THE FAITHLESS BRIDE OF AIKET
The Castle of Aiket was a stronghold of the Cuninghames in the parish of Dunlop, and for many years played an important part in Ayrshire story. It was a square tower, such as those inhabited by the lesser Barons usually were, and stood on a picturesque site on the banks of the Glazert Burn.
It was an appendage of a family which shared with the Montgomeries of Eglinton the territorial superiority of North Ayrshire, and generation upon generation of those who dwelt within its walls figured prominently in the county history of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. One of the chiefs bore a part in the murder of Sir John Mure of Caldwell in 1570; a second was accessory to the slaughter of Hugh fourth Earl of Eglinton, in 1586; a lady of the family was put on trial for attempting to poison her husband; and later on the Laird of Aiket commanded a troop under the Earl of Glencairn at the Revolution. Some of the barons were good, after their kind some of them were the reverse, and the legend of the Faithless Bride is one of the results of the wayward insistence of a Cuninghame of the latter stamp.
It is never easy to give data for the origin of a tradition. One of its beauties is that it has impalpably, imperceptibly grown. It comes into existence largely of its own accord, is caught up in its genesis by the credulous and the superstitious, and is sent floating down all time stamped with the sign-manual of dreamland. But in this case, while no exception to the general rule can be claimed, it is permissible to believe that the tradition owes something to an enforced marriage, and a very unhappy wedding it was, insisted on by one of the lairds of Aiket in the case of his own daughter, a girl twelve years of age. The early intention of the family was to have married her to a Montgomerie of Hessilhead, but, through extraneous influence, Cuninghame was induced to wed her to her own cousin. This was done, with the most baneful results. Her husband ill-treated her, neglected her, and deserted her, after squandering her dowry.
We say that in all likelihood the legend may have owed its accessories, if not its origin, to this event. In reality, how ever, it goes much farther back, back to the days when knights and squires went forth to fight with the unspeakable Paynim for the sacred places of the East. But not to anticipate.
Sweet flows the Glazert Burn adown its bed, here creeping through clumps of trees, the bushes overhanging its pure waters; there stealing gently, placidly through fertile holms, bearing on their surface the harvest produce of the year, or affording nourishment for the beasts of the field; here rippling musically along its stony channel; there forming quiet pools in which the speckled trout love to hide; here dancing over its tiny waterfalls, there broadening out into shallows where every stone shows its individuality to the sunbeams; now weak from want of rain, hardly able to maintain its course; and again, swollen by the tribute of the skies, rushing to its estuary with an impetuosity and a babble that seem to claim for it pretensions to importance, which it does not, and never can possess. If it only could speak, it could tell a story. But not all the feudal history it has witnessed, not all the raid-bent riders who have careered along its banks, Dot all the generations that have drunk of its limpid waters, can have such an interest to its harmless divinities as the tale of the knight and the damsel of the olden days who pledged their troth to the rhythm of its music, but whose love, like its chequered flow, was broken in upon by the stern resistance of untoward circumstances.
The knight was a Montgomerie, the maid a Cuninghame. What a destiny the twain might have held in their hands?
Had they been wed, what of the long series of bloody strifes between the rival families of Glencairn and Eglinton? Who knows but that the union of blood and of love might not have turned aside the torrent of rivalry and of hatred
It was a sad meeting, that of the lovers, the last they were destined ever to enjoy. Far away in holy Palestine the Moslem and the Christian were at war. The holy places were either in the hands of the Paynim, or were in danger of being lost to Christianity; and the Christian soldiers of the West had girded on their armour, and, fired with zeal, were courageously doing battle for the right, and for the sacred spots of the Christian nativity. War and wounds, climate and disease, hardship and privation, were taking lives, though they could not quench enthusiasm, and as the ranks of the fighters became thinned and men dropped in the struggle into the great depth of forgetfulness, others were ready to take their places, and to carry forward the struggle to the bitter end.
