Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Border Ghost Stories
Author: Pease, Howard, 1863-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Border Ghost Stories" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                BORDER GHOST STORIES



                _BY THE SAME AUTHOR_

                _Tales of Northumbria_
                  _Magnus Sinclair_
       _The Lord Wardens of the Marches_, _etc._



                BORDER GHOST STORIES

                         BY

                     HOWARD PEASE


                      AUTHOR OF
        'TALES OF NORTHUMBRIA,' 'MAGNUS SINCLAIR'
           'THE LORD WARDENS OF THE MARCHES OF
               ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND,' ETC.


          ERSKINE MACDONALD LTD. LONDON, W.C. 1



                _First published 1919_



                         TO

                    THE MEMORY OF

                   SIR WALTER SCOTT

          THE TUTELARY GENIUS OF THE BORDERLAND

            THESE TALES ARE INSCRIBED BY A

                  LATTER DAY BORDERER



PREFACE


Certain places, said Stevenson, cry out for a story, and Scott, in any
new surroundings, straightway invented an appropriate tale, if there
were not already a story or tradition in existence. One might even
believe that the place itself tells its own tale to the sympathetic
imagination.

Thus Mr. Bligh Bond in his book, _The Gate of Remembrance_, implies that
the whisperings of the _genius loci_ enabled him to make his astonishing
discovery of the lost Edgar Chapel at Glastonbury Abbey.

    'Multa modis simulacra videt volitantia miris,
        Et varias audit voces, fruiturque Deorum
    Colloquio, atque imis Acheronta affatur Avernis.'

The scene of the following ghost stories usually becomes manifest in the
text, but it might be mentioned that 'Castle Ichabod' stands for Seaton
Delaval, that the 'Lord Warden's Tomb' is a reminiscence of Kirkby
Stephen, and that 'The Cry of the Peacock' is a suggestion from the Vale
of Mallerstang.

If the ghost is not always visible in the tale, it is at least born of
it.

Thus if there be no actual ghost in 'Ill-Steekit Ephraim' or in 'The
Blackfriars Wynd' there are at least sufficiently 'ghostly' occurrences.

Again, in 'Apud Corstopitum' Penchrysa is held to haunt the Roman Wall
beside the limestone crags; Tynemouth Priory is thought to be revisited
by Prior Olaf whenever the wind stays long in the eastern airt, and the
'outbye' moors beside 'The Bower' may now be haunted by the spirit of
'Muckle-Mouthed Meg.'

The stories marked by an asterisk have already been published in the
_Border Magazine_; 'In the Cliff Land of the Danes' appeared originally
in the _Northern Counties Magazine_ under the title of 'An Antiquary's
Letter' (supposed to have been dictated by John Hall Stevenson of
Skelton Castle, author of _Crazy Tales_, to his friend the Reverend
Laurence Sterne at Coxwold), and has been slightly altered, as has also
'The Muniment Room,' which appeared in the _Queen_ and the _Newcastle
Weekly Chronicle_. He desires to thank the various editors concerned and
the Northern Newspaper Syndicate for their courtesy in permitting
republication.

In his _Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft_, written nearly one
hundred years ago, Sir Walter Scott says apologetically at the close of
the book: 'Even the present fashion of the world seems to be ill-suited
for studies of this fantastic nature; and the most ordinary mechanic has
learning sufficient to laugh at the figments which in former times were
believed by persons far advanced in the deepest knowledge of the age.'

But surely the belief in, and love of ghosts will persist 'as long as
the moon endureth,' for fancy, imagination, and conscience combine
against materialism, be it never so scientific, and even if the vision
of the affrighted criminal be subjective it is a terrible reality to
himself.

'_What! not see that little boy with the bloody pantaloons?_' exclaimed
the secret murderer, so much to the horror of his comrade that he
requested him, if he had anything on his mind, to make a clear
conscience as far as confession could do it.[1] And, further, it is but
some seventeen years since the present writer was taken to see a certain
nonagenarian--one Bobby Dawson--for some fifty years, if memory serve,
whipper-in to the Bilsdale hounds, who related in all good faith how he
with his hounds had once hunted a witch in the shape of a hare that
escaped by a cundy, or underground drain, into a barn. When Dawson
entered, there was the witch in the form of an old woman lying panting
on the hay.

Again, the writer has in his possession the copy of an '_Old Charm to
make Brave_,' which was transcribed by Mr. R. Blakeborough, author of
_Yorkshire Wit, Character, Folklore, and Customs_, from the MS. book of
one David Naitby, a Bedale schoolmaster, during the early days of 1800.
It may interest the reader to quote a few lines therefrom:

    '_We hid there (on the mountain top) in the shadow of the moon.
    We left there an acorn yet green in its cup,
    We left also a firchatt upon the great stone hurled by Thor;
    To a fir branch we tied with a fine whang drawn from a bear we slew
    The wing feather of an eagle which span towards us,
    Yet it fell not to the earth, we twain caught it,
    The one by the quill, the other by the feather part._'

After this the tale of 'In the Cliff Land of the Dane' may appear to be
not so very improbable.

Once more, the uprising of the thrawn corpse from the coffin in
'Ill-Steekit Ephraim' was narrated to the writer and his companion by a
bed-ridden but very intelligent moorland 'wife' some years ago when
walking along the Roman Wall beside Hot Bank farm or cottage. Finally,
he can still remember his early thrills over strawberries and cream when
told of the appearances of 'the Silky' or 'little grey lady' at Denton
Hall, which suggested the harsher variant of 'In my Lady's Bedchamber.'

In conclusion, it might perhaps be mentioned that the altar to Sylvanus
alluded to in 'Apud Corstopitum' is preserved at Stanhope Rectory on the
Wear, and that the writer possesses an altar dedicated--Deo (Mithras),
by L. Sentius Castus of the 6th Legion, which was formerly excavated at
Rutchester Camp, North Wylam, and is now at Otterburn.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sir Walter Scott once said that no one had made more use of ghosts than
himself, but that he did not believe in them. Another authority
expressed his disbelief in them, 'because he had seen too many of them.'

Professor George Sinclair wrote his book, _Satan's Invisible World
Discovered_, to prove 'against the Saducees and Atheists of the present
age, that there are Devils, Spirits, Witches, and Apparitions, from
Authentic Records, Attestation of Famous Witnesses, and undoubted
Verity,' but as, _inter alia_, he includes in them an account of the
'Strange Pranks plaid by the Devil at Woodstock in England, anno 1649,'
it is evident that he simply accepted without any investigation the
common hearsay, for it is well known that the Woodstock Devil was none
other than the Commissioners' clerk, Giles Sharp,[2] who played these
tricks upon his masters.

Modern investigation proceeding on scientific lines and by means of
actual experience and experiment, seems to provide an explanation--mental
and moral--for manifestations which our ancestors regarded as physical
and material.

One need only mention in this connection the writings of William James,
the psychologist, the proceedings of the Psychical Research Society, the
wonderful results of psycho-therapeusis dealing with the unconscious
self, the subliminal 'consciousness,' or as Captain Hadfield prefers to
call it, 'heightened personality' in his paper on this subject 'The Mind
and the Brain' in _Immortality_, to realise not only the greatness of
the advance in psychical knowledge, but also the vast new field of
investigation thus opened out to the student.

    OTTERBURN TOWER
      NORTHUMBERLAND
        _April 1919_

[Footnote 1: _Demonology and Witchcraft._ Letter x.]

[Footnote 2: Readers of _Woodstock_ will remember Sir Walter Scott's
account of 'Joseph Collins, commonly called Funny Joe--who, under the
feigned name of Giles Sharp, hired himself as a servant to the
Commissioners.'

'The account of this by the Commissioners themselves, or under their
authority, was repeatedly published....'

It is amusing to note that 'this narrative gave equal satisfaction to
the Cavaliers and Roundheads: the former conceiving that the licence
given to the demons was in consequence of this impious desecration of
the King's furniture and apartments, so that the citizens of Woodstock,
almost adored the supposed spirits, as avengers of the cause of royalty;
while the friends of the Parliament, on the other hand, imputed to the
malice of the Fiend the obstruction of the pious work, as they judged
that which they had in hand.']



CONTENTS


                                              PAGE

    IN THE BLACKFRIARS WYND                      1

    BY PEDEN'S CLEUCH                           23

    'ILL-STEEKIT' EPHRAIM                       31

    THE COCK-CROW                               49

    BY THE SHRINE OF SAINT CUTHBERT             59

    *'MEENISTER' MACHIAVELLI                    67

    ELDER 'MACHIAVELLI-ER'                      83

    REPENTANCE TOWER                            99

    *THE LORD WARDEN'S TOMB                    109

    CASTLE ICHABOD                             121

    THE MUNIMENT ROOM                          137

    IN THE CLIFF LAND OF THE DANE              153

    *THE DOPPEL-GANGER                         171

    *IN MY LADY'S BEDCHAMBER                   179

    *THE WARLOCK OF GLORORUM                   189

    'MUCKLE-MOUTHED MEG'                       203

    *THE PRIOR OF TYNEMOUTH                    223

    THE HAUNTED ALE-HOUSE                      233

    THE CRY OF THE PEACOCK                     245

    KITTY'S BOWER                              255

    THE TALE OF THE THREE ANTIQUARIES          271

    APUD CORSTOPITUM                           283



IN THE BLACKFRIARS WYND


'_'Twill be a black day for auld Scotland when she ceases to believe in
the muckle Deil_,' commented 'the Meenister' of the Tron Kirk, when I
had explained to him my troubles and sought his 'ghostly counsel and
advice,' as the English service has it, 'to the quieting of my
conscience, and avoiding of all scruple and doubtfulness.' My father had
been English, but my mother was Scotch, and she had sent me to my uncle,
Deacon Abercrombie, to be entered as apprentice to his craft of the
goldsmiths. He was a widower, lived alone, and was reputed to be
eccentric, but as far as worldly gear was concerned the Deacon was a
highly responsible citizen; as burgess, guild brother, and deacon of his
craft he could hold his head as high on the causeway as any other, be he
who he might, in the city.

Not even the 'stairhead critics,' who, as Auld Reekie's poet writes,

    '_wi' glowering eye
    Their neighbours' sma'est faults descry_,'

could point at any speck in his general repute.

The Reverend Andrew Geddes was somewhat stricken in years; his beard was
white as snow, his thrapple loose below his chin, and the flesh had
ebbed from his bones, but his mind was as alert as ever, and his
goodness stood manifest in his face.

We were sitting in his lodging, situate in a high 'timberland' in the
Canongate, just without the Nether Bow, on the same side as the Tron
Kirk, and from his little _tourelle_ we could survey as from an eyrie
the coming and going of the citizens upon the street.

'Ay,' said he again, 'it will be a gey evil day for Scotland when she
ceases to believe i' the muckle black Deil. Whatten temptations he can
offer is oft forgot. Ye'll hae heard tell o' Major Weir--the whilom
"Bowhead Saint," as they callit him--ye'll hae heard tell o' him,
laddie? I mind my father talkin' o' his ain greetin' sair for bein' ower
young to gang to his hangin'.'

Had I no? Ay, and of his staff that went before him like a link boy, and
of the coach with six black horses that carried him and his sister
backwards and forwards from hell!

'Eh, laddie, what a sermon I could preach to ye on this tremendous
problem!' he said regretfully, bethinking him of my youthful years.

'Aweel,' he added discreetly, 'I dinna ken your uncle--the responsible
Deacon--save by sight and repute, as ane that disna spend, an' isna
verra sociable; yet he attends the Great Kirk, "comes forrit," does he
not, to the Holy Table?' I nodded assent.

'Is as reputable a citizen as any that treads on the High Street, and
yet for a' that he may hae a canker o' the soul. Aiblins Davie Hume has
sappit his belief, and the muckle Deil, kennin' that, is thrawin' a flee
ower him as for a saumon the noo.'

As I sat there shivering all down my spine, my companion looked upon me
very kindly from his thoughtful, gentle eyes of blue that faded to grey
at the marge, and said, 'Stop up your ears, laddie, like the adder, to
any temptin' o' your uncle. Keep watch and ward, and, if need arise, run
for me instantly, for, though I'm auld the noo, I'm aye ready for a
warsil wi' auld Hornie.'

Heartened by the minister's sympathy and courage I returned to my
uncle's lodging in Blackfriars Wynd, and continued to devote myself to
his craft in the back of his booth in the High Street, which appealed to
me greatly for ingenuity and skill.

In accord with my mother's advice I had endeavoured to cherish an
affection for my uncle, yet withal there was something about the man
that misliked me much, and, to speak straight to the point, that
actually 'fley'd' me, for he would gloat o' night over his glass of
toddy on any scandal afloat concerning the 'unco guid,' and would speak
with tongue i' the cheek of virtue in general, as if indeed hypocrisy
were the true king of this world. I thought at first his purpose was to
tease me and draw me out, but I soon came to believe it was all a part
of the horrid nature of the man himself.

Further again than this, he seemed to exercise a dreadful and secret
power over 'Brownie'--his pathetic little serving boy, orphan and mute.

I had realised that 'Brownie' lived in terror of his employer, though I
never saw him the victim of any physical ill-treatment; one night indeed
he came shivering and terrified into my bedroom, and by signs gave me to
understand that my uncle was hunting for him, and it was not till I had
bolted my door that he grew somewhat calmer.

He would not leave me, but insisted on lying down at the foot of my bed
throughout the night.

I thought possibly the poor lad might labour under some hallucination,
but I felt fear myself, for I distinctly heard some one attempt to open
my door very stealthily a short time after 'Brownie' had taken refuge in
my room.

No, it was not surprising, I reflected, that 'Brownie' should be
'feared' of my uncle when I was myself in the like case, for there was
'no milk of human kindness' in him. His eyes were shielded by a _chevaux
de frise_ of bristles, and when one caught a glint from them 'twas as if
one had encountered the malevolent gleam of a ferret intent upon his own
ruthless schemes.

He was short of stature, possessed abnormally long arms, had a heavy
moustache, and very hairy, flexible fingers, with which he performed
wondrous feats of craftsmanship, but to my fearful imagination he seemed
to resemble at times a tarantula spider of alarming proportions.

There had been of late an epidemic of crime in the city, which had
seriously perturbed the good burgesses; various shops had been broken
into, and cash and valuables had been 'lifted,' but as no arrests had
been effected a general feeling of insecurity was rife in Auld Reekie;
all which was a constant theme of merriment on my uncle's sardonic
lips.

What had led me to approach 'the Meenister' and confide my apprehension
to him, as I have shown above, was the mute, appealing look in poor
'Brownie's' eyes. But as 'Brownie' looked much brighter and happier
during the next few weeks I regained my own equanimity, and grew
somewhat shamed of my first nervous fears. This being so I thought it
only right that I should visit 'Meenister Geddes' once more and report
to him my belief in the groundless nature of my vague imaginations. I
had found him at home, and stayed 'cracking' on with him till past ten
of the clock.

Then as I returned somewhat in haste and doubtful how to effect my entry
into my uncle's lodging undiscovered, or how, if discovered, to explain
my absence, I brushed against a wayfarer at the corner of the
Blackfriars Wynd.

''Tis a footpad,' I thought, for he was velvet-footed, and I heard no
tread on the pavement. I glanced narrowly at the swift-passing stranger,
and beneath the smouldering 'bowet' I had borrowed from the 'Meenister'
I recognised with a start the slight, shrunken figure of 'Brownie' with
his white, pathetic face. It was the swiftest of visions, yet I had seen
enough to give me a 'gliff,' _for the eyes were not those of 'Brownie,'
but of my uncle_.

This chance encounter reawoke all my previous apprehensions. The very
fact that I had only an eerie suspicion on which to build increased my
mental discomfort. There was something behind to which my watch and ward
had afforded me no clue.

Nothing more transpired for another few weeks when one night as I lay
awake meditating I heard a footstep on the stair without. It was late,
for my uncle had been out, and I had sat up reading, and had forgotten
how time was passing. As I continued to listen I heard a strange moaning
proceeding, I felt sure, from 'Brownie's' attic, which was situate a
foot or two above my chamber on the top turn of the newel stairway. I
had recognised, I thought, the tread on the stairs, for my uncle's
footstep was peculiar, since he had a slight limp; it was this that had
aroused my attention and reawakened my apprehension.

The moaning had been that of a dumb animal, and I had heard it once or
twice before when poor 'Brownie' had been in pain.

Stealing out of my room a-tiptoe I very gently laid my hand on the
'sneck' of 'Brownie's' den and tried to lift it without noise.

But, though it lifted, the door was 'steekit' from within.

There was no sound to be heard therein; I stood there with pricked ear,
but could learn nothing by listening. Perhaps I might be able to discern
somewhat through the aperture above the pin of the 'sneck.' 'Brownie's'
den had, as I knew, a window in its _tourelle_, and as the night was
moonlit though stormy, I might in a flitting moonbeam perhaps espy
somewhat.

Stooping, I placed my eye to the tiny slit, and waited impatiently for a
gleam of white light that might penetrate from the westward airt which
it faced.

A quarter of an hour, perhaps, elapsed; I could see nothing, and my
patience was almost exhausted, when on a sudden the beam of moonlight so
earnestly expected filtered fitfully into the den, and there, though
faintly, was revealed to me the form of my uncle lying motionless upon
the truckle bed--apparently in deep slumber.

Where then was 'Brownie?' I searched the small den for him, but nowhere
could I discover him. The window was open. Just as I made this discovery
the moonlight faded away and left me in darkness, filled with a horrid
suspicion. I waited on in hope of the moonlight returning, but rain set
in, and I returned to my own chamber much perplexed as to what to do.
Leaving the door ajar I determined to sit up and listen for any further
sound, or the creak of a footstep on the stair, but though I listened
till grey dawn came I heard no sound at all.

Then once again I stole a-tiptoe to 'Brownie's' door, and peeped through
the aperture. Once again I was astounded, for I could now discern that
'Brownie's' figure lay upon the truckle bed instead of that of my uncle,
which I had seen before.

Could I have been mistaken previously? No, I was certain my eyesight had
not deceived me. How could it have? What I had descried had quite belied
my expectation, and had been totally unforeseen.

I returned to my bed determined to investigate the open window at the
first opportunity.

I slept ill, and when I rose I found the door of 'Brownie's' den open.
Entering in, I saw that 'Brownie' had got up and the window was closed.
Investigating further, I opened it cautiously and looked forth to see if
there were any exit either to the ground or on to the roof.

Evidently there could be none to the ground, for the room was situate at
the height of the tall 'land.' Nor was there any opening on to the roof,
so far as I could discover, for the little _tourelle_ overhung the wall,
and no foothold was possible.

Yet there was one way out. The 'land' stood in the narrowest part of
the wynd; right opposite, and not more than five feet away rose the
opposite wall, finishing off into a gable end with corbie-steps
affording easy access to the further roof.

Could 'Brownie' have leaped across? It was not impossible, as the space
was so narrow, and though the window was small there was room to pass
through. Then as I thus measured the spaces I caught sight of a plank
below the window resting on the floor. 'Twas perhaps a foot and a half
broad, in length about six feet--sufficient to act as a bridge across
the wynd. I had discovered enough to excite my most vivid apprehensions
as to its use, but nothing else in the little den gave any clue to the
mystery.

Descending the stairs I found my uncle already engaged upon breakfast.
He seemed in high good-humour, and roasted me heartily upon my
unpunctuality. 'Brownie' came in at that moment carrying some scones,
and I noted out of the tail of my eye that he looked extremely haggard
and miserable.

Assuming a woebegone air I told my uncle that 'Auld Reekie' suited me
poorly, and that the climate was too 'snell' for my southern
constitution.

'Hae ye heard the sad bruit?' he asked suddenly, 'the causeway's fair
ringin' wi't. Puir Tom Macalister, the rich shipper o' Leith, has been
found wi' his throat cut lyin' ahint the dyke by the Leith walk. There's
an unco scandal afoot anent it--some says a merry-begot o' his ain has
done it oot o' revenge for bein' kep' short o' siller by his father.' He
paused a moment, then added significantly, 'Ay, ay, Macalister was aye
verra generous to the Foundlings' Hospital. Wha kens?' He heaved a sigh,
but his eye twinkled satirically, 'The hairt o' man is deceitfu' an'
daisperitly wicked,' and he lifted the whites of his eyes heavenward
like a hound mourning.

'Was the poor man robbed?' I inquired shortly.

'Ay, was he,' returned my uncle; 'he was seemingly stuffed wi'
bank-notes for payin' his men the day. He was gangin' hame after
supper--gey fou, maist like. Eh, laddie!' he continued, 'sic an end to
ane wha was regairded as belongin' to the Saints! Wae's me for the
godly,' and again he lifted his eyes upward as a hound crying u-lu-lu
for his lost master. Then he gave me a sharp look, somewhat askance, as
he asked me swiftly, 'Whatten a discourse, think ye, will ye get frae
your meenister o' the Tron Kirk the morn?'

I blenched, I felt, at this sudden thrust. Had his familiar informed him
of my interview?

'It will be a sair blow to him,' I said, with apparent unconcern, 'but
it cannot affect him directly.'

'No affect him?' returned my uncle, seemingly shocked at my
indifference, 'not when he was aye hand an' glove wi' him?'

'He was no his bairn,' I retorted, hastily finishing off my "parritch"
with a gulp. 'I'm late, as ye said,' I added, rising, 'I must be off to
my work at the booth.'

'Ay, ay,' returned my uncle, 'wark's aye best in an evil day.'

As soon as my work was finished for the day I hastened to call upon 'the
Meenister,' and, finding him at home, at once informed him of my
discovery of the night, and of my uncle's satirical mention of poor Mr.
Macalister's fate.

'Laddie,' he exclaimed earnestly as I concluded 'ye hae dune well to
come to me. Puir Tom Macalister was just as decent, straight-leevin' a
Christian man as could be found i' braid Scotland. There's somethin' gey
wrang wi' your uncle, I'm fearin' sadly. I'll no let any one blacken the
memory o' Thomas Macalister. Noo, laddie, keep ye a quiet watch--sayin'
naethin'; but aye wait on wi' eye an' ear for onything further
suspeecious at hame, an' if ye hear puir "Brownie" skreighin' come your
ways straucht here for me--an' we'll see if we canna tackle the
evil--an' with the help o' Heaven, scotch it.' His eye lit, his mouth
tightened; he clenched his fist, ready for immediate 'warsil wi' auld
Hornie.'

I promised faithfully, and withdrew with a heart somewhat relieved,
though not relishing the thought of being alone with my uncle in the
lonely house wherein either suspected the other.

My uncle that evening scarcely alluded to the murder again save to ask
if I had had any news, and to mention that the funeral was to be the
next day. Then he laughed uncannily, leering upon me over his
spectacles.

'I'm tell't that he's left a muckle legacy to the Foundlings. What think
ye o' that, laddie?'

'He might have done worse,' I replied, almost angrily, though inwardly I
shivered. 'He might have left it to the cadies of the toon for drink.'

A fortnight perhaps passed without event; the City Guards were said to
have found a clue, and the Town Council had offered a large reward for
any information that might lead to the apprehension of the murderer, but
nothing definite had been discovered.

Gossip was rife, and in the taverns 'twas bruited that my uncle's
conjecture had come nighest to the bull's-eye. For my own part I had
quietly made what arrangements I thought feasible in case of any further
suspicious act of my uncle. I kept watch and ward with eye and ear, as
Minister Geddes had directed, but not till another fortnight had elapsed
did I hear his footstep on the stair, by 'Brownie's' den. Then one night
as I lay half-dozing I was certain I did hear the lame footfall.
Instantly I was broad awake, and waited in alarmed expectancy. Ha! there
it was again--the low skreigh o' pain I had heard before. I was
'gliffed' indeed, horribly afeared, yet I must act, so a-tiptoe I stole
out, and like a cat stealthily approached 'Brownie's' door. The hour was
somewhat after eleven, for I had heard the Tron Kirk chap recently; the
moon in her last quarter had risen, and I could dimly descry the
interior of the den.

I shrank back after peering through the small aperture, for there was my
uncle stretched out on 'Brownie's' truckle bed. The window was opened,
and I could see that the board or plank I had previously measured lay on
the sill.

Of 'Brownie' I could not see a sign.

I turned away on the instant. Now was the time to go fetch 'the
Meenister.'

Noiselessly I descended the stairs, let myself out by a low side window
in the cellar, and made straight for the lodging of 'the Meenister.' I
dared not rouse the porter of the Nether Bow Port, but climbed the wall
beyond even as Bothwell had done after the explosion at Kirk o' Field,
and made my way down the Canongate. Minister Geddes was within, and
fortunately had not yet gone to bed. He was ready in a moment to come
with me. With a Bible under his oxter, and a 'bowet' new lit in his
right hand, he accompanied me swiftly up the street. His courage was
wonderful; he seemed like 'Greatheart'--valiant to meet Apollyon in
battle. I caught hold of the end of his plaid, and followed him _non
passibus æquis_ like the _parvus Iulus_, for he hastened onward with his
loins girded up. I do not know that more than twenty minutes had elapsed
when we arrived at the cellar window and I had helped him through.
Together we noiselessly mounted the stairs; then when we arrived at
'Brownie's' den he reached me the 'bowet' to hold while he peered
through the aperture.

