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Chambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) online

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an exclamation of rapturous greeting. But in his haste to enter he
saw her not. The blood rushed across her brow for an instant, and
then retiring to her heart, left her countenance overspread with the
hues of death. Lady March caught her in her arms, replaced her
in her seat, and saw her eyes fixed upon her. While the last fleeting
smile curved her young lips, her hands sank down from pressing on
her exhausted heart, whose last throbs had been expended in the
welcome of her lover ; and the voice was stilled and the eyes were
closed and she slept in death, even while his footsteps were heard
ascending towards her.

This melancholy event, it will be recollected, forms the theme of
one of Campbell's most beautiful lyrics :

' But ah ! so pale, he knew her not,

Though her smile on him was dwelling.
And am I then forgot forgot ?
It broke the heart of Ellen.

In vain he weeps, in vain he sighs

Her cheek is cold as ashes ;
Nor love's own kiss shall wake those eyes

To lift their silken lashes.'



IN consequence of some of those civil and domestic broils which
disturbed the reign of the beauteous Mary of Scotland, her ill-fated
husband found it convenient to retire for a time to the castle of
Smithfield in Tweeddale, where, with a small retinue, he occupied
himself in the pleasures of the chase and other sports of the country.
His residence here was rendered very uncomfortable, by the predatory
spirit which infested the Borders, and which, according to a historian
of the period, was partaken of in no small degree by the inhabitants
of Tweeddale themselves. The castle which served as a habitation
to Darnley stood on the side of a hill immediately adjoining the
ancient burgh of Peebles, and was then a place of considerable
strength, though not a stone now remains to tell its site. Here,
then, dwelt the young king when the circumstances occurred which
we are about to relate, as the voice of tradition brought them to our

The vale of Manor, situated a few miles to the west of the town
of Peebles, is one of the most pleasant of the many glens which send
in their tributary waters to the Tweed. For those who love the
richly cultivated field and the smooth-shaven lawn, the vale of Manor
has few charms ; but to those who are admirers of nature in her
wilder aspects, who delight in the bold and heath-clad hill, and in
the clear rock-born streamlet, it is a scene full of beauty and interest.
Though at the present day only a solitary tree raises its lonely head
here and there on the steep declivities, the vale at one time unques-
tionably formed a part of the tract called the Forest, in the matted
woods of which the Scottish monarchs hunted the wild-boar and the
wolf, as well as game of a less terrible character. But, like Yarrow,
Manor now presents only ' the grace of forest charms decayed, and
pastoral melancholy.'

Whatever other changes the vale may have undergone, its little
mill still remains, in nearly the same situation which it occupied
three hundred years ago. We do not mean to aver that the same
tenement in which honest Andrew Tod drew from his neighbours the
dues of multure is still existent ; the hand of time has long since
crumbled the old walls into dust ; but nearly in the same spot does
the stream of the Manor still whirl round a noisy clapper, as it did
in the days of Queen Mary. Many an occupant, too, has been
resolved into dust, indistinguishable from that of the stone walls
which he inhabited, since the time of the personage we have named.
Andrew Tod, the miller of Kirkton, as the place was denominated,
was, at the time of this eventful story, a man considerably above
sixty years of age, but still rosy in complexion, and unbroken in



bodily health. Time had slightly thinned and whitened his
temples ; but he merited still the epithet often bestowed on those
of his trade, of ' a jolly miller.' Andrew bore a high character for
honesty ; a character which, without antithesis, was not, in his
times, often bestowed on those of his trade ; and the Kirkton miller
had obtained, through his honesty and industry, sufficient of the
goods of this world to make him comfortable in it. His family, for
three generations, had been occupants of the mill of Kirkton, and
Andrew's greatest ambition was to be succeeded in it by his pos-
terity. He had married early in life, but for many years had been
unblessed with a family, until his wife brought him a daughter, and
died in giving birth to her. The miller's whole affections were thus
thrown upon one object, and the little Mary Tod was in a fair way,
it might seem, of being from infancy a spoilt child ; for her father's
love was liker to doting than ordinary parental affection. But
circumstances fortunately intervened which rendered Mary Tod, at
the age of eighteen, not only far from being a spoilt child, but a girl
of manners and intelligence far above the ordinary maidens of her
rank. What these circumstances were, it is necessary that we
should explain.

