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Chapter 1. Traquairs Of Montroymont
The period of this tale is in the heat of the KILLING-TIME; the scene laid for the
most part in solitary hills and morasses, haunted only by the so-called Mountain
Wanderers, the dragoons that came in chase of them, the women that wept on
their dead bodies, and the wild birds of the moorland that have cried there since
the beginning. It is a land of many rain-clouds; a land of much mute history,
written there in prehistoric symbols. Strange green raths are to be seen
commonly in the country, above all by the kirkyards; barrows of the dead,
standing stones; beside these, the faint, durable footprints and handmarks of the
Roman; and an antiquity older perhaps than any, and still living and active--a
complete Celtic nomenclature and a scarce-mingled Celtic population. These
rugged and grey hills were once included in the boundaries of the Caledonian
Forest. Merlin sat here below his apple-tree and lamented Gwendolen; here
spoke with Kentigern; here fell into his enchanted trance. And the legend of his
slumber seems to body forth the story of that Celtic race, deprived for so many
centuries of their authentic speech, surviving with their ancestral inheritance of
melancholy perversity and patient, unfortunate courage.
The Traquairs of Montroymont (Mons Romanus, as the erudite expound it) had
long held their seat about the head-waters of the Dule and in the back parts of
the moorland parish of Balweary. For two hundred years they had enjoyed in
these upland quarters a certain decency (almost to be named distinction) of
repute; and the annals of their house, or what is remembered of them, were
obscure and bloody. Ninian Traquair was 'cruallie slochtered' by the Crozers at
the kirk-door of Balweary, anno 1482. Francis killed Simon Ruthven of
Drumshoreland, anno 1540; bought letters of slayers at the widow and heir, and,
by a barbarous form of compounding, married (without tocher) Simon's daughter
Grizzel, which is the way the Traquairs and Ruthvens came first to an
intermarriage. About the last Traquair and Ruthven marriage, it is the business of
this book, among many other things, to tell.
The Traquairs were always strong for the Covenant; for the King also, but the
Covenant first; and it began to be ill days for Montroymont when the Bishops
came in and the dragoons at the heels of them. Ninian (then laird) was an
anxious husband of himself and the property, as the times required, and it may
be said of him, that he lost both. He was heavily suspected of the Pentland Hills
rebellion. When it came the length of Bothwell Brig, he stood his trial before the
Secret Council, and was convicted of talking with some insurgents by the
wayside, the subject of the conversation not very clearly appearing, and of the
reset and maintenance of one Gale, a gardener man, who was seen before
Bothwell with a musket, and afterwards, for a continuance of months, delved the
garden at Montroymont. Matters went very ill with Ninian at the Council; some of