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Chapter VI. On the Whiteadder


IF I were asked the best line of procedure for a passing glimpse of the Merse by some inquiring soul with an eye and a turn for rural economics and the things that make for the life of a country, I should know what to do. But in these gregarious, industrial, breathless days there are no such people—none, that is to say, wandering at large about Great Britain, as Young and Pennant and Cobbett wandered. There are plenty of them in the country. I know a good many who, if they found themselves at Berwick with a couple of days to spare—a most remote eventuality—would extract an immense amount of interest from a leisurely day's journey through the heart of the Merse. They would not be so staggered as upon a first encounter with East Lothian; but they would experience, particularly if they came from south of the Trent, a remarkable eye-opener, and I think would remember their little pilgrimage for the rest of their lives. I am not referring here to mere lovers of or dwellers in the country, rose-growers, artists, naturalists, antiquaries, sportsmen, or detached country gentlemen, or amateurs generally, between whom and the man I have in mind there is a great gulf in the appeal of a countryside outlook, but to the farming squire, the large farmer, the land agent, and such like. These folk are naturally disposed to make their annual holiday a violent contrast to their normal existence, and will then be found in Scarborough, Paris, or Switzerland. Such a man, if accidentally captured, I would send through the Verse upon the almost straight road from Berwick to Kelso, not by the more picturesque and twisting ways beside the Tweed which we have just followed, nor yet again by the route nearer the foot of the Lammermoors, which I propose to follow in this chapter. There is not a vast deal of difference, but in the central road by Swinton the opulence of agriculture and great country seats is more continually in evidence, while the upper roads, though rich enough in both, have more of the scenic variety acceptable to the general traveller.

So going out of Berwick bounds through the parish of Mordington, in whose mansion Cromwell slept when his troops were in Berwick, and thence heading for Chirnside, the church and little village of Foulden makes the first appeal to notice of any consequence. If these country churches along the Border have generally but slim attraction in their modern disguise, they have quite often been the scene of international ceremonies of high importance. Peace and war have been decided, dynasties have been made or unmade within their walls, or at least within the foundations of some of these plain, unpretentious-looking kirks. At Foulden, for instance, the commissioners of Queen Elizabeth met those of James VI. in 1587, to explain and vindicate on the part of the English sovereign her wholly inexcusable butchery of Queen Mary. Foulden is another of those exceptions which confront us from time to time as if to mitigate the low aesthetic reputation of the Scottish village. For here a single row of quite pleasing cottage fronts look out upon a well-kept, level green. One might fancy this last a stage spread with a verdant carpet and shaded by a big tree or two fronting a superb drop-scene through which the vale of Tweed glimmers away to the blue outstanding masses of Cheviot.

Foulden parish, like the others hereabouts, seems to have been a model Arcady eighty years ago. No inhabitant had been tried for a serious crime within the memory of man. There were practically no illegitimate births, though irregular marriages, as elsewhere along the Border, from the facilities offered, is as usual a cause of complaint by their excellent pastor. So too is emigration, with the old, old wail of the young and the robust being the chief deserters, attracted by the success of those who had already gone to Canada and prosperity. The wages of the men, though paid mostly in kind, were then equal to about twenty-one pounds a year; their food consisted of porridge and milk morning and night, with pease-bannocks, broth, and potatoes, seasoned with fat pork, for dinner, while every hind had a cow. If any one is so ingenuous as to imagine this a poor diet for a hard-working class, it would be useless to refer them to the physical qualities of the race it bred; for this, too, would probably be outside their range of observation. Nowadays the hinds' wages are very nearly thrice as much. He rarely keeps a cow. Neither he nor his family, not even the young children, as a rule, touch oatmeal porridge, or use any appreciable quantity of milk. Stewed tea, anĉmic baker's bread, commercial jam, a little butcher's meat, and a good deal of tinned stuff roughly represents in the matter of dietary the trebling of a wage. In those halcyon days, when decorum, piety, and material content, according to their ministers, were the distinguishing traits of the Merse peasantry, one insidious and deplored vice was the "new and costly habit of tea-drinking, particularly among the women." The entire disappearance of games, on the other hand, is lamented by the worthy incumbent of Foulden—an attitude which savours of the unexpected in an official of John Knox's communion living so much nearer the day of that truculent prophet. Particular regret is expressed by the good man at the lapse of the old game of ball, in which the villagers had been formerly accustomed to contend with the rest of the parish. Whether, as is probable, it was a bladder, to be carried and kicked, otherwise football, or a-solid ball to be carried and flung, as in the old South Welsh game of Knappan, which also brought whole parishes into the field with like objects, is not mentioned; nor is the difference material. But the object of the indwelling side was to place the ball in the hopper of the mill on the Whiteadder, and that of the outdwellers to deposit it in the church pulpit. What shades of the old Covenanters buried under the windows would have thought of the final melee in such a godless conflict going forward in their very kirk is ill saying. In South Wales the respective churchyards of the two opposing parishes were the goals. Our Foulden pastor would find comfort, on that score at any rate, if he could return to earth and see the footballs flying in every direction. "Creeling" was still in vogue at this time—one of those ponderous practical jokes on newly-married couples that in various forms delighted the rustic in most parts of the island. A few nights after marriage the couple were visited by the gayer youth of the parish, the husband hauled out and a basket full of stones tied on his shoulders. This load, emblematical of the matrimonial responsibilities he had taken on himself, he was condemned to carry till his wife could cut the cords and release him, illustrating thereby how a good helpmeet could lighten her husband's burden. This virtually degenerated into the extortion of a fine, which was readily paid to escape the nuisance.

