The Worme of Linton
CROSSING the Border into Roxburghshire, we
approach the haunts of the Worme of Linton, and very romantic they are.
There is the mountain stream of the Kale, bursting in brightness from the
Cheviot Hills, and hurrying into the plain below, where it pauses, ere it
wends its way to join the Teviot; there is the low, irregular mound, marking
where stood the Tower of Linton, the stronghold of the Somervilles; there is
the old village church, standing on its remarkable knoll of sand; there are
the stately woods of Clifton, and, above all, the lofty heights of Cheviot
crowning the distance.
Such is the fair scene which tradition avers was once
laid waste by a fierce and voracious monster. His den, still named the
"Worm’s Hole," lay in a hollow to the east of the Hill of
Linton; and small need had he to leave it, for from this retreat he could
with his sweeping and venomous breath draw the neighbouring flocks and herds
within reach of his fangs. Still he did occasionally emerge and coil himself
round an eminence of some height, at no great distance, still bearing the
name of Wormington or Wormiston. Liberal guerdons were offered to any
champion who would rid the country of such a scourge, but in vain—such
was the dread inspired by the monster’s poisonous breath. Not only were
the neighbouring villagers beside themselves with terror, but the
inhabitants of Jedburgh, full ten miles off, were struck with such a panic
that they were ready to desert their town.
At last, however, the Laird of Lariston, a man of
reckless bravery, came forward to the rescue of this distressed district;
and, as the Linton cottagers testify to this day, having once failed in an
attack with ordinary weapons, he resorted to the expedient of thrusting
down the worm’s throat a peat dipped in scalding pitch and fixed on his
lance. The device proved perfectly successful. The aromatic quality of the
burning pitch, while it suffocated and choked the monster, preserved the
champion from the effects of its poison-laden breath. While dying, the worm
is said to have contracted its folds with such violent muscular energy that
the sides of Wormington Hill are still marked with their spiral impressions.
In requital of his service, the Laird of Lariston received the gift of
extensive lands in the neighbourhood.
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