Pure as the silver wreath of snow That lies on yonder wintry hill, Are all the thoughts that peaceful flow, And with pure joy my bosom fill. Soft as the sweet spring’s morning breath, Or summer’s zephyr, forth they roam; Until my bosom grows more kind, And dreams of thee and all at home.

The winter day was cold and clear, but without frost, save on the
mountain tops, where the snow was lying. Though vegetation should have
been dormant, the swelling uplands, the pastoral hills and braes of
Fife, looked green and fertile; and there was a premature budding of
young shoots, which the bitter frost of to-morrow might totally destroy.

Fires glowed redly through the little square windows of the wayside
cottages, and from their massive stone chimneys the smoke ascended into
the thin air in heavy volumes, that told of warmth, of comfort, and
industry within. Ere long I could see the woods, all bare and leafless,
that covered the slopes of Calderwood Glen, and the vanes of the old
house shining in the light of the setting sun, which streamed along the
green slope of the western Lomond.

I passed unnoticed through the secluded village which stood, I knew,
upon the verge of my good uncle’s property, and where the old signboards
of the smithy, the bakery, and alehouse were familiar to me. The clock
of the old Gothic kirk struck the hour of three, slowly and
deliberately, as only such clocks do in the country.

Many years ago, in boyhood, I remembered the familiar voice of that
village monitor. What changes had taken place since then, in myself and
others, and even in the scene around me! How many, whose daily routine,
and whose labours—the heritage of toil—were timed by its bell and dial,
were now in other lands, or sleeping in their humble graves beneath the
shadow of the spire, and yet the old moss-grown clock ticked on!

Since then I had grown to manhood, had seen many of the dearest of my
kindred die. Since then I had become a soldier, and had served in
India, and on the staff in the late Burmese war. At the bombardment of
Rangoon, I received a wound in the night attack made by the enemy on our
camp at the heights of Prome.

Thousands of stirring scenes and strange faces had flitted before me. I
had traversed twice the great Atlantic and Indian oceans, and had twice
passed the Cape, on the first occasion looking with anxious eyes and
envious heart at every homeward-bound sail; and now all these events
seemed as a long dream, and as if it were but yesterday when last I
heard the voice of the old village clock.

In that timeworn fane, Row, the Covenanter, had preached, and the great
archbishop, too—Sharpe, the recreant, or the martyr (which you will),
who died on Magus Muir; and, that the marvellous may not be wanting,
there is a legend which tells us that, in the year before the
Covenanters invaded England, and stormed Newcastle, thereby seriously
injuring the London coal market, there used to issue from the empty loft
where, in old Catholic times, the organ stood, the sound of such an
instrument in full play, together with the voices of the choristers
singing a grand old Gregorian chant. These sounds were only heard in
the night, or at other times when Calderwood kirk was empty, for the
moment any one entered they ceased, and all became still—still as the
dead Calderwoods of the Glen and of Piteadie, stretched in effigy, each
upon his pedestal of stone, in St. Margaret’s aisle; but this marvel was
universally believed to portend the ultimate return of prelacy.

So rapidly and totally does the speed of the railway annihilate alike
the extent of time and space, that it seemed difficult to embody the
fact that, but four-and-twenty hours ago, I had been in my quarters at
Maidstone barracks, or amid the splendour of a fashionable hotel in
London; and yet it was so.

Treading deep among the last year’s crisp and withered leaves, I
proceeded down the sombre and winding avenue, with a heart that beat
quicker as I drew near a man, whose figure I remembered instantly, for
he was my early friend, my second father, my maternal uncle, good old
Sir Nigel Calderwood. Occupied with a weeder, which he always carried,
and with which the ends of all his walking-sticks were furnished, he was
intent on up-rooting some obnoxious weed; thus I could approach him
unobserved. He seemed as stout and hale as when I saw him last. The
grey hair, that was wont to escape under his well-worn wide-awake, was
thinner and more silvery, perhaps; but the old hat had its usual row of
flies and fishhooks, and his face was as ruddy as ever, and spoke of
high health and spirits. He stooped a little more, certainly; but his
figure was still sturdy, and clad, as usual, in a rough suit of grey
tweed, with his stout legs encased in long brown leather leggings, that
had seen much service in their time among the turnips and heather in the
shooting season, and in the trouting streams that traverse the fertile
Howe of Fife.