In former days every hind, horsekeeper, or man employed by the year was required to find a "bondager," or, in other words, a woman to work whenever and for so long as his employer required. This condition, though greatly modified, is not yet absolutely dead, and the word "bondager," though still in general use in Northumberland, has been toned down in the Merse to "worker." The bondager was and is, either wife, daughter, sister, or some spinster relative, and she is included in the written contract with the man. There are nothing like the number of them employed as of yore. But the regular female field-hand is still a common object of the countryside, earning wages of two shillings a day with tolerable regularity. This, added to the man's wages, or "gains" as the saying now goes, means a pretty substantial weekly income coming into the same household. In turnip-singling, potato planting and lifting, hay-making and harvest, the bondager is in daily evidence in the fields. And again in autumn, handling the turnips or potatoes in the pits, or threshing in the steading or forking manure in the yards, she is constantly at work. They are mostly young women, but occasionally you see an old crone on whose furrowed face the storms and sun-shines of forty or fifty seasons have left their mark. A quaint and uniform dress has distinguished these rural Amazons ever since I can remember, and doubtless for long before that. In the Merse and Northumberland, however, though not in East Lothian, they have made a notable change in head-gear.

In place of the poke-bonnet and blue "ugly," they have adopted a brown straw hat with turned-down brim, over which a pink scarf is bound and pulled down over their ears and neck, and at the same time brought round to cover their chins up to the mouth in semi-oriental fashion. Below this, giving a further touch of colour, conies a blue blouse belted at the waist, short linsey-woolsey skirts to their knees, thick woollen stockings, and hob-nailed boots. They look as ruddy and stalwart as of old, but are said to have lost much of the prodigious stamina of their predecessors in the less nourishing diet and the pernicious influence of the baker's and grocer's carts, which have superseded the porridge and milk and home-made bread. Comparative financial affluence and nearly the whole wage being now paid in cash, has demoralised the dietary of the labouring class as well as much of the simple culinary skill the women once possessed. Porridge is now despised, nor is a cow any longer kept, its keep value having been commuted for cash, very little of which, I am told, is expended upon milk. It is genteel to buy white bread from the baker, and saves no end of trouble. A married hind of perhaps forty, whose position spoke for his worth, and who had himself apparently drawn a prize in the matrimonial lottery, poured forth to me his contempt of the present-day country girls as the wives and prospective wives of working men. That was in East Lothian. Even in 1834 there seems to have been practically no one in these parishes unable to read and write. There were also well-patronised village libraries of standard authors ; and if theology was a leading ingredient, it was, in matter and style at any rate, worthy the mental exercise induced by it, which was considerable. The Scotch parish schools, as •every one knows, were formerly very superior to those of England. The old-fashioned dominie could not only teach Latin and the Higher Mathematics, but very often Greek, and sent up promising boys from the village to the universities. The English schools have been revolutionised, and the Scottish have been stereotyped on much the same system, and there is now, I believe, no difference in quality between them. In Scotland nowadays, as in England, speaking with but slight metaphor, the roadsides are littered with the garish covers of the cheap trash that has stood in the path of the modern educationist and three parts thwarted his worthy endeavours.

