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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.


"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

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

"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

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

[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

* * * * *

"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

[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

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

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

"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

"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

"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

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

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