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Book of Scottish Story
The Miller of Doune: a Traveller's Tale


CHAPTER III

The time was now drawing near for the sports to be held at Stirling, and William was aye wanting to speak to his father about it, and to ken if they were gaun; but Jeanie advised against it. "If ye speak till him, and fash him about it enow,” says she, "it’s ten to ane but he’ll say no, and then, ye ken, there’s an’ end o’t; but gif ye say naething, and keep steady to your wark, l like enough he may speak o’ gaun himsel; sae tak my advice an’ sae naething ava about it."`

William did as Jeanie wanted him, but still the miller didna speak, an’ now it was the afternoon of the day before the sports were to come on, an’ no a word had been said about them; an William was unco vexed, an' didna weel ken what to do. When he’s sitting thinking about it, the door opens, an’ in steps their neebour, Saunders Mushet, just to crack a wee; an’ by an’ by he says, "Weel, miller, an’ what time will ye be for setting aff the morn’s morning?”

"Me!" said the miller," an’ what to do?"

"What to do?" says Saunders, "why, to see the sports at Stirling, to be sure; you’ll surely never think o’ missing sic a grand sight?"

“An’ troth, Saunders," says the miller, "I had clean forgotten’t. 'Od, I daur-say there’ll be grand fun, an’ my bairns wad maybe like to see’t; an’ now that I think o’t, they’ve dune unco weel this while past, especially William there, wha’s wrought mair than e’er I saw him do afore in the same space o’ time; sae get ye ready, bairns, to set out at five o’clock the ok Saunders up as we gae by."

This was glad news to the miller’s family, an’ ye needna doubt but they were a' ready in plenty o’ time; an’ when they cam to Stirling, they got their breakfast, an' a gude rest before aught o’clock cam, which was the hour when the sports were to begin; an' grand sports they were, an’ muckle diversion gaed on; but nane o’ the miller’s family took ony share in them, till they cam to puttin’ the stane, and flingin’ the mell.

"Now James, my man," says Jeanie, squeezing his arm.

“I’ll do my best, Jeanie," says James, "ye may depend on that; and if I’m beaten, I canna help it, ye ken."

James lost at the puttin’-stane,—by about an inch just; the folk said by the ither man’s slight o’ hand, an’ having the art o’t. But when they cam to fling the mell, there wasna a man could come within twa ell o' him. Sae James got the prize, which was a grand gun an’ a fine pouther horn.

An’ now the cry gaed round to clear the course, and for the rinners to come forrit; and Jeanie she helps William aff wi’ his coat and waistcoat, and maks him tie it round his waist, and gies him mony a caution no to rin ower fast at first, but to hain himsel for the push; an' when she has him a’ right and sorted, she begins to look at the aught that’s to rin wi’ him, When her ee cam to the middle ane,—"Gudesake," says she, "wha's that? Surely—yes-—no—an’ yet, if he had but yellow hair in place o’ red, I could swear to him. Friend," continues Jeanie to the man next to her, "can ye tell me what’s his name amang
the rinners there,—the man in the middle, I mean, wi’ the red head?"

"Why, honest woman," said he, hesitating a little, "I’m not just sure,—that is to say,—but why do you ask ?”

"For a reason I ken mysel," said Jeanie; "but since ye canna, or winna, tell me, I’ll try somebody else."

She then turned to look for James, but the signal was given, an’ awa they went helter skelter, as if it was deil tak the hindmost. But mony o’ them couldna rin lang at that rate, and they drapped aff ane after anither, till naebody was left but William and the red-headed man; an’ the cry got up that the miller’s son wad win, for William had keepit foremost from the lirst. But some gash carles noticed that though the red-headed man was hindmost, he lost nae grund, an’ there was nae saying how it might end. William himself began to be a wee thing feared, for he had mair than ance tried to leave the ither man farer ahint him; but as he quickened his pace, sae did the ither, an’ he was never nearer nor ever farer frae him than about ten yards. In a little while afterwards they cam up to the distance-post, and when they had passed it a wee bit,—"Now’s my time,"thought William to himsel; an he puts on faster, an’ the cry raise that the miller’s son had it clean, an’ was leaving the ither ane fast, fast; but that was sune followed by anither cry, that the red-haired man was coming up again. William heard him gaining on him, an he gained an’ gained, till he was fairly up wi’ him; an’ now they ran awhile breast an' breast thegither; but in spite o’ a’ that William could do, the redheaded man gaed by him, little by little, an’ wan the race by four yards.

