It passed—and never marble looked more pale Than Lucy, while she listened to his tale. He marked her not; his eye was cold and clear, Fixed on a bed of withering roses there; He marked her not, for different thoughts possessed His anxious mind, and laboured in his breast. ELLIS.

Notwithstanding all that had passed, and that we had been carried so far
in the wrong direction, we were not long behind the rest of our party in
reaching Calderwood, where the history of our disaster fully eclipsed
for the evening all the exciting details of the fox-hunters, though many
gentlemen in scarlet, with spattered tops and tights, whom Sir Nigel had
brought, made the drawing-room look unusually gay.

Lady Louisa remained long in her own apartment; the time seemed an age
to me; yet I was happy—supremely happy. I had a vague idea of the new
emotions that served, perhaps, to detain her there; but an air of cold
reserve and unmistakable displeasure hovered on the forehead of her
haughty mother.

When Louisa joined us, she had perfectly recovered her usual equanimity
and presence of mind—her calm, pale, and placid aspect. She was
somewhat silent and reserved; this passed for her natural terror of the
late accident, and though we remained some distance apart, her fine dark
eyes sought mine, ever and anon, and were full of intelligent glances,
that made my heart leap with joy.

Cora, who shrewdly suspected that there had been more in the affair than
what Berkeley called “a doocid spill,” regarded us with interest, and
with a tearful earnestness that surprised us, after our return, and
during the explanation which we were pleased to make. But whatever
tales my face told, Louisa’s was unfathomable, so from its expression
suspicious little Cora could gather nothing; though, had she carried her
scrutiny a little further, she might have detected my famous Rangoon
diamond sparkling on the engaged finger of her friend’s left hand.

Cora was on this night, to me, an enigma!

What had gone wrong with her? When she smiled, it seemed to several—to
me especially—that the kind little heart from whence these smiles were
wrung was sick. Why was this, and what or who was the source of her
taciturnity and secret sorrow?—not Berkeley, surely—they had come home
in the drag together—she could never love such an ass as Berkeley; and
if the fellow dared to trifle with her—but I thrust the thought aside,
and resolved to trust the affair to her friend and gossip, the Lady
Loftus.

A few more days glided swiftly and joyously past at Calderwood Glen; we
had no more riding and driving; but, as the weather was singularly open
and balmy for the season, we actually had more than one picnic in the
leafless woods, and I betook me to the study of botany and arboriculture
with the ladies.

I enjoyed all the delicious charm of a successful first love! The last
thought on going to repose; the first on waking in the morning; and the
source of many a soft and happy dream between.

The peculiarity, or partial disparity, of our positions in life caused
secrecy. Denied, by the presence of others, the pleasure of openly
conversing of our love, at times we had recourse to furtive glances, or
a secret and thrilling pressure of the hand or arm was all we could
achieve.

Then there were sighs the deeper for suppression,
And stolen glances sweeter for the theft;
And burning blushes, though for no transgression,
Tremblings when met, and restlessness when left.

Small and trivial though these may seem, they proved the sum of our
existence, and even of mighty interest, lighting up the eye and causing
the pulses of the heart to quicken.

We became full of petty and lover-like stratagems, and of enigmatical
phrases, all the result of the difficulties that surrounded our
intercourse when others were present—especially Lady Chillingham, who
was by nature cold, haughty, and suspicious, with, I think, a natural
born antipathy to subalterns of cavalry in particular. Cora saw through
our little artifices, and Berkeley, that Anglo-Scotch snob of the
nineteenth century, had ever his eyes remarkably wide open to all that
was going on around him, and thus the perils of discovery and instant
separation were great, while our happy love was in the flush.

This danger gave us a common sympathy, a united object, a delicious
union of thought and impulse. Nor was romance wanting to add zest to
the secrecy of our passion. Ah, were I to live a thousand years, never
should I forget the days of happiness I spent in Calderwood Glen with
Louisa Loftus.

Our interviews had all the mystery of a conspiracy, though, save Cora,
none as yet suspected our love; and there was a part of the garden,
between two old yew hedges—so old that they had seen the Calderwoods of
past ages cooing and billing, in powdered wigs and coats of mail, with
dames in Scottish farthingales and red-heeled shoes—where, at certain
hours, by a tacit understanding, we were sure of meeting; but with all
the appearance of chance, though occasionally for a time so brief, that
we could but exchange a pressure of the hand, or snatch a caress,
perhaps a kiss, and then separate in opposite directions.

Those were blessed and joyous interviews; memories to treasure and brood
over with delight when alone. In the society of our friends, my heart
throbbed wildly, when by a glance, a smile, a stolen touch of the hand,
Louisa reminded me of what none else could perceive, the secret
understanding that existed between us.

And yet all this happiness was clouded by a sense of its brevity, and by
our fears for the future; the obstacles that rank and great fortune on
her side, the lack of both on mine, raised between us; and then there
was the certain prospect of a long and dangerous—alas! it might prove, a
final separation.

“They who love,” writes an anonymous author, “must ever drink deeply of
the cup of trembling; but, at times, there will arise in their hearts a
nameless terror, a sickening anxiety for the future, whose brightness
all depends upon this one cherished treasure, which often proves a
foreboding of some real anguish looming in the distant hours.”

“Where is all this to end?” I asked of myself, as the conviction that
something must be done forced itself upon me, for the happy days were
passing, and my short leave of absence was drawing to a close.

One day, by the absence of some of our friends, and by the occupation of
others, we found ourselves alone, and permitted to have a longer
interview than usual, in our yew-hedge walk, and we were conversing of
the future.

“I have two hundred a year besides my pay, Louisa.” (She smiled sadly
at this, and the smile went doubly to my heart.) “The money has been
lodged for my troop with Cox and Co., and my good uncle means well
concerning me; yet, I feel all these as being so small, that were I to
address the Earl of Chillingham on the subject of our engagement, it
would seem that I had little to offer, and little to urge, save that
which is, perhaps, valueless in his aristocratic eyes——”

“And that is?”

“My love for you.”

“Don’t think of addressing him,” said she, weeping on my shoulder; “he
has already views for me in another quarter.”

“Views, Louisa!”

“Yes; pardon me for paining you, dearest, by saying so; but it is
nevertheless true.”

“And these views?” I asked, impetuously.

“Are an offer made for my hand by Lord Slubber de Gullion.”

My heart died within me on hearing this name, which, as I once before
stated, comes as near the original as possible.

“Hence you see, dearest Newton,” she resumed, in a mournful and
sweetly-modulated voice, “were you to address my father, it would only
rouse mamma, and have the effect of interrupting our correspondence for
ever.”

“Good heavens! what then are we to do?’

“Wait in hope.”

“How long?”

“Alas! I know not; but for the present at least our engagement, like
our meetings and our letters, if we can correspond, must be
secret—secret all. Were the earl, my father, to know that I loved you,
Newton (how sweetly those words sounded), he and mamma would urge on
Lord Slubber’s suit, and, on finding that I refused, there would be no
bounds to mamma’s wrath. You remember Cora’s story of the ’Clenched
Hand;’ you remember the ’Bride of Lammermoor,’ and must see what a
determined mother and long domestic tyranny may do.”

I clasped my hands, for my heart was wrung; but she regarded me kindly
and lovingly.

“On your return home, as colonel of your regiment, perhaps, we shall
then, at all hazards, bring the matter before him, and treat Slubber’s
offer with contempt, as the senile folly of an old man in his dotage.
You, at least, shall propose for me in form——”

“And if Lord Chillingham refuse?”

“Though we English people can’t make Scotch marriages now, I shall be
yours, dearest Newton, as I am now, only that it shall be irrevocably
and for ever.”

A close and mute embrace followed, and then I left her in a paroxysm of
grief, while my head whirled with the combined effects of love and joy,
and of sorrow, not unmixed with anger.

“I wonder what the subjects are that lovers talk of in their
tête-à-têtes,” says my brother of the pen and sword, W. H. Maxwell, and
the same surmise frequently occurred to myself, before I met or knew
Louisa Loftus.

We never lacked a subject now. The peculiarities of our relative
positions, our caution for the present, and our natural anxieties for
the future, afforded us full topics for conversation or surmise; but the
few remaining days of my leave “between returns” glided away at
Calderwood Glen; the time for my departure drew nigh; already had
Pitblado divided a sixpence with my lady’s soubrette, and packed up all
my superfluous traps, and within six and thirty hours Berkeley and I
would have to report ourselves in uniform at head-quarters, or be
returned absent without leave.

It was in the evening, when I had gone as usual to meet Louisa at the
seat where the close-clipped yew hedges formed a pleasant screen, that,
to my surprise, and by the merest chance, I found it occupied by my
cousin Cora.

The January sunset was beautiful; the purple flush of evening covered
all the western sky, and bathed in warm tints the slopes of the Lomond
hills. The air was still, and we heard only the cawing of the venerable
rooks that perched among the woods of the old manor, or swung to and fro
on its many gilt vanes.

Cora was somewhat silent, and I, being thoroughly disappointed by
finding her there in lieu of Louisa Loftus, was somewhat taciturn, if
not almost sulky.

Somehow—but how, I know not—Cora led me to talk insensibly of our early
days, and as we did so, I could perceive that she regarded me earnestly
from time to time, after I simply remarked that ere long I should be
far, far away from her, and among other scenes. Her dovelike, dark eye
became suffused, and the tinge on her rounded cheek died away when I
laughingly referred to the days when we had been little lovers, and when
Fred Wilford and I—he was now a captain of ours—used to punch each
other’s heads in pure spite and jealousy about her; but this youthful
jealousy once took a more dangerous turn.

Among the rocks in the glen an adder of vast size took up its residence,
and had bitten several persons. It had been seen by some to leap more
than seven yards high, and was a source of such terror to the whole
parish, that my uncle, and even the provost of Dunfermline, had offered
rewards for its destruction.

On this I boldly dared my boy-rival to face it; but Fred Wilford, who
was on a visit to us from Rugby, had more prudence, or less love for
little Cora, and so declined the attempt.

Flushed with boyish pride and recklessness, I climbed the steep face of
the rock, stirred up the adder with a long stick, flung it to the
ground, and killed it by repeated blows of an axe, a feat of which my
uncle never grew tired of telling, and the reptile was now in the
library, sealed up in a glass case, being deemed a family trophy, and,
as Binns said, always kept in the best of spirits.

