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Elphin Irving






Source: Folk-lore And Legends Scotland

THE FAIRIES' CUPBEARER.

"The lady kilted her kirtle green
A little aboon her knee,
The lady snooded her yellow hair
A little aboon her bree,
And she's gane to the good greenwood
As fast as she could hie.

And first she let the black steed pass,
And syne she let the brown,
And then she flew to the milk-white steed,
And pulled the rider down:
Syne out then sang the queen o' the fairies,
Frae midst a bank of broom,
She that has won him, young Tamlane,
Has gotten a gallant groom."

Old Ballad.

"The romantic vale of Corriewater, in Annandale, is regarded by the
inhabitants, a pastoral and unmingled people, as the last border refuge
of those beautiful and capricious beings, the fairies. Many old people
yet living imagine they have had intercourse of good words and good deeds
with the 'good folk'; and continue to tell that in the ancient days the
fairies danced on the hill, and revelled in the glen, and showed
themselves, like the mysterious children of the deity of old, among the
sons and daughters of men. Their visits to the earth were periods of joy
and mirth to mankind, rather than of sorrow and apprehension. They
played on musical instruments of wonderful sweetness and variety of note,
spread unexpected feasts, the supernatural flavour of which overpowered
on many occasions the religious scruples of the Presbyterian shepherds,
performed wonderful deeds of horsemanship, and marched in midnight
processions, when the sound of their elfin minstrelsy charmed youths and
maidens into love for their persons and pursuits; and more than one
family of Corriewater have the fame of augmenting the numbers of the
elfin chivalry. Faces of friends and relatives, long since doomed to the
battle-trench or the deep sea, have been recognised by those who dared to
gaze on the fairy march. The maid has seen her lost lover, and the
mother her stolen child; and the courage to plan and achieve their
deliverance has been possessed by, at least, one border maiden. In the
legends of the people of Corrievale, there is a singular mixture of elfin
and human adventure, and the traditional story of the Cupbearer to the
Queen of the Fairies appeals alike to our domestic feelings and
imagination.

"In one of the little green loops or bends on the banks of Corriewater,
mouldered walls, and a few stunted wild plum-trees and vagrant roses,
still point out the site of a cottage and garden. A well of pure spring-
water leaps out from an old tree-root before the door; and here the
shepherds, shading themselves in summer from the influence of the sun,
tell to their children the wild tale of Elphin Irving and his sister
Phemie; and, singular as the story seems, it has gained full credence
among the people where the scene is laid."

"I ken the tale and the place weel," interrupted an old Scottish woman,
who, from the predominance of scarlet in her apparel, seemed to have been
a follower of the camp,--"I ken them weel, and the tale's as true as a
bullet to its aim and a spark to powder. O bonnie Corriewater, a
thousand times have I pulled gowans on its banks wi' ane that lies stiff
and stark on a foreign shore in a bloody grave;" and, sobbing audibly,
she drew the remains of a military cloak over her face, and allowed the
story to proceed.

"When Elphin Irving and his sister Phemie were in their sixteenth year,
for tradition says they were twins, their father was drowned in
Corriewater, attempting to save his sheep from a sudden swell, to which
all mountain streams are liable; and their mother, on the day of her
husband's burial, laid down her head on the pillow, from which, on the
seventh day, it was lifted to be dressed for the same grave. The
inheritance left to the orphans may be briefly described: seventeen acres
of plough and pasture land, seven milk cows, and seven pet sheep (many
old people take delight in odd numbers); and to this may be added seven
bonnet-pieces of Scottish gold, and a broadsword and spear, which their
ancestor had wielded with such strength and courage in the battle of
Dryfe Sands, that the minstrel who sang of that deed of arms ranked him
only second to the Scotts and Johnstones.

"The youth and his sister grew in stature and in beauty. The brent
bright brow, the clear blue eye, and frank and blithe deportment of the
former gave him some influence among the young women of the valley; while
the latter was no less the admiration of the young men, and at fair and
dance, and at bridal, happy was he who touched but her hand, or received
the benediction of her eye. Like all other Scottish beauties, she was
the theme of many a song; and while tradition is yet busy with the
singular history of her brother, song has taken all the care that rustic
minstrelsy can of the gentleness of her spirit and the charms of her
person."

