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Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales
Literary Tales


THE HAUNTED SHIPS

“Alexander Macharg, besides being the laird of three acres of peatmoss, two kale gardens, and the owner of seven good milch cows, a pair of horses, and six pet sheep, was the husband of one of the handsomest women in seven parishes. Many a lad sighed the day he was brided; and a Nithsdale laird and two Annandale moorland farmers drank themselves to their last linen, as well as their last shilling, through sorrow for her loss. But married was the dame; and home she was carried, to bear rule over her home and her husband, as an honest woman should. Now ye maun ken that, though the flesh-and-blood lovers of Alexander’s bonnie wife all ceased to love and to sue her after she became another’s, there were certain admirers who did not consider their claim at all abated, or their hopes
lessened by the kirk’s famous obstacle of matrimony. Ye have heard how the devout minister of Tinwald had a fair son carried away, and bedded against his liking to an unchristened bride, whom the elves and the fairies provided; ye have heard how the bonnie bride of the drunken laird of Soukitup was stolen by the fairies out at the back window of the bridal chamber, the time the bridegroom was
groping his way to the chamber door; and ye have heard—but why need I multiply cases ? such things in the ancient days were as common as candlelight. So ye’ll no hinder certain water elves and sea fairies, who sometimes keep festival and summer mirth in these old haunted hulks, from falling in love with the weel-faured wife of Laird Macharg; and to their plots and contrivances they went', how they might accomplish to sunder man and wife; and sundering such a man and such a wife was like sundering the green leaf from the summer, or the fragrance from the flower.

“So it fell on a time that Laird Macharg took his half-net on his back, and his steel spear in his hand, and down to Blawhooly Bay gade he, and into the water he went right between the two haunted hulks, and, placing his net, awaited the coming of the tide. The night, ye maun ken, was mirk, and the wind lowne, and the singing of the increasing waters among the shells and the peebles was heard for sundry miles. All at once lights began to glance and twinkle on board the two Haunted Ships from every hole and seam, and presently the sound as of a hatchet employed in squaring timber echoed far and wide. But if the toil of these unearthly workmen amazed the laird, how much more was his amazement increased when a sharp shrill voice called out, ‘Ho! brother, what are you doing now ? ’ A voice still shriller responded from the other haunted ship, ‘ I’m making a wife to Sandie Macharg! ’ and a loud quavering laugh, running from ship to ship, and from bank to bank, told the joy they expected from their labour.

“Now the laird, besides being a devout and a Godfearing man, was shrewd and bold; and in plot, and contrivance, and skill in conducting his designs, was fairly an overmatch for any dozen land elves. But the water elves are far more subtle; besides, their haunts and their dwellings being in the great deep, pursuit and detection is hopeless if they succeed in carrying their prey to the waves. But ye shall hear. Home flew the laird,—collected his family around the hearth,—spoke of the signs and the sins of the times, and talked of mortification and prayer for averting calamity; and finally, taking his father’s Bible, brass clasps, black print, and covered with calfskin, from the shelf, he proceeded without let or stint to perform domestic worship. I should have told ye that he bolted and locked the door, shut up all inlet to the house, threw salt into the fire, and proceeded in every way like a man skilful in guarding against the plots of fairies and fiends. His wife looked on all this with wonder; but she saw something in her husband’s looks that hindered her from intruding either question or advice, and a wise woman was she.

“Near tho mid hour of the night the rush of a horse’s feet was heard, and the sound of a rider leaping from its back, and a heavy knock came to the door, accompanied by a voice, saying, ‘ The cummer drink’s1 hot, and the knave bairn is expected at Laird Laurie’s to-night; sae mount, gudewife, and come.’

“'Preserve me!’ said the wife of Sandie Macharg; ‘that’s news indeed; who could have thought it? the laird has been heirless for seventeen years! Now, Sandie, my man, fetch me my skirt and hood.’

“But he laid his arm round his wife’s neck, and said, ‘If all the lairds in Galloway go heirless, over this door threshold shall you not stir to-night; and T have said, and I have sworn it: seek not to know why or wherefore—but, Lord, send us thy blessed morn-light.’ The wife looked for a moment in her husband’s eyes, and desisted from further entreaty.

“‘But let us send a civil message to the gossips, Sandie; and had nae ye better say I am sair laid with a sudden sickness? though its sinful-like to send the poor messenger a mile agate with a lie in his mouth without a glass of brandy.’

“‘To such a messenger, and to those who sent him, no apology is needed,’ said the austere laird, ‘so let him depart.’ And the clatter of a horse’s hoofs was heard, and the muttered imprecations of its rider on the churlish treatment he had experienced.

“‘Now, Sandie, my lad,’ said his wife, laying an arm particularly white and round about his neck as she spoke, ‘are you not a queer man and a stern? I have been your wedded wife now these three years; and, beside my dower, have brought you three as bonnie bairns as ever smiled aneath a summer sun. O man, you a douce man, and fitter to be an elder than even Willie Greer himself,—I have the minister’s ain word for’t,—to put on these hard-hearted looks, and gang waving your arms that way, as if ye said, “I winna take the counsel of sic a hempie1 as you.” I’m your ain leal wife, and will and maun have an explanation.’

“To all this Sandie Macharg replied, "It is written—“ Wives, obey your husbands;” but we have been stayed in our devotion, so let us pray;’ and down he knelt. His wife knelt also, for she was as devout as bonnie; and beside them knelt their household, and all lights were extinguished.

“Now this beats a’,’ muttered his wife to herself; ‘however, I shall be obedient for a time; but if I dinna ken what all this is for before the morn by sunket-time, my tongue is nae langer a tongue, nor my hands worth wearing.’

“The voice of her husband in prayer interrupted this mental soliloquy; and ardently did he beseech to be preserved from the wiles of the fiends, and the snares of Satan; ‘from witches, ghosts, goblins, elves, fairies, spunldes, and water-kelpies; from the spectre shallop of Solway; from spirits visible and invisible; from the Haunted Ships ami their unearthly tenants; from maritime spirits that plotted against godly men, and fell in love with their wives.'

“‘Nay, but His presence be near us!’ said his wife in a low tone of dismay. God guide my gude-man’s wits; I never heard such a prayer from human lips before. But, Sandie, my man, Lord’s sake, rise: what fearful light is this?—barn, and byre, and stable, maun be in a blaze; and Hawkie and Hurley, — Doddie, and Cherrie, and Damson Plum will be smoored with reek, and scorched with flame.’