I sat with Cora’s white and slender hand in mine, gazing at her soft and
piquant features, her pouting lips and dimpled chin, and the dark hair
so smoothly braided under her little hat, and over each pretty and
delicate ear. Cora was very gentle and very charming; she had ever been
to me a kind little playmate, a loving sister, and she sighed deeply
when I spoke of my approaching departure.

“You go by sea?” she asked.

“If we go to Turkey—of course.”

“Embarking at Southampton?”

“Embarking at Southampton—exactly, and sailing directly for the East, I
suppose,” said I, while leisurely lighting a cigar; “I shall soon learn
all the details and probabilities at head-quarters; but the route may
not come for two months yet, as red-tape goes.”

“You will think of us sometimes, Newton, in those strange and dangerous
lands? Of your poor uncle, who loves you so well, and—and of me?”

“Of course, and of Louisa Loftus. Don’t you think her very handsome?”

“I think her lovely.”

“My cigar annoys you?”

“Not at all, Newton.”

“But it makes you turn your face away.”

“You met often, I believe, before you came here?”

“Oh, very often. I used to see her at the cathedral every Sunday in
Canterbury; at the balls at Rochester and Maidstone——”

“And in London?”

“Repeatedly! I saw her at her first presentation at Court, when the
colonel presented me, on obtaining my lieutenancy, and returning from
foreign service. She created quite a sensation!”

I spoke in such glowing terms of my admiration for Louisa Loftus, that
some time elapsed before I detected the extreme pallor of Cora’s cheek,
and a peculiar quivering of her under lip.

“Good heavens, my dear girl, you are ill! It is this confounded
cigar—one of a box that Willie got me in Dunfermline,” I exclaimed,
throwing it away. “Your hand is trembling, too.”

“Is it? Oh, no! Stay! I am only a little faint,” she murmured.

“Faint! Why the deuce should you be faint, Cora?”

“This bower of yew hedges is close; the atmosphere is still, or chill,
or something,” she said, in a low voice, while pressing a lovely little
hand on her bosom; “and it seems to me that I felt a pang here.”

“A pang, Cora?”

“Yes, I feel it sometimes.”

“You, one of the best waltzers in the county! You have no affection of
the heart, or any of that sort of thing?”

She smiled sadly, even bitterly, and rose, saying—

“Here comes Lady Louisa. Say nothing of this.”

Her dark eyes were swimming; but not a tear fell from their long, black,
silky lashes, that lent such softness to her sweet and feminine face.
She abruptly withdrew her tremulous hands from mine, and just as Louisa
approached, hurriedly left me.

What did all this emotion mean? What did it display or conceal? I was
thoroughly bewildered.

A sudden light began to break upon me.

“What is this?” thought I. “Can Cora be in love with me herself? Oh,
nonsense! she has known me from boyhood. The idea is absurd! Yet her
manner——. This will never do. I must avoid her, and to-morrow I leave
for England!”

Louisa sat beside me, and, save her, Cora and all the world were alike
forgotten.

Continue Reading

The rocky guardians of the clime Frown on me, as they menaced death; While echoing still in measured time The gallop of my courser’s hoof, They hoarsely bid me stand aloof. Where goest thou, madman? Where no shade Of tree or tent shall screen thy head. Still on—still on; I turn my eyes— The cliffs no longer mock the skies: The peaks shrink back, and hide their brow, Each other’s lofty peaks below. FROM THE POETRY OF MICKIEWICZ.

As if inspired by fortune, or my good genius, Lady Louisa began thus, in
a low voice—

“By the way, Mr. Norcliff, you were to have shown me the house in which
Alexander Selkirk—or Robinson Crusoe—was born in 1676, I think you
said?”

“Oh; it is only a cottage, consisting of one storey and a garret; but
the next time we come to Largo, I shall show you his flip-can, musket,
and a lock of his hair.”

“Ah, that reminds me, Mr. Norcliff, that you must return to me the lock
of hair which you obtained when inspired with romance by Miss
Calderwood’s legend last night.”

“Lady Louisa, I implore your permission to retain it,” said I, in a low
voice.

“To what end, or for what reason?” she asked, with a furtive smile.

“I am going far, far away, and it will serve as a memento of many happy
days, and of one whom I shall never cease to remember, but with——”

“Why, you don’t mean to say that—that you are serious?” she asked, in a
voice that betrayed emotion, while my heart rose to my trembling lips,
and I turned to gaze upon her with an unmistakable expression of love
and tenderness, which made her colour come and go visibly.

Reassuring herself, she began to smile.

“Perhaps your creed is a soldier’s one?” said she, with a little
convulsive laugh, as she tied her veil under her chin.

“A soldier’s! I hope so; but in what sense do you mean?”

“’To love all that is lovely, and all that you can,’ as the song has
it.”

I laid a hand lightly on her soft arm, and was about to say something
there could be no misconstruing, while a film seemed to pass over my
eyes, and my soul rose to my lips; but Pitblado, who, whether he was
listening or not, had a sharp eye on the cattle, now said—

“Beg your pardon, sir, but I don’t like the look of that leader.”

“The blood mare with the white star on her forehead,” said I, touching
her lightly on the flank with the whip, and making her curvet; “she is
usually very quiet.”

“Perhaps so, sir; but she’s always clapping her ears close down—throwing
her eyes backward, and showing the whites. She’s up to mischief, I’m
certain.”

“Jump down, then,” said I, “shorten the curb, and lengthen the traces by
a hole or two.”

This was done in a trice; Willie sprang into his seat like a harlequin,
and away we went from the Kirktoun of Largo at a rasping pace.

“She’s a lovely animal, with pasterns like a girl’s ankles; but she’s
clapping her tail a little too close in for my taste, sir, and she’s up
to some devilry,” persisted Pitblado, and ere long his surmises proved
correct.

“We’ve left the drag behind; distanced it clean already,” said I.

“It’s a heavier drag than the regimental one at head-quarters, sir,”
said Willie, taking the hint to look back now; but the sound of hoofs or
wheels could no longer be detected in the still evening air behind.

Full of blood and ill-natured, over-corned, and anxious to get back to
their stables, the speed of the animals increased to a pace that soon
became alarming, and the light vehicle to which they were harnessed, as
I have said, a tandem, swept along like a toy at their heels, while we
flew eastward by Halhill; and, ere we reached the woods of Balcarris,
where the road turns due north, and round by the base of Dunnikier Law,
it was evident that they were fairly and undoubtedly off!

The leader had got the bit between her teeth, and, when descending a
hill-side, the splinter-bar goaded the wheeler to madness. All my
strength, together with Pitblado’s, failed to arrest their mad career,
and, while imploring Lady Louisa, who clung to me, “to hold fast, to sit
still,” and so forth, I bent all my energies rather to guide them along,
and avoid collisions, than to attempt to stop them; and, to add to our
troubles, the patent drag gave way.

Luckily, the road was smooth, and free from all obstruction.

“To the left, sir—to the left,” shouted Pitblado, as we came to a place
where two roads branched off; “that is Drumhead. Our way lies due west.”

Pitblado might as well have shouted to the wind; the infuriated brutes
took their own way, and tore at an awful pace due north. Horses
pasturing by the wayside trotted to the rear, and sheep browsing in the
fields fled at our approach; cattle kicked up their heels, and scampered
away in herds. House-dogs barked, terriers yelled, and pursued us
open-mouthed; children, ducks, cocks, and hens fled from the village
gutters; peasants, at their cottage doors, held up their hands, with
shouts of fear, while broad fields and lines of leafless trees, turf
dykes, and hedges, drains, and thatched dwellings seemed all to fly past
with railway speed, or to be revolving in a circle round us.

A shriek of commiseration burst from my affrighted companion, when, just
as we swept past the base of Drumcarra Craig, in the cold, bleak, and
elevated district of Cameron, poor Willie Pitblado, who had risen to
give me the assistance of his hands in bearing on the reins, or for the
last time to try and let down the faulty drag, fell out behind, and
vanished in a moment. And now before us spread Magus Muir, where the
graves of Archbishop Sharpe’s murderers lie in a field that has never
been ploughed even unto this day.

Twilight had come on, and a brilliant aurora, forming great pillars of
variegated light, that shot upward and downward from the horizon to the
dome of heaven, filled all the northern quarter of the sky with singular
but many masses of streamers. Thus, the brilliance of the atmosphere
cast forward in strong and black outline the range of hills that bound
the Howe of Fife, and terminate the valley through which the Ceres flows
to join the Eden; and all this, I think, conduced to add to the terror
of the horses.

Pitblado’s fate greatly alarmed and concerned me, for he was a brave,
handsome, and faithful fellow, and an old acquaintance; but I had
another—a nearer, dearer—and more intense source of anxiety. If she who
sat beside me, clinging to me, and embracing my left arm with all her
energy—she whom I loved so deeply, and whom I had lured into the tandem,
when she might have been safely in the drag or carriage, should lose her
life that night, of what value would my future existence be, embittered
with such a terrible reflection?

“If a linchpin comes loose, or a trace gives way,” thought I, “all will
be over with us both.”

“Oh, Mr. Norcliff, Mr. Norcliff!” she exclaimed, while the tears, which
she had no means of wiping away, streamed over her pale and beautiful
face, and while her head half-reclined on my shoulder. “Heaven help us,
this is terrible—most terrible! We shall certainly be killed!”

“Then I hope it shall be _together_,” I exclaimed. “Lady Loftus—dear
Lady Loftus—dearest Louisa (here was a jump) trust to me, and me only!
(what stuff men will talk; who else could she trust to?) and if it is in
the power of humanity to save you, you shall be saved, or I shall die
with you. Louisa, oh, Louisa, hear me. I would not—I could not survive
you; but—but sit still, sit close, grasp me and hold on for Heaven’s
sake. (D—n that leader!) Oh, Louisa, I love you, love you dearly and
devotedly. You must believe me when I say it at a time like this; when
death, perhaps, is staring us face to face. Speak to me, dearest!”

I felt that the day, the hour, the moment of destiny had come; that time
of joy or sorrow forever, and casting all upon it, committing the reins
to my right hand, I threw my left arm round her, and pressing her to my
breast, told her again and again how fondly I loved her, while still our
mad steeds tore on.