Henry Montgomerie had fitted out a small band of warriors, and on the morrow they were to leave the plains of Ayrshire for the South, there to embark for Palestine. How better could he spend his last evening than with his lady love, by the banks and braes of Glazert? Nature was in one of her softening moods. A sleepy, calm evening followed on a hot, calm, windless day. The leaves all but forebore to rustle, and the waters of the stream were only loud enough in their flow to mark the silence. The birds were gentle in their carols. It was one of those evenings that, even its natural aspect, would come back to Montgomerie like a vision, when he was far away and under clearer but less sympathetic heavens.
"Do Dot let your heart droop, Anna dear," said the young man, "I go to the call of duty in a noble and righteous cause. The end of the crusade cannot be far away now. Our gallant countrymen must ere long conquer the Saracens and restore Christianity to its own in Palestine. And when the end is come, and the conflict is over, and the royal standard flies free on the walls of Jerusalem, and the Saracen is finally beaten off, I shall return to claim you for my own. So do not let your heart droop. Youth is on our side, and the days will fly."
" Fly, Henry, the days fly! Oh no, that can never be for me. With you in the tented field, and amid the splendour and excitement of the camp and the battle-field, time may fly, but to me it will travel on leaden wings. I am oppressed, Henry, with what I know not. But something tells me why should I disturb you with such a thing? but something does tell me that we shall meet no more."
"An idle fancy, Anna, a dream of the night. Think rather, Anna, of the noble cause in which I am about to embark. Think rather of the sweet days to come when the battle will be over, and when I shall return to Scotland and to you, never to part with either. You will not forget me, Anna, I know and that thought will nerve me and keep me alive 'mid all the perils of the East."
"Forget you, Henry! Oh no. I shall not forget you. I will follow you with my heart and with my prayers for your safe conduct and your safe return, and I shall try rather to think of the bright days that may be in store for us than of the dangers of the enterprise."
"Do, Anna. Banish all thoughts of danger that may ever arise, and, keep your heart and your hopes on the future. I know you will not forget me."
"I will try to do as you direct, Henry, but still, even amid the bright hopes and prospects you try to conjure up, there steals in the dark shadow of impending gloom. Something is going to happen, I know; but come what may, come life or come death, I am yours."
" Mine in life, Anna, in life, not in death. Talk not of death."
"I talk as I feel, Henry, yours in death if need be. But I will say no more of this. I am yours to the end."
Night was creeping on apace over the landscape ere the lovers said adieu. It was a sad adieu. They knew that it was no ordinary good night that was spoken. Ere they should meet again years must elapse. Years of waiting!
For the one, the East with its toils and its fighting’s, for the other, the quiet walls of Aiket, and waiting, hoping yearning!
The winter came and the winter went. Spring and summer and autumn followed in their succession ere Anna Cuninghame heard of her lover in the East. Tidings were brought by a knight, who bore traces of the fiery battle zeal of the Moslems, that he was alive and well. Twice had he been wounded in the encounter, fighting in the forefront of the Christian battle, but on each occasion the fatal shafts of the destroyer had been turned aside, and, when the messenger left, he was bearing himself valiantly and well.
There was a message to Anna, and a love-token, a little heart of gold, which Henry Montgomerie had either secured among the spoils or had purchased in some Eastern bazaar. This, with a lock of hair and a letter, the knight gave into Anna's own hands, and their reception brightened many a weary evening to the maiden in the halls of Aiket. It even, for the time being, laid to rest the phantoms of disquiet which ever and anon obtruded themselves rudely upon her faith in her lover soldier.
A second year was waning to a close when a young man, Allan Lockhart by name, the son of a neighbouring baron, began to visit the inmates of Aiket Castle. The far East and the clash of arms were not to his liking; the holy places of Palestine did not stir any responsive, heroic enthusiasm in his breast. Courtly in manners, of outward grace, and fair of speech, he was nevertheless a rouč and a dissembler of the first water. He had already made serious havoc with his own patrimony, but he counted on annexing Anna's dowry to his already deplenished exchequer.
