So the ill-natured castellan was called upon to redeem the promise which he had made on the conditions thus performed; while, with that literal fulfilment of the requirements of justice which is peculiar to the realm of the imagination, the same hour in which the bells rang out merrily, in the bright, clear air, for the maiden's bridal, was also that in which they sounded their solemn wail for the hard-hearted founder of the now ruinous Eberstein.
* Vol. ii., p. 150.
Since transcribing the above I have extracted the following note from the "Dundee Advertiser:" - "I enclose a small piece of cloth, a bit of the flag of the Tailor Incorporation, Arbroath, made in 1670, as recorded in the minute-book of the craft, from the common nettle. The cloth, you will notice, is very fragile - a mere rag, in fact - but this may be accounted for by age and exposure to the weather, when the worthy craft celebrated gala days by processions, etc".
It is really to be regretted that the fibres of the nettle are not more extensively used in our own country, as the plant thrives everywhere, and may be grown in places which can be rendered subser-vient to few other purposes. Though, in order to produce a truly fine crop rich land is indispen-sable.
An excellent rennet is procured from the nettle, a saturated solution of salt being made with a decoction of the plant, which is then bottled for use. A spoonful of this liquid will coagulate a large bowl of milk without imparting to it any disagreeable flavour, a desideratum not al-ways attainable with the ordinary rennet. The expressed juice also imparts a beautiful and per-manent green dye to wool, while the roots, boiled with alum, yield a good yellow. Both these dyes are constantly employed by the Welsh pea-sant-weavers. And the modern Greeks use the last to stain the eggs which they present as offerings at the Easter festival.
Many animals will not eat this plant when in a growing state; but, when partially, or wholly dried, it forms a most valuable fodder in the scarce time of early spring. It is more especially adapted for cows, as it increases the quantity, and improves the quality of their milk; and a pint of milk is, in rustic districts, an equivalent for the permission to cut nettles for each day's feed for a cow, in the months of April and May. That is, those who have cows give this quantity to their neighbours for per-mission to cut the nettles in their hedge-rows, rick-yards, etc. In Russia, Sweden, and Holland, it is largely cultivated for this purpose, and is mown five or six times in the year. In the north of England it is boiled as food for pigs; and every thrifty farmer's wife knows how eagerly, and with how good a result, the chopped leaves are devoured by poultry. Indeed, they are almost an essential article of diet to young turkeys, although their sting is usually fatal to the tender little creatures, who, if not regularly supplied with them in their food, seem, as if by an instinctive want, to wander off to the nettle-beds, where they perish miserably.
The great amount of heat evolved by the nettle during the process of fermentation makes it one of the best substances for the formation of "hot-beds," for which purpose it is much prized by market-gardeners.
The English name of nettle is derived from the Saxon, or Anglo-Saxon Noedl, or Ncedle, a needle; and the botanical appellation, Urtica, from urendo, "burning;" on account of its stinging or burning quality, because, as Gerarde says, "it stings with his hurteful downe;" nor "Without desert his name he seems to git As that whiche quicklie burns the fingers touching it!"
One of those curious examples of armorial bear-ings taking their rise in a play on the name of their bearers, which are of frequent occurrence amongst the older heralds, is instanced by Gwillim,* in the case of the Devonshire family of Malherbe, now, I believe, extinct, who bore three nettle-leaves proper.
Three, or according to the "Edinburgh Catalogue," four, species of nettle are considered indigenous to Britain; though the largest, and most acrimonious of them, the Roman nettle (U. pilulifera), has ap-parently been imported. It is very rare in this island, and is said by the older botanists to have been purposely introduced by the Romans. Ray, however, terms this an improbable legend; nor is it proved to be true by these two facts: namely, that Julius Caesar landed at, or near, Romney - or as it was originally called, Romania - and that this nettle formerly abounded in the streets of that town, from which, however, it is now extirpated, though it still flourishes in the immediate neighbour-hood, near Lyd or Lidd Church. Camden says that the Roman soldiers, "brought some nettle seed with them, and sowed it there for their use, to rub and chafe their limbs; being told, before they came from home, that the climate of Britain was so cold that it was not to be endured without some friction to warm their blood." The principal argument against the tradition appears to be, that even the hardy Romans would scarcely regard the stinging of net-tles as a pleasurable warmth.
But in urging this, we forget that the seeds were probably brought over, not for the sake of mere comfort, but as a remedy in extreme cases of paralysis and insensi-bility from cold; and also, that though the sting is most virulent when so lightly touched as to permit the finely-pointed but yielding hairs to make an orifice through which to pour their poison into the system, yet, that when firmly pressed, their power of penetrating the skin is lost, and the acrid juice is harmless; merely imparting, when employed in friction, a gentle sensation of warmth. Or, to speak in the truthful words of Withering; "Would you touch a nettle without being injured by it? Take hold of it stoutly. Do the same by other annoy-ances, and hardly anything will disturb you; grap-ple with difficulties, and you overcome them." We have, moreover, positive information that the nettle has been used as a counter-irritant, as well as a stimulant in paralysis; and Cardan recommends brushing with nettles to "let out melancholy;" respecting which prescription Lord Bacon says, "We have ho good opinion of it, lest thro' the venomous quality of the nettle it may, with often use, breed diseases of the skin." A more reasonable objection than that already stated, appears to us to be the account which Caesar himself gives of the climate of this country; but again it may be justly replied that, as Camden says, they were "told before" they sailed from sunny Italy that they should suffer from severe cold, and accordingly they provided for an emergency which they were afterwards fortunate enough to escape.