then she sped quickly out of the
guard-room, and through a turret door, into a dark courtyard where the
prison was. She fitted the key in the lock. It took all her strength to
turn it, but she managed it at last, and, shutting the door behind her,
she went into the little cell where Young Bekie was imprisoned.

A candle flickered in its socket on the wall, and by its light she saw
him lying asleep on the cold stone floor. She could not help giving a
little scream when she saw him, for there were three mice and two great
rats sitting on the straw at his head, and they had nibbled away nearly
all his long yellow hair, which she had admired so much when first he
came to Court. His beard had grown long and rough too, for he had had no
razors to shave with, and altogether he looked so strange that she
hardly knew him.

At the sound of her voice he woke and started up, and the mice and the
rats scampered away to their holes. He knew her at once, and in a moment
he forgot his dreams of slaves, and widows, and poor maidens. He sprang
across the floor, and knelt at her feet, and kissed her little white
hands.

"Ah," he said, "now would I stay here for ever, if I might always have
thee for a companion."

But Burd Isbel was a sensible maiden, and she knew that if her lover
meant to escape, he must make haste, and not waste time in making pretty
speeches. She knew also that if he went out of prison looking like a
beggar or a vagabond, he would soon be taken captive again, so she
hurried back to the palace, and went hither and thither noiselessly with
her little bare feet, and presently she returned with her hands full of
parcels.

She had brought a comb to comb the hair which the rats had left on his
head, and a razor for him to shave himself with, and she had brought
five hundred pounds of good red money, so that he might travel like a
real Knight.

Then, while he was making his toilet, she went into her father's stable,
and led out a splendid horse, strong of limb, and fleet of foot, and on
it she put a saddle and a bridle which had been made for the King's own
charger.

Finally, she went to the kennels, and, stooping down, she called softly,
"Hector, Hector."

A magnificent black hound answered her call and came and crouched at her
feet, fawning on them and licking them. After him came three companions,
all the same size, and all of them big enough to kill a man.

These dogs belonged to Burd Isbel, and they were her special pets. A
tear rolled down her face as she stooped and kissed their heads.

"I am giving you to a new master, darlings," she said. "See and guard
him well."

Then she led them to where the horse was standing, saddled and bridled;
and there, beside him, stood Young Bekie. Now that his beard was
trimmed, and his hair arranged, he looked as gallant, and brave, and
noble as ever.

When Burd Isbel told him that the money, and the hounds, and the horse
with its harness, were all his, he caught her in his arms, and swore
that there had never been such a brave and generous maiden born before,
and that he would serve her in life and death.

Then, as time was pressing, and the dawn was beginning to break, they
had to say farewell; but before they did so, they vowed a solemn vow
that they would be married to each other within three years. After this
Burd Isbel opened the great gate, and her lover rode away, with money in
his pocket, and hounds by his side, like the well-born Knight that he
was; and nobody who met him ever imagined that he was an escaped
prisoner, set free by the courage of the King's daughter.

       *       *       *       *       *

Alas, alas, for the faithfulness of men! Young Bekie was brave, and
gentle, and courteous, but his will was not very strong, and he liked to
be comfortable. And it came about that, after he had been back in
Scotland for a year, the Scotch King had a daughter for whom he wanted
to find a husband, and he made up his mind that Young Bekie would be the
very man for her.

So he proposed that he should marry her, and was quite surprised and
angry when the young man declined.

"It is an insult to my daughter," he said, and he determined to force
Bekie to do as he wanted, by using threats. So he told the Knight, that,
if he agreed to marry his daughter, he would grow richer and richer,
but, if he refused, he would lose all his lands, and the Castle of
Linnhe.

Poor Young Bekie! I am afraid he was not a hero, for he chose to marry
the Princess and keep his lands, and he tried to put the thought of Burd
Isbel and what she had done for him, and the solemn vow that he had made
to her, out of his head.

Meanwhile Burd Isbel lived on at her father's court, and because her
heart was full of faith and love, it grew light and merry again, and she
began to dance and to sing as gaily as ever.

But early one morning she woke up with a start, and there, at the foot
of her bed, stood the queerest little manikin that she had ever seen. He
was only about a foot high, and he was dressed all in russet brown, and
his face was just like a wrinkled apple.

"Who art thou?" she cried, starting up, "and what dost thou want?"

"My name is Billy Blin," said the funny old man. "I am a Brownie, and I
come from Scotland. My family all live there, and we are all very
kind-hearted, and we like to help people. But it is no time to be
talking of my affairs, for I have come to help thee. I have just been
wondering how thou couldst lie there and sleep so peacefully when this
is Young Bekie's wedding day. He is to be married at noon."

"Oh, what shall I do? what shall I do?" cried poor Burd Isbel in deep
distress. "It is a long way from France to Scotland, and I can never be
there in time."

Billie Blin waved his little hand. "I will manage it for thee," he said,
"if thou wilt only do what I tell thee. Go into thy mother's chamber as
fast as thou canst, and get two of thy mother's maids-of-honour. And,
remember, thou must be careful to see that they are both called Mary.
Then thou must dress thyself in thy most beautiful dress. Thou hast a
scarlet dress, I know, which becomes thee well, for I have seen thee
wear it. Nay, be not surprised; we Brownies can see people when they do
not see us. Put that dress on, and let thy Maries be dressed all in
green. And in thy father's treasury there are three jewelled belts, each
of them worth an earl's ransom. These thou must get, and clasp them
round thy waists, and steal down to the sea-shore, and there, on the
water, thou wilt see a beautiful Dutch boat. It will come to the shore
for thee, and thou must step in, and greet the crew with a Mystic
Greeting. Then thy part is done. I will do the rest."

The Brownie vanished, and Burd Isbel made haste to do exactly what he
had told her to do.

She ran to her mother's room, and called to two maids called Mary to
come and help her to dress. Then she put on her lovely scarlet robe, and
bade them attire themselves in green, and she took the jewelled girdles
out of the treasury, and gave one to each of them to put on; and when
they were dressed they all went down to the sea-shore.

There, on the sea, as the Brownie had promised, was a beautiful Dutch
boat, with its sails spread. It came dancing over the water to them, and
when Burd Isbel stepped on board, and greeted the sailors with a Mystic
Greeting, they turned its prow towards Scotland, and Billy Blin appeared
himself, and took the helm.

Away, away, sailed the ship, until it reached the Firth of Tay, and
there, high up among the hills, stood the Castle of Linnhe.

When Burd Isbel and her maidens went to the gate they heard beautiful
music coming from within, and their hearts sank. They rang the bell, and
the old porter appeared.

"What news, what news, old man?" cried Burd Isbel. "We have heard
rumours of a wedding here, and would fain know if they be true or no?"

"Certs, Madam, they are true," he answered; "for this very day, at noon,
the Master of this place, Young Bekie, will be married to the King of
Scotland's daughter."

Then Burd Isbel felt in her jewelled pouch, and drew out three merks.
"Take these, old man," she said, "and bid thy master speak to me at
once."

The porter did as he was bid, and went upstairs to the great hall, where
all the wedding guests were assembled. He bent low before the King, and
before the Queen, and then he knelt before his young lord.

"I have served thee these thirty and three years, Sire," he said, "but
never have I seen ladies come to the gate so richly attired as the three
who wait without at this moment. There is one of them clad in scarlet,
such scarlet as I have never seen, and two are clad in green, and they
have girdles round their waists which might well pay an earl's ransom."

When the Scottish Princess heard these words, she tossed her head
haughtily. She was tall and buxom, and she was dressed entirely in cloth
of gold.

"Lack-a-day," she said, "what a to-do about three strangers! This old
fool may think them finely dressed, but I warrant some of us here are
every whit as fine as they."

But Young Bekie sprang to his feet. He knew who it was, and the thought
of his ingratitude brought the tears to his eyes.

"I'll wager my life 'tis Burd Isbel," he cried, "who has come over the
sea to seek me."

Then he ran downstairs, and sure enough it was Burd Isbel.

