Sing on, thou sweet mavis, thy song to the ev’ning, Thou’rt dear to the echoes of Calderwood Glen; Sae dear to this bosom, sae heartless and winning, Is charming young Jessie, the flower o’ Dunblane. TANNAHILL.

“Here is the old house, and here we are at last, Newton,” said my uncle,
as an abrupt turn of the private path through the woodlands brought us
suddenly in front of the ancient mansion, in which, after the early
death of my father, I had spent my boyhood.

It stands in a well-wooded hollow, or glen, overlooked by the three
Lomonds of Fife—a county which, though not renowned for its picturesque
scenery, can show us many peaceful and beautiful landscapes.

Calderwood is simply an old manor-house, or fortalice, like some
thousand others in Scotland, having a species of keep, with adjacent
buildings, erected during quieter or more recent periods of Scottish
history than the first dwelling, which had suffered severely during the
wars between Mary of Guise and the Lords of the Congregation, when the
soldiers of Desse d’Epainvilliers blew up a portion of it by
gunpowder—an act terribly revenged by Sir John Calderwood of the Glen,
who had been chamberlain of Fife and captain of the castle of St.
Andrew’s for Cardinal Beaton. Overtaking a party of the Bandes
Françaises in Falkland Woods, he routed them with considerable
slaughter, and hung at least a dozen of them on the oak trees in the
park of the palace.

The latest additions had been made under the eye of Sir William Bruce of
Kinross, the architect of Holyrood—the Scottish Inigo Jones—about a
hundred and ninety years before the present period, and thus were
somewhat florid and Palladian in their style, their fluted pilasters and
Roman cornices and capitals contrasting singularly with the grim
severity and strongly-grated windows of the old tower, which was founded
on a mass of grey rock, round which a terraced garden lies.

Within this, the older portion, the rooms were strange and quaint in
aspect, with arched roofs, wainscoted walls, and yawning fireplaces,
damp, rusty, cold, and forlorn, where the atmosphere felt as if the dead
Calderwoods of other times visited them, and lingered there apart from
the fashionable friends of their descendants in the more modern mansion;
and within the tower Sir Nigel treasured many old relics of the palace
of Dunfermline, which, when its roof fell in, in 1708, was literally
plundered by the people.

Thus, in one room, he had the cradle of James VI., and the bed in which
his son, Charles I., had been born; in another, a cabinet of Anne of
Denmark, a chair of Robert III., and a sword of the Regent Albany.

The demesne (Scotice, “policy”) around this picturesque old house was
amply studded with glorious old timber, under which browsed herds of
deer, of a size, strength, and ferocity unknown in England. The stately
entrance-gate, bearing the palm-tree of the Calderwoods, a crusading
emblem, and the long avenue, of two Scottish miles, and the
half-castellated mansion which terminated its leafy vista, well befitted
the residence of one whose fathers had ridden forth to uphold Mary’s
banner at Langside, and that of James VIII. at the battle of Dunblane.

Here was the well where the huntsman and soldier, James V., had slaked
his thirst in the forest; and there was the oak under which his
father—who fell at Flodden—shot the monarch of the herd by a single bolt
from his crossbow.

In short, Calderwood, with all its memories, was a complete epitome of
the past.

The Eastern Lomond (so called, like its brothers, from Laomain, a Celtic
hero), now reddened by the setting sun, seemed beautiful with the green
verdure that at all seasons covers it to the summit, as we approached
the house.

Ascending to the richly-carved entrance-door, where one, whilom of oak
and iron, had given place to another of plate-glass, a footman,
powdered, precise, liveried, and aiguilletted, with the usual amplitude
of calf and acute facial angle of his remarkable fraternity, appeared;
but ere he could touch the handle it was flung open, and a handsome
young girl, with a blooming complexion, sparkling eyes, and a bright and
joyous smile, rushed down the steps to meet us.

“Welcome to Calderwood, Newton,” she exclaimed; “may our new year be a
happy one.”

“Many happy ones be yours, Cora,” said I, kissing her cheek. “Though I
am changed since we last met, your eyes have proved clearer than those
of uncle, for, really, he did not know me.”

“Oh, papa, was it so?” she asked, while her fine eyes swam with fun and
pleasure.

“A fact, my dear girl.”

“Ah! I could never be so dull, though you have those new dragoon
appendages,” said she, laughingly, as I drew her arm through mine, and
we passed into a long and stately corridor, furnished with cabinets,
busts, paintings, and suits of mail, towards the drawing-room; “and I am
not married yet, Newton,” she added, with another bright smile.

“But there must be some favoured man, eh, Cora?”

“No,” she said, with a tinge of hauteur over her playfulness, “none.”

“Time enough to think of marrying, Cora; why, you are only nineteen, and
I hope to dance at your wedding when I return from Turkey.”

“Turkey,” she repeated, while a cloud came over her pure and happy face;
“oh, don’t talk of that, Newton; I had forgotten it!”

“Yes; does it seem a long, or a doubtful time to look forward to?”

“It seems both, Newton.”