"My ain puir William," cried Jeanie, dawtin’ an' makin’ o` him, "no to be first. But ne’er mind it," continued she, "for ye hae muckle credit by it; for a' the folk round me said that they ne’er saw sic a race since Stirling was a toun, sae ye’re no to tak it to heart. ”

"Surely no," said William; "an yet it’s gey hard to be beaten.”

"Weel, weel," said Jeanie, "so it is- so it is; but dinna speak,—dinna speak yet; just tak breath an` rest ye."

A cry now got up to mak room, an’ gie air; an' the crowd fell back an' made an open space between the twa runners; an’ when Jeanie turned round, lo and behold she sees John Murdoch, standing wi’ his red win in ae hand, an' rubbin’ his lang yellow hair wi’ a napkin in the tither. An' what he had dune to her an’ to Bawtie, an’ makin’ William lose the race too, made her sae angry, that up she flees to him,—"An’ how daured ye kill our Bawtie?" she cries; "I say, how daured ye kill our Bawtie?"

Wi’ that up starts James, "An’ by my faith, John Murdoch, but ye’ll hae the weight o’ my nieve now;" but before he could do anything, in comes the Earl o’ Lennox between them,—"What, sir, dare to strike your sovereign?"

"Preserve us a’," cried Jeanie, jumping back. and turning white and red, time about.

"Here," continued the earl, "seize this fellow, and keep him fast till we can examine into it.”

"No, no, Lennox,” cried the King, panting for breath; "don’t touch him,— don’t touch him; there’s no harm done. But where’s the Miller o’ Doune?— Bring John Marshall’ An’ the cry raise up for the Miller o’ Doune.

"An’ wha wants me ?” quoth John Marshall. "I’m here."

"Your sovereign wants ye," says ane o’ the courtiers; "sae come ye to King James. An’ now tak aff yer bonnet, an’ stand there." John Marshall stood still without lookin' up, waiting to hear what King James wanted wi’ him.

An’ he hears a voice say,—"Look at me, miller, an’ tell me if you think we e’er met before."

John Marshall raised his een, and after a pause, he says, "An please your Majesty, if it wadna offend your Grace, I wad say that ye had ance been at the Mill o’ Doune."

"Ye’re right, miller," said James, "ye’re quite right. An’ little did ye ken, when ye louped aff your horse to save the robin, an’ to tak it hame wi’ ye, that your sovereign was so near ye, an’ saw it all, as well as the way that ye bring up your family to serve their Maker; an’ it gied me a gude opinion o’ ye, miller, an’ all that I hae learned since has confirmed me in it, an’ makes me say, before a’ the folk here present, that ye’re a gude and an honest man. Ye tell’t me, miller, that ye wad hae to leave the mill; but I tell ye that I hae settled it, an’ that it’s yours at the auld rent, while grass grows an’ water rins, an’ lang may you an’ yours possess it.’

King James having finished, the miller tried to say something; but his lip began to quiver, an’ his ee to fill, an’ he couldna speak; sae he claspit his bonnet between his twa hands, laid it to his breast, and bowed his head in silence to the king.

"It’s enough," said King James; "an’ now call Geordie Wilson o’ the Hope." Sae Geordie was brought and placed before him, and the king said to I him, "I hear, young man, that ye hae met wi’ some misfortunes of late, an’ I hae been askin’ about you, an’ find that ye’re an industrious man, an’ a man o’ character, an’ hae behaved yoursel weel in a’ respects; sae gang ye hame to the Hope, an’ ye’ll maybe find something, baith in the house an’ out o’ the house, I that will please ye. An’ hear ye, Geordie Wilson,” continued King James, "if it happens, as it may happen, that ye court a lass, tak ye gude care that she’s no quick o’ the temper" (an’ he glanced at Jeanie); "an’ dinna mak ower muckle o’ her, or gie her a’ her ain way; for there’s a saying, A birkie wife, an’ a new lightit candle, are the better o’ haein’ their heads hauden doun."

"Come hither, William Marshall," said King James; "this prize was for the best runner among his subjects, and the king canna tak it, sae it’s yours; and, young man," continued the king, in a lower voice, "ye got a sairer fa` than I intended ye, but my blude was up at the time,——for kings are no muckle used to haein’ hands laid on them."

"My liege," cried the Earl of Lennox, "the Queen fears that danger may arise from your Majesty’s remaining so long uncovered after your late exertion, and her Majesty entreats that you will be pleased to throw this cloak around you.”

"’Tis well thought of, Lennox," said the king; "and now for a brisk walk, and a change of dress, and all will be well;” and as he went away the people threw up their hats and bonnets, and the air resounded with cries of, "Long live the good King James!"


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