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Wilson's Border Tales
The Gentle Shepherd


As the story of the Gentle Shepherd, so beautifully dramatised by Ramsay, may not be so well known to our readers on the south side of the Tweed as it deserves to be, we have thought it would not be amiss to sketch the tale in prose for their entertainment, while we hope it will not be unacceptable in this shape even to our Scottish readers. To proceed then:--

Patrick, or Patie, as he was familiary called by his compeers, was an humble Shepherd lad, born and bred in the Lothians in Scotland, and within a few miles of Edinburgh. Patie, who lived about the middle of the seventeenth century, was a remarkably handsome young man, and surpassed in all those rustic accomplishments in which country swains usually delight to excel. He was, moreover, of a gay, light hearted, and joyous disposition; and, morning, noon, and night, made the woods and echoes of the romantic spot where he lived, ring with his mirthful glee. Besides all this, he possessed, by nature, both a mind and manner superior to his station; yet in that station he was happy; and although it was sufficiently humble, he would not have exchanged it for an empire. He had no unreasonable ambition, and was tormented with no longings after things unattainable by one in his lowly condition in life.

The person (Symon Scott, a wealthy and excellent man) with whom Patie resided, and with whom he had lived ever since he was a child, was a tenant of Sir William Preston’s, a gentleman of large landed property, who, to save his head—he having taken an active part with the royalists of the period—had fled his native country, and was now abroad, no one knew where.

Happy in his situation, and delighted with the natural beauties, which he could well appreciate, of the romantic district in which he lived, with its hills and its dales, its woods, and waterfalls, and limpid streams—Patie’s felicity was yet more increased by a virtuous, well-placed, and fondly requited attachment.

In his neighbourhood there lived a modest and beautiful girl of the name of Peggy Forsyth, of the same humble rank in life with himself. This girl was the reputed niece of Glaude Anderson, a respectable farmer, and a tenant also of Sir William’s. But, though reputed the niece of this person, Peggy was, in truth, no relation to him whatever.

The girl was a foundling, and honest Glaude, her guardian, was, in reality, as ignorant of the circumstances of her birth and of her parentage as was the child herself. He had found her, one summer morning, carefully wrapped up in swaddling clothes, at his own door; and being a kind hearted man, he had adopted the little stranger; and to rivet, as it were, the affection he soon formed for her, he bestowed on her the title of propinquity alluded to; and neither the girl herself nor the world ever knew anything to the contrary. And on this girl Patie’s love was fixed, to her his heart was given, and to him she yielded hers in return.

Thus stood matters with Patie and Peggy, when intelligence arrived that Sir William, who had now been absent for many years, might soon be expected home, as the king had been restored and the royal party was once more dominant.

This agreeable tidings created the most lively sensations of joy amongst Sir William’s tenantry, by all of whom he was greatly beloved for his generosity of character and pleasing condescension of manners. But to none of those who acknowledged him as their lord did this news afford such happiness as to old Symon Scott and Glaude Anderson, who had always been especial favourites of the good Sir William. The moment these two worthy men heard the tidings of their landlord’s expected return, they simultaneously bethought them of celebrating the event with a feast, each insisting that he should be the giver. Glaude, however, had been forstalled in this particular by Symon, who had already given orders for a sumptuous banquet to be prepared, to which he invited Glaude, and all the old and young folk in his immediate neigbourhood. After partaking of a plentiful repast, the youngsters, male and female, amongst whom were Patie and Peggy, betook themselves to the green in front of the house, to conclude the festivities of the day by a dance.

While the young people were thus joyously engaged on the green, an old man of venerable appearance, but whose dress bespoke him a mendicant, suddenly presented himself amongst them, and began to amuse them by telling their fortunes; a branch of business which he appeared to have added to his regular calling—that of soliciting charity. The knowledge, however, which the old man discovered of many circumstances connected with those whose future destinies he affected to fortell, greatly surprised all who heard him, and made such an impression on Jenny, Glaude’s daughter, that she rushed breathless into the house, where the old people were enjoying themselves, and informed them that a most extraordinary old man, the most amazing fortune teller that ever was seen or heard of, had come amongst them, and was now on the green in front of the house.

Symon—all kindness and hospitality, and resolved that no one should go past his door hungry that day—desired Jenny to bring the old man in, protesting, however, at the same time, that he had no faith whatever in the soothsayer’s pretended gift of divination—a protest in which he was cordially joined by Glaude.

