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Wilson's Border Tales
The Royal Bridal

Chapter 2

Amongst the more humble followers of the court, the immortal Dunbar, who was neglected in his own day, and who has been scarce less neglected and overlooked by posterity, was conspicuous. The poet-priest appeared to be a director of the intellectual amusements of the day. But although they delighted the multitude, and he afterwards immortalised the marriage of his royal master, by his exquisite poem of "The Thistle and the Rose," he was doomed to experience that genius could neither produce the patronage of kings nor church preferment; and, in truth, it was small preferment with which Dunbar would have been satisfied, for after dancing the courtier in vain (and they were then a race of beings of new birth in Scotland), we find him saying—

"Greit abbais graith I nill to gather
ane kirk scant coverit with hadder,
For I of lytil wald me fane."

But in the days of poor Dunbar, church patronage seems to have been conferred somewhat after the fashion of our own times, if not worse, for he again says—

"I knaw nocht how the kirk is gydit,
But benefices are nocht leil divydit:
Sum men hes sevin, and I nocht ane!"

All around wore a glad and a sunny look, and while the morning was yet young, the sound of the salute from the cannon on the ramparts of Berwick, announced that the royal bride was approaching. The pavilions occupied a commanding situation on the heath, and the princes’ noble retinue could be observed moving along, their gay colours flashing in the sun, a few minutes after they issued from the walls of the town. A loud, a long, and a glad shout burst from the Scottish host, as they observed them approach, and hundreds of knights and nobles, dashing their glittering spurs into the sides of their proudly caparisoned steeds, rode forth to meet them, and to give their welcome, and offer their first homage to their future queen. There was a movement and a buzz of joy throughout the multitude; and they moved towards the ancient kirk.

The procession that accompanied the young princess of England into Scotland drew near; at its head rode the proud Earl of Surrey, the Earl of Northumberland, warden of the eastern marches, with many hundered more, the flower of England’s nobility and gentry, in their costliest array. In the procession also, were thousands of the inhabitants of Northumberland; and the good citizens of Berwick-upon-Tweed, headed by their captain, Lord Thomas Darcy, and the porter of their gates, Mr Christopher Clapham, who was appointed one of the trustees on the part of the king of England, to see that the terms of his daughter’s jointure were duly fulfilled.

There was, however, less eagerness on the part of the young monarch to behold his bride than on that of his subjects. We will not say that he had exactly imbibed the principles of a libertine, but it is well known that he was a gallant in the most liberal signification of the term, and that his amours extended to all ranks. He had, therefore, until he had well nigh reached his thirtieth year, evaded the curb of matrimony, and it was not until the necessity of his marriage, for the welfare of his country, was urged upon him by his nobles, that he agreed to take the hand of young Margaret of England. And of her it might have been truly said, that his

"Peggy was a young thing,
Just entering on her teens,"

for she had hardly completed her fourteenth year. But she was a well-grown girl, one on whom was opening the dawn of loveliest womanhood—she was beautiful, and the gentleness of her temper exceeded her beauty. Young James was the most chivalrous prince of his age; he worshipped beauty, and he could not appear coldly before one of the sex. And having come to the determination (though unwillingly) to give up his bachelorism, or as he called it, liberty, he at length resolved to meet his bride as became one whose name was chronicled on the page of chivalry. He accordingly arrayed himself in a jacket of black velvet, edged with crimson, and the edgings bordered with a white fur. His doublet was of the finest satin, and of a violet colour; his spurs were of gold, his hose crimson, and precious stones bespangled his shirt collar. The reiterated shouts of the multitude announced the approach of the queen, and thus arrayed, the young king rode forth to greet her.

He entered the kirk, at the further end of which stood his fair bride between the Earls of Surrey and Northumberland. He started, he seemed to pause as his eyes fell upon her, but in a moment they were again lighted up with more than their wonted lustre. He had heard of her loveliness, but report had failed in doing justice to the picture. He approached to where she stood—he sank upon his knee—he raised her hand to his lips. The English nobility were struck with admiration at the delicate gallantry of the Scottish king.