He clasped her in his arms, and kissed her, and now that he had her
beside him, it seemed to him as if he had never loved anyone else.

But the wedding guests came trooping out, and when they heard the story
they shook their heads.

"A likely tale," they cried. "Who is to believe it? If she be really the
King of France's daughter, how came she here alone, save for those two
maidens?"

But some of them looked at the jewelled girdles, and held their peace.

Then Burd Isbel spoke out clearly and simply. "I rescued my love out of
prison," she said, "and gave him horse and hounds. And if the hounds
know me not, then am I proved false." So saying she raised her voice.
"Hector, Hector," she cried, and lo! the great black hound came bounding
out of its kennel, followed by its companions, and lay down fawning at
her feet, and licked them.

Then the wedding guests knew that she had told the truth, and they
turned their eyes on Young Bekie, to see what he would do. He, on his
part, was determined that he would marry Burd Isbel, let happen what
might.

"Take home your daughter again," he cried impatiently to the King, "and
my blessing go with her; for she sought me ere I sought her. This is my
own true love; I can wed no other."

"Nay," answered the King, in angry astonishment, "but this thing cannot
be. Whoever heard of a maiden being sent home unwed, when the very
wedding guests were assembled? I tell thee it cannot be."

In despair Young Bekie turned to the lady herself. "Good lack, Madam,"
he cried, "is there no one else whom thou canst marry? There is many a
better and manlier man than I, who goes seeking a wife. There, for
instance, stands my cousin John. He is taller and stronger than I, a
better fighter, and a right good man. Couldst thou not accept him for a
husband? If thou couldst, I would pay him down five hundred pounds of
good red gold on his wedding day."

A murmur of displeasure ran through the crowd of wedding guests at this
bold proposal, and the King grasped his sword in a rage. But, to
everyone's amazement, the Princess seemed neither displeased nor
daunted. She blushed rosy red, and smiled softly.

"Keep thy money to thyself, Bekie," she answered. "Thy cousin John and I
have no need of it. Neither doth he require a bribe to make him willing
to take me for his wife. To speak truth, we loved each other long ere I
set eyes on thee, and 'twas but the King, my father, who would have none
of him. Perchance by now he hath changed his mind."

So there were two weddings in the Castle of Linnhe instead of one. Young
Bekie married Burd Isbel, and his cousin John married the King's
daughter, and they "lived happy, happy, ever after."



THE EARL OF MAR'S DAUGHTER

    "It was intil a pleasant time,
      Upon a simmer's day,
    The noble Earl of Mar's daughter
      Went forth to sport and play."


Long, long ago, in a country far away over the sea, there lived a Queen
who had an only son. She was very rich, and very great, and the only
thing that troubled her was that her son did not want to get married in
the very least.

In vain his mother gave grand receptions and court balls, to which she
asked all the young countesses and baronesses, in the hope that the
Prince would take a fancy to one of them. He would talk to them, and
dance with them, and be very polite, but, when his mother hinted that it
was time that he looked for a wife, he only shrugged his shoulders and
said that there was not a pretty girl amongst them.

And perhaps there was some truth in his answer, for the maidens of that
country were all fat, and little, and squat, and everyone of them
waddled like a duck when she walked.

"If thou canst not find a wife to thy liking at home," the Queen would
say, "go to other countries and see the maidens there; surely somewhere
thou wouldst find one whom thou couldst love."

But Prince Florentine, for that was his name, only shook his head and
laughed.

"And marry a shrew," he would say mockingly; "for when the maidens heard
my name, and knew for what purpose I had come, they would straightway
smile their sweetest, and look their loveliest, and I would have no
chance of knowing what manner of maidens they really were."

Now the Queen had a very wonderful gift. She could change a man's shape,
so that he would appear to be a hare, or a cat, or a bird; and at last
she proposed to the Prince that she should turn him into a dove, and
then he could fly away to foreign countries, and go up and down until he
saw some maiden whom he thought he could really love, and then he could
go back to his real shape, and get to know her in the usual way.

This proposal pleased Prince Florentine very much. "He would take good
care not to fall in love with anyone," he told himself; but, as he hated
the stiffness and ceremony of court life, it seemed to him that it would
be good fun to be free to go about as he liked and to see a great many
different countries.

So he agreed to his mother's wishes; and one day she waved a little
golden wand over his head, and gave him a very nasty draught to drink,
made from black beetles' wings, and wormwood, and snails' ears, and
hedgehogs' spikes, and before he knew where he was, he was changed into
a beautiful gray dove, with a white ring round its neck.

At first when he saw himself in this changed guise he was frightened;
but his mother quickly tied a tiny charm round his neck, and hid it
under his soft gray feathers, and taught him how to press it against his
heart until a fragrant odour came from it, and as soon as he did this,
he became once more a handsome young man.

Then he was very pleased, and kissed her, and said farewell, promising
to return some day with a beautiful young bride; and after that he
spread his wings, and flew away in search of adventure.

For a year and a day he wandered about, now visiting this country, now
that, and he was so amused and interested in all the strange and
wonderful things that he saw, that he never once wanted to turn himself
into a man, and he completely forgot that his mother expected that he
was looking out for a wife.

At last, one lovely summer's day, he found himself flying over broad
Scotland, and, as the sun was very hot, he looked round for somewhere to
shelter from its rays. Just below him was a stately castle, surrounded
by magnificent trees.

"This is just what I want," he said to himself; "I will rest here until
the sun goes down."

So he folded his wings, and sank gently down into the very heart of a
wide-spreading oak tree, near which, as good fortune would have it,
there was a field of ripening grain, which provided him with a hearty
supper. Here, for many days, the Prince took up his abode, partly
because he was getting rather tired of flying about continually, and
partly because he began to feel interested in a lovely young girl who
came out of the castle every day at noon, and amused herself with
playing at ball under the spreading branches of the great tree.
Generally she was quite alone, but once or twice an old lady, evidently
her governess, came with her, and sat on a root, which formed a
comfortable seat, and worked at some fine embroidery, while her pupil
amused herself with her ball.

Prince Florentine soon found out that the maiden's name was Grizel, and
that she was the only child of the Earl of Mar, a nobleman of great
riches and renown. She was very beautiful, so beautiful, indeed, that
the Prince sat and feasted his eyes upon her all the time that she was
at play, and then, when she had gone home, he could not sleep, but, sat
with wide-open eyes, staring into the warm twilight, and wondering how
he could get to know her. He could not quite make up his mind whether he
should use his mother's charm, and take his natural shape, and walk
boldly up to the castle and crave her father's permission to woo her, or
fly away home, and send an ambassador with a train of nobles, and all
the pomp that belonged to his rank, to ask for her hand.

The question was settled for him one day, however, and everything
happened quite differently from what he expected.

On a very hot afternoon, Lady Grizel came out, accompanied by her
governess, and, as usual, the old lady sat down to her embroidery, and
the girl began to toss her ball. But the sun was so very hot that by and
by the governess laid down her needle and fell fast asleep, while her
pupil grew tired of running backwards and forwards, and, sitting down,
began to toss her ball right up among the branches. All at once it
caught in a leafy bough, and when she was gazing up, trying to see where
it was, she caught sight of a beautiful gray dove, sitting watching her.
Now, as I have said, Lady Grizel was an only child, and she had had few
playmates, and all her life she had been passionately fond of animals,
and when she saw the bird, she stood up and called gently, "Oh
Coo-me-doo, come down to me, come down." Then she whistled so softly and
sweetly, and stretched out her white hands above her head so
entreatingly, that Prince Florentine left his branch, and flew down and
alighted gently on her shoulder.

The delight of the maiden knew no bounds. She kissed and fondled her new
pet, which perched quite familiarly on her arm, and promised him a
latticed silver cage, with bars of solid gold.

The bird allowed the girl to carry him home, and soon the beautiful cage
was made, and hung up on the wall of her chamber, just inside the
window, and Coo-me-doo, as the dove was named, placed inside.

He seemed perfectly happy, and grew so tame that soon he went with his
mistress wherever she went, and all the people who lived near the castle
grew quite accustomed to seeing the Earl's daughter driving or riding
with her tame dove on her shoulder.