He laid siege to the maiden's heart, but the heart was proof against his blandishments. He tried to wile her affections away from her warrior of the Cross, but these were too deep-rooted and too sincere to be easily shaken. Finding that his personal merit was not such as to commend him, and that Anna was firm in her plighted troth, he changed his tactics, and devoted himself to cultivation of the good graces of the Laird and the Lady of Aiket. These were more amenable to his attractions and to such graces as he had. It was a cardinal point with them to have Anna well married. Lockhart's father was not a baron, with generations of untainted blood in his veins, but he had lands and houses and gear, and these were the portion for which her parents were willing to bestow their daughter's hand. But in vain Lockhart urged his suit, and in vain the laird and the lady endeavoured to persuade Anna to regard him favourably. Her promise to Henry Montgomerie was sacred as an oath to her. In life and in death she was to be his. How, then, could she exchange her distant lover for another, and a less acceptable?
Distracted and inwardly wrought with contending emotions, Anna spent much of her time by the Glazert Burn. Its quiet flow was a perpetual solace to her. Its waters had caught the echo of his voice, and she heard his tones anew in their sympathetic murmur.
She was sitting pondering over the chances of fate one autumn evening when she was accosted by a stranger. A veteran warrior sure was he. Travel-stained and weary, haggard and weird, his countenance was tanned with hot suns and exposure to the weather. He leaned heavily upon his staff, and, always as he came, he paused and rested and looked around. And at length his eyes lighted upon the girl by the side of the burn. The traveller's aspect at once excited her interest and her sympathy, and she accosted him.
"Come hither," she said, " my friend. You look weary."
"Ay, lady, that I am," replied the wanderer. " Weary I am, and worn. Yea, from far have I come, and the Saracens have not left me the man I was."
"Pray, be seated, sir. The grass is soft, and if you have come from the East, a seat on the ground can be nothing new to you."
The stranger smiled. "No, lady," he replied, " many a night have I lain upon the sands and the sward. The stars are brighter in the East than they are here, and the air is warmer; but here there is no call to arms, and the shrill yells of the Saracens do not disturb the slumber. I could lie down here gladly, and sleep as on a couch until the dawn."
"I hope there will be no need for that. But tell me, sir, tell me something of the struggle and of those who are fighting the battle of the Cross against the Crescent. Tell me how they fare."
"They fare, lady, as brave men may well fare in a conflict with the savage hordes of the infidel. They slay or they are slain; they wound or they are wounded; to-day the tide of battle rolls for us, to-morrow for them. For these Eastern dogs fight hard, and many a Christian warrior they have despatched. But we have no right to murmur. The cause is a good cause, a holy cause, and God himself will reward those who fall in it." And the travel-stained stranger crossed himself devoutly, and looked up.
"Pray tell me," said Anna, " in your wanderings and in the conflict heard you aught of a knight, Henry Montgomerie by name. He hailed from Ayrshire, and I knew him well."
"Alas, alas, fair lady! " and the traveller's voice faltered, "I, too, knew him well. Stout and strong of limb he was, and lion-hearted, and many a time and oft have I seen his sword glitter in the forefront of the battle. Ah, it was a terrible weapon! But" and the traveller paused.
"But what ? " eagerly demanded Anna Cuninghame "Do not be afraid to tell me evil tidings. I am strong, I am strong, to bear them." Evil tidings they are, lady. But yet he died nobly."
Anna reeled as she sat, and would have fallen prone to the ground had not the stranger caught her and supported her. With a desperate effort she regained a measure of composure. She was deathly pale, and there was the glitter of intensity in her eyes. She clenched her fists and steeled herself to the story.
"Ah, lady, you are not able to hear it now," said the traveller, sympathetically "another time, may be. I swear to heaven, I'd rather than a thousand crowns that another had been sent to break the tidings. For I know who you are, who you must be."
