Stories from the Ballads Told to the Children - Mary Macgregor

Lizzie Lindsay

In the fair city of Edinburgh there lived many many years ago a beautiful maiden named Lizzie Lindsay. Her home was in the Canongate, which is now one of the poorest parts of the city.

But in the days when Lizzie danced and sang, and made her father's and mother's heart rejoice, the Canongate was the home of all the richest lords and ladies.

For close to the Canongate was Holyrood, the palace where the king held his court. And it was well, thought the lords and ladies of long ago, to live near the palace where there were many gay sights to be seen.

Lizzie had been a bonny wee girl, and as she grew up she grew bonnier still, until, not only in Edinburgh, but far and wide throughout the country, people would speak of her beauty. Even the folk who dwelt away over the hills in the Highlands heard of the beauty of Lizzie Lindsay.

Dame Lindsay loved her daughter well, and gave her beautiful gowns of silk and velvet. Her father, too, would bring her home many a sparkling jewel, many a brilliant gem. It seemed as though Lizzie Lindsay had all that her heart could wish.

Certainly she did not wish to leave her home in the Canongate, for though lord after lord, noble after noble begged for her hand, Lizzie but tossed her beautiful head high in the air as she said them nay.

But though it was well known that the lovely maiden had kind looks and gentle words to spare for none save only her dear father and her doting mother, yet still the lords and nobles would dance more gladly with Lizzie than with any other maiden. And a ball, even a ball given by the court at the palace of Holyrood, seemed to be less gladsome were it known that the fair maiden would not be there.

Now, as I have told you, the fame of Lizzie Lindsay's beauty had spread even to the Highlands. And Donald, the young laird of Kingcaussie, heard that she was fairer than any other maiden in the land, and that she was haughtier and more wilful as well. For she would have nought to say to any of the rich suitors who surrounded her.

Then Donald, who was tall and handsome, and who was used to have his own way, smiled as he heard of Lizzie's wilful spirit and her great beauty. He made up his mind that he would go to Edinburgh and try to win as his bride the bonnie lassie who would have nought to do with noble or with lord.

The young laird lived with his father and mother in a castle built high amid the heather-covered hills, and little until now had Donald cared for city ways or city walls. To hunt the deer, to chase the roe, to spend the long hours from early morn until even among the heathery moors which were all his own, had been happiness enough for him.

But now, now the glory faded from the heather, and the hunt and chase lost their delight. Sir Donald's heart was in the fair city of Edinburgh with beautiful Lizzie Lindsay, whom, though he had not seen, he loved.

At length one day the young laird went to his lady mother and, kissing her hand right courteously, he begged her to grant him a boon. For Donald had been well trained, and, though he was no longer a boy, he did not dream of leaving his home among the hills until he had gained his mother's consent.

'Grant me a boon, lady mother,' said the young laird. 'Send me away to the fair city of Edinburgh, for it is there that my true love dwells. And if ye will do this I will bring you home a daughter more beautiful than any other maiden in the land.'

Now the young laird's mother had heard of Lizzie Lindsay, and it may be that she was glad that her son should wish to bring to the castle so beautiful a bride. Yet she had no wish for the maiden to be won by aught save by love for her dear son alone.

Lizzie had refused to wed with lord or noble, it was true, yet the broad lands, the ancient castle of the MacDonalds, might please her fancy. But the Lady of Kingcaussie determined that neither for land nor for castle should bonnie Lizzie Lindsay come to the Highlands.

When she saw young Donald at her side, and heard him begging leave to go to the fair city of Edinburgh, she smiled as she looked into his eager face, and answered slowly, 'My son, ye shall go to Edinburgh an it please you, and so ye are able ye shall bring back with you Lizzie Lindsay as your bride. A fairer maiden, I can well believe, has never graced these walls. Yet, if ye go, it shall not be as Sir Donald MacDonald, the heir to broad lands and ancient castles, but as a simple stranger, without riches and without rank. Then, if ye do win your bride, it will be through love alone,' said his mother gravely. But her eyes shone bright and glad, for she thought that there was not a maiden in all the land who would not be proud to wed her son, though he had neither riches nor lands.