When she went out to play at ball, Coo-me-doo would go with her, and
perch up in his old place, and watch her with his bright dark eyes. One
day when she was tossing the ball among the branches it rolled away, and
for a long time she could not find it, and at last a voice behind her
said, "Here it is," and, turning round, she saw to her astonishment a
handsome young man dressed all in dove-gray satin, who handed her the
ball with a stately bow.

Lady Grizel was frightened, for no strangers were allowed inside her
father's park, and she could not think where he had come from; but just
as she was about to call out for help, the young man smiled and said,
"Lady, dost thou not know thine own Coo-me-doo?"

Then she glanced up into the branches, but the bird was gone, and as she
hesitated (for the stranger spoke so kindly and courteously she did not
feel very much alarmed), he took her hand in his.

"'Tis true, my own love," he said; "but if thou canst not recognise thy
favourite when his gray plumage is changed into gray samite, mayhap thou
wilt know him when the gray samite is once more changed into softest
feathers; and, pressing a tiny gold locket which he wore, to his heart,
he vanished, and in his stead was her own gray dove, hovering down to
his resting-place on her shoulder.

"Oh, I cannot understand it, I cannot understand it," she cried, putting
up her hand to stroke her pet; but the feathers seemed to slip from
between her fingers, and once more the gallant stranger stood before
her.

"Sit thee down and rest, Sweetheart," he said, leading her to the root
where her governess was wont to sit, while he stretched himself on the
turf at her feet, "and I will explain the mystery to thee."

Then he told her all. How his mother was a great Queen away in a far
country, and how he was her only son. Lady Grizel's fears were all gone
now, and she laughed merrily as he described the girls who lived in his
own country, and told her how little and fat they were, and how they
waddled when they walked; but when he told her how his mother had used
her magic and turned him into a dove, in order that he might bring home
a wife, her face grew grave and pale.

"My father hath sworn a great oath," she said, "that I shall never wed
with anyone who lives out of Scotland; so I fear we must part, and thou
must go elsewhere in search of a bride."

But Prince Florentine shook his head.

"Nay," he said, "but rather than part from thee, I will live all my life
as a dove in a cage, if I may only be near thee, and talk to thee when
we are alone."

"But what if my father should want me to wed with some Scottish lord?"
asked the maiden anxiously; "couldst thou bear to sit in thy cage and
sing my wedding song?"

"That could I not," answered Prince Florentine, drawing her closer to
him; "and in order to prevent such a terrible thing happening,
Sweetheart, we must find ways and means to be married at once, and then,
come what may, no one can take thee from me. This very evening I must go
and speak to thy father."

Now the Earl of Mar was a violent man, and his fear lay on all the
country-side--even his only child was afraid of him--and when her lover
made this suggestion she clung to him and begged him with tears in her
eyes not to do this. She told him what a fiery temper the Earl had, and
how she feared that when he heard his story he would simply order him to
be hanged on the nearest tree, or thrown into the dungeon to starve to
death. So for a long time they sat and talked, now thinking of one plan,
now of another, but none of them seemed of any use, and it seemed as
though Prince Florentine must either remain in the shape of her pet
dove, or go away altogether.

All at once Lady Grizel clapped her hands. "I have it, I have it," she
cried; "why cannot we be married secretly? Old Father John out at the
chapel on the moor could marry us; he is so old and so blind, he would
never recognise me if I went bare-headed and bare-footed like a gipsy
girl; and thou must go dressed as a woodman, with muddy shoes, and an
axe over thine arm. Then we can dwell together as we are doing now, and
no one will suspect that the Earl of Mar's daughter is married to her
tame pet dove, which sits on her shoulder, and goes with her wherever
she goes. And if the worst comes to the worst, and some gallant Scotch
wooer appears, why, then we must confess what we have done, and bear the
consequences together."

A few days later, in the early morning, when old Father John, the priest
who served the little chapel which stood on the heather-covered moor,
was preparing to say Mass, he saw a gipsy girl, bare-headed and
bare-footed, steal into the chapel, followed by a stalwart young
woodman, clad all in sober gray, with a bright wood-axe gleaming on his
shoulder.

In a few words they told him the purpose for which they had come, and
after he had said Mass the kindly old priest married them, and gave them
his blessing, never doubting but that they were a couple of simple
country lovers who would go home to some tiny cottage in the woods near
by. Little did he think that only half a mile away a page boy, wearing
the livery of the Earl of Mar, was patiently waiting with a white
palfrey until his young mistress should return, accompanied by her gray
dove, from visiting an old nurse, "who," she told her governess, "was
teaching her how to spin."

And little did her father, or her governess, or any of the servants at
the castle, think that Lady Grizel was leading a double life, and that
the gray dove which was always with her, and which she seemed to love
more than any other of her pets, was a gray dove only when anyone else
was by, but turned into a gallant young Prince, who ate, and laughed,
and talked with her the moment they were alone.

Strange to say, their secret was never found out for seven long years,
even although every year a little son was born to them, and carried away
under the gray dove's wing to the country far over the sea. At these
times Lady Grizel used to cry and be very sad, for she dare not keep her
babies beside her, but had to kiss them, and let them go, to be brought
up by their Grandmother whom she had never seen.

Every time Prince Florentine carried home a new baby, he brought back
tidings to his wife how tall, and strong, and brave her other sons were
growing, and tender messages from the Queen, his mother, telling her how
she hoped that one day she would be able to come home with her husband,
and then they would be all together.

But year after year went by, and still the fierce old Earl lived on, and
there seemed little hope that poor Lady Grizel would ever be able to go
and live in her husband's land, and she grew pale and thin. And year
after year her father grew more and more angry with her, because he
wanted her to marry one of the many wooers who came to crave her hand;
but she would not.

"I love to dwell alone with my sweet Coo-me-doo," she used to say, and
the old Earl would stamp his foot, and go out of her chamber muttering
angry words in his vexation.

At last, one day, a very great and powerful nobleman arrived with his
train to ask the Earl's daughter to marry him. He was very rich, and
owned four beautiful castles, and the Earl said, "Now, surely, my
daughter will consent."

But she only gave her old answer, "I love best to live alone with my
sweet Coo-me-doo."

Then her father slammed the door in a rage, and went into the great
hall, where all his men-at-arms were, and swore a mighty oath, that on
the morrow, before he broke his fast, he would wring the neck of the
wretched bird, which seemed to have bewitched his daughter.

Now just above his head, in the gallery, hung Coo-me-doo's cage with the
golden bars, and he happened to be sitting in it, and when he heard this
threat he flew away in haste to his wife's room and told her.

"I must fly home and crave help of my mother," he said; "mayhap she may
be able to aid us, for I shall certainly be no help to thee here, if my
neck be wrung to-morrow. Do thou fall in with thy father's wishes, and
promise to marry this nobleman; only see to it that the wedding doth not
take place until three clear days be past."

Then Lady Grizel opened the window, and he flew away, leaving her to act
her part as best she might.

Now it chanced that next evening, in the far distant land over the sea,
the Queen was walking up and down in front of her palace, watching her
grandsons playing at tennis, and thinking sadly of her only son and his
beautiful wife whom she had never seen. She was so deep in thought, that
she never noticed that a gray dove had come sailing over the trees, and
perched itself on a turret of the palace, until it fluttered down, and
her son, Prince Florentine, stood beside her.

She threw herself into his arms joyfully, and kissed him again and
again; then she would have called for a feast to be set, and for her
minstrels to play, as she always did on the rare occasions when he came
home, but he held up his hand to stop her.

"I need neither feasting nor music, Mother," he said, "but I need thy
help sorely. If thy magic cannot help me, then my wife and I are undone,
and in two days she will be forced to marry a man whom she hates," and
he told the whole story.

"And what wouldst thou that I should do?" asked the Queen in great
distress.

"Give me a score of men-at-arms to fly over the sea with me," answered
the Prince, "and my sons to help me in the fray."

