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Chapter 1

O ay! the Monks, the Monks they did the mischief!
Theirs all the grossness, all the superstition
Of a most gross and superstitious age--
May He be praised that sent the healthful tempest
And scatter'd all these pestilential vapours!
But that we owed them _all_ to yonder Harlot
Throned on the seven hills with her cup of gold,
I will as soon believe, with kind Sir Roger,
That old Moll White took wing with cat arid broomstick,
And raised the last night's thunder.

The village described in the Benedictine's manuscript by the name of
Kennaquhair, bears the same Celtic termination which occurs in
Traquhair, Caquhair, and other compounds. The learned Chalmers derives
this word Quhair, from the winding course of a stream; a definition
which coincides, in a remarkable degree, with the serpentine turns of
the river Tweed near the village of which we speak. It has been long
famous for the splendid Monastery of Saint Mary, founded by David the
First of Scotland, in whose reign were formed, in the same county, the
no less splendid establishments of Melrose, Jedburgh, and Kelso. The
donations of land with which the King endowed these wealthy
fraternities procured him from the Monkish historians the epithet of
Saint, and from one of his impoverished descendants the splenetic
censure, "that he had been a sore saint for the Crown."

It seems probable, notwithstanding, that David, who was a wise as well
as a pious monarch, was not moved solely by religious motives to those
great acts of munificence to the church, but annexed political views
to his pious generosity. His possessions in Northumberland and
Cumberland became precarious after the loss of the Battle of the
Standard; and since the comparatively fertile valley of Teviot-dale
was likely to become the frontier of his kingdom, it is probable he
wished to secure at least a part of these valuable possessions by
placing them in the hands of the monks, whose property was for a long
time respected, even amidst the rage of a frontier war. In this manner
alone had the King some chance of ensuring protection and security to
the cultivators of the soil; and, in fact, for several ages the
possessions of these Abbeys were each a sort of Goshen, enjoying the
calm light of peace and immunity, while the rest of the country,
occupied by wild clans and marauding barons, was one dark scene of
confusion, blood, and unremitted outrage.

But these immunities did not continue down to the union of the crowns.
Long before that period the wars betwixt England and Scotland had lost
their original character of international hostilities, and had become
on the part of the English, a struggle for subjugation, on that of the
Scots a desperate and infuriated defence of their liberties. This
introduced on both sides a degree of fury and animosity unknown to the
earlier period of their history; and as religious scruples soon gave
way to national hatred spurred by a love of plunder, the patrimony of
the Church was no longer sacred from incursions on either side. Still,
however, the tenants and vassals of the great Abbeys had many
advantages over those of the lay barons, who were harassed by constant
military duty, until they became desperate, and lost all relish for
the arts of peace. The vassals of the church, on the other hand, were
only liable to be called to arms on general occasions, and at other
times were permitted in comparative quiet to possess their farms and
feus. [Footnote: Small possessions conferred upon vassals and their
heirs, held for a small quit-rent, or a moderate proportion of the
produce. This was a favourite manner, by which the churchmen peopled
the patrimony of their convents; and many descendants of such
_feuars_, as they are culled, are still to be found in possession
of their family inheritances in the neighbourhood of the great
Monasteries of Scotland.] They of course exhibited superior skill in
every thing that related to the cultivation of the soil, and were
therefore both wealthier and better informed than the military
retainers of the restless chiefs and nobles in their neighbourhood.

The residence of these church vassals was usually in a small village
or hamlet, where, for the sake of mutual aid and protection, some
thirty or forty families dwelt together. This was called the Town, and
the land belonging to the various families by whom the Town was
inhabited, was called the Township. They usually possessed the land in
common, though in various proportions, according to their several
grants. The part of the Township properly arable, and kept as such
continually under the plough, was called _in-field_. Here the use
of quantities of manure supplied in some degree the exhaustion of the
soil, and the feuars raised tolerable oats and bear, [Footnote: Or
bigg, a kind of coarse barley.] usually sowed on alternate ridges, on
which the labour of the whole community was bestowed without
distinction, the produce being divided after harvest, agreeably to
their respective interests.

There was, besides, _out-field_ land, from which it was thought
possible to extract a crop now and then, after which it was abandoned
to the "skiey influences," until the exhausted powers of vegetation
were restored. These out-field spots were selected by any feuar at his
own choice, amongst the sheep-walks and hills which were always
annexed to the Township, to serve as pasturage to the community. The
trouble of cultivating these patches of out-field, and the precarious
chance that the crop would pay the labour, were considered as giving
a right to any feuar, who chose to undertake the adventure, to the
produce which might result from it.