“I know that you love me, Mr. Norcliff,” she said, in a low and agitated
voice, as her constitutional self-possession returned. “I have long
seen it—felt it.”

“My adorable Louisa!”

“And I will not—will not——”

She paused, painfully.

“What? Oh, speak.”

“Deny that I love you in return.”

“Heaven bless you, my darling, for saying so; for lifting a load of
anxiety from my heart, and for making me so happy,” I whispered, making
an effectual effort to kiss her forehead.

“But then, Mr. Norcliff——”

“Alas! yes; but what?”

“There is mamma; you know, perhaps, her views concerning me—ambitious
views; but we must take another time, if Heaven spares, to talk of that
matter.”

“What time so good as this?” I exclaimed impetuously, as we tore along,
and Magus Muir, the Bishop’s Wood, and Gullane’s gravestone were left
behind. “Poor me, a lieutenant of the lancers; and the earl, your
father.”

“Oh, dear papa—good, easy man—I don’t think he troubles his head much in
the affair; but if mamma knew all this, such a violation of her standing
orders, heaven help us!”

She could almost have laughed but for the peril on which we were
rushing, and a shrill little cry escaped her, as the leader suddenly
quitted the hard highway, and, followed by the wheeler, passed throughan
open field gate, and continued at the same frightful speed across a
large space of pasture land that sloped steeply down to where my
forebodings told me the Eden lay, and there, sure enough, in less than a
minute, we could see the river rolling among the copsewood, with its
waters swollen by the snows that had recently melted among the Lomond
hills.

Though a placid stream usually, and having a pretty level course, in
that quarter the banks were rugged, and the bed full of fallen larches
and large boulder stones. If the vehicle overturned, what might be the
fate of her who had just acknowledged that she loved me?

A prayer—almost a solemn invocation—rose to my lips, when, with the
rapidity of light, the thought occurred to me of heading the leader
towards a little stone bridge that spanned the stream. It was a mere
narrow footway for shepherds, sheep, and cattle, and not of sufficient
breadth to permit the passage of a four-wheeled gig; but I knew that if
the latter could be successfully jammed between the walls, the course of
the runaways would be arrested.

There was no alternative between attempting this and risking death from
drowning or mutilation in the rugged bed of the swollen stream.

Down the steep grassy slope our foam-covered cattle rushed straight for
the narrow bridge; I grasped the rail of the seat with one hand and arm;
the other was round Louisa, lest the coming shock might throw us off.
In an instant we felt it, and she clung to me, half-fainting, as there
was a terrible crash, a ripping and splitting sound, as wood was smashed
and harness rent. Our course was arrested—the wheels and axle of the
fore-carriage wedged between the stone walls of the narrow bridge, the
wheeler kicking furiously at the splinter-bar and splash-board, and the
leader, the blood mare, the source of all the mischief, hanging over the
parapet in the stream, snorting, half-swimming, and for ought I cared,
wholly hanging.

My first thought was my companion. We both trembled in every limb as I
lifted her gently to the ground, and placed the seat-cushions on a
stone, where she might sit and compose herself till I considered what we
should do next, and where we were.

She was greatly agitated, but passively permitted me to encircle her
with my arms, to assure her that she was safe, to press her hands, and
to wipe away her tears caressingly. I forgot all about poor Pitblado,
“spilt” on the road, all about my uncle’s best blood mare hanging in the
traces, and all about the half-ruined gig.

In short, I felt only the most exquisite joy that I had gained, as it
were, life and Louisa together. It was that moment of intense rapture,
when, combined with the natural revulsion of feeling consequent to
escape from a deadly peril, I enjoyed that emotion which a man feels
once, and once only, in a lifetime, when the first woman he loves
confesses to a mutual regard; and, half-kneeling, I stooped over her,
kissing her again and again, assuring her—of I know not what.

From one of her fingers I transferred to mine a ring of small value—a
pearl set in blue enamel, leaving in its place a rose diamond. It was a
beautiful stone, of the purest water, which I had found when our troops
sacked the great pagoda at Rangoon, and I had it set at Calcutta by a
jeweller, who assured me that it was worth nine hundred rupees, or
ninety pounds, and I only regretted now that it was not worth ten times
as much, to be truly worthy of the slender finger on which I placed it.

She regarded me with a loving smile on her pale face, and in the quiet
depths of her soft dark eyes, as she reclined in my arms. I gazed on
her with emotions of the purest rapture. She was now humbled, gentle and
loving—this brilliant beauty, this proud earl’s daughter—mine,
indeed—all that a man could dream of as perfection in a woman or as a
wife; at least, I thought so then; and I was not a little proud of the
idea of what our mess would say—the colonel, Studhome, Scriven, Wilford,
Berkeley, and the rest—of a marriage that would certainly be creditable
to the regiment, though we had titles and honourables enough in the
lancers; and already, in fancy, I saw myself “tooling” into Maidstone
barrack-square in a dashing phaeton, with a pair of cream-coloured
ponies, with Norcliff and Loftus quartered on the panels, and silver
harness, and Louisa by my side, in one of the most perfect of morning
toilettes and of marriage bonnets that London millinery could produce.

Poor devil! with only two hundred per annum besides my pay, and the war
before me, I was thus acquiring castles in Airshire, and estates in the
Isle of Sky.

Oblivious of time, while the woods and hills of Dairsie were darkening
against the sky, while the murmuring Eden flowed past towards the Tay,
and the ever-changing spears and streamers of the northern aurora were
growing brighter and more bright, I remained by the side of Louisa,
wholly entranced, and only half-conscious that something should be done
to enable us to return home; for night was coming on—the early night of
the last days of January, when the sober sun must set at half-past
four—and I knew not how far we were from Calderwood Glen.

Suddenly a shout startled us; the hoofs of horses were heard coming
rapidly along the highway, and then three mounted men wheeled into the
field and rode straight towards us. To my great satisfaction, one
proved to be my faithful fellow, Willie Pitblado, who, not a wit the
worse for his capsize on the road, had procured horses and assistance at
the place called Drumhead, and tracked us to where we lay, wrecked by
the old bridge of the Eden.

“Poor Willie,” said Louisa, “I thought you were killed.”

“No, my lady,” said he, touching his hat; “it’s lang or the de’il dees
by the dykeside.”

Of this answer she could make nothing.

The gig was now released and run back, and though scratched, splintered,
and started in many places by the shock to which it had been subjected,
it was still quite serviceable. The wheeler was traced to it again, the
leader, her ardour completely cooled now, was fished out of the stream,
and harnessed again, and in less than half an hour, so able had been the
assistance rendered us, we were bowling along the highway towards my
uncle’s house.

An hour’s rapid driving soon brought us in sight of the long avenue, the
lighted windows, and quaint façade of the old mansion, at the door of
which I drew up; and as I threw the whip and reins to Willie Pitblado,
and, fearless now even of Mamma Chillingham, handed my companion down,
tenderly and caressingly, I found myself an engaged man, and the
_fiancé_ of one of the fairest women in Britain—the brilliant Louisa
Loftus!

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I loved—yes. Ah, let me tell The fatal charms by which I fell! Her form the tam’risk’s waving shoot, Her breast the cocoa’s youngling fruit. Her eyes were jetty, jet her hair, O’ershadowing face like lotus fair; Her lips were rubies, guarding flowers Of jasmine, dimned with vernal showers. STONE TALK.

The next day was to see a crisis in my fate which I could not have
anticipated, combined with the narrow escape from mutilation or death of
more than one of our pleasant party assembled at the Glen.

With all the intensity of my soul, I wished to learn my chances of
success with the brilliant Lady Louisa, yet trembled to make the essay.

Why, or how was this?

Timid and irresolute, fearing to know the best or the worst from the
lips of a mere girl, I asked myself was it I—I, who, at the bombardment
of Rangoon, at the storm of the Dagon Pagoda, and in the night attack on
Frome, had feared neither the bullets nor poisoned arrows of the
two-sworded barbarians whom it was our ill-luck to encounter in those
tropical regions; I, who, without fear or flinching, was now ready to
meet the Russians in Turkey, or anywhere else; was it I that could not
muster hardihood to reveal the emotions, the honourable love, of an
honest heart? It was; and, at times, I felt inclined to utter a malison
on that which General Napier so truly and happily termed, “the cold
shade of aristocracy;” for that it was which chilled and baffled me.

In the drawing-room the first who met me was my Cousin Cora, looking
pale, but bright-eyed, with her pure complexion, and in all her morning
prettiness.

“Lady Loftus, I presume, has not appeared yet?” said I.

“It is always Lady Loftus with you, Cousin Newton,” said she, pettishly,
“though you came here to see papa and me. What have you done with that
celebrated lock of hair? Put it in the fire, eh?”

“In the fire, Cora! It is here, in my pocket-book.”

“Doubtless you are very proud of it?”

“I cannot but be, Cora,” said I, taking her hands in mine, and drawing
her into the recess of an oriel window; “and she is herself so proud and
reserved. I am sure that she knows what you have seen, Cora; at least,
what my uncle says you have detected,—that—that——”

“What, Newton? How rambling and mysterious you are!”

“That I love her.”

“You are sure she knows this?” asked Cora.

“Yes, my dear cousin; it is impossible that the regard with which she
has inspired me could fail to be known, seen, or felt by her—I mean that
it must have been apparent to her, by a thousand mute indications, since
we first met in England. It is so to you, is it not?”

“Ye—yes,” replied Cora, with her face averted, for no doubt she was
smiling at my earnest simplicity.

“Do you think she would tolerate attentions that were valueless, or
would trifle with me?”

“I cannot say.”

“But you are her particular friend. Oh, Cora, be mine too!”

“What on earth do you mean?” asked Cora, showing me still only her
pretty profile; “you cannot wish _me_ to propose to her for you?”

“No; but you hide your sweet face, Cora. You are laughing at me!”

“Oh, no, I am not laughing,” replied Cora, in a rich, low tremulous
voice. “Heaven knows, Newton, how far my thoughts are removed from
laughter.”

“And—what is this, Cora dear? Your eyes are full of tears!”

“Are they?” she exclaimed angrily, as she withdrew her hands from mine.

“Yes—ah, I see it all,” said I, bitterly; “you know Lady Louisa’s heart
better than I do, and deem my love for her a hopeless one.”

