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"Nine maidens fair in life were they,
Nine maidens fair in death's last fray,
Nine maidens fair in fame alway,
The maidens of Glen of Ogilvy."
Scotch Ballad.

MANY interesting stories founded on the heroism and self-denying love of sisters are current in different parts of the country, and form an interesting chapter in the folk-lore of the fair sex.

A pretty tradition told of the building of Linton Church, of which there are one or two versions, has already been given in a previous chapter, being only one of the numerous historic romances which in simple language tell of the beautiful sacrifice that in extreme emergency a sister's love has been ready, at one time or another, to make, and, as in this case, to save the brother's life.

These traditionary stories, too, are not confined to any one country, but are found on the Continent among the legendary romances associated with many of the sacred buildings; and, as it has been remarked, they form some of the most pleasing illustrations of woman's worth.

In a variety of ways such acts of devotion are said to have been displayed, their memory still surviving in the local legend. The Glen of Ogilvy, a romantic spot in the Vale of Strathmore, is the scene of the legend of the "Nine Maidens." It appears that far back in past years this glen was the chosen residence of St. Donivald and his nine daughters. They lived in the glen "as in a hermitage, labouring the ground with their own hands, and eating but once a day, and then but barley water and bread."

On the death of St. Donivald, after a long life of incessant toll, the sisters removed to Abernethy, and dying there they were buried at the foot of a large oak, much frequented by pilgrims up to the time of the Reformation. They were canonised as the "Nine Maidens," and many churches were dedicated to them throughout Scotland. One of these churches was that of Strathmartine, near Dundee, with which is connected the well-known tradition of the "Nine Maidens of Pitempan" being devoured by a serpent at the Nine Maiden Well in that parish. This legendary story has been commemorated in a ballad which tells how-

"Nine maidens were they spotless fair,
With silver skins, bright golden hair,
Blue-eyed, vermilion-cheeked, nowhere
Their match in Glen of Ogilvy."

After describing their many virtues and life of self-denial, the ballad relates how at their death there came to their grave from every land many a sorrowing pilgrim, for--

"Nine maidens fair in life were they,
Nine maidens fair in death's last fray,
Nine maidens fair in fame alway,
The maids of Glen of Ogilvy."

Another romantic folk-tale tells how four young orphan sisters agreed to fill the five lancets in the north transept of York Cathedral with memorial glass, in patterns taken from their embroidery frames, which they had long laid aside for sorrow, in remembrance of a dead sister. The story further adds that they are reported to have knelt and prayed until, one by one, they passed away, and were laid to rest in a common grave. Hence these lancets have been popularly designated the "Five Sisters."

But sometimes these sister legends commemorated tragic scenes in past years. At Ballybunnion, for instance, situated within a few miles from Kerry Head, is a cavern which is known by the Irish peasantry as the "Cave of the Seven Sisters." The scenery around is of the most romantic and wildest description, and on the brink of one of the precipices formed by the rugged cliffs are the remains of an old castle, said once upon a time to have been inhabited by a gallant chieftain, the father of seven beautiful daughters.

But the story goes that in an unlucky hour a fatal attachment sprang up between these seven fair maidens and the captain and his six brothers belonging to a private ship. The father's anger at his daughters falling in love with men whom he considered enemies to his couutry was unbounded, and admitted of no mercy. All entreaties to preserve their lives were ineffectual, and, at the chieftain's command, the men were brought one by one to the edge of the precipice, and were hurled into the foaming flood beneath. What the fate of their unhappy sweethearts was the legend does not say.

According to another version of the same tradition one of the Northern sea-king's invaded Ballybunnion, and invested the chieftain, Bunnion, in his castle. The garrison was slain, and the chieftain, rather than that his nine daughters should fall into the hands of the victorious king, flung them, one after another, into the abyss. From this occurrence the cave has been popularly nicknamed "the Cave of the Nine."

Scattered here and there in different parts ot the country we find certain curiously shaped stories named after sisters, in connection with which all kinds of legendary stories are associated. Thus in the parish of Gwendron, Cornwall, are nine "Moor Stories"--perpendicular blocks of granite, which have evidently been placed in their present position with much labour. According to local tradition they indicate the graves of nine sisters, whereas some say these stones are the metamorphosed remains of maidens who in all probability were changed into stone for some wicked profanation of the Sabbath day. As Mr. Hunt points out in his "Romances of the West of England" such monuments of impiety are to be met with in different parts of the country.

The undulation in the chalk cliffs between Seaford and Beachy Head are Popularly known as the "Seven Sisters," a number which, it may be noted, occurs frequently in the boundary lists of Saxon charters as "Seven oaks," "Seven thorns."

Sometimes, it would seem, wrong acts were punished in a less material way than by their agents being turned into stone. Denton Hall, for instance, has long been reported to be tenanted by a spirit commonly called "Silky," whose history is not without a romantic past. There is some obscure and dark rumour of secrets strangely obtained and cruelly betrayed by a rival sister, ending in deprivation of reason and death. As a penalty for her sin, the betrayer haunts the scene of her crime.

Happily, however, if we are to believe legendary lore, the rivalry of sisters has occasionally resulted in good works. Thus the two churches of Allrighton and Donington, in Shropshire, which stand curiously near together, are of different styles and dates; but tradition says they were built by two sisters in a spirit of rivalry, and that this is the reason why Donington parish church is so far from any village, and so much in one corner of the parish.

A similar story is told of Cowthorne and Withernsea churches, Yorkshire, which are popularly nicknamed in the neighbourhood the "Sister Churches." It is said that they were built by two sisters, who at first agreed that a single church would be sufficient for the adjoining manors, but they quarrelled as to the respective merits of a tower or spire, and finally each sister built her own church.

To quote a further case a local tradition represents Ormskirk Church, Yorkshire, as having been erected at the cost of two maiden sisters named Orm, but being unable to decide as to whether the church should have a tower, or a spire, they accommodated their differences by giving it both. Roby discredits the story, remarking that the old ladies might each "have had her way by building a tower and surmounting it by a spire."

Among the numerous other stories of a legendary character connected with sisters may be mentioned that known as the "Two Sisters of Beverley." According to Poulson, the historian of Beverley, there is in the south isle of the Minster an altar-tomb placed under a pinnacled canopy, but without any inscription to lead to a knowledge of the occupant, or occupants. Tradition, however, assigns it to the unmarried daughters of Earl Puch, who are said to have given two of the common pastures to the free men of Beverley. In Ingledew's "Ballads of Yorkshire" there is a legendary ballad relating to the mysterious appearance and disappearance of these ladies at the convent. It concludes by referring to their burial and relates how--

"Side by side in the chapel fair,
Are the sainted maidens laid,
With their snowy brow, and glossy hair,
They look not like the dead!
Fifty summers have come and passed away,
But their loveliness knoweth no decay."

Legends of the same kind are found on the Continent. Near Louvain there are three graves in which rest the remains of three pious sisters. Before their graves three clear springs are said to burst forth, which possess marvellous medicinal properties. In order to know whether a woman will live or die of her malady, it is customary to take a hood belonging to her and to lay it on the water. If it sinks no recovery is to be looked for; if, on the other hand, it swims, the disease is curable. Many such stories are current, and the folk-tales, it may be added, of most countries are prolific in a host of incidents in which the acts of sisters are the principal feature.

Next: Chapter XXII: Brides and their Maids