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The Gateway of Scotland
Chapter VII. Two Merse Towns


EDROM is on the right bank of the Whiteadder, not far below the pleasant spot where daylight fell on our discursive saunterings in the last chapter. It is also about half-way between Chirnside and Duns, and one might add without offence, is the only point in the five-mile journey that would give pause to any wayfarer other than that imaginary rural economist on the prowl, whom we have agreed would in July, between hay and harvest, be at Scarborough or in the Engadine. Edrom boasts of an old church of some importance, originally Norman, with little left in it, however, of any pre-Reformation work. Two buttresses containing image niches survive of an aisle erected by Robert Blackadder, Bishop of Glasgow, a Berwickshire man, with the fact and the date, 1499, inscribed thereon ; while a fine Norman arch guarding the entrance to a family vault is all there is left of I the original church. To anyone accustomed to the virtually intact mediaeval churches which confront one at every two or three miles in some southern counties, the very notice of such mere fragments as this may seem superfluous. But as English hands gutted all these churches and left the Scotch Reformers but small opportunities to show what they might or might not have done in that sphere of action, there is cause rather for abasement than for complacency in an Englishman when he notes the nakedness of the land.

The interest of Edrom lies rather in the fact of its being the Valhalla of so many famous Border families: not the building itself—save, I think, for a vault of the BIackadders under the wall—for after the Scottish fashion these family burial-places and vaults are distributed about the churchyard. One liberal allotment is sacred to the Buchans of Killoe, another to the Campbell-Swyntons of Kermigham. Near the church there is a

long, low building, one-half of which is the mausoleum of the Loans of Broome, the other of the Logan-Humes of Edrom. It is a wide-spreading kirkyard, fair and green to look upon, with no adjacent village to speak of, and shut off by bordering groves from the Whiteadder, which sings below. The grouping and fashion of these tombs of the mighty of the parish are characteristic of the north side of Tweed; while the long, open sheds near the kirk, for horses and traps, are essentially of the soil. I should be a bold individual did I attempt any serious excursion into the mystic labyrinth of Border family history. But these Blackadders touch a slightly variant note in nomenclature, as taking their name from the river on which their early lines were cast—that winsome younger sister of the Whiteadder that we shall no doubt meet again later. Blackadder Tower, near the junction of these two streams, still recalls in name the ancient family whose dust lies here at Edrom. They have long ceased to be lairds in the Merse, but not by any means to be worthily represented here and elsewhere. An interesting name, and one that if you happen to have started life with a fortuitous acquaintance of this most absolutely Mersian of all the Berwickshire rivers, for it alone begins and ends in the county, will catch the ear in any clime.

Edrom, as a considerable burying-place, has had, like other churchyards in the Dlerse, some gruesome experiences during that active period of body-snatching associated with the infamous names of Burke and Hare. A local friend, who is a complete mine of Berwickshire lore, related to me the particulars of a "resurrection" exploit, and its termination, which, as it concerned Edrom, will be in order here. Iic had it from his father, who was a student in Edinburgh when the two above-mentioned villains and others less known to fame were in an active way of business, and was a minister in this neighbourhood during the period when churchyards had to be regularly watched for many nights after every funeral. In the year 1828 a well-known farmer, who had been "keeping it up" after Berwick market in the convivial fashion of the time, was riding home in the moonlight upon the road between Edrom and Duns. Soon after passing the first-named he espied ahead of him a gig or spring cart with three people upon the front seat. Jogging along not far behind it his attention became drawn to the rigidity of the central figure, as compared to the flexible attitude of its neighbours, who were conversing across it. Suspicion was naturally in the air in these days, and pressing closer up he was able to make out that the man in the middle was dressed in a reefer jacket, and wore a cloth cap pulled down over his eyes. His attitude, however, gave rise to still stronger suspicions, which quickened yet more when the driver whipped up his horse and went away at a smart pace.

The farmer now determined to see the matter out, and stuck close to the trap, whose driver then practically gave his case away by putting his horse into a gallop. The other being well mounted gave chase, and a hot race ensued along the moonlit road to Duns. The saddle, however, in time asserted its superiority over the shafts, and at a point where the road skirted a deep wood the pursuer saw the trap in front of him suddenly pull up, two of the men jump out of it, and with a parting cut at the horse, which galloped on, disappear among the trees. Continuing the pursuit, the farmer soon came up with the horse, and succeeded in seizing it by the bridle and bringing it to a stop. The reins all this time had been dragging on the ground, and on interviewing the undemonstrative occupant of the gig, he found, as he expected, a corpse fastened to the seat in an upright position. So taking charge of his prize he led it on into Puns, and handed it over to the police. The body turned out to be that of an old man buried at Edrom two or three days previously. Feeling in Duns was greatly wrought up cover the incident, and the body was reburied there, not in its desecrated grave at Edrom. The horse was put out at livery till it had eaten up its value, and then became the possession of the stable, for it may be well imagined no one claimed it. The gig was publicly burned in the market-place. Descendants of the twice-buried corpse, and those of the farmer who so opportunely rescued it from desecration, are alive and hearty in the 1lerse to-day.