“Well, cousin, with those soft violet eyes of yours, and those black,
shining braids (the tempting mistletoe is just over your head), and with
loves of bonnets, well-fitting gloves and kid boots, dresses ever new
and of every hue, you cannot fail to conquer, whenever you please.”

She gave me a full, keen glance, that seemed expressive of annoyance,
and said, with a little sigh—

“You don’t understand me, Newton. We have been so long separated that I
think you have forgotten all the peculiarities of my character now.”

“What the deuce can she mean?” thought I.

My cousin Cora was in her fullest bloom. She was pretty, remarkably
pretty, rather than beautiful; and by some women she was quite eclipsed,
even when her cheek flushed and her eyes, a deep violet grey, were most
lighted up.

She was fully of the middle height, and finely rounded, with exquisite
shoulders, arms, and hands. Her features were small, and perhaps not
quite regular. Her eyes were alternately timid, inquiring, and full of
animation; but, in fact, their expression was ever varying. Her hair
was black, thick, and wavy; and while I looked upon her, and thought of
her present charms and of past times—and more than all of my uncle’s
fatherly regard for me—I felt that, though very fond of her, but for
another I might have loved her more dearly and tenderly. And now, as if
to interrupt, or rather to confirm the tenor of such thoughts as these,
she said, as a lady suddenly approached the door of the drawing-room,
which we were about to enter—

“Here is one, a friend, to whom I must introduce you.”

“No introduction is necessary,” said the other, presenting her hand. “I
have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Norcliff before.”

“Lady Louisa!” I exclaimed, in a breathless voice, and a heart that
trembled with sudden emotion, as I touched her hand.

“I am so glad you have come before we leave. I shall have so much to
ask you about our mutual friends—who are engaged, and who have
quarrelled; who have come home, and who gone abroad. We have been no
less than four months in Scotland. Meantime,” she added, glancing at
her tiny watch, “we must dress for dinner. Come, Cora; we have barely
half an hour, and old General Rammerscales is so impatient—he studies
’military time,’ and with a ’military appetite.’”

And with a bow and smile of great brightness and sweetness she passed
on, taking with her Cora, who playfully kissed her hand to me as they
glided up the great staircase into which the long corridor opened.

Lady Louisa was taller and larger in person than Cora. Her features were
singularly beautiful, and clearly cut; her forehead was low; and her
nose had the gentlest approach to the aquiline. She was without colour,
her complexion being pale, perhaps creamy; while in strange contrast to
this aristocratic pallor of delicacy, her thick, wavy hair, her long
double eyelashes, and her ever-sparkling eyes, were black as those of a
Spanish gitano or a Welsh gipsy.

To this pale loveliness was added a bearing alternately haughty and
playful, but at all times completely self-possessed; an exquisite taste
in dress and jewellery; a very alluring voice; a power of investing even
trifles with interest, and of conversing fluently and gracefully on any
subject—whether she was mistress of it or not mattered little to Lady
Louisa.

She was about my own age, perhaps a few months younger; but in
experience of the fashionable world, and in knowledge of the manners and
ideas of the upper ten thousand, she was a hundred years my senior.

Suffice it to say that I had lost my heart to her—that I thought she
knew it well, but feared or disdained to acknowledge a triumph so small
as the conquest of a lieutenant of lancers among the many others she had
won. So thought I, in the angry humility and jealous bitterness of my
heart.

For a minute I felt as one in a dream. I was sensible that my uncle had
said something about changing his costume, and, suggesting some change
in mine, had apologised, and left me to linger in the corridor, or in
the drawing-room, as I chose; but now a personage, who had been lounging
on a _fauteuil_ in the latter, intent on a volume of _Punch_, and the
soles of whose glazed boots had been towards me, suddenly rose and
approached, in full evening costume.

He proved to be no other than Berkeley of ours, who had been in the room
alone, or, at least, alone with Lady Louisa Loftus. He came slowly
forward, with his sauntering air, as if the exertion of walking was a
bore, and with his eyeglass retained in its place by a muscular
contraction of the right eyebrow. His whole air had the “used-up”
bearing of those miserable Dundrearys who affect to act as if youth,
wealth, and luxury were the greatest calamities that flesh is heir to,
and that life itself was a bore.

“Ah, Norcliff—haw—glad to see you here, old fellow. Haw—heard you were
coming. How goes it with you, and how are all at Maidstone?”

“Preparing for foreign service,” said I, curtly, as the tip of his
gloved hand touched mine.

“Horrid bore! Too late to send in one’s papers now, or, by Jove, I’d
hook the service. Don’t think I was ever meant for it.”

“Ere long many more will be of your way of thinking,” said I, coolly.

Berkeley had a cold and cunning eye, which never smiled, whatever his
mouth might do. His face was, nevertheless, decidedly handsome, and a
thick, dark moustache concealed a form of lip which, if seen, would have
indicated a thorough sensualist. His head was well shaped; but the
accurate division of his well-oiled head over the centre of the caput
gave him an air of intense insipidity. Mr. De Warr Berkeley never was a
favourite of mine, though we had both joined the lancers on the same
day, and it was with very ill-concealed annoyance I found myself
compelled, with some apparent cordiality, to greet him as a brother
officer and an inmate of my uncle’s mansion.

