Early, in July, in the year
of grace 1503, Lamberton Moor presented a proud and right noble spectacle.
Upon it was outspread a city of pavilions, some of them covered with cloth
of the gorgeous purple and glowing crimson, and decorated with ornaments
of gold and silver. To and fro, upon brave steeds, richly caparisoned,
rode a hundred lords and their followers, with many a score of gay and
gallant knights and their attendant gentlemen. Fair ladies, too, the
loveliest and the noblest in the land, were there. The sounds of music
from many instruments rolled over the heath. The lance gleamed, and the
claymore flashed, and war steeds neighed, as he notes of the bugle rang
loud for the tournament. It seemed as if the genius of chivalry had fixed
its court upon the heath.
It may be meet, however,
that we say a word or two concernirig Lamberton, for though, now-a-days,
it may lack the notoriety of Gretna in the annals of matrimony, and though
its "run of business" may be of a humbler character, there was a
time when it could boast of prouder visitors than ever graced the Gretna
blacksmith’s temple. To the reader, therefore, who is unacquainted with
our eastern Borders, it may be necessary to say, that, at the northern
boundary of the lands appertaining to the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed and
about three miles, a furlong, and few odd yards from that oft-recorded
good town, a dry stone wall, some thirty inches in height, runs from the
lofty and perpendicular sea-banks over a portion of what may be termed the
fag-end of Lammermoor, and now forming a separation between the laws of
Scotland and the jurisdiction of the said good town; and on crossing to
the northern side of this humble but important stone-wall, you stand on
the lands of Lamberton. Rather more than a stone-throw from the sea, the
great north road between London and Edinburgh forms a gap in the wall
aforesaid, or rather "dyke;" and there, on either side of the road, stands
a low house, in which Hymen’s high priest are ever ready to make one flesh
of their worshippers. About a quarter of a mile north of these, may still
be traced something of the ruins of the kirk, where the princess of
England became the bride of the Scottish king, and the first link of the
golden chain of UNION, which eventually clasped the two nations in one,
may be said to have been formed.
The gay and gallant
company were assembled on Lamberton, for within the walls of its kirk, the
young, ardent and chivalrous James IV. of Scotland was to receive the hand
of his fair bride, Margaret of England, whom Dunbar describes as a
"Fresehe rose, of cullor
reid and white"
The wild heath presented
all the splendour of a court, and the amusements of a crowded city. Upon
it were thousands of spectators, who had come to witness the royal
exhibitions, and the first durable bond of amity between two rival
nations. Some crowded to behold the tourneyings of the knights with sword,
spear, and battle-axe; others to witness the representation of plays,
written "expressly for the occasion;" while a third party were delighted
with the grotesque figures and positions of the morris-dancers; and a
fourth joined in, or were spectators of the humbler athletic exercises of
wrestling, leaping, putting the stone, and throwing the hammer.
All, too, were anxious to
see the young king, whose courage and generosity were the theme of
minstrels, and of whom one sayeth--
"And ye Christian princes, whosoever
If ye be destitute of a noble captayne,
Take James of Scotland for his audacite
And proved manhood, if ye well attayne."
But the young monarch was
as remarkable for his gallantry and eccentricity, as for his generosity
and courage; and no one seemed able to tell whether or not he lodged in
the magnificent pavilion over which the royal standard of Scotland waved,
or whether he intended to welcome his royal bride by proxy.
But our story requires
that, for a time, we leave princes, knights, and torunaments, and notice
humbler personages and more homely amusements. At a distance from the
pavilion, the tourneyings, the music, the plays, and other exhibitions,
was a crowd composed of some seven or eight hundred peasantry engaged in
and witnessing the athletic games of the Borders. Near these was a number
of humbler booths, in which the spectators and competitors might regale
themselves with the spirits and tippenny then in use.
Amongst the competitors was
one called Meikle Robin, or Robin Meikle. He was strength personified. His
stature excceeded six feet; his shoulders were broad, his chest
round, his limbs well and strongly put together. He was a man of
prodigious bone and sinews. At throwing the hammer, at putting the stone
no man could stand before him. He distanced all who came against him; and,
while he did so, he seemed to put forth not half his strength, while his
skill appeared equal to the power of his ann.