“And a flood of light, but not so gross as a common fire, which ascended to heaven and filled all the court before the house, amply justified the good wife’s suspicions. But, to the terrors of fire, Sandie was as immovable as he was to the imaginary groans of the barren wife of Laird Laurie; and he held his wife, and threatened the weight of his right hand—and it was a heavy one—to all who ventured abroad, or even unbolted the door. The neighing and prancing of horses, and the bellowing of cows, augmented the horrors of the night; and to any one who only heard the din, it seemed that the whole onstead was in a blaze, and horses and cattle perishing in the flame. All wiles, common or extraordinary, were put in practice to entice or force the honest farmer and his wife to open the door; and when the like success attended even now stratagem, silence for a little while ensued, and a long, loud, and shrilling laugh wound up the dramatic efforts of the night. In the morning, when Laird Macharg went to the door, he fuund standing against one of the pilasters a piece of black ship oak, rudely fashioned into something like human form, and which skilful people declared would have been clothed with seeming flesh and blood, and palmed upon him by elfin adroitness for his wife, had he admitted his visitants. A synod of wise men and women sat upon the woman of timber, and she was finally ordered to be devoured by fire, and that in the open air. A fire was soon made, and into it the elfin sculpture was tossed from the prongs of two pairs of pitchforks. The blaze that arose was awful to behold; and hissings, and burstings, and loud cracklings, and strange noises, were heard in the midst of the flame; and when the whole sank into ashes, a drinking cup of some precious metal was found; and this cup, fashioned no doubt by elfin skill, but rendered harmless by the purification with fire, the sons and daughters of Sandie Macharg and his wife drink out of to this very day. Bless all bold men, say I, and obedient wives! ”

ELPHIN IRVING
THE FAIRIES’ CUPBEARER

The romantic vale of Corriewater, in Annandale, is regarded by the inhabitants, a pastoral and unmingled people, as the last Border refuge of those beautiful and capricious beings, the fairies. Many old people yet living imagine they have had intercourse of good words and good deeds with the “good folk”; and continue to tell that in the ancient of days the fairies danced on the hill, and revelled in the glen, and showed themselves, like the mysterious children of the deity of old, among the pons and daughters of men. Their visits to the earth were periods of joy and mirth to mankind, rather than of sorrow and apprehension. They played on musical instruments of wonderful sweetness and variety of note, spread unexpected feasts, the supernatural flavour of which overpowered on many occasions the religious scruples of the Presbyterian shepherds, performed wonderful deeds of horsemanship, and marched in midnight processions, when the sound of their elfin minstrelsy charmed youths and maidens into love for their persons and pursuits; and more than one family of Corriewater have the fame of augmenting the numbers of the elfin chivalry. Faces of friends and relatives, long since doomed to the battle-trench or the deep sea, have been recognised by those who dared to gaze on the fairy march. The maid has seen her lost lover and the mother her stolen child; and the courage to plan and achieve their deliverance has been possessed by at least one Border maiden. In the legends of the people of Cotrievale there is a. singular mixture of elfin and human adventure, and the traditional story of the Cupbearer to the Queen of the Fairies appeals alike to pur domestic feelings and imagination.

In one of the little green loops, or bends, on the banks of Corriewater, mouldered walls, and a few stunted wild plum-trees and vagrant roses, still point out the site of a cottage and garden. A well of pure spring-water leaps out from an old tree-root- before the door; and here the shepherds, shading themselves in summer from the influence of the son, tell to their children the wild tale of Elphin Irving and his sister Phemie; and, singular as the story seems, it has gained full credence among the people where the scene is laid.

When Elphin Irving and his sister Phemie were in their sixteenth year, for tradition says they were twins, their father was drowned in Corriewater, attempting to save his sheep from a sudden swell, to which all mountain streams are liable; and their mother, on the day of her husband’s burial, laid down her head on the pillow, from which, on the seventh day, it was lifted to be dressed for the same grave. The inheritance left to the orphans may be briefly described: seventeen acres of plough and pasture land, seven milk cows, and seven pet sheep (many old people take delight in odd numbers); and to this may be added seven bonnet-pieces of Scottish gold, and a broadsword and spear, which their ancestor had wielded with such strength and courage in the battle of Dryfe Sands, that the minstrel who sang of that deed of arms ranked him only second to the Scotts and Johnstones.

The youth and his sister grew in stature and in beauty. The bent bright brow, the clear blue, eye, and frank and blithe deportment of the former gave him some influence among the young women of the valley; while the latter was no less the admiration of the young men, and at fair and dance, and at bridal, happy was he who touched but her hand or received the benediction of her eye. Like all other Scottish beauties, she was the theme of many a song; and while tradition is yet busy with the singular history of her brother, song has taken all the care that rustic minstrelsy can of the gentleness of her spirit and the charms of her person.

But minstrel skill and true love tale seemed to want their usual influence when they sought to win her attention; she was only observed to pay most respect to those youths who were most beloved by her brother; and the some hour that brought these twins to the world seemed to have breathed through them a sweetness and an affection of heart and mind, which nothing could divide. If, like the virgin queen of the immortal poet, she walked “in maiden meditation fancy free,” her brother Elphin seemed alike untouched with the charms of the fairest virgins in Corrie. He ploughed his field, he reaped his grain, he leaped, he ran, and wrestled, and danced, and sang, with more skill and life and grace than all other youths of the district; but he had no twilight and stolen interviews; when all other young men had their loves by their side, he was single, though not unsought, and his joy seemed never perfect save when his sister was near him. If he loved to share his time with her, she loved to share her time with him alone, or with the beasts of the field, or the birds of the air. She watched her little flock late, and she tended it early; not for the sordid love of the fleece, unless it was to make mantles for her brother, but with the look of one who had joy in its company. The very wild creatures, the deer and the hares, seldom sought to shun her approach, and the bird forsook not its nest, nor stinted its song, when she drew nigh; such is the confidence which maiden innocence and beauty inspire.

It happened one summer, about three years after they became orphans, that rain had been for awhile withheld from the earth, the hillsides began to parch, the grass in the vales to wither, and the stream of Corrie was diminished between its banks to the size of an ordinary rill. The shepherds drove their flocks to moorlands, and marsh and tarn had their reeds invaded by the scythe to supply the cattle with food. The sheep of his sister were Elphin’s constant care; he drove them to the moistest pastures during the day, and be often watched them at midnight, when flocks, tempted by the sweet dewy grass, are known to browse eagerly, that he might guard them from the fox, and lead them to the choicest herbage. In these nocturnal watchings be sometimes drove his little flock over the water of Corrie, for the fords were hardly ankle deep; or permitted his sheep to cool themselves it the stream, and taste the grass which grew along the brink. All this time not a drop of rain fell, nor did a cloud appear in the sky.

One evening, during her brother's absence with the flock, Phemie sat at her cottage door, listening to the bleatings of the distant folds and the lessened murmur of the water of Corrie, now scarcely audible beyond its banks. Her eyes, weary with watching along the accustomed line of road for the return of Elphin, were turned on the pool beside her, in which the stars were glimmering fitful and faint. As she looked she imagined the water grew brighter and brighter; a wild illumination presently shone upon the pool, and leaped from bank to bank, and suddenly changing into a human form, ascended the margin, and, passing her, glided swiftly into the cottage. The visionary form was so like her brother in shape and air, that, starting up, she flew into the house, with the hope of finding him in his customary seat. She found him not, and, impressed with the terror which a wraith or apparition seldom fails to inspire, she uttered a shriek so loud and so piercing as to be heard at Johnstone Bank, on the other side of the vale of Corrie.

It is hardly known how long Phemie Irving continued in a state of insensibility. The morning was far advanced, when a neighbouring maiden found her seated in an old chair, as white as monumental marble; her hair, about which she had always been solicitous, loosened from its curls, and hanging disordered over her neck and bosom, her hands and forehead. The maiden touched the one, and kissed the other; they were as cold as snow; and her eyes, wide open, were fixed on her brother’s empty chair, with the intensity of gaze of one who had witnessed the appearance of a spirit. She seemed insensible of any one’s presence, and sat fixed and still and motionless. The maiden, alarmed at her looks, thus addressed her:— “Phemie, lass, Phemie Irving! Dear me, but this be awful! I have come to tell ye that seven of your pet sheep have escaped drowning in the water; for Corrie, sae quiet and sae gentle yestreen, is rolling and dashing frae bank to bank this morning. Dear me, woman, dinna let the loss of the world’s gear bereave ye of your senses. I would rather make ye a present of a dozen mug-ewes of the Tinwald brood myself; and now I think on’t, if ye’ll send over Elphin, I will help him hame with them in the gloaming myself. So, Phemie woman, be comforted.”

