Page images
PDF
EPUB

in life, but for many years had been unblessed with a family, until his wife brought him a daughter, and died in giving birth to her. The miller's whole affections were thus thrown upon one object, and the little Mary Tod was in a fair way, it might seem, of being from infancy a spoilt child; for her father's love was liker to doting than ordinary parental affection. But circumstances fortunately intervened which rendered Mary Tod, at the age of eighteen, not only far from being a spoilt child, but a girl of manners and intelligence far above the ordinary maidens of her rank. What these circumstances were, it is necessary that we should explain.

In the preceding reign, namely, that of James V., the ancient church first began to lose its hold on the respect of the Scottish people. In this reign, at least, the first open defections were made to the reformed doctrines. The Catholics, however, were still in possession of power, and the king himself could not stand out against them, or defend the reformers from their enmity. Hence those who openly professed the new doctrines were in many instances obliged to fly, and to hide themselves, for the preservation of their lives. One of these fugitives, a worthy priest who had attached himself to the new light, had found a shelter in the little retired vale of Manor. Here he applied himself to the teaching of the rural population around; and such was his utility, and the respect which his learning and manners acquired, that he spent his days in safety while the hour of danger lasted ; and when the reformed religion came to be openly professed by the country, continued still instructing the youth of the little vale. His place of refuge had been the cot of a poor widow, whose husband had died about the period of the good priest's arrival, and had left her with an infant boy to provide for as best she might. The small pittance which the priest could afford to her, together with the produce of a little plot of land, constituted the whole of her

Her son, Edward Burnet, was the favourite pupil of the refugee; and well did his progress and attainments repay the care bestowed on him. The miller's fair daughter also had been, from her childhood almost, the object of the good priest's instructions; nor was this care thrown away on an unfruitful soil. Edward and Mary were thus often together when children; and as they grew in years, they still continued to receive jointly the lessons of the priest. But whether this arose altogether from a desire of learning, is matter of doubt; and in this dubitation our readers will most probably be inclined to join, after perusing what follows.

It was a clear and pleasant evening in summer when Mary Tod left the door of her father's comfortable straw-thatched dwelling, and directed her steps to the side of the little stream of the Manor. She was neatly dressed in apparel of her own spinning; and though was evidently not her holiday suit, yet everything was arranged with such care, aş betokened some pur,

revenue.

pose in her mind of appearing to the best advantage where she was going. As she tripped lightly along the bank of the streain, her comely face and handsome form made her appear like the rural genius of the place. Mary's thoughts, however, were filled entirely with objects of a sublunary and mortal character; and though she was pretty enough for the deity of the strearn to fall in love with her, as used to be the case with streams in the days of Homer, she would not, we believe, have broken the tryste which she had made with an earthly lover for the flowing tresses of Neptune himself. After a walk of some length, Mary turned into a little glen which sent in its tribute of waters to the Manor, and, casting an anxious gaze around for some moments, seated herself at the foot of a solitary mountain-ash, or, as she herself would have called it, a rowan-tree. Here she did not sit long alone—though quite long enough for the slightest pout imaginable to gather on her pretty lip-before she was joined by the person for whom she waited. This was a slender but well-knit young man, dressed in the usual attire of a peasant, but seeming, from his fine intellectual face, as if that were not his proper habiting. “Do you keep a' your sweethearts waiting for you this gait?" said Mary, starting to her feet when her lover came forward; “ they would need to like you weel, else they wadna tryste to meet you a second time.” “ And so you do like me weel, Mary?” said the youth, slipping, with a very inefficient repulse, his arm around the maiden's waist; " at least you should do so, Mary, for you know how truly, how deeply I like you." " It does not seem sae, Edward,” replied the miller's daughter, not yet altogether pleased, or probably indulging a little in that strange peculiarity of lovers which leads them, in the absence of any great cause of offence, to make the most of

any

little one that occurs, for the mere pleasure of asking or being asked forgiveness.