In a few seconds, Jenny returned, leading in the old man, who was cordially welcomed by Symon, and immediately offered entertainment and a night’s lodging. In gratitude for his kindness, the old man inquired if his host had no children, whose future fortunes he desired to learn; saying at the same time, that he would exert his utmost skill to perform his task faithfully, whether it should be for good or evil. To humour what he considered at best a joke, Symon pointed to Patie, who, with some of the other youngsters, had now entered the house; and said that he was the only child he had.

On this, the old mendicant took hold of Patie’s hand, and to the great alarm of Symon’s wife, told his auditors that there was a particular mark on the young man’s body, just below the armpit—an assertion which was so true, that Symon’s wife, who was the only person besides Patie himself who knew of such a mark, immediately accused the old fortune teller of having dealings with the Evil One. Paying no attention to this remark, the prophet went on to say, that, if the young man was spared, he would in a very short time, become a great and wealthy landlord.

All, except Symon, treated this announcement with mirthful expressions of distrust, and none with more marked disbelief and contempt than Patie himself, who said that two whistles and a couple of curs were all his property, and likely ever to be.

It has been said that Symon presented the only exception to the general incredulity on this occasion, although he was the first to express disbelief in the prophet’s supernatural powers; but for this there was sufficient reason, as shall afterwards appear.

The change in Symon’s sentiments regarding the old man’s gifts, did not escape the notice of his friend, Glaude, who bantered him on his altered tone, and expressed the utmost astonishment that he should allow himself to be imposed upon by such absurdities. This open contempt of his fidelity instantly called down upon Glaude a rebuke from the soothsayer, who not only insisted on the soundness of his prediction, but added that they would see that all he had foretold regarding Patie would be fulfilled ere two short days should elapse. Seeing the earnestness of the fortune teller, Glaude good humouredly not only gave up the point, but asked him to predict the future fortunes of his own two daughters; a task, this, which the old man declined, alleging that he had the gift of prophecy only once a day.

Having now exhausted his store of prediction, the mysterious visitor was invited to place himself at the board, and to partake of some refreshment. This hospitality, however, he begged his entertainers to delay for a while, saying, he would rather go abroad for a little and enjoy the calm air of the evening, and requested that his host, Symon, would accompany him; a request with which the latter readily complied.

On leaving Symon’s house, the old man directed his steps towards the deserted and dilapidated mansion of Sir William Preston, which was in the immediate neighbourhood; and, as they approached it, asked his companion to whom it belonged. He was told; and was further informed that the joyful tidings had come amongst Sir William’s tenantry that he would soon be with them again. But what was honest Symon’s joy—what his amazement—to find, as he did at this moment, that the event he announced as approaching, and to which he looked forward with so much delight, had already taken place!

Hastily throwing off the disguise that concealed him, the old mendicant—the wandering fortune teller—in an instant stood before the almost incredulous eyes of his humble but faithful friend, Symon, Sir William Preston himself, and none other.

Astonished and delighted beyond measure at the extraordinary discovery, honest Symon flung himself on the ground, and, in a transport of joy, clasped Sir William’s knees, and welcomed him to his home. The good knight kindly raised the old man; and, embracing him affectionately, asked for his boy.

Here our story requires a slight digression. When Sir William, who was a widower, fled his native land to avoid the vengeance of the popular party, he had, previous to his departure, secretly consigned his only son, then a child, to the guardianship of his faithful tenant, Symon, with instructions, however, that neither the boy himself, nor any one else, should ever be informed of his real descent--a course which Sir William was induced to pursue at once to save his son unavailing regrets in after life, should he never be able to recover his rights for him, and to reconcile him to the humble duties of the lowly station to which it was more than probable he should be, during his lifetime, doomed. It need hardly now be told, that Patie, Symon’s protegee, was no other than the son and heir of Sir William Preston, and that it was of him Sir William now inquired.

To all the inquiries which the latter now made at Symon regarding his son, he received the most pleasing and gratifying replies; and was delighted to learn, amongst other things, that his education had been carefully attended to.

Satisfied of this, and with other particulars regarding the conduct, character, and acquirements of his boy, Sir William next anxiously inquired if his son had formed no attachment unbefitting the station which he was now about to assume.

On this important point, Symon acknowledged that he feared the worst, as he had lately discovered, he said, that there existed a kindlier feeling between the young man and Glaude’s niece, Peggy, than he approved of; but added that he hoped the change of condition which now awaited Patie, would induce him to break off the connection, and think no more of his lowly lover; and in this hope he was very eagerly joined by Sir William, who now desired Symon to bring his son to him, and to intimate openly, to all whom it concerned, that he was returned.