"I am Anna Cuninghame," quietly observed the girl.
"Yes, I know it now. You can be none other than she."
"Tell me, then," said Anna, "tell me all. Do not be afraid; I have long feared this. So tell me all at once, and for the last time."
"Henry Montgomerie was slain in front of the walls of Jaffa. The lion-hearted Richard himself was in command, and ordered the assault. Up to the fortified walls we marched, for I too was there, and was one of the first to enter by the breach. The Saracens fought like demons. They were here, there, and everywhere, clustering thick as bees, and, though we rode them down as they came out to the combat, they were so numerous that no thinning of their ranks seemed to make any impression on them. They rallied in front of the breach and defended it desperately. There was danger to us, danger of defeat. "That breach must be carried," cried Richard; "who will lead the van ?" A score of knights offered themselves, Montgomerie among them.
The King selected him from among the throng. He put himself at the head of his troop, and, with spears at rest, they pierced to the very heart of the Moslem defence. Into the wedge they had formed pressed hundreds of gallant warriors. There was a savage conflict, but the victory was' ours.'
"And Henry ?"
" Henry Montgomerie fell in the thick of the fray. When the combat was over, we found him with his face upturned to the orient heavens, but his soul was fled."
Anna heard as though she heard him not. Her countenance was set, but deadly pale, and the glance in her eyes was for the far-away, and neither for the near nor the present. The traveller grew frightened at her continued immobility, and addressed her in a few sympathetic words of comfort. These recalled her to herself, and, rising, she gave the stranger her hand.
"Come with me," she said, " to my father's dwelling. You will be well received for the sake of one who is now no more. Besides, you are weary and worn, and you require rest and refreshment."
"Thank you, lady, but I cannot come. I must journey on, for I could not remain beneath the roof of one whose heart I have crushed with my hapless and hopeless tidings."
"You have but done your duty, sir," replied Anna. " It is not you who have crushed a heart. Henry has fallen in his duty and on the field of glory, and, if it was yours to convey the blow to me, I know that it must have cost you a sore pang to do it."
" Believe me, lady, before Heaven it has. I would to God I had been spared the trial."
The stranger courteously said farewell, and departed, and Anna sought the seclusion of her chamber.
An hour later, and within two miles of the Castle of Aiket, two men were in conversation. The one was the traveller, the other Allan Lockhart, the hitherto rejected suitor of Anna Cuninghame.
"No," said the former, in a resolute tone of voice, " I have kept my word. I have told her the tidings. But keep your hundred crowns. They are the price of blood. Not one penny of the damned gold would I finger"
"Tush, man! what of that?" replied Lockhart, "you need money. You told me you were poor. Don't be a fool. Here, take the money."
"Not one copper coin of it," emphatically responded the stranger. "I gave you my oath that I would do it, and I have done it. I gave you my oath that I would not reveal your connection with it, and I have kept my oath."
"Don't be a fool, I say," persisted Lockhart ; "you ought to know by this time that a girl's feelings are writ in water, and that the more acute and poignant her grief now, the sooner it will pass off You have earned your money, so here, take it."
"Sir," replied the stranger, "I am an old Crusader, and I swear by the Cross, for which I have bled, that I would rather strike you dead at my feet this moment than I would defile myself by pocketing one single coin of your money. God knows I am poor and that I have need of money, but I should scorn myself all my life-long were I to accept reward for having broken the heart of a true maiden. Nay, more, this must be undone."
"Your oath, remember your oath."
"Yes, I do remember it. A curse upon it. But you must undo the wrong yourself. Else, if you do not"
" What? "
" Beware. The maiden will never be your wife."
And without waiting to say more the traveller hurried down the road and disappeared from view.