“It is not so,” replied Cora, while her cheek flushed, and, though her
long lashes drooped, an air of hauteur stole over her usually gentle and
lovable bearing. “I know nothing of the matter. Search her heart for
yourself; assist you I cannot; and what is more, Newton Norcliff,” she
added haughtily, “I will not!”

“Cora!” I exclaimed, with surprise; “but be it so. Myself then must be
my own advocate, and if my love for Lady Louisa——”

What I was about to add, or how I meant to finish the sentence, I know
not, for at that moment she approached, with her calm, somewhat
conventional, but beautiful smile, to kiss Cora, and present her hand to
me. The rest of our party rapidly assembled.

Had she heard the _last_ words of my interrupted speech? I almost
feared, or rather hoped, that she had.

“This, I find, is to be the day of another expedition, Mr. Norcliff,”
she observed.

“So it appears. We are to see the Fifeshire hounds throw off at Largo
House; and afterwards we are to drive home by a circuit, through half
the country, to let Lady Chillingham see the scenery.”

“In a January day!” drawled Berkeley. “Do we—aw—start before tiffin?”

“If by that you mean luncheon, I say after it, decidedly,” said Lady
Chillingham, in her cool, determined manner, which few—the earl, her
husband, especially—could gainsay. “I have to write to my Lord Slubber
and others.”

“Pardon me, my dear Lady Chillingham, but this arrangement is
impossible,” said my uncle; “we must leave this in time to see the
hounds throw off.”

“And the hour, Sir Nigel?”

“Sharp twelve. Binns will take luncheon for us in the boot of the drag.
Berkeley, you, I believe, are to don the pink, and ride with me. I
shall cross the country to-night, but not in my official capacity, as I
have not yet assumed all the duties appertaining to the honourable
office of the master of the Fifeshire hounds. And now to breakfast.
Lady Chillingham, permit me—your hand, and we shall lead the way.”

“When I do take the hunting of the country into my own care,” resumed my
uncle, “I shall show you as noble a pack as ever drew cover; ay, dogs as
smart as ever had their tails running after them, even before
cub-hunting begins next season; and so compactly shall they go, that a
tablecloth might cover them all when in full cry.”

“By that time, uncle, I shall be testing the mettle of the Russian
cavalry; but my heart will be with you all here in Calderwood Glen.”

Lady Louisa’s eyes were upon me as I said this; their expression was
unfathomable, so I was fain to construe it into something sympathetic or
of interest in my fate.

The day was clear and beautiful; the air serene, though cold, and the
swelling outlines of the green and verdant hills were sharply defined
against the blue of the sky, where a few fleecy clouds were floating on
the west wind.

Our party lost no time in preparing for the expedition of the day, and,
ere long, the vehicles, the horses, and even the ladies, were all in
marching order. I had too much tact to attempt to engross Lady Loftus
at the beginning of the day; but resolved, as she was to be with “mamma”
in the drag, to become one of its occupants when returning home, if I
could achieve nothing better.

My man Pitblado, and other grooms, brought forth the saddled horses, and
my uncle appeared in a red hunting-coat, boots and tops, with whip and
cap complete, his cheek glowing with health and pleasure, and his eyes
sparkling as if he were again sixteen.

“By the way, Newton,” said he, slapping his boot-tops, “that lancer
fellow of yours——”

“Willie Pitblado, my servant?”

“Yes, well, he has tumbled Lady Chillingham’s French soubrette about, as
if he had known her from infancy; and what suits the meridian of
Maidstone barracks won’t do at Calderwood Glen, so tell him. And now,
Mr. Berkeley, here are Dunearn, Saline, and Splinter-bar. You can have
your choice of cavalry; but shorten your stirrups. I always take the
leathers up two holes for hunting.”

“Aw—haw, thanks,” drawled this Dundreary (whose fashionable hunting
suit, in cut and brilliancy of colour, quite eclipsed the well-worn
costume of the jolly old baronet), as he proceeded leisurely to examine
the bridle and girths, observing the while to me—

“Louisa looks well this morning.”

“Louisa!” I repeated, with astonishment: “is it the mare—her name is
Saline, so called from some hills in Fife—or whom on earth do you mean?”

“Why, Lady Loftus, to be sure.”

“And you speak of her thus freely or familiarly?”

“Ya—haw—yes.”

“By Jove, you surprise me!”

“By what, eh?”

“Your perfect assurance, to be plain with you, my friend.”

“Don’t deem it such, my dear fellaw, though it is doocid dangerous when
one comes to speak of so charming a girl by her Christian name; it shows
how a fellaw thinks or _feels_, and all that sort of thing; do you
understand?”

“Not very clearly; but consider, Berkeley, what you are about, and don’t
make a deucid fool of yourself,” said I, with undisguised anger.

“No danger of that; but—haw—surely you are not spooney in that quarter
yourself? Eh—haw—if I thought so, curse me if I wouldn’t draw stakes,
and hedge. You know that I like you, Newton; and your old uncle, Sir
Nigel, is a doocid good kind of fellaw—a trump, in fact,” he added,
while lightly vaulting into his saddle, and gathering up his reins, but
eying me like a lynx, through his glass, as if to read my most secret
thoughts.

Disdaining to reply, I drew haughtily back.

“So-oh,” said my uncle, who was now mounted. “I know that grey mare,
Saline, well; so, Mr. Berkeley, by gently feeling her mouth, and
grinding her up to the requisite pitch of speed, she’ll soon leave the
whole field behind her.”

Our party was numerous; including my uncle’s guests, some thirty ladies
and gentlemen were about to start from the Glen. We were well off in
conveyances. There was the great old family carriage, cosily stuffed,
easily hung, pannelled and escutcheoned, with rumble and hammercloth;
there was a stately drag of a dark chocolate colour, with red wheels,
and a glorious team of greys; a dashing waggonette and tandem, with two
brilliant bays, that, in the shafts, were well worth three hundred
pounds each; and there was a dainty little phaeton, in which the general
was to drive Cora and Miss Wilford, drawn by two of the sleekest,
roundest, and sauciest little ponies that ever came out of Ultima Thule.

I was to drive the drag to the meet; and, after the hunt, Berkeley was
to meet us at a certain point on the Cupar Road, and drive the vehicle
home, if I felt disposed to yield the ribbons to him, which I had quite
resolved to do.

Of the noise and excitement, the spurring, yelping, and hallooing,
sounding of horns, and cracking of whips; the greetings of rough and
boisterous country friends; the criticisms that ensued on dogs, horses,
and harness; of how the cover was drawn, and the fox broke away; how
huntsmen and hounds followed “owre bank, bush, and scaur,” as if the
devil had got loose, and life depended on his instant re-capture, and of
all the incidents of the hunt, I need give no relation here.

The afternoon was well-nigh spent before we saw the last of my uncle’s
companions; and to the luncheon provided by Mr. Binns we had done full
justice, the roof of the drag being covered by a white cloth, and
improvised as a dining-table, whereon was spread a _déjeûner_ service of
splendid Wedgwood ware, the champagne sparkling in the sun, and the long
glasses of potash and Beaujolais foaming up for the thirsty; and Largo
Law, a green and conical hill, verdant to its summit a thousand feet
above the waters of the bay, was throwing its shadow to the eastward,
when we made arrangements for our return; and, thanks to dear Cora’s
tact and management, rather than my own—for timidity and doubt
embarrassed me—I contrived to get Lady Louisa into the tandem. After
which, by giving a hint to Willie Pitblado, he managed to set the horses
kicking and plunging in such an alarming fashion that it was necessary
to give them their heads for a little way, as if to soothe their ruffled
tempers, just as he adroitly had got into the back seat.

Lady Chillingham, the M.P., the Misses Spittal, and Rammerscales were
all bundled into the drag; others were on the roof, great-coated or
well-shawled, for a cool drive home, and the whole party set out for the
Glen, _viâ_ Clatto and Collessie, a twenty-five miles’ drive.

It was past the hour of three before all was packed up and we were all
ready to leave Largo. The grave old butler, Binns, looked at his watch,
and said—

“Mr. Newton, you know the route we go by.”

“Yes; round by Dunnikier Law.”

“That is the road Sir Nigel wished us to drive; but you’ll require to
use your whip if we are to be home before dark.”

“Never fear for that, Binns,” said I, while leading the way in the
tandem with Lady Louisa beside me, and no attendant or other companion,
save Willie Pitblado, who had or had not ears and eyes just as occasion
required, Mamma Chillingham believing the while that she was with other
ladies in the close carriage.

“Keep a tight hand on the leader, sir,” whispered Pitblado; “she’s a
blood mare, rather fresh from the stall, and overcorned a bit.”

“She is hard-mouthed,” said I, “and pulls like the devil.”

“As for the wheeler, I think the splinter-bar is too low, and she kicks
and shies at it; but the breeching is as short as we could make it.
Keep a sharp look out on both, sir,” said he, warningly, and then
relapsed into apparent immobility.

For the _first_ time since our introduction had I been alone with Lady
Louisa—I say alone, for I did not count on my servant, who seemed wholly
intent on looking anywhere but at us, and chiefly behind, as if to see
how soon we could distance the four-in-hand drag and the rest of our
party.

The vehicle we occupied was a hybrid affair, which my uncle frequently
used, half gig and half dog-cart, four-wheeled, with Collinge’s patent
axles, lever drag, and silver lamps, smart, strong, light, and decidedly
“bang up.”

We went along at a spanking pace. My fair companion was chatty and
delightfully gay; her dark eyes were unusually bright, for the whole
events of the day, and the lunch _al fresco_, had all tended to
exhilaration of spirits.

She forgot what her rigid, aristocratic, and match-making mamma might
think of her being alone thus with a young subaltern of lancers; but
though her white ermine boa was not paler than her complexion usually
was, she had now a tinge, almost a flush, on her soft, rounded cheek
that made her radiantly beautiful, and I felt that now or never was the
time to address her in the language of love.

I knew that the crisis had come; but how was I to approach it?

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“Is there any room at your head, Emma? Is there any room at your feet? Is there any room at your side, Emma, Where I may sleep so sweet? “There is no room at my side, Robin; There is no room at my feet. My bed is dark and narrow now; But, oh! my sleep is sweet.” OLD BALLAD.

