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Nancy Stair by Elinor Macartney Lane

_Nancy Stair_



_Author of "Mills of God"_



_Published May, 1904_

_To_ Frank Brett Noyes _Who accepted, with a kind letter, The first story I ever wrote, This tale of_ Nancy Stair _is dedicated, As a tribute of affection, From one old friend to another._

"For woman is not undeveloped man, But diverse; could we make her as the man, Sweet Love were slain: his dearest bond is this, Not like to like, but like in difference."


"Auld Nature swears, the lovely dears, Her noblest work she classes, O, Her 'prentice hand she tried on man, And then she made the lasses, O."


"Ye can't educate women as you can men. They're elemental creatures; and ye can no more change their natures than ye can stop fire from burning."



Two excellent accounts of the beautiful Nancy Stair have already been published; the first by Mrs. George Opie, in the Scots News, giving a detailed account of the work on the burnside, and a more recent one by Professor Erskine, of our own University, which is little more than a critical dissertation upon Nancy as a poet; the heart of the matter with him being to commend her English verses, as well as those in "gude braid Scot."

With these accounts to be secured so easily it may seem presumptuous, as well as superfluous, for me to undertake a third. I state at the outset, therefore, that it is beyond my ambition and my abilities to add a word to stories told so well. Nor do I purpose to mention either the work on the burn or Nancy's song-making, save when necessary for clearness.

For me, however, the life of Nancy Stair has a far deeper significance than that set forth by either of these gifted authors. My knowledge of her was naturally of the most intimate; I watched her grow from a wonderful child into a wonderful woman; and saw her, with a man's education, none but men for friends, and no counselings save from her own heart, solve most wisely for the race the problem put to every woman of gift; and with sweetest reasoning and no bitter renouncings enter the kingdom of great womanhood.

To tell this intimate side of her life with what skill I have is the chief purpose of my writing, but there are two other motives almost as strong. The first of these is to clear away the mystery of the murder which for so long clouded our lives at Stair. To do this there is no man in Scotland to-day so able as myself. It was I who bid the Duke to Stair; the quarrel which brought on the meeting fell directly beneath my eyes; I heard the shots and found the dead upon that fearful night, and afterward went blindfolded through the bitter business of the trial. I was the first, as well, to scent the truth at the bottom of the defense, and have in my possession, as I write, the confession which removed all doubt as to the manner in which the deed was committed.

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