But the Queen shook her head sadly.

"'Tis beyond my power," she said; "but mayhap Astora, the old dame who
lives by the sea-shore, might help me, for in good sooth thy need is
great. She hath more skill in magic than I have."

So she hurried away to a little hut near the sea-shore where the wise
old woman lived, while her son waited anxiously for her return.

At last she appeared again, and her face was radiant.

"Dame Astora hath given me a charm," she said, "which will turn
four-and-twenty of my stout men-at-arms into storks, and thy seven sons
into white swans, and thou thyself into a gay gos-hawk, the proudest of
all birds."

Now the Earl of Mar, full of joy at the disappearance of the gray dove,
which seemed to have bewitched his daughter, had bade all the nobles
throughout the length and breadth of fair Scotland to come and witness
her wedding with the lover whom he had chosen for her, and there was
feasting, and dancing, and great revelry at the castle. There had not
been such doings since the marriage of the Earl's great-grandfather a
hundred years before. There were huge tables, covered with rich food,
standing constantly in the hall, and even the common people went in and
out as they pleased, while outside on the green there was music, and
dancing, and games.

Suddenly, when the revelry was at its height, a flock of strange birds
appeared on the horizon, and everyone stopped to look at them. On they
came, flying all together in regular order, first a gay gos-hawk, then
behind him seven snow-white swans, and behind the swans four-and-twenty
large gray storks. When they drew near, they settled down among the
trees which surrounded the castle green, and sat there, each on his own
branch, like sentinels, watching the sport.

At first some of the people were frightened, and wondered what this
strange sight might mean, but the Earl of Mar only laughed.

"They come to do honour to my daughter," he said; "'tis well that there
is not a gray dove among them, else had he found an arrow in his heart,
and that right speedily," and he ordered the musicians to strike up a
measure.

The Lady Grizel was amongst the throng, dressed in her bridal gown, but
no one noticed how anxiously she glanced at the great birds which sat so
still on the branches.

Then a strange thing happened. No sooner had the musicians begun to
play, and the dancers begun to dance, than the twenty-four gray storks
flew down, and each of them seized a nobleman, and tore him from his
partner, and whirled him round and round as fast as he could, holding
him so tightly with his great gray wings that he could neither draw his
sword nor struggle. Then the seven white swans flew down and seized the
bridegroom, and tied him fast to a great oak tree. Then they flew to
where the gay gos-hawk was hovering over Lady Grizel, and they pressed
their bodies so closely to his that they formed a soft feathery couch,
on which the lady sat down, and in a moment the birds soared into the
air, bearing their precious burden on their backs, while the storks,
letting the nobles go, circled round them to form an escort; and so the
strange army of birds flew slowly out of sight, leaving the wedding
guests staring at one another in astonishment, while the Earl of Mar
swore so terribly that no one dare go near him.

       *       *       *       *       *

And although the story of this strange wedding is told in Scotland to
this day, no one has ever been able to guess where the birds came from,
or to what land they carried the beautiful Lady Grizel.



HYNDE HORN

    "'Oh, it's Hynde Horn fair, and it's Hynde Horn free;
       Oh, where were you born, and in what countrie?'
    'In a far distant countrie I was born;
       But of home and friends I am quite forlorn.'"


Once upon a time there was a King of Scotland, called King Aylmer, who
had one little daughter, whose name was Jean. She was his only daughter,
and, as her mother was dead, he adored her. He gave her whatever she
liked to ask for, and her nursery was so full of toys and games of all
kinds, that it was a wonder that any little girl, even although she was
a Princess, could possibly find time to play with them all.

She had a beautiful white palfrey to ride on, and two piebald ponies to
draw her little carriage when she wanted to drive; but she had no one of
her own age to play with, and often she felt very lonely, and she was
always asking her father to bring her someone to play with.

"By my troth," he would reply, "but that were no easy matter, for thou
art a royal Princess, and it befits not that such as thou shouldst play
with children of less noble blood."

Then little Princess Jean would go back to her splendid nurseries with
the tears rolling down her cheeks, wishing with all her heart that she
had been born just an ordinary little girl.

King Aylmer had gone away on a hunting expedition one day, and Princess
Jean was playing alone as usual, in her nursery, when she heard the
sound of her father's horn outside the castle walls, and the old porter
hurried across the courtyard to open the gate. A moment later the King's
voice rang through the hall, calling loudly for old Elspeth, the nurse.

The old dame hurried down the broad staircase, followed by the little
Princess, who was surprised that her father had returned so early from
his hunting, and what was her astonishment to see him standing, with all
his nobles round him, holding a fair-haired boy in his arms.

The boy's face was very white, and his eyes were shut, and the little
Princess thought that he was dead, and ran up to a gray-haired baron,
whose name was Athelbras, and hid her face against his rough hunting
coat.

But old Elspeth ran forward and took the boy's hand in hers, and laid
her ear against his heart, and then she asked that he might be carried
up into her own chamber, and that the housekeeper might be sent after
them with plenty of blankets, and hot water, and red wine.

When all this had been done, King Aylmer noticed his little daughter,
and when he saw how pale her cheeks were, he patted her head and said,
"Cheer up, child, the young cock-sparrow is not dead; 'tis but a swoon
caused by the cold and wet, and methinks when old Elspeth hath put a
little life into him, thou wilt mayhap have found a playfellow."

Then he called for his horse and rode away to hunt again, and Princess
Jean was once more left alone. But this time she did not feel lonely.

Her father's wonderful words, "Thou wilt mayhap have found a
playfellow," rang in her ears, and she was so busy thinking about them,
sitting by herself in the dark by the nursery fire, that she started
when old Elspeth opened the door of her room and called out, "Come,
Princess, the young gentleman hath had a sweet sleep, and would fain
talk with thee."

The little Princess went into the room on tip-toe, and there, lying on
the great oak settle by the fire, was the boy whom she had seen in her
father's arms. He seemed about four years older than she was, and he was
very handsome, with long yellow hair, which hung in curls round his
shoulders, and merry blue eyes, and rosy cheeks.

He smiled at her as she stood shyly in the doorway, and held out his
hand. "I am thy humble servant, Princess," he said. "If it had not been
for thy father's kindness, and for this old dame's skill, I would have
been dead ere now."

Princess Jean did not know what to say; she had often wished for someone
who was young enough to play with her, but now that she had found a real
playmate, she felt as if someone had tied her tongue.

"What is thy name, and where dost thou come from?" she asked at last.

The boy laughed, and pointed to a little stool which stood beside the
settle. "Sit down there," he said, "and I will tell thee. I have often
wished to have a little sister of my own, and now I will pretend that
thou art my little sister."

Princess Jean did as she was bid, and went and sat down on the stool,
and the stranger began his tale.

"My name is Hynde Horn," he said, "and I am a King's son."

"And I am a King's daughter," said the little Princess, and then they
both laughed.

Then the boy's face grew grave again.

"They called my father King Allof," he said, "and my mother's name was
Queen Godyet, and they reigned over a beautiful country far away in the
East. I was their only son, and we were all as happy as the day was
long, until a wicked king, called Mury, came with his soldiers, and
fought against my father, and killed him, and took his kingdom. My
mother and I tried to escape, but the fright killed my mother--she died
in a hut in the forest where we had hidden ourselves, and some soldiers
found me weeping beside her body, and took me prisoner, and carried me
to the wicked King.

"He was too cruel to kill me outright--he wanted me to die a harder
death--so he bade his men tie my hands and my feet, and carry me down to
the sea-shore, and put me in a boat, and push it out into the sea; and
there they left me to die of hunger and thirst.

"At first the sun beat down on my face, and burned my skin, but by and
by it grew dark, and a great storm arose, and the boat drifted on and
on, and I grew so hungry, and then so thirsty--oh! I thought I would die
of thirst--and at last I became unconscious, for I remember nothing more
until I woke up to find yonder kind old dame bending over me."

"The boat was washed up on our shore, just as his Highness the King rode
past," explained old Elspeth, who was stirring some posset over the
fire, and listening to the story.

