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
[*] 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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’
“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
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
“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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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
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,
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
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
“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.”