As for the old laird, he laughed when he heard why his son had grown weary at the hunt and listless at the chase. He laughed and cried, 'Let the lad go to the city; before a year has passed away he will be home again and the beautiful Lizzie Lindsay with him.' For his old father, too, thought that no maiden could refuse to love his bonny self-willed son.

Well, young Donald was too anxious to be off and away to Edinburgh to be grieved to go as a simple Highlander. Before the day was over he had said farewell to his light-hearted old father and to his gentle lady mother, and clad in a rough tartan kilt and without a servant to follow him, the young laird was off to the fair city of Edinburgh.

When Donald reached Edinburgh he wondered how he would see the maiden of whose beauty and of whose cleverness he had so often heard.

He had not long to wait, for he had scarce been a day in the city when he heard that a great ball was to be given and to be graced by the presence of the fair maiden whom he hoped to win as his bride.

Donald made up his mind that he too would go to the ball, and it was easy for him to do this, as there were many in the city who knew the young laird.

When he entered the ballroom he saw that the lords and nobles were dressed in suits of velvet or silk and satins, while he wore only his kilt of rough tartan.

The lords and ladies too stared at the tall handsome young Highlander in his strange garments, and some, who did not know him, forgot their good manners and smiled and nudged each other as he passed down the room.

But the young laird had no thought to spare for the crowd. He was making his way to the circle, in the midst of which stood Lizzie Lindsay. He had heard too often of the beautiful maiden not to be sure it was she as soon as his eyes fell upon her face.

Young Donald, in his homespun tartan, stood on the outskirt of the little crowd that surrounded her, listening. The lords in their gay suits were doing their utmost to win the goodwill of the maiden, but their flattery and foolish words seemed to give her little pleasure. Indeed she was too used to them to find them aught but a weariness.

Soon Donald was bowing before the maiden he had left his home to win, and begging her to dance with him. And something in the bright eyes and gallant bearing of young Donald pleased the petted maiden, and, despite his rough suit, she had nought but smiles for the young stranger from the Highlands.

The lords, in their silks and velvets, opened their eyes wide in astonishment as Lizzie glided past them with young Donald; the ladies smiled and flouted her, but the maiden paid no heed to their words or looks.

Donald was not flattering her as she was used to be flattered, he was telling her of the country in which he dwelt. And Lizzie as she listened heard the hum of the bees, smelt the fragrance of the heather. Nay, she even forgot the ballroom, and she was out on the silent moorland or climbing the steep mountains side by side with the young stranger whose face was so eager, whose eyes were so bright. She was stooping to pluck the wildflowers that grew in the nooks of some sheltered glen, or she was kilting her dainty gown and crossing the mountain streamlets, and ever the tall, young stranger was by her side.

Before the ball was over Donald knew that Lizzie Lindsay's home was in the Canongate, and he had begged to be allowed to see her there.

Lizzie had no wish to lose sight of the bright young Highlander, and she told him gaily that if he came to the Canongate to see her he should be welcome, both to her and her dear father and mother.

When the dance ended the young laird went to his lodgings, and his heart was light and his dreams glad. His old father had thought he might be in Edinburgh a year ere he won his bride. But young Donald murmured to himself that it would scarce be twelve long months before he was back again to the Highlands with his bonny Lizzie Lindsay.

The next day Donald was at the Canongate betimes, and Lizzie welcomed him merrily, and her father and mother looked in kindly fashion at the young stranger, for indeed Donald had the gift of winning hearts.

But neither father nor mother dreamed that the country clad youth would win their beautiful daughter's hand, for had she not refused it to many a lordly earl and noble knight.

Yet the more Lizzie heard about the Highlands, the more she longed to be there with young Donald by her side.