Then he turned to me and said in a whisper:

'Laddie, we mun just break doon the door. If it is as I'm thinkin' he
winna hear us. His evil spirit is awa i' puir 'Brownie's' body, bent on
Deevil's wark. Here's for it!' and as he spake he thrust swiftly with
his foot and broke down the wooden bolt that fastened the door.

In we went--I holding the little 'bowet' on high to give us light. 'Ay,'
whispered my companion in my ear, 'I'm richt. He's in a swoond; he disna
see or hear us.' I gazed in horror on my uncle's face. His eyes were not
closed, but were as unseeing as a blind man's. There was, I thought, a
hateful look as of triumphant evil on his lips, but his breath came
regularly as of one in deep sleep.

'Noo, laddie,' said the good minister, 'we mun act. "Brownie" will be
returnin' before daybreak, an' we hae to keep the twa o' them apairt.
_His_ evil spirit is awa wi' the puir laddie, and we mun prevent body
an' spirit comin' thegither again. It is like to be a fearfu' warsil,
but wi' the help o' the Bible an' our God we'll triumph.' I could see
his eye glow and his brow light with inspiration, and I drew in courage
as I looked upon him in his intrepidity.

'Gang ye oot ower by the bit plankin', laddie,' he commanded me,
pointing to the window. 'Gang, an' wait for "Brownie," then when he
comes back grup him fast and pray tae Heaven. I'll shut tae the windie
and grup the figure here on the bed.'

I could not disobey, but I trembled horribly as I crawled slowly forth
upon the plank. The minister had sat himself down by the bedside, and
was reading aloud by the light of the 'bowet' from out of Genesis of
Jacob's wrestling all night long with the angel of God. I could hear his
voice as I slithered slowly across my plank of dread.

     '_And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until
     the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not
     against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh ... _'

The faith of the old man alone in the den with the fearsome figure on
the bed heartened me greatly. I reached the end of the plank, grasped
firmly the coping of the corbie-step, pulled myself up and felt for firm
footing in the lead gutter of the roof below.

There for a few minutes I lay still, my heart palpitating, and reflected
on what was next to be attempted.

All was still about me. Save for a belated roysterer singing on his way
homeward, and one or two nightbirds on the street below whose footfalls
sounded fitfully, no whisper broke on the eerie night.

I looked around and about in the moonlight, and noted a passage behind
me between the roofs of the 'lands.' Here surely would be the way by
which 'Brownie' would return from his nocturnal excursion. I sat
crouched beside the gable end and waited fearfully for any sound of his
returning. The Minister's 'bowet' had now gone out; the window was
closed. I felt tremors assail me in my loneliness. Then I caught sight
of Orion above the further roofs--advancing with glittering sword--as a
champion to challenge of combat--and at once a great composure stole
within my heart, for I too was engaged in a great combat against evil.

The good Minister had assuredly probed the problem to the quick; even as
Elijah had breathed life into the body of the son of the Shulamite widow
so had my uncle like a fiend from the pit breathed an evil spirit into
poor 'Brownie's' body, and through him executed horrid deeds.

Our great task was to prevent body and spirit from coming together
again. 'Twas certain that the Minister trusted to be able to prevent
this re-union by prayer and exorcism, and I was his assistant therein.

I trembled at the struggle so imminent upon me, and prayed God for
assistance in my hour of need.

Crouching quietly there, I noticed that the wind had now arisen from
the west and was driving heavy spume of cloud across the moon so that
she was overwhelmed and sank from sight. Soon again, however, she
emerged from her labours, and, clothed in white, paced serene as a
Madonna faring to her churching.

Just then I heard a furtive sound behind me, and gazing swiftly backward
I caught sight of a slight form in grey creeping prone upon the gutter.

The moment of trial had come. Drawing in my breath I crouched lower
still and moved not till the grey form rose up as if to lay hold of the
coping-stone. Then swiftly I turned and seized him by the waist, pulling
him down backward.

Like a ferret--sudden as a flash--he bit my hand, and we were down in
the gutter together.

'Brownie' was of frail build, but he now seemed to be possessed of a
demoniac's strength, and my arms failed to hold him. I felt his hands
upon my neck and grew dizzy.

I prayed then as I had never prayed before, and on the sudden a thought
lit in my brain. I remembered one of 'Brownie's' infirmities--his
breathing through his mouth. I had strength to pluck at my bonnet,
thrust it into his mouth, and leaned my chin upon the cloth with all my
force.

I was still uppermost, and though he twined and twisted like a serpent,
I held on while my head seemed almost bursting. The thought of Jacob
wrestling through the night sustained me, and now at last 'Brownie's'
clutch upon my throat relaxed.

I shook my head free. I breathed again in the cold air--I felt all the
energy ebb from the body beneath me. I had conquered at last. 'Brownie'
lay quietly in the gutter, breathing gently as a babe.

I rose to my feet and peered across the chasm. There in the chamber
opposite was the Minister wrestling on his knees with the figure on the
bed. Just at that moment a cock crew from far below in the purple depth
of the city. The silence seemed to shiver about me.

Thank God! Daybreak at last after the horror of darkness.

As I watched I saw the struggling figure fall suddenly backward on the
bed. The Minister rose from his knees and came towards the window.

He opened it, and I saw his face shining in the moonlight--like a
saint's--haggard yet triumphant.

'Gie thanks to God, laddie,' he cried to me, as he bent his head
reverently, 'we hae striven like Jacob an' hae prevailed. _There's a
deid man lies upon the bedstraw._'



              BY PEDEN'S CLEUCH


                INSCRIBED TO

                WILSON PEASE

    TO WHOSE SUGGESTION THE TALE IS OWING



BY PEDEN'S CLEUCH


The Border hounds had gone right away up Redewater after an old dog fox
they had picked up on the rocks beside the Doure; twice had he circled
the Doure, then setting his mask westwards had crossed the Rede, and,
turning right-handed, made straight for Carter Fell.

My mare had gone splendidly for the first hour, but by the time we
passed the cairn on the Carter she had lost a shoe, and in addition had
sustained a bad 'over-reach,' so I was fain to pull up and dismount,
while I watched the Master and whip, and one other intrepid horseman,
struggling gamely on towards Carlin's Tooth on the Scottish side of the
Border after the tail of the vanished hounds.

I determined to descend to the grass-grown Hawick road which leads into
the Jedburgh-Newcastle road half a mile from the ancient Border boundary
line. The early morning that particular April day had been lovely;
curlews newly returned had luted their love-song overhead; golden
plovers had piped upon the bents; there was a scent of heather-burning
in the snell air, but suddenly the weather had changed, and with an idle
motion snowflakes now drifted down the wind. Cheviot was fast
disappearing behind a white shroud; the triple Eildons showed like
breaking billows; Ruberslaw alone was black against the sky.

I stayed a minute or two more to give my mare a mouthful of water at the
springs of Jed, but whereas I had intended an inch she insisted upon an
ell.

As I tried to drag her head out of the little pool of water, a
stranger--evidently an old shepherd--accompanied by a frail old collie
bitch came up beside me.

'Hae ye had guid huntin'?' he inquired, 'Hae ye killed the fox? They're
mischievous beasts at the best, but worst o' a' at this season--aye
seekin' for the puir lambs.'

I said I thought the fox had got right away, and would probably save his
brush by taking refuge in some stronghold by Carlin's Tooth.

'Ay,' he replied absently, then added, 'D' ye ken the name o' this
cleuch?'

'No,' I replied; 'I come from the wrong side of the Border,' finally
succeeding, as I spoke, in drawing my mare's head out of the water.

''Tis Peden's Cleuch,'[1] he said with animation; ''tis the place where
blessed Master Peden was preachin' when the bloody "Clavers" was huntin'
him like a fox on the fells; ay, and would hae worrited him wi' his
hounds had na the Lord sent down His mist and wrapped him awa frae the
hunters.'

He paused a moment, then continued slowly:

'They still hunt for him--"Clavers" and Grierson o' Lag; 'tis the weird
they hae to dree till the Day o' Doom for their wickedness i' pursuin'
the Saints o' God.'

'Have you ever seen them?' I asked lightly.

'Ay, I hae,' came the unexpected response, 'whiles i' the "oncome" or
"haar," or by the moonlicht.

'D' ye no ken the bit ballant?

    "_Soondless they ride--for aye i' search o' their boon--_
      _They ha' died, but God's feud is for aye unstaunched,_
    _And aye they mun ride by the licht o' the moon._"'

'No,' I replied, astonished, 'but how--supposing you have seen
them--could you know them to be "Clavers" and Grierson o' Lag?'

'Not only hae I seen them, but I aince heard them talking,' my companion
replied quietly as before.

'When was that?' I asked, still more astonished, as I looked more keenly
at the speaker.

He was a man of middle stature, dressed in rough shepherd's costume,
with a plaid about his shoulders; he had a gentle aspect, with tremulous
mouth, and a far-away look in his eyes of speedwell blue.

'I'll tell ye,' he replied simply. 'Blessed Master Peden had been here
i' the "killing times," ye ken, preachin' till the puir hill folk, an'
baptizin' their bairns--he baptized a forebear o' my ain--and it would
likely be the annivairsary o' the day when he escaped frae the hans o'
the hunters through the "haar," when I chanced to come by here an' saw a
bit tent pit up, an' heard folk carousin' within.

'I creepit up, an' I keeked within the openin' o't, an' there I saw twa
hunters sittin' at board--eatin', and whiles drinkin' the blood-red
wine--ane o' them was the bonniest man e'er I saw i' my life, but he had
the sorrowfullest eyes e'er set i' a man's face. There was ne'er a bit
colour to his cheeks save where a trickle o' claret had stained the
corner o' his lip.

'His comrade was juist the opposite till him; foul he was, an'
discoloured wi' lust an' liquor--mair like a haggis nor a human face
ava.

'There was a wumman beside him--dootless his whure, that had ridden oot
frae Jedburgh to be wi' him--nestlin' in at his side like a ewe till her
ram i' the autumn; not that he was takin' muckle thocht o' her,
though--an' then he cries oot loud:

'"'Tis a moonlicht nicht, my Lord Claverhouse," he cries; "we'll hunt
oor quarry ower muir an' fell, an' aiblins hae mair luck than we had i'
the day; we'll run the auld brock to ground before dawn, I'll hand ye a
handfu' o' Jacobuses."

'"I'll hand ye," replied Claverhouse, wi' a smile on his bonny, sad
face,

    "_Ye'll tak the high road an' I'll tak the low road,_
    _An' I'll be in North Tyne afore ye._

"So up an' tak wing, my grey-lag goose," he says, "an' wing your way
straight to the North Tyne water."

'"Then here's a last toast," cries Lag, holdin' up his bicker fu' o'
wine.

'Noo, what think ye was his toast?' my companion broke off to inquire of
me with eye agleam.

I shook my head, and laid hold of my saddle to remount, for the eerie
communication, the loneliness of the spot, and the isolation of the
drifting snowflakes had all combined to give me a 'scunner.'

'It was their ain damnation,' my companion whispered in my ear; 'he was
proposin' the murder o' the Saints o' God--juist the "sin against the
Holy Ghaist"--that was his fearsome health.'

I had climbed into my saddle, and at that moment an unseen plover wailed
through the mist.

'Hark!' cried my companion, lifting a finger.

'Hark to his soul i' torment!'

My mare took fright, and made a great spring forward; I let her go, for
I was 'gliffed' myself, and right glad was I to reach the road made by
human hands that led homeward, for I feared if I stayed on that I too
might meet the wraiths of Claverhouse and Lag hunting the moorlands for
blessed Master Peden.

[Footnote 1: Peden, the Covenanter, was undoubtedly on the Border in the
'killing times,' and is said to have escaped from the hunters when
preaching on Peden Pike by intervention of a mist, but as in old maps
this rounded hill west of Otterburn is spelt Paden, the derivation seems
doubtful. Peden's Cleuch on the north side of Carter seems undoubtedly
to have been his refuge.]



'ILL-STEEKIT' EPHRAIM

    'About the middle of the night
      The cocks began to craw:
    And at the dead hour o' the night
      The corpse began to thraw.'

_Ballad of Young Benjie._


We--that is, the four members of our Oxford reading party--were bathing
in a deep pool in many-terraced Tees, and I was seated on a rock's edge,
drying in the September sunshine, and quoting from Clough's 'Bothie of
Tober-na-Vuolich':

    'How to the element offering their bodies, down shooting the fall,
    They mingled themselves with the flood and the force of imperious
       water,'

when from the central black cauldron immediately below me appeared the
face of Sandie--our best diver--with a most curiously perturbed
expression on his countenance. I had been watching a little circlet of
foam that eddied round on the outskirts of the current, and seemed to
wink at me with a hint of hidden and evasive mystery.

Then it vanished, for Sandie's head had shattered it.

'Hello, Sandie!' I cried to him, 'what's up? It's not cramp, is it?'

He climbed out and up to where I sat on the rock above, and shook the
water from his hair.

'Ugh!' he said in disgust. 'I've just been to the bottom, and there I
swear I came across a drowned body; I felt a corpse and touched long
hair. I believe it was a woman's.' He looked at his hands in disgust,
and perceptibly shivered.

'Nonsense!' said I. 'It must have been a drowned cow or sheep, or
possibly a pony.'

'Go down and look, or rather feel for yourself,' he retorted.

'How deep down was it?' I inquired.

'Twenty feet, perhaps,' he said, 'for it's a deep pool, and I believe
the poor thing's tethered--sunk with a stone tied to her feet.'

'Surely not,' I exclaimed, 'for if it was a case of murder it would be
known.'

'Go down and see for yourself,' cried Sandie testily. 'I've had enough
of it.' Calling our other two companions I told them of Sandie's
discovery, and we came to the conclusion that it was our duty to try to
verify or disprove Sandie's assertion.

These two dived, but did not get down far enough in the water; it seemed
to me as I watched their attempts that the stream carried them too
swiftly forward, so when my turn came I dived in somewhat higher up, and
got as far down as I could in my dive, and kept on striking downwards
till I calculated I was close to the spot Sandie had indicated. Treading
the water I felt about in the amber swirl for Sandie's gruesome find,
but the circling eddy swept me onward.

Knowing my breath was all but exhausted I made a final effort, sank a
little deeper, striving against the current, and spread my hands abroad.
I touched something--surely it was hair! Kicking against the stream I
felt again.

Yes, it was hair floating in the current--the hair of a woman. I touched
with a shrinking hand a human head, then almost suffocated, I rose to
the surface and slowly regained the shore.

'Well?' interrogated Sandie, watching my face closely.

'I believe you're right,' I said faintly, still short of breath. 'Yes, I
believe it's some poor woman, for I could just touch the skull, and the
hair was long and floating in the current.'

'Good Lord!' exclaimed the two others. 'Can she have got wedged in
between two rocks?'

'I think she's been thrown in,' said Sandie gloomily. 'I felt her body
swaying to the stream. Some ruffian's knocked her on the head, tied a
stone to her feet, and flung her in.'

'No more bathing for me,' I said, shivering. 'We'll just have to dress
and go back and report to "the Dean."'

When we had returned to the inn where we were lodging we reported our
discovery to our tutor, 'the Dean,' and asked his advice. 'Granted that
you have "viewed the corpse," as coroners insist, I suppose you should
report it to the Inspector of Police,' said he thoughtfully, 'but
perhaps I might find out first from our landlord if there has been any
story about of a woman being missed. Possibly a "village tragedy" may
come to light. When we've had tea I will have a pipe and a "crack," as
they call it here, with our landlord. Perhaps at supper I may have
something to report.'

We were well content to leave it in 'the Dean's' hands, for he was most
astute in management of men, and loved to fathom a mystery.

At supper, which was an informal meal, whereat we waited on ourselves,
he told us that he had found out nothing in course of his 'crack' with
the landlord, for the simple reason that he had only been a month in
possession, and nothing eventful had occurred in that time.

'I think,' suggested 'the Dean,' 'that you two divers should run down on
your bikes to-morrow to the Inspector of Police at Middleton, and tell
him privately of your discovery.'

This Sandie and I willingly agreed to, and started off after breakfast
down the valley. We found on arrival that the Inspector was away at the
county town attending the Assizes, and was not expected back till the
end of the week.

We got back just in time to escape a drenching, for a 'thunder plump'
broke in the heaven above the moors as we ascended the last rise to the
inn, which effectually prevented all thought of further investigation of
the Black Lynn pool.

The next morning was brilliant after the storm, and naturally suggested
an expedition.

'Let's go for a walk right across the moors,' said Sandie to me; 'the
other two want to work, but I've turned restless.'

I agreed at once, for I was restless also in disappointment of our
errand. We ordered sandwiches, obtained leave from 'the Dean,' and
prepared to start off at once.

'Don't fret if we don't get back to-night,' cried Sandie, the
'second-sighted,' to our tutor as we departed; 'we may get lost, Ted may
break down under his weight of learning, or one of Saint Cuthbert's
Cross Fell fiends may "lift" him.'

We wanted to get as far as Brough under Stanemoor, and back by the great
'Nick,' and then athwart Cross Fell's desolate moor, but we had not
taken the weather into our consideration, nor thought of possible
sopping peat-hags on our return journey.

Thus when we had toiled up 'the Nick' by a narrow path from Brough to
the wild moorland we found our track across the waste very difficult to
follow. By six o'clock the clouds had gathered black above us, and
another thunderstorm grew imminent.

Suddenly the lightning flared through the serrated gloom, and thunder
reverberated over the heather.

The rain descended javelin-like upon us as we struggled through the
heavy peat-hags; we lost our bearings and determined to make for any
light that we might descry in lonely farm or shepherd's sheil on this
forsaken waste. We had almost given up hope when we saw a faint glimmer
through the increasing gloom three-quarters of a mile away, perhaps, on
our left hand.

We made for our beacon as straightly as we could; then in a dip we lost
sight of it, but eventually succeeded in discovering it again, and
judged the light to proceed from the window of a small farm, as indeed
proved to be the case when we had traversed another mile of broken
moorland.

After knocking on the door repeatedly, we heard some one moving within.
We went up to the window, and asked for shelter from the storm, as we
were strangers who had lost our way.

The door slowly opened, and a man bearing a tallow dip in a battered
sconce showed himself in the entry.

'We've little accommodation here the night,' he said, as he looked at us
somewhat suspiciously; 'the goodman has died and lies steekit in his
coffin, but ye can come in for shelter if ye have a mind.'

This did not sound very inviting, but any shelter was preferable to a
night in a peat-hag; so we accepted his offer, and followed the man
within.

It was a strange scene that met our eyes in the little kitchen. On
trestles in the middle of the room stood the coffin; in a box-bed to
one side of the hearth an old woman in a white mutch or cap sat up
against pillows; on the farther side of the hearth sat an untidy,
foolish-faced girl who peeled potatoes with an uncanny disconcern.

The old woman, on the contrary, had exceedingly bright eyes, and seemed
to note everything with extraordinary interest. 'Wha's there?' she
asked, as we bowed in a hesitating manner to our hostess.

Sandie explained who we were and how we had chanced to intrude upon her
in such an untimely hour.

'Ay,' she replied, 'the goodman's dead, and is to be lifted the morn,
but ye can bide the night; and if ye dinna mind such company,' she
pointed contemptuously at the man who had let us in, 'ye can sleep wi'
him i' the room above.'

'Whisht, mother, whisht wi' yer talk afore strange gentlemen,' said he,
and he seemed to be very uneasy beneath her scorn.

'Why should I whisht?' she said angrily. 'Why hae na ye brocht my
daughter Jean to her father's burying?'

The man turned to us eagerly, evidently anxious to divert our
attention.

'Be seated, gentlemen,' he said, drawing up two chairs to the fire;
'ye'll be ready for something to eat belike. Mary can give ye some bacon
and eggs and potatoes for supper whilst ye dry your coats.'

'Ay,' interrupted the old lady, 'ye shall have meat and drink. Nane
shall come to a burying at my hoose and no have meat and drink before
they gang awa. Set oot the bannocks and honey and milk, Mary, for the
lads, then mak ready the bacon and eggs.'

Mary with a strange disordered giggle that brought a chill to my bones,
looked up at this and half spoke, half sang, aloud to herself by way of
reply. 'Meat and drink for Dad's burying. But wherefore not for Jean's?
Puir lassie, she was aye kind to me, was Jeannie.'

'Don't heed her, gentlemen,' said the man in a husky voice, 'she's a
bit daft, poor girl,' and as he spoke he trod noisily on the stone
floor, evidently trying to drown her voice, and forthwith dragged a
table that stood in the window somewhat nearer the hearth.

Mary had now finished with her potatoes, and was cutting rashers of
bacon which were soon sizzling delightfully in the pan. Meantime Sandie
was talking to our bedridden hostess, whom he had discovered to be of
Scottish extraction, and I was conversing with the son-in-law about the
danger of being lost on Cross Fell.

There was a lull in the storm at this time, but one could hear the long
lances of rain striking on the stone tiles above; it was good to be
within doors, and to dry one's coat by the peat embers. We insisted on
our hostess partaking of supper, which we served up to her in bed; then
Sandie and I, the girl and the man, set ourselves down by the table and
stretched forth our hands, in the Homeric phrase, 'to the good things
set before us.'

Sandie and I had our backs to the coffin, and had forgotten all about it
and the 'goodman,' its occupant; Mary and her brother-in-law sat at the
corners of the table, and their features were lit up by the flickering
peats. The man had shifty, furtive eyes, set rather deep beneath an
overhanging forehead, lined cheeks, and a clean-shaven heavy jaw; Mary,
with sallow face, light eyes, and disordered hair sat opposite him,
evidently apprehensive.

A strange party amid strange surroundings, thought I, for a moment, as I
framed an etching of the black coffin, the bright-eyed old woman in the
night mutch abed, the daft girl and dour man and two Oxford
undergraduates eating heartily amid the flickering light of the dip and
the peat flames.

But what a splendid moorland supper it was! Bacon and eggs and fried
potatoes, bannocks with butter, heather honey and milk.

'What luck!' I murmured in Sandie's ear, 'to be hopelessly lost, and to
find this!' and I stretched forth my legs at glorious ease. 'Shifty
eyes' now produced a 'cutty' and suggested a smoke, which Sandie and I
were thinking was the one thing left to complete our satisfaction.
Suddenly and without warning I heard a creak behind my chair, but I took
no heed. Then a further creaking and a grinding noise--and I looked
round. _I saw the coffin-lid lift upward and a white shroud show below._
Slowly the shrouded corpse rose with creaking bones before my staring
eyes--rose to a sitting posture, and sat still. The coffin-lid clanged
to the ground; then all was still, an awful silence filled the room. A
moment more, and a cry of terror rose to the roof, for the man beside me
was down on his knees before the corpse in an ecstasy of terror. 'Never
accuse me, Ephraim! Dinnot terrify us that gate, feyther!' he cried in
anguish. 'Poor Jean just happened an accident--fell and was drowned in
the river.' The man's face held me rigid. Never had I seen mortal fear
like this. Suddenly I heard a louder voice beside me, for Sandie--moved
by an uncontrollable impulse--shot forth an accusing arm, and cried
accusingly, '_She lies in the Black Linn pool--her head knocked in--a
stone fast to her feet._' The man's face turned to ashes. Awfully he
twisted his head about to the voice. He could not remove his eyes from
Sandie's accusing countenance, spittle dropped from his bloodless lips,
his eyes were like to pillars. Then he began to shuffle off--still upon
his knees--away from Sandie and towards the door--with his face twisted
over his shoulder as if it were made of stone.

He shuffled a little faster--still upon his knees--his head still
twisted over his shoulder 'thrawn' in terror of Sandie and the accusing
corpse. He reached the door, groped for the handle, opened it, then
shambled to his feet, passed through the outer door, and so into the
black night.

I saw the lightning swoop down upon the moorland. I caught a glimpse of
a man running as one blinded--his hands above his head to protect
himself--vaguely through the inky peat-hags. Then I turned to look on
Sandie who was also gazing into the darkness--his face like the
archangel Michael's. I had not yet found my voice, and could not speak
for tension, when I heard a foolish titter from the girl beside me who
was suddenly overcome with laughter.

'_Tee hee_,' she went, '_tee hee! What a funny face Tom had on him. Tee
hee!_'

Then I heard a voice from the bed speaking composedly. 'Ay, I aye kenned
he'd murdered puir Jeannie. Whaur wast ye fund my puir lassie?' she
asked Sandie.

As Sandie replied to her I looked at the fearful figure of the shrouded
corpse that sat upright facing the doorway, whence his son-in-law had
fled, and wondered if there could be any spark of life left within. As I
looked the composed voice spoke again, 'Dinna be fieyed! Puir Ephraim's
been _ill-steekit_. It's twa-three days since the doctor certifiedst
him; noo his muscles hae stiffened and raxed him up. Ye mun lay him doon
again, Maisters, for I'll no can sleep wi' him glowering that gate.'

The speaker in the night mutch was the only one of us who seemed
unaffected by the extraordinary events we had just witnessed. Her eyes
gleamed a trifle more brightly than before. That was the only
difference.

I looked at Sandie in dismay at the task assigned to us, but he had
risen, and now beckoned me to the coffin side. Handling the poor corpse
as reverently as we could we found it very difficult to re-confine it to
its resting-place, for the muscles had turned so stiff and rigid that we
had to exert force, and seek heavy stones from outside to keep the lid
shut down securely.