There being now no longer any reason for concealing Patie’s real descent, the intelligence that the humble shepheard was no other than the son and heir of Sir William Preston—and, in consequence of his father’s return, was now about to step into the elevated station to which that important circumstance entitled him—rapidly spread around, and created a universal feeling of surprise, and no small joy, as Patie had been a general favourite. But there was one on whom this intelligence had a very contrary effect to that ol inspiring joy.

This was Peggy. In the discovery that her Patie was no longer the humble shepherd that had won her heart, but a gentleman of rank and fortune, the warm hearted girl saw the utter annihilation of all her fondest and dearest hopes and gave way to feelings of the deepest despair; for she dared not think otherwise than that she and her lover should now be sundered for ever. But, in coming to this conclusion she had not made sufficient allowance for the strength of Patie’s attachment, nor for the generous and noble nature of his character, which would not permit him to find, in mere change of worldly circumstances, an apology for broken vows. But, in truth, it required no considerations of a moral kind to induce Patie to keep faith with his lover; his affection for her alone was all sufficient for this purpose, and determined him to remain faithful to her, whatever might be the consequences. Abiding in this resolution, and determined to act up to it, he fled to his beloved Peggy, whom he found in tears and in despair, to assure her that the change in his condition had not, and never would effect, any change in his sentiments towards her, and that, as the son and heir of Sir William Preston, he should remain as constant to his love as if he had continued to be the humble shepherd who had wooed and won her heart.

On the day following these events, several persons, and, amongst them, Peggy, having assembled at Symon’s house, where Sir William was sojourning for the time, the latter, attracted by the singular beauty of Patie’s lover, whom he did not know by sight, and forcibly struck by the strong resemblance which he fancied she bore to his own sister, eagerly inquired who she was. Glaude who was present, replied that she was his niece; but instantly after contradicted himself, by confusedly saying she was not his niece. The honest man was, in truth, perplexed at the moment with two opposing considerations, and farther led astray by the force of habit. He had called Peggy his niece on this occasion, because he had long accustomed himself to give her that title, and, indeed, to view her in the light of such a relative; but he, at this moment, felt that Sir William had a right to expect the truth from him; and on this,indeed, the knight now somewhat peremptorily insisted, when Glaude acknowledged that Peggy was a foundling, and proceeded to describe the circumstances connected with the finding of the infant, which have been already told; but more than these, Glaude said he could not tell. The information, however, in which Glaude was deficient, was, to the astonishment and delight of all present, more especially to that of Sir William, whose curiosity was greatly excited, furnished on the spot, and from a very unexpected quarter.

No sooner had Glaude finished his account of the foundling, than an old woman of the name of Mause Templeton, who was present, seizing Peggy by the hand, led her up to Sir William, and asked the knight if age had effected such a change on her countenance that he did not recognise in her the nurse of his sister—the nurse of the mother of the girl she now held in her hand. After a moment’s pause, Sir William acknowledged his perfect recollection of her; and seeking no further testimony than her assurance, added to his own convictions, from the likeness he had discerned, that the girl who stood before him was indeed his niece, he tenderly embraced her and made her take a seat beside him, until he should hear from Mause, what he now requested she should give, a detail of the circumstances that had entailed such a singular fate on his niece.

Mause proceeded to say that, when Peggy was an infant, she was informed, by a person on whom she had every reliance, that the child’s life, her parents being dead, was threatened by an uncle’s wife, in order to come at the large property to which she was heir, and between which and this avaricous and unnatural relative the infant was the only obstacle. That, having a perfect assurance of this artrocious design, she stole away the child from its faithless guardians, Peggy’s uncle and his wife, and having carried it, by easy stages of a few miles each day, at length arrived with her tender charge in that part of the country where they now were. Being afraid of a discovery if she retained the child, she then determined on the step which put the infant into Glaude’s possession. But, though soon satisfied that the child was in safe and good keeping, she resolved still to watch over it, and with this view took a small cottage in the neighbourhood, where she had lived ever since, and where unknown to Peggy herself, or to any one else, she had watched over her with all the anxiety of a mother.

When Mause concluded her story, Patie, now Mr. Patrick Preston—who had been present during the whole of this singular and interesting scene—flew towards Peggy, and at once perceiving that the discovery which had just been made of her real parentage and descent must remove every objection which his father could possibly entertain to their union, he embraced her, when they both knelt before Sir William, and besought his blessing, which the delighted father and uncle readily gave; intimating, at the same time his determination to lose no time in stripping Peggy’s unnatural relations of their ill got gains, and restoring them to their rightful owner. And now if ever unalloyed felicity was the lot of man, it was at this moment that of Patie the Gentle Shepherd, whose union with Peggy, we need hardly add, immediately followed.


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