In the preceding reign, namely, that of James V. the ancient
church first began to lose its hold on the respect of the Scottish
people. In this reign, at least, the first open defections were made
to the reformed doctrines. The Catholics, however, were still in
possession of power, and the king himself could not stand out
against them, or defend the Reformers from their enmity. Hence
those who openly professed the new doctrines were in many instances
obliged to fly, and to hide themselves, for the preservation of their
lives. One of these fugitives, a worthy priest who had attached
himself to the new light, had found a shelter in the little retired vale
of Manor. Here he applied himself to the teaching of the rural
population around ; and such was his utility, and the respect which
his learning and manners acquired, that he spent his days in safety
while the hour of danger lasted ; and when the reformed religion
came to be openly professed by the country, continued still instructing
the youth of the little vale. His place of refuge had been the cot
of a poor widow, whose husband had died about the period of the
good priest's arrival, and had left her with an infant boy to provide
for as best she might. The small pittance which the priest could
afford to her, together with the produce of a little plot of land,
constituted the whole of her revenue. Her son, Edward Burnet,
was the favourite pupil of the refugee ; and well did his progress
and attainments repay the care bestowed on him. The miller's fair
daughter also had been, from her childhood almost, the object of
the good priest's instructions ; nor was this care thrown away on an
unfruitful soil. Edward and Mary were thus often together when
children ; and as they grew in years, they still continued to receive


jointly the lessons of the priest. But whether this arose altogether
from a desire of learning, is matter of doubt ; and in this dubitation
our readers will most probably be inclined to join, after perusing
what follows.

It was a clear and pleasant evening in summer when Mary Tod
left the door of her father's comfortable straw-thatched dwelling,
and directed her steps to the side of the little stream of the Manor.
She was neatly dressed in apparel of her own spinning; and though
it was evidently not her holiday suit, yet everything was arranged
with such care, as betokened some purpose in her mind of appearing
to the best advantage where she was going. As she tripped lightly
along the bank of the stream, her comely face and handsome form
made her appear like the rural genius of the place. Mary's thoughts,
however, were filled entirely with objects of a sublunary and mortal
character ; and though she was pretty enough for the deity of the
stream to fall in love with her, as used to be the case with streams
in the days of Homer, she would not, we believe, have broken the
tryst which she had made with an earthly lover for the flowing
tresses of Neptune himself. After a walk of some length, Mary
turned into a little glen which sent in its tribute of waters to the
Manor, and, casting an anxious gaze around for some moments,
seated herself at the foot of a solitary mountain-ash, or, as she
herself would have called it, a rowan-tree. Here she did not sit
long alone though quite long enough for the slightest pout imagin-
able to gather on her pretty lip before she was joined by the
person for whom she waited. This was a slender but well-knit
young man, dressed in the usual attire of a peasant, but seeming,
from his fine intellectual face, as if that were not his proper habiting.

' Do you keep a' your sweethearts waiting for you this gait ?' said
Mary, starting to her feet when her lover came forward; 'they
would need to like you weel, else they wadna tryst to meet you a
second time.'

'And so you do like me weel, Mary?' said the youth, slipping,
with a very inefficient repulse, his arm around the maiden's waist ;
'at least you should do so,' Mary, for you know how truly, how
deeply I like you.'

' It does not seem sae, Edward,' replied the miller's daughter, not
yet altogether pleased, or probably indulging a little in that strange
peculiarity of lovers which leads them, in the absence of any great
cause of offence, to make the most of any little one that occurs, for
the mere pleasure of asking or being asked forgiveness.