Now amongst the spectators
of the sports, there stood one who was known for many miles around by the
appeleation of Strong Andrew. He was not so tall, by three inches,
as the conqueror of the day; nor could he measure with him either across
the shoulders or round the chest; and, in fact he was rather a thin man
than otherwise, nor did he appear a powerful one—but his bones were well
set. His sinews were all strength—they were not incumbered with flesh. He
was as much a model of activity and boldness, as Meikle Robin was of
bodily power. Now, Andrew was a native of Eyemouth; he was about three and
thirty years of age, and he united in his person the callings of a
fisherman and cadger or, in other words, Andrew, being without mother,
sister wife, or servant, sold himself the fish which he had caught. His
domestic establishment consisted of a very large and very wise water-dog,
and a small pony; and with the last mentioned animal he carried his fish
around the country. For several days, and on the day in question, he had
brought his store for sale to the camps or pavilions at Lamberton, where
he had found a ready and an excellent market. Now, as Andrew stood and
witnessed the championship of Meikle Robin, his blood boiled within him;
and "O," thought he "but if I had onybody that I could trust to tak care
o’ the Galloway and my jacket, and the siller, but I would tak the
conceit out o’ ye, big as ye are."
Andrew possessed his
country’s courage and its caution in equal proportions; and, like a wise
man, he did not choose to risk his money by trusting it to strangers. In
such a motley company it would not be safe to do so now-a-days; but it
would have been much less so then. For, at that time, and especially on
the Borders, the law of mine and thine was most imperfectly
understood. But Andrew’s determination to humble the champion was well
nigh overcoming his caution, when the former again stepped into the ring,
and cast off his jacket for a wrestling bout. He stood looking round him
for a minute; and it was evident that every one was afraid to enter the
lists against him. Andrew could endure it no longer; and he was
saying—"Will ony person tak charge o’ my Galloway?"—
When a young man of middle
stature, and whose dress bespoke him to be a domestic of one of the
noblemen who had come to witness the royal festival, and grace it with
their presence, entered the lists. Without even throwing off his bonnet,
he stretched out his arms to encounter the champion, who met him—somewhat
after the fashion that Goliath met David—with contempt. But the first
grasp of the stranger, as he seized his arms above the elbows, instead of
them round his waist (as was and is the unscientific practice of the
Borders), informed Robin that he had no common customer to deal with.
Robin, as a wrestler, in a great measure trusted to mere strength and
tripping. He knew nothing of turning an antagonist from his centre of
gravity by a well-timed and well-directed touch. He therefore threw his
arms around the back of his opponent (so far as the grasp which the other
had got of them would permit), with the intention of giving him a "Hawick
hug," but he found he could not join his hands together so as to effect
his purpose, and his strength could not accomplish it. Ignorant of his
antagonist’s mode of attack, he had allowed him an advantage over him; and
when he endeavoured to gain it by tripping his heels, the other suddenly
changed his feet, favoured Robin with a "Devonian kick," and suddenly
dashing his bended knee against his person, Robin lost his footing, and
fell upon his back with the stranger above him.
The spectators shouted; and
Andrew, mounting his pony, exclaimed aloud—
"Weel dune, stranger—I’m as
glad as though I had gotten a gowden coin."
Now, it is but justice to
Andrew to say, that he had repeatedly defeated Meikle Robin, both at
wrestling, cudgel-playing, and every athletic exercise; but I shall give
the reader an account of his having done so upon one occasion, in his own
words, as it is necessary for the forwarding of our narrative.
Andrew went to Lamberton
with his fish on the following day, and again he found a profitable
market; and some words had again passed between him and Meikle Robin; but,
as he was returning home, he overtook the stranger by whom Robin had been
"Losh, man!" said Andrew,
pulling up his pony, "is this ye? I canna tell ye hoo glad I am to see ye,
for I’ve dune naething but thocht o’ ye ever since yesterday, when I saw
ye tak the brag oot o’ Meikle Robin, just as easily as I would bend a
willy-wand. Now, I hope, sir, although ye be a stranger, ye’ll no think
ill o’ my familiarity?"