"Now I vow," exclaimed a wandering piper, "by mine own honoured
instrument, and by all other instruments that ever yielded music for the
joy and delight of mankind, that there are more bonnie songs made about
fair Phemie Irving than about all other dames of Annandale, and many of
them are both high and bonnie. A proud lass maun she be if her spirit
hears; and men say the dust lies not insensible of beautiful verse; for
her charms are breathed through a thousand sweet lips, and no further
gone than yestermorn I heard a lass singing on a green hillside what I
shall not readily forget. If ye like to listen, ye shall judge; and it
will not stay the story long, nor mar it much, for it is short, and about
Phemie Irving." And, accordingly, he chanted the following rude verses,
not unaccompanied by his honoured instrument, as he called his pipe,
which chimed in with great effect, and gave richness to a voice which
felt better than it could express:--

FAIR PHEMIE IRVING.

Gay is thy glen, Corrie,
With all thy groves flowering;
Green is thy glen, Corrie,
When July is showering;
And sweet is yon wood where
The small birds are bowering,
And there dwells the sweet one
Whom I am adoring.

Her round neck is whiter
Than winter when snowing;
Her meek voice is milder
Than Ae in its flowing;
The glad ground yields music
Where she goes by the river;
One kind glance would charm me
For ever and ever.

The proud and the wealthy
To Phemie are bowing;
No looks of love win they
With sighing or suing;
Far away maun I stand
With my rude wooing,
She's a flow'ret too lovely
Too bloom for my pu'ing.

Oh were I yon violet
On which she is walking;
Oh were I yon small bird
To which she is talking;
Or yon rose in her hand,
With its ripe ruddy blossom;
Or some pure gentle thought
To be blest with her bosom.

This minstrel interruption, while it established Phemie Irving's claim to
grace and to beauty, gave me additional confidence to pursue the story.

"But minstrel skill and true love-tale seemed to want their usual
influence when they sought to win her attention; she was only observed to
pay most respect to those youths who were most beloved by her brother;
and the same hour that brought these twins to the world seemed to have
breathed through them a sweetness and an affection of heart and mind
which nothing could divide. If, like the virgin queen of the immortal
poet, she walked 'in maiden meditation fancy free,' her brother Elphin
seemed alike untouched with the charms of the fairest virgins in Corrie.
He ploughed his field, he reaped his grain, he leaped, he ran, and
wrestled, and danced, and sang, with more skill and life and grace than
all other youths of the district; but he had no twilight and stolen
interviews; when all other young men had their loves by their side, he
was single, though not unsought, and his joy seemed never perfect save
when his sister was near him. If he loved to share his time with her,
she loved to share her time with him alone, or with the beasts of the
field, or the birds of the air. She watched her little flock late, and
she tended it early; not for the sordid love of the fleece, unless it was
to make mantles for her brother, but with the look of one who had joy in
its company. The very wild creatures, the deer and the hares, seldom
sought to shun her approach, and the bird forsook not its nest, nor
stinted its song, when she drew nigh; such is the confidence which maiden
innocence and beauty inspire.

"It happened one summer, about three years after they became orphans,
that rain had been for a while withheld from the earth, the hillsides
began to parch, the grass in the vales to wither, and the stream of
Corrie was diminished between its banks to the size of an ordinary rill.
The shepherds drove their flocks to moorlands, and marsh and tarn had
their reeds invaded by the scythe to supply the cattle with food. The
sheep of his sister were Elphin's constant care; he drove them to the
moistest pastures during the day, and he often watched them at midnight,
when flocks, tempted by the sweet dewy grass, are known to browse
eagerly, that he might guard them from the fox, and lead them to the
choicest herbage. In these nocturnal watchings he sometimes drove his
little flock over the water of Corrie, for the fords were hardly ankle-
deep; or permitted his sheep to cool themselves in the stream, and taste
the grass which grew along the brink. All this time not a drop of rain
fell, nor did a cloud appear in the sky.