“And—haw—what news from the regiment?” he resumed.

“I really have no news, Berkeley,” said I.

“Indeed. You have got a month’s leave?”

“Between returns, yes.”

“Is the route come?”

“A strange question, when you and I are here.”

“Haw—yes, of course—how devilish good.”

“It has _not_,” said I, coldly; “but we are under orders for foreign
service, and may look to have our leaves cancelled by a telegram any day
or hour.”

“The devil—really!”

“Fact, though, however unpleasant it may be. So my uncle, Sir Nigel,
met you at—where was it?”

“Chillingham’s shooting-box, in the Highlands.”

“I was not aware that you knew the earl.”

“Losing my gillies—I think you call them in Scotland—one evening in the
dark, I lost my way, and luckily stumbled on his lordship’s shooting
quarters, in a wild and savage place, with one of your infernally
unpronounceable Scotch names.”

“Oh, you think changes more euphonious at times; but I suppose your
father, honest man, could have pronounced it with ease,” said I,
quietly, for Berkeley’s, or Barclay’s affectation of being an Englishman
was to me always a source of amusement. “You have to learn Russ yet,
and it will prove, doubtless, more unpalatable than the tongue your
father spoke. In the north, did you appear _en montagnad_?”

“Hey—haw, the devil! no; as the Irish Gil Blas says, ’Every one’s legs
can’t afford publicity,’ and mine are among the number. Leather
breeches, when I don the pink, must be all the length. I don’t care
about going, though Lady Louisa pressed me hard to join the Mac Quaig,
the Laird of Mac Gooligan, and other natives in tartan at a gathering.
I had a letter from Wilford yesterday. He writes of a famous match
between Jack Studhome and Craven, on which the whole mess had a heavy
book, that great stakes were pending, and that Craven won, scoring
forty-two running off the red ball; and considering that the pockets of
the table were not bigger than an egg-cup, I think Craven a trump.”

“I heard something of this match at morning parade on the day I left;
but being a bad stroke, you know, I seldom play billiards.”

“Why was Howard’s bay mare scratched at the last regimental race?”

“Don’t know,” said I, so dryly that he bit his nether lip.

“Some nice people visiting here,” said he, staring at me steadily, so
that his eyeglass glared in the light of the lustre, which was now lit;
“and some very odd ones too. Lady Loftus is here, you see, in all her
glory, and with her usual come-kiss-me-if-you-dare kind of look.”

“Berkeley, how can you speak thus of one in her position?”

“Well, you-don’t-dare-to-do-so-again sort of expression.”

“She is my uncle’s guest; not a girl in a cigar-shop or a casino!” said
I, with growing _hauteur_.

“Sir Nigel’s guest—haw—so am I, and I mean to make the best use of my
time as such. Nice girl, Miss Wilford, from York—cousin of Wilford of
ours—a doocid good style of girl; but have no intentions in that
quarter—can’t afford to chuck myself away, as I once heard my groom
observe.”

“You must learn to quote another style of people to make yourself
understood here. You don’t mean to infer that you have any intentions
concerning Lady Louisa!” said I, with an air which was really
impertinent.

“Why not?” he asked, failing completely to see it. “I have often such
attacks, or affections of the heart, as she has given me.”

“How?”

“Just as I had the measles or the chicken-pox in childhood—a little
increase of the pulse, a little restlessness at night, and then one gets
over it.”

“Take care how you address her in this bantering fashion,” said I,
turning sharply away; “excuse me, but now I must dress for dinner.”

And preceded by old Mr. Binns, the white-headed old butler, who many a
time in days of yore had carried me on his back, and who now welcomed me
home with a hearty shake of the hand, in which there was nothing
derogatory to me, though Berkeley’s eyes opened very wide when he saw
our greeting, I was conducted to my old room in the north wing, where a
cheerful fire was blazing, with two lights on each side of the
toilette-table (the manor-house was amply lit with gas from the
village), and there was Willie Pitblado arranging all my traps and
clothes. But dismissing him to visit his family (to his no small joy),
I was left to my own reflections and proceeded to dress. A subtle and
subdued tone of insolence and jealousy that pervaded the few remarks
made by Berkeley irritated and chafed me; yet he had said nothing with
which I could grapple, or with which I could openly find fault. I was
conscious, too, that my own bearing had been the reverse of courteous
and friendly, and that, if I showed my hand thus, I might as well give
up the cards. Suspicion of his native character, and a foreknowledge of
the man, had doubtless much to do with all this; and while making my
toilet with more than my usual care—conscious that Lady Louisa was
making hers in the next room—I resolved to keep a lynx-like eye upon Mr.
De Warr Berkeley during our short sojourn at Calderwood Glen. My
irritation was no way soothed, or my pique lessened, by the information
that for some time past, and quite unknown to me, he had been residing
here with Lady Louisa, enjoying all the facilities afforded by hourly
propinquity and the seclusion of a country house.

Had he already declared himself? Had he already proposed? The deuce! I
thrust aside the thought, and angrily gave my hair a finishing rasp with
a pair of huge ivory-handled hair-brushes.