The Whiteadder all this time, away down upon our left hand and hidden from view, frets with strong current in its deep, narrow, woody vale. It turns the wheels just here of Edington Mill, which grinds the grain of the neighbourhood; while Edington Mains, with its ample steading beside the highway, recalls a name familiar enough in North British agriculture in bygone days.

Chirnside is the largest village, and by far the most elevated in the Verse. Crowning an isolated ridge 600 feet above the sea, its half-mile of bald roof and gable, unrelieved by a touch of foliage, cuts the sky-line in cold and cheerless fashion. One looks up at it notching the ridge of long, upsweeping fields, immaculate in their cultivation, and shudders as one thinks of the east winds of spring. It is, in truth, a long, unlovely substantial village, lying drear and wind-swept above a lovely land. The church and tree-girt manse, a Iittle way down the slope, make a redeeming feature. The former has been well restored, and retains such small portions of old Norman work as had been spared in the changes wrought since the Reformation. It now makes a brave display, and is a landmark for miles.

Chirnside boasts of several celebrities, worthy and unworthy. David Hume, the philosopher and historian, was a son of the laird of Ninewalls, which is within easy view near the foot of the hill. He lived and wrote here a good deal, and the present minister told inc that his name was on record as up for " Kirk discipline," on account of sonic amour with a local Phyllis. This fitted in nicely with the fact that he wrote part of his Enquiry concerning the Principle of Morals at Ninewalls. There is also a monument to David Erskine, once minister here, in the churchyard, and notable as father of the two brothers who led the first secession from the Church of Scotland. Wild things have happened here even since the old Border days. About the year 1700, one David Spence was laird of West Mains, now, I think, the farm known as Ninewalls Mains adjoining the village. He was a pretty rake, and kept company with another spark of similar propensities, Sir Robert Lauder, of Edington, recently mentioned. Spence, however, married a wife who undertook to reform him. Her initial step in this praiseworthy endeavour was to slam the door in Lauder's face at his first visit and refuse him admittance in her husband's name! This was not to be borne by the heady laird of Edington, who forced his way in and shot his former friend through the heart. Remorse, however, was instantaneous. For mounting his horse he galloped to Berwick, and, shouting through the streets that he had killed the prettiest man in the Merse, he flung himself over Berwick bridge into the Tweed, whose waters closed for ever above his hapless head.

A more recent notability of Chirnside, some forty years deceased, and of altogether another complexion, was Dr. Henderson, country doctor, philosopher, antiquary, and poet, who published some sixty years ago two little volumes, now extremely rare, out of a mass of manuscripts that have never seen the Iight. Let us hope that one day they will achieve some partial publication. For the county of Berwick is extraordinarily deficient for so historically rich a region in printed matter relating to its past from any point of view. There is nothing even resembling a county history. Sir George Douglas of Springwood has done this service for the three counties to the westward. But the seaboard shire of the March lying upon the most trodden of all the old blood-stained international highways vet awaits the labours of some zealous son of the soil. Dr. Henderson's son, who lives at Chirnside, kindly allowed me such a cursory glance at some of these manuscripts as the occasion allowed. How rare are these admirable people, so fashioned that their native county or district provides an inexhaustible mine of affectionate interest and study of its people, its customs, antiquities, scenery, birds, beasts, and flowers —not literally, perhaps, experts over so wide a range, though some few come to the mind in various parts that are indeed all this and more. livery countryside has happily a few who have eyes to see and ears to hear in this sense of the word, and ask for nothing better. And what could be better than to use and enjoy these too rare faculties and this happy temperament upon the soil that bred them and for love of it.

There are not many sages of this kind in the county of Berwick, though you might fancy it would be thick with them. The prospect from Chirnside, for a site where nearly a thousand souls cluster, is remarkable. You may brush aside the unromantic aspect of the long, drear-looking street and fancy the women gathering from lines of thatched cabins on this bleak height and straining their eyes over the wide-stretching plain, now so radiant in woodland and tillage, but then carrying scarce a stick of timber. It requires no effort to picture the excitement and suspense of the whole noncombatant, stay-at-home portion of the hilltop village, as its menfolk come straggling back across the open and up the long slope—or do not come back—from one of those many sanguinary battles fought almost within sight. The roar of artillery with which Flodden opened must have been audible enough, and even its smoke-clouds plainly visible, from here, while every fighting man in Chirnside beyond a doubt was with this Earl of Home in that first victorious charge and its mysterious sequel-

"What anxious mothers here have stood
What new-made widows here have sighed."