At the mention of her brother’s name she cried out, “Where is he? Oh, where is he?” gazed wildly round, and, shuddering from head to foot, fell senseless on the floor. Other inhabitants of the valley, alarmed by the sudden swell of the river, which had augmented to a torrent, deep and impassable, now came in to inquire if any loss had been sustained, for numbers of sheep and teds of hay had been observed floating down about the dawn of the morning. they assisted in reclaiming the unhappy maiden from her swoon; but insensibility was joy compared to the sorrow to which she awakened. “They have ta’en him away, they have ta’en him away,” she chanted, in a tone of delirious pathos; “him that was whiter and fairer than the lily on Lyddal Lee. They have long sought, and they have long sued, and they had the power to prevail against my prayers at last. They have ta’en him away; the flower is plucked from among the weeds, and the dove is slain amid a flock of ravens. They came with shout, and they came with song, and they spread the charm, and they placed the spell, and the baptised brow has been bowed down to the unbaptised hand. They have ta’en him away, they have ta’en him away; he was too lovely, and too good, and too noble, to bless us with his continuance on earth; for what are the sons of men compared to him?—the light of the moonbeam to the morning sun, the glow-worm to the eastern star. They have ta’en him away, the invisible duellers of the earth. I saw them eome on him with shouting and with singing, and they charmed him where he sat, and away they bore him; and the horse he rode was never shod with iron, nor owned before the mastery of human hand. They have ta’en him away over the water, and over the wood, and over the hill. I got but ae look of his bonnie blue ee, but ae, ae look. But as I have endured what never maiden endured, so will I undertake what never maiden undertook; I will win him from them all. I know the invisible ones of the earth; I have heard their wild and wondrous music in the wild woods, and there shall a christened maiden seek him, and achieve his deliverance.” She paused, and glancing around a circle of condoling faces, down which the tears were dropping like rain, said, in a calm and altered but still delirious tone: “Why do you weep, Mary Halliday and why do you weep, John Graeme? Ye think that Elphin Irving— oh, it’s a bonnie, bonnie name, and dear to many 0 maiden’s heart as well as mine—ye think he is drowned in Corrie, and ye will seek in the deep, deep pools for the bonnie, bonnie corse, that ye may weep over it, as it lies in its last linen, and lay it, amid weeping and wailing, in the dowie kirkyard. Ye may seek, but ye shall never find; so leave me to trim up my hair, and prepare my dwelling, and make myself ready to watch for the hour of his return to upper earth.” And she resumed her household labours with an alacrity which lessened not the sorrow of her friends.

Meanwhile the rumour flew over the vale that, Elphin Irving was drowned in Corriewater. Matron and maid, old man and young, collected suddenly along the banks of the river, which now began to subside to its natural summer limits, and commenced their search; interrupted every now and then by calling from side to side, and from pool to pool, and by exclamations of sorrow for this misfortune. The
search was fruitless: five sheep, pertaining to the flock which he conducted to pasture, were found drowned in one of the deep eddies; but the river was still too brown, from the soil of its moorland sources, to enable them to see what its deep shelves, its pools, and its overhanging and hazely banks concealed. They remitted further search till the stream should become pure; and old man taking old man aside, began to whisper about the mystery of the youth's disappearance; old women laid their lips to the ears of their coevals, and talked of Elphin Irving’s fairy parentage, and his having been dropped by an unearthly hand into a Christian cradle. The young men and maids conversed on other themes; they grieved for the loss of the friend and the lover, and while the former thought that a heart so kind and true was not left in the vale, the latter thought, as maidens will, on his handsome person, gentle manners, and merry blue eye, and speculated with a sigh on the time when they might have hoped a return for their love. They were soon joined by others who had heard the wild and delirious language of his sister: the old belief was added to the new assurance, and both again commented upon by minds full of superstitious feeling, and hearts full of supernatural fears, till the youths and maidens of Corrievale held no more love trystes for seven days and nights, lest, like Elphin Irving, they should be carried away to augment the ranks of the unchristened chivalry.

It was curious to listen to the speculations of the peasantry. “For my part,” said a youth, “if I were sure that poor Elphin escaped from that perilous water, I would not give the fairies a pound of bip-lock wool for their chance of him. There has not been a fairy seen in the land since Donald Cargil, the Oameronian. conjured them into the Solway for playing on their pipes during one of his nocturnal preachings on the hip of the Burnswick hill.”

"Preserve me, bairn," said an old woman, justly exasperated at the incredulity of her nephew, “if ye winna believe what I both heard and saw at the moonlight end of Craigyhumwood on a summer night, rank after rank of the fairy folk, ye’ll at least believe a douce man and a ghostly professor, even the late minister of Tinwaldkirk. His only son—I mind the lad wee], with his long yellow locks and his bonnie blue eyes—when I was but a gilpie of a lassie, he was stolen away from off the horse at his father’s elbow, as they crossed that false and fearsome water, even Locherbriggflow, on the night of the Midsummer fair of Dumfries. Ay, ay—who can doubt the truth of that? Have not the godly inhabitants of Alms-fieldtown and Tinwaldkirk seen the sweet youth riding at midnight, in the midst of the unhallowed troop, to the sound of flute and of dulcimer, and though meikle they prayed, naebody tried to achieve his deliverance?”

“I have heard it said by douce folk and sponsible,” interrupted another, “that every seven years the elves and fairies pay kane, or make an offering of one of their children, to the grand enemy of salvation, and that they are permitted to purloin one of the children of men to present to the fiend —a more acceptable offering, I’ll warrant, than one of their own infernal brood that are Satan’s sib allies, and drink a drop of the deil’s blood every May morning. And touching this lost lad, ye all ken his mother was a hawk of an uncannie nest, a second cousin of Kate Rimmer, of Tiarfloshan, as rank a witch as ever rode on ragwort. Ay, sirs, what’s bred in the bone is ill to come out of the flesh.”

On these and similar topics, which a peasantry full of ancient tradition and enthusiasm and superstition readily associate with the commonest occurrences of life, the people of Corrievale continued to converse till the fall of evening, when each, seeking their home, renewed again the wondrous subject, and illustrated it with all that popular belief and poetic imagination could so abundantly supply.

The night which followed this melancholy day was wild with wind and rain; the river came down broader and deeper than before, and the lightning, flashing by fits over the green woods of Corrie, showed the ungovernable and perilous flood sweeping above its banks. It happened that a farmer, returning from one of the Border fairs, encountered the full swing of the storm; but mounted on an excellent horse, and mantled from chin to heel in a good grey plaid, beneath which he had the further security of a thick great-coat, he sat dry in his saddle, and proceeded in the anticipated joy of a subsided tempest and a glowing morning sun. As he entered the long grove, or rather remains of the old Galwegian forest, which lines for some space the banks of the Corriewater, the storm began to abate, the wind sighed milder and milder among the trees; and here and there a star, twinkling momentarily through the sudden rack of the clouds, showed the river raging from bank to brae. As he shook the moisture from his clothes, he was not without a wish that the day would dawn, and that he might be preserved on a road which his imagination beset with greater perils than the raging river; for his superstitious feeling let loose upon his path elf and goblin, and the traditions of the district supplied very largely to his apprehension the ready materials of fear.