During the time of King Charles I. and the wars of the great Marquis of
Montrose, his captain-general in Scotland—that terrible period when the
civil war was waged in England, and Scotland was rent in twain between
the armies of the Covenant and of the Cavaliers—William Calderwood of
Piteadie was the lover of Annora Moultray,[*] daughter of Symon, the
Laird of Seafield; a tower which stands upon the seashore, not far from
Kinghorn.

[*] Pronounced “Moutrie” in Scotland.

Both were young and handsome; both were the pride of the district at
kirk, market, and merry-meeting; and a time had been fixed for their
marriage when the troubles of the Covenant came. Calderwood adhered to
the king, and the father of his bride to Cromwell, and the Puritan
English.

So the poor lovers were separated; their engagement deemed broken by the
parents of Annora, who were dark, gloomy, and stern religionists—true
old Whigs of Fife; but on the day before William Calderwood departed to
join the great Marquis, who was advancing from the north at the head of
his victorious Highlanders, he contrived to have a farewell interview
with his mistress at the little ruined chapel of Eglise Marie, which
stood, within a few years ago, at Tyrie, in the fields near Grange.

In those days of ecclesiastical tyranny and social espionage, little
could escape the parish minister; so the Reverend Elijah Howler promptly
apprised Symon of Moultray of his daughter’s “foregathering” with the
ungodly one at that relic of Popery, the chapel of Mary. They were
surprised by the furious father, who exclaimed—

“Sackcloth and ashes! ye graceless limmer, begone to your spindle, and
thou, mansworn loon, draw!”

Unsheathing his sword, he rushed upon Calderwood, and would have slain
him, notwithstanding the sanctity of the place, but for the interference
of his youngest son, Philip, who accompanied him, and parried the
threatening sword.

He hurled, however, the deepest and most bitter reproaches upon
Calderwood, as “an apostate from the kirk of God; the adherent of a king
who had broken the Covenant; a leaguer with the mansworn and
God-forsaken James Grahame of Montrose, and his murdering gang of
Highland Philistines; the representative of a false brood, among whom no
daughter of his should ever mate without a father’s curse resting on her
bridal-bed,” with much more to the same purpose.

The young gentleman strove to deprecate his anger; but, “Away!” the
fiery old man resumed; “hence, ye troubler o’ Israel, who hast hearkened
unto the devil and his prelates; and beware how ye cross the purpose o’
Symon o’ Seafield, for all the powers o’ hell may fail to balk my
vengeance!”

Under his shaggy brows his eyes glared at Calderwood as he spoke; and
fiercely he drew his blue bonnet over them, as he hurled his broadsword
into its scabbard, struck its basket-hilt significantly, and, grasping
his terrified daughter by the wrist, dragged her rudely away. A
farewell glance, mute and despairing, was all that the parted lovers
could exchange. As for the injurious reproaches of the irate old man,
Willie Calderwood heeded them not. He only mourned in his heart this
civil and religious war, that had engendered hate and rancour in the
breasts of those at whose board he had long been a welcome guest, and
who certainly, at one time, loved him well.

If Symon of Seafield was rancorous in his animosity, his wife, the Lady
Grizel Kirkaldie of Abden, was doubly so. Thus the poor Annora, as she
sat by her side, guiding the whirling spindle, or spinning monotonously
at her wheel, was compelled, in the intervals of prayer, bible reading,
catechizing, and mortification of the body and spirit, to hear the most
insulting epithets heaped upon the name of her young and handsome lover,
whose figure, as she saw him last at Eglise Marie, with his long, black
cavalier plume shading his saddened face, and his scarlet mantle
muffling the hilt of the rapier he dared not to draw on _her_ father,
seemed ever before her.

To prevent their meeting again, Annora was secluded and carefully
watched in the upper storey of Seafield Tower; and by her brothers’
fowling-pieces many a stray pigeon was shot, lest a note might be tied
under its wing. The tower forms a striking feature on the sea-beaten
shore, midway between the Kirkcaldy and Kinghorn-ness. It rests on one
side on a mass of red sandstone rock; on the other it was guarded by a
fosse and bridge, the remains of which can yet be traced. To the
seaward lie the Vows—some dangerous rocks, on which, on a terrific night
in the December of 1800, a great ship of Elbing perished with all her
crew.

A roofless and open ruin now, exposed to the blasts which sweep up the
Firth from the German Sea, it has long been abandoned to the seamew, the
bat, and the owl, or the ugla, as it was named of old in Fifeshire.

But the seclusion of Annora was not required; for, on the very day after
the interview which was so roughly interrupted at Eglise Marie, Willie
Calderwood, at the head of sixteen troopers, all sturdy “Kailsuppers of
Fife,” well mounted and accoutred in half armour—_i.e._, back, breast,
and pot, with sword, pistol, and musketoon—had departed for the king’s
host, and joined the Marquis of Montrose, whose troops, flushed with
their victorious battles at Tippermuir, Alford, Aldearn, and the Brig o’
Dee, came pouring over the Ochil mountains, to sack and burn the Castle
of Gloom.

Tidings of this advance spread rapidly from the West to the East Neuk of
Fife. Great numbers of the Whig lairds repaired to the standard of
Baillie, the covenanting general; and among others who drew their swords
under him at the battle of Kilsythe, were Symon of Seafield and his
three sons.

The latter, fiery and determined youths, had but one object or idea—to
single out and slay without mercy William Calderwood, on the first field
where swords were crossed.

The parting injunction of their father to Dame Grizel was to leave
nothing undone to urge on the marriage of Annora with the Reverend
Elijah Howler, a sour-visaged saint, in Geneva cloak and starched bands,
with the lappets of a calotte cap covering his grizzled hair and
cadaverous cheeks, who, during the troubles that seemed to draw nearer,
had taken up his residence in that gloomy tower, which was half
surrounded by the waves.

At another time, had she dared, Annora, who was really a merry-hearted
girl, with curling chestnut hair and clear bright hazel eyes, might have
laughed at such a lover as this “lean and slippered pantaloon,” who now,
in scriptural phraseology, culled chiefly out of the Old Testament,
besought her to share his heart and fortunes; but the dangers that
overhung her affianced husband and her father’s household, whichever
side conquered in the great battle that was impending, and the monotony
of her own existence, which was varied only by the long nasal prayers
and quavering psalmody in which the inhabitants of the tower (chiefly
old women now) lamented the iniquity of mankind, and “warsled wi’ the
Lord”—prayers and psalms that mingled with the cries of the sea-birds,
and the boom of the ocean on the rocks around the tower, all tended to
crush her naturally joyous spirit, and corrode her young heart with
artificial gloom.

She was frequently discovered in tears by Dame Grizel; and then sharp,
indeed, was the rebuke that fell upon her.

“Oh, mother dear,” she would exclaim, “pity me!”

“Silence! bairn, and greet nae mair,” the lady would reply, sharply.
“Hearken to the voice of ane that loves ye; but not after the fashion of
this miserable world—the Reverend Elijah. Bethink ye on whom your
hellicate cavalier may e’en the now be showering his ungodly kisses.
Bethink ye—

That auld love is cauld love,
But new love is true love.

Elijah loves ye weel, and, though the man be auld, his love is new and
true.”

Annora shuddered with anger and grief; while her stern mother, giving
additional impetus to her spinning-wheel, as she sat in the ingle by the
hall fire, eyed her grimly askance, and muttered—

“Calderwood, forsooth! There never cam’ faith or truth frae one o’ the
line o’ Piteadie since the cardinal was stickit by Norman Leslie, a
hundred years ago. Are ye a daughter o’ mine and o’ Symon Moultray, and
yet are hen-hearted enough to renounce God and his covenanted kirk, and
adhere to bishops and curates?—to seek the fushionless milk that cometh
frae a yeld bosom, sic as the kirk o’ prelacy hath? Fie! and awa’ wi’
ye!”

“I forsake nae kirk, mother,” urged the poor lassie; “but I will adhere
to my Willie. Falsehood never came o’ his line, and the Calderwoods are
auld as the three trees o’ Dysart.”

“And shall be shunned like the de’il o’ Dysart,” replied her mother,
beating the hearthstone with the high heel of her red shoe.

The cornfields were yellowing in the fertile Howe of Fife, and the woods
were still green in all their summer beauty, when, about Old Lammas-day,
in the year 1645, there went a vague whisper through the land—none knew
how—that a bloody battle had been fought somewhere about the Fells of
Campsie; that many a helmet had been cloven, many a blue-bonneted head
lay on the purple heather; and that many a Whig Fife laird had perished
with his followers.

Sorely troubled in spirit, the Reverend Elijah Howler took his
ivory-handled staff, adjusted his bands and his beaver above his calotte
cap, and, in quest of sure tidings, set forth to Kinghorn, at the
market-cross of which he had heard the terrible intelligence, that the
sword of the ungodly had triumphed—that Montrose had burst into the
lowlands like a roaring lion, seeking whom he might devour; and all
along the Burntisland Road Elijah saw the Fife troopers come spurring,
with buff-coats slashed, and harness battered, bloody, dusty, and having
all the signs of discomfiture and fear.

Ere long he learned that Symon of Seafield and his three sons were in
safety (thanks to their horses’ heels); but that the Marquis of Montrose
had encountered the army of the covenant on the field of Kilsythe, where
he had gained a great and terrible victory, slaying, by the edge of the
sword, six thousand soldiers; that the killing covered fourteen miles
Scottish—_i.e._, twenty-five miles English—and that on the men of the
Fifeshire regiments had fallen the most serious slaughter.

In fact, very few of them ever returned, for nearly all perished, and
the terror of that day is still a tradition in many a hamlet of Fife.

Annora felt joy in her heart when her father and brothers returned; yet
it was not without alloy, for where was he whom she had sworn to love,
and a lock of whose dark brown hair she wore in secret next her heart?

Lying cold and mangled, perhaps, on the field of Kilsythe!

There one of her father’s men, Roger of Tyrie, had found a relic of
terrible import. It was a kilmaur’s whittle; the blade was of fine
steel, hafted with tortoiseshell, adorned with silver circlets. It was
graven with the Calderwood arms, and spotted with blood; but whose
blood?

Symon and his sons came home to the tower crestfallen, and with hearts
full of bitterness. Symon’s steel cap, with its triple bars, had been
struck from his head by the marquis’s own sword, and now he wore a broad
bonnet, with the blue cockade of the Covenant streaming from it, over
his left ear.