A local tradition of a less authoritative nature than this one tells how a humorous and resourceful person got possession of a horse and cart by inspired strategy from some resurrectionists and neither burned the cart nor put the horse out at livery to eat up its value. In this case two men in the front seat of a vehicle were seen one night by the genius in question to leave it in the road, with apparently a third party on the back seat, and repair to a lonely public-house for some refreshment. Biding his time, our friend, having satisfied his suspicions that the back passenger was no longer of this world, and obviously not being himself troubled with nerves, unfastened him, deposited him in the ditch, and, assuming the corpse's overgear, took its place. In the meantime the fortified resurrectionists returned to their charge and resumed their grim and risky journey towards Edinburgh—seated as before, with their backs against that of the supposed corpse. In time uncanny feelings vaguely crept over them. One swore the back passenger pressed warm against him; the other, outwardly scouting his companion's tremor, began to lose nerve under the horrible suggestion. The corpse's substitute in the meantime contrived such subtle movements as to increase the growing terrors of the guilty pair, and unstring their nerves without giving any definite sign of life. When by their conversation he judged them to be sufficiently under the influence of fear, night, and superstition, he heaved a deep groan and gave a push with his back about which there could be no possible mistake. Uttering, says the chronicler, a wild cry of "Man! it's alive," the pair jumped out and fled into the darkness, while the corpse drove the horse and trap home for better uses.

Duns is the present capital of Berwickshire, having ousted Greenlaw from that honourable situation within recent times. This was only a return, however, to its situation in the seventeenth century. It has only quite lately, after six or seven hundred years, come to a firm decision about the spelling and pronunciation of its own name. In ancient times it was Duns, so far at least as spelling counted for anything. In my youth it seemed to have settled down finally into Dunse; and it was something of a shock to come back and find a historic place wearing an almost unfamiliar name, for the final "e" makes all the difference in pronunciation. But it is surely a good move to revert to a form so closely associated with the nation's history. Sometimes, too, in the wild phonetic days it was spelled Dunce, and it may probably have been the peril of some loose return to this that brought about the present settlement.

The town rises pleasantly upon a low ridge, richly garnished with the fine timber of the NTcrse, and banks ablaze with that peculiar radiancy of colouring that only clean and lusty crops give to a tillage country. Above the town spring the woody and pastoral slopes of its historic Law. Behind all, and now but two or three miles away, are the long sweep of the Lammermoors. A clean, rather hard-faced, but not uncheerful little town this, of some 3000 souls, with a spacious market square presided over by an imposing town-hall of most ecclesiastical complexion. At first sight of its Gothic front, its pointed door and windows, its crocketted buttresses and lofty battlemented and pinnacled clock tower, you would hail it without hesitation as the parish church, particularly being in Scotland, where church architecture is apt to be disconcerting. In this case, assuredly the most conspicuous building in Duns is at the first approach much more eloquent of preacher than of Provost. Duns Scotus, the eminent fourteenth-century schoolman, is accepted as the first of the local worthies. A portrait of him, or rather an artistic conception of what he might possibly have been, after the manner of the well-known Holyrood galaxy of Scottish kings, hangs in the town-hall. The parish of Embleton, in Northumberland, however, also claims him, and cherishes the site of a farmhouse named Proctor Steads, formerly Dunstan Tower, as his abode. It supports this claim by its association with Merton College, of which ancient foundation the subject of this rivalry seems to have been a member. The county buildings are modest compared to the town-hall, and situated in a less conspicuous quarter. The corn exchange was once a great commercial mart, but nowadays, so completely have the "Auld Enemies" buried the hatchet both of war and its long-surviving prejudices, that much of the trade and traffic of the Scottish county goes to English Berwick, on the main artery of business. But Duns has obviously survived such shocks as well as any little town, and being on the only railroad traversing the county, with a huge sheep country behind it and a fat grain country in front, and a county council to cheer it up, looks entirely happy in spite of its resounding paved streets, on which three crawling farm carts will make the town rattle as if in the throes of a big thunderstorm. Its proud motto is "Duns dings a'."

