Mary Burnet by James Hogg
The following incidents are related as having occurred at a
shepherd's house, not a hundred miles from St. Mary's Loch; but, as
the descendants of one of the families still reside in the vicinity,
I deem it requisite to use names which cannot be recognised, save by
those who have heard the story.
John Allanson, the farmer's son of Inverlawn, was a handsome,
roving, and incautious young man, enthusiastic, amorous, and fond of
adventure, and one who could hardly be said to fear the face of
either man, woman, or spirit. Among other love adventures, he fell
a-courting Mary Burnet, of Kirkstyle, a most beautiful and innocent
maiden, and one who had been bred up in rural simplicity. She loved
him, but yet she was afraid of him; and though she had no objection
to meeting with him among others, yet she carefully avoided meeting
him alone, though often and earnestly urged to it. One day, the young
man, finding an opportunity, at Our Lady's Chapel, after mass, urged
his suit for a private meeting so ardently, and with so many vows of
love and sacred esteem, that Mary was so far won as to promise, that
perhaps she would come and meet him.
The trysting place was a little green sequestered spot, on the
very verge of the lake, well known to many an angler, and to none
better than the writer of this old tale; and the hour appointed, the
time when the King's Elwand (now foolishly termed the Belt of Orion)
set his first golden knob above the hill. Allanson came too early;
and he watched the sky with such eagerness and devotion, that he
thought every little star that arose in the south-east the top knob
of the King's Elwand. At last the Elwand did arise in good earnest,
and then the youth, with a heart palpitating with agitation, had
nothing for it but to watch the heathery brow by which bonny Mary
Burnet was to descend. No Mary Burnet made her appearance, even
although the King's Elwand had now measured its own equivocal length
five or six times up the lift.
Young Allanson now felt all the most poignant miseries of
disappointment; and, as the story goes, uttered in his heart an
unhallowed wish--he wished that some witch or fairy would influence
his Mary to come to him in spite of her maidenly scruples. This wish
was thrice repeated with all the energy of disappointed love. It was
thrice repeated, and no more, when, behold, Mary appeared on the
brae, with wild and eccentric motions, speeding to the appointed
place. Allanson's excitement seems to have been more than he was able
to bear, as he instantly became delirious with joy, and always
professed that he could remember nothing of their first meeting, save
that Mary remained silent, and spoke not a word, either good or bad.
In a short time she fell a-sobbing and weeping, refusing to be
comforted, and then, uttering a piercing shriek, sprung up, and ran
from him with amazing speed.
At this part of the loch, which, as I said, is well known to many,
the shore is overhung by a precipitous cliff, of no great height, but
still inaccessible, either from above or below. Save in a great
drought, the water comes to within a yard of the bottom of this
cliff, and the intermediate space is filled with rough unshapely
pieces of rock fallen from above. Along this narrow and rude space,
hardly passable by the angler at noon, did Mary bound with the
swiftness of a kid, although surrounded with darkness. Her lover,
pursuing with all his energy, called out, "Mary! Mary! my dear Mary,
stop and speak with me. I'll conduct you home, or anywhere you
please, but do not run from me. Stop, my dearest Mary--stop!"
Mary would not stop; but ran on, till, coming to a little cliff
that jutted into the lake, round which there was no passage, and,
perceiving that her lover would there overtake her, she uttered
another shriek, and plunged into the lake. The loud sound of her fall
into the still water rung in the young man's ears like the knell of
death and if before he was crazed with love, he was now as much so
with despair. He saw her floating lightly away from the shore towards
the deepest part of the loch but, in a short time, she began to sink,
and gradually disappeared, without uttering a throb or a cry. A good
while previous to this, Allanson had flung off his bonnet, shoes, and
coat, and plunged in. He swam to the place where Mary disappeared but
there was neither boil nor gurgle on the water, nor even a bell of
departing breath, to mark the place where his beloved had sunk. Being
strangely impressed, at that trying moment, with a determination to
live or die with her, he tried to dive, in hopes either to bring her
up or to die in her arms; and he thought of their being so found on
the shore of the lake, with a melancholy satisfaction; but by no
effort of his could he reach the bottom, nor knew he what distance he
was still from it. With an exhausted frame, and a despairing heart,
he was obliged again to seek the shore, and, dripping wet as he was,
and half-naked, he ran to her father's house with the woeful tidings.
Everything there was quiet. The old shepherd's family, of whom Mary
was the youngest, and sole daughter, were all sunk in silent repose;
and oh, how the distracted lover wept at the thoughts of wakening
them to hear the doleful tidings! But waken them he must; so, going
to the little window close by the goodman's bed, he called, in a
melancholy tone, "Andrew! Andrew Burnet, are you waking?"
"Troth, man, I think I be; or, at least, I'm half-and-half. What
hast thou to say to auld Andrew Burnet at this time o' night?"
"Are you waking, I say?"
"Gudewife, am I waking? Because if I be, tell that stravaiger sae.
He'll maybe tak your word for it, for mine he winna tak."
"O Andrew, none of your humour to-night; I bring you tidings the
most woeful, the most dismal, the most heart-rending, that ever were
brought to an honest man's door."