This done, and the door fastened against the return of the fugitive, at
the old woman's command, though I felt sure in my own mind that the man
would never come back again of his own accord, Sandie and I took the
battered sconce and dying wick and went up to the bedroom above.

We sat upon the bed, smoked another pipe and conversed about the
soul-stirring incidents we had just been witnesses of.

'Do you remember,' asked Sandie, 'the mediæval legend of the dead man's
wounds bleeding afresh in the presence of his murderer? I believe that
the spirit of the dead man down below us must have been moved by the
presence of his daughter's murderer.'

'To think of our having come across in such a mysterious and fortuitous
way the poor daughter--Jean!' I said, occupied by another aspect of
these extraordinary occurrences.

As we smoked and talked thus our dip went out, which was an intimation
that we had better try to sleep.

We slept but fitfully, and rose early to help prepare our breakfast.
Scarcely had we finished our repast when a neighbour arrived with a cart
and horse wherewith he had promised to 'lift' the corpse and convey it
over the rough track down the valley to the spot where the hearse from
Middleton was to meet it.

We found a rope and bound the coffin-lid lightly down, and having given
our promise to our hostess to recover, if we could, the body of her
daughter Jean and give it proper burial, we bade her good-bye for the
present and set off to the inn where the 'Dean' would be anxiously
expecting us.

We related our experiences to the 'Dean,' we got the Inspector to come
up, but failed entirely to discover the body in the Linn. For my part I
thought the thunderstorm might be accountable for the disappearance, but
Sandie had his own opinion on this matter. As to the criminal, some say
he escaped the country, but I firmly believe he perished in a peat-hag,
and to this day haunts the bleak spaces of Cross Fell.



THE COCK-CROW


A cloud hung over the bishopric--the ancient patrimony of Saint
Cuthbert.

Bishop van Mildert had died and, _sede vacante_, great changes were
impending, for Parliament was about to shear off a large portion of the
privileges of the ancient franchise, to reduce the endowments, and to
hand over the mines to the Ecclesiastical Commission.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Reverend Arthur Egglestone--the youngest of the 'Golden Canons' and
Lord of the Manor of Midhope, high up in Weardale--sat in his spacious,
oak-panelled dining-room above the Wear, discussing the situation with
his two companions over a very _recherché_ supper prepared by the French
chef of the Dean and Chapter.

The time was Lent, the eve of Good Friday, but the 'Golden Canon' had
forgotten the season in his perturbation and his desire to show
hospitality to a distant cousin newly arrived from America, who was full
of curiosity and admiration of the city and cathedral of Saint
Cuthbert.

His other guest was a Minor Canon who had just been appointed to
instruct and train the choir-boys of the cathedral.

The 'Golden Canon' was of an imposing figure, a fine type of the English
country gentleman of the old school--admirably fitted for the post of
Chairman of Quarter Sessions.

It was not that he had mistaken his vocation so much as that his
vocation had mistaken the canon, for owing to the death of his two elder
brothers--one by an accident out hunting, one by drowning at sea when
admiral--he had unexpectedly succeeded to the family seat and rich
possessions.

On this very day he had driven himself into his prebend's house in the
close in his four-in-hand to welcome his young American cousin.

The 'Golden Canon' was of a sturdy build, fair of complexion, a lover of
field sports, and an excellent judge of a horse and good claret.

An admirable host, he sat in his arm-chair looking after the comfort of
his two companions, passing the _Château-Laffite_, and discoursing
learnedly of the ancient glory of the bishopric.

His American cousin was an undergraduate of Harvard, eager as a hawk,
keen-faced, avid of every form of life: he drank down his _Laffite_
with evident enjoyment, listening to the music of the water on the weir
below, and eagerly following the wisdom of the 'Golden Canon.'

The Minor Canon, on the other hand, was not entirely at his ease, for he
was divided between his reverence to his host and his consciousness that
it was Lent, for hitherto he had always prided himself upon mortifying
the flesh during the Lenten fast.

He was of a delicate and distinguished appearance; not much more than a
lad yet,--sensitive and impressionable--one whom the Jesuits of the
sixteenth century would have trained to be a 'staff' in their hands to
be turned this way and that in the interests of the Church.

Gradually, however, he forgot his scruples in the charm of his
surroundings, the good cheer, and his superior's conversation; he helped
himself joyfully as the claret went swiftly about, and joined with
delight in converse about the great past of the cathedral.

''Tis a thousand pities,' said the 'Golden Canon,' 'to diminish in any
way the dignity of the bishop and the dean and chapter, since reverence
for the established order of the State is fast dying out.

'Now just as it is thought well to maintain the dignity of the judges
on assize by the attendance of the High Sheriff with his javelin men and
trumpeters, so it is needful to keep up the estates of the bishops and
the deans and chapters.

'In the old days of the great prince bishops,' continued the 'Golden
Canon,' 'the successor of St. Cuthbert was in reality a greater power
than the successor of St. Augustine. For myself I had rather have
reigned and ruled between Tees and Tyne than have lived in Lambeth
Palace. I should have had regal powers in regard to jurisdiction,
coinage, Chancery, Admiralty dues, and so forth, and when I journeyed to
London, on my way to my palace in the Strand, would have lain at my
various palaces on my way up.

'Then again as lord of many manors throughout the Palatinate I should
have had all the old feudal dues coming in to my treasury--waifs and
strays, treasure trove, deodands----'

'And merchet of women?' queried his cousin mischievously.

'Ay,' replied the 'Golden Canon' with a responsive twinkle in his eye,
'"merchet of women" also, but as an antiquary I must tell ye that it's
not what you two young men would wish it to be----'

He glanced at the blushing face of the Minor Canon, and the eager
visage of the undergraduate, and bade them fill their glasses yet again,
while they had the chance, for the Chapter's binn of _Laffite_ was now
running very low in its deep cellar.

'No,' he went on regretfully, ''twas not the _Droit de Seigneur_ which
we have all read of, and perhaps envied, but a fine upon marriage--a
feudal due exercised over women, as over all property on the feudal
lord's manor. Not but that I take it occasionally the Prince Bishop may
have indulged himself in what Richelieu styled "the honest man's
recreation," yet the _jus primae noctis_, of which also you will have
heard, was not the privilege of the seigneurial bishops, but the fine or
compensation paid to the Church by the impatient bridegroom, who in
early days of clerical discipline was enjoined to mortification of the
flesh for the first three nights of marriage.

'A lawsuit 'twixt the mayor and corporation of Amiens and the bishop
before the Parliament of Paris in the fifteenth century is still on
record, and proves this clearly.'

'St. Cuthbert, sir,' interposed the blushing but now emboldened Minor
Canon, 'would have severely reprehended Cardinal Richelieu in that
event, for 'tis said that the saint had a perfect horror of women; we
know of the line drawn beside the cathedral beyond which no woman was
allowed to pass.'

'Ay,' responded his host, 'St. Cuthbert was a great saint doubtless, but
an extremely ungallant man. He would allow no cow upon Holy Island, for
where there was a cow there was a woman, and where there was a woman
there was the Devil.'

'Luther and the Reformation changed all that,' said the young American,
with a laugh.

    '"Who loves not woman, wine and song,
    He is a fool his whole life long."

'Which of the two is in the right?'

'Luther!' replied the Minor Canon, somewhat unexpectedly, flushed with
_vol-au-vent_ and generous claret, who was now beginning to look upon
himself as a gay Lothario. 'Asceticism for its own sake is mere vanity.'

'Here's then to Luther!' cried the 'Golden Canon,' with enthusiasm.
'Fill and drink a bumper to his memory!'

'Not but what I regret the Reformation myself, since had it not been for
Anne Boleyn, the bishopric might still be a Palatinate and the estates
of the canons inviolate.'

Curiously enough the Minor Canon had not on this especial occasion
filled up his glass; on the contrary he was now staring in dismay
towards the window recess opposite, which was suffused with a pale
light. On the right hand there hung a crucifix, and the moonbeams gently
illuminated the cross with its burden.

The two cousins continued their gay converse, but the Minor Canon was
completely absorbed in his contemplation of a vision which was being
unfolded before his affrighted eyes in the recess opposite. A figure
took shape in the misty light--the form of an old man rugged of aspect,
with grizzled locks like a fisherman's, appeared before his eyes; he
held forth his hand and pointed menacingly to the crucifix with fiercely
gleaming eyes.

At that very moment there rose up from far away to the ears of the
stricken gazer the sound of a cock-crow. The gazer wilted back in his
seat; turning white, he held his hands to his eyes, his whole frame
trembling. His two companions, who had now been aroused by his movement,
looked upon him with astonishment.

'What's the matter, my dear fellow?' inquired the 'Golden Canon.' 'You
look as if you had seen a ghost.'

'I thought,' stammered the gazer--'I thought I saw St. Cuthbert--I mean
some apparition--in the recess there.'

'It's only the moon,' the 'Golden Canon' replied, after a cursory glance
in that direction. 'If you don't like it just draw the curtains.'

But the Minor Canon had already risen from his seat, and, with unsteady
footsteps, passed to the door murmuring brokenly to himself, '_Peccavi,
peccavi_' as he withdrew from the dining-room.

'A nice fellow,' commented the 'Golden Canon,' 'but he has, I fear, a
rotten digestion.

'Help yourself to that white port, cousin; then we'll finish our talk
over a pipe of tobacco.'



BY THE SHRINE OF SAINT CUTHBERT


The bells were ringing to evensong in the great cathedral dedicated to
Saint Cuthbert, that stands like a fortress on its rock above the
murmuring Wear--

    _'Half house of God, half castle 'gainst the Scot'--_

in the windy dusk of a November evening.

The people of the saint, however--the 'Haliwer folc,' the 'folk of the
Holy Man'--were few in attendance that afternoon, and the great nave
seemed very empty as I sat down in a seat in front of the 'Galilee'
beside the north door of entry.

I looked about me and admired the mighty Norman pillars diapered and
fluted with exceeding skill by the great master builders of old, who
built to, even as their great duke swore by, the 'Splendour of God.' My
eye wandered upward and rested upon the great chevrons resembling
sword-cuts that seemed deep-hacked within the rounded arches of the
Triforium. Thence onward my gaze fluttered like a butterfly, and rested
upon a leering corbel, which seemed to scoff at priest and priest-craft
with protruding tongue. The mighty stone roof soaring aloft--a ship's
keel upturned--drew my eye eastward to the choir; there on the great
east window, rose-shaped and many-coloured, the invading dusk gathered
like water-drops upon the panes, and wove its dun mantle over them. The
anthem now pealed along the roof, lapping capitals, corbels, and pillars
in a tide of sound that swept unresisted through the wide spaces of the
cathedral.

As the echoing song grew fainter, and ebbed away into the twilight
shadows, my gaze returned to my immediate surroundings, and rested
unconcernedly upon a man sitting a seat or two in front of me, beside
one of the massive piers. He seemed to be in a most distressed and
nervous condition, for he peered about him with an evident alarm, which
was pitiful to witness. As he turned his face about I saw it was haggard
with fear and sorrow, or remorse; his hair was matted, and beads of
sweat were thick upon his brow.

It was as if he were terrified of impending danger. Yet what could he be
afraid of in the great calm of the solemn cathedral? The benediction had
been given, and the sparse congregation had now risen and was slowly
departing, yet he rose not, but seemed to be hiding from view as he
crouched behind the form in front of him, and edged his way slowly
within the shadow of the heavy pier to his left hand.

I sat on listening to the voluntary, and it held me by its strangeness.
I knew that the Dean and Chapter's organist was away on holiday, and I
wondered who the strange player might be who was setting forth his own
soul in the notes of the pealing organ. He sang of fellowship, of
comradeship in ancient days through stress of adventure and deadly
combat; then with organ sobs that shook the heart, of death and the
infinite loneliness of death, and of the inappeasable sorrow of the
survivor lamenting his Jonathan. A pause of black silence. Then brokenly
a little sough of life began to re-arise--a growth of hope--the fierce
determination of revenge--quickening with flame--breaking into triumph.

And now as the lights were being turned out, and gloom came rushing in
upon the empty spaces of the cathedral I saw the unhappy figure shift
indecisively as he rose from his seat in front of me, glance hurriedly
about as if for a way of escape, then moving unsteadily round the pier,
to my surprise he shuffled off in the direction of the organ. The music
seemed to fascinate him, to paralyse his will, even as the sphex
paralyses its victim with its sting.

The organist was now engaged upon the coda of his fugue; the former
motifs were rehearsed--love, sorrow, and revenge. Triumph resounded from
the loft when I heard above the quickening notes a sudden patter of
heels across the nave; then a pitiful drumming of fists upon the barred
door that led into the east corner of the cloisters. Knowing that escape
that way was now impossible for the distracted man, and feeling pity for
him, I crossed the nave and followed after him in the gloom. As I drew
near I heard him flee again--down the south aisle to the other door of
the cloisters. Here once more he shook unavailingly upon the latch, and
drummed pitifully with his fists. There was a scrabbling with nails on
the oaken door--then a cry of anguish smote on my ear. An awful terror
evidently had him in grip.

He rushed wildly on again--on--on to the only remaining door of escape
into the northern close. Suddenly the music stopped on a throb of joy.
The shock caused me to halt. As I started again to walk towards the door
I heard no longer the miserable patter of feet in front of me. I was
just about to reach out a hand to feel for the latch in the darkness
when I stumbled over an obstacle on the pavement. I knelt down and felt
about with my hands: I found a man's body lying inert at my feet.

God in Heaven! The darkness seemed to buffet me upon the ears. I heard a
vague cry escape my lips, for the fugitive's hand had dropped from mine
with a thud upon the stone. _The man was dead._



'MEENISTER' MACHIAVELLI


The soul of the Minister of Bleakhope was disquieted within him, for he
had just been 'up the water' and seen the new stained-glass windows
which had recently been put in and dedicated to Saint Cuthbert in the
English church 'beside the Knowe.'

The Reverend Alexander Macgregor was tall and spare, oval-faced, eyed
like a hawk, yet with a humorous twinkle behind his keen glances that
were equally alert whether for the rising of a 'troot' or a sinner.

A bequest from a wealthy parishioner, who had died, as the result of a
motor-car accident, had enabled his 'brother'--the Episcopalian
'priest'--to decorate his church with three single lights, illustrative
of Saint Cuthbert's life, and the Minister grieved as he thought of his
own little grey kirk on the bare hill which badly wanted a 'bit colour'
in its wee apsidal east window.

He regarded his frayed sleeves and his wrinkled black trousers
unhopefully.

If he were to save every penny till the end of his days he could never
achieve his desire. He had no wealthy parishioner whom he might persuade
into buying a motor-car after seeing that 'the Kirk' had been duly
remembered in his will.

His flock consisted chiefly of small farmers and herd laddies, and
unless one of them emigrated and made a fortune in Canada he saw no
prospect of achievement in the parish itself.

As he walked up the road towards the manse on this particular October
evening after his return from the Knowe he came nigh to breaking the
tenth Commandment into pieces, for the three light windows seemed to
flaunt themselves before his eyes in the gathering mist, and to ask
tauntingly, 'What wull ye gie for us? What wull ye gie for us?'

As he plodded onward he was suddenly hailed by a voice from behind.
Turning about, he recognised one of his flock--a small fellside
farmer--who, coming up with him, informed him that an old acquaintance
was staying at the little inn close by who had been inquiring about him.

'Wha is 't?' inquired the Minister.

'Ye'll mind Tam Elliot,' replied the elder, 'him that was nevvy to auld
Sandy o' the Ratten Raa farm that died and left him part money. Aff he
went when he got the siller, and a bit later an auld great-aunt left
him a bit mair, sae he took a muckle big farm doon sooth, and noo he's
at the inn cracking crouse aboot his pedigree beasts and sheep, and
swankin' awa as to what he's done syne he left these parts, just as if
we didna ken the sort o' man he was, and aye will be. Howsoever, he's
askin' after ye, and maybe ye'd like a crack wi' him.'

The Minister was on his way home, but he liked his 'crack' as well as
another, so he turned eastwards to the little wayside hostelry some
quarter of a mile back to forgather with Elliot, who used to attend the
kirk 'whiles' in company with his deceased uncle. The 'Sign of the Wool
Pack' was a very quiet country inn; in the little 'snug' there would not
be above half a dozen customers--the landlord, probably, presiding over
them--so the Minister thought no harm in joining them for a glass, a
pipe, and a 'crack.'

'Hoo's aal wi' ye?' he inquired, as he entered the door of the 'snug,'
and, having nodded to the company, held out his hand to Tam Elliot. 'We
hae heard that ye are increasing your flocks like Abraham, doon sooth i'
the land o' Canaan!'

'You are welcome, Minister,' cried Tam in reply, as he rose up and took
him by the hand; '"wag a paw," as we used to say, and take something for
a sore throat. Yes,' he continued, as he sat himself down again and
took a pull at his own long glass, 'I'm building up a pedigree stock at
my new place--gave £500 for a bull t' other day, and that's a fact.'

'Dod, man!' said the Minister, bethinking him of the stained-glass
window, 'why, that's a small fortune.'

''Tis that,' replied Tam complacently, stretching a leg to the hearth,
'but pedigree blood's worth the money.' He caressed a little imperial he
had grown since he left the north, stretched out his other leg to the
fire, and with a smile of satisfaction that seemed to ooze from his
vintage cheeks, continued to talk of his own pedigree.

'Yes, blood's the thing,' he said, 'for beasts and humans alike. Why,
take my family--every one knows the clan of Elliot's been on the Border
for centuries, and one of my forebears was married on a Stuart lass, so
likely enough I may have a bit royal blood i' my veins, even though it
comes from the wrong side o' the blanket.'

Here an ancient, bearded shepherd--an elder of the kirk--with a tongue
of caustic, Ringan by name, who was sitting behind the Minister, winked
derisively at the company and muttered _sotto voce_, 'He's forgot aal
the little yins. I mind fine his granddam--the merry-begot of a
pitman's lass doon the water.' The Minister himself could not resist a
smile at this, and the visitor added somewhat hastily, 'Yet I say wi'
Robbie Burns--"_a man's a man for a' that_." Have another touch o' this
mountain dew,' he cried magnanimously to the scornful herd.

'Na, na, I'm awa,' replied the ancient herd, rising as he spoke; 'it's
gettin' late, an' I dinna want to run the risk o' meetin' wi' "Parcy" on
my way hame.'[1]

'Parcy!' exclaimed the visitor, raising himself in surprise from his
arm-chair. 'Parcy, the ghost o' the murdered mosstrooper, d' ye mean,
that the old wives talked of? D' ye mean to tell me ye still believe in
ghosts up here?'

'Why not?' said the Minister. ''Tis good Christian doctrine to believe
in departed spirits.'

'We don't believe in 'em in the towns,' retorted Elliot scornfully, 'so
why should we in the country?'

'Will ye put your faith, or lack o't, tae the proof?' here inquired the
caustic ancient herd. 'I'se haud ye a wager ye winna walk doon the burn
the morrow nicht at the deid hour, past the stane where "Parcy" was
slain, and up on beyond the kirkyaird, and on tae the manse. Maybe it's
a mile, an' to-morrow's the nicht o' Hallow E'en when the deid walk.
Here's my shilling against whatever ye like to lay doon,' and as the
ancient spoke he drew a long, thin leathern purse from his trouser
pocket, plucked forth a shilling, and set it down with a bang on the
table.

'And there's my sovereign alongside it,' cried the visitor
vaingloriously.

'Aweel,' the ancient continued, 'the Meenister can be the stake-holder,
an' the landlord can set ye awa as the clock strikes twalve the morrow
nicht. If ye win through to the manse your lane ye'll hae won my
shillin'; if no', the Meenister will hae a sovereign i' the ladle next
Sawbath.'

The landlord assented, the others all approved the suggestion, the
Minister placed the stakes carefully into his waistcoat pocket, and the
aged shepherd departed, chuckling to himself over his wager.

The Minister continued to converse about ghosts for a minute or more,
then he too rose, saying that 'the wife' would be getting nervous if she
'wanted' him much longer.

As soon as he was out upon the road he sped on after the retreating
footsteps of the shepherd, and he hailed him through the gloom. As he
came up with him he said quietly, 'Come awa to the manse and we'll hae a
bit crack.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Hallow E'en drew on stormy and dark, and Elliot at the inn began to
regret that he had ever accepted the wager, though for very shame he
could not now withdraw from his forbidding task. At a quarter to twelve
then precisely, having fortified himself with a final dram and lighted a
cigar, he set forth upon his mission. He knew the path quite well, and
could make no pretence at missing his way, but when he had crossed the
burn by the shaking little wire suspension bridge sudden fear assailed
him. There was a gusty wind sweeping drumly clouds athwart the
sky--faintly illuminated by the dying moon; now a few stars appeared
momentarily, then a swathe of darkness enveloped all. The old kirkyard,
with its tottering headstones grouped around the black kirk, had an
eldritch look in the murky night, and Elliot's heart sank into his boots
as he drew nigh.

The clouds had lifted as he walked swiftly but unsteadily onward. What
was that? He heard something move, and looked about him fearfully.
Suddenly from beside the little kirkyard gate a monstrous form rose
up--soot-black, horned, and threatening. It advanced upon him, tossing
its horrid horns, but without speaking. _Could it be 'Auld Clootie'
himself?_

Elliot's knees became as water; he staggered on, but at that very moment
a terrible bray resounded from the hollow on his left, and Elliot,
overcome with terror, fell to the earth. 'Minister Macgregor,' he
yelled; 'O Minister, come help me! All the devils i' Hell are loosed
about me.' The horned figure drew closer, brandishing his horns, and
Elliot believing his last hour was come wailed forth his confession of
sin.

'I hae done wrang,' he moaned aloud; 'I promised Jeannie to mak her an
honest woman, but I haena done it. But I will, I swear it, by Heaven
above. Minister Macgregor,' he yelled again, 'come, help me, or I'll
gang clean daft.' Shaking like an aspen leaf he lay upon the ground and
covered his eyes with his hands, whilst he endeavoured to say a prayer.

Then he felt something touch him on the shoulder, and he broke into an
agonised yell.

'Whisht, then, whisht!' said a kindly voice in his ear. A friendly hand
gripped him below the oxter, and, peering up, he discerned the Minister.

'Eh, Minister,' cried Elliot in a paroxysm of joy, 'ye hae saved
me--saved me,' then he burst into tears.

'Come awa, come awa,' said the Reverend Alexander Macgregor gently,
'come awa up wi' me to the manse.'

Clinging to his benefactor, Elliot rose to his feet and stumbled forward
as swiftly as his shaking limbs permitted.

'Whaur is he?' he inquired tremulously, keeking about fearfully.

'Wha d' ye mean?' replied the Minister. 'Is 't "Parcy" ye hae seen?'

'Waur nor that; waur nor that,' replied the other. 'I believe 'twas
_him_.'

'Anither fifty yards an' we'll be hame,' said the Minister. 'See,
there's the licht i' the windie showing fine.'

As soon as they were within doors the Minister placed his trembling
companion in the old leathern chair in his little sanctum, made up the
fire, and poured him out a glass of whisky with hot water from the
kettle that was opportunely ready on the hob.

'And now, Minister,' said the rescued one, after imbibing the goodly
contents of his glass, 'what can I do for ye by way o' recompense for
saving me the night?'

'Did I hear ye confessin' that ye had wranged a lass--by name Jeannie?'
asked the minister, seriously, by way of answer.

'Ay, ye did that,' replied the penitent fervently, 'and I swore to right
her. I'll mak her my wife at aince; I swear it again--before ye.'

'I'll haud ye to it, mind,' said the Minister gravely; then he inquired
thoughtfully, 'What wull ye do by way o' further recompense for being
saved the nicht?' He paused. 'Weel,' he continued, 'there's some that
had sinned like ye i' the auld times that desired to prove their
repentance and their gratitude to Heaven for timeous rescue by some
outward an' visible symbol, sic, for example, as building a kirk or
foundin' an orphanage.'

'Eh, but, Minister,' ejaculated the penitent, turning white again,
'yon's a work for kings and suchlike, no' for a poor farmer like me.'

'A puir farmer,' commented his mentor, 'is no' ane that gives £500 for a
pedigree bull.' There was silence for a while. The penitent groaned
within himself as he regarded the implacable face in front of him. Then
he said suddenly, 'No a _kirk_, Minister,' and further ventured
wheedlingly, ''tis impossible, but somethin' _for_ the kirk--a new
pulpit, for instance, or a bit organ, or some heating for the winter.'
The Minister shook his head.

'The kirk disna care aboot organs, and the folk hereawa are hardy and
winna want ony heatin',' he replied slowly; then with the twinkle in his
eye he explained further, 'No, that is for _pleesure purposes_.' He
reflected a moment or two profoundly, then with a happy inspiration
suggested an alternative. 'A stained-glass windie micht be a guid an'
righteous gift, I'm thinkin'.'

'That's mair like it,' responded the penitent, almost with joy,
finishing off his glass and holding it out suggestively for
replenishment.

'Hoo muckle would it come to, think ye--£100 belike?'

The Minister replenished his guest's glass hospitably before replying.

'We'd best mak it guineas,' he said thoughtfully.