At length a day came when Donald, with little fear and much hope in his heart, asked the maiden if she would go with him to the Highlands.

'We will feed on curds and whey,' cried the daring young Donald; 'your cheeks will grow more pink, and your brow more white with our simple fare. Your bed shall be made on the fresh green bracken and my plaid shall wrap you round. Will ye come to the Highlands with me, Lizzie Lindsay?'

Lizzie Lindsay


Now Lizzie had listened to young Donald's words with joy, but also with some fear. Her food had been of the daintiest, her bed of the softest down, and the young stranger, who was indeed scarce a stranger now, had, it seemed, but little to offer her save his love. Yet Lizzie still wished to go to the Highlands.

But when Dame Lindsay heard what young Donald had said she hardened her heart against the bonny young Highlander.

'Ye shall speak no more to my daughter,' she cried, 'until ye have told me where your home is, and how many broad lands are your own?' For it seemed to the old dame that a penniless lad would never dare to win her daughter, when lords and nobles had wooed her in vain.

But Donald's head was high, and he seemed to feel no shame as he answered the old dame bravely—

'My name is Donald MacDonald, and I hold it high in honour. My father is an old shepherd and my mother a dairymaid. Yet kind and gentle will they be to your beautiful daughter if she will come with me to the Highlands.'

Dame Lindsay could scarce believe she had heard aright. Her daughter marry a shepherd lad! Nay, that should never be, though indeed the lad was a bonny one and brave.

Then in her anger she bade young Donald begone. 'If ye do steal away my daughter, then, without doubt ye shall hang for it!' she cried.

The young laird turned haughtily on his heel. He had little patience, nor could his spirit easily brook such scorn as the old Dame flung at him.

He turned on his heel and he said, 'There is no law in Edinburgh city this day which can hang me.'

But before he could say more Lizzie was by his side. 'Come to my room, Donald,' she pleaded; and as he looked at the beautiful girl the young laird's wrath vanished as quickly as it had come. 'Come to my room for an hour until I draw a fair picture of you to hang in my bower. Ye shall have ten guineas if you will but come.'

'Your golden guineas I will not have!' cried Donald quickly. 'I have plenty of cows in the Highlands, and they are all my own. Come with me, Lizzie, and we will feed on curds and whey, and thou shalt have a bonnie blue plaid with red and green strips. Come with me, Lizzie Lindsay; we will herd the wee lambs together.'

Yet, though Lizzie loved young Donald MacDonald, she still hesitated to leave her kind parents and her beautiful home.

She sat in her bower and she said to her maid, 'Helen, what shall I do, for my heart is in the Highlands with Donald?'

Then the maid, who was wellnigh as beautiful as her mistress, cried, 'Though I were a princess and sat upon a throne, yet would I leave all to go with young Donald MacDonald.'

'O Helen!' cried Lizzie, 'would ye leave your chests full of jewels and silk gowns, and would ye leave your father and mother, and all your friends to go away with a Highland laddie who wears nought but a homespun kilt?'

But before her maid could answer her, Lizzie had sprung from her chair, saying, 'Yet I think he must be a wizard, and have enchanted me, for, come good or come ill, I must e'en go to the Highlands.'

Then early one morning Lizzie tied up her silk robes in a bundle and clad herself in one of Helen's plain gowns. With her bundle over her arm, Lizzie Lindsay was off to the Highlands with Donald MacDonald.

Donald's heart was glad as he left the fair city of Edinburgh behind him, Lizzie by his side. He had so much to tell his beautiful bride, so much, too, to show her, that at first the road seemed neither rough nor long.

But as the hours passed the way grew rougher, the hills steeper, and Lizzie's strength began to fail. Her shoes, too, which were not made for such rough journeys, were soon so worn that her feet grew hot and blistered.

'Alas!' sighed Lizzie Lindsay, 'I would I were back in Edinburgh, sitting alone in my bower.'