An old, half-blind, and wheezing otter terrier crept close to his heels
as I came up. With a polite bow the worthy baronet surveyed, but failed
to recognise me, and waited, with a glance of inquiry, until I should
speak; for, sooth to say, in the tall, rather well-knit figure, bronzed
face, and heavy moustaches I exhibited, he could scarcely be expected to
recognise the slender and beardless lad, whose heart was so heavy when
he was conveyed away from his mother’s arms, to push his way in the
world as a cornet of cavalry some six years before.

“Uncle—Sir Nigel!” said I, in a voice that became tremulous.

“Newton—my dear boy, Newton—am I blind that I did not recognise you?” he
exclaimed, while he grasped my hand and threw an arm round me; “welcome
back to Calderwood—welcome home—and on the second day of the New Year,
too! may many many joyous returns of the season be yours, Newton! What
a manly fellow you have become since I saw you last in London—quite a
dragoon!”

“And how is Cora—she is with you, of course?”

“Cora is well; and though not a dashing girl, she has grown up an
amiable and gentle little pet, who is worth her weight in gold; but you
shall see—you shall see, and judge for yourself. The house is full of
visitors just now—I have some nice people to present you to.”

“Thanks, uncle; but you and Cora were all I cared to see.”

“But how came you to be here alone, and on foot too?”

“I left the train at Calderwood station, and wished to come quietly back
to the old house, without any fuss.”

“To steal a march upon us, in fact?”

“Yes, uncle, you understand me,” said I, looking into his clear dark
eyes, which were regarding me with an expression of great affection,
which recalled the memory of my mother, his youngest and favourite
sister. “Pitblado will drive over with my traps before dinner.”

“Ah, Willie, the old keeper’s son?”

“Yes.”

“And how is he?”

“Quite well, and become so smart a lancer, that I fear there will be a
great pulling of caps among the housemaids. I am loth to keep him out of
the ranks, but the worthy fellow won’t leave me.”

“Many a good bag of grouse from yonder fields and the Lomonds, and many
a good basket of trout from the Eden, has poor Willie carried for me.
But, come this way; we shall take the near cut by the keeper’s lodge to
the house; you have not forgotten the way?”

“I should think not, uncle; by the Adder’s Craig and the old Battle
Stone.”

“Exactly. I am so glad you have come at this time; I have such news for
you, Newton—such news, boy.”

“Indeed, uncle?”

“Yes,” he continued, laughing heartily.

“How?”

“Calderwood Glen is a mere man-trap at present.”

“In what manner?”

“We have here old General Rammerscales, of the Bengal army, who has come
home with the liver complaint, and a face as yellow as a buttercup, and
his pale niece—a girl worth heaven knows how many sacks or lacs of
rupees (though, for the life of me, I never knew what or how much a lac
is.) We have also Spittal of Lickspittal and that Ilk, M.P. for the
Liberal interest (and more particularly for his own), with his two
daughters, rather pretty girls; and we have that beautiful blonde, Miss
Wilford, who has a cousin in your regiment—a Yorkshire heiress, whom all
the men agree would make such a wife! We have also the Countess of
Chillingham, and her daughter, Lady Louisa Loftus, really a very
charming girl; so, as I told you, Newton, the old house is baited like a
regular man-trap for you.”

Had my uncle’s perception been clearer, or had he been less vigorously
using his weeder, as he ran on thus, he could not have failed to observe
how powerfully the last name he uttered affected me.

After a pause—”In none of your letters,” said I, “did you mention that
Lady Loftus was here.”

“Did I not? But Cora is your chief correspondent, and no no doubt she
did.”

“On the contrary, my cousin never once referred to her.”

“Strange! Lord Chillingham left us a week ago in haste to attend a
meeting of the Cabinet; but his women folks have been rusticating here
for nearly three months. Charming person the countess—charming, indeed;
but the daughter is quite a Diana. You have met her before—she told us
so, and I have made up my mind—ah, you know for what, you rogue—eh?”

What my uncle had made up his mind for was not very apparent; but he
concluded his sentence by poking the weeder under my short ribs.