'Right!' cried the other, his spirits visibly rising. 'I've got a
cheque-book on me, an' I'll write it out for ye this instant moment.'

The Minister took the cheque silently, dried it carefully on his
blotting-pad, then tucked it safely away in his Bible.

'An' noo,' he said to his penitent, 'noo I'll set ye awa for the inn.'

'Ye'll never be for turning me out into the darkness again?' wailed
Elliot, his face paling perceptibly.

'I'll gang wi' ye,' replied the Minister, 'I'll guide ye; and wi'
this,' he took up his heavy 'crook,' 'I'll fettle "Auld Hornie."'

'I don't care about the wager,' continued the other, desirous of putting
off the evil moment; 'here's the sovereign--for yourself or the old
shepherd.'

Serious as before, the Minister took the sovereign and laid it on the
Bible as he said:

'If ye dinna gang back to the inn the landlord an' his lassies will be
up a' nicht seekin' ye, an' ye'll be the talk o' the hail countryside.'

His visitor sighed heavily and looked wistfully at the whisky bottle,
but the Minister was adamant. 'No' anither sup till the windie's in,' he
thought to himself.

'Well, Minister,' said his guest with resignation, as he rose slowly up
from his chair, 'I'll go back, but keep a close tongue, ye ken.'

'I'm used to daein' that,' replied the other, as he ushered his guest
out into the darkness, and led him back to the 'Wool Pack' without
mishap.

On his return the Minister paused by the kirk yett, and thus
soliloquised:

'I never cared muckle for that camsterie goat o' Ringan's, but he wis
gey useful the nicht there's no denyin', whilst as for auld cuddy, dod!
but he was in fell voice, an' cam in punctual as the precentor.' The
Reverend Alexander Macgregor thrust out an arm on high, turned about on
heel and toe, as though to secret piping. Then he resumed his way to the
manse, pondering now what should be the subject of the stained-glass
window. Suddenly he stood stock still. He had it! 'It wull represent
Palm Sunday--the entry of our Lord intil the Holy Ceety--_ridin' in on
an ass_.'

[Footnote: 1 'Parcy Reed,' the hero of the well-known ballad, was foully
slain in Bakinghope above Catcleugh Lough, but his wraith is said to
haunt the Rede and to be visible about Rochester.]



ELDER 'MACHIAVELLI-ER'

I


On the evening after the stained-glass 'windie' had been set up in the
new kirk and dedicated to the memory of Saint Cuthbert, the Reverend
Alexander Macgregor and his elder, Ringan Telfer, the ancient 'herd,'
sat together in the manse's little 'sanctum' or library, enjoying a
'crack,' a glass of whisky, and a pipe of tobacco.

'It's a gey an' useful thing a ghaist,' said Ringan meditatively. 'It
fleys folk fine an' stirs up their conscience graund. I aince thocht I
caught a keek o' "Parcy" mysel', but I wasna muckle gliffed, for though
I ken fine I'm a sinner, I've naethin' particular on my conscience.

'Mind ye, I dinna ken whether 'twas a wraith I saw or no--for I'd been
first footin', ye ken, an' maybe I had a wee drappie i' my e'e.'

'Gey an' likely,' assented the Minister, nodding his head
sympathetically, and drawing deep upon his pipe.

'Onnyway, naethin' came o't,' continued Ringan, imbibing thoughtfully
from his glass, 'but what I'm thinkin' the noo is that aiblins anither
ghaist-gliff micht do a body I ken o' a guid turn.'

'There's many a body that micht be the better of a bit "gliff," but it
disna always last, and it's a daungerous game to play at. But wha is the
body?' inquired the Minister.

'It's a lang story,' replied the other, as he extracted a document from
his pocket, 'but gey easy to understand. Weel, this document is a bit
codicil to the will of a far-off cousin o' mine, but it wasna signed, as
ye'll note, and i' the eye o' the law, as they call it, o' nae value.
Noo the testator, Mistress Wallace, was a widow wi' a bit heritable
property the whilk she'd but a life interest in, but she had a bit
siller i' the bank, an' 'twas this she was leavin' awa different frae
her will by this bit codicil.

'The siller was twa hundred pounds, an' it was lyin' at the bank, and
the bank manager got it for various advice--ceevility an' attention paid
to Mistress Wallace.

'Weel, there was anither puir widdie--a far-off cousin o' hers, that had
a bairn born till her after her man died, and the puir widdie juist
askit Mistress Wallace to be its godmither.

'Noo Mistress Wallace had nae bairns o' her ain, ye ken, an' it
pleasured her fine to be a godmither to the fatherless bairn, but bein'
verra frail i' body, she didna get the codicil signed an' witnessed
before her "stroke."

'Weel, the doctor, he kenned aal about the hail matter, an' he gied the
puir widdie the bit paper, since he was managin' her bit affairs. He
thocht aiblins if the bank manager saw it he micht "pairt"--but deevil
a bodle wull he hand ower, though the doctor saw him himsel'.'

The Minister nodded his apprehension, then taking the pipe out of his
mouth, inquired, 'Wha was the puir widdie woman?'

'Ye'll ken my sister?' replied Ringan, gazing fixedly at the fire,
'Effie that was marrit on puir Jock Ord--a fine laddie he was--verra
knowledgeable wi' sheep, wha perished in a snowstorm, mindin' his
hirsel.

'She was left gey ill aff, an' noo wi' a bairn to provide for, hard pit
till 't. Twa hundred punds wull provide for his upbringin', an' aiblins
turn him into a meenister at the finish.'

'Ay,' replied the Minister,' I mind Effie well, puir decent body, for
didna I marry them? An' I heard tell o' her man's death, but I hadna
seen nither since they went herdin' ower the Carter Bar. But whaur does
the "ghaist" come intil the story?' inquired the speaker in conclusion.

Ringan continued to contemplate the fire with fixed attention, then
slowly delivered himself as follows:

'I'm hearin' that the Burnside Field Club wull be comin' up the water to
hold their meetin' here shortly, an' to view the Roman Camp. I mind they
were here ten years before, an' this year the president is the bank
manager doon at the auld toon, wha has gruppit the siller I've tell't ye
aboot. Weel, ye'll ken him, an' aiblins,' here the speaker took up the
bellows and thoughtfully assisted the fire's respiration, 'aiblins it
wud be a ceevil matter to offer to gie him a night's lodgin', for it's a
gey lang way up frae the auld toon, an' the manager's gettin' gey white
aboot the pow.'

Here the speaker laid down the bellows, then took up his glass
thoughtfully, drained it off slowly, and resumed his contemplation of
the fire.

The Minister also refreshed himself, then, keenly watching his companion
from the tail of his eye, admitted an acquaintanceship with the bank
manager.

'Ay, I ken him. He's a verra decent body--a bit near maybe, an' terribly
superfeecial i' antiquarian knowledge. I mind I had a bit differ wi' him
the time he was last up at the Camp.

'But supposin' I was inclined to be ceevil till him--what then?'

'Then aiblins,' replied the elder, stooping and knocking the ashes from
his pipe against the fender, 'there micht be a bit gliff, an' this bit
paper micht come in gey useful by way o' stirrin' up his conscience the
whilk, I'm thinkin', has been growin' stiff i' his auld age. If it disna
there's nae harm dune.'

The Minister thrust out his legs, and gazed up at the ceiling.

'Was it Dr. Thomson that tended Effie, an' that saw the manager?'

'Ay, 'twas him,' replied his companion.

There was a pause of silence after this response, the elder gazing
abstractedly into the fire, the Minister surveying his ceiling, yet all
the while out of the tail of his eye keeping watch on his elder.

Ultra sardonic he was, reflected the watcher affectionately, intolerant,
_plus Calviniste que Calvin même_--sceptical of the world, with
up-twisted eyebrows that seemed to signify a perpetual interrogation,
yet faithful unto death to his duty and his own ideals. He minded well
assisting to dig Ringan out of a snowdrift wherein he was seated, calmly
tending a ewe and her two tiny lambs.

'Aweel,' said the Minister, breaking the silence, 'I micht--be offerin'
hospitality to Macmanus, the banker; 'twould be the ceevil thing to do,
but if he comes he's my guest, ye ken--I maunna hae ony "frightfulness";
an' the cuddy wull be locked up.'

'Ay,' responded the other, 'an' sae wull the goat be.'

'I ken naethin' aboot that,' retorted the other, bringing his gaze down
from the ceiling to rest upon the swag-bellied green bottle on the table
beside him.

'It's gettin' on intil the "wee sma' hours ayont the twal,"' he added;
'ye mun hae a "deoch-an-doruis" afore startin' "aff."'

'Deed, an' I wull,' replied Ringan, as he rose up and held out his
glass, whilst wrapping his plaid about his shoulders.


II


Fergus Macmanus, bank manager, amateur antiquary, and President of the
Burnside Field Club, accepted the invitation from the Reverend Alexander
Macgregor, and returned with him from the Roman Camp to the manse for
the night after a successful meeting, whereat he had given an address on
Castrametation and the Roman Wall, which had abundantly satisfied
himself, if not his host.

Macmanus was a short, thick-set, well-preserved man of some seventy
years of age, with a complexion reminiscent of Harvest Festival. His
Pauline motto of 'All things to all men' was a little impeded by an
assurance of infallibility which he founded upon his 'common-sense view
of things.' Hence after supper he proceeded to demonstrate to his host
that all the theorists were wrong; that he had walked along the line of
the wall and satisfied himself that wall and vallum were not
contemporaneous, and that if Hadrian had made any use of the vallum--an
early dyke or _limes_--it was merely for the screening of his troops
whilst the wall was building.

'Common sense,' retorted the Minister, 'willna tak ye verra far. Common
sense assures me the world is flat, an' stands stock still in the centre
o' things.'

'Common sense,' echoed his companion; 'man alive! why it includes the
use of all the rational faculties. What I mean is that folk get wedded
to a theory and disregard the practical side o' things. Noo the Romans
were first and foremost a practical people, as a'body kens. They made
sure o' their conquest, an' then built their wall, sae that the popular
theory that the vallum was a protection against the south is a' stuff
an' nonsense.'

'Isna the result,' queried the Minister, 'that ye haud ane theory, ither
folks anither?'

'If a thorough excavation were carried out many secrets micht be
discovered, but noo folks prefer to travel an' dig i' the remotest
pairts o' the earth, an' no' at home.'

'Aweel,' the Minister continued, with a sudden deft twist to the
conversation, 'it's no excavation o' the earth that's interestin' me the
noo--it's _the excavation o' the mind_. I have been readin' o' what a
clever doctor chield has accomplished i' Edinbro' by the pooer o' mind
upon mind----'

'Ye mean Christian Science--Faith-Healing?' queried his companion
scornfully.

'Na, na,' returned the Minister, 'he ca's it Psycho-therapeutics--an'
has worked miracles by it. For an instance, he actually operated wi' the
knife on a puir body withoot any chloroform, ether, or anæsthetic
whatever--an' the patient ne'er had a wink o' pain under it. His
consciousness was under control, ye ken, directed clean awa from thocht
o' pain----'

'I'd like to see the man that could mak me believe he'd gien me security
for his overdraft when he hadna,' interrupted his companion
satirically.

'I think I hae heard o' the thing haein' been accomplished, natheless,'
returned the Minister with a twinkle in his eye.

'Man!' acknowledged the banker with a smile, 'but ye're gleg.'

The two men surveyed each other silently, like fencers awaiting feint or
lunge, when suddenly a peal of thunder echoed on the air and shook the
windows of the sanctum.

'A thunderstorm,' said the banker, 'i' the distance. Well, there's ane
thing I'd be glad to hear o' frae your new doctor, an' that is no' to be
gliffed by thunner an' lightin'. I was verra nigh struck by a flash when
I was a bairn oot fishin' for troots--an' I canna get the better o't.'

''Tis a lang way off,' replied the Minister, rising and looking out o'
window; 'weel, it's bedtime, I'm thinkin'. Ye mun juist have a night-cap
before retiring.'

Nothing loath, his guest fortified himself handsomely, and was escorted
to his bedroom by his host.

Entering his own room, which was opposite the other, the Minister
proceeded to undress, leaving the door ajar advisedly, in the event of
any strategy of Ringan's contriving.

He lay awake some while in watchful expectation, but as the
thunderstorm had passed over and no other sound was audible, he shortly
fell sound asleep.

Suddenly he was roused by the most extraordinary noise. The manse seemed
to be shaken to its foundation.

He started up in bed. Could a flash of lightning have hit the chimney?

Then he saw a light without on the landing, heard footsteps, and a voice
calling him by name.

'Minister Macgregor,' it called. 'The house has been struck wi'
lightnin', I'm certain.'

The Minister hurried out on to the landing, and seeing his guest, by the
light of the candle which he held in his shaking hand, to be much
perturbed, endeavoured to comfort him.

'It was a fearfu' noise yon; it wakened me up oot o' the sleep o' the
just,' he said. 'I thocht the chimney mun have been stricken, but if
sae, stanes wud hae come through the roof. Maist likely the auld
ash-tree by the door has been stricken. Hark!' he added, 'I think the
storm's past, for it's rainin' hard enoo.'

Somewhat reassured, his guest was induced to return to bed, and after
the Minister left him he heard the door bolted behind him.

The Minister went back to his own bed, but this time he refused to lie
down, for he felt assured that Ringan was up to some fresh cantrip or
other, and he wished to forestall him.

The rain shortly ceased, and a faint moonlight showed itself through the
window. Almost at the same time the Minister was aware of stealthy soft
footings on the stairs without. Noiselessly he approached his open door,
and there he saw by the dim skylight a tall figure moving on stockinged
feet at the stair-head. Was it a burglar? he thought fearfully. 'No, it
was Ringan. But what on earth was he carrying?

Before he could interfere the tall figure set a dark object rolling down
the stairs with infernal reverberation, then sat himself down on what
seemed a tea-tray, and shot clattering into the gloomy deep.

The Minister turned and leaped into his bed, annoyed, yet shaken with
laughter.

Another moment and he heard the door opposite unbolted, and a perturbed
but angry voice rose outside his door:

'What the devil are ye up to? Are ye playing a trick on me, Minister?
What was that fearfu' noise?'

'I'm playin' nae tricks on ye,' replied the Minister, as he opened the
door and stood face to face with his guest, whose face was plainly
agitated by fear and anger. 'It's either the storm, or aiblins a ghaist,
or else some one's playin' tricks on baith o' us.'

'Did ye no place this bit paper i' my room?' inquired his guest
wrathfully, holding up a document with his hand accusingly.

'What bit paper is 't?' inquired the Minister. 'I hae pit nae bit paper
i' your room.'

'Did Dr. Thomson o' the auld toon no' send ye this bit
waste-paper--codicil he called it, or come to see ye aboot it?'

'No, he didna,' replied the Minister, 'neither he nor any ither doctor
has been i' my manse yet, an' I hope never wull.'

'On your hon----' began the other. Then catching his host's gleaming
eye, said brokenly, 'It's the ---- Well--it's the most extraordinary
thing that ever happened to me i' my life. The ghastly noise--then to
find this bit paper lyin' i' my room.'

'What is the paper?' inquired the Minister. 'Can ye no hae brocht it wi'
ye yoursel'?'

Macmanus looked about him stricken and unnerved, the anger had died down
in his face, and he seemed to be seeking consolation.

'I'll tell ye the hail matter,' he decided impulsively, 'and what's
mair, I'll abide by your advice.'

Thereon very briefly he set forth the tale of the codicil, justified
himself on all legal grounds, and awaited the Minister's decision.

'Aweel, Macmanus,' replied the Minister slowly but decisively, 'as ye
ask my opeenion, aal I can say is that if I was i' your shoes I'd juist
forego my legal rights an' let the puir woman hae the twa hundred
punds.'

'I believe you're richt,' replied the other; 'but if that ghastly noise
happens again I'll come and spend the rest o' the night i' your
bedchamber.'

'Come your ways in noo,' responded his host, 'and I'll get ye a drop
whisky.'

'Aweel,' murmured the listener with pricked ears, who sat beside gong
and tea-tray at the stair-foot, '_I'm thinkin if the Meenister's
Macchiavelli, the elder's Machiavelli-er._'



REPENTANCE TOWER


SCENE I. TEMPTATION

Late one spring evening not long after the disaster of Solway Moss, Sir
Robert Maxwell was walking to and fro within the Tower of Lochmaben--a
heavy frown upon his brow--cogitating his reply to a letter from my Lord
Arran--now governor of Scotland under the regency of the widowed Queen,
Mary of Lorraine.

Amongst other matters touched upon Arran made mention of his purpose to
find the right suitor for the hand of Agnes Herries--daughter and
heiress of the Lord Herries of Hoddam Castle. A hint was delicately
conveyed that possibly Maxwell himself might be eligible--if he gave up
his 'assurance with England.'

Now Sir Robert's late father--the Lord Maxwell--had been made prisoner
at Solway Moss, but had been set free on 'taking assurance' with England
and giving twelve hostages of his own name to the opposite warden--Lord
Wharton at Carlisle.

In addition there was a suggestive allusion to the Scots Wardenry of
the Western march, which was vacant at the moment.

The offer was most tempting, but--_there were the twelve Maxwell
hostages, his cousins, in Wharton's hands_.

Sir Robert grew wroth as he read and re-read the letter. '_Is thy
servant a dog that he should do this thing?_' he questioned angrily, as
he sat down to indite a peremptory refusal.

He found his task very difficult, for he had little skill in writing.
Shortly, he determined to send over to Dumfries first thing in the
morning for the notary public to come and write the letter for him, and
be a witness to his signature.

This he did, but the messenger brought word back that the notary was ill
with the spotted fever and could not come.

Sir Robert's anger increased, for the temptation beckoned insistently.
He had already had thoughts of the fair and well-dowered Agnes, but he
knew 'twas hopeless unless he was reconciled to Arran.

He determined to ride out and rid himself of black care by a gallop.
Mounting, he let the horse choose his ain gait, and shortly found
himself in the airt of Hoddam, whence he rode up to the grassy fells
above Solway. Then he let his horse out on a gallop, and away he sped
like a curlew--sweeping over the short grass, and drinking in the breeze
like wine.

Maxwell rode till his horse was white with sweat, and the rubies in his
nostrils red as fire.

Then he turned and came back at a slow trot to the point of starting.
Pausing here, Maxwell gazed down on the one hand to the rich fields and
well-timbered lands of Hoddam; on the other hand across Solway to where
below the deep-piled, purple masses of Helvellyn and Skiddaw lay 'merry
Carlisle'--the abode of my Lord Wharton.

Maxwell shook his fist across Solway, as though in defiance. Then he
turned about and rode slowly home.


SCENE II. THE RAID


As soon as he was back again at Lochmaben he dispatched a special
messenger to Arran in Edinburgh with the brief assurance that he himself
would follow on the morrow and explain in person the difficulty of
accepting the Governor's proposals.

On the evening of the day that Sir Robert Maxwell arrived in Edinburgh a
ball was held in Holyrood--the first ball since Solway Moss had
overwhelmed Scotland with gloom. The Queen-Dowager was to be present,
and Arran insisted on Maxwell's attendance, though against his will. A
gay and brilliant assembly filled the great galleries of Holyrood that
night.

After a minuet had been paced to the gentle music of the lute and
clavichord, a schottische succeeded to the martial skirl of the pipes.

For this dance Arran had craftily arranged that Maxwell should have as
partner the fair Agnes Herries, and as he watched them his brow relaxed
its tension. His policy was to strengthen and consolidate Scotland, and
to this end he would break Maxwell's assurance with England. 'The lust
of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,' he muttered
to himself as he watched the couple dancing with animation, 'are gey
guid baits.' As the company departed in the early dawn Arran took the
opportunity of walking back with Maxwell to his lodging. 'Ye partnered
ilk ither fine,' said the Governor; 'time and step suited ye bonny.
Weel,' he added slowly, 'ye hae to decide. Wull ye tak her?' Maxwell
hesitated a moment, then impulsively, 'I will. Here's my hand on 't.'

'Dune!' cried the Governor triumphantly. Then he added by way of an
evasion from any difficulty with Wharton. 'I'm thinking ye micht
emulate Douglas in his raid on the eastern march:

    "_And he has burn'd the dales of Tyne,
    And part of Bambroughshire;
    And three good towers on Reidswire fells,
    He left them all on fire_."

That is, if ye hae any fash wi' Wharton,' said Arran in conclusion.
'Juist pit the fear o' auld Scotland intil him, for I'll uphaud ye.'

No sooner had Maxwell returned home than he found a menacing letter from
Wharton, who had evidently heard of the reconciliation. Maxwell's dark
face glowed hotly as he made a vow to terrify Wharton into inaction. He
would instantly give him a 'handsel' of harrying to stay his proud
stomach. So he caused warn the waters far and wide. Nith he summoned,
and Annan, and then with his whole 'name' rode through the debatable
land, and crossing the Eden by the ford above Rockliff proceeded to
harry and burn through the English march. He drave his foray throughout
the day; horses and nowt, sheep, goats, and swine he collected, and made
the 'red cock crow' on many a peel and bastlehouse.

Then as evening drew on and his messengers announced the approach of
Wharton's men-at-arms he withdrew with his spoil, repulsed with
slaughter his opponent's forces, and safely guarded his spoil, till all
the 'gear' was across the Eden water.

Then Maxwell himself and his bailiff--Sandie Irvine--rode down to Solway
where his lugger was awaiting by his orders the chance of their return
by water.

Maxwell himself was 'forefaughten,' his horse was foundered; he sank
gratefully into the stern of the boat, and Sandie took the tiller.


SCENE III. THE STORM ON SOLWAY


The lugger shot ahead for Scotland, the swift wind upon her beam.
Suddenly its strength increased, and a storm swept down upon Solway.
Clouds gathered above, and on the incoming 'bore' Maxwell saw with
dismay the 'white horses of Solway' shaking their manes.

Darkness lowered about them; then a jagged flash of lightning rent the
murky air, and Sandie as he wrestled with the tiller saw a face white as
foam and 'unco ghash' beside him.

'Hae ye onything on your conscience, Laird?' cried Sandie in his ear,
'ony bit adultery or murder? If ye hae, mak a vow instantly to St.
Nicholas, or we're lost.'

Maxwell made no reply, but groaned as he looked wildly through the
storm.

Twelve forms--well kent to him--did he not see them pointing their
accusing fingers against him? There was Ian--there Alastair, next
Hamilton--he could look no further. _God in Heaven! Wharton had hung his
pledges._

Maxwell sank backwards, his hands to his eyes.

'Mak the vow, Laird,' yelled Sandie again in his ear, desperately.

'I'll mak a vow to Saint Nicholas,' murmured the other brokenly, 'to
build a tower to his honour, and put a light into it nightly for all
poor sailors on Solway.'

Heartened by this, Sandie thrust all his strength upon the tiller and
kept the lugger straight 'twixt Scylla and Charybdis.

But 'the white horses' were now upon them, their streaming manes
enveloping the gunwale, and Maxwell gave himself up for lost. The lugger
shivered, then grated violently. 'What's yon?' he cried in terror.

'Yon's the first stone o' Repentance Tower,'[1] cried Sandie
triumphantly, as he drave the lugger high upon the beach.

[Footnote 1: Tradition commonly holds that the builder of the tower had
thrown his captives overboard to lighten the boat, when returning from a
raid into England; but if the writer remembers aright, Dr. Nielson in
one of his erudite articles, seemed able to prove that Sir Robert
Maxwell--who married the Herries heiress and became Lord Herries--was
the builder. In this case the above tale gives the truer version of the
tower's origin.]



THE LORD WARDEN'S TOMB


My companion had surprised me by a sudden change of demeanour, for which
I could not account, and I was watching him out of the tail of my eye
from behind a pillar in the nave of the church which we were exploring.
We had just been viewing the recumbent figure of a famous Lord Warden of
the western English march, that lay on a raised tomb in the north
transept, and after I had blazoned the coat of arms and admired the
dignity of the carving, I passed on into the nave, but my companion had
not followed me.

I noted that he was extraordinarily interested in this figure of Lord
Wharton, and I watched him, as I have said, with attention.

Then, driven seemingly by sudden impulse, he lifted his right hand and
dealt the stone figure a swift buffet with his fist. At once he glanced
round hurriedly--ashamed, evidently, of his action--and rejoined me in
the nave without comment, trusting, doubtless, that I had not observed
him.

I was infinitely astonished, for Maxwell, my companion on our bicycling
and walking tour, was a quiet, somewhat dour but devout Scot, a history
scholar of Balliol College, and usually most reticent of emotion. I
talked of Border ballads and Lord Wardens of the marches, and
endeavoured to draw him on the subject, but he made no response.

Then I sang softly--

    '_As I went down the water side
    None but my foe to be my guide._'

Hereat his eyes flashed, and he responded with extended fist:

    '_I lighted down, my sword did draw--
    I hackit him in pieces sma'._'

Then turning swiftly upon me he said sternly:

'_You mustn't quote the Border Ballads to me; I have them in my blood._'

He looked so strange that at once I changed the conversation and
suggested that we should ascend Wild Boar's Fell that afternoon, and
return for supper at the inn where we proposed stopping the night.

He assented, and we had a fine climb and a glorious view over the West
Borderland; we could see Skiddaw and Helvellyn to the north-west, and
even thought we saw Criffel looming in the haze beyond Solway; to the
east the great hills beside Crossfell lifted their great rampire and
gave a sense of security to the green vale below.