"To his window, you mean," cried Andrew, bolting out of bed, and
proceeding to the door. "Gude sauff us, man, come in, whaever you be,
and tell us your tidings face to face; and then we'll can better
judge of the truth of them. If they be in concord Wi' your voice,
they are melancholy indeed. Have the reavers come, and are our kye
"Oh, alas! waur than that--a thousand times waur than that! Your
daughter--your dear beloved and only daughter, Mary---"
"What of Mary?" cried the good-man. "What of Mary?" cried her
mother, shuddering and groaning with terror; and at the same time she
kindled a light.
The sight of their neighbour, half-naked, and dripping with wet,
and madness and despair in his looks, sent a chillness to their
hearts, that held them in silence, and they were unable to utter a
word, till he went on thus "Mary is gone; your darling and mine is
lost, and sleeps this night in a watery grave--and I have been her
"Thou art mad, John Allanson," said the old man, vehemently,
"raving mad; at least I hope so. Wicked as thou art, thou hadst not
the heart to kill my dear child. O yes, you are mad--God be thankful,
you are mad. I see it in your looks and demeanour. Heaven be praised,
you are mad You are mad; but you'll get better again. But what do I
say?" continued he, as recollecting himself--"We can soon convince
our own senses. Wife, lead the way to our daughter's bed."
With a heart throbbing with terror and dismay, old Jean Linton led
the way to Mary's chamber, followed by the two men, who were eagerly
gazing, one over each of her shoulders. Mary's little apartment was
in the farther end of the long narrow cottage; and as soon as they
entered it, they perceived a form lying on the bed, with the
bedclothes drawn over its head; and on the lid of Mary's little
chest, that stood at the bedside, her clothes were lying neatly
folded, as they wont to be. Hope seemed to dawn on the faces of the
two old people when they beheld this, but the lover's heart sunk
still deeper in despair. The father called her name, but the form on
the bed returned no answer; however, they all heard distinctly sobs,
as of one weeping. The old man then ventured to pull down the clothes
from her face; and, strange to say, there indeed lay Mary Burnet,
drowned in tears, yet apparently nowise surprised at the ghastly
appearance of the three naked figures. Allanson gasped for breath,
for he remained still incredulous. He touched her clothes--he lifted
her robes one by one--and all of them were dry, neat, and dean, and
had no appearance of having sunk in the lake.
There can be no doubt that Allanson was confounded by the strange
event that had befallen him, and felt like one struggling with a
frightful vision, or some energy beyond the power of man to
comprehend. Nevertheless the assurance that Mary was there in life,
weeping although she was, put him once more beside himself with joy;
and he kneeled at her bedside, beseeching permission but to kiss her
hand. She, however, repulsed him with disdain, saying with great
emphasis "You are a bad man, John Allanson, and I entreat you to go
out of my sight. The sufferings that I have undergone this night have
been beyond the power of flesh and blood to endure; and by some
cursed agency of yours have these sufferings been brought about. I
therefore pray you, in His name, whose law you have transgressed, to
depart out of my sight."
Wholly overcome by conflicting passions, by circumstances so
contrary to one another, and so discordant with everything either in
the works of Nature or Providence, the young man could do nothing but
stand like a rigid statue, with his hands lifted up, and his visage
like that of a corpse, until led away by the two old people from
their daughter's apartment. Then they lighted up a fire to dry him,
and began to question him with the most intense curiosity; but they
could elicit nothing from him, but the most disjointed
exclamations--such as, "Lord in Heaven, what can be the meaning of
this?" And at other times: "It is all the enchantment of the devil;
the evil spirits have got dominion over me!"
Finding they could make nothing or him, they began to form
conjectures of their own. Jean affirmed that it had been the Mermaid
of the loch that had come to him in Mary's shape, to allure him to
his destruction; but Andrew Burnet, setting his bonnet to one side,
and raising his left hand to a level with it, so that he might have
full scope to motion and flourish, suiting his action to his words,
thus began, with a face of sapience never to be excelled:
"Gudewife, it doth strike me that thou art very wide of the mark.
It must have been a spirit of a great deal higher quality than a
meer-maiden, who played this extraordinary prank. The meer-maiden is
not a spirit, but a beastly sensitive creature, with a malicious
spirit within it. Now, what influence could a cauld clatch of a
creature like that, wi' a tail like a great saumont-fish, hae ower
our bairn, either to make her happy or unhappy? Or where could it
borrow her claes, Jean? Tell me that. Na, na, Jean Linton, depend on
it, the spirit that courtit wi' poor sinfu' Jock there, has been a
fairy; but whether a good ane or an ill ane, it is hard to
Andrew's disquisition was interrupted by the young man falling
into a fit of trembling that was fearful to look at, and threatened
soon to terminate his existence. Jean ran for the family cordial,
observing by the way, that "though he was a wicked person, he was
still a fellow-creature, and might live to repent;" and influenced by
this spark of genuine humanity, she made him swallow two
horn-spoonfuls of strong aquavite. Andrew then put a piece of scarlet
thread round each wrist, and taking a strong rowan-tree staff in his
hand, he conveyed his trembling and astonished guest home, giving him
at parting this sage advice:
"I'll tell you what it is, Jock Allanson--ye hae run a near risk
o' perdition, and, escaping that for the present, o' losing your
right reason. But take an auld man's advice--never gang again out by
night to beguile ony honest man's daughter, lest a worse thing befall
Next morning Mary dressed herself more neatly than usual, but
there was manifestly a deep melancholy settled on her lovely face,
and at times the unbidden tear would start into her eye. She spoke no
word, either good or bad, that ever her mother could recollect, that
whole morning; but she once or twice observed her daughter gazing at
her, as with an intense and melancholy interest. About nine o'clock
in the morning, she took a hay-raik over her shoulder, and went down
to a meadow at the east end of the loch, to coil a part of her
father's hay, her father and brother engaging to join her about noon,
when they came from the sheepfold. As soon as old Andrew came home,
his wife and he, as was natural, instantly began to converse on the
events of the preceding night; and in the course of their
conversation Andrew said, "Gudeness be about us' Jean, was not yon an
awfu' speech o' our bairn's to young Jock Allanson last night?"