“To have me marry in haste and repent at leisure, eh, uncle—is it for
this that your mind is made up?”

“I am a man of the old school, Newton; yet I hate proverbs, and
everything old, except wine and good breeding.”

“You are aware, uncle,” said I, to change the subject, “that the lancers
are under orders for Turkey?”

“Where women are kept under lock and key, bought, and secluded from
society; just as in Britain they are thrust into it for sale.”

“And so, my dear uncle, supposing that a lively young lancer will make a
most excellent husband for your noble and beautiful _protégée_, you are
resolved to make a victim of me, is it not so?”

“Precisely; but according to the old use and wont in drama and romance,
you must not be a willing one; you must be prepared to hate her
cordially at first sight, and to prefer some one else—of course, some
amiable village damsel, of humble but respectable parentage,” replied
Sir Nigel, laughing.

“Hate _her_—prefer another!” I exclaimed; “on the contrary, I—I——”

I know not what I was about to say, or how far I might have betrayed
myself. The blood rushed to my temples, and I felt giddy and confused,
for the kind old baronet knew little of the hopeless passion with which
the fair one of whom he spoke had inspired me already.

“You have met the Lady Lousia before, you say?”

“Nay, ’twas she who said she had met me,” said I, glad to recall by this
trifling remark that I was not forgotten by her.

“Ah, indeed—indeed; where?”

“Oh, at Canterbury, at Tunbridge Wells, Bath; all those places where
people are to be met. In London, too, I saw her presented at Court.”

“The deuce! You and she seem to have gone in a leash,” said Sir Nigel,
laughing, while the colour deepened on my cheek again; “but you must
look sharp, for one of your fellows who is here is for ever dangling
after her.”

“One of _ours_?” I exclaimed, with astonishment.

“Yes; a solemn, dreary, dandified fellow, whom I met at Chillingham’s
shootings in the north, and invited to spend the last weeks of his leave
of absence here, as we were to have you with us; and he spared no pains
to impress upon me that he was a particular chum of yours.”

“Is he Captain Travers—Vaughan Travers? He is on leave.”

“No; he is Lieutenant De Warr Berkeley.”

“Berkeley!” I repeated, with some disgust, and with an emotion of such
inconceivable annoyance that I could scarcely conceal it; for decidedly
he was the last man of ours whom I should have liked to find
domesticated at Calderwood Glen.

Berkeley was well enough to meet with in men’s society, at mess, on
parade, on the turf, or in the hunting-field; but though handsome and
perfectly well-bred, for his manners were generally unexceptionable, he
was not a man for the drawing-room. He was master of a splendid fortune,
which was left him by his father, a plain old Scotchman, who had begun
life as a drayman, and whose patronymic was simply John Dewar Barclay.
He became a wealthy brewer, and somehow his son like all such
_parvenus_, despising his name, was gazetted to the lancers as De Warr
Berkeley, and as such his name figured in the “Army List.”

The carefully-acquired fortune of the plodding old brewer he spent
freely, and without being lavish, though as an Eton boy, and afterwards
as a gentleman commoner of Christchurch, he had plunged into dissipation
that made his name proverbial. He was one of those systematic _roués_
whom prudent mothers would carefully exclude from the society of their
daughters, nathless his commission, his cavalry uniform, his fortune,
his decidedly handsome person and bearing, which had all the “tone of
society”—whatever that may mean.

Hence I was rather provoked to find that the kind and well-meaning but
blundering old baronet had, as a favour to me, installed him at
Calderwood, as a friend for my pretty cousin Cora, and an admirer of
Lady Louisa. As I thought over all this, her name must have escaped me,
for my uncle roused me from a reverie by saying—

“Yes; she is a charming, a splendid girl, really! A little too stately,
perhaps; but I would rather have my little rosebud, Cora, with her
peculiar winning ways. Lady Louisa may be all head—as I believe she is;
but our Cora is all heart, Newton—all heart!”

“And Lady Louisa is all head, you think, uncle?”

“I could see that at a glance—yes, with half an eye; and yet there are
times when I wish Cora had been a boy——”

My uncle leaned on his stick, and sighed.

