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Mary Macgregor

The Young Tamlane

The young Tamlane had lived among mortals for only nine short years ere he was carried away by the Queen of the Fairies, away to live in Fairyland.

His father had been a knight of great renown, his mother a lady of high degree, and sorry indeed were they to lose their son.

And this is how it happened.

One day, soon after Tamlane's ninth birthday, his uncle came to him and said, "Tamlane, now that ye are nine years old, ye shall, an ye like it, ride with me to the hunt."

And Tamlane jumped for joy, and clapped his hands for glee. Then he mounted his horse and rode away with his uncle to hunt and hawk.

Over the moors they rode, and the wind it blew cold from the north. Over the moors they rode, and the cold north wind blew upon the young Tamlane until he grew cold and stiff.

Then the reins they fell from his hands and down from his horse slipped Tamlane, and laid himself down to rest, so weary, so cold was he. But no sooner had he lain down on the bare earth than he closed his eyes and fell fast asleep. And no sooner had he fallen fast asleep than the Queen of the Fairies came and carried Tamlane off to Fairyland.

For long years Tamlane dwelt among the little green folk, yet ofttimes he would come back to visit the land of his birth.

Now many were the hills and dells haunted by the fairy folk. Yet neither hill nor dell pleased them more than the lone plain of Carterhaugh, where the soft-flowing rivers of Ettrick and Yarrow met and mingled.

Many a long day after fairies were banished from the plain of Carterhaugh would the peasant folk come to gaze at the circles which still marked the green grass of the lone moor. The circles had been made, so they said by the tiny feet of the fairies as they danced round and round in a ring.

Well, in the days before the fairies were banished from the plain of Carterhaugh, strange sights were to be seen there by the light of the moon.

Little folk, dressed all in green, would flit across the moor. They would form tiny rings and dance on their tiny toes until the moonlight failed.

Little horsemen dressed in green would go riding by, the bells on the fairy bridles playing magic music the while. Sounds too, unknown to mortals, would tremble on the still night air.

Full of mischief too were these little elfin folk, and wise mortals feared to tread where fairy feet were tripping.

Wise mortals would warn the merry children and the winsome maidens lest they should venture too near the favourite haunts of fairydom.

To Carterhaugh came, as I have told you, many of the fairy folk; but more often than any other came a little elfin knight, and he was the young Tamlane, who had been carried away to Fairyland when he was only nine years old.

Beyond all other of the little green folk was the elf knight feared. And little was that to be wondered at, for well was it known that over many a fair-haired child, over many a beauteous maiden, he had used his magic power. Nor would he let them go until they promised to come back another moonlit eve, and as a pledge of their promise he would seize from the children a toy, from the maidens a ring, or it might be their mantle of green.

Now about two miles from the plain of Carterhaugh stood a castle, and in the castle there lived a fair maiden named Janet.

One day her father sent for his daughter and said, "Janet, ye may leave the castle grounds, an ye please, but never may ye cross the plain of Carterhaugh. For there ye may be found by young Tamlane, and he it is who ofttimes casts a spell o'er bonny maidens."

Now Janet was a wilful daughter. She answered her father never a word, but when she had left his presence she laughed aloud, she tossed her head.

To her ladies she said, "Go to Carterhaugh will I an I list, and come from Carterhaugh will I an I please, and never will I ask leave of any one."

Then when the moonbeams peeped in at her lattice window, the lady Janet tucked up her green skirt, so that she might run, and she coiled her beautiful yellow hair as a crown above her brow. And she was off and away to the lone plain of Carterhaugh.

The moonlight stole across the moor, and Janet laughed aloud in her glee. She ran across to the well, and there, standing alone, riderless, stood the steed of the little elfin knight.

Janet put out her hand to the rose-tree that grew by the well and plucked a dark red rose. Sweet was its scent and Janet put out her hand and plucked another rose, but ere she had pulled a third, close beside her stood a little wee man. He reached no higher than the knee of the lady Janet.

