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Lady Stair’s Daughter
by [?]

The story of the Bride of Lammermoor is one that all the world knows, but how many are there who realise that the tragedy which Sir Walter Scott’s genius has given to the world is in truth one of the annals of a noble Scottish family? Possibly among all the “old, unhappy, far-off things” there is none more pitiful than the tale of the Earl of Stair’s daughter and her luckless lover, Lord Rutherfurd.

They were never laggards either in love or in war, those Border Rutherfurds. “A stout champion,” according to contemporary history, was Colonel Andrew Rutherfurd, Governor of Dunkirk, and afterwards of Tangier, ennobled for his doughty deeds in foreign lands under the title of Earl of Teviot, and when, in 1664, he was slain by the Moors, his distant relative, Lord Rutherfurd, inherited most of his fortune. Presumably the fortune was not great, and even in the old reiving days no Rutherfurd ever rolled in wealth. Moreover, Lord Stair was a staunch Whig, and Rutherfurd an ardent Jacobite, and so it was that when the young lord became a suitor for the hand of Janet Dalrymple, daughter of that famous lawyer, James Dalrymple, first Lord Stair, neither her father nor her mother smiled on his suit.

Sir James Dalrymple was made a baronet in the same year that Andrew Rutherfurd got his title, and both he and his wife, Dame Margaret, a daughter of Ross of Balniel, were ambitious folk. The worldly success in life of her husband and of all her family was what Lady Stair constantly schemed and planned and worked for. A clever, hard, worldly woman, with a witty and unsparing tongue, was Lady Stair, but obviously she was not a popular member of the society in which she lived, and when her plans succeeded in spite of all obstacles, there were many who were ready to say that she belonged to the blackest sisterhood of her day, and that to be “worried at the stake” and burned would only be the fate that she deserved.

Lady Stair’s daughter was singularly unlike the mother who bore her, for the beautiful Janet Dalrymple was a gentle, shrinking, highly strung girl, who was like wax in the hands of one who ruled her household with a rod of iron. As a child her will had always had to bend to her mother’s. Scarcely had she dared to hold an opinion on anything save under her mother’s direction, and so when it came about that the tricksy god of love made her give her heart passionately and utterly to a man of whom her parents disapproved, poor Janet Dalrymple must have felt as though she were the victim of a sort of moral earthquake. Naturally she could see no reason why the man who in her eyes was peerless was not approved by her parents. Surely his politics did not matter. He had money enough for all their needs, and he would make her the Lady Rutherfurd; and, besides, what more could they want than just this–that he loved her and she loved him, and they would love each other until death–and after it.

These reasons given to a woman of Lady Stair’s type were scarcely likely to be listened to with much patience, and Janet Dalrymple and Lord Rutherfurd soon saw that all their love-making must be done under the rose, and that they must wait as best they could for the obdurate parents to change their minds. Together they broke a gold coin, of which each wore a half, and solemnly called upon God to witness them plighting their troth, and together imprecated dreadful evils upon the one who should prove faithless. Doubtless Lady Stair was too clever a woman not to have a shrewd suspicion that her daughter’s attachment to Lord Rutherfurd was something more than a mere piece of girlish sentiment; but if she did know, the knowledge did not overburden her. Obviously another suitor must be provided without loss of time. The expulsive power of a new affection must promptly be tried on the love-sick girl, whose pale face was in itself enough to betray the condition of her heart.