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Wilson's Border Tales
The Royal Bridal

Chapter 1


OR, THE KING MAY COME IN THE CADGER’S WAY.

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 ye be,
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 defeated.

"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 lightning."

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 the countryside.

"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."

"Cheerily, cheerily," 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 his liquor.

"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 unaccepted wooer.

"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 Janet’s face.

"You are a generous-hearted fellow," said the stranger, "and gut thrie shall I call you, if we meet again!"

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! 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 stranger.

"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 floor.

"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 their hand.

Yet, before sunrise, thousands were crowding to the gay scene, from every corner of Berwickshire, and from Roxburgh and the Eastern Lothian. The pavilions exhibited more costly decorations. Fair ladies, in the gayest attire, hung upon the arms of brave knights. An immense amphitheatre, where the great tourneyings and combats of the day were to take place, was seated round; and at one part of it was a richly canopied dais, where the young king, with his blooming queen, and the chief peers and ladies of both countries, were to sit, and witness the spectacle. Merry music reverbed in every direction, and the rocks and the glens re-echoed; and ever and anon, as it pealed around, the assembled thousands shouted—"Long live our guid king James, and his bonny bride." Around the pavilions, too, strutted the courtiers, with the huge ruffles of their shirts reaching over their shoulders— their scented gloves—flat bonnets, set on the one side of their heads like the cap of a modern dandy—spangled slippers, and a bunch of ribbons at their knees.


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