Thomas Boston, author of the Fourfold State of Man, and of memoirs freely used by modern writers on Scottish history, was a native of Duns. He was minister in Ettrick in the early part of the eighteenth century, and of the hard cheerless Calvinism of his day was a fanatical and uncompromising exponent. His memoirs, as exhibiting that point of view, and merely as a means of introduction to the spirit of his time, have a certain grim fascination. Dr. McCrie, the historian and the upholder in his many works, which include a life of Knox, of the theocratic principles and dogmas of which his fellow-townsman a century before had been such an extreme supporter, was born here. McCrie was a seceding minister, but his works had a great vogue. He was a contemporary of Sir Walter's, and among the many who felt and resented with his pen the new light upon a fanatical past so genially shed by that master hand. I admit without blushing that my own acquaintance with the Duns historian is limited to observing the frequency with which he is pilloried in footnotes by some present-day Scottish writers, as an awful example of how history should not be written. The atmosphere of Duns should in truth have been sufficiently favourable to the production of such champions of the Covenant: for is not Duns Law the most consecrated spot in the whole struggle?

Whether theocracy was the making of Scotland, or its curse, as some of its most brilliant sons have now the hardihood to hint, Duns Law at any rate witnessed one of its greatest demonstrations. It may or may not be remembered that Charles I., with the fatal indiscretion of his race, made persistent efforts to force Episcopacy upon Scotland, where the Presbyterian development of the Reformation had taken firm hold of the mass of the people. A bishop, to the Scotsman of that period, had literally horns and a tail. The mere holding of such an office was absolutely the quickest passport to that inferno which the more truculent elect of the day positively revelled in realistically visualising for the benefit of a foredoomed majority of their neighbours. Charles, however, encouraged no doubt by an Episcopalian minority, could not, or would not grasp the situation. He conceived himself, too, as ordained of God head of the Church as he was of the realm of Scotland. He was not more astray than the Scottish Presbyterian leaders in their ignorance of the English nature and their almost pathetic hope that the English people would bend to the inquisitorial yoke of a gloomy quasi-democratic theocracy. We all know how a brief experiment of Puritan rule, not approaching the Scottish form in vexatious restraint, was flung off by the English like a nightmare with one shout of relief. Whatever the lies, shifts, and double-dealings of Charles, both before and during his troubles, he behaved like a man and a gentleman in refusing to save himself and perhaps his fortunes by taking the Covenant. He was incapable of doing this like his outrageous son, with his tongue in his cheek. His conscience here, at least, when he had no other hope, stood firm. But this didn't excuse his foolish attempts to coerce Scotsmen, who really liked their homemade form of Calvinism with all its gloom and hell-fire, and honestly believed themselves to he a chosen people, literal successors of those who wandered out of Egypt. If most of this enthusiasm came from the middle and lower ranks, and if the tail did in a measure wag the head upon Duns Law, when Charles was waiting with his army to cross the Tweed, the nobility and gentry of Scotland were out for the Kirk in greater force and with more enthusiasm than on any occasion before or afterwards. Over 30,000 men were camped on the Law, each regiment under its territorial lord, and all commanded by the crooked little old soldier Leslie. Thousands were either taking the oath of the Covenant for the first time or renewing it with much fervour upon an old block of stone that still lies upon the summit of the hill. The preachers were in high feather. It was a great triumph to see so many of the noblest of the land, who in general, with their complex interests, were anything but united and whole-hearted in this business, all solid for the cause. The Rev. Robert Baillie was there, mounted and armed, but more helpful with his tongue, which he wagged to some purpose, and yet more with his pen so far as posterity is concerned. Charles was watching all this from the high south bank of Tweed opposite Paxton, and had about 16,000 men with him. Forty cannon frowned from the slopes of Duns Law, and the hardy souls who served them would have blown a bishop from each muzzle with grim joy.

But even military enthusiasm and pulpit eloquence cannot flourish without provisions, and it was just as well that Charles proposed an adjournment of both parties, by representatives, to Berwick and a more amicable settlement. But this army of the Covenant clustering on Duns Law in successful defence as it proved of the national form of faith is something of a bloodless Bannockburn to the true Presbyterian heart.