Long, lank, and grizzled, his hair flowed over his shoulders upon his
gorget and cuirass. His complexion was sallow, his expression fierce,
as he trod, spurred and jack-booted, into the vaulted hall of the tower,
and grimly kissed Dame Grizel on the forehead.

“The godless Philistines have been victorious, and yet ye have a’ come
back to me without scratch or scar,” she exclaimed, with Spartan
bitterness.

“Even sae, gudewife—even sae; but for that day at Kilsythe vengeance
shall yet be ours!”

“Yea, verily,” groaned Elijah Howler; “for it was a day of woe, a day of
’wailing and of loud lamentation,’ as the weeping of Jazer, when the
lords of the heathen had broken down her principal plants; and as the
mourning of Rachel, who wept for her children, and would not be
comforted.”

“Get me a stoup o’ ale,” said Symon, with something like an oath, as he
flung aside his sword and gauntlets. “And thou, minion, after that day
o’ bluid, will ye cling yet to that son o’ Belial, Willie Calderwood?”
asked Symon, sternly, of his shrinking daughter. “Thrice I saw him in
the charge, and covered him ilk time wi’ my petronel; but lead availed
not, and I hadna about me a siller coin that fitted the muzzle of my
weapon, else he had been i’ the mools this nicht. But horse and spear
lads!” he added, turning to his sons. “Ere we sleep, we shall ride by
Grange, and rook out Calderwood Glen wi’ a flaming lunt!”

So Symon and his sons had a deep carouse in the old hall with their
troopers, all sturdy “Kailsuppers of Fife,” drinking confusion to their
enemies.

Now it is an open ruin; then it was crossed by a great oak beam, whereon
hung spears and bows. On the walls were the horns of many a buck from
Falkland Woods.

Many an oak almerie and meal-girnel stood round; and rows of pots and
pans, pell-mell among helmets and corslets, swords and bucklers, spits
and branders, made up the decorations and the furniture; while a great
fire of wood and coal from “my Lord Sinclair’s heughs” blazed day and
night on the stone hearth, making the hall to seem in some places all
red and quivering in red light, or sunk in sable shadow elsewhere.

It had but two chairs—one for the laird, and one for the lady—for such
was then the etiquette in Scotland; thus even the Reverend Elijah had to
accommodate his lean shanks on a three-legged creepie.

Dogs of various kinds were always basking before the fire on dun
deer-skins; but the chief of them was Symon’s great Scottish staghound,
which was exactly of the breed and appearance described in the old
rhyme—

Headed lyke a snake,
Neckèd lyke a drake.
Footed lyke a catte,
Taylèd lyke a ratte,
Syded lyke a team,
Chynèd lyke a beam.

On that night Symon and his sons, with Roger of Tyrie, and other
followers, crossed the hill to Piteadie, and sacked and set on fire the
dwelling of the Calderwoods, who, as adherents of the king, were deemed
beyond the pale of the law by the Scottish government.

In the murk midnight, from the tower head of Seafield, the heart-sticken
Annora could see the red flames of rapine wavering in the sky, beyond
the woods of Grange, in the direction where she knew so well her absent
lover’s dwelling stood; and when her father and brothers came galloping
down the brae, and clattering over the drawbridge of the tower, they
laughingly boasted that, in passing Eglise Marie, they had defaced the
family tomb of the Calderwoods, and overthrown the throchstone that
marked where Willie’s mother lay, under the shadow of an old yew tree.

“The nest is gane, Grizy,” said Symon, grimly, as he unclasped his
corslet, and hung his sword on the wall; “the nest is scouthered weel,
and the black rooks can return to it nae mair.”

“Would that we could lure the tassel to the gosshawk again,” said Lady
Grizel, with a dark glance at her daughter.

“For what end, gudewife?” asked Symon, with surprise.

“To make him a tassel on the dule-tree there without,” was the cruel
response.

Annora felt as if her heart was bursting; it seemed so strange and
unnatural that all this savage hate should exist because her poor Willie
adhered to the king rather than to the kirk.

A few weeks passed, and there was loud revelry, and many a stoup and
black-jack of ale and usquebaugh drained joyfully in Seafield, for
tidings came of the total rout of the Scottish Cavaliers at Philiphaugh,
and of the flight of the great marquis and all his followers none knew
whither; but rumour said to High Germanie.

Had Willie Calderwood escaped? asked Annora, in her trembling heart; or
had he fallen at the Slainmanslee, where the Covenanters butchered all
who fell into their hands, even mothers with their babes that hung at
their breasts?

And these acts, and many other such, did her new lover justify by many a
savage quotation from the wars of the Jews in the days of old. Now the
kirk was triumphant, and, Judas-like, had sold its king, as old Peter
Heylin said, even as it would have sold its Saviour could it have found
a purchaser.

Winter came on—a cold and bitter one—the soft spray of the sea froze on
the tower windows of Seafield, while the moss and the grass grew
together on the hearthstones of Piteadie, and the crows had built their
nests in the old chimneys and nooks of the ruined castle.

Hard strove father and mother with Annora; but—

If a lass won’t change her mind,
Nobody can make her.

The Reverend Elijah Howler was a happy man in one sense; the cause of
his beloved kirk was triumphant, though Cromwell’s Puritans, who had
succeeded the Cavaliers of Montrose as antagonists, bade fair to become
sore troublers of Israel; and loud were the lamentations when, by sound
of trumpet, the English sectaries warned the General Assembly to begone
from Edinburgh, and to assemble no more. Yet the Reverend Elijah was
unhappy in another sense. Annora heard his pious love-making with
averted ear, and he might as well have poured forth his texts, his
dreary talk, and intoned homilies, to the waves that beat at the rocky
basement of the tower—at once Annora’s prison and her home.

Meanwhile, she grew pale, and thin, and sickly. Her younger brother,
Philip, pitied her in his heart, and, after making inquiries, learned
that Willie Calderwood was now in France, where he had been wounded in a
duel by the Abbé Gondy, but had become his friend, and now adhered to
him when he had become famous as the Cardinal de Retz; and, as such,
served and defended him in the wars of the Fronde, with a hundred other
cavaliers of Montrose.

“Oh, waly, waly, my mother dear!” she exclaimed, using the bitterest old
Scottish exclamation of grief, as she threw herself on the bosom of the
unflinching Lady Grizel. “Pity me—pity me, for none love me here, and
Willie is far far awa’ in France owre the sea.”

“A’ the better, bairn—a’ the better.”

“But I may never see him mair!”

“A’ the better still, bairn.”

“Oh, mother dear,” urged the weeping girl, “dinna say sae; ye’ll rive my
puir heart in twain amang ye. And this Fronde, and these Frondeurs,
what is _it_, what are _they_?”

“What would it be but some Papist devilry, or a Calderwood wadna be in
the middle o’t?” was the angry response.

Poor Annora knew not what to think, for there were no newspapers in
those days, and rumours of events in distant lands came vaguely by
chance travellers, and at long intervals. Lothian and Fife were almost
farther apart in those days than Scotland and France are now, in the
matters of news and travel.

She felt like Juliet in the feud between the families—

“Tis but thy _name_ that is my enemy;—
Though art thyself though, not a Montague.
What’s Montague? It is not hand or foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
——Doff thy name;
And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

Even as water dropping on a granite rock will wear that rock away in
course of time, so, by the systematic tyranny of her parents, and by
their reiterated assurances, and even forged proofs, that Willie
Calderwood had fallen, sword in hand, at the battle of the Barricades,
was Annora worn and wearied into a state of acquiescence, in which she
accepted Mr. Elijah Howler as her husband.

This was the climax of years of a gloomy, sabbatical life, during which
the Judaical rigidity of religious observance made Sunday a periodical
horror, and Seafield Tower a daily hell.

So they were married, and he removed her from the tower to the adjacent
manse, from the more cheerful and ungrated windows of which she could
see in the distance the roofless turrets and open walls of Piteadie,
where the crows clustered and flapped their black wings, for the ruin
had become a veritable rookery.

The king was dead; he had perished on the scaffold, and Scotland, under
Cromwell and the false Argyle, was quiet, as we are told in that
poetical romance by Macaulay, entitled “The History of England.”

On a Sunday in summer, in the year of Glencairn’s rising in the north
for King Charles II., Annora sat in the Kirk of Calderwood about the
beginning of sermon. The reverend Elijah, with straight, lank hair, and
upturned eyes, Geneva bands and gown, after a glance at the dark oak pew
where his young bride and victim sat, like the spectre of her former
self, so pale, so crushed and heartbroken, twice repeated, in a dreary
and quavering tone, the text upon which he was about to preach, with
special reference to the rising in the north, inviting all sons of the
Kirk to arm against the loyal Highlanders—

“_He saith among the trumpets, Ha! ha! and he smelleth the battle afar
off, the thunder of the captains and the shouting! He is not affrighted,
neither turneth he back from the sword; he goeth forth to meet the armed
men._”—Job xxxix.

Having given this warlike text, he adjusted his cloak, and turned the
sand-glass, which, according to the fashion of those days, stood on the
reading-desk. The rustle of Bible leaves, as of those that lie strewn
in autumn, when gently stirred by the wind, passed through all the
church; but from Annora’s trembling and wan fingers, her Bible fell
heavily to the ground.

At that moment a gaily-dressed young man, with the white rose in his
plumed hat and on his laced mantle, with slashed doublet and boots, as
he passed slowly up the aisle—the observed of all observers—as such
cavalier fripperies were supposed to have passed away with Montrose and
the king, stooped, and presented her with the fallen book.

Their haggard eyes met. He was pale even as death. A great wound, a
sword-cut that traversed his face like a livid streak, in healing, had
distorted the features; but like a glance of lightning that flashed into
her soul, she recognized Willie Calderwood!

She would have shrieked, but lacked the power; a little sigh could only
escape her, and so she swooned away.

There was a great commotion in the village kirk. She was borne forth
into the air, and laid for a time upon a throchstane, or altar tomb, and
was then conveyed to the manse, where she remained long as one on the
verge of madness or the grave. The face of Willie, so sweet, so sad and
earnest, but, alas! so sorely distorted, seemed ever before her,
together with his gallant air and courtly bearing, all of which were so
different from those of the sour-featured Whigs by whom she was
surrounded.