Reinvigorated by our walk we returned in good heart to the inn.

After supper I thought a pipe and Stevenson's essay on 'A Walking Tour'
were appropriate to my mood, but Maxwell said he was for a stroll in the
moonlight, and went out.

As he had not returned by eleven I grew a little anxious, also a trifle
annoyed at the thought that perhaps I ought to put on my boots again and
go in search of him.

At 11.15 I determined to sally forth, but when I was on the street and
could see nobody about I was perplexed as to where to look for him.

I turned to the church, and without definite aim went through the gate
and walked around the church through the numerous headstones.

By the side of the north transept, wherein was the Wharton recumbent
figure, I noticed a new-made grave, and casually looking over it saw a
dark figure lying therein. The grave was half in the shadow of the
church, half lit by the moon, so that I could not see very distinctly,
but as I bent over it I thought I recognised--with a sudden start of
horror--the knickerbockers of my friend Maxwell.

I looked about in hope of seeing some one, but all was silent; not a
sound stirred in the village.

I must make certain, I felt, for I could not leave the man there,
whoever it might be, so gingerly enough I let myself down into the
further end of the grave, and, taking a step forward, bent over the
body.

Yes, it was Maxwell; he was lying in a huddled lump with his head bent
forward on his breast. I felt for his pulse, and found it beating
regularly. Thank heaven, he was not dead! He must have fallen in by
misadventure in the darkness before the moon rose, I conjectured.

I determined to run back to the inn for the 'boots,' since with another
man's help I could lift my friend out and carry him back, and get the
doctor to attend him.

'Boots' was just going to bed, and while he was searching for a rope and
a lantern I ran for the doctor, and thence back to the graveyard.

'Boots' was there awaiting me, and between us we raised Maxwell's limp
body and then carried him slowly to the inn.

As far as we could see he had sustained a severe concussion, but I
noticed he had a big bruise on his forehead as well as a swelling on
the back of his head. We had laid him on the sofa in the parlour, and
had just completed our investigation when the doctor arrived. I shook
hands and explained how I had found my friend in the open grave by the
north transept so unexpectedly.

'He hadn't had--well, let us say, too much supper?' asked the physician,
after he had felt the pulse and examined the limbs to see if anything
was broken.

'No,' I replied. 'We had supper together; he had a lemon squash and a
cup of coffee only to drink.'

'He's been in for a fight then,' said the doctor. 'Got one on the brow,
then falling into the grave has bruised the back of the head. He's
suffering from concussion, but nothing more, so far as I can see. Was he
a quarrelsome fellow?' he inquired. 'Strange place in any event to come
to blows in--and with whom? for we're a peaceable folk here save perhaps
at the annual horse fair when gipsies and others congregate in numbers,
and whisky bottles are everywhere.'

I assured him that Maxwell was a quiet Oxford scholar, and incapable of
brawling.

The doctor drew a bottle of strong smelling salts from his pocket and
applied them to Maxwell's nostrils.

'He's coming round,' he said; 'we'll just give him some sal volatile,
and then to bed and a long rest. In a day or two he should be all right
again.'

Maxwell now opened his eyes, looked about him dizzily, then said
faintly, 'Where am I?' Then still faintly, so low that only I caught the
words, '_I could swear it was Wharton himself_.'

Thereon we took him upstairs, undressed him and put him to bed, and
after he had had his dose of sal volatile the doctor departed, assuring
me that my friend was 'all right,' but that he would look in again about
midday.

I saw him off at the front door, then I turned to the 'Boots,' and said
in his ear, 'Look here, I'm going out to see if I can't find out who the
fellow was who tackled my friend. If I want to be let in before daybreak
I'll come and tap on your window in the yard.'

I slid a _pourboire_ into his hand and went off softly across the street
to the church once more, for I felt almost certain that the
fellow--whoever he was--would come back some time or another to see how
his victim had fared, since conceivably the blow might have proved
mortal. Once in the churchyard I made my way on tiptoe to the
graveside. There I waited in the re-entering angle of the transept,
where the shadow of the church was darkest, in the hope of Maxwell's
assailant soon returning to the scene of the encounter. I did not
venture to light my pipe, fearing the smell of tobacco might discover
me.

I waited with infinite patience till the moon lost her radiance and a
pale light glimmered through the eastern trees. Nothing had stirred, no
sound had I caught save that of an owl in the distance.

I returned to the inn, knocked up 'Boots,' went silently to bed, and
slept late.

As soon as I was up I went to see how Maxwell fared, and found him
sitting up and drinking a cup of tea.

He looked a little pale, but otherwise was not much worse for his
misadventure.

'Now,' I said, after, congratulating him on his recovery, 'if it doesn't
excite you too much tell me exactly what occurred in the churchyard last
night, for 'tis an absolute mystery to me, besides having given me an
awful "gliff," old fellow, for I have been wondering what might have
happened if I hadn't by the merest chance discovered you in your
premature grave.'

'I should probably have got an infernal chill, old chap, had it not
been for your kindly foresight,' he replied with a smile; then with a
change of tone he went on, 'But it was the most extraordinary adventure
conceivable--so extraordinary that you'll scarcely credit me in relating
it.

'I felt curiously attracted by the old church and the tomb within, so I
went across after leaving you and wandered about the churchyard. Close
beside the corner of the north transept was the empty grave, as you
know, and beside it a quaint old headstone with an interesting
coat-of-arms upon it. I knelt down and tried to decipher the blazon in
the moonlight.

'Suddenly I felt as if some one were near me--some one with an ill
intent, and, turning, saw stepping out of the shadow a figure with its
face outlined against the moon, the exact image of the Lord Warden on
the tomb in the transept. I felt the same access of rage I had
experienced in the church sweep over me. I clenched my fists
unconsciously. "You're one of the false Maxwells?" he said
threateningly. "And you're a damned murderer," I retorted, and let out
at him with my fists. At that moment I felt a sharp, stinging blow on my
temple, and, reeling backward, tripped and fell--in a night of stars as
it were--all of a huddle into the empty grave.'

Maxwell stopped, looked me directly in the face. 'That's all I
remember--and that's an exact description of my strange adventure.'

Whilst I was recovering from my astonishment at his weird story, the
doctor was announced, and came forward to shake hands with his patient.

'Tell the doctor,' said Maxwell to me, 'exactly what I have told you,
and let us hear what he has to say.'

I obeyed, and when I had concluded I inquired if he felt able to put any
faith in the relation.

'Doctors are often a sceptical folk,' he replied with a smile, 'but if
they are wise they try to account for things. Once out of curiosity I
stayed a night in a "haunted house," as it was called, and I confess I
did not like the experience. I had that curious feeling as of a hostile
presence which your friend evidently had both in the church and in the
churchyard. I saw nothing, but I had strange impressions borne in on me,
and I heard noises I could not account for.'

'Have you ever heard of any one having encountered the form or wraith of
this Lord Warden of old?' I inquired.

'I don't think any one in the village would wander in the churchyard
after dark,' he replied, smiling. Then he rose up to go, saying he had
another appointment, but promised to call again in the afternoon with a
sleeping draught, and hoped his patient would be quite well in the
morning.

I accompanied him to the inn door, and went down the street with him.

'Tell me,' I said, 'exactly what you do think, for if I mistake not you
were purposely reticent with my friend just now.'

'I was,' he said, after a pause, 'because I had reasons. Promise not to
mention to your friend either now or at any time later----' I gave the
required promise, and waited eagerly for his response.

'Well,' he said slowly, 'I once got a "gliff" myself in exactly the same
place as I made a short cut through the churchyard one autumn evening. I
was not thinking of the dead Warden or the tomb in the transept, and yet
'twas none other that I saw.'

Then he added gravely, 'These things are not good for the nerves.
Wherefore I would advise you to take your friend off as soon as
possible, and don't let him visit the churchyard again.'



CASTLE ICHABOD


'When you saw the dog, my dear,' said my uncle, the Rector, to his wife,
'almost exactly, if I remember right, a year ago this month of November,
what sort of size and colour was it, again? I remember it growled
terribly on the top of the wall by the mausoleum, and I thought it must
have been a retriever, from your description of it, but it ought really
as a wraith to have been a collie,' and here my uncle slightly
contracted his left eye in my direction.

'I think it must have been a retriever, John,' replied my aunt gravely,
yet I thought a waft from her eye stole towards me as she spoke, 'for
"Geordie" swears it was a tarrible great savage durg; but it may be, of
course, that he had forgotten himself and your exhortations, at the
King's Head last night, and mistaken a collie for a retriever.' I found
it difficult not to smile, for, if my uncle had been 'pulling my aunt's
leg' she was certainly twitching his cassock. This was a 'parlour game'
at the Rectory, as I discovered later, and one in which my aunt always
came off the winner.

My uncle now addressed himself to me. 'You must know, Charles,' said he,
'that the northern part of the Castle Park, between the burn and the
ring wall, is supposed to be haunted by the wraiths of a shepherd and
his collie dog. He was taking a short cut home from our village to the
big moor farm beyond the common, and was probably suffering from the old
disease of the north; he tried to cross the swollen burn by the
stepping-stones, it seems, fell in, and was drowned. The faithful collie
had tried to save him, for he was found with him, his teeth fast in his
master's plaid.'

'I love that collie,' said my aunt; 'he ought to have had a headstone
with "Faithful unto Death" engraved on it.'

'So he should have had, my dear,' my uncle assented, 'had we been here
at the time. Well, Charles, the point is that several people have
thought----' Here my aunt moved a little impatiently in her chair. 'Have
been quite sure,' corrected my uncle, 'that they have seen the dog or
its wraith, but no one has yet seen the shepherd, I believe. Your aunt
last autumn saw the dog on the top of the wall that surrounds the
mausoleum, jumping up and down and growling dreadfully, and last night
our stableman--"Geordie"--a disabled pitman, was chivvied by him across
the park from close beside the mausoleum. What can you make of that?'
questioned my uncle, the humorous look again in his eye.

'Did Geordie run away?' I inquired magisterially.

'He ran,' replied my uncle, smiling, 'as he expressed it himself, "like
a whippet or a hunted hare."'

'Did you run, Aunt Mary?' I inquired next.

'I daren't, Charlie, to tell you the truth. If I had begun to run I
should have screamed, so I just walked on as fast as ever I could.'

'Then it didn't follow you?' I inquired.

'No,' said my aunt, shaking her head; 'it seemed to me like one of those
savage, tied-up mongrels that guard the carts of carriers in the town on
market days.'

'The curious thing,' interrupted my uncle, who was a keen antiquary, 'is
that the dog should haunt the mausoleum, since it contains not his
master, but "Hell-fire Dick," the last of the Norman Fitzalans--and so
named not only because he belonged to the famous club, but also, as I
gather from tradition, because of his language and complexion.

'Had he been alive no shepherd had dared trespass in his park, and no
dog would have come out alive. So it is curious they should forgather
after death.'

My aunt here interposed.

'Are you not afraid for your uncle's orthodoxy?' she asked of me, 'when
he shows himself so sceptical?'

My uncle, discovering that he had put himself at a disadvantage, now
suggested that I should--as a lawyer--investigate the matter and give my
opinion upon it.

'Willingly,' I replied, laughing. 'The chief witness, I take it, will be
your henchman, the redoubtable "Geordie," aunt being prosecutor, the
wraith the defendant, and you, uncle, the sceptical public.'

This being arranged, the subject was dropped, and my uncle gave me
further information about the Fitzalans.

'Undoubtedly they were Normans,' said he, 'but descent has been so
frequently in the female line that when my Lord Richard--"Hell-fire
Dick"--died, he had perhaps no more Norman blood in him than you have.
There was this one virtue about him, that he loved the old abode and
possessions of his ancestors passionately, and when he died he left
directions that he should be buried in the mausoleum on the knoll in
the park whence the sea stands out clearly behind the castle.

He had daughters--wild and high-spirited like their father--who divided
up the property between them, and the present owner of the Castle--the
representative of the eldest daughter--cares only for his rents and
royalties, would sell if he could, and comes here about twice a year for
what partridge and pheasant shooting there may be. The coal pits are
extending their shafts and workings northward, his park will soon be
undermined, and the "amenities"--to use the auctioneers' phrase--will
soon no longer exist. I think we may truthfully call the great pile of
building _Castle Ichabod, for its glory has certainly departed_.'

My uncle thus concluded his tale, then knocked out the ashes of his
pipe, and conducted me to my bedroom.

The next morning after breakfast I went in search of 'Geordie,' my chief
witness, concerning whom my uncle had already given me a little
information.

He had when working as a hewer down the pit been disabled by a fall of
stone; then as he had been a 'handy man' and used to both horses and
flowers the Rector had taken him into his service as groom-gardener.
'Crammed with northern self-sufficiency and a sort of scornful
incivility, he has a keen sense of humour and a heart of gold,' said my
uncle, as he forewarned me as to the character of my witness.

Thus fortified, I went in search of 'Geordie,' and found him busy tying
up chrysanthemums.

Pretending a deep interest in them and a profound admiration of his
skill, I soon found I had established friendly relations. Then I offered
him a cigarette, and plunged boldly into my examination.

'Tell me,' I said, 'about your adventure with the dog or its ghost in
the park two nights ago. My aunt has told me something of her own
experience a year ago, and advised me to compare her account with yours,
for I am much interested in these occurrences.'

'Why,' replied he, nothing loth to talk about himself, 'it happened this
fashion. Aa wes comin' back through the park cannily enough when close
beside the mussulyum oot spangs at us a great ugly brute of a durg
wivoot a sound to his pads. Aa'd heard nowt, but there he was glarin' at
us, an' showin' his great ugly fangs. "By gox, Geordie," I says to
maaself, "it's a mad durg ye have to fettle." Sae I lets oot wiv a kick
that would have shifted a bullock, but aal that happened was that he
seemed to catch haud o' my trousers, for I felt them rip. Gox! I
thinks, 'tis an evil sperrit, sae I set awa like a hare--game leg an'
aal--tearin' towards the park wall like a whippit, followed by the evil
sperrit that made no sound wiv his pads, but was growlin' terrible aal
the time.'

'Then it wasn't a _real_ dog?' I interrupted here.

'_Wasn't a real durg?_' replied Geordie indignantly, his eyebrows
puckering and his jowl coming forward aggressively.

'It made no noise with its feet, and you called it a spirit,' I
explained hastily.

'Aa's feared o' nowt,' said Geordie, 'that's livin', but when it comes
to evil sperrits 'tis the Priest should tackle them. Aa winnot.'

'So it was an evil spirit in the form of a dog,' I suggested; 'but what
was the precise form--mastiff, retriever, or collie perhaps, for the
Rector says there is a tale of a ghost of a drowned collie that haunts
the Park?'

'Collie be damned!' cried he decisively. 'An' as for what specie o' durg
it was hoo can Aa tell hoo many species there may be in Hell?'

'You had me there,' I acknowledged, smiling. 'Well, tell me how you
escaped from the brute.'

'He chivvied us aboot halfway te the wall, an' then I think he gied it
up; leastways when Aa gied a keek ower my shoulder as Aa drew near it he
wasn't there.'

'You didn't hear the dog dashing on you or galloping after you, and yet
you heard it growling, and felt it take a piece out of your trousers. It
seems half real, half Hell-hound!' I commented.

'It's easy talkin',' replied Geordie contemptuously, 'but if he had had
a hand o' yor breeks ye'd have knawn he was _damned_ real, Aa's warrant
ye,' and he spat on the ground with emphasis.

'My aunt saw the hound a year ago,' I continued, 'but it didn't chase
her; it only growled and frightened her.'

'Mevvies it kenned she was the Priest's wife,' suggested my companion.
Then with a grin, 'Noo, as thoo's his nephew thoo gan and see if it will
chivvy thoo, and, if it does, Aa'l bet thoo thoo'll run from it faster
than thoo's ever run i' your life afore.'

I turned away with a laugh, saying I was going to look about for the
dog's tracks.

'The beggar had ne tracks, Aa warrant thoo,' shouted my informant after
me, but he was wrong, for I soon found tracks in the park here and there
in the soft grass, and an impress of paws which evidently must have
been bandaged--that is, there was a round slot only, no separate pads
were showing. _The Hell-hound was evidently club-footed._ As I looked at
the imprint a little closer I grew certain that the hound's paws had
been bound round with some soft material--linen, calico, or washleather,
for one of the coverings had come unloosed and I saw a distinct mark of
claws.

I investigated the mausoleum next, and found that there was a wall some
four feet six inches high round about it for the evident purpose of
protection against cattle. Between this and the circular tomb-containing
tower were some yew trees which had thriven well, and now extended their
long fingers above and beyond the encircling wall.

The yew branches were so thick and the dews had been so heavy that
certainty was out of the question, but I thought I had discovered this
at least, that the hound had been lying beneath the bushes, and had
given 'Geordie' his hunt from the mausoleum exactly as he had asserted.

I returned to the Rectory, my mind made up. I would borrow a revolver
from my uncle, and watch beside the mausoleum all that night.

Fortified by tea, encouraged by my aunt, and chaffed by my uncle, I set
off for my sentry post carrying an electric torch, some sticks of
chocolate, and a revolver. I approached the mausoleum very warily; a
soft west wind was blowing, the night was quiet with alternate swathes
of darkness and light as billowy clouds took the moon by storm and
passed beyond her. I stayed in the shadow of the trees, beside the
knoll, and spied out the landscape, and listened for any tell-tale
sound. Beyond the jet-black bastions of Castle Ichabod I could see the
white turmoil of the waking sea half a mile to the eastward; I could
hear her ancient threnody, but saw no sign of life within the park.

Waiting for the next spell of darkness I walked swiftly up to the
protecting wall of the mausoleum, climbed over, and with the torch's aid
found a yew branch on which I could sit and observe--whenever it was
moonlight--the little dell that ran down to the burn wherein the
shepherd and dog had been drowned.

Silence reigned supreme. I could just hear the gentle brushings of the
yew branches as they rose and fell upon the wind--the ghostly sighing of
a ghostly spirit that had once belonged, perhaps, to the former owner of
the Castle.

I was fairly comfortable with my back against the trunk of the yew, and
ate chocolate instead of smoking; hours passed, and I had fits of
drowsiness, and began to think I was wasting my time.

Then on a sudden I woke with a start; some nerve in my subconsciousness
had warned me in time; I was certain some one or something was near that
was uncanny.

The moonlight flooded the little dell, I saw a black shadow advancing
swiftly on all fours, not unlike a big baboon. What in Heaven's name was
it?

A touch of ice slid down my spine--the unknown with its terrors besieged
my brain--the apparition was too big for a dog. I gazed, rooted to my
perch, unable to move a hand or foot.

The creature drew swiftly closer, then on the sudden rose up; I saw the
glint of the moonlight touch on a gun barrel, and discovered that the
bearer was a man.

I breathed more freely, but--what was he doing with the gun? Then I
caught sight of a dog padding swiftly after the newcomer, who was now
close beside the mausoleum, and stood erect beside the wall two yards
away from me. I did not stir, but watched him in a fascinated attention.
Just as the press of cloud again obscured the moon I saw him take a bag
from his back out of which pheasants' tails were distinctly protruding.
I almost laughed aloud, for I recognised that it was only a poacher I
had to deal with. In one hand I held my torch, in the other my revolver.

'Have you had good sport?' I asked, as I covered him with both my
weapons simultaneously. He jumped back in alarm, then, 'Who the devil
are you?' he inquired hoarsely, and in another second recovering
himself, cried to the dog, '_Sick him, Tyke_.'

'Call off your damned dog,' I retorted, pulling up my feet, 'or I
shoot.'

He hesitated a moment, pulling his gun round.

'Quick,' I shouted.

'Down, Tyke,' he said sulkily to his dog, that was already growling and
jumping at my trousers. 'What d' ye want, damn ye?' he inquired surlily.

'I wanted to find out about the dog that frightened my aunt up at the
Rectory last year and the gardener two nights ago,' I replied, feeling I
had the upper hand in the encounter. 'There was a tale of a ghost in the
park, and I thought I would investigate it.' The moon had emerged again,
and I could see that my poacher was a strong, burly fellow, with a
rough, resolute face, who was surveying me as thoroughly as I surveyed
him.

'Would you like a brace of pheasants?' he inquired abruptly.

'No, thanks,' I said; 'I'm only here for a day or two.'

'Well,' he continued with a touch of defiance, 'if every yen had their
right I'd mevvies be shuttin' pheasants all day long like aad "Hell-Fire
Dick" i' the monument here, for he was a tarrible favouryte wi' the
women, ye must ken. Why, my grandfether was the very spit image o' the
aad Lord, for I've seen his picture up at the Castle. Ay, an' my name's
Allan as well.'

The man interested me considerably, for he was a splendid
figure--compact, alert, with hair cropped like a _poilu_, vivid with
life as a sporting terrier--so I inquired what he did for a living when
he wasn't covert shooting.

'I work doon the pit,' he replied, 'an' earns a good wage, but whiles I
tires ov it an' longs for a walk up the hedgerows, to hear the partridge
call and the pheasant shoutin' as he gans up to roost, an' to say to
myself, "Aha, my fine fellow, but thoo'll be i' my bag to-morrow night,
an' in my kite the night after that."' He paused a moment, then asked
suspiciously, 'Thoo'll not blab--thoo'll not tell the police?'

'No,' I replied readily, 'that's no concern of mine, but I shall have to
tell my aunt at the Rectory, for you gave her with your dog a great
fright that night she crossed the park a year ago.

'If it had been aad "Oleomargarine," commented my companion, 'it wud ha'
done him good, for he's sairly wantin' a bit exercise.'

Smothering a smile at his irreverent description of my uncle, I asked my
poacher a final question.

'Have you ever seen the ghost of the man or the collie dog they talk
about here in the park?'

'Not I,' said he, fondling the ears of his savage mongrel retriever, 'I
reckon they're gliffed o' my aad Tyke.'

     NOTE.--The individuals described above, and the episode are
     imaginary, but a ghost is said to haunt the hall, in the form of a
     lady with a child in her arms, who watches from one of the high
     windows in 'lofty Seaton Delaval,' for the return of a Delaval
     lover.

     It has been suggested that the apparition is due to an optical
     illusion of light upon the window panes.



THE MUNIMENT ROOM


My uncle had succeeded late in life to the family estate in the north of
England, which was situated on the wild moorland of north-west
Yorkshire.

With him the entail would end, and though it was known that the estate
had been much impoverished and was heavily mortgaged, still the
succession was not a thing 'to be sneezed at.' So my mother, his sister,
herself a practical Yorkshire woman, phrased it, and consequently I was
bid to accept with gratitude an invitation to visit my uncle in the home
of his fathers.

Thither, therefore, I went, yet reluctantly, for my uncle was reputed
somewhat eccentric, and a great antiquary, and as he had been early
reconciled to Rome and ordained a priest, whereas I came of a sound
Protestant stock, I feared we might not find each other's company
entirely sympathetic. 'I shall only find in him,' I thought, 'a "snuffy
priest," and he in me only an Oxford cub.'

A long drive over the moorland in a pelting storm of sleet and rain was
not encouraging, nor was the companionship of the old, deaf Scots
groom, who drove me, exhilarating, for he persisted, as the ancient deaf
not uncommonly do, in regarding a stranger as a personal grievance
gratuitously thrust upon him.

Thus if I blamed the weather he transferred the fault upon myself for
having chosen to come upon such a stormy day; and when I inquired after
my uncle's health he replied that he was 'well enough so long as folk
didn't come hindering him from his studies.'

To this I replied humbly that I had heard he was writing a book upon his
family, which was one of the most ancient in the county, and that it was
a pity he should be the last of so old and formerly so famous a stock.

'Ay,' retorted my driver, with a glance of scorn out of the tail of his
eye, as he flicked upon his white steed, 'ay, there'll maybe be a sair
down-come when he's depairted.'

After this shaft I sank into silence, and was relieved when I saw the
grey, buttressed gables of Startington Hall appear below us grouped amid
its trees.

'It certainly looks like a haunted house,' I remarked aloud, though I
was merely speaking to myself, 'even though the tradition has no
foundation of fact.'

'How do ye ken it's haunted?' retorted my companion, whose hearing
seemed to vary with his mood. 'And even if 'tis, there's naething can
steer the maister, for tak awa Papistry, he has a hairt o' gold--the
bairns aboot here juist love him.'

'So you're not a Papist?' I inquired, smiling.

'No' me,' responded he grimly. 'I come o' the reet auld Presbyterian
stock, and I keep off the maister some o' thae hairpies that are aye
after him and his gear.'

He pulled up as he spoke at the porch of the Hall, and as I descended I
noted a stooping figure clad in a black soutane coming round the corner
of the house evidently to greet me.

As I shook hands with him I could see in a glance that though he might
be a recluse and an antiquary he had a lively and gentle heart; for if
his face was yellow and his pupils sere there was a wonderfully shy and
sympathetic mobility about his lips and face.

'You have had a long, wet drive, I fear,' he said, 'and these wild
Yorkshire moorlands are often inhospitable to strangers, yet in time one
gets to love them for this, their very bold and uncompromising
character. Also, they make one rejoice the more in a warm fireside.'