Just as he emerged from the wood, where a fine sloping bank, covered with short greensward, skirts the limit of the forest, his horse made a full pause, snorted, trembled, and started from side to side, stooped his head, erected his ears, and seemed to scrutinise every tree and bush. The rider, too, it may be imagined, gazed round and round, and peered warily into every suspicious-looking place. His dread of a supernatural visitation was not much allayed when he observed a female shape seated on the ground at the root of a huge old oak-tree, which stood in the centre of one of those patches of verdant sward, known by the name of “fairy-rings,” and avoided by all peasants who wish to prosper. A long thin gleam of eastern daylight enabled him to examine accurately the being who, in this wild place and unusual hour, gave additional terror to this haunted spot. She was dressed in white from the neck to the knees; her arms, long and round and white, were perfectly bare; her head, uncovered, allowed her long hair to descend in ringlet succeeding ringlet, till the half of her person was nearly concealed in the" fleece. Amidst the whole, her hands were constantly busy in shedding aside the tresses which interposed between her steady and uninterrupted gaze down a line of old read which winded among the hills to an ancient burial-ground.

As the traveller continued to gaze, the figure suddenly rose, and, wringing the rain from her long locks, paced round and round the tree, chanting in a wild and melancholy manner an equally wild and delirious song.

THE FAIRY OAK OF CORRIEWATER

The small bird’s head is under its wing,
The deer sleeps on the grass;
The moon comes out, and the stars shine down,
The dew gleams like the glass:
There is no sound in the world so wide.
Save the sound of the smitten brass,
With the merry cittern and the pipe
Of the fairies as they pass.
But oh! the fire maun burn and burn,
And the hour is gone, and will never return.

The green hill cleaves, and forth, with a bound,
Comes elf and elfin steed;
The moon dives down in a golden cloud,
The stars grow dim with dread;
But a light is running along the earth,
So of heaven’s they have no need:
O’er moor and moss with a shout they pass,
And the word is spur and speed—
But the fire maun burn, and I maun quake,
And the hour is gone that will never come back.

And when they came to Craigy burn wood,
The Queen of the Fairies spoke:
"Come, bind your steeds to the rushes so green,
And dance by the haunted oak:
I found the corn on Heshbon Hill,
In the nook of a palmer’s poke,
A thousand years since, here it grows!”
And they danced till the greenwood shook:
But oh ! the fire, the burning fire,
The longer it burns, it but blazes the higher.

“I have won me a youth,” the Elf Queen said,
“ The fairest that earth may see;
This night 1 have won young Elph Irving
My cupbearer to be.
His service lasts but for seven sweet years,
And his wage is a kiss of me.”
And merrily, merrily, laughed the wild elves
Round Corrie’s greenwood tree.
But oh! the fire it glows in my brain,
And the hour is gone, aud comes not again.

The Queen she has whispered a secret word,
"Come hither, my Elphin sweet,
And bring that cup of the charmed wine,
Thy lips and mine to weet.”
But a brown elf shouted a loud, loud shout,
“Come, leap on your coursers fleet,
For here comes the smell of of some baptised flesh
And the sound of baptised feet.”
But oh I the fire that burns, and maun burn;
For the time that is gone will never return.

On a steed as white as the new-milked milk,
The Elf Queen leaped with a bound,
And young Elphin a steed like December snow
’Neath him at the word he found.
But a maiden came, and her christened arms
She linked her brother around,
And called on God, and the steed with a snort
Sank into the gaping ground.
But the fire maun burn, and I maun quake,
And the time that is gone will no more come back.

And she held her brother, and lo! he grew
A wild bull waked in ire;
And she held her brother, and lo! he changed
To a river roaring higher;
And she held her brother, and he became
A flood of the raging fire;
She shrieked and sank, and the wild elves laughed
Tiil the mountain rang and mire.
But oh! the fire yet burns in my brain,
And the hour is gone, and comes near again.

"O maiden, why waxed thy faith so faint,
Thy spirit so slack and slaw?
Thy courage kept good till the flame waxed wud.
Then thy might began to thaw;
Had we kissed him with thy christened lip,
Ye had wan him frae ’mang us a'
Now bless the fire, the elfin fire,
That made thee taint and fa’;
Now bless the fire, the elfin fire,
The longer it burns it blazes the higher.”

At the close of this unusual strain the figure sat down on the grass, and proceeded to bind up her long and disordered tresses, gazing along the ..old and unfrequented road. “Now God be my helper,” said the traveller, who happened to be the laird of Johnstone Bank, “can this be a trick of the fiend, or can it be bonnie Phemie Irving who chants this dolorous sang? Something sad has befallen,
that makes her seek her seat in this eerie nook amid the darkness and tempest: through might from aboon I will go on and see.” Anil the horse, feeling something of the owner’s reviving spiiit in the application of spur-steel, bore him at once to the foot of the tree. The poor delirious maiden uttered a yell of piercing joy as she beheld him, and, with the swiftness of a creature winged, linked her arms round the rider’s waist, and furious.

shrieked till the woods rang. “Oh, I have ye now, Elphin, I have ye now,” and she strained him to her hosom with a convulsive grasp. “What ails ye, my bonnie lass?" said the laird of Johnstone Bank, his fears of the supernatural vanishing when he beheld her sad and bewildered look. She raised her eyes at the sound, and, seeing a strange faee, her arms slipped their hold, and she dropped with a groan on the ground.

The morning had now fairly broke: the flocks shook the rain from their sides, the shepherds hastened to inspect their charges, and a thin blue smoke began to stream from the cottages of the valley into the brightening air. The laird carried Phemie Irving in his arms, till he observed two shepherds ascending from one of the loops of Corriewater, bearing the lifeless body of her brother. They had found him whirling round and round in one of the numerous eddies, and his hands, clutched and filled with wool, showed that he had lost his life in attempting to save the flock of his sister. A plaid was laid over the body, which, along with the unhappy maiden in a half-lifeless state, was carried into a cottage, and laid in that apartment distinguished among the peasantry by the name of the chamber. While the peasant’s wife was left to take care of Phemie, old man and matron and maid had collected around the drowned youth, and each began to relate the circumstances of his death, when the door suddenly opened, and his sister, advancing to the corpse with a look of delirious serenity, broke out into a wild laugh and said: “Oh, it is wonderful, it’s truly wonderful!"

The bare and death-cold body, dragged from the darkest pool of Corrie, with its hands tilled with fine wool, wears the perfect similitude of my own Elphin! I’ll tell ye—the spiritual dwellers of the eavth, the fairyfolk of our evening tale, have stolen the living body, and fashioned this cold and inanimate clod to mislead your pursuit. In common eyes this seems all that Elphin Irving would be, had he sunk in Corriewater; but so it seems not to me. Ye have sought the living soul, and ye have
found only its garment. But oh, if ye had beheld him, as I beheld him tonight, riding among the elfin troop, the fairest of them all; had you clasped him in your arms, and wrestled for him with spirits and terrible shapes from the other world, till your heart quailed and your flesh was subdued, then would ye yield no credit to the semblance which this cold and apparent flesh bears to my brother. But hearken! On Hallowmass Eve, when the spiritual people are let loose on earth for a season, I will take my stand in the burial-ground of Corrie; and when my Elphin and his unchristened troop come past, with the sound of all their minstrelsy, I will leap on him and win him. or perish for ever.”

All gazed aghast on the delirious maiden, and many of her auditors gave more credence to her distempered speech than to the visible evidence before them. As she turned to depart, she looked round, and suddenly sunk upon the body, with tears streamin'; from her eyes, and sobbed out, “My brother! oh, my brother!” She was carried out insensible, and again recovered; but relapsed into her ordinary delirium, in which she continued till the Hallow Eve after her brother’s burial. She was found seated in the ancient burial-ground, her back against a broken gravestone, her locks white with frost-rime, watching with intensity of look the road to the kirkyard; but the spirit which gave life to the fairest form of all the maids of Annandale was fled for ever.