When three years had passed from that evening, memorable in her young life, when Anna bid her final farewell to the Crusader, she yielded to the solicitations of her parents and consented to receive the addresses of Allan Lockhart,' It was not that her sentiments towards Lockhart had undergone any change. Her heart was still with the cavalier whose untimely death she had wept. She did not pretend or profess that it was otherwise; but, with all her constancy, she was unable to withstand the pressure put upon her by her father and mother. She told them that her love was in the tomb with Henry Montgomerie, and that it never could be recalled. Affection for Lockhart she had none; but if her hand was at the disposal of her parents, they might bestow it upon whomsoever they might.
The Laird of Aiket lost no time in inviting Lockhart to the castle or in informing him of the change of circumstances. It was with unaffected pleasure that he heard what the laird had to tell him. His funds were low, his credit was all but exhausted, he was surfeited with pleasures and sensual immoralities, and, in his hours of self-recrimination, he had come to the conclusion that if he could only win Anna Cuninghame and her dowry he would turn over a new leaf. The laird told him that Anna could not give him her heart. It is true the laird ridiculed the sentiment, but as his daughter had bid him say so in the hope that Lockhart's sense of honour would dictate to him a correct line of duty, he thought it was only right that he should place the qualifying circumstance before the young man. When Lockhart heard the reservation he only smiled, and assured the laird that Anna having once given him her hand would not long be able to retain possession of her affections. He would win them in spite of her. The wooing was of a prosaic kind. No walks by the tall trees in the avenue, or in the green meadows, no whisperings of love by the whispering waters of the Glazert burn. Anna gave her consent coldly to her suitor, and not until she had told him plainly that the gift was in reality that of her parents, and that her heart was now and forever with her warrior lover in the distant Orient. Lockhart made no scruples which he did not feel. The rich, dowry went with the maiden, and it was the dowry he sought.
The wedding day was fixed, the guests were invited, the arrangements were pressed forward towards completion. From near and far came those who were to witness the sacrifice, and the night before the marriage was to take, place the halls of Aiket were ablaze with light and alive with goodly company.
That same night the warder at Hessilhead, the residence of Montgomerie, was awakened from slumber by a loud knocking at the postern gate. He rubbed his dream-laden eyes, and, grumbling at the unwonted call, slowly made his way in the direction of the gate. Without, there stood an impatient visitor. He had thrown him self from the back of a powerful black horse; and, when he heard the heavy tread of the warder, loudly demanded admission.
"Who comes here," the warder gruffly spoke, "at this untimeous hour of the night? "
Be quick, Sandy, open the gate and let me in."
Not until I know who and what you are, and what your errand here."
"Do you not know me, Sandy? Do you not recognize my voice?"
"No, I know you not. And yet, methinks, I've heard your voice before. But that cannot be either, for the man whose voice resembles yours has gone to his account, and lay stark and stiff long ago, in the east."
Ah, Sandy, the voice is that of the man whose you thought it resembled. I am not dead. Open the gate, Sandy, and let me in. I am Henry Montgomerie."
The warder fairly shook, half with fear, half with excitement, and his trembling fingers hardly succeeded in turning the key in the lock. But at length the lock went back and the visitor entered, leading his horse. Sandy fetched a light, and, holding it up to the face of the stranger, eyed him critically. But only for a moment. Bronzed were the features and changed ; but, man or ghost, as Sandy declared afterwards, they were the unmistakable features of the young laird of Hessilhead.
The household was awaked, and in mingled trepidation and. delight the wanderer was greeted. It was hard to believe that it was indeed he, but ocular proof soon dispelled the illusion, and the cheery greeting of the Crusader sent the fears a-vanishing. Henry was distinctly hungry, and not even the rapture occasioned by his return was sufficient to stay his appetite; and the hearty zeal with which he fell upon the viands dispelled the last lingering doubt in the mind of the most venerable domestic, his old nurse, that he was a visitor from the spirit land.
It was not until the cravings of the inner man were satisfied that Henry condescended to explain his return. There was no laboured explanation required. The last field had been fought, the Saracen had come to terms, the Crusade was over; and back to the westward had drifted the remains of the splendid host that in all the pomp and panoply of war had arrayed themselves to fight under the holy ensign.