"One evening, during her brother's absence with the flock, Phemie sat at
her cottage-door, listening to the bleatings of the distant folds and the
lessened murmur of the water of Corrie, now scarcely audible beyond its
banks. Her eyes, weary with watching along the accustomed line of road
for the return of Elphin, were turned on the pool beside her, in which
the stars were glimmering fitful and faint. As she looked she imagined
the water grew brighter and brighter; a wild illumination presently shone
upon the pool, and leaped from bank to bank, and suddenly changing into a
human form, ascended the margin, and, passing her, glided swiftly into
the cottage. The visionary form was so like her brother in shape and
air, that, starting up, she flew into the house, with the hope of finding
him in his customary seat. She found him not, and, impressed with the
terror which a wraith or apparition seldom fails to inspire, she uttered
a shriek so loud and so piercing as to be heard at Johnstone Bank, on the
other side of the vale of Corrie."

An old woman now rose suddenly from her seat in the window-sill, the
living dread of shepherds, for she travelled the country with a brilliant
reputation for witchcraft, and thus she broke in upon the narrative: "I
vow, young man, ye tell us the truth upset and down-thrust. I heard my
douce grandmother say that on the night when Elphin Irving
disappeared--disappeared I shall call it, for the bairn can but be gone
for a season, to return to us in his own appointed time--she was seated
at the fireside at Johnstone Bank; the laird had laid aside his bonnet to
take the Book, when a shriek mair loud, believe me, than a mere woman's
shriek--and they can shriek loud enough, else they're sair wranged--came
over the water of Corrie, so sharp and shrilling, that the pewter plates
dinneled on the wall; such a shriek, my douce grandmother said, as rang
in her ear till the hour of her death, and she lived till she was aughty-
and-aught, forty full ripe years after the event. But there is another
matter, which, doubtless, I cannot compel ye to believe: it was the
common rumour that Elphin Irving came not into the world like the other
sinful creatures of the earth, but was one of the kane-bairns of the
fairies, whilk they had to pay to the enemy of man's salvation every
seventh year. The poor lady-fairy--a mother's aye a mother, be she
elves' flesh or Eve's flesh--hid her elf son beside the christened flesh
in Marion Irving's cradle, and the auld enemy lost his prey for a time.
Now, hasten on with your story, which is not a bodle the waur for me. The
maiden saw the shape of her brother, fell into a faint, or a trance, and
the neighbours came flocking in--gang on with your tale, young man, and
dinna be affronted because an auld woman helped ye wi 't."

"It is hardly known," I resumed, "how long Phemie Irving continued in a
state of insensibility. The morning was far advanced, when a
neighbouring maiden found her seated in an old chair, as white as
monumental marble; her hair, about which she had always been solicitous,
loosened from its curls, and hanging disordered over her neck and bosom,
her hands and forehead. The maiden touched the one, and kissed the
other; they were as cold as snow; and her eyes, wide open, were fixed on
her brother's empty chair, with the intensity of gaze of one who had
witnessed the appearance of a spirit. She seemed insensible of any one's
presence, and sat fixed and still and motionless. The maiden, alarmed at
her looks, thus addressed her:--'Phemie, lass, Phemie Irving! Dear me,
but this be awful! I have come to tell ye that seven of your pet sheep
have escaped drowning in the water; for Corrie, sae quiet and sae gentle
yestreen, is rolling and dashing frae bank to bank this morning. Dear
me, woman, dinna let the loss of the world's gear bereave ye of your
senses. I would rather make ye a present of a dozen mug-ewes of the
Tinwald brood myself; and now I think on 't, if ye'll send over Elphin, I
will help him hame with them in the gloaming myself. So, Phemie, woman,
be comforted.'