In the present instance, however, when her lover informed Mary
that his delay was caused principally by a slight illness of his
mother, all the coquettish pouting disappeared at once, and the pair,
restored to the confiding tone which marked their feelings with
respect to each other, began to speak of their situation and pros-
pects. In explanation of these, we may inform the reader that the
52 9


miller had set his heart on having for a son-in-law a person famili-
arly named Will Elliot of Castlehill, whose free manners and show
of substance had taken Andrew Tod's fancy. Castlehill was a
small but strong tower or keep, with a considerable piece of land
attached to it, and situated at a distance of a mile or little more
from the mill of Kirkton. Elliot, who was tenant of this place, was
a man of about thirty-five years of age, of a roving, swaggering
manner, and lavish on all occasions of his money. He had not been
many years a resident in the vale of Manor, and, it was supposed,
had brought a great deal of wealth with him, as it was plain that
the small farm which he now occupied could not maintain his
expenditure. He kept a set of fine horses, and plenty of servants
about him ; and being a good customer to the miller, and spending
whole days about the mill, lounging and jesting with him, he had
found the way, as we have said, to Andrew's good graces ; and when
he opened a proposal for a marriage, the miller was not averse to it.
'He's a roving kind o' chield,' thought Andrew Tod; 'but Mary-
wad mak' onybody into a gude husband.'

The news of Elliot having opened his addresses to her, with her
father's cordial consent, were told by Mary to Edward Burnet at
the trysting rowan-tree. ' Oh, Mary,' said the lover, ' I aye thought
something like this would happen. Your father is a rich man,
and has a little of the pride that ever gangs alang wi' riches. But
you must promise me,' continued he, speaking with great earnest-
ness 'you must promise me, Mary, whatever becomes of myself,
that you never will tak' Will Elliot as your husband. He is a bad
man, and would soon break a heart like yours.' Observing that
the young maiden only smiled at this, he repeated with greater
earnestness : ' Do not think that this is merely jealousy on my part,
Mary. Elliot is a bad man, and it will be seen and known, maybe,
some day before his death yet. You must promise, Mary, not to
think of him.'

Mary, notwithstanding his vehemence, could not help smiling
still; but she laid her hand on his arm at the same time, and said
with seriousness : ' Have I no gi'en my troth, Edward, to you ? Are
you gaun to desert me, that you tell me what I am to do regarding
other men ? They '11 be a' alike to me then,' said she with simple
feeling. Burnet's reply to this was such as might be expected from
a lover so addressed. But what more passed at this interview it
does not seem to us necessary to repeat ; suffice it to say, that after
a short time they separated ; Mary having first assured her lover of
her confidence that her father would not hurry her into a match
against her will.

Leaving Mary to wend her way to her abode, let us request the
reader to accompany us to Castlehill, the dwelling of the husband
whom the miller had chosen for his daughter. The keep of Castle-
hill was situated on an eminence, formed by the rounded angle of


a hill, projecting into the vale of the Manor, and the tower thus
commanded a view both up and down the whole strath. The interior
of the house had exceedingly little accommodation; but in those
days the whole household, master and servants, mingled so freely
together, that less room was necessary. This appeared particularly
to be the case with the household of Castlehill ; for in a large room,
on the evening in question, the master, Will Elliot, not only sat at
one board, but appeared to be on terms, in every respect, of perfect
equality with his dependents. Half-a-dozen men, dressed as farm-
servants, occupied places at the table, and were at this time plying
lustily at some ale which stood in flagons before them.

' Ha, my lads,' said Elliot, ' is it not better roving by night here,
where we are never suspected, than risking our necks every night,
as we did in Teviotdale ?'

' I am no sae sure, Will Elliot, but some of the neighbours will
soon suspect us. The last raid we took o'er the hill to Dawick was
by gude moonlight, and I am muckle mista'en if what Tarn took for
a ghost, wasna the livin' body o' Ned Burnet coming up frae seeing
the miller's daughter/

' Confound the brat,' said Elliot ; ' I '11 spoil his wooing for him.
But, lads, d'ye think it was light enough for him to ken us, if it was
he?' Some of the men said no, and others yes, so that their
master, or rather their leader, could not come to any decision on the
subject. ' Never mind,' said he at last ; ' I can tell you of something
new, something better than lifting a sheep or two ; for there 's aye
risk at the selling of them, when ane wants a pickle hard cash. Has
ony o' you noticed the gentleman that hunts alone sometimes about
the hills?'

' I saw a gentleman wi' a green hunting-dress,' replied the man
who spoke before, ' but there was a servant wi' him.'

