But June came, and Thomas
Hardie was a sorrowful man. He had in no measure overcome the calamities
of former seasons, and he was still unprepared with his rent. Margaret
shared not his sorrow, but strove to cheer him, and said—
"We shall hae a snawba’ in
June, though I climb to the top o’ Cheviot for it."
"O my bonny lassie,"
replied he—and he could see the summit of Cheviot from his farm— "dinna
deceive yersel’ wi’ what could only be words spoken in jest; but at ony
rate I perceive there has been nae snaw on Cheviot for a month past."
Now, not a week had passed
but Margaret had visited the aperture in the ravine, where the snowball
was concealed, not through idle curiosity, to perceive whether it had
melted away, but more effectually to stop up every crevice that might have
been made in the materials with which she had blocked up the mouth of the
But the third day of the dreadful
month had not passed, when a messenger arrived at Tollishill from
Thirlestane with the abrupt mandate—"June has
"And we shall be at
Thirlestane the morn," answered Margaret.
"O my doo," said Thomas,
"what nonsense are ye talking!—that isna like ye, Margaret; I’ll be in
Greenlaw Jail the morn; and oor bits o’ things in the hoose, and oor
flocks, will be seized by the harpies o’ the law—and the only thing that
distresses me is, what is to come o’ you, hinny."
"Dinna dree the death ye’ll
never dee," said Margaret affectionately; "we shall see, if we be spared,
what the morn will bring."
"The fortitude o’ yer mind,
Margaret," said Thomas, taking her hand; and he intended to have said
more, to have finished a sentence in admiration of her worth, but his
heart filled, and he was silent.
On the following morning
Margaret said unto him—
"Now, Thomas, if ye are
ready, we’ll gang to Thirlestane, it is aye waur to expect or think o’ an
evil than to face it."
"Margaret, dear," said he,
"I canna comprehend ye— wherefore should I thrust my head into the lion’s
den? It will soon enough seek me in my path."
Nevertheless she said unto
him, "Come," and bade him be of good heart; and he arose and accompanied
her. But she conducted him to the deep ravine, where the waters seem to
sleep, and no sunbeam ever falls; and, as she removed the earth and the
stones, with which she had blocked up the mouth of the cavity in the rock,
he stood wondering. She entered the aperture, and rolled forth the firm
mass of snow which was yet too large to be lifted by hands. When Thomas
saw this, he smiled and wept at the same instant, and he pressed his
wife’s cheek to his bosom, and said—
"Great has been the care o’
my poor Margaret, but it is o’ no avail,, for though ye hae proved mair
than a match for the seasons, the proposal was but a jest o’ Lauderdale."
"What is a man but his
word?" replied Margaret; "and him a nobleman, too."
"Nobility are but men,"
answered Thomas, "and seldom better men than ither folk. Believe me, if we
were to gang afore him wi’ a snawba’ in oor hands, we should only get
lauched at for oor pains."
"It was his ain agreement,"
added she, "and, at ony rate, we can be naething the waur for seeing if he
will abide by it."
Breaking the snowy mass,
she rolled up a portion of it in a napkin, and they went towards
Thirlestane together; though often did Thomas stop by the way and say—
"Margaret, dear, I’m
perfectly ashamed to gang upon this business; as sure as I am standing
here, as I have tauld ye, we will only get oorselves lauched at."
"I would rather be
lauched at," added she, "than despised for breaking my word; and, if oor
laird break his noo, wha wadna despise him?"
Harmonious as their wedded
life had hitherto been, there was what might well nigh be called
bickerings between them on the road, for Thomas felt or believed that she
was leading him on a fool’s errand. But they arrived at the castle of
Thirlestane, and were ushered into the mansion of its proud lord.
"Ha!" said the Earl, as
they entered, "bonny Midside Maggy and her auld goodman! Well, what bring
ye?—the rents o’ Tollishill, or their equivalent?" Thomas looked at his
young wife, for he saw nothing to give him hope on the countenance of
Lauderdale, and he thought that he pronounced the word "equivalent"
with a sneer.
"I bring ye snaw in June,
my Lord," replied Margaret, "agreeably to the terms o’ yer bargain; and am
sorry, for your sake and oors, that it hasna yet been in oor power to
bring gowd instead o’t.".