"Ye have come to Carterhaugh, Janet," he cried, "and yet ye have not asked my leave. Ye have plucked my red roses and broken a branch of my bonny rose-tree. Have ye no fear of me, Janet?"

The lady Janet tossed her head, though over her she felt creeping slow the spell of the little elfin knight. She tossed her head and she cried, "Nay, I have no fear of you, ye little wee man. Nor will I ever ask leave of you as I come to and fro across the plain of Carterhaugh. Ye shall know that the moor belongs to me, me!" and Janet stamped her foot. "My father made it all my own."

But the young Tamlane took the white hand of the lady Janet in his own, and so gentle were his words, so kind his ways, that soon the maiden had no wish to leave the little wee man. Hand in hand they wandered through the red rose-bushes that grew by the side of the well. And in the light of the moon the elf knight wove his spell and made the lady Janet his own.

Back to the castle sped Janet when the moonlight failed, but all her smiles were gone. Lone and sad was she, all with longing for her little elfin knight.

Little food would Janet eat in these days, little heed would she take of the gowns she wore. Her yellow hair hung down uncombed, unbraided around her sad, pale face.

Janet had been used to join in the games her four-and-twenty maidens played. She had run the quickest, tossed the ball the highest, nor had any been more full of glee than she.

Now the maidens might play as they listed, little did the lady Janet care.

When evening fell, her four-and-twenty ladies would play their games of chess. Many a game had Janet won in bygone days.

Now the ladies might win or lose as they pleased, little did the lady Janet care. Her heart was away on the plain of Carterhaugh with her little wee elfin knight, and soon she herself would be there.

Once more the moonbeams peeped in at her lattice window, and Janet smiled, put on her fairest gown, and combed her yellow locks. She was off and away to Carterhaugh.

She reached the moor, she ran to the well, and there as before, there, stood the steed of the little elfin man.

And Janet put out her hand and plucked a red red rose, but ere she had plucked another, close beside her stood the young Tamlane.

"Why do ye pluck my roses?" asked the little elf man. But Janet had not come to talk about the roses, and she paid no heed to his question.

"Tell me, Tamlane," said the lady Janet, "tell me, have ye always been a little elfin man? Have ye never, in days gone by, been to the holy chapel, and have ye never had made over you the sign of the Holy Cross?"

"Indeed now, Janet, the truth will I tell!" cried the young Tamlane.

Then the lady Janet listened, and the lady Janet wept as the little wee knight told her how he had been carried away by the Queen of the Fairies.

But yet a stranger tale he told to the maiden.

"Ere I was carried off to Fairyland, Janet," said young Tamlane, "we played as boy and girl in the old castle grounds, and well we loved each other as we played together in those merry merry days of long ago. Ye do not forget, Janet?"

Then back into the lady Janet's mind stole the memory of her childhood's merry days, and of the little lad who had shared her toys and played her games. Together they had made the walls of the old castle ring with their laughter.

No, the lady Janet had not forgotten, and she knew that now, as in the days of long ago, she loved the young Tamlane.

"Tell me," she said, "tell me how ye do spend your day in Fairyland?"

"Blithe and gay is the life we lead," cried the little wee knight. "There is no sickness, no pain of any kind in Fairyland, Janet.

"In earth or air I dwell as pleases me the best. I can leave this little body of mine an it pleases me, and come back to it an I will. I am small, as you see me now, but when I will, I grow so small that a nut-shell is my home, a rosebud my bed. But I can grow big as well, Janet, so big that I needs must make my home in some lofty hall.

"Hither and thither we flit, bathe in the streams, frolic in the wind, play with the sunbeams.

"Never would I wish to leave Fairyland, Janet, were it not that at the end of each seven years an evil spirit comes to carry one of us off to his dark abode. And I, so fair and fat am I, I fear that I shall be chosen by the Evil one.

"But, weep not, Janet; an you wish to bring me back to the land of mortals, I will e'en show you how that maybe done. Little time is there to lose, for to-night is Hallowe'en, and this same night must the deed be done.


'In earth or air I dwell as pleases me the best.'

