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Franklin, who had stood in the most violent agitation during this whole scene.
“His name, noble lord, is Adam Kerr of the Moat, but he is commonly called by his companions, the Black Rider of Cheviot. I fear, I fear, he comes hither for no good-but if the Lord of Cessford be near, he will not dare offer any unprovoked outrage."
“I have heard of that chief,” said the Baron--"let me know when he approaches, and do thou, Rodulph, (to the eldest yeoman,) keep a strict watch. Adelbert, (to the page,) attend to arm me.” The page bowed, and the Baron withdrew to the chamber of the Lady Isabella, to explain the cause of the disturbance.
No more of the proposed tale was ever written; but the author's purpose was, that it should turn upon a fine legend of superstition, which is current in the part of the Borders where he had his residence; where, in the reign of Alexander III. of Scotland, that renowned person Thomas of Hersildoune, called the Rhymer, actually flourished. This personage, the Merlin of Scotland, and to whom some of the adventures which the British bards assigned to Merlin Caledonius, or the Wild, have been transferred by tradition, was, as is well known, a magician, as well as a poet and prophet. He is alleged still to live in the land of Faery, and is expected to return at some great convulsion of society, in which he is to act a distinguished part, a tradition common to all nations as the belief of the Mahomedans respecting their twelfth Imaum demonstrates.
Now, it chanced many years since, that there lived on the Borders a jolly, rattling horse-cowper, who was remarkable for a reckless and fearless temper, which made him much admired, and a little dreaded, amongst his neighbours. One moonlight night, as he rode over Bowden Moor, on the west side of the Eildon Hills, the scene of Thomas the Rhymer's prophecies, and often mentioned in his story, having a brace of horses along with him which he had not been able to dispose of, he met a man of venerable appearance, and singularly antique dress, wbo, to his great surprise, asked the price of his horses, and began to chaffer with him on the subject. To Canobie Dick, for so shall we call our Border dealer, a chap was a chap, and he would have sold a horse to the devil himself, without minding his cloven hoof, and would have probably cheated Old Nick into the bargain. The stranger paid the price they agreed on, and all that puzzled Dick in the transaction was, that the gold which he received was in unicorns, bonnet-pieces, and other ancient coins, which would have been invaluable to collectors, but were rather troublesome in modern currency. It was gold, however, and therefore Dick contrived to get better value for the coin than he perhaps gave
to his customer. By the command of so good a merchant, he brought horses to the same spot more than once; the purchaser only stipulating that he should always come by night, and alone. I do not know whether it was from mere curiosity, or whether some hope of gain mixed with it, but, after Dick had sold several horses in this way, he began to complain that dry bargains were unlucky, and to hint, that since his chap must live in the neighbourhood, he ought, in the courtesy of dealing, to treat him to half a mutchkin.
“You may see my dwelling if you will,” said the stranger; “but if you lose courage at what you see there, you will rue it all your life.”
Dicken, however, laughed the warning to scorn, and having alighted to secure his horse, he followed the stranger up a narrow foot-path, which led them up the hills to the singular eminence stuck betwixt the most southern and centre peaks, and called, from its resemblance to such an animal in its form, the Lucken Hare. At the foot of this eminence, which is almost as famous for witch meetings as the neighbouring wind-mill of Kippilaw, Dick was somewhat startled to observe that his conductor entered the hill side by a passage or cavern, of which he himself, though well acquainted with the spot, had never seen or heard.
“You may still return,” said his guide, looking ominously back upon him; but Dick scorned to show the white feather, and on they went. They entered a very long range of stables ; in every stall stood a coal-black horse; by every horse lay a knight in coal-black armour, with a drawn sword in his hand, but all were as silent, hoof and limb, as if they had been cut out of marble. A great number of torches lent a gloomy lustre to the hall, which, like those of the Caliph Vathek, was of large dimensions. At the upper end, however, they at length arrived, where a sword and horn lay on an antique table.
“ He that shall sound that horn and draw that sword,” said the stranger, who now intimated that he was the famous Thomas of Hersildoune, “shall, if bis heart fail him not, be king over all broad Britain. So speaks the tongue that cannot lie. But all depends on courage, and much on your taking the sword or the horn first.”
Dick was most disposed to take the sword, but his bold spirit was quailed by the supernatural terrors of the hall, and he thought to unsheath the sword first, might be construed into defiance, and give offence to the powers of the Mountain. He took the bugle with a trembling hand, and a feeble note, but loud enough to produce a terrible answer. Thunder rolled in stunning peals through the immense hall; horses and men started to life; the steeds snorted, stamped, grinded their bits, and tossed on high
their heads--the warriors sprung to their feet, clashed their armour, and brandished their swords. Dick's terror was extreme at seeing the whole army, who had been so lately silent as the grave, in uproar, and about to rush on him. He dropped the horn, and made a feeble attempt to seize the enchanted sword; but at the same moment a voice pronounced aloud the mysterious words :
“ Woe to the coward, that cver he was born,
Who did not draw the sword before he blew the horn!