"Think ill, comrade," said
the other, "why should I do so?"
"Why I watna," said Andrew,
"but there seems to be sae mony kind o’ butterflies getting about the
court now, wi’ their frills and their gold-laced jackets, from what I can
judge o’ their appearance for some days past on the Moor, that I wasna
sure but it might be like master-like man wi’ ye, and I was uncertain how
to speak to ye. I didna ken but that, in some things, ye might imitate
your superiors, and treat a cadger body as though they hadna been o’ the
same flesh and blood wi’ yoursel’"
The stranger laughed, and
repeated the adage—
"Why—the king may come in
the cadger’s way."
"Very true, sir," said
Andrew, "and may find him a man mair like himsel than he imagines. But,
sir, what I was gaun to say to you—and it is connected wi’ your defeating
o’ Meikle Robin yesterday. (At least I wish to make it connected wi’ it).
Weel, just five days syne I was at Lamberton— it was the very day after
the royal party arrived—and Robin was there. Perhaps you were there
yoursel; but the tents were there, and the games, and the shows, and
everything were going on just the same as you saw them yesterday. But, as
I was telling ye, Meikle Robin was there. Now, he gets the brag o’ being
the best cudgel-player, putter, and wrestler, in a’ Berwickshire—and,
between you and I, that is a character that I dinna like to hear going
past mysel. However, as I was saying, on the day after the royal party had
come to the Moor, and the games were begun, he had the ball fairly at his
foot, and fient a’ ane durst tak him up ava. He was terribly insulting in
the pride o’ his victoriousness, and in order to humble him, some were
running frae tent to tent to look for Strong Andrew—(that is me ye
observe; for they ca’ me that as a sort o’ nickname—though for what reason
I know not). At last they got me. I had had a quegh or twa, and I was gay
weel on—(for I never, in my born days, had had such a market for my fish;
indeed, I got whatever I asked, and I was wishing in my heart, that the
king’s marriage party would stop on Lammerton Moor for a twelvemonth)—but,
though I had a drappie owre the score, Robin was as sober as a judge; for,
plague tak him! he kenned what he was doing— he was owre cunnin’ to drink,
and laid himself out for a quarrel. It was his aim to carry the ‘gree’
owre a’ upon the Moor at everything that the king, who is said to be as
fond o’ thae sort o’ sports as onybody, might take notice o’ him, and do
something for him. There was a cowardliness in the very idea o’ such
conduct—it showed a fox’s heart in the carcass o’ a bullock. Weel, those
that were seeking me got me, and clean off hand I awa to the tent where he
was making a’ his great braggadocio, and, says I to him, ‘Robin,’ says I,
‘I’m your man at onything ye like, and for whatever ye like. I’ll run
ye—or, I’ll jump ye—I’ll putt the stone wi’ ye—or, I’ll fight ye—and,
if ye like it better, I’ll wrestle ye—or try ye at the cudgels—and dinna
be cutting yer capers there owre a wheen callants.’ Weel, up he got, and a
ring was made aback o’ the tent. He had an oak stick as thick as your
wrist, and I had naething but the bit half switch that I hae in my hand
the now, for driving up the Galloway. Mine was a mere bog-reed to his,
independent o’ its being fully six inches shorter—and, if ye ken onything
about cudgelling, that was a material point. Od, sir, I found I couldna
cope wi’ him. My stick, or rather switch, was nae better than half a dozen
o’ rashes plaited together.
"‘Will ony o’ ye lend me a
stick, gentlemen?’ cried I to the by-standers, while I keepit guarding him
off the best way I couId. About a dozen were offered in an instant. I
gript at the nearest. Now, ‘Heaven hae mercy on ye!’ said I, and gied him
a whissel beneath the elbow, and before ye could say Jock Robison! cam’
clink across his knee. I declare to ye, sir, he cam’ spinning down like a
totum. He talked na mair o’ wrestling, or cudgelling, or onything else
that day. I settled him for four and twenty hours at ony rate. Weel, sir,
I was perfectly delighted when I saw you lay him on the broad o’ his back
yesterday; and I saw nae mair o’ him, to speak to frae the day that I
humbled him, until about four hours syne, when I met in wi’ him on the
Moor, amang three or four o’ his cronies, at his auld trade o’ boasting
again. I had nae patience with him. But he had a drop owre rneikle, and at
ony rate, I thought there could be nae honour in beating the same man
twice. But, says I to him, ‘Ye needna craw sae loud, for independent o’ me
bringing ye to the ground at cudgelling, and makin’ ye no worth a doit, I
saw a youngster that wrestled wi’ ye yesterday, twist ye like a barley-strae’.