Duns had been gutted so ruthlessly in the English raids of the sixteenth century, that the town was built anew on the present site, a little lower than the ancient one. The last of the great Border raids to be led by a Percy was discomfited here not long before Flodden by the cunning of the locals, as there seems to have been no opposing force at hand. For when the camp was asleep and the horses of the English cavalry tethered on the pasture, a large body of peasants rushed down waving the rattles, composed of a bladder containing pebbles tied to the end of a stick, which they used for scaring the deer and cattle of the Lammermoors, from their grain crops. At the hideous noise a wild stampede took place among the horses in the darkness, and all further progress of Percy and his army put an end to. Duns Castle, a seat of one branch of the Hay family, stands near the Law and above the town amid a wealth of undulating wood and park-land, a comparatively modern house upon an ancient site. In the grounds is a sheet of water known as the Hen poo', the great gathering place of Berwickshire curlers. Duns Law is a place of pious pilgrimage to many lowland Scotsmen, for the historic significance attached to it; while the block of stone, now carefully protected, on which the Covenant, as related, was taken or renewed by so many zealous patriots in 1639, gives that tangible objective point to the trip which the more slenderly equipped tourist likes to have. The view over the Merse is a fine one and much spoken of. But it is nothing to the superb outlook which rewards the more adventurous traveller who has sufficient energy to follow the highroad over the Lammermoors for a steady upward drag of three miles.

Here, upon Hardens Hill, after trailing between fine avenues of beech and ash, and mounting higher into windswept pine woods, the road sweeps out at last into the glorious heaths of Lammermoor. A half hour upon the brow of this high rampart comes vividly back to me. It was a July noon, beneath a clear sunny sky with the gentlest and balmiest of south-west breezes wafting on its wings the mingled fragrancy of moorland and pine wood. A dry hank of sward was handy for the greater enjoyment of a glorious scene. The drubbing wings and vocal plaints of restless peewits close overhead, the song of rejoicing larks in the air far above them, and the call of distant curlews mingled with the faint bleat of sheep. And this was no mountain top," but only the apex of an excellent though but lightly travelled highway that leads into the heart of the wilds—otherwise to the little village of Longformacus, the "capital of the Lammermoors." 'These edges of great moorlands, which open wide upon the one hand into sweeps of solitude, and on the other over vast distances where rural life is thickly humming, are seats for the gods. The heather was just touching with its first faint flush the folding hills that heaved away towards a far horizon which looked down upon Last Lothian. Below, the Verse glimmered far and wide with its red fields, its yellowing cornfields, and mantling woods, its glint of village church spire or country seat. Beyond the line of Tweed spread the fainter but yet clear-cut hills and valleys of Northumberland. I could follow up the windings of the Till from Flodden and Ford Castle to Wooler, and from Wooler to the woody spur beneath which the wild cattle of Chillingham have their immemorial range. The Cheviots rolled their billowy crests from the "Buckle Cheevit," looming large and near upon the Border line, to fade remotely into the more rugged heights that embosom Rothbury and the upper waters of the Coquet.

But enough of Northumbrian detail. It is in the westward outlook that Hardens Hill more particularly excels, if Cockburn Law and some other points on the brink of the Eastern Lammermoors open out the sea-coast to better purpose. For westward one can follow the Lammermoors to their remote shadowy limits, where thirty miles away they mingle with the misty hills of Selkirk, Peebles, and the country of the Upper Tweed. The triple-crested Eildons, the heart of the Scott country, and the long chain of sentinel heights guarding Lauderdale, seem by comparison close at hand. From here, too, I got the first glance, and an intimate one, of a strip of country that was new to me—for my early wanderings among the Lammermoors had not extended quite so far west—and it savoured also of the unexpected. Now the south-eastern part of the Lammermoors drop more or less abruptly down into the Mersc. But from Hardens Hill, which is something of a flanker, you can rake their skirts westward with the eye away to the Westruther and Spottiswoode country near to Lauderdale, a rather sad-looking, broad, level step as it were between Merse and moor, neither one nor the other, sparsely planted and thinly peopled. It appeared to stretch for miles and miles along the foot of the moors—one vast moss, no doubt, in former days, and seeming to tell to-day a tale of but partial conquest in its unfenced spaciousness, broken only by belts of fir trees, and bearing but intermittent traces of that relentless lowland plough which drives so high up into the wild, if there is anything to be made on it. There was character obviously in this long stretch of smooth-lying, sad-looking, but half1tamed country, for its very loneliness. Curiosity impelled me to traverse it a little later, which I did from Westruther by a road that began well, but running about as straight as an arrow, with scarcely a rise, ultimately obscured itself beneath a thick coating of turf. For a farming country it proved as lonely as it looked from this height of Hardens that so finely flanks it. Three or four homesteads, each handling, no doubt, great areas of the thin moorish land, made up its human element. Breadths of flat, unconquered heathland here and there even yet told the tale of its material, while an ancient pele tower told another of its social, past. The ramparts of the Lammermoors, then in all their purple glory, looked down upon the scene, and finally a terrific thunderstorm, with no refuge from its fury, sent me drenched into the last farmhouse on the waste, a proceeding that might, under the circumstances, seem belated to any one who was indifferent to the amenities of fork-lightning at extremely close quarters upon an open road. Looking down once more from Hardens Hill, a tapering church spire springing high above a mass of foliage to the west of Duns marks at once the seat of the former Earls of Marchmont and the picturesque and historically notorious church and village of Polwarth. It is on the road to Greenlaw, which I propose to glance at in this chapter. Here is a village celebrated in the rustic lore of the Merse and immortalised by two poets, if a ballad of Allan Ramsay's, recast by Leyden, may stand for the double honour:—