Loud laughed the Earl as
Margaret unrolled the huge snowball before him, and Thomas thought unto
himself, "I said how it would be." But Lauderdale, calling for his writing
materials, sat down and wrote, and he placed in the hands of Thomas a
discharge, not only for his back rent, but for all that should otherwise
be due at the ensuing Martinmas.
Thomas Hardie bowed and
bowed again before the Earl, low and yet lower, awkwardly and still more
awkwardly, and he endeavoured to thank him, but his tongue faltered in the
performance of its office. He could have taken his hand in his and wrung
it fervently, leaving the fingers to express what his tongue could not;
but his laird was an Earl, and there was a necessary distance to be
observed between an Earl and a Lammermoor farmer.
"Thank not me, goodman,"
said Lauderdale, "but thank the modesty and discretion o’ yer winsome
Margaret was silent, but
gratitude for the kindness which the Earl had shown unto her husband and
herself took deep root in her heart. Gratitude, indeed, formed a
predominating principle in her character, and fitted her even for acts of
The unexpected and unwonted
generosity of the Earl had enabled Thomas Hardie to overcome the losses
with which the fury of the seasons had overwhelmed him, and he prospered,
beyond any farmer on the hills. But while he prospered, the Earl of
Lauderdale, in his turn, was overtaken by adversity. The stormy times of
the civil wars raged, and it is well known with what devotedness
Lauderdale followed the fortunes of the King. When the Commonwealth began,
he was made prisoner, conveyed to London, and confined in the Tower. There
nine weary years of captivity crept slowly and gloomily over him; but they
neither taught him mercy to others nor to moderate his ambition, as was
manifested when power and prosperity again cast their beams upon him. But
he now lingered in the Tower, without prospect or hope of release, living
upon the bare sustenance of a prisoner, while his tenants dwelt on his
estates, and did as they pleased with his rents, as though they should not
again behold the face of a landlord.
But Midside Maggy grieved
for the fate of him whose generosity had brought prosperity, such as they
had never known before, to herself and to her husband; and in the fulness
of her gratitude she was ever planning schemes for his deliverance; and
she urged upon her husband that it was their duty to attempt to deliver
their benefactor from captivity, as he had delivered them from the iron
grasp of ruin, when misfortune lay heavily on them. Now, as duly as the
rent day came, from the Martinmas to which the snowball had been his
discharge, Thomas Hardie faithfully and punctually locked away his rent to
the last farthing, that he might deliver it into the hands of his laird
should he again be permitted to claim his own; but he saw not in what way
they could attempt his deliverance, as his wife proposed.
"Thomas," said she, "there
are ten lang years o’ rent due, and we hae the siller locked away. It is
o’ nae use to us, for it isna oors; but it may be o’ use to him. It would
enable him to fare better in his prison, and maybe to put a handfu’ o’
gowd into the hands o’ his keepers, and thereby to escape abroad, and it
wad furnish him wi’ the means o’ living when he was abroad. Remember his
kindness to us, and think that there is nae sin equal to the sin o’
"But," added Thomas, "in
what way could we get the money to him? for, if we’ve to send it, it would
never reach him, and as a prisoner, he wouldna be allowed to receive it."
"Let us tak it to him
oorsels, then," said Margaret.
"Tak it," exclaimed Thomas,
in amazement, "a’ the way to London! It is oot o’ the question a’thegither,
Margaret. We wad be robbed o’ every plack before we got half way; or, if
we were even there, hoo, in a’ the world, do ye think we could get it to
him, or that we would be allooed to see him."
"Leave that to me," was her
reply; "only say ye will gang, and a’ that shall be accomplished. There is
nae obstacle in the way but the want o’ yer consent. But the debt, and the
ingratitude o’ it thegither, hang heavy upon my heart."