And, to do him justice, sir, he didna attempt to deny it but said that he
wud do the same by me, if I would try ye, and offered to back ye against
ony man in the twa kingdoms. Now, sir, I looked about all the day in the
crowd, just to see if I could clap my een on ye, and to ask ye, in a
friendly way, if ye would let me try what sort o’ stuff ye are made o’,
but I couldna fall in wi’ ye—and as this is a gay level place here, and
the ground is not very hard, what do ye say if we try a thraw, in a
neighbourly way; and after that, we can cut a bit branch frae ane o’ the
allers, for a cudgelling bout. Ye will really very particularly oblige me,
sir, if ye will."
The stranger readily
replied "With all my heart, friend—be it so."
Andrew cast off his jacket
and bonnet, and, throwing them on the ground, his large water-dog, which
was called Caesar placed itself beside them.
"Dinna thraw till I get a
grip," cried Andrew, as the stranger had him already lifted from his
feet—"that’s no fair—it’s no our country way o’ thrawing."
The request was granted,
and only granted, when Andrew measured his length upon the ground, and his
dog sprang forward to attack the victor.
"Get back, Caesar!" shouted
its master—"It was a fair fa’, I canna deny it! Sorrow tak me if I thought
there was a man in ten parishes, could hae done the like! Gie’s yer hand,"
said he, as he rose to his feet, "I’ll thraw nor cudgel nae mair wi’ you;
but, as sure as my name’s Andrew, I would bite my last coin through the
middle to gie ye the half o’t, should ye want it. I like to meet wi’ a
good man, even though he should be better than mysel’—and, in the
particular o’ wrestling, I allow that ye do bang me--though I dinna say
how we might stand in other respects, for they’ve no been tried. But it
was a fair fa’. ‘Od, ye gied me a jirk as though I had been kissed by a
Before reaching Eyemouth,
they came to a change-house by the wayside, which was kept by a widow,
called Nancy Hewitt; and who was not only noted on account of the
excellence of the liquor with which she supplied her customers, but who
also had a daughter, named Janet, whose beauty rendered her the toast of
"I am always in the habit,"
said Andrew, "o’ stopping here for refreshment, and, if he hae nae
objections, we’ll toom a stoup together."
answered his companion.
The fair daughter of the
hostess was from home when they entered, and Andrew inquired after her
with a solicitude that bespoke something more between them than mere
acquaintanceship. The stranger slightly intimated that he had heard of
her, and, after a few seemingly indifferent questions respecting her, for
a few minutes became silent and thoughtful.
"Hoot, man," said Andrew,
"I am vexed to see ye sae dowie—gie cauld care a kick like a foot ba’.
This is nae time to be sad when the king is merry, and the country’s
merry, and we’re a’ happy thegither. Cheer up, I say, man—what’s the
matter wi’ ye?—care has a strange look on a body’s shouthers at seven or
eight and twenty; and I dinna think ye can be mair. I am on the wrang side
o’ three and thirty, and I would snap my fingers at it, were it blawing
its breath in my face as snell as a drift on an open moor! Losh man! what
ails ye? Ye would say I had met wi’ a friar in orders grey, lamenting owre
the sins o’ the world, and the poverty o’ his pocket, instead o’ a young
bang fellow like you, that’s a match for onybody. Come, here’s to the
health o’ bonny Jenny Hewitt."