At the same time a whirlwind of irresistible sury howled through the long hall, bore the unfortunate horse-jockey clear out of the mouth of the cavern, and precipitated him over a steep bank of loose stones, where the shepherds found him the next morning, with just breath sufficient to tell his fearful tale, after concluding which, he expired.
This legend, with several variations, is found in many parts of Scotland and England-the scene is sometimes laid in some favourite glen of the Highlands, sometimes in the deep coal-mines of Northumberland and Cumberland, which run so far beneath the ocean. It is also to be found in Reginald Scott's book on Witchcraft, which was written in the 16th century. It would be in vain to ask what was the original of the tradition. The choice between the horn and sword may, perhaps, include as a moral, that it is fool-hardy to awaken danger before we have arms in our hands to resist it.
Although admitting of much poetical ornament, it is clear that this legend would have formed but an unhappy foundation for a prose story, and must have degenerated into a mere fairy tale. Dr. John Leyden has beautifully introduced the tradition in his Scenes of Infancy:
Mysterious Rhymer, doom'd by fate's decree,
Scenes of Infancy, Part I.
In the same cabinet with the preceding fragment, the following occurred among other disjecta membra. It seems to be an attempt at a tale of a different description from the last, but was
almost instantly abandoned. The introduction points out the time of the composition to have been about the end of the 18th century.
THE LORD OF ENNERDALE.
IN A FRAGMENT OF A LETTER FROM JOHN B, ESQ. OF
THAT ILK, TO WILLIAM G--, F. R. S. E.
“Fill a bumper,” said the Knight ;“ the ladies may spare us a little longer-Fill a bumper to the Archduke Charles."
The company did due honour to the toast of their landlord.
“The success of the Archduke," said the muddy Vicar, “ will tend to further our negociation at Paris; and if"
“Pardon the interruption, Doctor," quoth a thin emaciated figure, with somewhat of a foreign accent ; “but why should you connect those events unless to hope that the bravery and victories of our allies may supersede the necessity of a degrading treaty?"
"We begin to feel, Monsieur l'Abbé," answered the Vicar, with some asperity, “ that a Continental war entered into for the defence of an ally who was unwilling to defend himself, and for the restoration of a royal family, nobility, and priesthood, who tamely abandoned their own rights, is a burden too much even for the resources of this country.”
“And was the war then on the part of Great Britain,” rejoined the Abbé, "a gratuitous exertion of generosity? Was there no fear of the wide-wasting spirit of innovation which had gone abroad? Did not the laity tremble for their property, the clergy for their religion, and every loyal heart for the Constitution? Was is not thought necessary to destroy the building which was on fire, ere the conflagration spread around the vicinity ?”
“Yet, is upon trial," said the Doctor, “ the walls were found to resist our utmost efforts, I see no great prudence in persevering, in our labour amid the smouldering ruins.”
“What, Doctor,” said the Baronet, “must I call to your recollection your own sermon on the late general fast?-did you not encourage us to hope that the Lord of Hosts would go forth with our armies, and that our enemies, who blasphemed him, should be put to shame?”
“It may please a kind father to chasten even his beloved children,” answered the Vicar.
“I think,” said a gentleman near the foot of the table, “ that the Covenanters made some apology of the same kind for the failure of their prophecies at the battle of Dunbar, when their
mutinous preachers compelled the prudent Lesley to go down against the Philistines in Gilgal."
The Vicar fixed a scrutinizing and not a very complacent eye upon this intruder. He was a young man of mean stature, and rather a reserved appearance. Early and severe study had quenched in his features the gaiety peculiar to his age, and impressed upon them a premature cast of thoughtfulness. His eye had, however, retained its fire, and his gesture ils animation. Had he remained silent, he would have been long unnoticed ; but when he spoke, there was something in his manner which arrested attention.
“Who is this young man?” said the Vicar in a low voice, to his neighbour.
" A Scotchman called Maxwell, on a visit to Sir Henry,” was the answer.
“I thought so, from his accent and his manners," said the Vicar.
It may be here observed, that the northern English retain rather more of the ancient hereditary aversion to their neighbours than their countrymen of the South. The interference of other disputants, each of whom urged his opinion with all the vehemence of wine and politics, rendered the summons to the drawing-room agreeable to the more sober part of the company.
The company dispersed by degrees, and at length the Vicar and the young Scotchman alone remained, besides the Baronet, his lady, daughters, and myself. The clergyman had not, it would seem, forgot the observation which ranked him with the false prophets of Dunbar, for he addressed Mr. Maxwell upon the first opportunity.
“ Hem! I think, sir, you mentioned something about the civil Wars of last century? You must be deeply skilled in them indeed, if you can draw any parallel betwixt those and the present evil days-days which I am ready to maintain are the most gloomy that ever darkened the prospects of Britain."
“God forbid, Doctor, that I should draw a comparison between the present times and those you mention. I am too sensible of the advantages we enjoy over our ancestors. Faction and ambition have introduced division among us; but we are still free from the guilt of civil bloodshed, and from all the evils which flow from it. Our foes, sir, are not those of our own household ; and while we continue united and firm, from the attacks of a foreign enemy, however artful, or however inveterate, we have, I hope, little to dread.”
“ Have you found any thing curious, Mr. Maxwell, among