"At Polwarth on the Green,
If you'll meet me in the morn,
Where lasses do convene
To dance around the thorn
A kindly welcome you shall meet,
Frae ane that likes to view
A lover and a lad complete,
That lad and lover you."

The uninitiated in his armchair may think I am trifling with him in quoting these artless lines. But they are hallowed in the first place by their authorship, in the second by the familiarity they enjoy in a country whose tale lives so much in song, and above all they commemorate a bygone custom for which most of us have a soft place. For what is left of an ancient thorn still stands on Polwarth Green protected by a railing. And this is the identical tree around which the less sophisticated forbears of the present lads and lasses of Polwarth danced in their youth. If the thorn and its associations, which might easily be so, were situated in a Surrey village, there would be a revival under the distinguished patronage of a narrow acred, sumptuously housed squire, not very long, perhaps, from Manchester or Glasgow, or with an interest in a bigger city still nearer home. Gaily caparisoned children of a pseudo village, accustomed to much more stimulating forms of entertainment and sprung from every stock in the United Kingdom, but united in the common bond of a cockney accent, would caper once a year before a mildly bored and decorative audience a very pretty pastoral play. There would be the three cheers for the squire and his lady, proposed by the schoolmaster, on whom much of the burden had very likely fallen, and everybody would drive away in motors declaring how delightful it was that the lower classes should be thus encouraged to revive the simple, hearty, rural amusements of Merry Old England. But country life in Berwickshire and the north is not the least like that within the orbit of London, and, indeed, differs no little in many ways, chiefly social, from that of a genuine English countryside. I may be wrong, but I fancy it would take very strong inducements to make the yokels of the Merse dance around the thorn on Polwarth Green to-day. A stranger meeting a troop of "workers" in their quaint primitive attire coming from the field might be excused for imagining that these were just the very people to do so. But if he met these strapping lassies in their Sunday best he would see at once how utterly he had misjudged them. The dancing on Polwarth Green, however, was particularly associated with weddings, of which it was in former days an indispensable corollary, every married couple being expected to dance round it with their friends. So the time-honoured stanza of invitation from a Iad to a lass to dance around the thorn on Polwarth Green had a very direct significance.

But Polwarth has much more in the way of romance than this graceful old tradition to its credit. For the brave heroism of Lady Grizell Baillie, which saved her father's life, is an event that no history of Scotland larger than a text-book would venture to omit. Polwarth church, rebuilt 200 years ago upon a very ancient foundation, stands in the grounds of Marchmont House, which was built in place of an older castle rather later by the last Earl of that name, and is still in the family, though the title has lapsed. Now the first Earl, then Sir Patrick Home of Marchmont, during the troublous, persecuting times of Charles II., was so out of sympathy with the Government, that they sought his life. Driven into concealment, he found it in his own family vault beneath Polwarth church, no one living but his young daughter, Grizell, being in the secret. Hither for a long period the courageous girl in the dark of the night brought her father such food as she could save without observation from the family table, and finally assisted his escape to Holland. From thence at the Revolution of 1688 he returned to be raised to an Earldom. The same young woman, while ministering to the wants of her entombed parent, had also carried a letter from him to Robert Baillie (whose son she married a dozen years later) then lying in prison at Edinburgh under sentence of death. She rode alone to Edinburgh, forty miles, through the night, passing in the early morning beneath the city gates on which the heads of many of her family's friends were already festering. She contrived to get the letter in and take home the reply to her father. This lady, however, was no mere plucky girl. At the revival of the family fortunes she rejected a pressing offer from William's Queen, Mary, to remain at court as a maid of honour, choosing, as she thought, the better part of a country lady in Scotland. And this she filled with such engaging charm, sweetness, and dignity for nearly sixty years after the Revolution, as the wife of Sir George Baillie of Jerviswood, that she was long remembered. Some songs she wrote as a girl when taking refuge with her relatives in Holland still survive. One of them in the vernacular contains an allusion to the matrimonial atmosphere of Polwarth Green.