"With all my heart," said
the stranger; and, pronouncing the name of the fair maiden, quaffed off
"Now, that’s wiselike;
there’s some spirit in that," said Andrew, following his example; "let’s
be merry while we can; that’s aye my creed. The ne’er a grain o’ guid, as
I used to say to my mother, comes out o’ melancholy. Let’s hae a sang—I
see you hae a singing face—or I’ll gie ye ane mysel’, to mak a beginning."
So saying, with a voice
like thunder broken into music, he sang as follows:—
In our young, young days,
When the gowany braes
Were our temple o’ joy and glee.
Some dour auld body would shake his head,
And tell us our gladness away would flee,
And our hearts beat as heavy as lead.
Stupid auld body—silly auld body—
His mother spained him wi’ a canker-worm
In our auld, auld days, the gowany braes
Are memory’s rainbows owre time and storm.
In our proud young days,
When the gowany braes
Kenn’d the feet o’ my love and me,
Some ill-matched carle would girn and say—
"Puir things! wi’ a twalmonth’s marriage, and ye
Will find love like a sna-ba’ decay."
Stupid auld carle—leein’ auld carle—
His mother spained him wi’ a canker-worm
In our auld, auld days, like gowany braes,
Our love unchang’d, has its youthfu’ form.
In our grey-haired days,
When the gowany braes
Are owre steep for our feet to climb—
When her back is bowed, and her lovely e’e,
Once bright as a beam frae the sun, is dim—
She’ll be still my bit lassie to me.
Stupid auld body—wicked auld body—
Love, like the gowan, ‘s a winter liver
The smile o’ a wife is the sun o’ its life,
An’ her bosom a brae where it blooms for ever.
A few minutes after Andrew
had concluded his song, the fair daughter of their hostess entered the
house. Andrew’s first glance bespoke the lover, and the smile with which
she returned it, showed that the young fisherman and cadger was not an
"By my sooth, fair maiden,"
said the stranger, "and thy sweet face doesna belie its fame; admiration
fails in painting the loveliness of thy glowing cheeks, and thine een
might make a moonbeam blush!"
He seemed practised in the
art of gallantry, and poured into her ear other compliments in a similar
strain. She hung her head, and turned it aside from him, as a woman will
when flattered, or when she wishes to be flattered, but she did not rise
to depart; and he felt that the incense which he offered to her beauty was
not unacceptable. But the words and the attentions of the stranger were as
daggers in the ears, and as wormwood in the heart of Andrew.
"The mischief rive his
smooth tongue out o’ his head!" thought Andrew; "but though I hae nae
chance in speaking balderdash wi’ him, and though he did thraw me (and it
was maybe by an unmanly quirk after a’), I’ll let her see, if he has the
glibest tongue, wha has the manliest arm!"
Neither love nor liquor,
however, can allay the cravings of a hungry stomach, and the stranger (who
evidently beguiled Andrew to drink more than the portion that ought to
have fallen to him) called for something to eat, by way of a relish.
"O sir," said Nancy Hewitt,
their hostess, "I’m verra sorry an’ vexed that I hae naething in the house
that I could gie ye—naething o’ kitchen kind but the haddocks which Andrew
left this forenoon; and I hae been sae thrang wi’ foak gaun back an’
forret to Lamberton, that they’re no gutted yet. But if ye could tak them,
ye are welcome to them."
"Gut two, then, good dame,
and prepare them," said the stranger.
"I doubt, sir, twa winna
do," said she, "for they’re but sma’—I had better gut thrie."
"Certainly, gut thrie,"
said Andrew; "I brought the stranger in—and what is a haddie, or what
are they worth?" for Andrew was anxious that the attention of his
companion should be turned to anything, were it only withdrawn from
"You are a generous-hearted
fellow," said the stranger, "and gut thrie shall I call you, if we
Having therefore partaken
of his repast, he proposed that they should again fill the stoup to
friendship’s growth; and although Andrew was wroth and jealous because of
the words which he had spoken, and the attention he had shown to fair
Janet, he was not made of materials to resist the proposition to have
another cup. But while they were yet drinking it, Andrew’s pony, which had
repeatedly raised its fore foot and struck it heavily on the ground, as if
calling on its master to "come," being either scared, or its patience
being utterly exhausted, set off at a canter from the door. He had rushed
out without his bonnet, but, before he reached the road, it was fully
forty yards a-head of him, and the louder he called on it, the nearer did
the pony increase its pace to a gallop.