"And what did you say your name was?" demanded the little Princess, who
had listened with eager attention to the story.

"Hynde Horn," repeated the boy, whose eyes were wet with tears at the
thought of all that he had gone through.

"Prince Hynde Horn," corrected Princess Jean, who liked always to have
her title given to her, and expected that other people liked the same.

"Well, I suppose I ought to be King Horn now, were it not for that
wicked King who hath taken my Kingdom, as well as my father's life; but
the people in my own land always called me Hynde Horn, and I like the
old name best."

"But what doth it mean?" persisted the little Princess.

The boy blushed and looked down modestly. "It is an old word which in
our language means 'kind' or 'courteous,' but I am afraid that they
flattered me, for I did not always deserve it."

The little Princess clapped her hands. "We will call thee by it," she
said, "until thou provest thyself unworthy of it."

After this a new life opened up for the little girl.

King Aylmer, finding that the young Prince who had been so unexpectedly
thrown on his protection was both modest and manly, determined to
befriend him, and to give him a home at his Court until he was old
enough to go and try to recover his kingdom, and avenge his parents'
death, so he gave orders that a suite of rooms in the castle should be
given to him, and arranged that Baron Athelbras, his steward, should
train him in all knightly accomplishments, such as hawking and tilting
at the ring. He soon found out too that Hynde Horn had a glorious voice,
and sang like a bird, so he gave orders that old Thamile, the minstrel,
should teach him to play the harp; and soon he could play it so well,
that the whole Court would sit round him in the long winter evenings,
and listen to his music.

He was so sweet-tempered, and lovable, that everyone liked him, and
would say to one another that the people in his own land had done well
to name him Hynde Horn.

To the little Princess he was the most delightful companion, for he was
never too busy or too tired to play with her. He taught her to ride as
she had never ridden before, not merely to jog along the road on her fat
palfrey, but to gallop alongside of him under the trees in the forest,
and they used to be out all day, hunting and hawking, for he trained two
dear little white falcons and gave them to her, and taught her to carry
them on her wrist; and she grew so fat and rosy that everyone said it
was a joyful day when Hynde Horn was washed up on the sea-shore in the
boat.

But alas! people do not remain children for ever, and, as years went on,
Hynde Horn grew into as goodly a young man as anyone need wish to see,
and of course he fell in love with Princess Jean, and of course she fell
in love with him. Everyone was quite delighted, and said, "What is to
hinder them from being married at once, and then when Princess Jean
comes to be Queen, we will be quite content to have Hynde Horn for our
King?"

But wise King Aylmer would not agree to this. He knew that it is not
good for any man to have no difficulties to overcome, and to get
everything that he wants without any trouble.

"Nay," he said, "but the lad hath to win his spurs first, and to show us
of what stuff he is made. Besides, his father's Kingdom lies desolate,
ruled over by an alien. He shall be betrothed to my daughter, and we
will have a great feast to celebrate the event, and then I will give him
a ship, manned by thirty sailors, and he shall go away to his own land
in search of adventure, and when he hath done great deeds of daring, and
avenged his father's death, he shall come again, and my daughter will be
waiting for him."

So there was a splendid feast held at the castle, and all the great
lords and barons came to it, and Princess Jean and Hynde Horn were
betrothed amidst great rejoicing, for everyone was glad to think that
their Princess would wed someone whom they knew, and not a stranger.

But the hearts of the two lovers were heavy, and when the feast was
over, and all the guests had gone away, they went out on a little
balcony in front of the castle, which overlooked the sea. It was a
lovely evening, the moon was full, and by its light they could see the
white sails of the ship lying ready in the little bay, waiting to carry
Hynde Horn far away to other lands. The roses were nodding their heads
over the balcony railings and the honeysuckle was falling in clusters
from the castle walls, but it might have been December for all that poor
Princess Jean cared, and the tears rolled fast down her face as she
thought of the parting.

"Alack, alack, Hynde Horn," she said, "could I but go with thee! How
shall I live all these years, with no one to talk to, or to ride with?"

Then he tried to comfort her with promises of how brave he would be, and
how soon he would conquer his father's enemies and come back to her; but
they both knew in their hearts that this was the last time that they
would be together for long years to come.

At last Hynde Horn drew a long case from his pocket, out of which he
took a beautifully wrought silver wand, with three little silver
laverocks[32] sitting on the end of it. "This," he said, "dear love, is
for thee; the sceptre is a token that thou rulest in my heart, as well
as over broad Scotland, and the three singing laverocks are to remind
thee of me, for thou hast oft-times told me that my poor singing reminds
thee of a lark."

  [Footnote 32: Larks.]

Then Princess Jean drew from her finger a gold ring, set with three
priceless diamonds. It was so small it would only go on the little
finger of her lover's left hand. "This is a token of my love," she said
gravely, "therefore guard it well. When the diamonds are bright and
shining, thou shalt know that my love for thee will be burning clear and
true; but if ever they lose their lustre and grow pale and dim, then
know thou that some evil hath befallen me. Either I am dead, or else
someone tempts me to be untrue."

Next morning the fair white ship spread her sails, and carried Hynde
Horn far away over the sea. Princess Jean stood on the little balcony
until the tallest mast had disappeared below the horizon, and then she
threw herself on her bed, and wept as though her heart would break.

After this, for many a long day, there was nothing heard of Hynde Horn,
not even a message came from him, and people began to say that he must
be dead, and that it was high time that their Princess forgot him, and
listened to the suit of one of the many noble princes who came to pay
court to her from over the sea. She would not listen to them, however,
and year after year went by.

Now it happened, that, when seven years had passed, a poor beggar went
up one day to the castle in the hope that one of the servants would see
him, and give him some of the broken bread and meat that was always left
from the hall table. The porter knew him by sight and let him pass into
the courtyard, but although he loitered about for a whole hour, no one
appeared to have time to speak to him. It seemed as if something unusual
were going on, for there were horses standing about in the courtyard,
held by grooms in strange liveries, and servants were hurrying along, as
if they were so busy they hardly knew what to do first. The old beggar
man spoke to one or two of them as they passed, but they did not pay any
attention to him, so at last he thought it was no use waiting any
longer, and was about to turn away, when a little scullery-maid came out
of the kitchen, and began to wash some pots under a running tap. He went
up to her, and asked if she could spare him any broken victuals.

She looked at him crossly. "A pretty day to come for broken victuals,"
she cried, "when we all have so much to do that we would need twenty
fingers on every hand, and four pairs of hands at the very least. Knowst
thou not that an embassage has come from over the sea, seeking the hand
of our Princess Jean for the young Prince of Eastnesse, he that is so
rich that he could dine off diamonds every day, an' it suited him, and
they are all in the great hall now, talking it over with King Aylmer?
Only 'tis said that the Princess doth not favour the thought; she is all
for an old lover called Hynde Horn, whom everyone else holds to be dead
this many a year. Be it as it may, I have no time to talk to the like of
thee, for we have a banquet to cook for fifty guests, not counting the
King and all his nobles. The like of it hath not been seen since the day
when Princess Jean and that Hynde Horn plighted their troth these seven
years ago. But hark'ee, old man, it might be well worth thy while to
come back to-morrow; there will be plenty of picking then." And, flapping
her dish-clout in the wind, she ran into the kitchen again.

The old beggar went away, intending to take her advice and return on the
morrow; but as he was walking along the sands to a little cottage where
he sometimes got a night's lodging, he met a gallant Knight on
horseback, who was very finely dressed, and wore a lovely scarlet cloak.

The beggar thought that he must be one of the King's guests, who had
come out for a gallop on the smooth yellow sands, and he stood aside and
pulled off his cap; but the Knight drew rein, and spoke to him.

"God shield thee, old man," he said, "and what may the news be in this
country? I used to live here, but I have been in far-off lands these
seven years, and I know not how things go on."