I need not enter into the particulars of the ceremony. The youthful monarch conducted his yet more youthful bride and her attendants to his pavilion, while the heralds summoned the knights to the tournament, and prepared the other sports of the day. He took his lute and performed before her, and he sang words of his own composition which related to her—for like others of his family that had gone before, and that came after him, James had a spark of poetry in his soul.

"And dost thou understand this instrument my own love?" said he, handing her the lute.

She blushed, and taking it in her hand, began to "discourse most eloquent music," and James, filled with admiration, again sinking on his knee, and clasping his hands together, remained in this attitude before her, until the trumpets of the heralds announced that the knights were in readiness for the tournament.

Thousands were crowded around the circle in which the knights were to exhibit their skill and prowess. The royal party took their seats on the dais prepared for them. Several trials of skill, with sword, spear, and battle-axe, had taken place, and the spectators had awarded to the successful competitors their shouts of approbation, when the young king who sat beside his queen, surrounded by the Lords Surrey and Northumberland, and the nobles of his kindred, together with the ladies of high degree, said—

"Troth, my lords, and whatever you may think, they play it but coldly. Excuse me, your majesty, for a few minutes,’ continued he, addressing his young bride; "I must put spirit into the spectacle."

Thus saying, the young monarch left the side of his bride, and for a time, the same breaking of swords, spears and battle-axes continued, when the chief herald of the tournament announced the SAVAGE KNIGHT. He entered the lists on foot, a visor concealing his face, arrayed as an Indian chief. He was clothed in a skin fitting tightly to his body, which gave half of it the appearance of nudity. In his left hand he held a javelin; in his right hand he brandished a spear.

"Who is he?" was the murmur that rang through the crowd; but no one could tell, and the knights in the area knew not. He walked towards the centre of the circle— he raised his spear—he shook it in defiance towards every knight that stood around—and they were there from England as well as from Scotland. But they seemed to demur amongst themselves who should first measure their strength with him. Not that they either feared his strength or skill, but that, knowing the eccentricity of the king, they apprehended that the individual whom he had sent amongst them, in such an uncouth garb, and who was to hold combat with them at such extravagant odds, they being on horseback, while he was on foot, might be no true knight, but some base-born man, whom the monarch had sent against them for a jest’s sake. But, while they communed together, the Savage Knight approached near were they stood, and crying to them, said—

"What is it ye fear, Sir Knights, that ye hold consultation together. Is it my mailed body, or panoplied steed?—or fear ye that my blood is base enough to rust your swords. Come on, ye are welcome to a trial of its colour."

Provoked by his taunts, several sprang from their horses, and appeared emulous who should encounter him. But, at the very onset, the Savage Knight wrested the sword of the first who opposed him from his hand. In a few minutes, the second was in like manner discomfited, and, after a long and desperate encounter, the third was hurled to the ground, and the weapon of the wild knight was pointed to his throat. The spectators rent the air with acclamations. Again the unknown stood in the midst of the circle, and brandished his spear in defiance. But enough had been seen of his strength and his skill, and no man dared to encounter him. Again the multitude shouted more loudly and he walked around the amphitheatre, bowing lowly towards the spectators, and receiving their congratulations.

Now, in the midst of the motley congregation, and almost at the point farthest removed from the dais of royalty, stood none other than Strong Andrew, with bonny Janet under his arm; and it so happened, that when the Savage Knight was within view of where Andrew stood, his visor fell, and, though it was instantly replaced, it enabled our sturdy fisherman to obtain a glance of his countenance, and he exclaimed—

"Od save us, Janet, woman, look, look, look!—do ye see wha it is! Confound me, if it isna the very chield that I gied the clout in the lug to in your mother’s the other night for his good behaviour. Weel, as sure as death, I gie him credit for what he has done—he’s taen the measure o’ their feet onyway! A knight !—he’s nae mair a knight than I’m ane—but it shows that knights are nae better than other folk."