And I think it will be admitted that even Scott could not have recalled the frequent scene in a simple couplet more felicitously than the local bard whose memory we have just invoked. A mile away, in the valley below, the I3lackadder and the Whiteadder unite their restless streams beneath Allanton bridge and glitter away over a mile of open meadow before plunging into the deep and woody channels of Edington and Hutton. I have been many times at Chirnside, or round about it, in the past few years, and indeed quite recently spent a fortnight hard by it for the mere pleasure of exploring a region always good to look upon, and rich in old memories, even though their landmarks too often are but heaps of stone or a crumbling wall. For the plough of the Verse has been less tolerant of the past than the shepherds of Tyne and Rede, of Jed or Ettrick. A husbandman of the Merse, too, is undoubtedly shorter memoried, than the horseman and the shepherd of the Middle March.

The rents of this particular district, I find, ran from 3s. to 5s. an acre in the middle of the eighteenth century ; while quite early in the next one they are reported at from £3 to £4, and sometimes more, and have hovered round those figures ever since. This speaks con-elusively for the activity of the plough and the improver, and is but a fair sample expressed in plain arithmetic of the astounding leap of Scotland within the possible lifetime of a very old man, from backward poverty to the very van of progress. One might illustrate these two positions by the respective figures of a shilling and a pound without fear of criticism. The material development of English life between the accession of George III. and the death of George IV., great as it was, becomes almost as nothing compared to the transformation of Scotland in the same period. It is curious how little this quite sensational chapter in British history is realised, which sets forth how completely within the span of a single long life the northern kingdom turned the tables on her more favoured southern neighbour;—how the once accepted, nay, the eagerly sought after teachers in agriculture became the taught, and the once jeered-at, microscopic rent-rolls of the north swelled to figures that became the envy of Norfolk and Lincolnshire in their proudest days. how far Scotsmen outside a small circle realise this quite dramatic performance and triumph of their ancestors, I would not venture to say. I know a great many and of many kinds, and feel compelled to remark, with all the risk so hardy a suggestion entails, that a sense of these things does not seem very strong within most of them. But after all the majority of folks, whether Scotch or English, care nothing at all for the past, certainly not for a past of mere unembellished fact, though they may owe their present condition to it. To apply the term dramatic to a. revolution that had in great part its origin in a. timely enthusiasm for lime and Swedish turnips and subsoil-draining will sound like bathos beside the theological strife which prolonged poverty and misery and the gorgeous pageants which accompanied the truculence of Whig and Jacobite and made things extremely unpleasant for everybody.

Chirnside stands perched at the very edge of the 1lerse of strict interpretation—the region, that is to say, between Tweed and Whiteadder. Seaward the land soon springs aloft to the long high ridge of Halidon and Lamberton, which shuts out the coast. And as you descend the long hill on the Duns road, if it were not for the stately avenue of trees that, as if in apology for the nakedness of the village above it, spread a leafy screen upon either side, this rough demarcation of the old topographers would explain itself. For away to the right—to the east, speaking broadly—spreads a higher, bleaker, poorer stretch of arable country, in touch and sympathy with Coldingham, rising to the foothills of the Lammermoors, and sending its own little burn, the Billiemere, sideways into the Eye, not into the White-adder. In this belt of country, with the tree-sheltered homesteads sprinkled thinly over the great, bare, clean-looking farms, there were terrible hard knocks going in old days. For it rolls away to the mouth of the Pease Pass, so often referred to as the gateway into the heart of Scotland. The remains of the castles of Billie and Bunkle, mere grass-grown foundations in the one case and rude fragments in the other, still speak to the infrequent pilgrim; while around them in summer the oblivious bondager singles swedes in cheerful groups, or the phlegmatic hind lays his shining furrow over the clean autumn ley

"Runkle, Billie, and Blanerne,
Three castles strong as airn,
Built when Davy was a bairn:
They'll a' gang doon
In Scotland's croon,
And ilka one shall be a cairn."