Polwarth is half-way between Duns and Greenlaw, the now discarded county town, and the land rises a little in elevation as it declines vastly in fertility. An atmosphere of reclaimed moorland, or rather moss, begins to pervade the atmosphere, which no high-farming can conceal, and, indeed, in large tracts here and there the land has been left virgin, so far as the plough is concerned. Six or seven hundred feet will be the normal elevation of all this western end of the Merse, if Merse it can still be called, which is tilted up and rolls away in breezy spaces till it pitches down into Lauderdale. It is easy to see what this whole country was a hundred or more years ago; and it is interesting to note in what wholesale fashion the big lowland farmers of the past generation have bent this for the most part reluctant soil to their needs. I have beguiled the way at times by trying to picture what this wide-sweeping, poorer Berwickshire country with its great fields, had it fallen to the reclaiming efforts of Welsh squires and their fifty-acre tenants, would look Iike.

This is in no sense a reflection upon the latter, for they are an industrious and land-loving people; but as small farmers remotely situated they are inevitably non-progressive. The comparison suggests itself, because just such tracts of moorish country in the counties of Cardigan and Carmarthen, sloping away as these do from the hills, are also more or less reclaimed. But how different custom and tradition affect the landscape of a tract of country in the making. Instead of these great fields geometrically traced by the stone walls that about Greenlaw take the place of hedges, and the Iarge substantial homesteads with their hinds' cottages, standing on ridges far apart, we should have a patchwork of little white- or pink-washed homesteads in clumps of trees, each surrounded by a network of small fields. There would be irregular patches or straggling belts of moor-grass, heath, gorse, or rough pasture that the small man's more diffident plough had flinched from, straggling everywhere in and about. The little streams, too, would claim their ample margins of copse and bracken. There is no question whatever which makes for the picturesque in landscape. But there is something fine after all, if deplorably unaesthetic, in the antitheses of these little farms, and the way in which the lowland Scotsman has treated a refractory country.

There are no half measures, no little corners or odd patches of waste land, no inconsequent straggling thickets of birch or alder, and broom or gorse, which once had a firm grip everywhere. The symmetry is tremendous, even in this wavy, broken, poorish country. The motives were, of course, purely economic ones, according to the bold confident method which distinguished the very much reformed Scottish farmer of days that are now getting far away. The country savours greatly of a pious dread of slovenliness, and a pride of appearance at all costs; as if an exaggerated horror of the notorious ways of these forbears had seized upon a very much awakened generation. One feels here that ragged, hopeless acres have been whirled under with the hopeful ones in the long stride of the plough, with no paltry niceties of calculation, to take their chance, and at any rate to have equal treatment and equal share of the good things to come from the lime-kiln, the barnyard, and the manure merchant. If a piece was rejected, it would seem to have been by the hundred acres, and turned to such grazing uses as may be. This roughly indicates at any rate the spirit of this country; and in remembering all this and looking at it in the right way, you will almost admire the great shapely fields, waving in grain or in rippling seas of rye grass, or in clean pasture, up towards the Lammermoors. Beyond Greenlaw. it is almost as bare of trees as the Scotland of the Union period, which so astonished travellers for its nakedness. Stiff and angular plantations of fir, which are the aeasthetic blot on so much northern scenery, are here of less consequence. Even the moderately old songs of this Borderland were written in a ragged country. They breathe of a rough surface, of flowery fields, of tortuous paths and the most primitive agriculture, of "dowie denes" and "broomy knowes." One cannot avoid the fact that the enterprising Scottish farmer has made a tolerably clean sweep of the furniture which decks the stage on which the Robs and Maggies of the old Border land lived and frisked. The Merse is a country good to look upon in many ways, both material and romantic, but it is not easy to conceive a bunch of skinny ewes being driven up to milk over its trim pastures. With all the surface changes of Southern England, which perhaps we hardly realise, there has not been any so complete as this in the last two or three hundred years. A Jacobean milkmaid we might imagine to be not greatly out of order in many an old-fashioned Devonshire or Wiltshire foreground. Greenlaw is, in legal phrase, "a burgh or barony," the superior of which is the owner of the estate of Marchmont. The original town was situated on a small hill a mile away, hence the name. It was the property in mediaeval times of the Earls of Dunbar, pre-eminent in Berwickshire, from whom are derived the Homes, equally so—the continuity being thus nobly maintained from quite dark ages. Greenlaw is a more than peaceful little place of a thousand or so inhabitants, sitting pleasantly in a shallow vale, through which the Blackadder, a purling moorland stream, pursues its way through glen or meadow. When it is fining down after a flood you will see an angler every fifty yards along its banks, taking more or less toll from its apparently inexhaustible store of trout. Greenlaw is nothing; like such a well-built little town as Duns. A single long street, of so unpretentious and negative a character as to disarm criticism, expresses most of it. About midway, however, there is a break, and the startled alien will find himself confronted upon either hand by buildings in their different way of quite noble proportions. Both, however, are calculated to strike a note of melancholy rather than of joy in the heart of the native. The more imposing of the two are the whilom county buildings, a standing reminder of the ravished dignities of the town, and the grievance which the freemen of Greenlaw, if they are merely human, must still cherish in their hearts. Opposite to this is a great hotel of Georgian aspect, the despondent-looking victim, not merely of diverted official patronage, but of a much older story—to wit, the disappearance of the coaches. The larger of these two buildings is described by a responsible writer soon after it was built at the cost of the then laird of Marchmont, nearly a hundred years ago, as "a noble edifice of Grecian architecture and chaste design." There is an imposing classic portico extending along the front, surmounted by a dome which appears to have been made fire-proof for the express purpose of safeguarding the county records—and now they are all at Duns! The other building is described with almost equal enthusiasm by the same hand, as then in course of construction, with a fair promise of being one of the finest hotels between London and Edinburgh. For Greenlaw was then on one of the main international coach roads.