"Ay, it was a downsetter, gudeman, and spoken like a good
"I'm no sae sure o' that, Jean Linton. My good woman, Jean Linton,
I'm no sae sure o' that. Yon speech has gi'en me a great deal o'
trouble o' heart; for d'ye ken, an' take my life--ay, an' take your
life, Jean--nane o' us can tell whether it was in the Almighty's name
or the devil's that she discharged her lover."
"O fy, Andrew, how can ye say sae? How can ye doubt that it was in
the Almighty's name?"
"Couldna she have said sae then, and that wad hae put it beyond a'
doubt? And that wad hae been the natural way too; but instead of that
she says, 'I pray you, in the name of him whose law you have
transgressed, to depart out o' my sight.' I confess I'm terrified
when I think about yon speech, Jean Linton. Didna she say too that
'her sufferings had been beyond what flesh and blood could have
endured?' What was she but flesh and blood. Didna that remark infer
that she was something mair than a mortal creature? Jean Linton, Jean
Linton! what will you say if it should turn out that our daughter is
drowned, and that yon was the fairy we had in the house a' the night
and this morning?"
"O haud your tongue, Andrew Burnet, and dinna make my heart cauld
within me. We hae aye trusted in the Lord yet, and he has never
forsaken us, nor will he yet gie the Wicked One power ower us or
"Ye say very well, Jean, and we maun e'en hope for the best,"
quoth old Andrew; and away he went, accompanied by his son Alexander,
to assist their beloved Mary on the meadow.
No sooner had Andrew set his head over the bents, and come in view
of the meadow, than he said to his son, "I wish Jock Allanson maunna
hae been east-the-loch fishing for geds the day, for I think my Mary
has made very little progress in the meadow."
"She's ower muckle ta'en up about other things this while to mind
her wark," said Alexander; "I wadna wonder, father, if that lassie
gangs a black gate yet."
Andrew uttered a long and a deep sigh, that seemed to ruffle the
very fountains of life, and, without speaking another word, walked on
to the hayfield. It was three hours since Mary had left home, and she
ought at least to have put up a dozen coils of hay each hour. But, in
place of that, she had put up only seven altogether, and the last was
unfinished. Her own hay-raik, that had an M and a B neatly cut on the
head of it, was leaning on the unfinished coil, and Mary was wanting.
Her brother, thinking she had hid herself from them in sport, ran
from one coil to another, calling her many bad names, playfully; but
after he had turned them all up, and several deep swathes besides,
she was not to be found. This young man, who slept in the byre, knew
nothing of the events of the foregoing night, the old people and
Allanson having mutually engaged to keep them a profound secret, and
he had therefore less reason than his father to be seriously alarmed.
When they began to work at the hay Andrew could work none; he looked
this way and that way, but in no way could he see Mary approaching;
so he put on his coat and went away home, to pour his sorrows into
the bosom of his wife; and, in the meantime, he desired his son to
run to all the neighbouring farming-houses and cots, every one, and
make inquiries if anybody had seen Mary.
When Andrew went home and informed his wife that their darling was
missing, the grief and astonishment of the aged couple knew no
bounds. They sat down and wept together, and declared over and over
that this act of Providence was too strong for them, and too high to
be understood. Jean besought her husband to kneel instantly, and pray
urgently to God to restore their child to them; but he declined it,
on account of the wrong frame of his mind, for he declared, that his
rage against John Allanson was so extreme as to unfit him for
approaching the throne of his Maker. "But if the profligate refuses
to listen to the entreaties of an injured parent," added he, "he
shall feel the weight of an injured father's arm."
Andrew went straight away to Inverlawn, though without he least
hope of finding young Allanson at home; but, on reaching the place,
to his amazement, he found the young man lying ill of a burning
fever, raving incessantly of witches, spirits, and Mary Burnet. To
such a height had his frenzy arrived, that when Andrew went there, it
required three men to hold him in the bed. Both his parents testified
their opinions openly, that their son was bewitched, or possessed of
a demon, and the whole family was thrown into the greatest
consternation. The good old shepherd, finding enough of grief there
already, was obliged to confine his to his own bosom, and return
disconsolate to his little family circle, in which there was a woeful
blank that night.