Blanerne survives on the banks of the Whiteadder, and its less mangled remains are still cherished in the grounds of the family whose ancestors built it and descendants still own it. In the woody gorge a mile or so from Chirnside, where the Duns road crosses the broad, rocky channel of the Whiteadder, a paper-mill rears its unsightly chimney, which pours forth into the rural calm with ceaseless industry (for which, no doubt, one ought to give praise) an unsavoury cloud. I remember coming on it unawares out of the bed of the river, in my youth, with much resentment and vague foreboding. But nothing has happened. Nothing more, I mean, outside its baleful presence ; for the White-adder, up or down, is as fair and fresh to look upon as it was then, and what is yet more remarkable contains, I really think, as many trout. Everybody told me so; though the angler is notoriously a pessimist. For if the lawlactor temporis acti prevails anywhere, it is upon the banks of fast-running trout streams, whether preserved or otherwise. But the Whiteadder; like some other southern Scottish rivers, is virtually open to the world for about five-sixths of its forty-mile course, strips of private water in the actual policies of country houses here and there comprising the lesser part. And the "world" in the sense here used means absolutely the most trout-fishing people on the face of the globe. I admit to misdoubting the local oracles, though they were not hotel proprietors with an axe to grind, but humble sportsmen who had less than none. But I was wrong. To those outside the fraternity this may seem a trivial point. But to the angler familiar with trout and all that concerns them, it will, I know, seem incredible that a river running through civilisation, within call of first-class roads, in these days of swift machines, to say nothing of propinquity to a railroad for much of its course, can furnish reasonable sport to all and sundry, generation after generation. The more they know, the more sceptical will they be. And unless piscatorially familiar with the south of Scotland, they have probably never seen a whole population armed with rods, or with a rod at home—a condition due, no doubt, to the facilities traditionally- extended to them. I greatly doubt if an owner would now venture to close more of his river than custom seems to approve of. I am speaking for the moment only of Berwickshire, which is watered by three notable tributaries of the Tweed and any number of smaller streams and burns, every one stocked with trout. The outcry would not be worth encountering, nor the trifling gain to the owners in any proportion to the loss to a generally well-behaved public. If some novus homo from Newcastle should peradventure come into possession here, and bring with him the extravagant notions of the sanctity of even inaccessible hill-burns nowadays prevalent in Northumberland, he might have a surprise in store. How far this tradition of open waters extends to the middle and western Border counties I do not know, but I think quite a little. But it has answered admirably in Berwickshire. The lairds in some cases reserve a home stretch for themselves, which waters are, I think, not only piously respected by the fishing public, but regarded as a valuable sanctuary for keeping up the stock. But even so, as an old fisherman with from peculiar circumstances a wider general acquaintance than any mere fishing enterprises could well give, among the rapid rivers of England and Wales, the sustained fertility of the Whiteadder, the Leader, the Eye, and other delightful and romantic Berwickshire streams, under their uniquely liberal traditions, I admit, utterly confounds me. Little bits of open water sandwiched in between preserves, such as you may occasionally find in similar streams elsewhere, are conceivable as being reasonably stocked, though, as a matter of fact, they are generally next to useless. A proposal to throw open the Dart, the Exe, the Towy, the Dove, the Ribble, or any other of a score of prototypes of the Whiteadder that occur to one, with an idea that they would continue to provide quite reasonable sport, would be regarded as the suggestion of a lunatic by the most liberal-minded and sanguine expert. Yet none of these have such a number of potential anglers in touch with them as actually ply a rod upon these Border streams. I myself should certainly have held such a proposal nowadays as that of one demented. But these Berwickshire rivers upset one's fundamental notions. I do not know what to think. For their physical conditions are in all essentials identical with scores of streams in England and Wales: the same water, the same banks and bottom, the same multitude of feeders big and little, the same climatic conditions. As to efficient drainage and rapid carrying away of flood water, which is a generally recognised agency in reducing a stock of fish, the drainage of the upland Scottish farms is infinitely more efficient than that obtaining in the comparatively backward agriculture of the small farmers of Wales or Devonshire.