"At the mention of her brother's name she cried out, 'Where is he? Oh,
where is he?' gazed wildly round, and, shuddering from head to foot, fell
senseless on the floor. Other inhabitants of the valley, alarmed by the
sudden swell of the river, which had augmented to a torrent, deep and
impassable, now came in to inquire if any loss had been sustained, for
numbers of sheep and teds of hay had been observed floating down about
the dawn of the morning. They assisted in reclaiming the unhappy maiden
from her swoon; but insensibility was joy compared to the sorrow to which
she awakened. 'They have ta'en him away, they have ta'en him away,' she
chanted, in a tone of delirious pathos; 'him that was whiter and fairer
than the lily on Lyddal Lee. They have long sought, and they have long
sued, and they had the power to prevail against my prayers at last. They
have ta'en him away; the flower is plucked from among the weeds, and the
dove is slain amid a flock of ravens. They came with shout, and they
came with song, and they spread the charm, and they placed the spell, and
the baptised brow has been bowed down to the unbaptised hand. They have
ta'en him away, they have ta'en him away; he was too lovely, and too
good, and too noble, to bless us with his continuance on earth; for what
are the sons of men compared to him?--the light of the moonbeam to the
morning sun, the glowworm to the eastern star. They have ta'en him away,
the invisible dwellers of the earth. I saw them come on him with
shouting and with singing, and they charmed him where he sat, and away
they bore him; and the horse he rode was never shod with iron, nor owned
before the mastery of human hand. They have ta'en him away over the
water, and over the wood, and over the hill. I got but ae look of his
bonnie blue ee, but ae; ae look. But as I have endured what never maiden
endured, so will I undertake what never maiden undertook, I will win him
from them all. I know the invisible ones of the earth; I have heard
their wild and wondrous music in the wild woods, and there shall a
christened maiden seek him, and achieve his deliverance.' She paused,
and glancing around a circle of condoling faces, down which the tears
were dropping like rain, said, in a calm and altered but still delirious
tone: 'Why do you weep, Mary Halliday? and why do you weep, John Graeme?
Ye think that Elphin Irving--oh, it's a bonnie, bonnie name, and dear to
many a maiden's heart, as well as mine--ye think he is drowned in Corrie;
and ye will seek in the deep, deep pools for the bonnie, bonnie corse,
that ye may weep over it, as it lies in its last linen, and lay it, amid
weeping and wailing in the dowie kirkyard. Ye may seek, but ye shall
never find; so leave me to trim up my hair, and prepare my dwelling, and
make myself ready to watch for the hour of his return to upper earth.'
And she resumed her household labours with an alacrity which lessened not
the sorrow of her friends.

"Meanwhile the rumour flew over the vale that Elphin Irving was drowned
in Corriewater. Matron and maid, old man and young, collected suddenly
along the banks of the river, which now began to subside to its natural
summer limits, and commenced their search; interrupted every now and then
by calling from side to side, and from pool to pool, and by exclamations
of sorrow for this misfortune. The search was fruitless: five sheep,
pertaining to the flock which he conducted to pasture, were found drowned
in one of the deep eddies; but the river was still too brown, from the
soil of its moorland sources, to enable them to see what its deep
shelves, its pools, and its overhanging and hazelly banks concealed. They
remitted further search till the stream should become pure; and old man
taking old man aside, began to whisper about the mystery of the youth's
disappearance; old women laid their lips to the ears of their coevals,
and talked of Elphin Irving's fairy parentage, and his having been
dropped by an unearthly hand into a Christian cradle. The young men and
maids conversed on other themes; they grieved for the loss of the friend
and the lover, and while the former thought that a heart so kind and true
was not left in the vale, the latter thought, as maidens will, on his
handsome person, gentle manners, and merry blue eye, and speculated with
a sigh on the time when they might have hoped a return for their love.
They were soon joined by others who had heard the wild and delirious
language of his sister: the old belief was added to the new assurance,
and both again commented upon by minds full of superstitious feeling, and
hearts full of supernatural fears, till the youths and maidens of
Corrievale held no more love trysts for seven days and nights, lest, like
Elphin Irving, they should be carried away to augment the ranks of the
unchristened chivalry.