"Sire," answered the beggar, "things have gone on much as usual for
these few years back, but it seems as if changes were in the air. I was
but this moment at the castle, and 'twas told me that the young Prince
Eitel, heir to the great Kingdom of Eastnesse, hath sent to crave the
hand of our Princess; and although the young lady favours not his suit
(she being true to an old love, one Hynde Horn, who is thought to be
dead), the King her father is like to urge her to it, for the King of
Eastnesse is a valuable ally, and fabulously rich."

Then a strange light came into the stranger's eyes, and, to the beggar's
astonishment, he sprang from his horse, and held out the rein to him.
"Wilt do me a favour, friend?" he said. "Wilt give me thy beggar's
wallet, and staff, and cloak, if I give thee my horse, and this cloak of
crimson sarsenet? I have a mind to turn beggar."

The beggar scratched his head, and looked at him in surprise. "He hath
been in the East, methinks," he muttered, "and the sun hath touched his
brain, but anyhow 'tis a fair exchange; that crimson cloak will sell for
ten merks any day, and for the horse I can get twenty pounds," and
presently he cantered off, well pleased with the bargain, while the
other,--the beggar's wallet in his hand, his hat drawn down over his
eyes, and leaning on his staff,--began to ascend the steep hill leading
to the castle.

When he reached the great gate, he knocked boldly on the iron knocker,
and the knock was so imperious that the porter hastened to open it at
once. He expected to see some lordly knight waiting there, and when he
saw no one but a weary-looking beggar man, he uttered an angry
exclamation, and was about to shut the great gate in his face, but the
beggar's voice was wondrously sweet and low, and he could not help
listening to it.

"Good porter, for the sake of St Peter and St Paul, and for the sake of
Him who died on the Holy Rood, give a cup of wine, and a little piece of
bread, to a poor wayfarer."

As the porter hesitated between pity and impatience, the pleading voice
went on, "And one more boon would I crave, kind man. Carry a message
from me to the fair bride who is to be betrothed this day, and ask her
if she will herself hand the bite and the sup to one who hath come from
far?"

"Ask the Bride! ask the Princess Jean to come and feed thee with her own
hands!" cried the man in astonishment. "Nay, thou art mad. Away with
thee; we want no madmen here," and he would have thrust the beggar
aside; but the stranger laid his hand on his shoulder, and said calmly,
as if he were giving an order to a servant, "Go, tell her it is for the
sake of Hynde Horn." And the old porter turned and went without a word.

Meanwhile all the guests in the castle were gathered at the banquet in
the great banqueting hall. On a raised dais at the end of the room sat
King Aylmer and the great Ambassador who had come from Prince Eitel of
Eastnesse, and between them sat Princess Jean, dressed in a lovely white
satin dress, with a little circlet of gold on her head. The King and the
Ambassador were in high spirits, for they had persuaded the Princess to
marry Prince Eitel in a month and a day from that time; but poor
Princess Jean looked pale and sad.

As all the lords and nobles who were feasting in the hall below stood up
and filled their glasses, and drank to the health of Prince Eitel of
Eastnesse and his fair bride, she had much ado to keep the tears from
falling, as she thought of the old days when Hynde Horn and she went out
hunting and hawking together.

Just at that moment the door opened, and the porter entered, and,
without looking to the right hand or to the left, marched straight up
the hall and along the dais, until he came to where Princess Jean sat;
then he stooped down and whispered something to her.

In a moment the Princess' pale face was like a damask rose, and, taking
a glass full of ruby-red wine in one hand, and a farl of cake in the
other, she rose, and walked straight out of the hall.

"By my faith," said King Aylmer, who was startled by the look on his
daughter's face, "something hath fallen out, I ween, which may change
the whole course of events," and he rose and followed her, accompanied
by the Ambassador and all the great nobles.

At the head of the staircase they stopped and watched the Princess as
she went down the stairs and across the courtyard, her long white robe
trailing behind her, with the cup of ruby-red wine in one hand, and the
farl of cake in the other.

When she came to the gateway, there was no one there but a poor old
beggar man, and all the foreign noblemen looked at each other and shook
their heads, and said, "Certs, but it misdoubts us if this bride will
please our young Prince, if she is wont to disturb a court banquet
because she must needs serve beggars with her own hands."

But Princess Jean heard none of this. With trembling hands she held out
the food to the beggar. He raised the wine to his lips, and pledged the
fair bride before he drank it, and when he handed the glass back to her,
lo! in the bottom of it lay the gold ring which she had given to her
lover Hynde Horn, seven long years before.

"Oh," she cried breathlessly, snatching it out of the glass, "tell me
quickly, I pray thee, where thou didst find this? Was't on the sea, or
in a far-off land, and was the hand that it was taken from alive or
dead?"

"Nay, noble lady," answered the beggar, and at the sound of his voice
Princess Jean grew pale again, "I did not get it on the sea, or in a
far-off land, but in this country, and from the hand of a fair lady. It
was a pledge of love, noble Princess, which I had given to me seven long
years ago, and the diamonds were to be tokens of the brightness and
constancy of that love. For seven long years they have gleamed and
sparkled clearly, but now they are dim, and losing their brightness, so
I fear me that my lady's love is waning and growing cold."

Then Princess Jean knew all, and she tore the circlet of gold from her
head and knelt on the cold stones at his feet, and cried, "Hynde Horn,
my own Hynde Horn, my love is not cold, neither is it dim; but thou wert
so long in coming, and they said it was my duty to marry someone else.
But now, even if thou art a beggar, I will be a beggar's wife, and
follow thee from place to place, and we can harp and sing for our
bread."

Hynde Horn laughed a laugh that was pleasant to hear, and he threw off
the beggar's cloak, and, behold, he was dressed as gaily as any gallant
in the throng.

"There is no need of that, Sweetheart," he said. "I did it but to try
thee. I have not been idle these seven years; I have killed the wicked
King, and come into my own again, and I have fought and conquered the
Saracens in the East, and I have gold enough and to spare."

Then he drew her arm within his, and they crossed the courtyard together
and began to ascend the stairs. Suddenly old Athelbras, the steward,
raised his cap and shouted, "It is Hynde Horn, our own Hynde Horn," and
then there was such a tumult of shouting and cheering that everyone was
nearly deafened. Even the Ambassador from Eastnesse and all his train
joined in it, although they knew that now Princess Jean would never
marry their Prince; but they could not help shouting, for everyone
looked so happy.

And the next day there was another great banquet prepared, and riders
were sent all over the country to tell the people everywhere to rejoice,
for their Princess was being married, not to any stranger, but to her
old lover, Hynde Horn, who had come back in time after all.



THE GAY GOS-HAWK

    "'Oh weel is me, my gay gos-hawk,
       If your feathering be sheen!'
    'Oh waly, waly, my master dear,
       But ye look pale and lean!'"


It was the beautiful month of June, and among the bevy of fair maidens
who acted as maids-of-honour to Queen Margaret at Windsor, there was
none so fair as the Lady Katherine, the youngest of them all.

As she joined in a game of bowls in one of the long alleys under the elm
trees, or rode out, hawk on wrist, in the great park near the castle,
her merry face, with its rosy cheeks and sparkling blue eyes, was a
pleasure to see. She had gay words for everyone, even for the
sharp-tongued, grave-faced old Baroness who acted as governess to the
Queen's maids, and kept a sharp lookout lest any of the young ladies
under her charge should steal too shy glances at the pages and
gentlemen-at-arms who waited on the King.

The old lady loved her in return, and pretended to be blind when she
noticed, what every maid-of-honour had noticed for a fortnight, that
there was one Knight in particular who was always at hand to pick up
Lady Katherine's balls for her, or to hold her palfrey's rein if she
wanted to alight, when she was riding in the forest.

This gallant Knight was not one of the King's gentlemen, but the son of
a Scottish earl, who had been sent to Windsor with a message from the
King of Scotland.

Lord William, for that was his name, was so tall, and strong, and brave,
and manly, it was no wonder that little Lady Katherine fell in love with
him, and preferred him to all the young English lords who were longing
to lay their hearts at her feet.