His son returned also from a fruitless search. No one had seen any
traces of his sister, but an old crazy woman, at a place called
Oxcleuch, said that she had seen her go by in a grand chariot with
young Jock Allanson, toward the Birkhill Path, and by that time they
were at the Cross of Dumgree. The young man said he asked her what
sort of a chariot it was, as there was never such a thing in that
country as a chariot, nor yet a road for one. But she replied that he
was widely mistaken, for that a great number of chariots sometimes
passed that way, though never any of them returned. Those words
appearing to be merely the ravings of superannuation, they were not
regarded; but when no other traces of Mary could be found, old Andrew
went up to consult this crazy dame once more, but he was not able to
bring any such thing to her recollection. She spoke only in parables,
which to him were incomprehensible.
Bonny Mary Burnet was lost. She left her father's house at nine
o'clock on a Wednesday morning, 17th of September, neatly dressed in
a white jerkin and green bonnet, with her hay-raik over her shoulder;
and that was the last sight she was doomed ever to see of her native
cottage. She seemed to have had some presentiment of this, as
appeared from her demeanour that morning before she left it. Mary
Burnet of Kirkstyle was lost, and great was the sensation produced
over the whole country by the mysterious event. There was a long
ballad extant at one period on the melancholy catastrophe, which was
supposed to have been composed by the chaplain of St. Mary's; but I
have only heard tell of it, without ever hearing it sung or recited.
Many of the verses concluded thus:
"But Bonny Mary Burnet
We will never see again."
The story soon got abroad, with all its horrid circumstances (and
there is little doubt that it was grievously exaggerated), and there
was no obloquy that was not thrown on the survivor, who certainly in
some degree deserved it, for, instead of growing better, he grew ten
times more wicked than he was before. In one thing the whole country
agreed, that it had been the real Mary Burnet who was drowned in the
loch, and that the being which was found in her bed, lying weeping
and complaining of suffering, and which vanished the next day, had
been a fairy, an evil spirit, or a changeling of some sort, for that
it never spoke save once, and that in a mysterious manner; nor did it
partake of any food with the rest of the family. Her father and
mother knew not what to say or what to think, but they wandered
through this weary world like people wandering in a dream. Everything
that belonged to Mary Burnet was kept by her parents as the most
sacred relics, and many a tear did her aged mother shed over them.
Every article of her dress brought the once comely wearer to mind.
Andrew often said, "That to have lost the darling child of their old
age in any way would have been a great trial, but to lose her in the
way that they had done, was really mair than human frailty could
Many a weary day did he walk by the shores of the loch, looking
eagerly for some vestige of her garments, and though he trembled at
every appearance, yet did he continue to search on. He had a number
of small bones collected, that had belonged to lambs and other minor
animals, and, haply, some of them to fishes, from a fond supposition
that they might once have formed joints of her toes or fingers. These
he kept concealed in a little bag, in order, as he said, "to let the
doctors see them." But no relic, besides these, could he ever
discover of Mary's body.
Young Allanson recovered from his raging fever scarcely in the
manner of other men, for he recovered all at once, after a few days'
raving and madness. Mary Burnet, it appeared, was by him no more
remembered. He grew ten times more wicked than before, and hesitated
at no means of accomplishing his unhallowed purposes. The devout
shepherds and cottages around detested him; and, both in their
families and in the wild, when there was no ear to hear but that of
Heaven, they prayed protection from his devices, as if he had been
the Wicked One; and they all prophesied that he would make a bad
One fine day about the middle of October, when the days begin to
get very short, and the nights long and dark, on a Friday morning,
the next year but one after Mary Burnet was lost, a memorable day in
the fairy annals, John Allanson, younger of Inverlawn, went to a
great hiring fair at a village called Moffat in Annandale, in order
to hire a housemaid. His character was so notorious, that not one
young woman in the district would serve in his father's house; so
away he went to the fair at Moffat, to hire the prettiest and
loveliest girl he could there find, with the intention of ruining her
as soon as she came home, This is no supposititious accusation, for
he acknowledged his plan to Mr. David Welch of Cariferan, who rode
down to the market with him, and seemed to boast of it, and dwell on
it with delight. But the maidens of Annandale had a guardian angel in
the fair that day, of which neither he nor they were aware.
Allanson looked through the hiring-market, and through the
hiring-market, and at length fixed on one young woman, which indeed
was not difficult to do, for there was no such form there for
elegance and beauty. Mr. Welch stood still and eyed him. He took the
beauty aside. She was clothed in green, and as lovely as a new-blown
"Are you to hire, pretty maiden?"
"Will you hire with me?"
"I care not though I do. But if I hire with you, it must be for a
"Certainly. The longer the better. What are your wages to be?"
"You know, if I hire, I must be paid in kind. I must have the
first living creature that I see about Inverlawn to myself."
"I wish it may be me, then. But what do you know about
"I think I should know about it."
"Bless me! I know the face as well as I know my own, and better.
But the name has somehow escaped me. Pray, may I I ask your
"Hush! hush!" said she solemnly, and holding up her hand at the
same time. "Hush, hush, you had better say nothing about that
"I am in utter amazement," he exclaimed. "What is the meaning of
this? I conjure you to tell me your name!"
"It is Mary Burnet," said she, in a soft whisper; and at the same
time she let down a green veil over her face.
If Allanson's death-warrant had been announced to him at that
moment, it could not have deprived him so completely of sense and
motion. His visage changed into that of a corpse, his jaws fell down,
and his eyes became glazed, so as apparently to throw no reflections
inwardly. Mr. Welch, who had kept his eye steadily on them all the
while, perceived his comrade's dilemma, and went up to him.