' He is oftener alone, though,' said Elliot, ' and that man, lads, is
a prize. He must be one of the rich young nobles that are staying
with the young king at Smithfield Castle, for I saw him pay a
boy, for pointing out his road, out of a large purse filled with the
queen's best coin. That purse must be ours. Drink to our success,

More conversation of the same nature passed between the outlaw
for such was his true character and his midnight followers ; but
it is not essential to our purpose to repeat all that took place. The
result of the consultation was, that two or three of the men, and the
outlaw among them, should severally post themselves, as much
disguised as possible, at those parts of the hunting track where they
were likeliest to meet with the object of their cupidity.

A few days after this, during which nothing of interest occurred to
Mary, her lover, or any other of the personages of this true tale, a
gentleman, answering the description given by the outlaw's follower,
in so far as regarded the dress, which was a green hunting-coat, was


passing slowly along the heights that overlooked the vale of Manor.
The stranger was tall and finely formed, and every point of his
attire was in a rich and expensive style. He was armed only with
a couteau de chasse, or short hunting-sword, and appeared, from his
slow lingering pace, to be awaiting the upcoming of a companion or
attendant. He had just reached the side of a copse of underwood
when a man sprang from its cover, and seizing the stranger's arm
with a powerful and muscular grasp, demanded roughly the sur-
render of his purse. But the hunter was in the prime of his youth,
and, exerting his strength, he shook off at once the hold of our friend
Will Elliot, and drawing his sword, stood on his defence. This
required a moment's time, during which the outlaw, before pro-
ceeding further, gave a shrill call on a whistle suspended from his
neck. He then turned with his drawn sword upon the hunter ; for,
to do Elliot justice, he was afraid of no single man. The sword
of the stranger was a short one ; but in the two minutes' contest
which ensued, the outlaw found that he had to do with a master of
fence. One of Elliot's followers, however, who had heard the call,
came up at the moment, and the stranger, who saw him approaching,
almost gave up his life as lost.

In order to defend himself to the last, he changed his position so
far as to get his back to one of the strong copse bushes. But help
was at hand when least expected. Scarcely had the outlaw's follower
interposed a single blow, when a strong arm levelled him to the earth
from behind with a cudgel. The outlaw turned half round at the
unforeseen stroke which deprived him of his assistant, and on seeing
whence the aid came, bounded into the copse from which he had
issued, and was out of sight in an instant. The hunter, whose blood
was heated with the encounter, would have pursued him, but his
preserver detained him almost by force. ' It wad be an act o'
madness, sir, to pursue him. I ken him as weel as this man lying
senseless at our feet, in spite o' their disguises. They are pairt o' a
gang, and their companions will not be far off ; let us quit the place,
sir, as fast as we can.' The stranger saw the propriety of following
this advice, and the two quickly left the spot, where the outlaw's
follower still lay without signs of life.

The nearest and safest refuge to which Edward Burnet, who was
the stranger's deliverer, could conduct the gentleman, was the mill
of Kirkton. On their way thither, the stranger inquired into the
name and circumstances of his companion, and assured him that
the service he had done would not be forgotten. He also learned
on whom Burnet's suspicions fell as the authors of the outrage
suspicions which he concurred with Edward in thinking it would be
improper to mention without further confirmation. On reaching the
miller's house, and detailing what had occurred, old Andrew con-
gratulated the stranger on his escape, and praised Edward for his
manliness. ' It maun ha'e been some of the same forest gang that