So things went merrily on, in the pleasant June weather, until one sunny
afternoon, when Lady Katherine was riding slowly through the park, under
the shady beech trees, with Lord William, as usual, by her side. He was
telling her how much he loved her, a story which he had told her very
often before, and describing the old ivy-covered gray castle, far away
in the North, where he would take her to live some day, when a little
page, clad all in Lincoln green, ran across the park and bowed as he
stopped at the palfrey's side. "Pardon, my lady," he said breathlessly,
"but the Baroness Anne sent me to carry tidings to thee that thy Duchess
mother hath arrived, and would speak with thee at once."

Then the bright red roses faded from the poor little lady's cheeks, for
she knew well that the Duchess, who was not her real mother, but only
her step-mother, wished her no good. Sorrowfully she rode up to the
castle, Lord William at her side, and it seemed to both of them as if
the little birds had stopped singing, and the sun had suddenly grown
dim.

And it was indeed terrible tidings that the little maiden heard when she
reached the room where her stern-faced step-mother awaited her. An old
Marquis, a friend of her father's, who was quite old enough to be her
grandfather, had announced his wish to marry her, and, as she had five
sisters at home, all waiting to get a chance to become maids-of-honour,
and see a little of the world, her step-mother thought it was too good
an opportunity to let slip, and she had come to fetch her home.

In vain poor Lady Katherine threw herself at the Duchess's feet, and
besought her to let her marry the gallant Scottish knight. Her ladyship
only curled her lip and laughed. "Marry a beggarly Scot!" she said. "Not
as long as I have any power in thy father's house. No, no, wench, thou
knowest not what is for thy good. Where is thy waiting-maid? Let her
pack up thy things at once; thou hast tarried here long enough, I trow."

So Lady Katherine was carted off, bag and baggage, to the great turreted
mansion on the borders of Wales, where her five sisters and her
grandfatherly old lover were waiting for her, without ever having a
chance of bidding Lord William farewell.

As for that noble youth, he mounted his horse, and called his
men-at-arms together, and straightway rode away to Scotland, and never
halted till he reached the old gray castle, three days' ride over the
Border. When he arrived there he shut himself up in the great square
tower where his own apartments were, and frightened his family by
growing so pale and thin that they declared he must have caught some
fever in England, and had come home to die. In vain the Earl, his
father, tried to persuade him to ride out with him to the chase; he
cared for nothing but to be left alone to sit in the dim light of his
own room, and dream of his lost love.

Now Lord William was fond of all living things, horses, and dogs, and
birds; but one pet he had, which he loved above all the others, and that
was a gay gos-hawk which he had found caught in a snare, one day, and
had set free, and tamed, and which always sat on a perch by his window.

One evening, when he was sitting dreaming sadly of the days at Windsor,
stroking his favourite's plumage meanwhile, he was startled to hear the
bird begin to speak. "What mischance hath befallen thee, my master?" it
said, "that thou lookest so pale and unhappy. Hast been defeated in a
tourney by some Southron loon, or dost still mourn for that fair maiden,
the lovely Lady Katherine? Can I not help thee?"

Then a strange light shone in Lord William's eye, and he looked at the
bird thoughtfully as it nestled closer to his heart.

"Thou shalt help me, my gay gos-hawk," he whispered, "for, for this
reason, methinks, thou hast received the gift of speech. Thy wings are
strong, and thou canst go where I cannot, and bring no harm to my love.
Thou shalt carry a letter to my dear one, and bring back an answer," and
in delight at the thought, the young man rose and walked up and down the
room, the gos-hawk preening its wings on his shoulder, and crooning
softly to itself.

"But how shall I know thy love?" it said at last.

"Ah, that is easy," answered Lord William. "Thou must fly up and down
merrie England, especially where any great mansion is, and thou canst
not mistake her. She is the fairest flower of all the fair flowers that
that fair land contains. Her skin is white as milk, and the roses on her
cheeks are red as blood. And, outside her chamber, by a little postern,
there grows a nodding birch tree, the leaves of which dance in the
slightest breeze, and thou must perch thereon, and sing thy sweetest,
when she goes with her sisters and maids to hear Mass in the little
chapel."

That night, when all the country folk were asleep, a gay gos-hawk flew
out from a window in the square tower, and sped swiftly through the
quiet air, on and on, above lonely houses, and sleeping towns, and when
the sun rose it was still flying, hovering now and then over some great
castle, or lordly manor house, but never resting long, never satisfied.
Day and night it travelled, up and down the country, till at last it
came one evening to a great mansion on the borders of Wales, in one side
of which was a tiny postern, with a high latticed window near it, and by
the door grew a birch tree, whose branches nodded up and down against
the panes.

"Ah," said the gos-hawk to itself, "I will rest here." And it perched on
a branch, and put its head under its wing, and slept till morning, for
it was very tired. As soon as the sun rose, however, it was awake, with
its bright eyes ready to see whatever was to be seen.

Nor had it long to wait.

Presently the bell at the tiny chapel down by the lake began to ring,
and immediately the postern opened, and a bevy of fair maidens came
laughing out, books in hand, on their way to the morning Mass. They were
all beautiful, but the gay gos-hawk had no difficulty in telling which
was his master's love, for the Lady Katherine was the fairest of them
all, and, as soon as he saw her, he began to sing as though his little
throat would burst, and all the maidens stood still for a moment and
listened to his song.

When they returned from the little chapel he was still singing, and when
Lady Katherine went up into her chamber the song sounded more beautiful
than ever. It was a strange song too, quite unlike the song of any other
bird, for first there came a long soft note, and then a clear distinct
one, and then some other notes which were always the same, "Your love
cannot come here; your love cannot come here." So they sounded over and
over again, in Lady Katherine's ears, until the roses on her cheeks
disappeared, and she was white and trembling.

"To the dining-hall, maidens; tarry not for me," she said suddenly. "I
would fain be alone to enjoy this lovely song." And, as the fresh
morning air had made them all hungry, they obeyed her without a moment's
thought.

As soon as she was alone she ran to the window and opened it, and there,
just outside, sat a gay gos-hawk, with the most beautiful plumage that
she had ever seen.

"Oh," she cried faintly, "I cannot understand it; but something in my
heart tells me that you have seen my own dear love."

Then the gay gos-hawk put his head on one side, and whistled a merry
tune; then he looked straight into her eyes and sang a low sweet one;
then he pecked and pecked at one of his wings until the tender-hearted
little lady took hold of him gently to see if he were hurt, and who can
describe her delight and astonishment when she found a tiny letter from
Lord William tied in a little roll under his wing.

The letter was very sad, and the tears came into her eyes as she read
it. It told her how he had already sent her three letters which had
never reached her, and how he felt as if he must soon die, he was so
sick with longing for her.

When she had read it she sat for a long time thinking, with her face
buried in her hands, while the gay gos-hawk preened his feathers, and
crooned to himself on the window sill. At last she sprang to her feet,
her eyes flashing and her mouth set determinedly. Taking a beautiful
ring from her hand, she tied it with trembling fingers under the bird's
wing where the letter had been.

"Tell him that with the ring I send him my heart," she whispered
passionately, and the gay gos-hawk just gave one little nod with his
head, and then sat quite still to hear the rest of her message. "Tell
him to set his bakers and his brewers to work," she went on firmly, "to
bake rich bridal cake, and brew the wedding ale, and while they are yet
fresh I will meet him at the Kirk o' St Mary, the Kirk he hath so often
told me of."

At these words the gay gos-hawk opened his eyes a shade wider. "Beshrew
me, lady," he said to himself, "but thou talkest as if thou hadst
wings"; but he knew his duty was to act and not to talk, so with one
merry whistle he spread his wings, and flew away to the North.

That night, when all the people in the great house were asleep, the
little postern opened very gently, and a gray-cloaked figure crept
softly out. It went slowly in the shadow of the trees until it came to
the little chapel by the lake; then it ran softly and lightly through
the long grass until it reached a tiny little cottage under a spreading
oak tree. It tapped three times on the window, and presently a quavering
old voice asked who was there.

"'Tis I, Dame Ursula; 'tis thy nursling Katherine. Open to me, I pray
thee; I am in sore need of thy help."