So speaking he led the way through a rounded hall, very poorly
furnished, but hung with family portraits interspersed with heads of
deer, and many masks of foxes, badgers, and hares.

Turning to the left he opened a door into a small library, which was
lined with books from skirting-board to cornice; a ripe fire glowed upon
the hearth, and two easy full-bottomed leathern chairs stood on either
side.

'The rougher the weather without,' said my uncle genially, 'the warmer
the welcome within, and here one may warm both body and soul,' he
pointed to the fire and the well-filled bookshelves.

'Most of them are my own treasures,' he added, 'for the Startington
family was given to keep up cellar and stable, rather than the library,
as probably you know. Most of my time now, however,' he said in
conclusion, 'is spent in the muniment room upstairs, so that you may
count this room as your own, and may smoke as much as you please. Since
you are an Oxford man, and all Oxford men smoke, you are bound,
syllogistically, to be a smoker. For myself,' he added, his hand upon
the door-handle, 'I--like most priests--do not smoke, yet tobacco is not
in the index, and we usually take a little snuff occasionally,' and he
tapped upon a small box hidden within his waistband.

Therewith he was gone, and left me to my own devices till dinner-time,
or supper rather, for he did not dress.

The next few days passed very enjoyably for me, since the weather was
fine, and after studying in my Aristotle all morning, I took long walks
over the breezy moorland, and then in the evening after supper made
myself very much at home amid my uncle's books and the burnt sacrifice
of tobacco. I was not, however, very long in the house before I found
that my uncle was uncommonly preoccupied; something seemed to be
weighing upon his mind, for though he unbent at supper-time, and talked
by starts excellently over the port wine at dessert, he frequently fell
into an abstraction from which only with a mighty effort could he pluck
himself and resume his speech.

As I knew him to be engaged upon his family history I thought that his
gentle mind must be exercised upon some uncomfortable episode in the
life story of an ancestor, and I hit upon the notion that a certain Sir
Humphrey Startington--a notable merchant adventurer, who was said to
have largely increased the family estate by his traffic in slaves in the
seventeenth century--was the family skeleton that was haunting him. I
thought perhaps that my uncle's conscience was whispering in his ear
that he should make restitution, and as I knew that he was most eager to
find funds to rebuild and redecorate the chapel--now much dilapidated--I
assumed that a battle was being waged within his soul between these two
opposing claims.

Having arrived at this solution I led up to the subject of family
histories in general one evening over the supper-table when he was more
than usually inclined to talk and linger over our dessert.

'Families, I suppose, like nations, wax and wane,' I said, 'they become
atrophied, if not extinct.' The port was magnificent--of the year
'64--and I felt oracular. 'Hence the use of bastards. Robert the Devil
from the top of his tower falls in love with the laundrywoman bleaching
linen on the green, and in natural course William the Conqueror sees the
light of day.'

My uncle interrupted my eloquence.

'Far more often than people think the fall of a family, ay, or even of a
nation, is due to some crime or other which--unrepented and
unpurged--has festered in the body and brought corruption with it.

'I have deeply studied this profound problem, and I might tell you tales
of how son has never succeeded father, how gradually a house has sunk
into physical decay, and ended in abortion and an idiot.'

Falling into dejection he paused a moment, then with great emotion he
repeated the magnificent lines of Hector prophesying the fall of Priam,
and his house, and his great town of Troy. His voice trembled and shook
sadly as he concluded, 'My house too has fallen and nears its end, and I
alone am left to tell the tale--the tale of a most foul--as I am
convinced--and unnatural murder.'

With this he clasped his hands together and looked darkly into the
future; then as he rose to bid me farewell and turned towards the door,
I heard him murmur to himself: '_Illa culpa, illa culpa, illa maxima
culpa_.'

The door closed; I was left to my pipe and my reverie. 'It must have
been the Buccaneer who "wrought this deed of shame,"' I reflected, but
then I understood that he had been 'reconciled' to Rome before he died,
had given gifts to the Church, built the chapel here, and so 'made a
good end.' On the other hand I remembered that he had died childless.

The past was dead and gone, however, and did not much interest me, but
my uncle's emotion and distress touched me to the quick, and I
determined to avoid the subject henceforth in our conversation.

I went to bed early that night, for I had been a longer walk than usual
that afternoon, but whether it was that I was overtired, or could not
rid my mind of my uncle's suffering I know not. The one thing certain
was that after a slight doze I became extraordinarily wide-awake.

I was convinced that I heard footsteps somewhere or other in the house,
and as I listened with the greatest intentness I distinctly caught the
sound of some one treading upon the staircase that led into the hall.

It must be either my uncle--walking perhaps in his sleep--or else the
ghost. I sat up in bed to listen the better, and without a doubt caught
the sound of a footfall treading on the stone floor, apparently down in
the hall below. Curiosity prevailed over alarm; I got up, put on a
dressing-gown and socks, and proceeded cautiously without along the
corridor.

The footsteps had come to a halt seemingly, for now I heard nothing; and
then on a sudden by the light of the waning moon that showed in a faint
milk-white aureole through the high window emblazoned with the bugles
and caltrops of the Startingtons, that lit the hall below, I saw a dim
figure coming up the stairway towards me upon soundless feet; I drew
back in utmost astonishment, and shrank away beside a massive oak
cupboard on the landing.

The figure mounted the steps slowly, and as though in pain, passed
gently by me with just such a movement of the air as a moth might make
in its flight, and with a tiny sound as of a sigh turned to the left and
retreated along the passage.

''Tis a lady!' I murmured to myself, overcome with astonishment.

Almost at once I heard a firm tread of feet upon the stairs below, and
there mounting quickly another figure now showed at the head of the
stairs, and I recognised in the half light that it was my uncle.

He did not pause, but turned at once to the left, and incontinently
followed after the fragile figure of the lady, who had disappeared from
view into the misty depth of the corridor.

I stood dumbfounded. Here was a double mystery which I felt bound,
though a little shaken in my nerves, to unravel.

A-tiptoe I followed after my uncle along the dark passage, feeling my
way lest I should knock against the pictures or the various bronze casts
that stood on pedestals beside the wall.

The passage turned shortly again to the left and led, as I knew, past my
uncle's bedroom to the muniment room situate at the end of the wing.

When I turned the corner there was just sufficient moonlight from the
south window to show me the dim figure of my uncle standing within the
muniment room, apparently feeling with his hands upon the wall.

As I stood irresolute, but keenly watchful, I saw the sudden purple
flame of a match leap up in the darkling room. My uncle had lit a match,
and with trembling, excited fingers was applying the flame to a candle
that stood on the table.

He held the candle up towards the wall, peering intently upon it, and as
I drew nearer on tiptoe I could hear him exclaiming in disjointed
utterance.

'She vanished here. Just here. At last, then, I have discovered her
grave. Yet the cruelty of it! for I know she was innocent.'

He drew something from his pocket and marked upon the wall therewith;
then tapped with his knuckles, and, finding it to resound hollow, cried
joyfully, 'Ay, it is as I suspected, quite resonant. Yes! she shall have
a Christian burial.' He drew his hand across his forehead, signed with
the Cross, louted low before an ikon of the Madonna, and I heard him say
fervently:

'Ago tibi gratias, Immaculata.'

Seemingly satisfied, he turned again and narrowly scrutinised the wall
once more, then slowly, and as though very tired, withdrew from the room
and came back along the passage, and passed within his own chamber.

As he came on I stepped velvet-footed backwards, waited a few minutes at
the corner to see if he would come out once more, but as he almost
immediately extinguished the light I concluded that his quest was
completed for the night, and made my way back to my bedroom.

In the morning I was surprised to find my uncle already in the parlour
where usually I breakfasted by myself, for he was used to take his _café
au lait_ in his own room.

Bidding him good morning I had scarcely taken my seat when he produced a
miniature from his pocket, and earnestly gazing upon me inquired what I
thought of the character of the individual depicted in it.

I looked upon the medallion with great intentness, for I felt convinced
the mystery of the night was connected inseparably with it.

What I saw was a portrait--artistically executed in pastel--of a
delicate lady in eighteenth-century costume, with a strangely pathetic
expression in her dark brown eyes as of one perpetually striving to
understand and to be understood by others. Her mouth also showed the
same fragile tenderness of feeling, and altogether she seemed intended
to be--if not herself a musician or a poetess--at least the wife of a
musician or poet or sculptor.

'Not a strong character,' I replied musingly, 'but a most sweet and
delicate lady--one who should pass her time in playing upon the
clavichord or the viol d'amore. In sympathy of temperament I think she
would be more Italian than English.'

'You are right,' said my companion eagerly, 'she was Italian on her
mother's side. But what of her moral character?--that is what I want to
know from you--what think you of her constancy?'

I looked again into the deep brown eyes and pondered before I replied.
'I think,' I said slowly, 'I think that where she had once loved she
would love ever.'

My uncle's intensity became instantly relaxed, and a joyous look
overspread his face.

'I am sure of it,' he said with conviction, 'but I rejoice, nephew, that
your sound judgment bears out my intuition; but though you make me
happy the thought of the outrageous cruelty of her death makes me
miserable, for there is but one poor thing we now can do for her, that
is, to find her bones, and lay them to rest in the graveyard.

'As for the jealous and inhuman pride of the husband that could thus
immure in the walls of his house the tender, loving, fragile bride I can
find no adequate words.

'I cannot rest till I know this for a certainty, or till I have given
the poor bones their proper service and burial. I have sent for the
village mason--a discreet man enough--and should you care to assist me
in my task, nephew, I shall be greatly indebted to you.'

I very readily volunteered my services, for I had been profoundly
interested in the cause of my uncle's abstraction from the first, and
the mysterious apparition had enhanced my curiosity.

So the three of us set to work with hammers and chisels, and in the
course of a few hours' work we had proved to my uncle's satisfaction
that his intuition had been correct in that we found the remains of a
human body interred within the hollow of the walls; _yet 'twas not the
corpse of a woman, as he had surmised, but that of a young man_.



IN THE CLIFF LAND OF THE DANE

A LETTER TO THE REVEREND LAURENCE STERNE AT COXWOLD FROM JOHN HALL
STEVENSON AT SKELTON CASTLE, AS SET DOWN BY HIS NEPHEW FREDDY HALL.


The truth is, reverend sir, that being eventually designed for the Bar,
I had taken up this quest with an additional vigour, for here was a
mystery wherein my Lord Chief-Justice himself would have had a
difficulty in seeing the proper clue on 't.

For some months previous to my sojourn at Skelton Castle there had been
mysterious midnight thefts of sheep, heifers, and suchlike cattle on the
hills about here, Redcar, and Danby-way, and even on occasion a murder
added, as in the case of poor Jack Moscrop, the shepherd, who was found
in the early morning with his head cut in twain, as though by some
mighty cleaver, stark dead and cold on the low-lying ground beyond
Kirkleatham.

Much disquietude had been caused thereby amongst the farmer folk, and
the whole countryside was agape with excitement and conjecture, but
nothing had been discovered as to the malefactor, though many tales were
told, more especially by the womenfolk, who put down all mishaps to the
same unknown agent.

Some said 'twas a black man who had escaped off a foreign ship that had
been stranded by Teesmouth, but in that case one would imagine that such
an one would have eaten his victim raw, whereas the sheep and heifers
that were killed had always been 'gralloched,' as the Scotch term it,
that is, had been cut open with a knife and disembowelled, and the
carcases removed.

Some again avowed 'twas an agent of the Prince of Darkness, for there
were hoofmarks of an unshod horse discovered on one or two occasions
leading up and away from the scene of the slaughter, and blood drops
alongside, as though the booty had been slung from the horse's quarters,
and there dripped down as he sped along.

Now as you may imagine, I too had battered my brain with various
conjectures, but without practical result till one night after hunting
all day, and having lamed my mare badly with an overreach, I was
returning slowly homeward by a short cut across Eston Nab, so as to
strike the Guisboro' Road, and thence straight to Skelton.

'Twas a stormy November night, time about nine o'clock, for I had stayed
supper with a friendly yeoman, one Petch, of a noted family hereabout,
and was trudging a-foot, so as to ease the mare, along the desolate
hill-top, where in a kind of basin there lies a lonely pool of water,
set round in the farther side by a few draggled, wind-torn firs.

There was a swamped moon overhead, shining now and again as wreckage
shows amongst billows, the gleam but momentary, so that when I caught
sight of a kneeling figure across t' other side of the mere I could
scarce distinguish anything at all, whether 'twere a boggart, as they
say here, or some solitary shepherd seeking his sheep.

However, at that moment there was a break overhead, and the moon,
rheumy-eyed, shook her head clear of cloud, whereby I saw plain enough
'twas a tall, burly man kneeling beside some object or other, and a
mighty big horse standing a bit to the rearward of him.

I drew nigher without being perceived, and the light still holding, saw
that 'twas a young stirk or heifer the man was disembowelling.

'Ha, ha!' shouts I, without a further thought than that here was the
midnight miscreant and cattle-stealer, and that I had caught him
red-handed.

With that he lifts his head and gazes across the pool at me fixedly for
an instant of time, then with a whistle to his horse, leaps to his feet,
vaults to the saddle, and swings away at a hard gallop round the mere's
edge, the moonlight flashing back from some big axe he was carrying in
his right hand.

'Tally ho!' shouted I, commencing to run after him, bethinking me he was
for escaping, but no sooner had he rounded the edge some hundred and
fifty yards away than I saw 'twas he who was chasing me.

Another look at him tearing towards me was sufficient to change my
resolution, and hot foot I tore round to t' other end, trusting to win
to the wood's edge before he could catch me up.

I heard the hard breathing of the horse close behind me, the crunch of
his hoofs coming quicker and quicker; one fleeting glimpse I threw
backward, and saw a bright axe gleam above me, then my foot catching in
a tussock, I sank headlong, the horse's hoofs striking me as I fell.

I must suppose--for at that moment the moon was swallowed again by a
swirl of cloud--that in the changing light he had missed his blow, and
finding myself unhurt, I was able to gain my feet, make a double and
gain the wall's edge by the plantation before he had caught me up once
more. Just as I vaulted over a crash of stones sounded, some loose ones
at top grazing my foot as I touched the ground on the far side.

The wood, however, was pitch black, thick with unpruned trees; I bent
double and dived deeper into its gloomy belly.

'Safe now,' thinks I, as utterly outdone I sank on a noiseless bed of
pine-needles; and by the Lord Harry 'twas none too soon, for if it
hadn't been for the kindly moon dipping I'd have been in two pieces by
now. 'To Jupiter Optimus Maximus I owe an altar,' says I, in my first
recovered breath, and, 'curse that infernal reiver,' says I in my
second, 'but I'll be up ends with him yet.'

No sound came from without; all was still, save for the soughing in the
pines overhead.

A quarter of an hour passed perhaps, and I determined to creep to the
wall and see if my assailant were anywhere visible.

The wind had freshened; the clouds were unravelling to its touch, and I
could see clearly enough now across the desolate hill-top. Nothing
living showed save my mare, who was cropping the coarse grass tufts just
where I had left her.

Surmounting the wall, I approached the spot where I had seen the reiver
first. There lay red remnants that clearly told a tale. The carcase,
however, had been 'lifted,' and I could trace the direction in which my
raider had gone by the drops of blood that lay here and there by the
side of the horse's track.

As the ground in places was soft with peat or bog, by a careful
examination of the hoof marks of his horse, I was able to ascertain the
direction in which he had gone, which seemed to be nearly due
north-east, or at least east by north. The marks proved another thing,
moreover, and that is, that here was the same miscreant who had killed
the shepherd and carried off the cattle elsewhere, for 'twas an unshod
horse that had galloped over Eston Nab top that night.

'Twas sore-footed that I gained home at last, but all the way I
discussed a many plans for the discovery and punishment of my
moss-trooper.

'Tis an unpleasant remembrance to have fled; next time we met I swore to
be in a better preparation for the encounter.

Next morning I started to explore, for I knew something of the
direction. I knew also that my man was a tall, well-built, burly fellow
with a big ruddy beard, and the horse a fine seventeen hands roan that
would be known far and wide in the district.

Determining to stay out till I had discovered somewhat, I rode down to
the low-lying ground between Boulby and Redcar, as being the likeliest
region to get news of horse or man and, sure enough, at the second time
of inquiry, I was informed at a farmhouse that some six months ago
Farmer Allison, away over by Stokesly, had lost a fine, big, upstanding
roan stallion, of which he had been inordinately proud.

Of the man, though, I could glean nothing, till finally, a good
housewife, overhearing her man and myself conversing, cried out, 'Eh!
but by my surely, there's that Red Tom o' the "Fisherman's Rest," nigh
to Saltburn, that's new come there, who features him you speak of; but
he's nowt but a "fondy," oaf-rocked, they say he is; why, Moll who hawks
t' fish about says his wife beats him an' maks him wash up t'
dishes--the man being a soart o' cholterhead by all accounts.'

However, 'fondy' or no, I was sworn to go and see for myself, though the
thought that 'twas perhaps a disguise the reiver had worn gave me
discomfort, and made my quest seem foolish enough.

As I drew close to the little tavern above the cliff, I could hear a
dispute going on inside; then a crash as of some crockery falling, and
shortly a big, burly man with an auburn beard came tumbling forth in an
awkward haste, pursued by the high tone of a woman's voice within.

Shaking his sleeve free of some water-drops, he sat down on a low rock
near hand, and fell knitting at a stocking he proceeded to draw from his
jacket.

''Tis surely the man,' says I to myself, for in height, build, and
colour of hair, he seemed the fellow of the midnight raider, but yet it
seemed impossible; there might be a brother, however.

I rode up to him, and asked if I could bait my horse and seek
refreshment within.

'Ay, sir, surely ye can; if ye'll dismount I'll tak your horse, sir, an'
give him a feed o' corn,' and shambling away he touched a greasy lock at
me as he led my horse to the stable behind.

I turned to the inn, and encountered mine hostess, fuming within the
bar.

'Please draw me a pot of ale, ma'am,' says I, 'while my horse gets a
feed. Your good man, I suppose 'tis, who took him away outside?'

'Ay, he's mine, so says t' Church an' t' law, Aah b'lieve, but 'od
rabbit him, Aah says, who knaws the clumsiness o' the creature. Just fit
for nowt else but cuttin' up t' bait for t' harrin' fishin'.'

'Been here long?' says I further, carelessly.

'Six months mair or less,' says she with a snap, eyeing me suspiciously.

'Well, here's for luck and a smarter man at the next time of asking,'
and with that I tossed down the ale, paid the reckoning, and strode out
to the stable, for nothing further was to be got out of the vinegar lips
of Mrs. Boniface.

I looked narrowly round the low-roofed and ill-lit stable, but no sign
of a big roan horse anywhere did I see, only a jack-spavined cob, such
as a fishwife might hawk her fish about with.

'Ever seen or heard tell of that big roan of Farmer Allison's, strayed,
stolen, or lost, about six months since?' so I accosted Boniface anew,
on finding him rubbing down my horse's hocks with a bit of straw.

'Noah, sir, not Aah; Aah nevver seen 'im, sir. What soart o' a mak o'
horse was 'e, sir?'

I looked him full in the face as question and answer passed, and not a
shred of intelligence could I detect in his opaque, fish-like eyes.

'Oaf-rocked,' truly enough; he seemed as incapable of dissimulation as a
stalled ox, and with a heavy feeling of disappointment I inquired what
was to pay, and rode away down the slope.

'Curious,' I mused, 'how imagination plays one tricks at times! Once get
the idea of a red beard into your mind, and Barbarossa is as often met
with as the robin redbreast.'

Then all in a moment my eye caught in the spongy bottom a thin mark cut
clearly crescent-wise upon the turf. There was something strangely
familiar about the horseshoe curve. Then I remembered the unshod roan of
the night before.

'Twas the same impress, for in neither case was there any trace of the
iron rim. 'Where the horse is the rider will not be far away,' thinks I,
and hope kindled afresh in my heart, as I rode slowly on, resolving
various conjectures.

I determined finally to go call upon the farmer at Kirkleatham, whose
heifer it was, as I had learnt, that had been killed and carried off the
night before.

He was said to be tightfisted, so probably would be in a mood for
revenge, and ready enough to join in any scheme for discovery of the
reiver.

As luck had it, Farmer Johnson was within doors, and in a fine taking
about the loss of his beast: he was ready to swear an oath that he
wouldn't rest till he had caught the malefactor, and agreed upon the
instant to watch out every night in the week with me round about 'The
Fisherman's Rest' on chance of coming across the suspect either going or
returning.

'Ay, Aah'll gan mahself, an' Aah'll tak feyther's owd gun wi' me there,
for Aah'll stan' none o' his reiver tricks, an' Tom and Jack, they'll
come along too, an' 'od burn him, but we'll nab him betwixt us, the
impudent scoundrel, if it's a leevin' man he is.'

By eight o'clock we four had ensconced ourselves in hiding-places on all
sides of the little inn, having tethered our horses within a small but
thick-grown covert above the rise that led to the inn door. Here I
stationed myself and for better vision climbed a tree wherefrom I
commanded the whole situation. The others hid themselves as they found
shelter convenient, one below the cliff's edge some two hundred yards to
the east, another amongst broken boulders to the southward, while Farmer
Johnson crouched behind the wall that girt the road leading past the
ale-house from the north.

'Twas weary work watching, more by token that that night nothing
appeared save a thirsty fisherman or two, and a stray, shuffle-footed
vagrant or the like.

Next night the same, and I for one was growing somewhat cold, but Farmer
Johnson, bull-like in his obstinacy, swore he wouldn't shave his chin
till he had 'caught summat,' so off we started on the third night to our
rendezvous.

'The third time brings luck,' thought I, as I squatted down in the fork
of the same old twisted elm; 'and 'tis something stormy this evening,
which might suit our reiver's tastes.'

It would then be about eight of the clock, as I may suppose, the wind
from the seaward, the clouds lowering, fringed with a moonlight border
like broidery on a cloak, and that raw, cold touch in the air that
chills worse than the hardest winter's frost.

The night grew stormier; vapour lifted upward, and assumed strange and
threatening shape. The cloud forms might be the giants rising up out of
Jotunheim, and advancing to attack Odin and the Aesir--the evil wolf
Fenrir in the van--his bristles silvered by the moon.

An hour passed, and I began to wish I had never undertaken the quest, or
mentioned the matter to Farmer Johnson, when I heard, as if some way
off, not exactly a neigh, but a sort of defiant snorting, such as a
stallion breathes forth when he wishes to be free. Then a sound as of a
heavy stone falling succeeded, mingled with a scraping and a trampling
noise.

Craning my neck forward, I saw under a broadened fringe of moonlight the
roan horse with the ruddy-bearded reiver beside him. They had evidently
crept through some secret passage that issued into the bottom below me.

I was just upon the point of raising the hue and cry on him when an
action of his took me by surprise.

Holding up his battle-axe--for such was his weapon--he raised it aloft,
then thrust its handle deep into the soft moss of the hollow. Next, he
threw the horse's reins over the head of it, and sinking down upon his
knees, appeared to be pouring forth a prayer to Heaven, expressed in old
Danish, which I have set down in English as nearly as I can:

    'Vafoder, the swiftness of Sleipnir
    Breathe Thou into my roan.
    Let him fly like Thy ravens
    Black Munin and Hugi.
    May my axe be as Thor's,
    When he wieldeth Miolnir.
    Winged Thor's mighty weapon.
    The pride of Valhalla.
    This grant me, O Odin,
    Grim, Ygg and All Father.'

He then drew forth from his breast a small phial, and having set up a
square stone beside him poured forth into the cup or hollow at the top,
liquid of a dark colour, which I imagined must be either blood or wine.
This done, he seemed to fall to prayer afresh, but in so low a tone
that I could not catch the words of his utterance with any distinctness.

Then he leapt to his feet, lifted the axe, tossed it into the air,
caught it as it fell, and had vaulted upon the stallion's back before I
had even recovered from my first astonishment.

'Tally-ho!' shouts I, 'yonder he goes; forrard Mr. Johnson! forrard Tom
and Jack!' and, scrambling down my tree, I made for my horse.

The next thing I heard was a 'pang,' evidently the discharge of Farmer
Johnson's musket, and thereat a weird, smothered, savage note of pain
and rage broke out upon the night.

Seizing my horse I mounted, and out of the covert across a gap in the
wall. Dimly I could see a centaur-like figure plunging and snorting upon
the short turf by the cliff's edge, then three figures running from the
north, south, and east towards it.

The roan horse plunged and reared like one demented; the rider sitting
the while firm and supple as an Indian; then, seizing on a sudden the
bit 'twixt his teeth, off set the stallion at a tearing gallop
southward.

Away I followed hotly, the others giving chase and halloaing in the
background.

Dyke after dyke we flew headlong in the grey-white mist--the space still
even betwixt us--then, at a sudden high dry-stone wall, which loomed up
as a wave of darkness seaward, my horse jumped short, and down we fell
together, on the turf beyond.

As I lay there for a moment or two, I was certain I heard a heavy
rumbling of rock or stone by the cliff edge hard by, followed by a deep
plunge far below into the sea.

I rose to my feet and looked around me. There was no sign of horse or
rider; both had disappeared.

The cliff here made a sudden bend inland, so that I could even catch the
come and go of the waves in the far void below, and I felt 'twas lucky
for me that I had been riding the nethermost line of the twain of us.