"Allanson? Mr. Allanson? What is the matter with you, man?" said he.
"Why, the girl has bewitched you, and turned you into a statue!"
Allanson made some sound in his throat, as if attempting to speak,
but his tongue refused its office, and he only jabbered. Mr. Welch,
conceiving that he was seized with some fit, or about to faint,
supported him into the Johnston Arms; but he either could not, or
would not grant him any explanation. Welch being, however, resolved
to see the maiden in green once more, persuaded Allanson, after
causing him to drink a good deal, to go out into the hiring-market
again, in search of her. They ranged the market through and through,
but the maiden in green was gone, and not to be found. She had
vanished in the crowd the moment she divulged her name, and even
though Welch had his eye fixed on her, he could not discover which
way she went. Allanson appeared to be in a kind of stupor as well as
terror, but when he found that she had left the market, he began to
recover himself, and to look out again for the top of the market.
He soon found one more beautiful than the last. She was like a
sylph, clothed in robes of pure snowy white, with green ribands.
Again he pointed this new flower out to Mr. David Welch, who declared
that such a perfect model of beauty he had never in his life seen.
Allanson, being resolved to have this one at any wages, took her
aside, and put the usual question: "Do you wish to hire, pretty
"Will you hire with me?"
"I care not though I do."
"What, then, are your wages to be? Come--say? And be reasonable; I
am determined not to part with you for a trifle."
"My wages must be in a kind; I work on no other conditions. Pray,
how are all the good people about Inverlawn?"
Allanson's breath began to cut, and a chillness to creep through
his whole frame, and he answered, with a faltering tongue: "I thank
you--much in their ordinary way."
"And your aged neighbours," rejoined she, "are they still alive
"I--I--I think they are," said he, panting for breath. "But I am
at a loss to know whom I am indebted to for these kind
"What," said she, "have you so soon forgot Mary Burnet of
Allanson started as if a bullet had gone through his heart. The
lovely sylph-like form glided into the crowd, and left the astounded
libertine once more standing like a rigid statue, until aroused by
his friend, Mr. Welch. He tried a third fair one, and got the same
answers, and the same name given. Indeed, the first time ever I heard
the tale, it bore that he tried seven, who all turned out to be Mary
Burnets of Kirkstyle; but I think it unlikely that he would try so
many, as he must long ere that time have been sensible that he
laboured under some power of enchantment. However, when nothing else
would do, he helped himself to a good proportion of strong drink.
While he was thus engaged, a phenomenon of beauty and grandeur came
into the fair, that caught the sole attention of all present. This
was a lovely dame, riding in a gilded chariot, with two livery-men
before, and two behind, clothed in green and gold; and never sure was
there so splendid a meteor seen in a Moffat fair. The word instantly
circulated in the market, that this was the Lady Elizabeth Douglas,
eldest daughter to the Earl of Morton, who then sojourned at
Auchincastle, in the vicinity of Moffat, and which lady at that time
was celebrated as a great beauty all over Scotland. She was
afterwards Lady Keith; and the mention of this name in the tale, as
it were by mere accident, fixes the era of it in the reign of James
the Fourth, at the very time that fairies, brownies, and witches,
were at the rifest in Scotland.
Every one in the market believed the lady to be the daughter of
the Earl of Morton; and when she came to the Johnston Arms, a
gentleman in green came out bareheaded, and received her out of the
carriage. All the crowd gazed at such unparalleled beauty and
grandeur, but none was half so much overcome as Allanson. He had
never conceived aught half so lovely either in earth, or heaven, or
fairyland; and while he stood in a burning fever of admiration, think
of his astonishment, and the astonishment of the countless crowd that
looked on, when this brilliant and matchless beauty beckoned him
towards her! He could not believe his senses, but looked this way and
that way to see how others regarded the affair but she beckoned him a
second time, with such a winning courtesy and smile, that immediately
he pulled off his beaver cap and hasted up to her; and without more
ado she gave him her arm, and the two walked into the hostel.
Allanson conceived that he was thus distinguished by Lady
Elizabeth Douglas, the flower of the land, and so did all the people
of the market; and greatly they wondered who the young farmer could
be that was thus particularly favoured; for it ought to have been
mentioned that he had not one personal acquaintance in the fair save
Mr. David Welch of Cariferan. The first thing the lady did was to
inquire kindly after his health. Allanson thanked her ladyship with
all the courtesy he was master of; and being by this time persuaded
that she was in love with him, he became as light as if treading on
the air. She next inquired after his father and mother. Oho? thought
he to himself, poor creature, she is terribly in for it but her love
shall not be thrown away upon a backward or ungrateful object. He
answered her with great politeness, and at length began to talk of
her noble father and young Lord William, but she cut him short by
asking if he did not recognise her.
"Oh, yes! He knew who her ladyship was, and remembered that he had
seen her comely face often before, although he could not, at that
particular moment, recall to his memory the precise time or places of
She next asked for his old neighbours of Kirkstyle, and if they
were still in life and health Allanson felt as if his heart were a
piece of ice. A chillness spread over his whole frame he sank back on
a seat, and remained motionless; but the beautiful and adorable
creature soothed him with kind words, till he again gathered courage
"What?" said he; "and has it been your own lovely self who has
been playing tricks on me this whole day?"
"A first love is not easily extinguished, Mr. Allanson," said she.
