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Book of Scottish Story
The Fairy Bride: a Traditionary Tale


A short time before the rising of the Presbyterians. which terminated in the rout at Pentland, at young gentleman of the name of Elliot had been called by business to Edinburgh. On his way homeward, he resolved to pay a visit to an old friend named Scott, whose residence was either upon the banks of the Tweed or some of its larger tributaries, —for on this point the tradition is not very distinct. Elliot stopped at a small house of entertainment not far from Scott’s mansion, in order to give his parting directions to a servant he was despatching home with some commissions.

The signs of the times had not altogether escaped the notice of our hero. The people were quiet, but reserved, and their looks expressed anything but satisfaction. In Edinburgh there were rnusterings and inspections of troops, and expresses to and from London were hourly departing and arriving. As Elliot travelled along, he had more than once encountered small parties of military reconnoitring the country, or hastening to some post which had been assigned them. Fewer labourers were to be seen in the helds than was usual at the season. The cottars lounged before their doors, and gazed after the passing warriors with an air of sullen apathy. There was no violence or disturbance on the part of the people,—there had as yet been no arrestments,—but it was evident to the most careless that hostile suspicion was rapidly taking the place of that inactive dislike which had previously existed between the governors and the governed.

It was natural that in such a condition of the national temper, affairs of state should form the chief subject of gossip around the fireside of a country inn. Elliot was not surprised, therefore, while sitting at the long deal table, giving directions to his servant, to hear the name of his friend frequent in the mouths of the peasantry. It was a matter of course that at such a period the motions and inclinations of a wealthy and active landholder of old family should be jealously watched. But it struck him that Scott’s name was always uttered in a low, hesitating tone, as if the speakers were lahouring under a high degree of awe. He continued, therefore, some time after he had dimissed his attendant, sitting as if lost in thought, but anxiously listening to the desultory conversation dropping around him, like the few shots of a distant skirmish. The allusions of the peasants were chiefly directed to his friend’s wife. She was beautiful and kind, but there was an unearthly light in her dark eye. Then there was a dark allusion to a marriage on the hillside,—far from human habitation,—to the terror of the clergyman who officiated, at meeting so lovely a creature in so lonely a place. The Episcopalian predilections of the family of Scott were not passed unnoticed. And it seemed universally admitted that the house had been given over to the glamour and fascination of some unearthly being. The power of a leader so connected, in the impending strife, was the subject of dark forebodings.

Rather amused to find his old crony become a person of such consequence, Elliot discharged his reckoning. Mounted his steed, and on reaching Scott’s residence, was warmly and cheerfully welcomed. He was immediately introduced to the lady, whom he regarded with a degree of attention which he would have been ashamed to confess to himself was in some degree owing to the conversation he had lately overheard. She was a figure of a fairy size, delicately proportioned, with not one feature or point of her form to which objection could be urged. Her rich brown hair clustered down her neck, and lay in massive curls upon her bosom. Her complexion was delicate in the extreme, and the rich blood mantled in her face at every word. Her eyes were a rich brownish hazel, and emitted an almost preternatural light, but there was nothing ungentle in their expression. The honeymoon had not elapsed, and she stood before the admiring traveller in all the beauty of a bride—the most beautiful state of woman’s existence, when, to the unfolding delicate beauty of girlhood is superadded the flush of a fuller consciousness of existence, the warmth of affection which dare now utter itself unchecked, the Hrst half-serious, half-playful assumption of matronly dignity. After a brief interchange of compliment with her guest, she left the apartment, either because "the house affairs did call her thence,” or because she wished to leave the friends to the indulgence of an unrestrained confidential conversation.

"A perfect fairy queen," said Elliot, as the door closed behind her.

"So you have already heard that silly story?" answered his host. "Well ! I have no right to complain, for I have only myself to thank for it.”

Elliot requested that he would explain his meaning, and he in compliance narrated his "whole course of wooing."

"I was detained abroad, as you well know, for some years after his Majesty’s restoration, partly on account of the dilapidated state of my fortunes, and partly because I wished to prosecute the career of arms I had commenced. It is now about nine months since I returned to my native country. It was a gloomy day as I approached home. You remember the footpath which strikes across the hill behind the house, from the bed of the stream which mingles, about a mile below us, with that on whose banks we now are. Where it separates from the public road, I gave my horse to the servant, intending to pursue the by-path alone, resolved that no one should watch my emotions when I again beheld the home of my fathers. I was looking after the lad, when I heard the tread of horses close behind me. On turning, I saw a tall, elderly gentleman, of commanding aspect, and by his side a young lady upon a slender milk-white palfrey. I need not describe her ; you have seen her to-day. I was struck with the delicacy of her features, the sweet smile upon her lips, and the living fire that sparkled from her eyes. I gazed after her until a turning of the road concealed her from my view.

"It was in vain that I inquired among my relations and acquaintances. No person was known in the neighbourhood such as I described her. The impression she left upon me, vivid though it was at the moment, had died away, when one day, as I was walking near the turn of the road where I had lost her, she again rode past me with the same companion. The sweet smile, the glance of the eye, were heightened this time by a blush of recognition. The pair were soon lost to me round the elbow of the road. I hurried on, but they had disappeared. The straggling trees which obscured the view, ceased at a bridge which stood a couple of gun-shots before me. Ere I could reach it, I caught a glimpse of the companions. They were at the edge of the stream, a little way above the bridge—their horses were drinking. I pressed onward, but before I had cleared the intervening trees and reached the bridge, they had once more disappeared. There was a small break in the water immediately beneath the place where they had stood. For a moment, I thought that I must have mistaken its whiteness for the white palfrey, but the glance I had got of them was too clear to have been an illusion. Yet no road led in that direction. I examined the banks on both sides of the river, but that on which I saw them was too hard to receive a hoof-print, and the opposite bank was loose shingle, which refused to retain it when made. The exceeding beauty of the maiden, the mysterious nature of her disappearance, the irritable humour into which I had worked myself by conjectures and an unavailing search, riveted her impression upon my memory. I traversed the country telling my story, and making incessant inquiry. In vain! No one knew of such a person. The peasants began to look strangely on me. and whisper in each other’s ears, that I had been deluded by some Nixy. And many were the old prophecies regarding my family remembered--or manufactured-- for the occasion.