Such is the singular story which the peasants know by the name of “Elphin Irving, the Fairies’ Cupbearer;” and the title, in its fullest and most supernatural sense, still obtains credence among the industrious and virtuous dames of the romantic vale of Corrie.

COUSIN MATTIE

At the lone farm of Finagle, there lived for many years an industrious farmer and his family. Several of his children died, and only one daughter and one son remained to him. He had besides these a little orphan niece, who was brought into the family, called Matilda; but all her days she went by the familiar name of Cousin Mattie. At the time this simple narrative commences, Alexander, the farmer’s son, was six years of age, Mattie was seven, and Flora, the farmer’s only daughter, about twelve.

How I do love a little girl about that age. There is nothing in nature so fascinating, so lovely, so innocent; and, at the same time, so full of gaiety and playfulness. The tender and delicate affections, to which their natures are moulded, are then beginning unconsciously to form; and everything beautiful or affecting in nature claims from them a deep but momentary interest. They have a tear for the weaned lamb, for the drooping flower, and even for the travelling mendicant, though afraid to come near him. But the child of the poor female vagrant is to them, of all others, an object of the deepest interest. How I have seen them look at the little wretch, and then at their own parents alternately, the feelings of the soul abundantly conspicuous in every muscle of the face and turn of the eye! Their hearts are like softened wax, and the impressions then made on them remain for ever. Such beings approach nigh to the list where angels stand, and are, in fact, the connecting link that joins us with the inhabitants of a better world. How I do love a well-educated little girl of twelve or thirteen years of age!

At such an age was Flora of Finagle, with a heart moulded to every tender impression, and a memory so retentive that whatever affected or interested her was engraven there never to be cancelled.

One morning, after her mother had risen and gone to the byre to look after the cows, Flora, who was lying in a bed by herself, heard the following dialogue between the two children, who were lying prattling together in another bed close beside hers—

“Do you ever dream ony, little Sandy?”

“What is’t like, cousin Mattie Sandy no ken what it is til dream.”

“It is to think ye do things when you are sleeping, when ye dinna do them at a’.”

“Oh, Sandy deam a great deal yat- way.”

“If you will tell me ane o’ your dreams, Sandy— I’ll tell you ane o’ mine that I dreamed last night; and it was about you, Sandy?”

“Sae was mine, cousin. Sandy deamed that he fightit a gaet Englishman, an’ it was Robin Hood; an’ Sandy ding’d him’s swold out o’ him’s hand, an’ noll’d him on ye face, an’ ye back, till him geetit. An’ yen thele comed anodel littel despelyate Englishman, an’ it was littel John; an’ Sandy fightit him till him was dead; an’ yen Sandy got on o' ane gvand holse, an’ gallompit away.”

“But I wish that ye be nae making that dream just e’en now, Sandy?”

“Sandy thought it, atweel.”

“But were you sleeping when you thought it?”

“Na, Sandy wasna’ sleepin’, but him was winking.”

“Oh, but that’s not a true dream; I’ll tell you one that’s a true dream. I thought there was a bonny lady came to me, and she held out two roses, a red one and a pale one, and bade me take my choice. I took the white one; and she bade me keep it, and never part with it, for if I gave it away, I would die. But when I came to you, you asked my rose, and I refused to give you it. You then cried for it. and said I did not love you; so I could not refuse you the flower, but wept too, and you took it.

“Then the bonny lady camp back to me, and was very angry, and said, ‘Did not I tell yon to keep your rose? Now the boy that you Lave given it to will be your murderer. He will kill you; and on this day fortnight you will be lying in your coffin, and that, pale rose upon your breast.’

“I said, ‘I could not help it now.’ But when I was told that you were to kill me, I liked you aye better and better, and better and better.” And with these words Matilda clasped him to her bosom and wept. Sandy sobbed bitterly too, and said, “She be gentle, yon lady. Sandy no kill cousin Mattie. When Sandy gows byaw man, an’ gets a gyand house, him be vely good till cousin an’ feed hel wi’ ginge-bead, an’ yearn, an’ tyankil, an’ take hel in him’s bosy yis way.” With that the two children
fell silent, and sobbed and wept till they fell sound asleep, clasped in each other’s arms.

This artless dialogue made a deep impression on Flora’s sensitive heart. It was a part of her mother’s creed to rely on dreams, so that it had naturally become Flora’s too. She was shocked, and absolutely terrified, when she heard her little ingenious cousin say that Sandy was to murder her, and on that day fortnight she should be lying in her coffin; and without informing her mother of what she had overheard, she resolved in her own mind to avert, if possible, the impending evil. It was on a Sabbath morning, and after little Sandy had got on his clothes, and while Matilda was out, he attempted to tell his mother cousin Mattie’s dream, to Flora’s great vexation; but he made such a blundering story of it that it proved altogether incoherent, and his mother took no further notice of it than to bid him hold his tongue; “what •was that he was speaking about murdering?”

The next week Flora entreated of her mother that she would suffer cousin Mattie and herself to pay a visit to their aunt at Kirkmichael; and, though her mother was unwilling, she urged her suit so earnestly that the worthy dame was fain to consent.

“What’s ta’en the gowki lassie the day?” said she; “I think she be gane fey. I never could get her to gang to see her aunt, and now she has ta’cn a tirrovy in her head, that she’ll no be keepit. I dinna like sie absolute freaks, an’ sic langings, to come into the heads o’ bairns; they’re ower aften afore something uncannie. Gae your ways an’ see your auntie, sin’ ye will gang; but ye’s no get little cousin w’ye, sae never speak o’t. Think ye that I can do wantin’ ye baith out o’ the house till the Sabbath day be ower.”

“Oh but, mother, it’s sae gousty, an’ sae eiry, to lie up in yon loft ane’s lane; unless cousin Mattie gang wi’ me, I canna’ gang ava.”

“Then just stay at hame, daughter, an’ let us alane o’ thae daft nories4 a’ thegither.”

Flora now had recourse to that expedient which never fails to conquer the opposition of a fond mother: she pretended to cry bitterly. The good dame was quite overcome, and at once yielded, though not with a very good grace. “Saw ever onybody, sic a fie-gaeto as this? They that will to Cupar maun to Cupar! Gae your ways to Kirkmichael, an’ tak the hale town at your tail, gin ye like. What’s this
that I’m sped wi’.”

“Na, na, mother; I’s no gang my foot length. Ye sanna hae that to flyre about. Ye keep me working frae the tae year’s end to the tither, an’ winna gie me a day to mysel’. I’s no seek to be away again, as lang as I’m aneath your roof.”

“Whisht now, an’ haud your tongue, my bonny Flora. Ye hae been ower good a bairn to me, no to get your ain way o’ ten times mair nor that. Ye ken laith wad your mother be to contrair you i’ ought, if she wist it war for your good. I’m right glad that it has come i’ your ain side o’ the house, to gang an’ see your auntie. Gang your ways, an’ stay a day or twa; an’, if ye dinna like to sleep your lane, take billy Sandy w’ye, an’ leave little cousin wi’ me, to help me wi’ bits o’ turns till ye come back.” This arrangement suiting Flora’s intent equally well with the other, it was readily agreed to, and everything soon amicably settled between the mother and daughter. The former demurred a little on Sandy’s inability to perform the journey; but Flora, being intent on her purpose, overruled this obje-tion, though she knew it was but too well founded.