Where lies the mystery? In the early seventies I used myself to haunt the higher waters of the Whiteadder a great deal, and in after years, with the wider experience they bring of things in general, often wondered, on looking back, how the sport came to be so good with so many rods even then busy at work, to say nothing of the occasional competitions of fishing clubs from Edinburgh. I vaguely put it down as one of those mysteries pertaining to "the good old days," like the rest of us. It has entertained me vastly to find to-day upon the same waters men not then born harbouring strange fancies of that period as a primitive epoch, when fishermen were scarce and the river stiff with fish that would "rise at your hat," as the anglers' idiom has it. This is all moonshine. There were heaps of fishermen—too many on occasions, as one even then thought—from Edinburgh, Newcastle, and elsewhere, full of zeal and skill, and as well equipped for all practical purposes as their successors to-day. Then, too, the elder ones at least, as they began to warm with the second tumbler, talked of the "good old days"; but I fancy their reminiscent moods really did deal with a more elementary period. Stewart, the best trout-fisher in Scotland, whose little classic was re-edited by the late Mr. Earle Hodgson not long ago, was then still by the riverside, making, as it proved, his last casts upon the Berwickshire streams. Twenty years before he had written that the immense increase in the number of fishermen threatened to alter all the conditions of which he was treating. Well, the Whiteadder still flows on, fresh, beautiful, and sequestered as ever, unconscious of the passing of generations and of their prophets of good and evil. And it still offers to the angler simple or gentle who treads its banks or wades its streams, as pleasant and nearly as profitable days, if he knows his business, as Stewart sixty years ago was convinced that he saw the end of. If the expert on a good day in the best months can kill with fly his twelve or fourteen pounds weight, which he undoubtedly still does, any one sufficiently knowledgeable to be interested at all in such matters, will understand that such a river must be, as indeed it is, well stocked. The secret of its fecundity, in face of such continuous and sustained attention, is, as I have said, inscrutable. I make a present of the problem to the angling reader. Most likely he will not believe me, and I shall fully sympathise with his incredulity. But perhaps credo quia absurd urn est may be his final and better judgment.

Though July is the second worst fishing month, and I did not and should not go to Chirnside at any month for that purpose, yet the temptation to throw a fly once more on a river so intimately associated with faraway memories was irresistible. So one afternoon, when a night's rain had put a little fresh water into the Whiteadder's depleted streams, washed the dust from the roadside hedges, freshened up the thirsting potato-fields, and put the last sown turnips out of reach of the fly, I betook me to the waterside. Now, Broome House is about four miles up the river, which running mostly out of sight of highways, in its green secluded vale, is tapped anon by branching lanes that pitch downward to some ford with stepping stones or swinging foot-bridge. From the road which leads to Preston village and thence up into the wild heart of the Lammermoors, one of these same byways branches off and dives abruptly down a woody brae, beneath which the river flashes in broad and wimpling shallows and deep rock-ribbed pools. Among the meadows on the farther shore, embowered in wood, stands an ancient seat of the Homes, though now represented by a modern mansion in which the original pele tower is somewhere embedded. But it was not Broome House itself on this occasion, nor altogether the fishable qualities of the stretch of river which washes its woods and green haughs, that took me there. I had a fancy for hunting up the reputed grave, if its memory still survived among the ancients, of that French Warden of the March, De la Beaute, otherwise Anthony d'Arey, who fell at the hands of the infuriated Homes in the days of the Regent Albany; for this is a famous Border incident. I failed to find the mortuary cairn, partly because the only wights I encountered were fishermen who had never heard of it, and had obviously no soul for "anshent things" as the Welsh peasant has it, and partly that I fell prematurely a-fishing myself, and stuck to it. Though it was a bright and steamy July afternoon there was quite a little rise on—enough at any rate to keep my feet from wandering upon so vague an antiquarian quest. But this is the popular story.