There was a pause for a short space—again the monarch sat upon the dais by the side of his blooming bride. The great spectacle of the day was about to be exhibited. This spectacle was a battle in earnest between an equal number of Borderers and Highlanders. The heralds and the marshals of the combat rode round the amphitheatre, and proclaimed that rewards would be bestowed on all who signalised themselves by their courage, and, to the most distinguished, a purse of gold would be given by the hands of the king himself. Numbers of armed clansmen and Borderers entered the area. Andrew’s fingers began to move, and his fists were suddenly clenched, relaxed, and clenched again. He began to move his shoulders also. His whole body became restless, and his soul manifested the same symptoms, and he half involuntarily exclaimed—

"Now, here’s a chance!"

"Chance for what, Andrew, dear?" inquired Janet, tremulously—for she knew his nature.

"To mak a fortune in a moment," returned he eagerly— "to be married the morn. The king is to gie a purse o’ gold!"

Now, the only obstacle that stood between the immediate union of Andrew and Janet was his poverty.

"Oh, come awa, Andrew, love," said she, imploringly, and pulling his arm as she spoke; "I see your drift!— come awa—come awa—we have seen enough. Dinna be after ony sic nonsense, or thrawing awa your life on sic an errand.’

"Wheesht, Janet hinny—wheesht," said he; "dinna be talking havers. Just stand you here—there’s not the smallest danger—I’ll be back to ye in ten minutes or a quarter of an hour at the utmost—ye may tak my word upon that."

"Andrew!" cried she, "are ye out o’ yer mind athegither— or do ye want to put me out o’ mine? I really think it looks like it! O man, wad ye be guilty o’ murdering yoursel’, I may say—come awa—come awa, dear, for I’ll no stand to see it."

"Hoot, Janet hinney," returned he "come, dear, dinna be silly."

Now, the number of the Highland party was completed, and they stood a band of hardy, determined, and desperate looking men; but the party of the Border was one deficient.

"Is there not another," cried the herald, "to stand forth, and maintain with his sword the honour and courage of the Borders?"

"Yes! here am I," shouted Andrew, and drawing Janet’s arm from his; "now, dearest," added he, hastily, "just hae patience—just stand here for ten minutes—and I’ll let ye see what I can do."

She would have detained him; but in a moment he sprang into the amphitheatre, and exclaimed—

"Now, Sir Knights, ye hae been trying yer hand at the tourneyings, will ony o’ ye hae the guidness to obleege me wi’ the loan o’ yer sword for a wee while, and I’ll be bond for ye that I’ll no disgrace it—I’ll try the temper o’ it in earnest."

Andrew instantly had a dozen to choose upon; and he took his place amongst the Borderers.

When he joined them, those who knew him said—"The day is ours, Andrew is a host in himsel’."

The marshals gave the signal for the onset; and a deadly, a savage onset it was. Swords were shivered to the hilt. Men, who had done each other no wrong, who had never met before, grasped each other by the throat—the Highland dirk and the Border knife were drawn. Men plunged them into each other—they fell together—they rolled, the one over the other, in the struggles and the agonies of death. The wounded strewed the ground—they strove to crawl from the strife of their comrades. The dead lay upon the dying, and the dying on the dead. Death had reaped a harvest from both parties; and no man could tell on which side would lie the victory. Yet no man could stand before the sword arm of Andrew— antagonist after antagonist fell before him. He rushed to every part of the combat; and wheresoever he went, the advantage was in favour of theBorderers. He was the champion of the field—the hero of the fight. The king gave a signal (perhaps because his young queen was horrified with the game of butchery), and at the command of the marshals the combatants on both sides laid down their arms. Reiterated shouts again rang from spectators. Some clapped their hands and cried—"Eyemouth yet!"—"Wha’s like Andrew!"—"We’ll carry him hame shouther high!" cried some of his townsmen.

During the combat, poor Janet had been blind with anxiety, and was supported in the arms of the spectators who saw him rush from her side. But as the shouts of his name burst upon her ear, consciousness returned; and she beheld him with the sword in his hand, hastening towards her. Yet ere he had reached where she stood, he was summoned by the men-at-arms, who had kept the multitude from pressing into the amphitheatre, to appear before the king, to receive from his hands the promised reward.

