The Weird of the Three Arrows
Sir James Douglas, the companion of Bruce, and well known by his appellation of the “Black Douglas,” was once, during the hottest period of the exterminating war carried on by him and his colleague Randolph, against the English, stationed at Linthaughlee, near Jedburgh. He was resting, himself and his men after the toils of many days’ fighting-marches through Teviotdale; and, according to his custom, had walked round the tents, previous to retiring to the unquiet rest of a soldier’s bed. He stood for a few minutes at the entrance to his tent contemplating the scene before him, rendered more interesting by a clear moon, whose silver beams fell, in the silence of a night without a breath of wind, calmly on the slumbers of mortals destined to mix in the melée of dreadful war, perhaps on the morrow. As he stood gazing, irresolute whether to retire to rest or indulge longer in a train of thought not very suitable to a warrior who delighted in the spirit-stirring scenes of his profession, his eye was attracted by the figure of an old woman, who approached him with a trembling step, leaning on a staff, and holding in her left hand three English cloth-shaft arrows.
“You are he who is ca’ed the guid Sir James?” said the old woman.
“I am, good woman,” replied Sir James. “Why hast thou wandered from the sutler’s camp?”
“I dinna belang to the camp o’ the hoblers,” answered the woman. “I hae been a residenter in Linthaughlee since the day when King Alexander passed the door o’ my cottage wi’ his bonny French bride, wha was terrified awa’ frae Jedburgh by the death’s-head whilk appeared to her on the day o’ her marriage. What I hae suffered sin’ that day” (looking at the arrows in her hand) “lies between me an’ heaven.”
“Some of your sons have been killed in the wars, I presume?” said Sir James.
“Ye hae guessed a pairt o’ my waes,” replied the woman. “That arrow” (holding out one of the three) “carries on its point the bluid o’ my first born; that is stained wi’ the stream that poured frae the heart o’ my second; and that is red wi’ the gore in which my youngest weltered, as he gae up the life that made me childless.