'We are but a few miles away from the city,' said Donald; 'will you even now go back?'

But the tears trickled slowly down the maiden's cheeks, and she sobbed, 'Now would I receive no welcome from my father, no kiss from my mother, for sore displeased will they be that I have left them for you, Donald MacDonald.'

On and on they trudged in silence, and as evening crept on Donald cried aloud, 'Dry your tears now, Lizzie, for there before us is our home,' and he pointed to a tiny cottage on the side of the hill.

An old woman stood at the door, gazing down the hill, and as they drew near she came forward with outstretched hands. 'Welcome, Sir Donald,' she said, 'welcome home to your own.'

She spoke in Gaelic, as Highlanders do, so Lizzie did not know what she said.

Sir Donald whispered quickly in the same language, 'Hush, call me only Donald, and pretend that I am your son.'The old woman, though sore dismayed at having to treat the young laird in so homely a way, promised to do his bidding.

Then Donald turned to Lizzie. 'Here, mother,' he said, 'is my lady-love, whom I have won in the fair city of Edinburgh.'

The old woman drew Lizzie into the cottage, and spoke kindly to her, but the maiden's heart sank. For a peat fire smouldered on the hearth and the room was filled with smoke. There was no easy chair, no couch on which to rest her weary body, so Lizzie dropped down on to a heap of green turf.

Her sadness did not seem to trouble Donald. He seemed gayer, happier, every moment.

'We are hungry, mother,' he said; 'make us a good supper of curds and whey, and then make us a bed of green rushes and cover us with yonder grey plaids.'

The old woman moved about eagerly as though overjoyed to do all that she could for her son and his young bride.

Curds and whey was a supper dainty enough for a queen, as Lizzie whispered to her shepherd lad with a little sigh. Even the bed of green rushes could not keep her awake.

No sooner had she lain down than, worn out with her long journey, she fell fast asleep, nor did she awake until the sun was high in the sky.

As she awoke she heard Donald's voice. He was reproaching her, and she had not been used to reproach.

'It would have been well,' said Donald, 'that you had risen an hour ago to milk the cows, to tend the flock.'

The tears gathered in Lizzie's eyes and trickled down her cheeks.

'Alas, alas!' she sighed, 'I would I had never left my home, for here I am of little use. I have never milked a cow, nor do I know how to begin, and flocks have I never tended. Alas that I ever came to the Highlands! Yet well do I love Donald MacDonald, and long and dull would the days have been had he left me behind him in Edinburgh.'

'Shed no more tears, Lizzie,' said Donald gently. 'Get up and dress yourself in your silk gown, for to-day I will take you over the hills of Kingcaussie and show you the glens and dales where I used to play when I was but a little lad.'

Then Lizzie dried her tears and soon she was up and dressed in her finest gown, and leaning on Donald's arm she wandered with him over the heathery hills until they reached a noble castle.

Joyously then laughed the young laird, as he bade Lizzie gaze all around her and be glad.

'I am the lord of all you see, Lizzie,' cried he, 'for this castle is my home and the mountains are my own broad lands.'

Then joyously too laughed Lizzie Lindsay, for she knew that her shepherd lad was none other than the far-famed Sir Donald MacDonald.

At that moment the castle gates were flung wide, and the old Laird of Kingcaussie came out to greet the bride.

'Ye are welcome, Lizzie Lindsay, welcome to our castle,' he said right courteously. 'Many were the lords and nobles who begged for your hand, but it is young Donald, my son, who has won it, with no gift save the glance of his bonny blue eyes.' And the old laird laughed merrily as he looked up at his son.

The laird's gracious mother too came down to greet her, and well was she pleased that her boy had won the beautiful maiden he loved.

As for Lizzie Lindsay, she sent to Edinburgh to fetch her father and mother, that they might see for themselves how wise their daughter had been to follow Donald MacDonald to the Highlands.