Not until next day did Lady Montgomerie dare to break the tidings to her son of the forthcoming nuptials. The blow fell with crushing effect.
"Oh, mother," he said, " would that I had ne'er returned"
Would that I had fallen, indeed, as it was told you I had, by the walls of Jaffa. But tell me, does Anna give her heart and her hand willingly and of her own free accord to this Allan Lockhart."
"She has consented to give her hand, but she has made no secret of it, that she cannot give her heart."
"Then, even at the eleventh hour, she must be saved."
"You are too late Henry, too late I fear. The hour of her bridal has struck, and ere you could reach Aiket she will have been wedded to Lockhart."
"There is no time to delay. Not a moment is to be lost.
I must go, mother. Do not bid me stay."
"Too late, I say, Henry. What is done cannot be undone. You know she heard of your death. The tidings were even told to herself by a soldier who had come home from the east. She is not to blame, Henry, so do not make her life miserable."
" Miserable! Why, the misery she will have to endure might yet be stayed. Better by far that she should know I am returned than that she should learn it when her doom is sealed."
"It is sealed by this time, Henry."
"Something may have occurred to delay the ceremony. I shall go to see; and if, mother, if she is wedded, I shall leave the spot unnoticed and unknown."
Without another word Henry made haste to saddle his steed, and, springing lightly on his back, he dashed headlong towards the house of Aiket. The horse was speedy, the rider impetuous, and there was neither stop nor stay until---
Until the horse stumbling threw its rider heavily to the ground. Henry had seen the house of Aiket, and recognized each familiar scene of its surroundings. The gray walls he knew, the trees surrounding the winding turns of the stream, all called up mingled memories and accentuated the intensity of the lingering hope that had bidden him on. But now he lay senseless on the ground, all unconscious of he wakeful life around him, of the throng of peasants not far distant who cheered the young wife, of the flag that flew from the walls of the castle, of the gay throng who made merry over the festivities, of the tender arms of the Shepherds who laid him on the bed of their humble cot and tried to restore him to animation and to consciousness.
"Who is he? " asked the doctor, who was speedily called from the Castle of Aiket, where he had formed one of the marriage company.
The shepherds shook their heads. They knew nothing of him.
"He is dangerously, fatally injured," continued the doctor, "and has not long to live. I wish we could find out who he is, so that we might communicate with his friends."
Giving instructions to the shepherds to watch the injured man, the doctor made his way back to Aiket and told the guests what had occurred.
"I will see to him myself," said the laird, "it shall never be said that, because it was my daughter's wedding day, I failed in my duty to a fellow man, and he a stranger."
The laird, accompanied by the doctor, hurried to the cottage where Henry lay, still unconscious and breathing heavily.
"He is internally injured, and bleeding severely," said the doctor as they entered, "and he cannot last long."
Approaching the bed on which Henry lay stretched, the laird looked upon him, and a sudden, inexplicable change came over his face. He grasped the arm of the doctor for support, and intently gazed upon the sufferer.
"Doctor," he gasped, "not a word of this at the Castle, as you value your life. That young man is Henry Montgomerie, the affianced lover of my daughter Anna, who has just been married. Not a word of this, I say. He is fatally injured?"
"Yes, fatally," replied the doctor, "he has not long to live."
"But," continued the laird, "we must send tidings at once to Hessilhead. This will be a sad blow to his parents."
"But," observed the doctor, "you said that Henry Montgomerie had been slain in the east."
"It was so said," replied the laird, in tones which prevented ally further attempt on the part of the doctor to unravel the mystery.
A messenger was despatched to Hessilhead to summon Henry's parents. They obeyed the call without a moment's loss of time, but, ere they reached the cottage, the soul of their son had done with mortal suffering.