Thomas at length yielded to
the importunities of his wife, and agreed that they should make a
pilgrimage to London, to pay his rent to his captive laird; though how
they were to carry the gold in safety, through an unsettled country, a
distance of more than three hundred miles, was a difficulty he could not
overcome. But Margaret removed his tears; she desired him to count out the
gold, and place it before her; and when he had done so, she went to the
meal-tub and took out a quantity of pease and of barley meal mixed,
sufficient to knead a goodly fadge or bannock; and, when she had kneaded
it, and rolled it out, she took the golden pieces and pressed them into
the paste of the embryo bannock, and again she doubled it together, and
again rolled it out, and kneaded into it the remainder of the gold. She
then fashioned it into a thick bannock, and placing it on the hearth,
covered it with the red ashes of the peats.
Thomas sat marvelling, as
the formation of the singular purse proceeded, and when he beheld the
operation completed, and the bannock placed upon the hearth to bake, he
only exclaimed—"Weel, woman’s ingenuity dings a’! I wadna hae thocht o’
the like o’ that, had I lived a thousand years! O Margaret, hinny, but ye
are a strange ane."
"Hoots," replied she," "I’m
sure ye micht easily hae imagined that it was the safest plan we could hae
thocht upon to carry the siller in safety; for I am sure there isna a
thief between the Tweed and Lun’on toun, that would covet or carry awa a
"Troth, my doo, and I
believe yer richt," replied Thomas, "but wha could hae thocht o’ sic an
expedient? Sure there never was a bannock baked like the bannock o’
On the third day after
this, an old man and a fair lad, before the sun had yet risen, were
observed crossing the English Borders. They alternately carried a wallet
across their shoulders, which contained a few articles of apparel and a
bannock. They were dressed as shepherds, and passengers turned and gazed
on them as they passed along; for the beauty of the youth’s countenance
excited their admiration. Never had Lowland bonnet covered so fair a brow.
The elder stranger was Thomas Hardie, and the youth none other than his
I will not follow them
through the stages of their long and weary journey, nor dwell upon the
perils and adventures they encountered by the way. But, on the third week
after they hae left Tollishill, and when they were beyond the town called
Stevenage, and almost within sight of the metropolis, they were met by an
elderly military-looking man, who, struck with the lovely countenance of
the seeming youth, their dress, and way-worn appearance, accosted them,
saying—"Good morrow, strangers, ye seem to have travelled far. Is this
fair youth your son, old man?"
"He is a gay sib freend,"
"And whence come ye?"
continued the stranger.
"Frae Leader Haughs, on the
bonny Borders o’ the north countrie," replied Margaret.
"And whence go ye?" resumed
"First tell me wha ye may
be that are sae inquisitive," interrupted Thomas, in a tone which betrayed
something like impatience.
"Some call me George Monk,"
replied the stranger mildly; "others, Honest George. I am a general in the
Parliamentary army." Thomas reverentially raised his hand to his bonnet,
and bowed his head.
"Then pardon me, sir,"
added Margaret, "and if ye indeed be the guid and gallant general, sma’
offence will ye tak at onything that may be said amiss by a country laddie.
We are tenants o’ the Lord o’ Lauderdale, whom ye now keep in captivity;
and, though we mayna think as he thinks, yet we never faund him but a guid
landlord; and little guid, in my opinion, it can do to onybody to keep
him, as he has been noo for nine years, caged up like a bird. Therefore,
though oor ain business that has brocht us up to London, should fail, I
winna regret the journey, since it has afforded me an opportunity o’ seein’
yer Excellency, and soliciting yer interest, which maun be pooerfu’, in
behalf o’ oor laird, and that ye would release him frae his prison, and,
if he michtna remain in this country, obtain permission for him to gang
"Ye plead fairly and
honestly for yer laird, fair youth," returned the general; "yet, though he
is no man to be trusted, I needs say he has had his portion of captivity
measured out abundantly; and, since ye have minded me of him, era a week
go round I will think of what may be done for Lauderdale." Other questions
were asked and answered, some truly, and some evasively; and Thomas and
Margaret, blessing Honest George in their hearts, went on their way
rejoicing at having met him.
On arriving in London, she
laid aside the shepherd’s garb in which she had journeyed, and resumed her
wonted apparel. On the second day after their arrival, she went out upon
Tower-hill, dressed as a Scottish peasant girl, with a basket on her arm;
and in the basket were a few ballads, and the bannock of Tollishill. She
affected silliness, and, as she stood singing before the gate— "What want
ye, pretty face?" inquired the officer of the guard. "Your alms, if ye
please," said she, smiling innocently, "and to sing a bonny Scotch sang to
the Laird o’ Lauderdale."