But she was informed by her younger brother, Philip, that she should
never see that face or bearing more, as her lover had come home, sorely
wounded and broken in health, not to seek vengeance on her or hers, but
only to die among his kinsmen, the Calderwoods of the Glen; and that he
had died there, three days after their meeting in the kirk; and was
buried at Eglise Marie, in the tomb of the lairds of Piteadie.

It was in one of the last evenings of autumn, when after hearing this
sorrowful narrative, and with it the knowledge that the only heart that
ever truly loved her was cold in the grave, that Annora—in the craving
for solitude and to be alone, left the old ivy-covered manse, and
passing through the garden, issued into the glebe—a spacious park,
surrounded by venerable trees—and seating herself upon a moss-grown
stile, strove to think calmly, if possible, and pray.

Resplendent in gold and purple, the sky threw out in strong contour the
summits of the Lomonds, from which the last rays of sunset had faded;
and where she sat alone. The darkness had almost set in, the woods were
so leafy and dense; yet in some places the twilight was liquid and
clear. The trees were already yellowing fast, and the sear and russet
leaves that had fallen before the strong gales that swept through the
Howe, or great midland valley of Fife, were whirling about the place
where she sat, as if to remind her that the year was dying.

Often in happier times had she wandered here with Willie, and the bark
of more than one tree there bore their names and initials cut by his
knife or dagger. The woodcock was seeking his nest in the hedges, and
the snipe and the wild coot were among the reeds and rushes of the loch
and burn; and Annora, as she gazed around her, thought sadly that it was
the autumn of a year of married misery, and the winter of her aching
heart.

Suddenly some mysterious impulse—for there was no sound but the sense of
something being nigh, made her look round, and then a start, a shudder,
convulsed her, rooting her to the spot; for there by the stile whereon
she sat was Willie Calderwood, looking just as she had seen him last, in
his cavalier dress, with plumed beaver and white cockade, long rapier
and short velvet mantle: but his features, when viewed by the calm,
clear twilight, seemed paler, his eyes sadder, and the sword wound on
his cheek more livid and dark.

He was not dead—he lived yet, and her brother Philip had deceived her!

She made a start forward, and then drew back, withheld by an impulse of
terror, and holding up her poor thin hands deprecatingly, faltered out—

“Oh! come not nigh me, Willie. I am a wedded wife.”

“And false to me, Annora. Is it not so?” he asked, with a voice that
thrilled through her.

She wept, and laid her hands upon her crushed heart, while Willie’s sad
eyes, that had a glare in them, caused doubtless by his wound, seemed to
pierce her soul; they seemed so bright, so earnest, and beseeching in
the autumn twilight.

“They told you I was false to you, or slain in France, and you believed
them?”

“I did, Willie,” she sobbed, as she covered her face.

“I have lain on many a field, lassie, where the rain of heaven and the
wind of night swept over me—fields where the living could scarce be
kenned frae the dead, yet I was never slain.”

“But, oh,” she urged, “Willie, never, never will ye ken——”

“I ken a’! They told you that I was dead, too, and graved in yonder
kirk.”

“They did, Willie dear—they did.”

“Yet I am here before you. I came home to wed you, lassie, and to join
my Lord Glencairn in the north, and to fight against this accursed
Cromwell and his Puritans, but it maunna be,” he added, sadly, in a
hollow tone.

“Oh, leave me, Willie, leave me. If you should be seen wi’ me——”

“Seen!” he exclaimed, with a bitter laugh.

“Oh, leave me; for what seek ye here?”

“But a lock o’ your bonnie hair, lassie—a lock to lay beside my heart.”

Her scissors were at the chatelaine that dangled from her girdle; she
glanced fearfully at the windows of the manse, where lights were
beginning to glimmer; but undoing her hair, she cut a long and ripply
tress, and handed it to Willie. As she drew near, the expression of his
eyes again froze her blood, they seemed so sadly earnest and glazed; and
as his fingers closed upon the coveted tress, and touched hers, they
felt icy cold and clammy, like those of a corpse.

Then a shriek of terror burst from her, and falling on the grass, she
became senseless, and oblivious of everything.

For days after this she raved of her meeting with Willie Calderwood, and
of the lock of hair she had given him. Some thought her mind wandered;
but others pointed significantly to the facts that her scissors had been
found by her side, and to where a large tress had been certainly cut
from her left temple.

The young laird of Piteadie was assuredly dead, and buried among his
kindred in St. Mary’s Chapel; but the age was one of superstition, of
wraiths, and omens; and people whispered, and shook their heads, and
knew not what to think, save that she must have seen a spectre.

Ere a week elapsed, Annora died quietly in her mother’s arms, forgiving
and blessing her; but adhering to the story of the gift to her dead
lover. So strong at last grew the excitement in the neighbourhood that
some began to aver that he was not dead at all, but was leading a troop
of horse, under Glencairn, in the north.

Even those who had seen the funeral cortège issue from the House of the
Glen were so sceptical on the subject, that the tomb was opened by order
of the next heir, and there, sure enough, was the body of Willie
Calderwood; but the leaden cerements were rent from top to bottom, the
grave-clothes were all in disorder, and in the right hand was clenched a
long and silky tress of Annora’s hair![*]

[*] The plough has recently uprooted the last stone of this old chapel;
but its name, corrupted into “Legsmalie,” is borne by the field where it
stood.

How it came there none could say, though many averred it had been buried
with him at his own request, and was the gift of other years; but the
next heir, his nephew, William Calderwood, whose initials we may see
above the eastern gate of the old fortalice, when he repaired it in
1686, in lieu of the palm branch of his name, placed above the helmet an
arm and clenched hand, which holds a lock of hair—the same crest we all
saw this morning.

From that time the Moultrays of Seafield never prospered. The last of
the family was killed during the insurrection of 1715. Their line
passed away. It was long represented by the Moultrays of Rescobie, also
now extinct, and their tower is a crumbling ruin by the sea-shore.

* * * * *

Such was Cora’s strange story, to which we all, myself included,
listened with attention, though, sooth to say, I had heard it frequently
before. Berkeley declared it to be “doocid good, but doocid queer.”

In another land I was yet to hear a story still more gloomy and
improbable than this—a story to be related in its place, and in some
points not unlike the legend of the clenched hand.

While Cora had been rehearsing her gloomy story of the two ruined
towers, my eyes had scarcely ever wandered from Louisa Loftus, who, with
Miss Wilford and I, was seated in the same flirting, or tête-à-tête
chair, and who, on this night, was in all the pride of her calm, pale,
aristocratic beauty.

She was in the zenith of her charms; her figure, finely rounded, was
full—almost voluptuous; her features were remarkably expressive to be so
regular; and her eyes and glorious hair were wondrously dark when
contrasted with the pure whiteness of her skin.

Seated under the brilliant crystal gaselier, the fine contour of her
head, and the exquisite proportions of her bare shoulders and neck, on
which a circlet of brilliants sparkled, were seen to perfection, and I
felt bewildered while I watched her. Thus, I fear, Miss Wilford, in
whose blue eyes a mischievous expression was twinkling, did not find me
very entertaining company.

Down that fair neck a long black ringlet wandered, as if to allure, and
at times it almost touched, my hand. Intoxicated by her beauty and
close vicinity, I determined to do something to express my passion, even
if I should do it—miserable timidity and subterfuge—under cover of a
jest—a mockery.

Tremulously, between my fingers, unnoticed by others, I took the stray
ringlet, and whispered in her ears—

“A strange story, that of my cousin’s, Lady Louisa.”

“And the lock of hair! such a terrible idea!” said she, shuddering,
while her white shoulders and brilliants shone in the light together.

“Does it terrify you?”

“More than it gratifies me.”

“As the chances are that I may be killed and buried in the East,
will—will you give me _this_ to lie in the trenches with me?” said I,
curling the soft ringlet round my finger, with mock gallantry, while my
heart beat wildly with hope and expectation.

She turned her dark, full eyes to mine, with an expression of mingled
surprise and sweetness.

“Take it _now_, Mr. Norcliff, for heaven’s sake, rather than come for
it, as William Calderwood came,” said the sprightly Miss Wilford, taking
a pair of scissors from a gueridon table that stood close by; and ere
Lady Loftus could speak, the dark ringlet was cut off, and consigned to
my pocket-book, while my lips trembled as I whispered my thanks, and
laughingly said—

“What says Pope?

’The meeting points the sacred hair dissever,
From the fair head for ever, and for ever.’”

“This is all very well, Mr. Norcliff,” said she, laughing behind her
fan; “but I cannot submit to be shorn in jest, and shall insist on
having that lock of hair from you to-morrow.”

She had a lovely smile in her dark eyes, and a half-pout on her
beautiful lip; but Cora—I know not why—looked on me sadly, and shook her
pretty head with an air of warning, that seemed as much as to say I had
erred in my gallantry, if not in my generalship.

That night my heart beat happily; I went to sleep with that jetty tress
beneath my pillow; thus, for me, Cousin Cora had not in vain told her
quaint old legend of “The Clenched Hand.”

Continue Reading

The heavens were marked by many a filmy streak E’en in the Orient, and the sun shone through Those lines, as Hope upon a mourner’s cheek Sheds, meekly chastened, her delightful hue. From groves and meadows, all empearled with dew, Rose silvery mist, no eddying wind swept by; The cottage chimneys, half concealed from view By their embowering foliage, sent on high Their pallid wreaths of smoke unruffled to the sky. BARTON.

Next day the snow had entirely disappeared; the country again looked
fresh and green; and when we met for breakfast, and while the ladies
were exchanging their morning kisses lightly on each cheek—à la
Française, rather than à l’Ecossaise—various excursions were again
projected.

Among others, Cora urged that we should visit the ruined Castle of
Piteadie, which belonged of old to a branch of my uncle’s family now
extinct.

It stands on the slope of a gentle eminence, some distance westward of
the famous “long town” of Kirkaldy, a pleasant ride of ten miles or so
from the glen; and was a place we frequently rode to in the days of my
boyhood, when my feats in the saddle were performed on a shaggy,
barrel-bellied Shetland pony; so I longed to see the old ruin again.

A message was sent to the stable-yard after luncheon, and horses were
ordered for the party, which was to consist of Lady Louisa, Cora, Miss
Wilford, Berkeley, the M.P., and myself.