"You may guess from my appearance, that I have been fortunate in
life; but, for all that, my first love for you has continued the
same, unaltered and unchanged, and you must forgive the little
freedoms I used to-day to try your affections, and the effects my
appearance would have on you."
"It argues something for my good taste, however, that I never
pitched on any face for beauty to-day but your own," said he. "But
now that we have met once more, we shall not so easily part again. I
will devote the rest of my life to you, only let me know the place of
"It is hard by," said she, "only a very little space from this and
happy, happy, would I be to see you there to-night, were it proper or
convenient. But my lord is at present from home and in a distant
"I should not conceive that any particular hindrance to my visit,"
With great apparent reluctance she at length consented to admit of
his visit, and offered to leave one of her gentlemen, whom she could
trust, to be his conductor; but this he positively refused. It was
his desire, he said, that no eye of man should see him enter or leave
her happy dwelling. She said he was a self-willed man, but should
have his own way; and after giving him such directions as would
infallibly lead him to her mansion, she mounted her chariot and was
Allanson was uplifted above every sublunary concern. Seeking out
his friend, David Welch, he imparted to him his extraordinary good
fortune, but he did not tell him that she was not the Lady Elizabeth
Douglas. Welch insisted on accompanying him on the way, and refused
to turn back till he came to the very point of the road next to the
lady's splendid mansion; and in spite of all that Allanson could say,
Welch remained there till he saw his comrade enter the court gate,
which glowed with lights as innumerable as the stars of the
Allanson had promised to his father and mother to be home on the
morning after the fair to breakfast. He came not either that day or
the next; and the third day the old man mounted his white pony, and
rode away towards Moffat in search of his son. He called at Cariferan
on his way, and made inquiries at Mr. Welch. The latter manifested
some astonishment that the young man had not returned; nevertheless
he assured his father of his safety, and desired him to return home;
and then with reluctance confessed that the young man was engaged in
an amour with the Earl of Morton's beautiful daughter; that he had
gone to the castle by appointment, and that he, David Welch, had
accompanied him to the gate, and seen him enter, and it was apparent
that his reception had been a kind one, since he had tarried so
Mr. Welch, seeing the old man greatly distressed, was persuaded to
accompany him on his journey, as the last who had seen his son, and
seen him enter the castle. On reaching Moffat they found his steed
standing at the hostel, whither it had returned on the night of the
fair, before the company broke up; but the owner had not been heard
of since seen in company with Lady Elizabeth Douglas. The old man set
out for Auchincastle, taking Mr. David Welch along with him; but long
ere they reached the place, Mr. Welch assured him he would not find
his son there, as it was nearly in a different direction that they
rode on the evening of the fair. However, to the castle they went,
and were admitted to the Earl, who, after hearing the old man's tale,
seemed to consider him in a state of derangement. He sent for his
daughter Elizabeth, and questioned her concerning her meeting with
the son of the old respectable countryman--of her appointment with
him on the night of the preceding Friday, and concluded by saying he
hoped she had him still in safe concealment about the castle.
The lady, hearing her father talk in this manner, and seeing the
serious and dejected looks of the old man, knew not what to say, and
asked an explanation. But Mr. Welch put a stop to it by declaring to
old Allanson that the Lady Elizabeth was not the lady with whom his
son made the appointment, for he had seen her, and would engage to
know her again among ten thousand; nor was that the castle towards
which he had accompanied his son, nor any thing like it. "But go with
me," continued he, "and, though I am a stranger in this district, I
think I can take you to the very place."
They set out again; and Mr. Welch traced the road from Moffat, by
which young Allanson and he had gone, until, after travelling several
miles, they came to a place where a road struck off to the right at
an angle. "Now I know we are right," said Welch; "for here we
stopped, and your son intreated me to return, which I refused, and
accompanied him to yon large tree, and a little way beyond it, from
whence I saw him received in at the splendid gate. We shall be in
sight of the mansion in three minutes."
They passed on to the tree, and a space beyond it; but then Mr.
Welch lost the use of his speech, as he perceived that there was
neither palace nor gate there, but a tremendous gulf; fifty fathoms
deep, and a dark stream foaming and boiling below.
"How is this?" said old Allanson. "There is neither mansion nor
habitation of man here!" Welch's tongue for a long time refused its
office, and he stood like a statue, gazing on the altered and awful
scene. "He only, who made the spirits of men," said he, at last, "and
all the spirits that sojourn in the earth and air, can tell how his
is. We are wandering in a world of enchantment, and have been
influenced by some agencies above human nature, or without its pale;
for here of a certainty did I take leave of your son--and there, in
that direction, and apparently either on the verge of that gulf, or
the space above it, did I see him received in at the court gate of a
mansion, splendid beyond all conception. How can human comprehension
make anything of this?"
They went forward to the verge, Mr. Welch leading the way to the
very spot on which he saw the gate opened, and there they found marks
where a horse had been plunging. Its feet had been over the brink,
but it seemed to have recovered itself, and deep, deep down, and far
within, lay the mangled corpse of John Allanson; and in this manner,
mysterious beyond all example, terminated the career of that wicked
and flagitious young man. What a beautiful moral may be extracted
from this fairy tale!