" Five months passed away in vain pursuit. My pertinacity was beginning to relax, when one evening, returning from a visit to our friend Whitelee, I heard a clashing of swords on the road before me. Two fellows ran off as I rode hastily up, leaving a gentleman, who had vigorously defended himself against their joint assault. ‘Are you hurt, sir?’ was my first inquiry. ‘I fear I am,’ replied the stranger, whom I immediately recognised as the companion of the mysterious beauty. ‘ Can I assist you?’ He looked earnestly at me, and with an expression of hesitation on his countenance. ‘ Henry Scott, you are a man of honour.’ He paused, but immediately resumed, ‘I have no choice, and I dare trust a soldier. Lend me your arm, sir. My dwelling is not far from here.’ I accompanied him, he leaning heavily upon me, for the exertion of the combat had shaken his frame, and the loss of blood weakened him. We followed the direction he indicated for nearly half an hour round the track-less base of a hill, until we came in sight of one of those old gray towers which stud our ravines. ‘ There,’ said my companion, pointing to the ruin. I recognised it immediately; it stood not far distant from the place where he and his fair fellow-traveller had disappeared, and had often been examined by me, but always in vain.

"Turning an angle of the building, we approached a heap of debris, which in one part encumbered its base. Putting aside some tangled briers which clustered around, he showed me a narrow entry between the ruins and the wall. Passing up to this, he stopped before a door, and gave three gentle knocks ; it opened, and we were admitted into a rude, narrow vault. It was tenanted, as I had anticipated, by his fair companion. As soon as her alarm at seeing her father return exhausted, bleeding, and in company with a stranger, was stilled, and the old man’s wound dressed, he turned to explain to me the circumstances in which I found him. His story was brief. He was of good family; had killed a cadet of a noble house, and was obliged to save himself from its resentment by hiding in ruins and holes of the earth. In all his wanderings his gentle daughter had never quitted his side.

“I need not weary you with the further details of our growing acquaintance. It is the common story of a young man and a young woman thrown frequently into each other’s company in a lonely place. But, oh I tame though it may appear to others, the mere memory of the three months of my life which followed is ecstasy! I saw her daily—in that unfrequented spot there was small danger of intrusion, and she dared range the hillside freely. We walked, and sat, and talked together in the birchen wood beneath the tower, and we felt our love unfold itself as their leaves spread out to the advancing summer. There was no check in the tranquil progress of our affections—no jealousies, for there was none to be jealous of. Unmarked, it overpowered us both. It swelled upon us, like the tide of a breathless summer day, purely and noiselessly.

"A few weeks ago her father took me aside, and prefacing that he had marked with pleasure our growing attachment, asked me if I had sufficient confidence in my own constancy to pledge myself to be for life an affectionate and watchful guardian of his child? He went on to say, that means of escaping from the country had been provided, and offers of promotion in the Spanish service made to him. Your own heart will suggest my answer; and I left him, charged to return after night-fall with a clergyman. Our good curate is too much attached to the family to refuse me anything. To him I revealed my story. At midnight he united me to Ellen, and scarcely was the ceremony over, when Sir James tore himself away, leaving his weeping child almost insensible in my arms.

"Two gentlemen, who accompanied Sir James to the coast, were witnesses of the marriage. It was therefore unnecessary to let any of the household into the secret. You may guess their astonishment, therefore, when, having seen the curate and me ride up the solitary glen alone under cloud of night, they saw us return in the course of a few hours with a lady, who was introduced to them as their mistress. Great has been their questioning, and great has been the delight of our jolly priest to mystify them with dark hints of ruined towers, hillsides opening, and such like. The story of the Nixy has been revived, too, and Ellen is looked on by many with a superstitious awe. I rather enjoyed the joke at first, but now begin to fear, from the deep root the folly seems to have taken, that it may one day bear evil fruits for my delicate girl.”

His augury of evil was well-founded, but the blight fell upon his own heart. As soon as he heard of the rising in the west, he joined the royal forces at the head of his tenantry. During his absence, and while the storm of civil war was raging over the land, his cherished one was seized with the pangs of premature labour. She lay in the same grave with her child, before her husband could reach his home. The remembrance of what she had undergone, her loneliness amid the tempests of winter, her isolation from all friends, had so shaken her frame that the first attack of illness snapped the thread of life. Her sufferings were comparatively short. But the widower! He sought to efface the remembrance of his loss in active service. Wherever insubordination showed itself, he prayed for employment. The Presbyterians learned at last to consider him as the embodied personification of persecution. The story of his mysterious marriage got wind. He was regarded as one allied to, and acting under, the influence of unholy powers. He knew it, and, in the bitterness of his heart, he rejoiced to be marked out by their fear and terror, as one who had nothing in common with them. His own misery, and this outcast feeling, made him aspire to be ranked in their minds as a destroying spirit. The young, gallant, and kind-hearted soldier became the most relentless persecutor of the followers of the Covenant. Even yet does his memory, and that of his Fairy Bride, live in popular tradition like a thunderstorm, gloomy and desolating, yet not without lambent flashes of more than earthly beauty. — EDINBURGH LITERARY JOURNAL.


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