"It was curious to listen to the speculations of the peasantry. 'For my
part,' said a youth, 'if I were sure that poor Elphin escaped from that
perilous water, I would not give the fairies a pound of hiplock wool for
their chance of him. There has not been a fairy seen in the land since
Donald Cargil, the Cameronian, conjured them into the Solway for playing
on their pipes during one of his nocturnal preachings on the hip of the
Burnswark hill.'

"'Preserve me, bairn,' said an old woman, justly exasperated at the
incredulity of her nephew, 'if ye winna believe what I both heard and saw
at the moonlight end of Craigyburnwood on a summer night, rank after rank
of the fairy folk, ye'll at least believe a douce man and a ghostly
professor, even the late minister of Tinwaldkirk. His only son--I mind
the lad weel, with his long yellow locks and his bonnie blue eyes--when I
was but a gilpie of a lassie, he was stolen away from off the horse at
his father's elbow, as they crossed that false and fearsome water, even
Locherbriggflow, on the night of the Midsummer fair of Dumfries. Ay, ay,
who can doubt the truth of that? Have not the godly inhabitants of
Almsfieldtown and Tinwaldkirk seen the sweet youth riding at midnight, in
the midst of the unhallowed troop, to the sound of flute and of dulcimer,
and though meikle they prayed, naebody tried to achieve his deliverance?'

"'I have heard it said by douce folk and sponsible,' interrupted another,
'that every seven years the elves and fairies pay kane, or make an
offering of one of their children, to the grand enemy of salvation, and
that they are permitted to purloin one of the children of men to present
to the fiend--a more acceptable offering, I'll warrant, than one of their
own infernal brood that are Satan's sib allies, and drink a drop of the
deil's blood every May morning. And touching this lost lad, ye all ken
his mother was a hawk of an uncanny nest, a second cousin of Kate Kimmer,
of Barfloshan, as rank a witch as ever rode on ragwort. Ay, sirs, what's
bred in the bone is ill to come out of the flesh.'

"On these and similar topics, which a peasantry full of ancient tradition
and enthusiasm and superstition readily associate with the commonest
occurrences of life, the people of Corrievale continued to converse till
the fall of evening, when each, seeking their home, renewed again the
wondrous subject, and illustrated it with all that popular belief and
poetic imagination could so abundantly supply.

"The night which followed this melancholy day was wild with wind and
rain; the river came down broader and deeper than before, and the
lightning, flashing by fits over the green woods of Corrie, showed the
ungovernable and perilous flood sweeping above its banks. It happened
that a farmer, returning from one of the border fairs, encountered the
full swing of the storm; but mounted on an excellent horse, and mantled
from chin to heel in a good grey plaid, beneath which he had the further
security of a thick greatcoat, he sat dry in his saddle, and proceeded in
the anticipated joy of a subsided tempest and a glowing morning sun. As
he entered the long grove, or rather remains of the old Galwegian forest,
which lines for some space the banks of the Corriewater, the storm began
to abate, the wind sighed milder and milder among the trees, and here and
there a star, twinkling momentarily through the sudden rack of the
clouds, showed the river raging from bank to brae. As he shook the
moisture from his clothes, he was not without a wish that the day would
dawn, and that he might be preserved on a road which his imagination
beset with greater perils than the raging river; for his superstitious
feeling let loose upon his path elf and goblin, and the current
traditions of the district supplied very largely to his apprehension the
ready materials of fear.

