Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 143

The Lady’s Suitor

While the seven years slowly passed away his sad and lonely wife dwelt in the castle on the Islet, ruling her lord’s clan in all gentle ways, but fighting boldly when raiders came to plunder her clansmen. Yearly she claimed her husband’s dues and watched that he was not defrauded of his rights. But though thus firm, she was the best help in trouble that her clan ever had, and all blessed the name of the Lady of Loch Awe.

So fair and gentle a lady, so beloved by her clan, was certain to have suitors if she were a widow, and even before the seven years had passed away there were men who would gladly have persuaded her that her husband was dead and that she was free. She, however, steadfastly refused to hear a word of another marriage, saying: “When Colin parted from me he gave me two promises, one to return, if possible, within seven years, and the other to send me, on his deathbed, if he died away from me, a sure token of his death. I have not yet waited seven years, nor have I had the token of his death. I am still the wife of Black Colin of Loch Awe.”

This steadfastness gradually daunted her suitors and they left her alone, until but one remained, the Baron Niel MacCorquodale, whose lands bordered on Glenurchy, and who had long cast covetous eyes on the glen and its fair lady, and longed no less for the wealth she was reputed to possess than for the power this marriage would give him.

The Baron’s Plot

When the seven years were over the Baron MacCorquodale sought the Lady of Loch Awe again, wooing [Pg 255] her for his wife. Again she refused, saying, “Until I have the token of my husband’s death I will be wife to no other man.” “And what is this token, lady?” asked the Baron, for he thought he could send a false one. “I will never tell that,” replied the lady. “Do you dare to ask the most sacred secret between husband and wife? I shall know the token when it comes.” The Baron was not a little enraged that he could not discover the secret, but he determined to wed the lady and her wealth notwithstanding; accordingly he wrote by a sure and secret messenger to a friend in Rome, bidding him send a letter with news that Black Colin was assuredly dead, and that certain words (which the Baron dictated) had come from him.

A Forged Letter

One day the Lady of Loch Awe, looking out from her castle, saw the Baron coming, and with him a palmer whose face was bronzed by Eastern suns. She felt that the palmer would bring tidings, and welcomed the Baron with his companion. “Lady, this palmer brings you sad news,” quoth the Baron. “Let him tell it, then,” replied she, sick with fear. “Alas! fair dame, if you were the wife of that gallant knight Colin of Loch Awe, you are now his widow,” said the palmer sadly, as he handed her a letter. “What proof have you?” asked Black Colin’s wife before she read the letter. “Lady, I talked with the soldier who brought the tidings,” replied the stranger.