cleared the Dawick barn the other night,' said the miller, speaking
of the perpetrators of the attack : ' within this year or twae, they
seem never to be out o' Tweeddale a single night : de'il be in their
skins.' Mary Tod also praised her lover ; but her praises were
confined to kind and admiring looks, which spoke her meaning, '
however, so openly, that the stranger read them evidently with as
much ease as the object of them did. The miller pressed the
stranger to remain at the mill all night ; but he declined the kind
offer, and only requested the protection of some of Andrew's sturdy
assistants in the mill as far as the town of Peebles. This was
readily granted, though the miller would have been better pleased
had his visitor stayed. The truth is, that Andrew was not a little
curious to know who the stranger might be ; but a certain dignity in
the latter's demeanour, and the richness of his apparel, struck the
miller with an undefmable feeling of respect, and placed a guard on
his lips. The stranger requested Edward Burnet also to accompany
him to the burgh town ; a request which was at once assented to by
the young man, but which the hunter read in Mary's countenance to
be not at all agreeable to her. The miller's fair daughter probably
thought that her lover had faced enough of danger, and shewn
enough of manliness, for one day. But the stranger had a certain
purpose to serve, and, in disregard of the damsel's uneasiness, not
only took Edward with him, but detained him all night, as the
miller's men reported, who had been dismissed by the stranger, with
a handsome remuneration, a short way from the town of Peebles,
and who carried a message from Edward to his mother, to prevent
any anxiety on his account.

But neither was Mary Tod nor any other person left long in
wonder or uneasiness on this subject. At an early hour on the
following day, a party of horsemen, above twenty in number, halted
for a short time at the mill of Kirkton, on their way up the vale of
Manor. At their head rode the stranger of the preceding day, and
by his side Mary Tod observed her lover on foot, acting apparently
as a guide to the party. While the stranger conversed with the
miller, Edward took the opportunity of stealing for a moment into
the house, and of explaining to the anxious Mary what was going
on, and why he had been detained all night from his home. The
miller's daughter was surprised at the hope and joy which sparkled
in her lover's countenance ; but his explanation of the cause speedily
raised sympathetic emotions in her own breast. ' It is the young
king, Mary, Darnley himsel', who was attacked yestreen ; and if I
am right in thinking, as I took an oath to the best of my belief last
night at Smithfield Castle, that it was Will Elliot who played the
villain trick, I am a made man, Mary. The farm o' Castlehill, which
you ken is the king's land, will be mine. Nae fears o' Andrew
refusing his consent then, my ain Mary ; and I will be the happiest
man alive, wi' the best wife in Tweeddale. But they are moving on


to rummage the reiving villain's keep, sae I maun away to lead
them.' And in a minute or two, before the miller's daughter could
recover from her surprise so far as to get a woman's look at the
gallant and princely form of Darnley, the party had moved on to
' their destination.

It is unnecessary to detail all that passed at the examination of
the keep of Castlehill. The outlaw himself, conscious in all likeli-
hood of having been known to Burnet at the time of his assault on
Darnley, had absconded ; nor was he ever taken, or heard of again
in the vale of Manor. Full evidence, however, of his guilt was
found ; for the poor wretch who had joined him in the previous day's
attack had crawled home on recovering his senses, and was discovered
on his pallet in a state of great suffering. He made a confession of
the whole affair, and revealed as much of other deeds as sufficed to
banish the rest of Elliot's followers from the kingdom ; and gave an
explanation of many mysterious robberies that had, in the course of
several years, annoyed and alarmed the country-side. Thus was
Burnet not only the succourer of the king in the time of need, but
his detection of Elliot's misdemeanours turned out also a most
important service to the whole district

We have little more to add, than that Darnley performed his
promise to Edward, and bestowed on him the farm of Castlehill, in
which the young man led no lonely life ; for such was Andrew Tod's
thankfulness at the narrow escape he had made from matching his
only child with a robber, that it was 'generally believed he would
have given her to Edward, though the latter had remained poor as
before. As it was, however, to have saved a king, and to be possessor
of a farm, were no disadvantages. The young king danced at
the wedding of Edward and Mary, which took place on the day on
which the bridegroom entered into the lands and house of Castlehill ;
and henceforward, the tower which had sheltered a den of midnight
reivers became the home of a happy and thriving family, one of the
junior members of which, to the great satisfaction of Andrew Tod,
who lived long enough to see it, became the miller of Kirkton on
the Manor.


AMIDST the hills of Tweeddale there are many lonely valleys,
which seem remote from all human ken little separate regions,
where you may loiter for a summer's day without seeing a living
thing, save a few straggling sheep, which lift up their heads in
seeming wonder as you pass. Or there may rise at your foot a
startled hare, or a covey of moorfowl, unused to such intrusion ;

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 13 of 58)