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And the year On the earth her deathbed, in a shroud of leaves dead,
Of the dead, cold year,
The chill rain is falling, the night worm is
crawling, The rivers are swelling, the thunder is knelling
For the year; The blithe swallows are flown, and the lizards
To his dwelling;
Of the dead, cold year,
P. B. Shelley.
34.—THE GOOD MAN OF BALLENGIECH.
James V. of Scotland had a custom of going about the country disguised as a private person, in order that he might hear complaints which might not otherwise reach his ears, and, perhaps, that he might enjoy amusements which he could not have partaken of in his avowed royal character. On these Occasions he used a name which was known only to some of his principal nobility and attendants. He was called the good man (the tenant, that is) of Ballengiech. Ballengiech is a steep pass which leads down behind the castle of Stirling. Once upon a time, when the court was feasting in Stirling, the king sent for some venison from the neighbouring hills. The deer were killed, and put on horses' backs to be transported to Stirling. Unluckily they had to pass the castle gates of Arnpryor, belonging to a chief of the Buchanans, who chanced to have a considerable number of guests with him.
It was late, and the company was rather short of victuals, though they had had more than enough of liquor. The chief, seeing so much fat venison passing his very door, seized on it, and to the expostulations of the keepers, who told him it belonged to King James, he answered insolently, that if James was king in Scotland, he (Buchanan) was king in Kippen, that being the name
of the district in which the castle of Arnpryor lay. On hearing what had happened, the king got on horseback, and rode instantly from Stirling to Buchanan's house, where he found a strong, fiercelooking Highlander, with an axe on his shoulder, standing sentinel at the door. This grim warder refused the king admittance, saying that the laird of Arnpryor was at dinner, and would not be disturbed. " Yet go up to the company, my good friend,” said the king, and tell him that the good man of Ballengiech is come to feast with the King of Kippen." The porter went grumbling into the house, and told his master that there was a fellow with a red beard at the gate, who called himself the good man of Ballengiech, who said he was come to feast with the King of Kippen. As soon as Buchanan þeard these words, he knew that the king was come in person, and hastened down to kneel at James's feet, and to ask forgiveness for his insolent behaviour. But the king, who only meant to give him a fright, forgave him freely, and going into the castle, feasted on his own venison, which Buchanan had intercepted. Buchanan of Arnpryor was ever afterwards called the King of Kippen.
Upon another occasion, King James being alone and in disguise, fell into a quarrel with some gipsies, or other vagrants, and was assaulted by four or five of them. This chanced to be very near the bridge of Cramond; so the king got on the bridge, which, as it was high and narrow, enabled him to defend himself with his sword against the number of persons by whom he was attacked.
There was a poor man thrashing corn in a barn near by, who came out on hearing the noise of the scuffle, and seeing one man defending himself against numbers, gallantly took the king's part with his flail, to such good purpose, that the gipsies were forced to fly. The husbandman then took the king into the barn, brought him a towel and water to wash the blood off his face and hands, and finally walked with him a little way towards Edinburgh, in case he should be again attacked on the way; the king asked his companion what and who he was. The labourer answered that his name was John Howieson, and that he was a bondsman on the farm of Braehead, near Cramond, which belonged to the King of Scotland. James then asked the poor man if there was any wish in the world which he would particularly desire should be gratified, and honest John confessed he should think himself the happiest man in Scotland were he but proprietor of the farm on which he wrought as a labourer. He then asked the king in turn who he was, and James answered as usual, that he was the good man of Ballengiech, a poor man, who had a small appointment about the palace; but he added, that if John Howieson would come to see him on the next Sunday, he would endeavour to repay his manful assistance, and at least give him the pleasure of seeing the royal apartments.
John put on his best clothes, as you may suppose, and appearing at a gate of the palace, inquired for the good man of Ballengiech. The
king had given orders that he should be admitted, and John found his friend, the good man, in the same disguise which he had formerly worn. The king, still preserving the character of an inferior officer of the household, conducted John Howieson from one apartment of the palace to another, and was amused with his wonder and his remarks. At length James asked his visitor if he would like to see the king, to which John replied that nothing would delight him so much, if he could do so without giving offence. The good man of Ballengiech of course undertook that the king would not be angry. “But,” said John, “how am I to know his grace from the nobles who will be all about him?" “ Easily,” replied his companion, " all the others will be uncovered, the king alone will wear his hat or bonnet.” So speaking, King James introduced the countryman into a great hall, which was filled by the nobility, and the officers of the crown. John was a little frightened, and drew close to his attendant; but was still unable to distinguish the king. “I told you that you would know him by his wearing his hat,” said the conductor. “Then,” said John, after he had again looked round the room, “it must be either you or me, for all but us two are bareheaded."
The king laughed at John's fancy; and that the good yeoman might have occasion for mirth also, he made him a present of the farm of Braehead, which he had so much wished to possess, on condition John Howieson or his successors should