"Just as he emerged from the wood, where a fine sloping bank, covered
with short greensward, skirts the limit of the forest, his horse made a
full pause, snorted, trembled, and started from side to side, stooped his
head, erected his ears, and seemed to scrutinise every tree and bush. The
rider, too, it may be imagined, gazed round and round, and peered warily
into every suspicious-looking place. His dread of a supernatural
visitation was not much allayed when he observed a female shape seated on
the ground at the root of a huge old oak-tree, which stood in the centre
of one of those patches of verdant sward, known by the name of 'fairy
rings,' and avoided by all peasants who wish to prosper. A long thin
gleam of eastern daylight enabled him to examine accurately the being
who, in this wild place and unusual hour, gave additional terror to this
haunted spot. She was dressed in white from the neck to the knees; her
arms, long and round and white, were perfectly bare; her head, uncovered,
allowed her long hair to descend in ringlet succeeding ringlet, till the
half of her person was nearly concealed in the fleece. Amidst the whole,
her hands were constantly busy in shedding aside the tresses which
interposed between her steady and uninterrupted gaze down a line of old
road which wound among the hills to an ancient burial-ground.

"As the traveller continued to gaze, the figure suddenly rose, and,
wringing the rain from her long locks, paced round and round the tree,
chanting in a wild and melancholy manner an equally wild and delirious
song.

THE FAIRY OAK OF CORRIEWATER.

The small bird's head is under its wing,
The deer sleeps on the grass;
The moon comes out, and the stars shine down,
The dew gleams like the glass:
There is no sound in the world so wide,
Save the sound of the smitten brass,
With the merry cittern and the pipe
Of the fairies as they pass.
But oh! the fire maun burn and burn,
And the hour is gone, and will never return.

The green hill cleaves, and forth, with a bound,
Comes elf and elfin steed;
The moon dives down in a golden cloud,
The stars grow dim with dread;
But a light is running along the earth,
So of heaven's they have no need:
O'er moor and moss with a shout they pass,
And the word is spur and speed--
But the fire maun burn, and I maun quake,
And the hour is gone that will never come back.

And when they came to Craigyburnwood,
The Queen of the Fairies spoke:
"Come, bind your steeds to the rushes so green,
And dance by the haunted oak:
I found the acorn on Heshbon Hill,
In the nook of a palmer's poke,
A thousand years since; here it grows!"
And they danced till the greenwood shook:
But oh! the fire, the burning fire,
The longer it burns, it but blazes the higher.

"I have won me a youth," the Elf Queen said,
"The fairest that earth may see;
This night I have won young Elph Irving
My cupbearer to be.
His service lasts but seven sweet years,
And his wage is a kiss of me."
And merrily, merrily, laughed the wild elves
Round Corris's greenwood tree.
But oh! the fire it glows in my brain,
And the hour is gone, and comes not again.

The Queen she has whispered a secret word,
"Come hither my Elphin sweet,
And bring that cup of the charmed wine,
Thy lips and mine to weet."
But a brown elf shouted a loud, loud shout,
"Come, leap on your coursers fleet,
For here comes the smell of some baptised flesh,
And the sounding of baptised feet."
But oh! the fire that burns, and maun burn;
For the time that is gone will never return.

On a steed as white as the new-milked milk,
The Elf Queen leaped with a bound,
And young Elphin a steed like December snow
'Neath him at the word he found.
But a maiden came, and her christened arms
She linked her brother around,
And called on God, and the steed with a snort
Sank into the gaping ground.
But the fire maun burn, and I maun quake,
And the time that is gone will no more come back.

And she held her brother, and lo! he grew
A wild bull waked in ire;
And she held her brother, and lo! he changed
To a river roaring higher;
And she held her brother, and he became
A flood of the raging fire;
She shrieked and sank, and the wild elves laughed
Till the mountain rang and mire.
But oh! the fire yet burns in my brain,
And the hour is gone, and comes not again.

"O maiden, why waxed thy faith so faint,
Thy spirit so slack and slaw?
Thy courage kept good till the flame waxed wud,
Then thy might begun to thaw;
Had ye kissed him with thy christened lip,
Ye had wan him frae 'mang us a'.
Now bless the fire, the elfin fire,
That made thee faint and fa';
Now bless the fire, the elfin fire,
The longer it burns it blazes the higher."