The occasion of the visit to Greenlaw now particularly in mind was a lovely day of sunshine in the July of the past year. My only previous one had been made two years before, when a June pilgrimage through the heart of the Dierse from Hutton in a dense mist had terminated at Greenlaw in drenching rain-i--a catastrophe which virtually wiped out, so far as I was concerned, all details of the little town with its startling architectural contrasts, its present and its departed glories. So even still unacquainted with its resources, and inquiring of a friendly tradesman for a suitable house of entertainment for the modest noonday needs of a rather travel-stained wayfarer, he directed me without a moment's hesitation to the palatial-looking hostelry, which I then for the first time knowingly encountered. The first glance was enough; perhaps it was not a very searching one. But it seemed the precise kind of establishment I abhor upon an occasion of this sort, and altogether suggestive of a melancholy, gilt-mirrored, antimacassared coffee-room, haunted at intervals by a depressed waiter in a white tie. So I retired to my friend and demanded something more snug and cordial-looking. If he didn't quite grasp my needs he did my objections with great perspicacity, and expressed them to a nicety: "Well, there's nae other I could just recommend;" and with that touch of humour the occasion demanded, "ye won't find the Arms quite sae intimidating as you might think." Intimidatin'! this was splendid, and exactly expressed my feelings. So I returned, and mounting many steps passed through the portals into great corridors and empty halls which recalled Macaulay's rolling periods on the splendid hostelries of the great north road in the coaching period. There was no sign of habitation, however, till a cast or two round the end of a long corridor revealed a secluded bar, presided over by a kindly but humble female, who expressed her ability to provide me with bread and cheese. I was shown into a comparatively small and bare apartment, of stately elevation and corniced ceilings, and altogether eloquent of departed glories. Two or three portraits of long-deceased county magnates hung upon the walls, and such scant furniture as there was looked as if they themselves might once have sat upon it. The bread and cheese appeared in due course—a slice of either upon a plate, with a knife, brought in by a little girl of rustic and unsophisticated habit.

The Ettrick Shepherd would, I think, have been safe here, if one may recall his dread of what in his day must have been a much more "untimeous" meal, as seen through the medium of Christopher North. "I daurna trust myself wi' a luncheon: in my hands it becomes an untimeous dinner. Whenever I'm betrayed into a luncheon I mak' off wi' a jug or twa just as gin it had been a regular dinner wi' a tablecloth. Beware of the tray.' "

There was certainly nothing intimidatin' in the sense my friend the stationer had used the word, though the prospect of sleeping a night alone in these echoing halls might well have justified the epithet. Mine hostess showed me over this mute skeleton of vanished coaching and county glories. It was at least cheering to note that one vast saloon showed signs of occasional festivities.