Cautiously approaching the edge, I noticed it had been just broken away
under the tramplings of a horse, and as I peeped over I caught sight of
an indistinct figure lying on a broad slab of rock below that jutted out
some way from the cliff.

Feeling carefully around for support of root or stone, I made my way
down, and discovered, as I had already conjectured, 'twas the reiver
that lay there.

He was lying motionless, spread on his back, and was murmuring to
himself as I drew close.

I knelt beside him to lift him up, and could catch, as I tried to raise
him, what he was saying.

'Whisht ye, then, whisht, Effie, Aah never meant to break t' dish, Aah
tell thee. Leave us aloan, then, lass, doan't plague t' life oot of a
man. Ay, Aah'll fetch t' coo in i' guid time, there's no call t' bang
us that gait.'

Then he babbled indistinctly; his lips grew whiter and ceased from
moving; and when the others had come up I think he was already dead.

As I rode off for the physician in Redcar, I minded me I had once read
in a book, Reverend Sir, that this same Cleveland was once 'the
Cliff-land of the Danes,' and that the older name of Roseberry
Topping--the famous hill of these parts--was Othenesberg, or Odin's
Hill, together with much else of an antiquarian interest and varied
conjecture, which I must even leave to wiser heads than mine to
determine the true issues of, as well as their bearing upon the events
just narrated, but this I may say, that here is the same 'crazy tale' my
cousin mentioned to you, set down in all true verisimilitude by,
reverend sir, your very faithful and humble servant to command,

    FREDDY HALL.



THE DOPPEL-GANGER


So this was the old home--the cradle of his race!

Percy Osbaldistone of Osbaldistone Tower gazed curiously about him in
what had formerly been the library, and espied a capacious Queen Anne
chair by the fireside which looked inviting.

Having ensconced himself therein he put up his feet against the
mantelpiece, lit a long cigar, and drew in the smoke slowly and
meditatively.

The old housekeeper and her pretty niece had given him a good supper,
and he himself, foreseeing empty cellars, had brought with him an ample
freight, so now at the long last he had arrived in harbour.

After all his vicissitudes and being for years the black sheep of the
ancient family, that he should come into possession of Osbaldistone
Tower and Manor touched his vein of humour.

He laughed grimly, rubbed one hand upon the other, and looked
contemptuously up at the portrait of an ancestor who seemed to be
scowling at the last representative of his race. It was true that there
was not much of the old family estate left, and what was left was
mortgaged, but still it was good for a few thousands, and the family
lawyer had to find them or go. The heir of the Osbaldistones continued
his reflections. He didn't 'give a damn' for his ancestors, for what had
they done save bring him into the world--a doubtful blessing?

'_Après moi le Déluge_,' murmured he to himself with a cynical smile, as
he ensconced himself deeper in the recesses of his armchair and drank
deep from the glass by his side. His hand shook badly, and he spilled
some drops of whisky and soda upon his trousers.

'Damn!' cried he in annoyance. Then to himself _sotto voce_, 'Now that
I've got back to this old quiet place I'll soon have my rotten nerves
right again.'

Looking up after wiping his trousers he suddenly perceived to his great
astonishment, for he had heard no sound of entrance, a fellow seated in
the chair opposite which nestled under the Spanish leather screen that
kept off the draught from the door behind.

'Who the devil are you?' inquired the Lord of the Manor angrily, 'and
what d' ye want?'

'I am an Osbaldistone like yourself,' replied the stranger suavely; 'we
are the last of the ancient house that bears upon its chevron the spear
and spurs (mullets), so when I heard of your good fortune I thought it
but polite to call and gratulate you on your succession.'

Percy Osbaldistone looked across upon his unwelcome visitor with
narrowed eyes. The room was dark in its old oak panelling; there was but
the one lamp on the table behind him, and it was by the light of the
fire that he had to scrutinise the newcomer. So far as he could see the
fellow was not unlike himself: he seemed to have the high-ridged nose of
the family, which had become almost a birthmark in course of years. Yet
the sardonic hardness of chin and jaw was very different to his own
flabbiness; and as he watched his opposite Osbaldistone felt hatred
surge up within his soul.

He had heard of men having their 'double.' Perhaps this was his own. He
shivered at the thought.

Then he recollected that a branch of the family had long years ago
migrated to Virginia. Possibly the fellow was one of their descendants.

'Are you from America?' he inquired. Then he went on in haste, not
waiting for reply, 'For myself, I've only just arrived here. The only
servants are an ancient housekeeper and her little niece, and I can't do
with visitors--you'll understand me. Take a whisky and soda and then
go,' and the speaker ended with a snarl and suggestive stretch of leg
and boot.

'You are not very hospitable,' replied his opposite, suavely as before,
'but it matters little, nor do I require a whisky and soda. I simply
called in for a "crack," as you say up here, and to congratulate you on
succeeding.'

'A crack!' echoed his host surlily. 'What about?'

'Oh, about our family and yourself,' returned the other caressingly. 'I
am something of a genealogist, love family histories and dote on
skeletons in the cupboard. As a matter of fact, ours is a singularly
dull chronicle: except that the head of the family was an unsuccessful
rebel in the "15," we never travelled beyond our Anglo-Saxon
fatherdom--deep drinking, gambling, hard riding--and the _droit de
Seigneur_'--here the speaker paused a moment--'this little niece, for
example?' he hinted delicately.

'How the devil has the fellow guessed that?' thought Osbaldistone, white
with anger and touched by secret fear.

'Get out!' he cried hoarsely, and felt if his revolver lay handy in his
pocket, ready for use if needful.

His guest, however, took no notice of the command. Indeed, he went on
more coolly than before. 'I mention it,' said he, 'because there was an
ugly story about in British East Africa when you were farming out in the
wilds beyond Simba, of the rape of a native girl, who was eventually
turned out of doors at night and never reached her home again. Hyæna or
lion? Which d' ye think?'

Osbaldistone's hand dropped feebly back from his revolver. His face was
ashen-coloured. Good God! Who was this visitor? The episode of this
black girl was the one thing he had never been able to forget. Shrinking
back into his chair, he gazed as a rabbit may gaze upon the approaching
python.

'Damn the fellow!' He plucked forth his revolver with quivering fingers,
levelled it at his guest, and pulled upon the trigger. The bullet sang
across the room, passed through armchair and screen into the wainscot
beyond.

The smoke cleared; Osbaldistone could still see the unmoved and mocking
eye of his enemy that filled him with a nameless horror. He lifted his
pistol to take a better aim, then--on a strange misgiving--turned the
barrel round upon himself. 'You fool!' muttered the strange visitor
sardonically, and as he spake he vanished as silently as he had come.



IN MY LADY'S BEDCHAMBER


'Well,' said Harry laughingly, as he showed me the family portraits, and
more especially the ladies, on the wall of the panelled dining-room,
'which of them would you choose if you were, like Henry VIII., on the
look-out for a fresh wife?'

'This one, I think,' I replied, as I gazed at a charming fragile beauty
in a big bonnet, beneath which shy eyes looked bewitchingly; 'surely she
was a Frenchwoman and painted by Fragonard?'

'Aha!' cried he, 'you are a bold man, for there are tales told of
her--strange tales of feminine and deadly jealousy for all her soft
demureness. She was French, as you say, and a devoted wife, I believe,
but probably her _mari_ was not as faithful as he should have been. She
is said to haunt the house, but I haven't come across her yet myself.
You are to sleep in her bedchamber,' he added with a smile, 'so perhaps
you may be favoured with the sight of your charmer.'

I pressed naturally for further information, but he put me off by saying
it was too long a story, and that he had many other things to show me
on this my first evening in the manor house.

I had only just arrived by motor. We had dined, and my friend was
showing me round his possessions with all the pride of new and sudden
inheritance. Harry had always been lucky; he had a talent for 'dropping
in' for things unexpectedly. Thus at Eton, though really only thirteenth
man, he had played against Harrow; and now owing to unexpected deaths he
had become the possessor of a charming seventeenth-century manor house
on the northern Border--a house that, lying in a deep crook of the Tweed
and hidden by trees, had marvellously escaped the hand and torch of the
raider.

He had succeeded to his great-uncle--an antiquary and recluse--a
disappointed bachelor, and latterly, 'twas said, somewhat of a miser,
which was fortunate for my friend, who had very little of his own.

Harry was soon to be married, and I was to be best man. He had come down
to interview the agent and see what alterations and new furniture would
be required, and had insisted on my joining him for a few days' fishing
in the Tweed, while he was being inducted by agent and bailiff into his
estate and introduced to the tenantry. After surveying his ancestors'
portraits we adjourned to the hall, which was furnished with
battle-axes, Jethart spears, basket-hilted swords, maces, salmon
leisters, masks of otters and foumarts, foxes and badgers, and all the
various trophies of Border sport and warfare of old time. This was the
oldest part of the house, and proved by its stone-vaulted roof that it
had belonged to the old peel tower on to which the manor had been
engrafted; a fire of pine logs flamed in an open fireplace, gleaming and
glancing on the copper drums that held relays of firewood on either
hand.

Skins of red deer and the tufted pelts of kyloe cattle lay on the stone
floor: there were massive black oak coffers and a great wardrobe like
some huge safe for coats behind us, but two broad ancient leathern
armchairs stood by the hearth invitingly, suggestive of unperturbed
eighteenth-century ease, wherein we at once settled ourselves.

It was perhaps the absence of feminine taste and adornment that made the
house seem older than it really was; apart from the charming portraits
of the ladies in the dining-room the house resembled rather a Border
strength than a Jacobean manor house.

However, the atmosphere was rendered all the more romantic thereby, and
I lay back in my chair making believe to myself that I was staying with
a Lord Warden of the Marches in the days of the ancient feud between
England and Scotland.

We smoked and talked, however, not of the far, but of the immediate,
past, of Eton and Oxford, and of mutual friends till twelve o'clock
struck on the brazen rim of a Cromwellian clock, and we agreed that it
was bedtime.

I had clean forgotten all about the reputed ghost till my host said
'good-night' at the door of my bedroom and bade me call him if I got a
'gliff' in the night from the apparition of 'Silkie'--so he informed me
the lady was called locally. 'You've got your retriever with you,' he
said, 'so no doubt you will feel protected.'

'Brenda,' I replied, 'is Scotch by birth, so possibly she may be
superstitious. The event will determine. So long,' I said, as Harry went
off to the room of his late bachelor great-uncle.

Though very sleepy after a long motor ride I could not 'turn in' till I
had explored my bedroom, which was indeed a fascinating and enchanting
chamber. It seemed to be a coign plucked out of an old French château,
and inset here like a rare plant in an old stone wall. The panelling was
of Italian intarsia work inlaid with a renaissance design portraying
the tale of Cupid and Psyche; on the final panel Jupiter was handing the
cup of ambrosia to Psyche with the words, '_Sume, Psyche, et immortalis
esto, nec unquam digridietur a tuo nexu Cupido, sed istae vobis erunt
perpetuae nuptiae_'; the floor was formed of parquetry, and the rugs
above were of fine Persian workmanship. The curtains of the window were
of purple silk, embroidered, I imagined, by the fair Frenchwoman
herself, and the great four-poster bed was of fine walnut with deep
mouldings, and adorned with the fleur-de-lys of France. The whole room
seemed to be redolent of the grace of a charming _grande dame_ of old
France. I made up the fire with fresh pine logs upon the tiled hearth,
settled Brenda upon a rug by the side of it, undressed and went to bed,
enchanted by my surroundings, and very much inclined to envy my friend
his good fortune.

I fell asleep at once, for the bed was luxuriously comfortable, and I
was extraordinarily sleepy.

How long I slept I did not know, but when I awoke I had an immediate and
most lively intimation that some one was in the room. I drew myself
noiselessly upward, and at once my eyes rested upon a dainty figure
sitting in the chair by the dying fire, evidently engaged upon some
absorbing occupation. It was a woman clad in a sprigged silk gown, the
image of my lady of the dining-room portrait. What was she doing?
Seemingly pounding some substance in a small mortar. As I gazed
astounded a slight knock sounded on the door. My Lady seemed
extraordinarily perturbed; she started violently, seemed to shake
something white from the mortar as she gathered it hastily to her, moved
swiftly with the slightest rustle as of a scurrying mouse and vanished
through the door that led into the dressing-room.

I waited a few minutes to see if she would return, or perhaps some one
else enter by the other door, but no sound greeted my ear, and my eyes
could discover nothing unusual about the room.

I rose, and, moving on tiptoe, opened both doors, and with the light of
an electric torch I always carried with me, investigated the corridor
and dressing-room, but could make no discovery of any kind, nor perceive
where my fair visitant had vanished.

When I returned to my room I found Brenda had been disturbed by my
perambulation, for she was up and moving about restlessly. Giving her a
pat I bade her lie down again, and went back to bed determined to stay
awake for the chance of my Lady reappearing.

A few minutes after this Brenda seemed to be taken with a fit, for she
got up suddenly, made a bolt, as it were, for the door, shook with some
convulsive movements of her jaw, gave a horrible sort of strangled sob,
and fell with a heavy thud on the floor.

I leapt out of bed, got some water in a basin and knelt down beside her,
but she was already stiff, her teeth were clenched, and she showed a
horribly distorted mask.

A horrid suspicion awoke in my mind. I searched with my torch on the
floor where my Lady had dropped the powder, and I could plainly see the
wet edge of Brenda's tongue and the smudge of the white powder which she
had licked up.

I went back to where Brenda lay stiff and stark, and felt with a
trembling hand for her heart.

It beat no more; my Brenda was dead--poisoned by the beautiful Lady.



THE WARLOCK OF GLORORUM


'But are you sure your father wouldn't object?' I asked of my
companion--a most bright and amusing Eton boy--to whom I was playing
bear leader. 'Not a bit,' replied he; 'my father is a naturalist and
Darwinian; not a sceptic, but _Agnosticus suavis_ or _Verecundus, ordo
compositae_, you know. "Hunt the ghost by all means," said he, when I
suggested a ghost "worry," and then as he does sometimes over coffee and
a cigarette after dinner he talked with a real keen interest on the
whole subject. He talked so long that old Mac (the butler) got quite
shirty, and finally--after putting his head round the door two or three
times--came in like the Lord Mayor and bore off the whisky decanter to
the smoking-room. Now, the pater said that the love of the marvellous
was native to mankind, and Tertullian had acquired a false credit for
his motto, _Credo quia impossible_, since that was the natural failing
of the untrained intellect, and, scientifically speaking, he ought to
have been shot sitting.

'Then he went on to tell a jolly story which some great educationalist
had told him of the little girl playing in the garden, who saw Fifine,
the poodle, unexpectedly appear, and at once rushed in crying to her
mother, "Mummy, mummy, there's a bear in the garden!" Her mother, being
a wholly unimaginative creature, promptly put Maggie into the corner,
and told her to beg God's pardon for having told a lie. Presently Maggie
comes out of her corner radiant, "It's all right, mummy," she cried,
"God tells me He has often mistaken Fifine for a bear Himself." No
doubt, as he said, Maggie had had a momentary fright, and for half a
second had thought of a bear, but she knew, too, that if she stayed to
investigate she would find out it was Fifine, so preferring the luxury
of the marvellous, she fled crying in to her mother. Sometimes, of
course, he added, the ghost is the resultant of some horrible cruelty or
murder, mankind, from various motives, refusing to let the memory of the
crime die out, but more usually the ghost is born of the early
mythopoeic imagination of man that cherishes the marvellous. One never
hears of a new ghost nowadays. Science, no doubt, is an iconoclast in
the matter.'

'Well,' said I, 'how do you propose to proceed? I have gathered that
there was once a warlock or wizard here in the sixteenth century--one
of your forebears--who bore a most unhallowed reputation. Is he your
ghost, or is the ghost the result of his "goings on"?'

'Both,' replied Dick, smiling. 'At least there are a number of tales
about him and his misdeeds; one version has it that he built himself a
secret chamber wherein he conferred with the "Auld Enemy" in person, and
no one has yet discovered his "dug-out." Here's a quaint woodcut of the
old warlock,' he continued, taking down as he spoke a foxed print from
the wall and holding it out for my inspection.

'Ain't he a fearsome figure? Looks as if his liver were cayenne pepper.
Astrologer, botanist, poisoner, he is said to have been, and I don't
wonder.'

The ancient warlock possessed indeed a most mischancy visage: hard,
curious, inhuman eyes he had, thin, sunken cheeks, and a black
straggling moustache, the whole surmounted by a great bald dome of brow.
'By Alchemist out of Misanthropos,' I suggested, after a lengthy
scrutiny, 'and perhaps Misogynist as well.' My companion laughed
appreciatively. 'That's about it,' he said; 'yet there _is_ a tale of a
fisherman's daughter, the belle of the village below.

'Well,' he continued with animation, 'our job is now to discover his
secret chamber. 'Tis as good as a treasure hunt with the supernatural
thrown in. By the way,' he went on, 'it's the first time I've ever been
in Glororum Castle, as it is called, for the old place has only just
come back to us, that is, to my father as representative of the senior
branch of the Macellars, by the death of a cousin who died S.P. What
nerves they had, these old chieftains! Fancy, like the Maclean, setting
out your wife--even if a trifle _passée_--on the Skerry to drown before
your dining-room window, or, like the Macleod, lowering her into the
dungeon beneath the drawing-room that you might the better enjoy the
charms of Amaryllis--your gardener's daughter--above. Well, it's too
late this afternoon to begin our "worry," but to-morrow morning we must
start by flagging all the windows with towels, as the inquisitive lady
is said to have done at Glamis Castle.'

I willingly agreed to his proposal, which jumped well enough with my own
humour, and then as Dick went off to unpack I determined to go without
and view the castle from every side.

Dusk was now closing in on the dark and frowning tower that was perched
like an osprey upon the basalt cliffs that overlooked the sea. The
building was really rather a peel tower than a castle, for it was of no
great extent, consisting merely of the tall, gaunt tower with a wing
added on to its western side. Situated on the edge of the bare sea, like
a lighthouse abandoned, scarred by the fierce nor'-easters, with the
mutter of the waves about it below and the scream of sea-fowl above, one
could scarce imagine a more desolate or forbidding human abode than
fitly-named 'Glower-o'er-'em' Tower.

The neck of land by which it was approached from the west had been
protected by a wall, within which a garden had sheltered, wherein the
warlock had grown his herbs and poisons, but all was now ruinous and
weed-grown, and gave only an added touch to the general forlornness. The
place had been let as a shooting-box in recent years, but neither
landlord nor tenant had thought it worth while to spend any money on
reparation or embellishment. 'Twas indeed a fitting retreat for a
warlock or wizard, I thought, as with a final regard I turned to go
within doors.

Just at that moment I caught a glimpse of a fisher lass with a pannier
rounding the corner. She looked back, and I saw a roguish Romney eye
lighting a charming profile. 'Too pretty,' I thought, remembering Dick,
as she tripped onward into the shadow of the Tower.

The sea was moaning under a heavy cloud-wrack; away to the west above
the Lammermoors the sunset flared like a bale-fire, scattering sparks on
the windows of the Tower. 'Twas cheerier within than without, for the
walls were thick and kept the wind at bay, the wood fires were lively
with hissing logs, and scarce heeded a chance buffet from the down
draught lying in ambush within the open chimney-stack. We slept in the
wing without any dread of the warlock, for it had been added on to the
tower long after his time, and save for the sound of the sea far below,
resembling the dim 'mutter of the Mass,' or the spell of a necromancer,
I heard nothing throughout the night.

Next morning after breakfast was over Dick produced a pile of towels,
which we divided up between us for our voyage of discovery. 'After all,'
I said, 'we shan't want many, for bows and arrows in the far past, and
later, the window tax, kept the number of openings down.'

We ascended by the ancient stone newel stair that circled up from the
old iron 'yett' of the entry to the battlements above, and laid a towel
below the sash of every window. In the topmost storey in some servants'
rooms that had been long disused we discovered certain windows with
broken cords that entirely refused to open.

Dick's way here was of the 'Jethart' kind. He simply knocked a pane out
with the poker, and thrust the towel through.

When we had finished we descended in haste and perambulated the tower
without, counting up our tale of towels in some excitement.

'As many windows, so many towels,' I said with disappointment, as I
checked them off carefully.

'Damn!' said Dick meditatively. Then after a moment or two's thought,
'The old boy's cell must have been on the roof; he was sure to have been
an astrologer. Let's go up again and start afresh.' So saying he led the
way up to the parapet of the battlements, and there we surveyed the
roof. The main part of the roof consisted of a gable covered with heavy
stone tiles, but the further part that lay between the north-east and
north-west bartizans was flat and covered with lead, and at the verge of
this were iron steps that led down to the roof of the new wing below.
This latter we did not concern ourselves with, as we knew it dated since
the wizard's day, but carefully examined the stone tiles and the further
leads without, however, any discovery resulting.

We were just about to give up our quest when Dick's quick eyes noticed a
chink in the lead that formed the channel or gutter for the rain water
leading either way to the gargoyles beneath the bartizans outside.

'Look here!' he cried. 'See the dim light showing! I swear it's a
glimmer of glass. Evidently this particular lead was meant to be drawn
aside and admit the light.' I hastened to the side and peered with him
into the dirt-laden crack.

Opening my pen-knife I scraped away the dirt and soon verified his
conjecture that there was glass below. 'You're right!' I cried in my
excitement. 'It is glass. Now let's search and see if we can find
anything like a hinge, or at least some indication that the lead could
be withdrawn at will.' We sought all along by the containing wall and
found that the lead did not end in a flat sheet, as is usual, against
the wall, but was turned over, and evidently continued below.

'It looks very much as if it was meant to roll up and be turned over
like a blind on a roller below,' I said to my companion.

'I'm sure of it,' Dick replied with conviction. 'I'll tell you what we
must do. We'll pull up the lead, make sure of the extent of the glass,
then go below and search for the wizard's cell from the exact indication
we shall then have of its whereabouts.'

'Right!' said I, 'that's the method.'

We set to work, and soon had doubled back a strip of lead a foot broad
from the centre till the glass ended by the bartizan on either side. We
could not pull the lead right back because of the iron steps, which had
evidently been inserted when the new wing was built, and now interfered
with our further action.

The glass was set in heavy leaded panes, which were so engrained with
the grime of centuries that we could discern nothing through them.

'We must search for the wizard's cell from below,' I said. 'If we cannot
discover it there we must return and break in from above.'

'Yes,' agreed Dick, 'it would be a pity to smash the roof in if we can
find an entry below without causing damage.'

The orientation was now easy, and as we studied the position from the
parapet we could select the towelled window below which fitted best with
the position of the glass roof.

The curious thing was that the window was not situated in the centre,
but at the side of the torn up lead.

'We'll find out the reason below,' I said, as we descended in great
excitement, hastening on our quest.

The room we made for was one of the disused chambers on the top storey,
which we had remarked for its narrowness when we broke the window and
thrust a towel through.

'There must be a secret passage,' cried Dick, as he flashed his torch
upon the walls; 'we're not below the glass; we're to the right hand of
it. Wherefore search the left wall.'

Dick's inference seemed excellent, and full of eagerness I tapped with
my knife, he with his poker, all along the western wall.

'There's a hollow here,' cried Dick, overjoyed, as his poker rang with a
strange lightness. 'Let's hunt for an opening or crack, or some
betraying sign.'

'Here! Look here!' he shouted. 'I believe this stone pulls out.'

Hastening to his side and applying my knife to the thin ragged crevice
he had discovered, I found the stone was loose. I worked feverishly
while Dick held the torch. 'Now it's coming!' I cried, and even as I
spoke it fell forward and crashed on to the floor. To us scrutinising
the aperture, there seemed evidently a spring or catch concealed behind
it.

Thrusting in my arm I pressed it home. A creak sounded; there was a
rusty wheeze, and a portion of the wall seemed to shake and move slowly
inwards.

'We've got it!' yelled Dick, as he pressed his shoulder against the
receding portion, 'it's a wooden door covered over with thin slabs of
stone.'

'Forrard!' cried Dick. 'Forrard on!' and as he shouted he pressed
forward down a narrow, dusty aperture towards a chamber beyond where a
dim light showed through the begrimed roof above.

I pressed on hotly at his heels through the six feet of passage. We were
now within the threshold of the secret cell. But what was that horrible
thing beneath the dim sky-light? Dick's electric torch was failing, and
we could not see distinctly, and a very oppression of fear seized upon
us both. What was the gruesome object in front that resembled a dead
octopus with decayed black arms?

There was a sickly taint in the air, and as I stood there fascinated by
fear Dick took a step forward and threw the faint light of his torch
upon the atrocious figure.

Surely it was a gorilla grasping its victim, and bending it in to itself
as in some horrid act of rape!

Dick advanced yet another foot. Then I perceived that it was worse even
than I suspected, for I now distinguished a giant species of
_Nepenthes_ (_Nepenthes Ferocissimus_) most monstrously developed,
clutching in its long arms and horrid ascidiums the remains of a human
victim--apparently a woman--for a gleam of yellow satin showed beneath
the black embrace. Good God! I thought of the 'fisherman's daughter'
with a shudder.

I heard the torch drop. Then came a rustling shiver. The monstrous
growth had sunk to the floor under pressure of the fresh air!