A moment later the door was opened by a little old woman, with a white
cap, and a rosy face like a wrinkled apple.

"And what need drives my little lady to me at this time of night?" she
asked.

Then the maiden told her story, and made her request.

The old woman listened, shaking her head, and laughing to herself
meanwhile. "I can do it, I can do it," she cried, "and 'twere worth a
year's wages to see thy proud stepdame's face when thy brothers return
to tell the tale." Then she drew Lady Katherine into her tiny room, and
set her down on a three-legged stool by the smouldering fire, while she
pottered about, and made up a draught, taking a few drops of liquid from
one bottle, and a few drops from another; for this curious old woman
seemed to keep quite a number of bottles, as well as various bunches of
herbs, on a high shelf at one end of her kitchen.

At last she was finished, and, turning to the maiden, she handed her a
little phial containing a deep red-coloured mixture.

"Swallow it all at once," she chuckled, "when thou requirest the spell
to work. 'Twill last three days, and then thou wilt wake up as fresh as
a lark."

Next morning the Duke and his seven sons were going a-hunting, and the
courtyard rang with merry laughter as one after another came out to
mount the horses which the pages held ready for them. The ladies were on
the terrace waiting to wave them good-bye, when, just as the Duke was
about to mount his horse, his eldest daughter, whom he loved dearly, ran
into the courtyard and knelt at his feet.

"A boon, a boon, dear father," she cried, and she looked so lovely with
her golden hair waving in the wind, and her bright eyes looking up into
his, that he felt that he could not refuse her anything.

"Ask what thou wilt, my daughter," he said kindly, laying his hand on
her head, "and I will grant it thee. Except permission to marry that
Scottish squire," he added, laughing.

"That will I never ask, Sire," she said submissively; "but though thou
forbiddest me to think of him, my heart yearns for Scotland, the country
that he told me of, and if 'tis thy will that I marry and live in
England, I would fain be buried in the North. And as I have always had
due reverence for Holy Church, I pray thee that when that day comes, as
come it must some day, that thou wilt cause a Mass to be sung at the
first Scotch kirk we come to, and that the bells may toll for me at the
second kirk, and that at the third, at the Kirk o' St Mary, thou wilt
deal out gold, and cause my body to rest there."

Then the Duke raised her to her feet.

"Talk not so, my little Katherine," he said kindly. "My Lord Marquis is
a goodly man, albeit not too young, and thou wilt be a happy wife and
mother yet; but if 'twill ease thy heart, child, I will remember thy
fancy." Then the kind old man rode away, and Katherine went back to her
sisters.

"What wert thou asking, girl?" asked her jealous step-mother with a
frown as she passed.

"That I may be buried in Scotland when my time comes to die," said
Katherine, bowing low, with downcast eyes, for in those days maidens had
to order themselves lowly to their elders, even although they were
Duke's daughters.

"And did he grant thy strange request?" went on the Duchess, looking
suspiciously at the girl's burning cheeks.

"Yes, an' it please thee, Madam," answered her step-daughter meekly, and
then with another low curtsey she hurried off to her own room, not
waiting to hear the lady's angry words: "I wish, proud maiden, that I
had had the giving of the answer, for, by my troth, I would have turned
a deaf ear to thy request. Buried in Scotland, forsooth! Thou hast a
lover in Scotland, and it is he thou art hankering after, and not a
grave."

Two hours afterwards, when the Duke and his sons came back from hunting,
they found the castle in an uproar. All the servants were running about,
wringing their hands, and crying; and indeed it was little wonder, for
had not Lady Katherine's waiting-woman, when she went into her young
lady's room at noon, found her lying cold and white on her couch, and no
one had been able to rouse her? When the poor old Duke heard this, he
rushed up to her chamber, followed by all his seven sons; and when he
saw her lying there, so white, and still, he covered his face with his
hands, and cried out that his little Katherine, his dearly loved
daughter, was dead.

But the cruel step-mother shook her head and said nothing. Somehow she
did not believe that Lady Katherine was really dead, and she determined
to do a very cruel thing to find out the truth. When everyone had left
the room she ordered her waiting-maid, a woman who was as wicked as
herself, to melt some lead, and bring it to her in an iron spoon, and
when it was brought she dropped a drop on the young girl's breast; but
she neither started nor screamed, so the cruel Duchess had at last to
pretend to be satisfied that she was really dead, and she gave orders
that she should be buried at once in the little chapel by the lake.

But the old Duke remembered his promise, and vowed that it should be
performed.

So Lady Katherine's seven brothers went into the great park, and cut
down a giant oak tree, and out of the trunk of it they hewed a bier, and
they overlaid it with silver; while her sisters sat in the turret room
and sewed a beautiful gown of white satin, which they put on Lady
Katherine, and laid her on the silver bier; and then eight of her
father's men-at-arms took it on their shoulders, and her seven brothers
followed behind, and so the procession set out for Scotland.

And it all fell out as the old Duke had promised. At the first Scotch
kirk which the procession came to, the priests sang a solemn Mass, and
at the second, they caused the bells to toll mournfully, and at the
third kirk, the Kirk o' St Mary, they thought to lay the maiden to rest.

But, as they came slowly up to it, what was their astonishment to find
that it was surrounded by a row of spearmen, whose captain, a tall,
handsome young man, stepped up to them as they were about to enter the
kirk, and requested them to lay down the bier. At first Lady Katherine's
seven brothers objected to this being done. "What business of the
stranger's was it?" they asked, and they haughtily ordered the
men-at-arms to proceed. But the young soldier gave a sign to his men,
and in an instant they had crossed their spears across the doorway, and
the rest surrounded the men who carried the bier, and compelled them to
do as they were bid.

Then the young captain stepped forward to where Lady Katherine was lying
in her satin gown, and knelt down and took hold of her hand.

Immediately the rosy colour began to come back to her cheeks, and she
opened her eyes; and when they fell on Lord William--for it was he who
had come to meet her at the Kirk o' St Mary, as she had bidden him--she
smiled faintly and said, "I pray thee, my lord, give me one morsel of
bread and a mouthful of thy good red wine, for I have fasted for three
days, ever since the draught which my old nurse Ursula gave me, began to
do its work."

When she had drunk the wine her strength came back, and she sprang up
lightly, and a murmur of delight went round among Lord William's
spearmen when they saw how lovely she was in the white satin gown which
her sisters had made, and which would do beautifully for her wedding.

But her seven brothers were very angry at the trick which had been
played on them, and if they had dared, they would have carried her back
to England by force; but they dare not, because of all the spearmen who
stood round.

"Thou wilt rue this yet, proud girl," said her eldest brother; "thou
mightest have been a Marchioness in England, with land, and castles, and
gold enough and to spare, instead of coming to this beggarly land, and
breaking thy father's, and thy mother's heart."

Then the little lady put her hand in that of her lover, and answered
quietly, "Nay, but I had no mind to wed with one who was already in his
dotage; little good the lands, and castles, and gold would have done me,
had I been obliged to spend my time in nursing an old man; and, as for
my father, I know he will secretly rejoice when he hears, that, after
all, I shall wed my own true love, who, I would have him know, is an
Earl's son, although he may not be so rich as is my lord the Marquis;
and, as for my cruel step-mother, 'tis no matter what she thinks."

Her brother stamped his foot in useless anger. "Then," said he, pointing
to the silver bier lying forgotten on the grass, "I swear that that bier
on which thou camest hither shall be the only wedding portion that thy
husband will ever see of thine; mayhap poverty will bring thee to thy
senses."

But his sister only laughed as she pressed closer to her bridegroom and
said bravely, "Happiness is more than gold, brother, and the contented
heart better than the restless one which is ever seeking riches."

So the seven brothers went back to England in a rage, while Lord William
married his brave little bride in the old Kirk o' St Mary; and then they
rode home to the gray ivy-covered castle, where the gay gos-hawk was
waiting on the square tower to sing his very sweetest song to greet
them.



THE END

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY NEILL AND CO., LTD., EDINBURGH.



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