But among all these turnings and windings, there is no account
given, you will say, of the fate of Mary Burnet; for this last
appearance of hers at Moffat seems to have been altogether a phantom
or illusion. Gentle and kind reader, I can give you no account of the
fate of that maiden; for though the ancient fairy tale proceeds, it
seems to me to involve her fate in ten times more mystery than what
we have hitherto seen of it.
The yearly return of the day on which Mary was lost, was observed
as a day of mourning by her aged and disconsolate parents-a day of
sorrow, of fasting, and humiliation. Seven years came and passed
away, and the seventh returning day of fasting and prayer was at
hand. On the evening previous to it, old Andrew was moving along the
sands of the loch, still looking for some relic of his beloved Mary,
when he was aware of a little shrivelled old man, who came posting
towards him. The creature was not above five spans in height, and had
a face scarcely like that of a human creature; but he was,
nevertheless, civil in his deportment, and sensible in speech. He
bade Andrew a good evening, and asked him what he was looking for.
Andrew answered, that he was looking for that which he should never
"Pray, what is your name, ancient shepherd?" said the stranger;
"for methinks I should know something of you, and perhaps have a
commission to you."
"Alas! why should you ask after my name?" said Andrew. "My name is
now nothing to any one."
"Had not you once a beautiful daughter, named Mary?" said the
"It is a heartrending question, man," said Andrew; "but certes, I
had once a beloved daughter named Mary."
"What became or her?" asked the stranger.
Andrew shook his head, turned round, and began to move away; it
was a theme that his heart could not brook. He sauntered along the
loch sands, his dim eye scanning every white pebble as he passed
along. There was a hopelessness in his stooping form, his gait, his
eye, his feature--in every step that he took there was a hopeless
apathy. The dwarf followed him, and began to expostulate with him.
"Old man, I see you are pining under some real or fancied
affliction," said he. "But in continuing to do so, you are neither
acting according to the dictates of reason nor true religion. What is
man that he should fret, or the son of man that he should repine,
under the chastening hand of his Maker?"
"I am far frae justifying myself," returned Andrew, surveying his
shrivelled monitor with some degree of astonishment. "But there are
some feelings that neither reason nor religion can o'er-master; and
there are some that a parent may cherish without sin."
"I deny the position," said the stranger, "taken either absolutely
or relatively. All repining under the Supreme decree is leavened with
unrighteousness. But, subtleties aside, I ask you, as I did before,
What became of your daughter?"
"Ask the Father of her spirit, and the framer of her body," said
Andrew solemnly; "ask Him into whose hands I committed her from
childhood. He alone knows what became of her, but I do not."
"How long is it since you lost her?"
"It is seven years to-morrow!"
"Ay! you remember the time well. And you have mourned for her all
"Yes; and I will go down to the grave mourning for my only
daughter, the child of my age, and of all my affection. Oh, thou
unearthly-looking monitor, knowest thou aught of my darling child?
for if thou dost, thou wilt know that she was not like other women.
There was a simplicity and a purity about my Mary, that was hardly
consistent with our frail nature."
"Wouldst thou like to see her again?" said the dwarf.
Andrew turned round, his whole frame shaking as with a palsy, and
gazed on the audacious imp. "See her again, creature!" cried he
vehemently. "Would I like to see her again, sayest thou?"
"I said so," said the dwarf, "and I say further, Dost thou know
this token? Look, and see if thou dost!"
Andrew took the token, and looked at it, then at the shrivelled
stranger, and then at the token again; and at length he burst into
tears, and wept aloud; but they were tears of joy, and his weeping
seemed to have some breathings of laughter intermingled in it. And
still as he kissed the token, he called out in broken and convulsive
sentences "Yes, auld body, I do know it!--I do know it--I do know it!
It is indeed the same golden Edward, with three holes in it, with
which I presented my Mary on her birthday, in her eighteenth year, to
buy a new suit for the holidays. But when she took it she said--ay, I
mind weel what my bonny woman said. 'It is sae bonny and sae
kenspeckle,' said she, 'that I think I'll keep it for the sake of the
giver.' O dear, dear! Blessed little creature, tell me how she is,
and where she is? Is she living, or is she dead?"
"She is living, and in good health," said the dwarf; "and better,
and braver, and happier, and lovelier than ever; and if you make
haste, you will see her and her family at Moffat tomorrow afternoon.
They are to pass there on a journey, but it is an express one, and I
am sent to you with that token, to inform you of the circumstance,
that you may have it in your power to see and embrace your beloved
daughter once before you die."
"And am I to meet my Mary at Moffat? Come away, little, dear,
welcome body, thou blessed of heaven, come away, and taste of an auld
shepherd's best cheer, and I'll gang foot for foot with you to
Moffat, and my auld wife shall gang foot for foot with us too. I tell
you, little, blessed, and welcome crile, come alone with me."
"I may not tarry to enter your house, or taste of your cheer, good
shepherd," said the being. "May plenty still be within your walls,
and a thankful heart to enjoy it! But my directions are neither to
taste meat nor drink in this country, but to haste back to her that
sent me. Go--haste, and make ready, for you have no time to
"At what time will she be there?" cried Andrew, flinging the plaid
from him to run home with the tidings.
"Precisely when the shadow of the Holy Cross fails due east,"
cried the dwarf; and turning round, he hasted on his way.