"At the close of this unusual strain, the figure sat down on the grass,
and proceeded to bind up her long and disordered tresses, gazing along
the old and unfrequented road. 'Now God be my helper,' said the
traveller, who happened to be the laird of Johnstone Bank, 'can this be a
trick of the fiend, or can it be bonnie Phemie Irving who chants this
dolorous sang? Something sad has befallen that makes her seek her seat
in this eerie nook amid the darkness and tempest; through might from
aboon I will go on and see.' And the horse, feeling something of the
owner's reviving spirit in the application of spur-steel, bore him at
once to the foot of the tree. The poor delirious maiden uttered a yell
of piercing joy as she beheld him, and, with the swiftness of a creature
winged, linked her arms round the rider's waist, and shrieked till the
woods rang. 'Oh, I have ye now, Elphin, I have ye now,' and she strained
him to her bosom with a convulsive grasp. 'What ails ye, my bonnie
lass?' said the laird of Johnstone Bank, his fears of the supernatural
vanishing when he beheld her sad and bewildered look. She raised her
eyes at the sound, and seeing a strange face, her arms slipped their
hold, and she dropped with a groan on the ground.

"The morning had now fairly broke; the flocks shook the rain from their
sides, the shepherds hastened to inspect their charges, and a thin blue
smoke began to stream from the cottages of the valley into the
brightening air. The laird carried Phemie Irving in his arms, till he
observed two shepherds ascending from one of the loops of Corriewater,
bearing the lifeless body of her brother. They had found him whirling
round and round in one of the numerous eddies, and his hands, clutched
and filled with wool, showed that he had lost his life in attempting to
save the flock of his sister. A plaid was laid over the body, which,
along with the unhappy maiden in a half-lifeless state, was carried into
a cottage, and laid in that apartment distinguished among the peasantry
by the name of the chamber. While the peasant's wife was left to take
care of Phemie, old man and matron and maid had collected around the
drowned youth, and each began to relate the circumstances of his death,
when the door suddenly opened, and his sister, advancing to the corpse,
with a look of delirious serenity, broke out into a wild laugh and said:
'Oh, it is wonderful, it's truly wonderful! That bare and death-cold
body, dragged from the darkest pool of Corrie, with its hands filled with
fine wool, wears the perfect similitude of my own Elphin! I'll tell
ye--the spiritual dwellers of the earth, the fairyfolk of our evening
tale, have stolen the living body, and fashioned this cold and inanimate
clod to mislead your pursuit. In common eyes this seems all that Elphin
Irving would be, had he sunk in Corriewater; but so it seems not to me.
Ye have sought the living soul, and ye have found only its garment. But
oh, if ye had beheld him, as I beheld him to-night, riding among the
elfin troop, the fairest of them all; had you clasped him in your arms,
and wrestled for him with spirits and terrible shapes from the other
world, till your heart quailed and your flesh was subdued, then would ye
yield no credit to the semblance which this cold and apparent flesh bears
to my brother. But hearken! On Hallowmass Eve, when the spiritual
people are let loose on earth for a season, I will take my stand in the
burial-ground of Corrie; and when my Elphin and his unchristened troop
come past, with the sound of all their minstrelsy, I will leap on him and
win him, or perish for ever.'

"All gazed aghast on the delirious maiden, and many of her auditors gave
more credence to her distempered speech than to the visible evidence
before them. As she turned to depart, she looked round, and suddenly
sank upon the body, with tears streaming from her eyes, and sobbed out,
'My brother! Oh, my brother!' She was carried out insensible, and again
recovered; but relapsed into her ordinary delirium, in which she
continued till the Hallow Eve after her brother's burial. She was found
seated in the ancient burial-ground, her back against a broken
gravestone, her locks white with frost-rime, watching with intensity of
look the road to the kirkyard; but the spirit which gave life to the
fairest form of all the maids of Annandale was fled for ever."

Such is the singular story which the peasants know by the name of "Elphin
Irving, the Fairies' Cupbearer"; and the title, in its fullest and most
supernatural sense, still obtains credence among the industrious and
virtuous dames of the romantic vale of Corrie.





Next: The Ghosts Of Craig-aulnaic

Previous: Coinnach Oer



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