"On Hallowe'en, at the midnight hour, the fairy court will ride a mile beyond Carterhaugh to the cross at Milestone. Wait for me there, Janet, and ye will win your own true knight."

"But many a knight will ride amid the fairy train. How shall I know you, my little wee man?" cried Janet.

"Neither among the first nor among the second company shall ye seek for me," said young Tamlane. "Only when ye see the third draw nigh give heed, Janet, for among them ye will find me.

"Not on the black horse, nor yet on the brown horse, shall I ride. Let them pass, and keep ye quiet. But as the milk-white steed goes by, seize ye the bridle, Janet, and pull me down, and keep your arms ever around me. For on the milk-white steed I ride.

"On my right hand ye will see a glove, my left will be uncovered. Now, by these signs, ye will know your own true knight.

"Hold me fast, Janet, hold me fast, as you pull me down from my milk-white steed. For while your arms are around me, the fairy folk will change me into fearful shapes.

"Into an adder, and into a snake they will change me. Yet, an ye love me, Janet, fear ye nought, but hold me fast.

"They will change me into a lion, and into a bear. Yet, as I love you, Janet, fear ye nought, but hold me fast.

"A toad, an eel I shall become, yet do not let me slide from your arms, Janet, but hold me fast.

"But, an the fairy folk change me into a blazing fagot, or a bar of hot iron, then throw me far from you, Janet, into the cold, clear well, throw me with all your speed.

"There will I change into your own true knight, Janet, and ye shall throw over me your mantle of green velvet."

Dark was the night and full of gloom as the lady Janet hastened to the cross at Milestone, but her heart was glad and full of light. She would see her own true knight in mortal form before the dawn of Hallowday.

It was between the hours of twelve and one o'clock when Janet stood alone at the spot where the fairy train would pass.

Fearsome it was there alone in the gloom, but the lady Janet was heedful of nought. She had but to wait, to listen. Yet not a sound did she hear, save only the wind as it whistled through the long grass.

Not a sound save the wind did she hear? Ah yes, now strange noises were blown to her eager ears. The bells on fairy bridles tinkled, the music of the tiny fairy band piped each moment more clear.

Janet looked, and by the light of Will o' Wisp she could just catch sight of their little oaten pipes. Shrill were the notes they blew on these, but softer were the sounds they blew through tiny hemlock pipes. Then deeper came the tones of the bog-reeds and large hemlock, and Janet, looking, saw the little green folk draw nigh.

How merry the music was, how glad and good! Never was known a fairy yet who sang or played of aught but joy and mirth.

The first company of the little folk passed Janet as she stood patient, watchful by the cross; the second, passed, and then there came the third.

"The black steed! Let it go," said Janet to herself.

"The brown steed! It matters not to me," she whispered.

"The milk-white steed!" Ah, Janet had seized the bridle of the milk-white steed and pulled the little rider off into her strong young arms.

A cry of little elfs, of angry little elfs, rang out on the chill night air.

Then as he lay in Janet's arms the angry little imps changed their stolen elfin knight into an adder, a snake, a bear, a lion, a toad, an eel, and still, through all these changes, the lady Janet held him fast.

"A blazing fagot! Let him change into a blazing fagot!" cried the angry little folk. "Then this foolish mortal will let our favourite night alone."

And as young Tamlane changed into a blazing fagot the little folk thought they had got their will. For now the lady Janet threw him from her, far into the clear, cold well.

But the little angry imps were soon shrieking in dismay. No sooner was the fagot in the well than the little elfin knight was restored to his own true mortal form.

Then over the tall, strong knight Janet threw her green mantle, and the power of the fairies over the young Tamlane was for ever gone. Their spell was broken.

Now, the Queen of the Fairies had hidden herself in a bush of broom to see what would happen. And when she saw her favourite knight change into his own true mortal shape, she was very cross, very cross indeed. The little fairy band was ordered to march home in silence, their pipes thrust into their tiny green girdles, and there were no more revels in the fairy court for many and many a long day to come.