Anxious as he had been to obtain the prize, poor Andrew, notwithstanding his heroism, trembled at the thought of appearing in the presence of a monarch. His idea of the king was composed of imaginings of power, and greatness, and wisdom, and splendour—he knew him to be a man, but he did not think of him as such. And he said to those who summoned him to the royal presence,

"Oh, save us a’, sirs! what shall I say to him? or what will he say to me? How shall I behave? I would rather want the siller than gang wi’ ye!"

In this state of tremor and anxiety, Andrew was conducted towards the canopied dais before the Majesty of Scotland. He was led to the foot of the steps which ascended to the seat where the monarch and his bride sat. His eyes were rivetted to the ground, and he needed not to doff his bonnet, for he had lost it in the conflict.

"Look up, brave cock o’ the Borders," said the monarch; "certes, man, ye would hae an ill-far’d face if ye needed to hide it, after exhibiting sic a heart and arm."

Andrew raised his head in confusion; but scarce had his eyes fallen on the countenance of the king, when he started back, as though he beheld the face of a spirit.

"Ha! traitor!" exclaimed the monarch, and a frown gathered on his brow.

In a moment, Andrew perceived that his victor-wrestler—his crony in Lucky Hewitt’s—the tempter of his Janet—the man whom he had felled with a blow, and whose blood he had drawn—and the King of Scotland, was one and the same person.

"Guid gracious!" exclaimed Andrew, "I’m a done man!"

"Seize him!" said the king.

But ere he had said it, Andrew recollected that if he had a good right hand, he had a pair of as good heels; and if he had trusted to the one a few minutes before, he would trust to the latter now, and away he bounded like a startled deer, carrying his sword in his hand.

A few seconds elapsed before the astonished servants of the king recovered presence of mind to pursue him. As he fled, the dense crowd that encircled the amphitheatre surrounded him; but many of them knew him—none had forgotten his terrible courage—and, although they heard the cry re-echoed by the attendants of the monarch to seize him, they opened an avenue when he approached, and permitted him to rush through them. Though, perhaps, the fear of the sword which he brandished in his hand, and the terrible effects of which they had all witnessed, contributed not less than admiration of his courage, to procure him his ready egress from amongst them.

He rushed towards the sea-banks, and suddenly disappeared where they seemed precipitous, and was lost to his pursuers; and after an hour’s search, they returned to the king, stating that they had lost trace of him, and could not find him.

"Go back, ye bulldogs!" exclaimed our monarch, angrily; "seek him—find him—nor again enter our presence until ye again bring him bound before us at Holyrood."

They therefore again proceeded in quest of the unfortunate fugitive; and the monarch having conducted his royal bride to the pavilion, cast off his jacket of black velvet, and arrayed himself in one of cloth of gold, with edgings of purple and of sable fur. His favourite steed, caparisoned to carry two, and with its panoply embroidered with jewels, was brought before his pavilion. The monarch approached the door, leading his queen in his hand. He lightly vaulted into the saddle— he again took the hand of his bride, and placed her behind him; and in this manner, a hundred peers and nobles following in his train, the King of Scotland conducted his young queen through the land, and to the palace of his fathers. The people shouted as the royal cavalcade departed, and Scotch and English voices joined in the cry of—"Long live Scotland’s king and queen." Yet there were some who were silent, and who thought that poor Andrew, the fisherman, the champion of the day, had been cruelly treated, though they knew not his offence. Those who knew him said—

"It bangs a’! we’re sure Andrew never saw the king in his life before. He never was ten miles out o’ Eyemouth in his days. We ha’e kenned him since a callant, and never heard a word laid against his character. The king must hae taken him for somebody else—and he was foolish to run for it."

But, while the multitude shouted, and joined in the festivities of the day, there was one that hurried through the midst of them, wringing her hands, and weeping as she went—even poor Janet. At the moment when she was roused from the stupefaction of feeling produced by the horrors of the conflict, and when her arms were outstretched to welcome her hero, as he was flying to them in triumph, she had seen him led before his prince, to receive his praise and his royal gifts, but, instead of these, she heard him denounced as a traitor, as the king’s words were echoed round. She beheld him fly for safety, and armed men pursuing him. She was bewildered—wildly bewildered. But every motion gave place to anguish; and she returned to her mother’s house alone and sank upon her bed, and wept.