Andrew had scarce reached
the door, when the stranger drew out a well-lined purse, and after jerking
it in his hand, he again placed it in his pocket, and more boldly than
before renewed his gallantries to fair Janet. Emboldened, however, by what
he conceived to have been his recent success, he now overshot the mark;
and, as Andrew again reached the house, he was aroused by the cries, of—
"Mother! Mother!—O Andrew!
Old Nancy’s voice, too,
broke upon his ears at its highest, scolding pitch; but he could only
distinguish the word "Scoundrel!"
He rushed into the room,
and there he beheld his own Janet struggling in the embrace of the
"Villain!" cried Andrew,
and the other started round— but with our fisherman at all times it was
but a word and a blow—and his blood, which before had been heated and
fermenting, now boiled—he raised his hand and dealt a blow at his
companion, which, before he could parry it, laid him prostrate on the
"Base loon!" cried the
stranger, starting to his feet, "ye shall rue that blow." And he flung off
his bonnet as if to return it.
"Hooly, billy!" said
Andrew, "there is as little manliness in fighting afore women as there was
in your conduct to my bit Janet. But naething will give me mair
satisfaction than a round wi’ ye—so wi’ a’ my heart—come to the door, and
the best man for it."
Blood was issuing from the
lips of the stranger, but he seemed nothing loath to accompany his quondam
friend to the door. Janet, however, flung her arms around Andrew, and the
old woman stood between them, and implored them, for her sake, to keep the
peace towards each other.
"O sir," cried she, "let
there be nae such carryings on in my house. My dochter and me are twa lone
women, and the disgrace o’ such an on-carrying, and at such a time, too,
when the king and a’ the gentry are in the neigbourhood, might be attended
by there’s nae saying what consequences to me and mine. Andrew, man, I
wonder that ye haena mair sense."
"Sense!" returned Andrew,
"I hae baith sense and feeling; and had it been the king himsel that I saw
layin’ a hand upon my Janet, I would hae served him in the same way that I
did that man."
"Ye brag largely and
freely, neighbour," said the stranger, throwing down a noble upon the
table to pay for his entertainment; "but we shall meet again, where there
are no women to interfere."
"Tak up your gowd, sir,"
replied Andrew, "for though I can boast o’ nae sic siller, coppers will
pay for a’ that we have had. I brought you in here to treat ye, and our
quarrel shall make no difference as to that. Sae put up your gowd again;
and as to meeting ye—I will meet ye the night, or the morn, at ony place,
or at ony time."
"I shall ask ye to meet me
before ye dare," said the stranger; and leaving the coin upon the table as
he left the house, "the gowd," added he, "will buy a gown and a bodice for
the bosom of bonny Janet."
"I insist, sir, that ye tak
back the siller," cried Andrew.
"Dear sake, Andrew," said
old Nancy, "he’s no offering it to you! It’s no you that has ony richt to
refuse it." And taking up the piece, she examined it with a look of
satisfaction, turning it round and round in her fingers—wrapped it in a
small piece of linen rag, which lay in a corner of the room, and
mechanically slipped it into her pocket. But it was neither everyday,
every week, nor every year that Nancy Hewitt saw a coin of gold.
On the third day after the
encounter between Strong Andrew and the stranger, the last and great day
of the festivities on Lamberton took place; for on that day the royal
bride was to arrive. The summer sun ushered in a glorious morning—its
beams fell as a sheet of gold on the broad ocean, melting down and
chaining its waves in repose. To the south lay Lindisferne, where St.
Cuthbert had wrought miracles, with the Ferne Isles where he lived,
prayed, and died, and the proud rock on which King Ida reigned. They
seemed to sleep in the morning sunbeams—smiling in sleep. To the north was
gigantic St. Abb’s stretching out into the sea, as if reposing on its
breast; amidst their feet and behind them, stretched the Moor and its
purple heather; while, from the distance, the Cheviots looked down on
them; and Hallidon, manured by the bones of slaughtered thousands, lay at