The officer and the
sentinels laughed; and, after she had sung them another song or two, she
was permitted to enter the gate and a soldier pointed out to her the room
in which Lauderdale was confined. On arriving before the grated windows of
his prison-house, and in the countenance of the minstrel he remembered the
lovely features of Midside Maggy. He requested permission of the keeper
that she should be admitted to his presence, and his request was complied
"Bless thee, sweet face!"
said the Earl, as she was admitted into his prison; "and you have not
forgotten the snowball in June?" And he took her hand to raise it to his
"Hooly, hooly, my guid
Lord," said she, withdrawing her hand; "my fingers were made for nae sic
purpose— Thomas Hardie is here"—and she laid her hand upon her fair
bosom—"though now standing without the yett o’, the Tower." Lauderdale
again wondered, and, with a look of mingled curiosity and confusion,
inquired—"Wherefore do ye come—and why do ye seek me?" "I brocht ye a
snawba’ before," said she, "for yer rent—I bring ye a bannock noo." And
she took the bannock from the basket and placed it before him. "Woman,"
added he, "are ye really as demented as I thocht ye but feigned to be,
when ye sang before the window?" "The proof o’ the bannock," replied
Margaret, "will be in the breakin’ o’t."
‘Then, goodwife, it will
not be easily proved," said he—and he took the bannock, and with some
difficulty broke it over his knee; but, when he beheld the golden coins
that were kneaded through it, for the first, perhaps the last and only
time in his existence, the Earl of Lauderdale burst into tears, and
exclaimed—"Well, every bannock has its maik but the bannock o’ Tollishill!
Yet, kind as ye hae been, the gold is useless to ane that groans in
"Yours has been a long
captivity," said Margaret; "but it is not hopeless; and, if honest General
Monk is to be trusted, from what he tauld me not three days by-gane,
before a week gae round, ye will be at liberty to go abroad, and there the
bannock o’ Tollishill may be o’ use."
The wonder of Lauderdale
increased, and he replied—
"Monk will keep his word,
but what mean ye of him?" And she related to him the interview they had
had with the General by the way. Lauderdale took her hand, a ray of hope
and joy spread over his face, and he added—
"Never shall ye rue the
bakin’ o’ the bannock, if auld times come back again."
Margaret left the Tower,
singing as she had entered it, and joined her husband, whom she found
leaning over the railing around the moat, and anxiously waiting her
return. They spent a few days more in London, to rest and to gaze upon its
wonders, and again set out upon their journey to Tollishill. General Monk
remembered his promise; within a week, the Earl of Lauderdale was
liberated, with permission to go abroad, and there, as Margaret had
intimated, he found the bannock of Tollishill of service.
A few more years passed
round, during which old Thomas Hardie still prospered; but during those
years the Commonwealth came to an end, the King was recalled, and with
him, as one of his chief favourites, returned the Earl of Lauderdale. And
when he arrived in Scotland, clothed with power, whatever else he forgot,
he remembered the bannock of Tollishill. Arrayed in what might have passed
as royal state, and attended by fifty of his followers, he rode in
princely pomp to the dwelling of Thomas Hardie and Midside Maggy; and when
they came forth to meet him, he dismounted, and drew forth a costly silver
girdle of strange workmanship, and fastened it round her jimp waist,
"Wear this, for now it is
my turn to be grateful; and for your husband’s life, and your life, and
the life o’ the generation after ye," (for they had children), "ye shall
sit rent free on the lands ye now farm. For, truly, every bannock had its
maik but the bannock o’ Tollishill."
Thomas and Margaret felt
their hearts too full to express their thanks; and, ere they could speak,
the Earl, mounting his horse, rode towards Thirlestane; and his followers,
waving their bonnets, shouted—"Long live Midside Maggy, queen of
Such is the story of "The
Bannock o’ Tollishill;" and it is only necessary to add, for the
information of the curious, that I believe the silver girdle may be seen
until this day in the neighbourhood of Tollishill, and in the possession
of a descendant of Midside Maggy, to whom it was given.