His eldest son had been killed in the 12th Lancers, at the battle of
Goojerat; the other had died prematurely at College—a double loss, which
had a most fatal effect on their delicate mother, then in the last stage
of a mortal disease. Now the affection of the lonely Sir Nigel was
centred in Cora, his only daughter, the child of his declining years;
and thus he had a great regard for me as the son of his youngest sister;
but he sorrowed in secret that his baronetcy—one of the oldest in
Scotland, having been created in 1625 by Charles I.—should pass out of
his family.

Sir Norman Calderwood of the Glen, who had attended the Scottish
princess, Elizabeth Stuart, to Bohemia, was the first patented among the
baronets of Nova Scotia; and was therefore styled _Primus Baronettorum
Scotiæ_, a prefix of which my uncle, as his ancestors had been, was not
a little vain.

“The estates are entailed,” said he, pursuing this line of thought;
“they were among the first that were so, when the Scottish parliament
passed the Entail Act in 1685; and though they go, as you know, to a
remote collateral branch, the baronetcy ends with myself. Cora shall be
well and handsomely left; for she shall have the Pitgavel property,
which, with its coal and iron mines, yields two thousand per annum
clear. And you, my boy, Newton, shall find that, tide what may, you are
not forgotten.”

“Uncle, you have already done so much for me——”

“Much, Newton?”

“Yes, my dear sir.”

“Stuff! fitted you out for the lancers—that is all.”

“You have done more than that, uncle——”

“I have lodged the purchase money for your troop with Messrs. Cox and
Co.; but most of this money must, under other circumstances, have been
spent on your cousins, had they lived. So, thank fate and the fortune
of war, not me, boy, not me. But there are times, especially when I am
alone, that it grieves me to think that instead of leaving an heir to
the old title, one boy lies in his grave in the old kirk yonder; and the
other, far, far away on the battle-field of Goojerat.”

He shook his white head, and his voice became tremulous, his chin sank
on his breast, and he added—

“My poor Nigel!—my bonnie Archie!”

The baronet was a handsome man, above six feet in height, and, though he
stooped a little now, had been erect as a pike. He possessed fine
aquiline features, a ruddy and healthy complexion; clear, and bright
dark grey eyes; a well-shaped, though not very small, mouth; and a
Scottish chin, of a curve that evinced perseverance and decision. His
hair was nearly white, but there was plenty of it; his hands, though
browned by exposure and seldom gloved—for the gun, the rod, the
riding-whip, and the curling stone were ever in them by turns—were well
shaped, and showed by their form and nails that he was a gentleman of
good blood and breeding. His plain costume I have described, and he was
without ornament, save a silver dog-whistle at his button-hole, and a
large gold signet-ring, which belonged to his grandfather, Sir Alexander
Calderwood, who commanded a frigate under Admiral Hawke, in the fleet
which, in 1748, fought and vanquished the Spanish galleons between
Tortuga and the Havannah.

A sturdy old Fifeshire laird, proud of a long line of warlike Scottish
ancestors, uncrossed by any taint of foreign blood, he was fond of
boasting that neither Dane nor Norman—the Englishman’s strange vaunt and
pride—could be found among them; but that he came of a race, which—as
our Highlanders forcibly phrase it—had sprung from the soil, and were
indigenous to it.

But, indeed, the alleged foreign descent of nearly the whole Scottish
aristocracy is a silly sham, existing in their own imagination, having
arisen from the ignorance of the monkish Latin writers, who in rolls and
histories prefixed the Norman _de_ or _le_, in many instances, to the
most common Celtic patronymics and surnames.

Sir Nigel had “paraded,” to use a barrack phrase, more than one man in
his youth, and enjoyed the reputation of being an unpleasantly good shot
with his pistol. He could remember sharing in the rage of the
high-flying Tory party among the Fife lairds, when Sir Alexander
Boswell, of Auchinleck, was shot by James Stuart, of Dunearn, in a
solemn duel, where personal and political rancour were combined, at
Balmuto, for which the victor had to fly to England, and from thence to
France.

“It seemed strange on reflection, Newton,” I have frequently heard Sir
Nigel, say, “that poor Boswell was the first to propose in Parliament
the repeal of our old Scottish statutes anent duelling, and that, after
all, he should fall by the pistol for a mere newspaper squib, in which
Sir Walter Scott was, perhaps, as much to blame as he.”

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