It was night, and high revelry there was in the halls of Aiket. From every window and from every lattice streamed the cheerful light, and out on the night wind floated the soft strains of music. The dancers moved gracefully to the harmony, and the guests at the tables quaffed the red wine and the white to the health and the happiness of the bridegroom and the bride. The song went round, the mirth-moving jest and the merriment.
The stern faces of bearded men grew soft in the light of flashing eyes, and hoarse voices sank into whispers of love. Never had the castle hall shone so brightly. The bride was there, clad in her spotless marriage robes, the observed of all observers. Her cheeks were pale, her lips bloodless, her eyes lustrous, yet distant. They seemed to be looking far away, and now and again her lips moved, as if in silent prayer, or as if she were speaking to an unseen guest at the feast.
The castle bell tolled the midnight hour, and with the last stroke of the knell a strange hush fell upon the scene. And well it might, for there, right in the oaken doorway, stood the tall, lithe figure of a knight in armour. His visor was down, but through the eyelet holes flashed orbs of wondrous brilliance. The guests started, amazed. There was a cold chill ran all around, as if the Presence in the doorway had brought with it a waft of the breezes from another world. Yet, shrink back as the guests might, there was something that rivetted their gaze upon the Presence.
The knight raised his hand and put up his visor, but his armour gave no sound. The bride, seated at the head of the room, gazed for a moment upon the features thus revealed, and rising, she walked two or three paces forward, and then, with outstretched arms, she fell insensible to the floor. Yet no one moved. How could they move? The Presence entranced them, and, statue-like, they remained in their places, cowering, fearful, speechless. But they could not shut their eyes against the sight. Right up the centre of the hall, slowly and with majestic mien, yet all silent, the knight advanced, and none could gainsay him. He reached the spot where, in dead swoon, Anna lay, her bridal wreath on her head, her bridal dress upon her, and lifted her up in his arms. There was a hush, like the hush of death, as the knight retraced his steps, with the fair burden in his clasp, to the door. A hush that might be felt. The lights burned blue, and there was another waft of the distant borne chill air. For a moment the knight stood in the open doorway, then threw down his visor, and vanished as silently as he had come.
All was consternation. Men yelled to give relief to their pent-up emotions, and women screamed and fainted away. The bridegroom, hardly less ghostly looking than the ghostly visitor, was rooted to the seat whereon he sat, and could neither speak nor move. Lady Cuninghame of Aiket the first to recover her senses, urged him to fly to save his wife, but her appeals fell on unresponsive ears. He heard, he turned and looked at her, but a great fear was upon him and bound him in its iron spell. Gradually there was a restoration on the part of the guests to a consciousness of the situation, and having given such attention as was necessary to the ladies, they instituted a search for the missing bride. But in vain. The terrified warder told how, from the surrounding darkness, a knight, clad in complete armour, had ridden up to the gate, and, all unbidden and unheralded, had passed silently within its closed portals. While he remained terror-stricken and unable to move, or to give warning of the visitant, the knight had entered the hall, whence he had seen him return with the lady in his arms. The gate still barred, he had passed to the outside as mysteriously as he had entered, and then, mounting his steed, he had disappeared into the night. There was no clattering of horse hoofs, there was neither speech nor sound, and the knight, with the bride in his arms, had vanished as completely as if he had never been.
By order of the laird the country was scoured in all directions, but never again was Anna seen in the flesh. The belated peasant, for long years thereafter, told how an apparition of a horseman, with a lady in front of him, had been seen against the night, ever hurrying onwards as if in quest of something he could not find, and he was a bold man who, in the mirk midnight hour, cared to risk the chance of encountering the phantom knight of Hessilhead and the white-robed daughter of Aiket.
Aiket Castle has now been restored to its former glory.
Source:- HISTORICAL TALES AND LEGENDS OF AYRSHIRE BY WILLIAM ROBERTSON - LONDON: HAMILTON, ADAMS, & CO - GLASGOW: THOMAS D. MORISON 1889
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