Accordingly, the couple set out on their journey next morning, but before they were half way Sandy began to tire, and a short time after gave fairly in. Flora carried him on her back for a space, but finding that would never do, she tried to cajole him into further exertion. Sandy would not set a foot to the ground. He was grown drowsy, and would not move. Flora knew not what to do, but at length fell upon an expedient which an older person would scarcely have thought of. She went to a gate of an enclosure, and, pulling a spoke out of it, she brought that to Sandy, telling him she had now got him a fine horse, and he might ride all the way. Sandy, who was uncommonly fond of horses, swallowed the bait, and, mounting astride on his rung, he took the road at a round pace, and for the last two miles of their journey Flora could hardly keep in view of him.

She had little pleasure in her visit, further than the satisfaction that she was doing what she could to avert a dreadful casualty, which she dreaded to be hanging over the family; and on her return, from the time that she came in view of her father, she looked only for the appearance of Hattie running about the door; but no Hattie being seen, Flora’s heart began to tremble, and as she advanced nearer, her knees grew so feeble that they would scarcely support her slender form; for she knew that it was one of the radical principles a drean to be ambiguous.

“A’s unco still about cur hime the day, Sandy; I wish.ilki ane there may be weel. It’s like death.”

“Sandy no ken what death is like. What it like, Sistel Flola'?”

“You will maybe see that ower soon. It is death that kills a’ living things, Sandy.”

“Aye; aih aye! Sandy saw a wee buldis, it. could neilel pick, nol flee, nol dab. It was vely ill done o’ death! Sistel i'lola, didna God make a’ living things?”

“Yes; be assured he did.”

“Then, what has death ado to kill them if Sandy wele God, him wad fight him.”

“Whisht, whisht, my dear; ye dinna ken what you’re Rayin'. Ye maunna speak about these things.” Weel, Sandy nc speak ony maile about them. But if death should kill cousin Hattie, oh! Sandy wish him might kill him too!”

“Wha do ye like best i’ this world, Sandy?”

“Sandy like sistel Flola best.”

“You are learning the art of flattery already; for I heard ye telling Hattie the tither morning, that ye likit her better than a’ the rest o’ the world put thegither.”

“But van Safa ay coudna Mp yat. Cousin Mattie like Sandy, and what, could him say?"

Flora could not answer him for anxiety; for they were now drawing quite near to the house, and still all was quiet. At length Mattie opened the door, and, without returning to tell her aunt the' joyful tidings, came running like a little fairy to meet then, gave Flora a hasty kiss; end then, clasping little Sr.ndy about the neck, she exclaimed, in an ecstatic tone, “Aih, Sandy man! and pressed her cheek to his. Sandy produced a small book of pictures, and a pink rose knot that he had brought for his cousin, and was repaid with another embrace, and a sly compliment to his gallantry.

Matilda was far beyond her years in acuteness. Her mother was an accomplished English lady, though only the daughter of a poor curate, and she had bred her only child with every possible attention. She could read, she could sing, and play some airs on the spinnet; and was altogether a most interesting little nymph. Both her parents came to an untimely end, and to the lone cottage of Finagle was she then removed, where she was still very much caressed. She told Flora all the news of her absence in a breath. There was nothing disastrous had happened. But, so strong was Flora’s presentiment of evil, that she could not get quit of it, until she had pressed the hands of both her parents. From that day forth, she suspected that little faith was to be put in dreams. The fourteen days was now fairly over, and no evil nor danger had happened to Matilda, either from the hand of Sandy or otherwise. However, she kept the secret of the dream locked up in her heart, and never either mentioned or forgot it.

Shortly after that she endeavoured to reason her mother out of her belief in dreams, for she would still gladly have been persuaded in her own mind that this vision was futile, and of no avail. But she found her mother staunch to her point. She reasoned on the principle that the Almighty had made nothing in vain, and if dreams had been of no import to man they would not have been given to him. And further, she said we read in the Scriptures that dreams were fulfilled in the days of old; but we didna read in the Scriptures that ever the nature of dreaming was changed. On the contrary, she believed that since the days of prophecy had departed, and no more warnings of futurity could be derived by man from that, dreaming was of doubly more avail, and ought to be proportionally more attended to, as the only mystical communication remaining between God and man. To this reasoning Flora was obliged to yield. It is no hard matter to conquer, where belief succeeds argument.

Time flew on, and the two children were never asunder. They read together, prayed together, and toyed and caressed without restraint, seeming but to live for one another. But a heavy misfortune at length befell the family. She who had been a kind mother and guardian angel to all the three was removed by death to a better home. Flora was at that time in her eighteenth year, and the charge of the family then devolved on her. Great was their grief, but their happiness was nothing abated; they lived together in the same kind love and amity as they had done before. The two youngest in particular fondled each other more and more, and this growing fondness, instead of being checked, was constantly encouraged, Flora still having a lurking dread that some deadly animosity might breed between them.

Matilda and she always slept in the same bed, and very regularly told each other their dreams in the morning—dreams pure and innocent as their own stainless bosoms. But one miming Flora was surprised by Matilda addressing her as follows, in a tone of great perplexity and distress—

“All! my dear cousin, what a dream I have had last night! I thought I saw my aunt, your late worthy mother, who was kind and affectionate to me, as she always wont to bo, and more beautiful than I ever saw her. She took me in her arms, and wept over me; and charged me to go and leave this place instantly, and by all means to avoid her son, otherwise he was destined to be my murderer; and on that day seven-night I should be lying in my coffin. She showed me a sight too that I did not know, and cannot give a name to. But the surgeons came between us, and separated us, so that I saw her no more.”

Flora trembled and groaned in spirit; nor could she make any answer to Matilda for a long space, save by repeated moans. “Merciful Heaven!” said she at length, “what can such a dream portend? Do not you remember, dear Mattie, of dreaming a dream of the same nature once long ago?”

Mattie had quite forgot of ever having dreamed such a dream; but Flora remembered it well; and thinking that she might formerly have been the means, under Heaven, of counterworking destiny, she determined to make a further effort; and, ere ever she arose, advised Matilda to leave the house, and avoid her brother, until the seven days had elapsed. “It can do nae ill, Mattie,” said she; “an’
mankind hae whiles muckle i’ their ain hands to do or no to do to bring about, or to keep back.” Mattie consented, solely to please the amiable Flora; for she was no more afraid of Sandy than she was of one of the flowers of the field. She went to Kirkmichael, stayed till the week was expired, came home in safety, and they both laughed at their superstitious fears. Matilda thought of the dream no more, but Flora treasured it up in her memory, though all the coincidence that she could discover between the two dreams was that they had both happened on a Saturday, and both precisely at the same season of the year, which she well remembered.

At the age of two and twenty, Flora was married to a young farmer, who lived in a distant corner of the same extensive parish, and of course left the charge of her father’s household to cousin Mattie, who, with the old firmer, his son, and one maidservant, managed and did all the work of the farm. Still, as their number was diminished, their affections seemed to be drawn the closer; but Flora scarcely saw them any more, having the concerns of a family to mind at home.

One day, when her husband went to church, he perceived the old beadle standing bent over his staff at the churchyard gate, distributing burial letters to a few as they entered. He held out one to the husband of Flora, and, at the same time, touched the front of his bonnet with the other hand; and without regarding how the letter affected him who received it, began instantly to look about for others to whom he had letters directed.

The farmer opened the letter, and had almost sunk down on the earth, when he read as follows:—

“Sir,—The favour of your company, at twelve o’clock, on Tuesday next, to attend the funeral of Matilda and, my niece, from this, to the place of interment, in the churchyard of 0rr, will much oblige, Sir, your humble seivant,

"Finagle, April 12th."