Now in the days of James V., after the catastrophe of Flodden Field, the Regent Albany had been rash enough to behead an Earl of Home and confiscate his estates, and foolish enough to appoint a French favourite of his own Warden of the March in his place. This was Anthony d'Arcy, commonly known, in accordance with the Scottish love of to-names, as the Sieur de la Beautc from his handsome person. A family row was going merrily forward at Langton Castle, now a noble modern mansion near Duns, and the interference of the Warden becoming necessary, "Bawtie," as the vulgar tongue had it, came down with a strong force from Kelso. Failing to persuade David Home of Wedderburn and his faction, who were besieging Langton, to go home in peace, he proceeded to the use of threats, which coming from a usurping foreigner made the blood of the already outraged Homes boil within them. So brooding on their wrongs, Wedderburn and his friends after a little interval, and to the number of only a score, made a furious onslaught on Bawtie's party, most of whom being Scotsmen and half-hearted in his service, decamped. There was nothing then left for the Warden to rely upon but the speed of his horse, a fine animal that had once belonged to the slaughtered Earl of Home. And then began a great race. Starting from the Carnie Ford, two miles beyond Duns, Bawtie led his pursuers through the streets of the town and thence three more miles to the "Stoney land" about Broome. The story has it that Bawtie would have outpaced his pursuers if his horse had carried normal saddlery, and not been weighed down by the pomp of French trappings. As it so fell out, the first to come up with him was a young page of Wedderburn's, who had been left at home, but, on getting news of the sport. had seized a sword and jumped on his master's best horse. Riding for a long time a breast race with Bawtie, the lad kept the Warden so busy parrying his thrusts that his horse fell with him over some unseen stones. Springing to his feet, the Frenchman did little more than hold the courageous youth at bay, till two of the Home brothers came up and overpowered him, cut his head off and carried it back through Duns, to be exposed over the gate of Wedderburn Castle. The body was buried where it fell; and the pile of stones which is said to mark it was the goal I had vaguely aimed at.

Instead of this I found myself with the lengthening shadows seated upon a grassy bank beside the stream, beneath one of those great spreading ash trees which flourish so conspicuously on the Whiteadder's banks, and watching the clear amber water sweeping over rocks and slabs of many colours into a wide heaving pool, of whose "finny tribe," as Thomson would have said, I had just taken trifling toll. The slanting sunbeams quivered on the open restless shallows, and shot long stray shafts of gold beneath the low branching foliage upon the dark shadowed depths of the pool. A heron with slow-moving wings passed lazily overhead. Confiding conics popped in and out of the red burrows in the bank. A white-breasted water-ouzel—water-crow as the rustics hereabouts inaptly style him—nodded and bobbed at inc from a mossy stone after the humoursome fashion of his tribe, and some milk cows, on the way, doubtless, to the pail, crunched at the grass behind in sociable propinquity. The lush languor of high summer reigned supreme. It was not a moment to muse on Bawtie and his mangled corpse, or of swords and blood and fierce unbridled passions, or on the Lady Chatelaine and her bairns, whom history relates the ferocious Evers deliberately immolated when he burned this very pele tower of Broome. I had seven or eight nice little fish upon the grass, one shapely prize nearly a pound weight that had given me some heated minutes in troubled waters. The trout had recovered from their fright in the pool below, and in the curling water under the tips of the pendent willow boughs had begun to dimple its surface as if it were a duke's preserve, and not the threshing-floor of generations of happy, sport-loving rustics and decent citizens of Arcadian tastes from far towns. They are tolerably well-educated little fellows to be sure, and hatched, no doubt, with the hereditary germs of wisdom within them, and at any rate all the more worthy of circumvention. But they were there beyond doubt, which was all that matters; and as my rod was now in its case, I sat and marvelled at the fact. I thought of all my friends and acquaintances, who would regard a stream like this as "flogged to death" if a couple of rods a day passed once over a mile of it, and of all the carefully limited little fishing syndicates, the restriction of baskets—not as foolishness, of course, but as food for reflection. I recalled some waters, too, where the fish have run to seed, or, in other words, to numbers and insignificance, from want of thinning. I thought of Association waters familiar to me, miles of lusty fertile stream which, except at holiday seasons, you may have almost to yourself, and the chronic outcry of "over-fishing" that goes up from most of them. It was cheering, therefore, to come back to these Berwickshire rivers, subjected as they are to conditions almost unthinkable to Englishmen in physically similar regions, and find them full of fish, whereas by rights they ought to have been emptied long ago.