She could scarce relate to her parent the cause of her grief; but others, who had been witnesses of the regal festival, called at Widow Hewitt’s for refreshment, as they returned home, and from them she gathered that her intended son-in-law had been the champion of the day; but that, when he had been led forward to receive the purse from the hands of the king, the monarch, instead of bestowing it, denounced him as a traitor; "and when he fled," added they, "his majesty ordered him to be brought to him dead or alive!"—for, in the days of our fathers, men used the license that is exemplified in the fable of the Black Crow, quite as much as it is used now. The king certainly had commanded that Andrew should be brought to him; but he had said nothing of his being brought dead.

Nancy lifted her hands in astonishment as high as her ceiling, (and it was not a high one, and was formed of rushes)—"Preserve us, sirs!" said she, "ye perfectly astonish me a’ thegither! Poor chield! I’m sure Andrew wadna harm a dog! A traitor! say ye, the king caed him? That’s something very bad, is’nt it? An’ surely na, na, Andrew couldna be guilty o’t—the king maun be a strange sort o’ man."

But, about midnight, a gentle knocking was heard at the window, and a well-known voice said, in an under tone—

"Janet! Janet! it is me!"

"It is him, mother! it is Andrew! they haena gotten him yet!" And she ran to the door and admitted him; and, when he had entered, she continued, "O Andrew! what, in the name o’ wonder, is the meaning o’ the king’s being in a passion at ye? What did ye say or do to him?—or what can be the meaning o’t?"

"It is really very singular, Andrew," interrupted the old woman; "what hae ye done?—what is really the meaning o’t?"

"Meaning!" said Andrew, "ye may weel ask that! I maun get awa’ into England this very night, or my life’s no worth a straw; and it’s ten chances to ane that it may be safe there. Wha is the king, think ye?—now, just think wha?"

"Wha is the king?" said Nancy, with a look, and in a tone of astonishment—"I dinna comprehend ye, Andrew—what do ye mean? Wha can the king be, but just the king."

"Oh!" said Andrew, "ye mind the chield that cam here wi’ me the other night, that left the gowd noble for the three haddies that him and I had atween us, and that I gied a clout in the haffets to, and brought the blood owre his lips for his behaviour to Jenny!—yon was the king!"

"Yon the king!" cried Janet.

"Yon the king!" exclaimed her mother; "and hae I really had the king o’ Scotland in my house, sitting at my fireside, and cooked a supper for him! Weel, I think, yon the king! Aha! he’s a bonny man!"

"O mother!" exclaimed Janet; "bonny here, bonny there, dinna talk sae—he is threat’ning the life o’ poor Andrew, who has got into trouble and sorrow on my account. Oh, dear me! what shall I do, Andrew!—Andrew!" she continued, and wrung her hands.

"There’s just ae thing, hinny," said he; "I must endeavour to get to the other side o’ the Tweed, before folk are astir in the morning; so I maun leave ye directly, but I just ventured to come and bid ye fareweel. And there’s just ae thing that I hae to say and to request, and that is, that, if I darena come back to Scotland to marry ye, that ye will come owre to England to me, as soon as I can get into some way o’ providing for ye. Will ye promise, Jenny?"

"O yes! yes, Andrew!" she cried, "I’ll come to ye—for it is entirely on my account that ye’ve to flee. But I’ll do mair than that; for this very week I will go to Edinburgh, and will watch in the way o’ the king and the queen, and on my knees I’ll implore him to pardon ye; and, if he refuses, I ken what I ken."

"Na, na; Jenny, dear," said he, "dinna think o’ that— I wad rather suffer banishment, and live in jeopardy for ever than that ye should place yoursel’ in his power or in his presence. But what do ye ken, dear?"

"Ken!" replied she; "if he refuses to pardon ye, I’ll threaten him to tell the queen what he said to me, and what offers he made to me when ye were running out after the powney."

Andrew was about to answer her, when he started at a heavy sound of footsteps approaching the cottage.

"They are in search o’ me!" he exclaimed.

