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Elizabeth Wilson Grierson.

Tales From Scottish Ballads online

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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,


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Online LibraryElizabeth Wilson GriersonTales From Scottish Ballads → online text (page 15 of 17)