I was thinking of all these things, so naturally suggested by the situation, and how strange it looked, and at the same time how in a manner good it was to see these humble disciples of old Isaac enjoying themselves, along the park edge of a country house and in sight of its windows, and everybody looking on it as quite a natural thing. For work hours were over on farm, mill, smithy, or school, and three or four fishermen had dropped, as it were, from the clouds upon my seclusion and were busy at work. The Border angler is essentially a sportsman, though far too much addicted to the worm in good fly-fishing weather. Otherwise he will not take trout by foul and nefarious means, such as nets, or line, or dynamite, and, valuing his privileges, will, so far as he can, prevent others from doing it. When occasional rascality of this kind goes forward in this country—a crime against society in general—it is the work of miners from the Mid-Lothian or Lanarkshire collieries. The Merse peasant is as reserved an individual as is anywhere made. Like the Northumbrian, he has no road manners at all. "Good morning" or "good evening" do not exist in his vocabulary. These world-wide greetings sound in his ears as the sound of gibberish. But this is not his fault. To a passing remark that the day seems taking up, or if it is raining that it is a bit soft, he may only grunt an accord if he doesn't know you, but he will at least grasp what you are driving at. But meet him on the river bank within the bond of angling freemasonry and he is generally another man, voluble and eloquent upon the sport that he loves. " You seem to have plenty of fish left here," I remarked to one of these newcomers who was putting his rod up as I strolled along the bank, homeward bound. "Eh! there's plenty fish, and some gran' yins tae," and then the flood-gates were let loose. I learned how "yon stream abune the bridge," now in this July day a thin, shallow, unfishable slide under a line of alders, had provided my friend one evening in the merrier and fuller month of May with seven or eight fish in quick succession, weighing, I am afraid to say how much—having regard, I mean, to the average of the river. But I am sure he was speaking the approximate truth. I learned, too, that he was a life-long enthusiast, and had won no end of competitions—a form of entertainment that the Border trout-fisher of all classes loves, and that southern anglers for trout generally abhor. I was informed that his brother had won the gold medal (I think it was gold) of a club in Edinburgh, the name of which I was evidently expected to know, several times in succession. For the fishing clubs of the metropolis hold their competitions on the various open waters of the Border counties, just as the golf clubs of Edinburgh celebrate theirs on the many open links. I was also told the precise weight of the baskets which had achieved these various triumphs, and where they were made, and I am quite sure the figures were approximately correct. His rod, like most of those still wielded by these simple skilful souls, was a fearsome weapon—long, wobbly, and top-heavy, of the kind which brings back the days of one's youth before the economics of comfort and efficiency were duly studied. But the humbler Scotsman is nothing if not conservative. Even his political Radicalism, any one will tell you who can afford to say what he thinks, is due much more to that inherent instinct than to the political acumen which is flourished by his allies, and no doubt in quite good faith, on southern election platforms.

"Ye're gangin awa' jest aboot the time ye oucht to be start'n," said this fervent disciple of Stewart, and Stoddart, and Henderson (not the Chirnside worthy)—the last two, charming writers of riverside prose and verse—as I wished him good sport, and bid him adieu. This was quite true. For that witching hour of sunset and gloaming even into darkness, which in the summer months draws out the trout fishermen, was at hand—a period which it may incidentally be remarked the north country angler constantly prolongs to the hour of sunrise.

As a little later I crossed the high-swung foot-bridge, the sun had sunk below the hill and the after-glow was shimmering on the broad shallows; while away beyond them, in the grey shadow of the woods, I could see the form of my late entertainer already at work in midstream. Rooks in great flocks were swinging homeward over the quiet vale to some abode, no doubt, of ancient fame in the Merse, and restless cushats, lusty and fat from their depredations among young turnips or grain-fields, were winging to some temporary roost their solitary way, while downwards the river vanished under red screes into the darkling woods of Edrom and Blanerne.

The Whiteadder has no place in that garland of notable verse, ancient and modern, which has made Yarrow, Teviot, Leader, and some other tributaries of Tweed household words, though many of the seventy Berwickshire bards whose selected remains have been collected into a single volume have naturally apostrophised it. Perhaps its otherwise significant and euphonious name is a trifle unhandy for metrical purposes. Again, it is far out of the old beat of the chief Scottish singers, and was probably as unknown to the earlier as it certainly has been to the later ones. This literary oblivion is assuredly due neither to lack of charm nor of stimulating association, with both of which this final tributary of Tweed is lavishly endowed. And the Whiteadder may assuredly share with her sister streams in Stoddart's invocation to the great river which gathers them all into her bosom:—

"Let ither anglers choose their ain,
An' ither waters tak' the lead.
O' Hielan streams we covet nave,
But gi'e to us the bonnie Tweed,
And gi'e to us the cheerfu' burn
That steals into its valley fair,
The streamlets that at ilka turn
Sae safely meet and mingle there."


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