The ladies soon appeared in their riding-habits; and, to my perhaps
partial fancy, there seemed something matchless in the grace with which
Louisa Loftus held, or draped up, the gathered folds of her ample dark
blue skirt in her tightly gloved left hand.

There was the faintest flush on her usually pale cheek, a furtive
glancing in her long-lashed dark eyes, as she threw her veil over her
shoulder, gave a last smoothing to the braids of her black hair, and
tripped down the front steps, leaning on the arm of her courteous old
host, to where our cavalry stood, pawing the gravel impatiently, arching
their necks, and champing their bright steel bits.

We were soon mounted and _en route_. Cora and Lady Louisa, who were
resolved on having a little private gossip, after merrily quizzing me
about my dragoon seat on the saddle, rode at first together; and, as we
paired off down the avenue, followed by my man, Willie Pitblado, and
another well-mounted groom, I found myself alongside of Berkeley, after
Sir Nigel, who had a county meeting to attend at Cupar, left us.

“Your uncle’s stables make a good turn-out of cavalry,” said Berkeley;
“this grey is a good bit of horseflesh.”

“’Treads well above his pasterns,’ is rather a favourite with Sir
Nigel,” said I, coldly, for he had a patronizing tone about him that I
did not relish. I could laugh with Lady Louisa when she spoke of Sir
Nigel as “a queer old droll,” or “a dear old thing;” but I could ill
tolerate Berkeley, when he ran on in the following fashion—

“He is certainly a trump, Sir Nigel, but droll, as Lady Loftus
says—exquisitely droll! If he—haw—spills salt, no doubt he remembers
Judas, and throws a pinch over his left shoulder; knocks the bottoms out
of his eggs, lest the fairies make tugs of’em; and—haw, haw—would faint,
I suppose, if he dined one of thirteen.”

“I am not aware that Sir Nigel has any of the proclivities that you
mention,” said I; but, heedless that I was staring at him, Berkeley,
with his bland, insipid smile, continued his impertinence.

“Things have—haw—changed so much within the last few years, that these
old fellows are actually ignorant of the world they live in; and
the—haw, haw—world goes so fast, that in three years _we_ learn more of
it, and of life (Gad! they know nothing of real life), than they did in
thirty. As a young man, Sir Nigel was, I have no doubt, a buck in
leather breeches and hair powder—haw—drove a Stanhope, perhaps, and wore
a Spenser, _ultimus Romanorum_; paid his first visit to London in the
old mail coach, with a brace of pistols in his pocket, and the thorough
conviction that every second Englishman was a thief.”

I listened with growing indignation, for on this man, who quizzed him
thus, my poor uncle was lavishing his genuine, old-fashioned Scottish
hospitality. I had every disposition to quarrel with Berkeley, and had
we been with the regiment, or elsewhere, would undoubtedly have done so;
but in my uncle’s house, a _fracas_ with a guest, more especially a
brother officer, was the last thing to be thought of.

“You are somewhat unfriendly in your remarks, Mr. Berkeley,” said I,
haughtily.

“I am—haw—not much of a reader, Norcliff; but I greatly admire a certain
writer, who says that ’Friendship means the habit of meeting at
dinner—the highest nobility of the soul being his who pays the
reckoning!’” replied Berkeley.

“And you always thought that axiom——”

“To be doocid good! Slubber is the only old fellow I ever knew who kept
pace with the times.”

“Indeed!” said I, with an affected air of perfect unconcern. “I have
heard of him—he is said to have proposed to our fair friend in front.”

“Ah, may I ask which of them?”

“For Lady Louisa.”

“It is very likely—the families are extremely intimate, and I know that
she has gone twice to the Continent in Slubber’s yacht.”

Berkeley said this with a bearing cooler even than mine; but I was aware
that the fellow was scanning me closely through his confounded eyeglass.

“His fortune is, I believe, handsome?”

“Magnificent! Sixty thousand a year, at least—haw! His father was a
reckless fellow in the days of the Regency, going double-quick to the
dogs; but luckily died in time to let the estates go to nurse during the
present man’s minority. I have heard a good story told of the late Lord
Slubber de Gullion, who, having lost a vast sum on the Derby, applied to
a well-known broker in town to give him five thousand pounds on my Lady
Slubber’s jewels.

“’Number the brilliants,’ said he, ’and put false stones in their
places; she will never know the difference.’

“’You are mosh too late, my lord,’ replied he of the three six-pounders,
with a grin.

“’Too late! What the devil do you mean, Abraham?’

“’My Lady Slubbersh shold the diamonds to me three years ago, and these
stones are all falsh!’

“So my lord retired, collapsed with rage, to find that a march had been
stolen upon him—doocid good, that!”

The snow, I have said, had entirely disappeared, save on the summits of
the hills; but, swollen by its melting, the wayside runnels bubbled
merrily along under the black whins and withered ferns, reflecting the
pure blue of the sky overhead. At a place where the road became wider,
by a dexterous use of the spurs, I contrived to get my horse between the
pads of Cora and Lady Louisa, and so rid myself of Berkeley.

We chatted away pleasantly as we rode on at an easy pace, and ere long,
on ascending the higher ground, saw the wide expanse of the Firth of
Forth shining with all its ripples under the clear winter sun, with the
hills of the Lothians opposite, half shrouded in white vapour.

I would have given all I possessed to have been alone for half an hour
with Louisa Loftus, but no such chance or fortune was given me; and
though our ride to the ruined castle was, in itself, of small
importance, it proved ultimately the means towards an end.

One old woman, wearing one of those peculiar caps which Mary of Gueldres
introduced in Scotland, with a black band—the badge of widowhood—over
it, appeared at the door of a little thatched cottage, and directed us
by a near bridle-path to the ruin, smiling pleasantly as she did so.

“Newton,” said Cora, “you remember old Kirsty Jack?”

“Perfectly,” said I; “many a luggie of milk I have had from her in past
years.”

Cora always wondered why people loved her, and why all ranks were so
kind to her; but the good little soul was all unaware that her girlish
simplicity of manner, her softness of complexion and feature, her
winning sweetness of expression and modulation of voice, were so
alluring. Had she been so, the charm had, perhaps, vanished, or had
become more dangerous by the exercise of coquetry. Often when I looked
at her, the idea occurred to me that if I had not been dazzled by Lady
Louisa, I should certainly have loved Cora.

The cottage bore a signboard inscribed, “_Christian Jack—a callender[*]
by the hour or piece_,” an announcement which caused some speculation
among our English friends; and ignorant alike of its origin and meaning,
or what is more probable, affecting to be so, Berkeley laughed
immoderately at the word, simply because it was not English.

[*] Literally a mangle, from _calandre_, the French. The term has been
common all over Scotland for centuries. In Paris there is a street
named Rue de la Calandre.

“Christian Jack—Presbyterian John, I should suggest,” said he, as we
cantered along the bridle-path, in Indian file, Cora at our head, with a
firm little hand on her reins, her blue veil and her skirt, and two long
black ringlets, floating behind her.

Lady Louisa followed close, her jet hair gathered up in thick and
elaborate rolls by the artful fingers of her French _soubrette_; her
larger and more voluptuous figure displayed to the utmost advantage by
her tight riding-habit; and now, in a few minutes, the old ruin, with
all its gaping windows, loomed in sight.

It was not an object of much interest, save to Cora and myself, for it
had been the scene of many a picnic and visit in childhood, and had been
long the seat of a branch of the Calderwoods now extinct and passed
away.

Some strange and quaint legends were connected with it; and Willie
Pitblado, old Kirsty at the Loanend, and Cora’s nurse, had told us tales
of the old lairds of Piteadie, and their “clenched hand,” which was
carved above the gate, that made us feel far from comfortable in the
gloomy winter nights, when the vanes creaked overhead, and when the wind
that howled down the wooded glen shook the cawing rooks in their nests
and made the windows of old Calderwood House rattle in their sockets.

The little castle of Piteadie stands on the face of a sloping bank to
the westward of Kirkaldy, and a little to the north of Grange, the old
barony of the last champion of Mary Queen of Scots; and no doubt it is
founded on the basement of a more ancient structure, for in 1530, during
the reign of James V., John Wallanche, Laird of Piteadie, was slain near
it, in a feudal quarrel, by Sir John Thomson and John Melville of the
House of Raith.

The present edifice belongs to the next century, and is a high, narrow,
and turreted pile. The windows are small, and have all been thickly
grated, and access is given to the various stories by a narrow circular
stair.

Within a pediment, half covered with moss, above the arched gateway in
the eastern wall, is a mouldered escutcheon of the Calderwoods, bearing
a saltire, with three mullets in chief; and a helmet surmounted by a
clenched hand—the initials “W.C.” and the date 1686.

Pit is a common prefix to Fifeshire localities. By some antiquarians it
is thought to mean Pict; by others a grave.

Cora drew our attention to the clenched hand, and assured us that it
grasped something that was meant to represent a lock or ringlet of hair.

Whether this was the case or not, it was impossible for us to say, so
much was it covered by the green moss and russet-hued lichens; but she
added that “it embodied a quaint little legend, which she would relate
to us after dinner.”

“And why not now, dear Cora?” said Lady Loftus. “If it is a legend,
where so fitting a place as this old ruin, with its roofless walls and
shattered windows?”

“We have not time to linger, Louisa,” said Cora, pointing with her whip
to the great hill of Largo, the cone of which was rapidly becoming
hidden by a grey cloud; while another mass of vapour, dense and gloomy,
laden with hail or snow, came heavily up from the German Sea, and began
to obscure the sun. “See, a wintry blast is coming on, and the sooner
we get back to the glen the better. Lead the way, Newton, and we shall
follow.”

“With pleasure,” said I; and giving a farewell glance at the old ruin I
might never see again, I turned my horse’s head northward, and led the
way homeward at a smart canter; but we had barely entered Calderwood
avenue when the storm of hail and sleet came down in all its fury.

Dinner over, I joined the ladies early in the drawing-room, leaving the
M.P. to take the place of Sir Nigel, who was still absent. The heavy
curtains, drawn closely over all the oriels, rendered us heedless of the
state of the weather without; and while Binns traversed the room with
his coffee-trays, a group was gathered in a corner round Cora, from whom
we claimed her story of the old castle we had just visited, and she
related it somewhat in the following manner.

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