Think of Flora’s amazement and distress, when her busband told her what had happened, and showed her this letter. She took to her bed on the instant, and wept herself into a fever for the friend and companion of her youth. Her husband became considerably alarmed on her account, she being in that state in which violent excitement often proves dangerous. Her sickness was, however, only temporary; but she burned with impatience to learn some particulars of her cousin’s death. Her husband could tell her nothing; only, that he heard one say she died on Saturday.

This set Flora a calculating, and going over in her blind reminiscences of their youth; and she soon discovered, to her utter astonishment and even horror, that her cousin Matilda had died precisely on that day fourteen years that she first dreamed the ominous dream, and that day seven years that she dreamed it again!

Here was indeed matter of wonder! But her blood ran cold to her heart when she thought what might have been the manner of her death. She dreaded, nay, she almost calculated upon it as certain, that her brother had poisoned, or otherwise made away privately with the deceased, as she was sure such an extraordinary coincidence behoved to be fulfilled in all its parts. She durst no more make any inquiries concerning the circumstances of her cousin’s death; but she became moping and unsettled, and her husband feared for her reason.

He went to the funeral; but dreading to leave Flora long by herself, he only met the procession a small space from the churchyard; for his father-in-law’s house was distant fourteen miles from his own. On his return, he could still give Flora very little additional information. He said he had asked his father-in-law what had been the nature of the complaint of which she died; but he had given him an equivocal answer, and seemed to avoid entering into any explanation; and that he had then made inquiry at others, who all testified their ignorance of the matter. Flora at length, after long hesitation, ventured to ask if her brother was at the funeral f and was told that he was not. This was a death-blow to her lingering hopes, and all but confirmed the hideous catastrophe that she dreaded; and for the remainder of that week she continued in a state of mental agony.

On the Sunday following, she manifested a strong desire to go to church to visit her cousin’s grave. Her husband opposed it at first, hut at last consenting, in hopes she might be benefited by an overflow of tenderness, he mounted her on a pad, and accompanied her to the churchyard gate, leaving her there to give vent to her feelings.

As she approached the new grave, which was by the side of her mother’s, she perceived two aged people whom she knew sitting beside it busily engaged in conversation about the inhabitant below. Flora drew her hood over her face, and came with a sauntering step towards them, to lull all suspicion that she had any interest or concern in what they were saying; and finally she leaned herself down on a flat grave-stone close beside them, and made as if she were busied in deciphering the inscription. There she heard the following dialogue, one may conceive with what sort of feelings.

“An’ then she was aye say kind, an’ sae lively, an’ sae affable to poor an’ rich, an’ then sae bonny an’ sae young. Oh, but my heart’s sair for her! When I saw the mortclaith drawn off the coffin, an’ saw the silver letters kythe, Aged 21, the tears ran down ower thae auld wizzened cheeks, Janet.; an’ I said to my-sel’, ‘Wow but that is a bonny flower cut off i’ the bloom!’ But, Janet, my joe, warna ye at the corpse-lusting ?m

“An’ what suppose I was, Matthew? Whai’s your concern wi’ that?”

“Because I heard say that there was nane there but you an’ another that ye ken week But canna you tell me, kimmer, what was the corpse like? Was’t a’ fair an’ bonny, an’ nae blueness nor demmida to be seen?”

“An' what wad an auld fool body like you be the better, an ye kend what the corpse was like. Thae sights are nae for een like yours to see; an’ thae subjects are nae lit for tongues like yours to tattle about. What’s done canna be undone. The dead will lie stilL But oh, what’s to come o’ the living?” “Ay, but I’m sure she had been a lusty weel plenished corpse, Janet; for she was a heavy ane; an’ a deeper coffin I never saw.”

“Haud your auld souple untackit tongue. Gin I hear sic another hint come ower the foul tap o’t, it sal be the waur for ye. But lown be it spoken, an’ little be it said. Weel might the corpse be heavy, an’ the coffin deep! ay, weel might the coffin be made deep, Matthew, for there was a stout lad bairn, a poor little pale flower, that hardly ever saw the light o’ heaven, was streekit1 on her breast at the same time wi’ hersel’.”

EAT HALL

“Eats leaving their usual haunts in your houses, barns, and stackyards, and going to the fields, is an unfortunate omen for the person whose abode they leave.” So wrote one Wilkie, author of a manuscript collection of old Border customs and superstitions, compiled, in the commencement of the present century, for the use of Sir Walter Scott. The following incident illustrating the belief is related as having occurred upon the estate of the present writer. In the early years of the present century, the farm of Raisondieu was tenanted by a family named Fortune, who had been for several generations in occupation, and were reputed to have held land in the neighbourhood for above two hundred years. The name Maisondieu, it may be stated in passing, was derived from a religious house, or hospital, “for the reception of pilgrims, the diseased, and the indigent,” which had formerly stood upon the present farm lands.

At last a crisis in the history of the Fortune family arrived. The old farmer died, leaving a son of some three or four and twenty years of age to succeed him. Robert Fortune, the younger, was a fine young man, who lacked not spirit or ability so much as principle and steadiness. Left to his own devices, with money in his pocket, and without guide, monitor, or controller, he seemed to have set himself to dissipate alike the reputation and the fortune which had been acquired through the prudence and good conduct of his forbears. He had enrolled himself a member of a local corps of Yeomanry Cavalry, which had been raised in the expectation of a French Invasion; and he was bent upon cutting a dash. He prided himself upon the horses he rode; and many were the scenes of midnight carousal, and of hare-brained prank and horse-play, enacted by himself and his hot-blodded, would-be fue-eating companions in the old farm-house at this period. For a brief time things went as merrily as the marriage bell of the proverb; but then a change set in. Peace was proclaimed, and farmers’ prices, which the war had kept high, fell. A succession of bad seasons followed; and, instead of meeting them by retrenchment, young Fortune turned for consolation in the troubles which they brought him to a still more reckless extravagance. His elders shook their heads, and people began to say, when his back was turned, that he was going to the dogs. In time, the pinch of poverty began to be felt at Raisondieu. The Yeomanry had been disbanded, and Robert now sat alone by his black hearth. To drive out the cold, and raise his spirits to the pitch which they had known in happy bygone days, he resorted to the bottle. This, of course, made matters worse. He neglected his business, his accounts wore not kept, and his affiirs became disordered. The house fell into a state of disrepair, which, being allowed to continue, grew rapidly worse; and the servants, observing their master’s weakness, ceased to respect him, and at last, being gained upon by a feeling that he was a man who was going fast down the hill, took to scamping their work or shirking it.