Instantly a dozen armed men entered the cottage.

"We have found him," cried they to their companions without; "the traitor is here."

Andrew, finding that resistance would be useless, gave up the sword which he still carried, and suffered them to bind his arms. Jenny clung round his neck and wept. Her mother sat speechless with terror.

"Fareweel, Jenny, dear!" said Andrew—"fareweel!—Dinna distress yoursel’ sae—things mayna turn out sae ill as we apprehend. I can hardly think that the king will be sae cruel and sae unjust as to tak my life. Is that no your opinion, sir?" added he, addressing the armed men.

"We are not to be your judges," said he who appeared to be their leader; "ye are our prisoner, by his Majesty’s command, and that is a’ we ken about the matter. But ye are denounced as a traitor, and the king spares nane such."

Poor Janet shrieked as she heard the hopeless and cruel words, and again cried—

"But the queen shall ken a’."

Jenny’s arms were rudely torn from around his neck, and he was dragged from the house; and his arms, as I have stated, being bound, he was placed behind a horseman, and his body was fastened to that of the trooper. In this manner he was conducted to Edinburgh, where he was cast into prison to await his doom.

Within two days, Janet and her mother were seized also, at the very moment when the former was preparing to set out to implore his pardon—and accused of harbouring and concealing in the house one whom the king had denounced as guilty of treason.

Janet submitted to her fate without a murmur, and only said—"Weel, if Andrew be to suffer upon my account, I am willing to do the same for his. But surely neither you nor the king can be sae cruel as to harm my poor auld mother!"

"Oh, dear! Dear!" cried the old woman to those who came to apprehend her—"Was there ever the like o’ this seen or heard tell o’! Before I kenned wha the king was, I took him to be a kind lad and a canny lad, and he canna say but I showed him every attention, and even prevented Andrew frae striking him again; and what gratification can it be to him to tak awa the life o’ a lone widow, and a bit helpless lassie?"

But, notwithstanding her remonstrances, Nancy Hewitt and her beautiful daughter were conducted as prisoners to the metropolis.

On the fourth day of his confinement, Andrew was summoned before King James and his nobles, to receive his sentence and undergo its punishment. The monarch, in the midst of his lords, sat in a large apartment in the castle; armed men, with naked swords in their hands, stood around, and the frown gathered on his face as the prisoner was led into his presence.

Andrew bowed before the monarch, then raised his head and looked around, with an expression on his countenance which showed that, although he expected death, he feared it not.

"How now, ye traitor knave!" said the king, sternly; "do ye deny that ye raised your hand against our royal person?"

"No!" was the brief and bold reply of the dauntless fisherman.

"Ye have heard, kinsmen," continued the monarch, "his confession of his guiltiness from his own lips—what punishment do ye award him?"

"Death! the traitor’s doom!" replied the nobles.

"Nay, troth," said James, "we shall be less just than merciful; and because of his brave bearing at Lamberton, his life shall be spared—but, certes, the hand that was raised against our person shall be struck off. Prepare the block!"

Now, the block was brought into the midst of the floor, and Andrew was made to kneel, and his arm was bared and placed upon it—and the executioner stood by with his drawn sword, waiting the signal from the king to strike off the hand, when the fairy young queen, with her attendants entered the apartment. The king rose to meet her, saying—

"What would my fair queen?"

"A boon! a boon! my liege," playfully replied the blooming princess; "that ye strike not off the hand of this audacious man, but that ye chain it for his life."

"Be it so, my fair one," said the king; and, taking the sword of the executioner in his hand, he touched the kneeling culprit on the shoulder with it, saying—"Rise up, SIR ANDREW GUT-THRIE, and thus do we chain your offending hand!"—the young queen at the same moment raised a veil with which she had concealed the features of bonny Janet; and the king taking her hand, placed it in Andrew’s.

"My conscience!" exclaimed Andrew, "am I in existence!— do I dream, or what?--O Jenny, woman!—O your Majesty!—what shall I say?"

"Nothing," replied the monarch, "but the king cam’ in the cadger’s way—and Sir Andrew Gut-thrie and his bonny bride shall be provided for."

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