Though "Duns dings a'," the discomfited Greenlaw does not look in the least depressed, but only tranquil, and, indeed, wears a cheerful mien. It has, no doubt, outlived ambition, and long ago learned to cut its coat according to the measure of its cloth. It has its fairs and markets, too, and lots of troi.it-fishing at its doors. Mitch more than this, like a few other old boroughs in this country, its freemen have the pasturage over a thousand or more acres. Every morning the town herd collects the cows, and drives them up to this immemorial expanse of ragged, moorish pasture a mile or so beyond the town, and every evening drives them home again to scatter to their various lodgings and byres. I traversed the town moor one day, in walking from Greenlaw to Hume Castle, which lies some three or four miles to the southward; a really primitive bit of the old wild country that might well make a stage for any of those old ditties that tell of the loves and humours of a peasantry who have ceased to exist, as everywhere else. Clean nibbled sward was here, and tousely moor-grass, yellow with tansy and ragwort; wet green rushy hollows, fragrant with meadow-sweet and patches of broom, or gorse, or heather, and unmolested thistles. Companies of stunted thorns straggled about the wide-spreading upland, whose choice bites were, no doubt, an open book to the veterans of the town herd. I found their guardian, a man of many years, sitting by the roadside, and only too ready for a crack. He was reading a newspaper, and admitted that when this daily performance was concluded he found time hang heavy on his hands. He had none of the Scottish classics, theological or secular, either in his pocket, or apparently at command, not even a Burns, and obviously was not a man of culture. He "didna tak' much heed to Burns," he said. But he told me all about the time-honoured rules and regulations affecting the grazing rights of the moor. There was no shelter on this whole stretch of it but the afore-mentioned stunted thorns and the like, and I asked him how he did in heavy storms. He replied he didn't do at all well, but fared on such occasions "jes' the same as ilka ane o' yon beasties." Then he waxed eloquent on the thunderstorms he had braved, and the lightning flashes he had narrowly escaped. There had, in fact, been a severe one the day before: hence his eloquence.

The railway from Greenlaw to Gordon, the next station, runs nearly all the way through moorland, ablaze now with heather, or through wide, tawny moors, where little natural sykes or straight-furrowed draining ditches trace black lines through the poor grey-green grasses.

The sudden contrast from the opulent Merse scenery —sudden, that is to say, in a railway train—is almost more striking than if the quick change had been into mountains. With an imperceptible rise you pass from a country far more productive, as luxuriant, and as stately in parks and mansions as Warwickshire, into the land of the curlew and the snipe. But this is the charm of a Border country, whether of Scotland or of Wales. In Kent or Warwickshire it is a beautiful garden always, if that satisfies. But you feel that it continues so to be, from horizon to horizon; there is nothing beyond. The racy, the romantic, the mysterious are not in that world. To enjoy it in perpetuity you must pluck all such things from your mind and settle down to a standard of ornate limitations. And a man must be bred to this, or at least not to the other sort, to feel a perfect satisfaction. If this is the case, he will see nothing lacking, however susceptible to the influence of nature, nor understand the restiveness that comes of another temperament and standpoint.

Gordon is a small village with fine old timber about it—a detail superfluous to mention in the Merse, but significant here. Rolling away from it in great waving sweeps are the neat farming lands with stone wall enclosures of a reclaimed country. Behind them rises the wild upland of the Lammermoors. Hidden away beyond them to the westward lies the romantic dale and tributary glens of the Leader, to which, I hope, in due course to introduce the reader.

Gordon would hardly claim our notice here but for the fact that the parish was the original seat of the founders of the famous Aberdeenshire clan. Most people, I take it, who have any sense at all of British ethnology, know that the Gordons are of Anglo-Norman, not of Celtic origin—a fact less out of harmony with ordinary tradition when one remembers that the great Aberdeenshire clan, to a far greater extent, I believe, than any others, included a large low-country element. The Gordons are said to have first settled here in the twelfth century, and seemed to have removed to Aberdeenshire two centuries later. Just to the north of the village a mound still known as the castle, which was only destroyed about 1580, marks the site of their stronghold. Curiously enough, the name of Huntly was borne till a century ago by a hamlet in the parish, now vanished, and was, no doubt, carried with them to the north to become eventually so famous as the distinguishing mark of the head of the clan.

But there is here a more tangible link with the past, if not of quite so distinguished a flavour as that attaching to the mere soil where grew the seedling which, transplanted to a northern clime, grew into so vast a tree. For near the railroad, a short mile beyond the little station, and standing on a green knowe, with obvious traces of an encircling moss, is a pole tower. It is fairly perfect, and blinks picturesquely out of a scattered grove of ash and oaks. This belonged to the Pringles, whose fame as a Border family even to this day is so well known in the north as to require no reminder of the fact. But experience has taught one how little one part of this small island knows (genealogically, I mean) of another part. What does a Pringle know, for instance, of a Basset or a Baskerville, who held the Welsh marches from the time of Rufus, and are still seated there? And what does a Basset or a Baskerville know of a Pringle or a Lauder? —nothing at all, in the way here implied, except by accident.


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