But, if he found himself deserted by his boon companions—friends of a summer day--a new set of associates began to gather in force about poor Bob. If, instead of describing him as going “ to the dogs,” people had said to the “rats,” it would have been more literally correct. Only it was the rata who came to him. They had long infested the farmyard; and now, in the general relaxing of former strictness, they had succeeded in effecting an entrance into the house. And, having once entered, they held the advantage they had gained. At first their presence was only made known at night, after the lights had been put out, and the inmates of the house had withdrawn to bed. Then, indeed, they held high revels in tho kitchen—as a continual sound of skurrying feet, the occasional whisking of a tail upon the wainscot, the overturning with a clatter or a crash of some vessel of tin or earthenware, or the bold bounding of some more than commonly intrepid adventurer, allowed all men to be aware. So long, they were heard, and their devastations were felt; but the devastators were not seen. But, in course of time, finding themselve3 masters of the situation, they grew bolder, and ventured abroad by daylight too. Then it came to be no uncommon sight to see a rat cross the passage in front of you; or, on entering the kitchen, to catch sight of one suspended by his fore-feet, his tail depending behind him, sampling the contents of some butter-jar, or dripping pot, which had been left unlidded on the table. When he saw himself detected, the rat would beat a leisurely retreat; and there was insolence in his carriage and in the sweep of his tail, as though he knew his adversary’s weakness. It was observed at this time that though the farmer, his man, and maid, grew lean, the rats on the firm grew fat. At last, with high living and impunity, their boldness grew beyond all bounds, and from the kitchen teel extended their playground so as to comprise the whole house. Then it became a common occurrence for a rat to run across you whilst you lay in bed; or, if your toes peeped out at the foot of a short coverlet, for you to feel one nibbling at them. Or a rat might even hang feeding on the draught-blown, guttering candle at the farmer’s very elbow, whilst he himself sat late into the night, plunged in a heavy reverie, the result, in equal parts, of his troubles and his potations. So it is with a certain class of humanity, who feed and flourish amid the misfortune and the decline of their betters. The depredations committed were enormous; for when they could not spoil or devour food or other property, the rats would carry it away. The contrivance was of the smallest use against them, for they soon understood the nature of the most ingenious trap, whilst poison failed to tempt them. Thus, whilst increasing in size, they increased so amazingly in numbers that— its owner being by this time so down in the world as to appear a safe butt for insolence—the old and formerly much respected house of Maisondieu now received from the profane the nickname of “Eat Hall.”

It was about this time that the remarkable incident with which my story is concerned was witnessed by an old shepherd in Fortune’s service. The family of Hall, a race of shepherds, had been long associated with that of Fortune upon the farm of Maisondieu; end old BauMv, its present representative, was now, in his own phrase, “the fourth generation serving the fourth generation.” Greatly older and by nature snore thoughtful than his master, he, of course, viewed the state of matters on the farm with a heavy heart, and looked forward with the gloomiest forebodings to the time when, as it seemed, he must inevitably be separated from that master, whom, in spite of faults, he loved, and from the spot where he had spent a long and happy life-time. Well, one night in springtime, he was sadly returning to the onstead after a visit to his lambs. A brilliant moon rode in a clear sky, and as he skirted an old hedge which separates the farm premises from a field, at that time in grass, he saw before him a single rat.

“Bad luck to you!” he murmured, under his breath, “for ye have brought bad luck on us.”

The rat, which had come out of a rat-bole in the bank (which was perfectly riddled with them), now seemed to look about him. The shepherd watched it. Returning to the hole, it re-appeared, accompanied by a second rat. They in turn looked about them, and perhaps compared notes as to what they saw, for this time one only retired to the hole. It was absent during some moments, and then returned, bringing with it a very large old rat, which it piloted with care. The hair upon the face of the old rat was white with age; and the shepherd observed that it was blind. His interest was by this time thoroughly aroused, and grasping his tall crook with both hands, he rested his cheek against his arms and watched, intently, and in silence, from the black shadow of the hedge. And now he witnessed what amazed him. From each of the innumerable rat-holes in the hedgerow, as if by magic, as if from a child’s toy, there had started forth a rat, which crouched, motionless and listening, before the entrance to its cave. Their number, and the uniformity of their action, gave to the effect presented the dignity of impressiveness. It was quite clear that they were acting, not by chance, but in the prosecution of some well-thought-out plan, upon some preconcerted signal.

As he watched them, Old Bauldy scarce drew his breath. The night was still; and when they had apparently satisfied themselves that the coast was clear, the rats advanced a little way. And, as, in doing so, they brought their tails and hind-quarters clear of the mouths of the rat-holes, they disclosed the nozzle and bright bead-like eyes of other rats behind them. If it had been curiosity which had at first kept tho shepherd motionless, it was the instinct of self-preservation which did so now. An army of rats such as he now beheld might well inspire uneasiness, nay, terror, in a braver man; and, as he gazed, its numbers were being every moment reinforced. For now, above the living silence of a country landscape contemplated by night, a low, but ever gathering and growing rumour was gradually making itself heard. It came from underground; and it was produced by the beating of many thousands of little feet upon the trodden earth of the runs. And, at last, whilst the sound increased in volume, by a hundred mouths the earth began to disgorge its living burthen. Rats! They were of the Norway breed, and first in order came the great males. These are used to live alone; if hunger presses them, they will prey on their own brood; they justly inspire terror. The less formidable females followed, each accompanied by her young. And ever as they swarmed in momentarily increasing numbers, as in the remote historical or mythical Migration of the Nations, the rear rank pushed the front rank before it, till the rats spread far afield, and the very ground seemed alive and moving with their multitudes. Transfixed in the attitude which he had at first assumed, the shepherd watched the spectacle—standing like a man who has been turned to stone, whom no earthly power could have induced to stir a finger. To say that never in his life before had he seen so many rats would be to utter idlest words. In no agonised vision of the night, lying stretched upon his pallet of chaff, whilst his breath froze, and his enemies disported themselves triumphantly, insultingly, upon the bare boards of the loft, peeped in on by a mischievous moon, had he ever dreamed of so many!

As has been said, during all this time it had been amply apparent that the rats were not acting without some plan of their own. Instead of following each one his own bent, they moved with the regularity and the discipline of trained forces manoeuvring in order. Nothing could have less resembled the blind infatuation of their fellows and predecessors, who had frisked at the heels of the Pied Piper through the streets of Hamelin to their doom. They had far more in common with the grim determination of the instruments of vengeance against Bishop Hatto. But their demeanour, if a little stern, was calm as well as resolute, as, inspired by a single purpose, controlled by a single will, they advanced, marching shoulder to shoulder. There were few stragglers, few weak places in their ranks. Their morale was very nearly perfect.

And now, when they had wheeled into the field, a touching incident occurred. The old hoary-faced rat had undoubtedly in his youth been marked by nature for a leader. But times were changed; he was old and blind, and for a moment he stood helpless before hi? people. For a moment, but no longer. Grasping the position of affairs, the rat who had been the first to appear, stepped forward to the rescue, and saved the situation. In his mouth he was observed to hold, by one of its ends, a straw— the other end of which he now dexterously inserted betwixt the jaws of the Patriarch, so as to form a sort of leading-string. And, thus coupled, the two rats moved off, and were followed by their thousands,—the old rat, through the graceful intervention of the young one, still preserving every little of his dignity as a king and father of his people in this momentous crisis of his reign.

The shepherd watched the moving mass, as it passed across the moonlit surface of the field, like the shadow of a cloud, until at last- it was lost to sight beyond a rising ground.

Then, and not till then, did he stir. Pulling himself hastily together, he made for the farm-house, and with the freedom which is allowed to an old servant, burst into his master’s room. Fortune was seated at the table, his face buried iu his hands. A sheet of printed paper lay before him.

“Bob! Bob!” cried the old man, “we are pre-sairved—the rats are gone! ”

But Bob only lifted a heavy head and pointed, without speaking, to the paper which lay before him. It was an announcement that a “displenishing sale” would shortly be held at Maisondieu.

“Lord! and has it come to this?”

“It has, indeed! I had not the heart to break it to you before, Bauldy.” And then he added with bitterness, “We must have the usual jollification, I suppose. Well, there will be meat for many to provide that day; but I doubt ’twill be the poison of one.”

And so, sure enough, ere the Whitsuntide term-day arrived, the furniture and fittings of Maisondieu farm had fallen to the auctioneer’s hammer; and Robert Fortune and his old and faithful shepherd had gone forth homeless, and in opposed directions, to face and fight the world.

It only remains to add that this story, wild as it may appear, is, in its main facts, currently related at the present day among the country-people of Roxburghshire.

THE END


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