When old Jean Linton saw her husband corning hobbling and running
home without his plaid, and having his doublet flying wide open, she
had no doubt that he had lost his wits; and, full of anxiety, she met
him at the side of the kail-yard. "Gudeness preserve us a' in our
right senses, Andrew Burnet, what's the matter wi' you, Andrew
"Stand out o' my gate, wife, for, d'ye see, I am rather in a
haste, Jean Linton."
"I see that indeed, gudeman; but stand still, and tell me what has
putten you in sic a haste. Ir ye dementit?"
"Na, na gudewife, Jean Linton, I'm no dementit--I'm only gaun away
"O, gudeness pity the poor auld body How can ye gang to Moffat,
man? Or what have ye to do at Moffat? Dinna ye mind that the morn is
the day o' our solemnity?"
"Haud out o' my gate, auld wife, and dinna speak o' solemnities to
me. I'll keep it at Moffat the morn. Ay, gudewife, and ye shall keep
it at Moffat, too. What d'ye think o' that, woman? Too-whoo! ye dinna
ken the metal that's in an auld body till it be tried."
"Get awa' wi' your frightened looks, woman; and haste ye, gang and
fling me out my Sabbath-day claes. And, Jean Linton, my woman, d'ye
hear, gang and pit on your bridal gown, and your silk hood, for ye
maun be at Moffat the morn too; and it is mair nor time we were awa'.
Dinna look sae surprised, woman, till I tell ye, that our ain Mary is
to meet us at Moffat the morn."
"Oh, Andrew I dinna sport wi' the feelings of an auld forsaken
"Gude forbid, my auld wife, that I should ever sport wi' feelings
o' yours," cried Andrew, bursting into tears; "they are a' as sacred
to me as breathings frae the Throne o' Grace. But it is true that I
tell ye; our dear bairn is to meet us at Moffat the morn, wi' a son
in every hand; and we maun e'en gang and see her aince again, and
kiss her and bless her afore we dee."
The tears now rushed from the old woman's eyes like fountains, and
dropped from her sorrow-worn cheeks to the earth, and then, as with a
spontaneous movement, she threw her skirt over her head, kneeled down
at her husband's feet, and poured out her soul in thanksgiving to her
Maker. She then rose up, quite deprived of her senses through joy,
and ran crouching away on the road, towards Moffat, as if hasting
beyond her power to be at it. But Andrew brought her back; and they
prepared themselves for their journey.
Kirkstyle being twenty miles from Moffat, they set out on the
afternoon of Tuesday, the 16th of September; slept that night at a
place called Turnbery Shiel, and were in Moffat next day by noon.
Wearisome was the remainder of the day to that aged couple; they
wandered about conjecturing by what road their daughter would come,
and how she would come attended. "I have made up my mind on baith
these matters," said Andrew; "at first I thought it was likely that
she would come out of the east, because a' our blessings come frae
that airt; but finding now that would be o'er near to the very road
we hae come oursells, I now take it for granted she'll come frae the
south; and I just think I see her leading a bonny boy in every hand,
and a servant lass carrying a bit bundle ahint her."
The two now walked out on all the southern roads, in hopes to meet
their Mary, but always returned to watch the shadow of the Holy
Cross; and, by the time it fell due east, they could do nothing but
stand in the middle of the street, and look round them in all
directions. At length, about half a mile out on the Dumfries road,
they perceived a poor beggar woman approaching with two children
following close to her, and another beggar a good way behind. Their
eyes were instantly riveted on these objects; for Andrew thought he
perceived his friend the dwarf in the one that was behind; and now
all other earthly objects were to them nothing, save these
approaching beggars. At that moment a gilded chariot entered the
village from the south, and drove by them at full speed, having two
livery-men before, and two behind, clothed in green and gold,
"Ach-wow! the vanity of worldly grandeur" ejaculated Andrew, as the
splendid vehicle went thundering by; but neither he nor his wife
deigned to look at it farther, their whole attention being fixed on
the group of beggars. "Ay, it is just my woman," said Andrew, "it is
just hersell; I ken her gang yet, sair pressed down wi' poortith
although she be. But I dinna care how poor she be, for baith her and
hers sall be welcome to my fireside as lang as I hae ane."
While their eyes were thus strained, and their hearts melting with
tenderness and pity, Andrew felt something embracing his knees, and,
on looking down, there was his Mary, blooming in splendour and
beauty, kneeling at his feet. Andrew uttered a loud hysterical scream
of joy, and clasped her to his bosom; and old Jean Linton stood
trembling, with her arms spread, but durst not close them on so
splendid a creature, till her daughter first enfolded her in a fond
embrace, and then she hung upon her and wept. It was a wonderful
event--a restoration without a parallel. They indeed beheld their
Mary, their long-lost darling; they held her in their embraces,
believed in her identity, and were satisfied. Satisfied, did I say?
They were happy beyond the lot of mortals. She had just alighted from
her chariot; and, perceiving her aged parents standing together, she
ran and kneeled at their feet They now retired into the hostel, where
Mary presented her two sons to her father and mother. They spent the
evening in every social endearment; and Mary loaded the good old
couple with rich presents, watched over them till midnight, when they
both fell into a deep and happy sleep, and then she remounted her
chariot, and was driven away. If she was any more seen in Scotland, I
never heard of it; but her parents rejoiced in the thoughts of her
happiness till the day of their death.