In the present instance, however, when her lover informed Mary that his delay was caused principally by a slight illness of his mother, all the coquettish pouting disappeared at once, and the pair, restored to the confiding tone which marked their feelings with respect to each other, began to speak of their situation and prospects. In explanation of these, we may inform the reader that the miller had set his heart on having for a son-inlaw a person familiarly named Will Elliot of Castlehill

, whose free manners and show of substance had taken Andrew Tod's fancy. Castlehill was a small but strong tower or keep, with a considerable piece of land attached to it, and situated at a distance of a míle or little more from the mill of Kirkton. Elliot, who was tenant of this place, was a man of about thirty-five years of age, of a roving, swaggering manner, and lavish on all occasions of his money. He had not been many years a resident in the vale of Manor, and, it was supposed, had brought a great deal of wealth with' him, as it was plain that the small farm

[ocr errors]

which he now occupied could not maintain his expenditure. He kept a set of fine horses, and plenty of servants about him; and being a good customer to the miller, and spending whole days about the mill, lounging and jesting with him, he had found the way, as we have said, to Andrew's good graces; and when he opened a proposal for a marriage, the miller was not averse to it. “He's a roving kind o'chield,” thought Andrew Tod; but Mary wad mak onybody into a gude husband." The news of Elliot having opened his

addresses to her, with her father's cordial consent, were told by Mary to Edward Burnet at the trysting rowan-tree. “Oh, Mary,” said the lover, “ I aye thought something like this would happen. Your father is a rich man, and has a little of the pride that ever gangs alang wi' riches. But you must promise me,” continued he, speaking with great earnestness-—"you must promise me, Mary, whatever becomes of myself, that you never will tak Will Elliot as your husband. He is a bad man, and would soon break a heart like yours.” Observing that the young maiden only smiled at this, he repeated with greater earnestness, “ Do not think that this is merely jealousy on my part, Mary. Elliot is a bad man, and it will be seen and known, maybe, some day before his death yet. You must promise, Mary, not to think of him.” Mary, notwithstanding his vehemence, could not help smiling still; but she laid her hand on his arm at the same time, and said with seriousness, Have I no gi’en my troth, Edward, to you? Are you gaun to desert me, that

you

tell me what I am to do regarding other men? They'll be a alike to me then,” said she with simple feeling. Burnet's reply to this was such as might be expected from a lover so addressed. But what more passed at this interview, it does not seem to us necessary to repeat; suffice it to say, that after a short time they separated ; Mary having first assured her lover of her confidence that her father would not hurry her into a match against her will.

Leaving Mary to wend her way to her abode, let us request the reader to accompany us to Castleħill

, the dwelling of the husband whom the miller had chosen for his daughter. The keep of Castlehill was situated on an eminence, formed by the rounded angle of a hill, projecting into the vale of the Manor, and the tower thus commanded a view both up and down the whole strath. The interior of the house had exceedingly little accommodation; but in those days the whole household, master and servants, mingled so freely together, that less room was necessary. This appeared particularly to be the case with the household of Castlehill; for in a large room, on the evening in question, the master, Will Elliot, not only sat at one board, but appeared to be on terms, in every respect, of perfect equality with his dependents. Half a dozen men, dressed as farm-servants, occupied places at the table, and were at this time plying lustily at some ale which stood in flagons before them. “ Ha, my lads," said Elliot," is it not better roving by night here, where we are never suspected, than risking our necks every night, as we did in Teviotdalé ?” “ I am no sae sure, Will Elliot, but some of the neighbours will soon suspect us. The last raid we took o'er the hill to Dawick was by gude moonlight, and I am muckle mista'en if what Tam took for a ghost, wasna the livin' body o' Ned Burnet coming up frae seeing the miller's daughter.” “ Confound the brat," said Elliot; “I'll spoil his wooing for him. But, lads, d'ye think it was light enough for him to ken us, if it was he ?" Some of the men said No, and others Yes, so that their master, or rather their leader, could not come to any decision on the subject. “Never mind,” said he at last; “I can tell you of something new, something better than lifting a sheep or two; for there's aye risk at the selling of them, when ane wants a pickle hard cash. Has ony o'you noticed the gentleman that hunts alone sometimes about the hills ?” “I saw a gentleman wi' a green hunting dress," replied the man who spoke before, “but there was a servant wi' him." “ He is oftener alone though," said Elliot," and that man, lads, is a prize. He must be one of the rich young nobles that are staying with the young king at Smithfield castle, for I saw him pay a boy for pointing out his road out of a large purse filled with the queen's best coin. That purse must be ours. Drink to our success,