There remained the pasturage of extensive moors, where the valleys
often afforded good grass, and upon which the whole cattle belonging
to the community fed indiscriminately during the summer, under the
charge of the Town-herd, who regularly drove them out to pasture in
the morning, and brought them back at night, without which precaution
they would have fallen a speedy prey to some of the Snatchers in the
neighbourhood. These are things to make modern agriculturists hold up
their hands and stare; but the same mode of cultivation is not yet
entirely in desuetude in some distant parts of North Britain, and may
be witnessed in full force and exercise in the Zetland Archipelago.

The habitations of the church-feuars were not less primitive than
their agriculture. In each village or town were several small towers,
having battlements projecting over the side walls, and usually an
advanced angle or two with shot-holes for flanking the door-way, which
was always defended by a strong door of oak, studded with nails, and
often by an exterior grated door of iron. These small peel-houses were
ordinarily inhabited by the principal feuars and their families; but,
upon the alarm of approaching danger, the whole inhabitants thronged
from their own miserable cottages, which were situated around, to
garrison these points of defence. It was then no easy matter for a
hostile party to penetrate into the village, for the men were
habituated to the use of bows and fire-arms, and the towers being
generally so placed, that the discharge from one crossed that of
another, it was impossible to assault any of them individually.

The interior of these houses was usually sufficiently wretched, for it
would have been folly to have furnished them in a manner which could
excite the avarice of their lawless neighbours. Yet the families
themselves exhibited in their appearance a degree of comfort,
information, and independence, which could hardly have been expected.
Their in-field supplied them with bread and home-brewed ale, their
herds and flocks with beef and mutton (the extravagance of killing
lambs or calves was never thought of). Each family killed a mart, or
fat bullock, in November, which was salted up for winter use, to which
the good wife could, upon great occasions, add a dish of pigeons or a
fat capon,--the ill-cultivated garden afforded "lang-cale,"--and the
river gave salmon to serve as a relish during the season of Lent.

Of fuel they had plenty, for the bogs afforded turf; and the remains
of the abused woods continued to give them logs for burning, as well
as timber for the usual domestic purposes. In addition to these
comforts, the good-man would now and then sally forth to the
greenwood, and mark down a buck of season with his gun or his
cross-bow; and the Father Confessor seldom refused him absolution for
the trespass, if duly invited to take his share of the smoking haunch.
Some, still bolder, made, either with their own domestics, or by
associating themselves with the moss-troopers, in the language of
shepherds, "a start and overloup;" and the golden ornaments and silken
head-gear--worn by the females of one or two families of note, were
invidiously traced by their neighbours to such successful excursions.
This, however, was a more inexplicable crime in the eyes of the Abbot
and Community of Saint Mary's, than the borrowing one of the "gude
king's deer;" and they failed not to discountenance and punish, by
every means in their power, offences which were sure to lead to severe
retaliation upon the property of the church, and which tended to alter
the character of their peaceful vassalage.

As for the information possessed by those dependents of the Abbacies,
they might have been truly said to be better fed than taught, even
though their fare had been worse than it was. Still, however, they
enjoyed opportunities of knowledge from which others were excluded.
The monks were in general well acquainted with their vassals and
tenants, and familiar in the families of the better class among them,
where they were sure to be received with the respect due to their
twofold character of spiritual father and secular landlord. Thus it
often happened, when a boy displayed talents and inclination for
study, one of the brethren, with a view to his being bred to the
church, or out of good-nature, in order to pass away his own idle
time, if he had no better motive, initiated him into the mysteries of
reading and writing, and imparted to him such other knowledge as he
himself possessed. And the heads of these allied families, having more
time for reflection, and more skill, as well as stronger motives for
improving their small properties, bore amongst their neighbours the
character of shrewd, intelligent men, who claimed respect on account
of their comparative wealth, even while they were despised for a less
warlike and enterprising turn than the other Borderers. They lived as
much as they well could amongst themselves, avoiding the company of
others, and dreading nothing more than to be involved in the deadly
feuds and ceaseless contentions of the secular landholders.

Such is a general picture of these communities. During the fatal wars
in the commencement of Queen Mary's reign, they had suffered
dreadfully by the hostile invasions. For the English, now a Protestant
people, were so far from sparing the church-lands, that they forayed
them with more unrelenting severity than even the possessions of the
laity. But the peace of 1550 had restored some degree of tranquillity
to those distracted and harassed regions, and matters began again
gradually to settle upon the former footing. The monks repaired their
ravaged shrines--the feuar again roofed his small fortalice which the
enemy had ruined--the poor labourer rebuilt his cottage--an easy task,
where a few sods, stones, and some pieces of wood from the next copse,
furnished all the materials necessary. The cattle, lastly, were driven
out of the wastes and thickets in which the remnant of them had been
secreted; and the mighty bull moved at the head of his seraglio and
their followers, to take possession of their wonted pastures. There
ensued peace and quiet, the state of the age and nation considered, to
the Monastery of Saint Mary, and its dependencies, for several
tranquil years.

Sir Walter Scott