lads." More conversation of the same nature passed between the outlaw --for such was his true character—and his midnight followers; but it is not essential to our purpose to repeat all that took place. The result of the consultation was, that two or three of the men, and the outlaw among them, should severally post themselves, as much disguised as possible, at those parts of the hunting track where they were likeliest to meet with the object of their cupidity.

A few days after this, during which nothing of interest occurred to Mary, her lover, or any other of the personages of this true tale, a gentleman, answ

swering the description given by the outlaw's follower, in so far as regarded the dress, which was a green hunting coat, was passing slowly along the heights that overlooked the vale of Manor. The stranger was tall, and finelyformed, and every point of his attire was in a rich and expensive style. He was armed only with a couteau de chasse, or short hunting sword, and appeared, from his slow lingering pace, to be awaiting the upcoming of a companion or attendant. He had just reached the side of a copse of underwood when a man sprang from its cover, and seizing the stranger's arm with a powerful and muscular grasp, demanded roughly the surrender of his purse. But the hunter was in the prime of his youth, and, exerting his strength, he shook off at once the hold of our friend Will Elliot, and drawing his sword, stood on his defence. This required á moment's time, during which the outlaw, before proceeding farther, gave a shrill call on a whistle suspended from his neck.

we can.

He then turned with his drawn sword upon the hunter; for, to do Elliot justice, he was afraid of no single man. The sword of the stranger was a short one; but in the two minutes' contest which ensued, the outlaw found that he had to do with a master of fence. One of Elliot’s followers, however, who had heard the call, came up at the moment, and the stranger, who saw him approaching, almost gave up his life as lost.

In order to defend himself to the last, he changed his position so far as to get his back to one of the strong copse bushes. But help was at hand when least expected. Scarcelý had the outlaw's follower interposed a single blow, when a strong arm levelled him to the earth from behind with a cudgel. The outlaw turned half round at the unforeseen stroke which deprived him of his assistant, and on seeing whence the aid came, bounded into the copse from which he had issued, and was out of sight in an instant. The hunter, whose blood was heated with the encounter, would have pursued him, but his preserver detained him almost by force. "It wad be an act o' madness, sir, to pursue him. . I ken him as weel as this man lying senseless at our feet, in spite o’ their disguises. They are pairt o’a gang, and their companions will not be far off; let us quit the place, sir, as fast as

The stranger saw the propriety of following this advice, and the two quickly left the spot, where the outlaw's follower still lay without signs of life.

The nearest and safest refuge to which Edward Burnet, who was the stranger's deliverer, could conduct the gentleman, was the mill of Kirkton. On their way thither, the stranger inquired into the name and circumstances of his companion, and assured him that the service he had done would not be forgotten. He also learnt on whom Burnet's suspicions fell as the authors of the outrage-suspicions which he concurred with Edward in thinking it would be improper to mention without further confirmation. On reaching the miller's house, and detailing what had occurred, old Andrew congratulated the stranger on his escape, and praised Edward for his manliness. “It maun hae been some of the same forest gang that cleared the Dawick barn the other night,” said the miller, speaking of the perpetrators of the attack: “within this year or twae, they seem never to be out o’ Tweeddale a single night : deil be in their skins.” Mary Tod also praised her lover; but her praises were confined to kind and admiring looks, which spoke her meaning, however, so openly, that the stranger read them evidently with as much ease as the object of them did. The miller pressed the stranger to remain at the mill all night; but he declin the ki offer, and only requested the protection of some of Andrew's sturdy assistants in the mill as far as the town of Peebles. This was readily granted, though the miller would have been better pleased had his visitor stayed. The truth is, that Andrew was not a little curious to know who the stranger might be; but a certain dige

« PreviousContinue »