I thought I had fainted, but the next moment I felt Dick's hand shaking
upon my sleeve, and heard a voice quaver in my ear:

_'Let's get out of this! It's altogether too damned beastly._'



'MUCKLE-MOUTHED MEG'


'Hang him, Provost!'[1] cried the Town Clerk; 'he was caught red-handed;
i' the verra manner, makin' awa aff wi' a quey o' your ain frae oor
Common.'

'Fear God, Provost,' exhorted the Burgh Chamberlain, astonished at the
Provost's hesitancy, 'but ne'er a North Tyne Robson.'

'Ay,' rang out a dozen voices from the crowd assembled in front of the
Provost's house in Hawick, 'mak him "kiss the woodie"; let the prood
Northumbrian thief cool his heels i' the wind!'

'Up wi' him!' cried Madge wi' the Fiery Face, who had just been loosed
from the 'jougs,' wherein she had been confined for 'kenspeckle
incontinence.' 'Up wi' the clarty callant! Let him swing like a corby
craa i' a taty patch!'

But the canny wife of the Provost, douce man, plucked him by the sleeve.
'Dod! man,' she whispered him in the ear, 'he's a braw chield for a'
that. Bethink you o' oor "Muckle-Mouthed Meg," that ne'er a Tery[2]
will wed wi' withoot a handsome tocher! Aweel, let him wed wi' her the
noo "ower the tangs" an' ride awa wi' her on his saddle-bow. 'Twere pity
to hang sic a handsome chield as he is an' no mak use o' him as a
son-in-law, even if he be ane o' the "auld enemy."'

The Provost looked anew upon the careless, intrepid young Northumbrian,
who seemed not to care a bodle for his imminent fate. He regarded his
proposed son-in-law approvingly, for he was the pure type of North Tyne
Borderer--of medium stature, but finely formed, with tanned complexion,
tawny moustache and ruddy hair, keen blue eye and oval face--most
pleasant to look upon. 'Aweel,' concluded the Provost, 'we wull gie him
the chance.'

'Look ye,' he addressed himself to the captive, 'the guidwife is verra
tender hairted: she disna care to see ye trail i' the wind, but will
offer ye Meg, oor daughter, instead o' the halter ye hae truly earned.
Ye can tak Meg--an' your life as her tocher.'

Robson's proud determination to accept his fate and suffer silently as
became a hardy Northumbrian wavered a little.

He was but twenty-five years of age, and life was very sweet to him. He
thought of the merry moonlight, of the joys of riding, and the fierce
excitements of the foray with passionate desire. The old song of the
Borderers was ringing in his ears:

    'Sweet is the sound o' the driven steers
    And sweet the gleam o' the moonlit spears,
    When the red cock crows o'er byre and store
    And the Borderer rides on his foraying splore.'

He looked from the tail of his eye upon 'Meg wi' the muckle mouth.' No
beauty certainly, but 'twas fighting he craved, not women. Yet she was
not ill-natured, he surmised--the 'muckle mouth' signified good temper;
'twas far better than a 'muckle tongue'--she would do at a pinch as his
housekeeper.

Meg meanwhile on her part was also eyeing him askance. He was a handsome
gallant surely! Her heart longed for the canty fellow. Yet if he showed
the least sign of disdain he should go hang for her.

Robson now looked directly upon her. 'Well, Meg,' he decided swiftly,
'I'll take ye'; then he added in a flash of understanding, 'if ye'll
take me.' His tact triumphed. With a ready smile that stretched almost
from ear to ear Meg surrendered herself joyfully.

'Ay, my lad, I'll tak ye,' she replied on the instant.

The crowd now broke into a boisterous 'hooray,' as keen for the wedding
as a moment before they had been eident for the funeral. 'Bring oot the
tangs!' they vociferated loudly. A pair of tongs were at once produced,
and under the direction of the blacksmith the captive and the woman held
hands, and took each other for man and wife.

The 'handfasting' thus concluded, 'Ye hae forgot the bride ale!' cried
many voices. 'We mun drink their health, Provost, ye ken. Bring oot the
ale, canny man!' 'Ay, or clairt,' suggested a thin-faced scrivener. 'A
mutchkin o' usquebaugh for ilka man,' shouted a burly flesher, ''tis
mair heartenin'.'

The Provost turned a little pale at their unforeseen demand: he almost
regretted his consent to the wedding. Then he recollected that there was
a firkin of home-brewed in the cellar that a recent thunderstorm had
turned sour, and his brow grew clear. 'Bring oot the pickle firkin,' he
bade his man, 'an' serve it around.'

So with a taste of sour ale in their mouths man and wife rode forth from
Hawick the airt of Peel Fell.

Robson's good mare--her head turned homeward--went forward at a good
trot and recked little of her double burden.

'What ails ye?' inquired Robson shortly, feeling that his bride was
shaking in curious fashion behind him on her pillion.

'I was juist laughin',' responded Meg, 'at oor venture, for here we are
newly marrit an' I dinna even ken your name richtly; ye are a Robson, I
ken, an' "Wudspurs" is your toname, but whatten's your hame name?'

'My father and mother aye called me Si,' responded Robson. 'Ye can call
me that, an' ye like.'

Meg kept silence a while, then she said coaxingly, 'Si is a pretty name
eneuch; 'tis short an' sweet; gie me a kiss, Si,' she wheedled, with a
gentle clasp about his waist.

'I'll kiss ye when we win home,' replied her husband cautiously.

'But just ae kiss--to gang on wi',' coaxed Meg further.

Si turned half about and smacked his wife upon her rosy cheek, which
seemingly he found satisfactory.

'Plenty more for ye when we sit i' the ingle neuk together the night,'
he said.

Meg, enchanted at this prospect, said no more, but looked about her as
they rode up the Slitrig water.

They could see the twisted horn of Pencrist and the round Maiden Paps on
their right hand, and on their left bare Carlin Tooth on the outermost
edge of Carter Bar; they were soon out upon the bare moorlands that
stretch away to the water of Tyne on the one side and to the waters of
Liddle on the other.

As they slowly ascended by the skirts of Peel Fell Meg broke the silence
again.

'Ye arena marrit a'ready?' she inquired, as a sudden suspicion assailed
her.

'No fears,' retorted Si with conviction.

'Weel, ye are the noo,' said Meg to herself, slightly increasing her
hold on her man.

'Then wha is 't that fends for ye?' she asked further.

'I hae an old wife--the shepherd's--that bides with me,' replied Si.

'She'll no' fend for ye the way I can,' returned Meg, 'for I can bake
an' mak ye sowans, scones, brose, kail o' all kinds, an' parritch.'

'I'd be fain o' some here and now,' replied Si,[3] 'for ye are not very
hospitable in Hawick. A sup sour ale's all I've had since I took the
fell yestreen.'

'Puir laddie!' said Meg sympathetically. 'There was sic an unco
carfuffle that I had clean forgot the vivers.' Then, preparing to
descend from the pillion, she proposed that they should get down and
walk so as to ease the mare up the fell.

Si, highly approving her thoughtfulness, jumped down and led the mare
with bridle drawn over her head through the flows and mosses above the
Deadwater of Tyne.

'Ye can almost see my bit biggin',' said Si, as he halted and pointed
eastward of Larriston Fell to a patch of black peat and heather high on
the rolling moorland.

''Tis gey ootbye,' said Meg; 'clean aff the map a'thegither.'

'It's caad whiles outside i' the wunter,' admitted Si, 'yet i' the but
wi' aad Maud the collie an' her litter, Dand the shepherd, an' Sall his
wife about the blazing peats on the hearth ye'll be warmer an' cosier
than the Queen of Scotland.'

'There wull be a muckle ghaists aboot?' inquired Meg, as she gazed
anxiously upon the wild expanse of moor, grasslands, and bog that
stretched away, boundless as the sea, to an infinite horizon.

'There's nowt but the "wee grey man" o' the moor,' replied Si
unconcernedly; 'there's no harm in him; he will whiles even help up a
"cassen" yowe (ewe). Not but what there's the "Bargeist"--he's
mestitched, yet red thread i' your mutch and a branch o' the rowan tree
will keep him awa nicelies. And Dand kens fine how to fettle him whether
by day or night--

     "Rowan tree and red thread gar the witches come ill speed."

'Mount again now, my lass,' he added, 'for we ha' crossed the water o'
North Tyne, and will win home to the "Bower" cheeks by the gloaming.'

As the good mare pressed on unweariedly bridegroom and bride rode up to
the 'yett' of 'the Bower' in the late twilight. On hearing the mare's
shoes ring on the cobbles beside the gate the old shepherd, who had
evidently been waiting, expectant of his master's return, came hirpling
out in haste. Then seeing the strange figure seated behind his master he
stood stock still in astonishment.

'Whatten's this gear ye ha' lifted the noo?' he finally inquired, when
he had found his voice.

''Tis a wife I ha' lifted from Hawick town,' cried Si gaily, as he leapt
from his mare, overjoyed to be at home again.

''Twould be i' the dark then?' suggested Dand, his eye fascinated by the
'muckle mouth,' 'or belike in an ower great haste ye lifted the first
"yowe" (ewe) ye cam' across?'

''Twas in broad daylight,' retorted Si, catching him a friendly buffet
on the shoulder. 'Ye would ne'er ha' seen your master again had it no'
been for Meg,' and as he helped her down he briefly narrated his
adventure.

'Aweel,' commented Dand to himself, shaking his head the while, as he
led the mare to the byre, 'I'm nane so sure but I would ha' juist pit up
wi' the hangin'.' Then he added aloud, 'The wife will be sair vext when
she sees the Scots heifer ye ha' ridden back wi'.'

Meg's good-nature, however, her willingness to help, and her skill in
cooking soon triumphed over Sall's ill-humour, and peace reigned within
the 'but' as supper was being made ready that evening.

Afterwards within the 'ben,' sitting cheek by jowl upon a rough bench
beside the peats the Northumbrian bridegroom, and the Scots bride found
much to content them, either with the other, whilst Maud the collie, who
had stolen in with them, looked with resentment in her soft brown liquid
eyes upon the strange woman who had so unexpectedly taken her place with
the master, and might have been seen to frown when Si redeemed his
promise of 'plenty mair' to 'Meg' on their ride home to 'the Bower.'

'The Bower,' as Si had christened his dwelling--originally a shepherd's
sheiling--had recently been enlarged by the addition of the 'ben' and a
room above the 'but,' so that the building had the look of a lop-sided,
rough peel tower.

With help of his brothers down the water and a mason from Falstone Si
had run a dry-stone dyke--strengthened with fir tree trunks--round about
for the protection of his sheep and nowt in the event of a foray, and
was as pleased with 'the Bower' as Lord William Howard with Naworth.
'Twas a quaint name enough, for 'the Bower' stood on the true march line
of the naked Border, and in the very haunt and playground of the winds.
Not only was it obnoxious to the winds, but equally exposed to raiding
from Scotland, as also to the 'broken men' of 'the Waste,' for it stood
erect above the Lewis Burn where it flows forth from Hells-bottom on
the edge of Coplestone, where the Liddesdale fells join hands with those
of Cumbrian Bewcastle.

Yet Si had prospered, for his 'grayne' befriended him, and as for the
fierce reivers from Liddesdale, why, he would ride with them so long as
they ran their forays into Cumberland or Scotland and not within North
Tyne.

And now the 'Hunters' Moon' was up, waxing nightly, and proclaiming to
all about the Borderland that the customary truce of summer was over,
and the time of the crowing of the 'Red Cock' was at hand.

Danger, however, came not from Scotland in the first instance, but from
England, as it happened.

The tale of Si's marriage had soon got wind upon the Border, and proved
occasion for many a jest and gibe far and wide, and when it came to the
ears of the Land Sergeant of Gilsland he scented opportunity of revenge
for a 'lick' on the head he had received in a fray with the Robsons when
they drove a foray into South Tyne a few months bygone.

''Tis matter of march treason,' he said, when he heard of Si's means of
escape from the Hawick halter. 'Whether he be married or no signifieth
not, for all intercommuning with the Scots is clean against Border law.
'Tis a matter for the Lord Warden's court, and a hanging matter at that.
Ay, "Merry Carlisle" will fit him fine.'

Thus devising his revenge he determined to act at once. Taking two of
his men with him he rode up by the edge of 'the Waste' towards
Coplestone Fell, with intent to capture Si, or, should he evade capture,
to leave a citation at 'the Bower' for his appearance at the next
meeting of the Lord Wardens on account of notorious breakage of the
Border law.

But Si had already been made aware of his enemy's intention, and had
instructed Meg how to act in such an emergency, for it might well be
that trouble would come when he was out looking after a 'hogging' he had
of 'blackfaces' that were pasturing above the Forks, where the Lewis
Burn and Oakenshaw Burn mate. The season of the foray had opened and
flocks must be guarded by day and night. One afternoon when Si had
ridden down to the Forks to relieve Dand, Meg stood by the 'yett,'
expectant of the old shepherd's return, and watchful of enemies. As she
turned her gaze southward she was suddenly aware of three figures
clearly tricked out against the grey sky above the further fell: their
silhouettes showed like midges dapped against the window by a boy, and
Meg could see that the centaurs were coming forward on a fair round trot
in Indian file. She could not distinguish at the distance horse from
rider, but she could note the pose of the horse's head, and the movement
against the sky-line. 'Three-quarters of an hour,' commented the gazer.
'Good going on the fell top, evil wi' peat hags, flows, an' gairs
below.'

She looked eastward, and there saw to her infinite relief old Dand
coming slowly up the track on the ancient pony. Then, after having gone
within to make certain preparations, she set out on a brisk step to meet
Dand. Dand had quickened his pace when he too saw the three black
silhouettes above, and met his mistress within two yards of the
dry-stone walling.

A very animated conversation took place between the two, and by the time
they reached the door cheeks of 'the Bower' they seemed to have settled
their scheme of strategy satisfactorily, for either turned away from
other with a wink o' the eye.

The strange riders had dismounted and walked their horses through the
peat hags and mosses, but now were up again, and pressing on to the
'yett.' The foremost rider--the Land Sergeant--knocked heavily on the
door with the butt of his lance and demanded to see 'Robson o' the
Bower i' the name o' my Lord Warden.'

'He's no' within,' cried Meg in return. 'Whatten want ye at him?'

Then she slowly slid back the bar, and, opening the door partly, stood
in the space thus afforded, her hands upon her hip bones.

'So you're the Scots lass he brought back with him from Hawick,' said
the Land Sergeant, after a cool survey of Meg's features. 'Doubtless
there was great provocation,' he added with a grin, 'but he broke the
Border laws, my lass, and must answer for 't. Intercommuning with the
Scots is absolutely forbidden, and is punishable with death. So, my
lass, I advise ye to slip away home as fast as Robson's mare or shanks's
nag will carry ye. Meantime I must search the house for your man, and if
I cannot find him I'll leave a citation for the Lord Wardens' meeting
with ye for Robson.'

'When Si,' retorted Meg very deliberately, 'intercommunes wi' me, as ye
ca' it,' here the 'muckle-mouth' expanded east and west, 'he
intercommunes wi' me i' Scotland, an' there ye haena ony power ower him
or me. The Bower is biggit on the verra march line,' she explained, 'an'
the ben is ower on the Scots side whaur we intercommune,' and Meg, with
her arms akimbo and her mouth on the grin, contemplated her enemy in
scornful triumph.

'Here! take ye this citation,' cried the Land Sergeant in his wrath, for
he heard an echo of Meg's laughter proceed from his men behind him,
handing the parchment slip to her as he spoke.

Meg, however, instead of taking it, shouted a loud and mysterious
summons to assistance. 'Oot an' at 'im; oot an' at 'im, Bargeist! Hoop,
holla, Bargeist!' then slammed to the door.

A few seconds only elapsed when there came round the corner a strange
mischancy creature, with loose hide and hanging horns, long tail and
clattering hoofs. Scrambling very swiftly forward it shook its shaggy
head in an angry roar, and edged its horns sharply against the Land
Sergeant's nearest man.

'Come awa, Sergeant; come awa,' cried the fellow in terror. ''Tis the
Bargeist, the Bargeist! Ye can fight against thae devils if ye like, but
I'll no',' and therewith clapping in his spurs he turned his horse's
head and fled down the path without ever a glance behind him.

His fellow--a trifle braver--stood his ground a few seconds longer, but
when his horse caught sight of the fearsome threatening horns beneath
his belly he shied violently, then bolted after his companion.

At this moment out came Meg with a glowing poker.

'This wull shift ye, if the Bargeist disna,' she cried, as she lunged at
the Land Sergeant's mare and caught her fair upon the near buttock.

With a muffled skreigh the mare leapt forward, seized the bit 'twixt her
teeth, and _ventre à terre_ pursued the others in spite of her rider's
remonstrances.

Some half a mile away the three men succeeded in pulling up their
horses, and debated with some heat what had best be done. The Land
Sergeant was for going back to the Bower to search for Robson, but his
two men were for going home with all speed. As they were hotly debating
this the Land Sergeant descried a solitary horseman coming up the track
from the eastward, and a sudden light gleamed in his eye.

'Hi!' he cried sharply. 'Here's "Wudspurs" for a ducat! Take cover, and,
when I whistle, on to him like a brock!'

'Twas Si himself that was riding gaily up the water, for he had disposed
of his 'hogging' to a grazier from Hexham at a good price, and was now
bethinking him whence he had best re-stock his farm--whether from
Cumberland or Scotland.

He was just fixing upon Cumberland when a sharp whistle smote on his
ear, and three figures rising forth of some brackens were instantly upon
him. The foremost figure was afoot, with dag in his hand ready
presented; the other two were mounting their horses, their lances in
their hands. Si's mind cleared in a flash. Shouting aloud, 'Dand! to me!
Help!' he charged the footman fiercely. 'Pouff!' said the dag feebly,
and a bullet grazed the horse's withers. The horse, rearing up, struck
out and caught the fellow on the forehead with his iron-shod hoof,
driving him to earth, where Si pierced him through with his lance. The
other two men now circled warily round him--the one barring escape
eastward, the other keeping him from his home. Either was 'waiting on'
like a hawk before a favouring chance. But now two further figures
appeared upon the scene. Dand with a whinger and Meg with her glowing
brand came speeding to their master's rescue. The Land Sergeant and his
man bore down upon Si with lances levelled in haste, hoping to dispatch
him out of hand.

Si wheeled and turned his horse so swiftly that he surprised his nearest
foe, and 'instantly stooped' upon him. He caught him, turned half
about, and ran him through the hip, and dragged him from his saddle. But
his lance's head was twisted, he could not free it, and the Land
Sergeant bore down on him with gleaming spear. Just as Si thought he was
transfixed something interposed, a sigh or groan was heard; then Si was
on the ground, kneeling beside his wife whose life-blood a spear head
was drinking.

'Oh, Meg,' he cried; 'my Meg! Twice ye ha' saved my life, and now I
canna save yours,' and he supported his wife in his arms with infinite
tenderness. Meg lay quietly against his bosom, her eyes fixed upon his,
then she murmured softly with 'ane little laughter,' 'Kiss me good-bye,
Si, an'--on the "muckle moo."' Even as their lips met a mist stole
gently over Meg's eyes, and she saw Si no more.

[Footnote 1: Provost is really an anachronism, Hawick having been content
with Bailies till the nineteenth century.]

[Footnote 2: Tery, an inhabitant of Hawick, derived from their slogan
'Teribus and Tery Odin.']

[Footnote 3: Hawick hospitality and 'Hawick gills' are proverbial: any
one who has been fortunate, like the author, in having been a guest at
the Common Riding will have realised this.]



THE PRIOR OF TYNEMOUTH


Prior Olaf stood on the central merlon of the gate tower that protected
the little cell of Tynemouth from assault on the landward side, and
gazed intently over the sea below him to the eastward haze wherein he
feared to descry the red-brown sails of the serpent ships.

He was himself by birth a Dane: had even in his ardent youth been a
follower of the Raven sign and the banner of the Landwaster, but having
been wounded and left behind in a raid into England had been nursed by
monks, and eventually had taken the robe and cowl.

The wind had been continuously for a week in the eastern airt, and a
raid from his heathen fellow-countrymen seemed inevitable, since
Providence appeared to be tempting them with opportunity.

The good Prior could discern nothing alarming, yet he had a foreboding
that even now the heathen were approaching on the favouring wind, and
would thunder on the gate that very day.

Descending, he proceeded slowly to the chapel built by Oswald--saint
and king--in honour of the mother of our Lord, and there before the
shrine of Saint Oswyn prostrated himself in prayer. Long and earnestly
he prayed, for it seemed to the Prior that the test of his acceptance
was to be found in the continued absence of the Danes. The sin that he
had committed in his youth had, he trusted, been washed away by his
fastings and mortifications. In that event surely his prayers to the
Virgin, Saint Cuthbert, and Saint Oswyn, would prevail, and the Danes
would come not with fire and sword against his beloved cell.

The Prior's heart glowed in hope renewed.

'_Sursum corda_,' he murmured, then recommenced his litany.

'_De Saevitia Teutonorum qui veniunt in pandis myoparonibus, libera nos,
Domine!_'

Scarce had he finished, when a startled brother approached rapidly
a-tiptoe and touched the Prior gently on the shoulder.

'They come, Holy Prior! They come! the cruel heathen can be seen swiftly
approaching in their long ships.'

Prior Olaf turned ashen pale. He could not prevent a groan escaping him,
for now he knew that his penances had not yet proved effectual.

'_Mea culpa, mea culpa_,' he murmured wearily, then as he rose up with
pale cheek a gleam of fire lit in his eye, for he would die rather than
permit Saint Oswyn's shrine to be pillaged by the heathen. He called for
the sub-Prior and entrusted the defence to him.

The cell was splendidly situated, being protected on the three
sides--east, north, and west--by moat, steep cliffs, and the immediate
sea.

To the south or land side a strong wall with gate tower, furnished with
parapet and brettices for casting down of stones and melted lead, stood
sentinel and protector.

The sub-Prior--the light of battle in his eye--gave orders to his
affrighted flock, and bade the _Conversi_ (lay brethren) heat the lead
and carry up big stones to the brettices, where he himself took command.
Thereupon he looked down upon the serpent ships sailing into the mouth
of the Tyne, and on the sands below discharging their freight of
long-haired men with bucklers, swords, and torches in their hands.

In a plump they swarmed up the cliffs and advanced--led by a young chief
known to his followers as Eric the Red--to the monastery gate.

There Eric demanded instant admittance for his men, the surrender of all
treasure, sacred and profane, as well as of food and stores.

This the sub-Prior proudly refusing in honour of the Virgin, Saint
Cuthbert, and Saint Oswyn, a flight of arrows hissed over the parapet,
torches were lit and flung against the gate; the fight became general.

The sub-Prior had prepared a quantity of heavy stones upon the brettices
which he designed to use in the last resort, and now when the gate was
beginning to burn he bade his men be ready with their levers.

'_Down with the gate!_' cried Red Eric triumphantly. 'Down with it! See,
it burns!' and as he shouted he led his followers on with a rush. Like a
swarm of bees they clustered about their leader, and clambered up on
each other's shoulders. Fire was afoot below; battle-axes crashed above.

'Now!' cried the sub-Prior, as he thrust his lever home, and each man
upon the brettices echoed 'Now,' and thrust the lever home at the word.

The stones crashed down; the heaviest of all caught Eric himself and
drove him to the ground, where he lay unconscious, his ribs driven deep
into his lungs.

'Open the gate and drag their leader in!' cried the sub-Prior
triumphantly from above to his servants below.

Obeying, they rushed forth upon the astounded Danes, seized the dying
chief, and bore him swiftly within the gate tower.

The attackers, disconcerted by this sudden sortie, and disheartened by
the loss of their chief, withdrew from the wall, and shortly desisted
from their assault, for the English saints, they muttered to themselves,
were this day evidently fighting on behalf of their priests; 'twere
wiser to meddle no further with them this day.

Dispersing, therefore, they ravaged the hamlet of Shields and forayed
the country for cattle, then before the sun's setting embarked upon
their long ships, and sailed southward along the coast.

Meantime the sub-Prior in the moment of his triumph had looked
exultingly upon his enemy, then more compassionately as became a
Christian monk, and drew near as if to ease his suffering.

But the young Dane was already dead.

As he bent over the corpse the Prior himself approached, for he trusted
to learn that in answer to his renewed prayers the Danes had been driven
off.

'We ha' prevailed,' cried the sub-Prior triumphantly; 'see, their
leader, whom they called "Eric the Red," will trouble us no more. _Laus
Deo et omnibus Sanctis!_'

'Eric!' echoed the Prior, as he stooped towards the young Dane lying
dead below him. 'Eric!' Then as he gazed he reeled backward, and only
escaped falling by reaching forth his hand to the wall.

Leaning back in the shadow of the gate-house he pressed his hand to his
heart and shrouded his face from oversight within his cowl.

Then slowly recovering self-possession he gave orders that the young man
should be buried without the cemetery garth, and walked with unsteady
footstep towards the chapel.

'Our saintly Prior,' said Brother Boniface, with awe, as he watched his
Superior's tall, bowed figure enter within the chapel, 'even in his
moment of triumph thinks of Heaven. He has gone to render thanks for the
death of this savage, red-haired Dane.'

Songs of thanksgiving were uplifted that night at Compline in the choir.
'Te Deum' was especially chanted with inspired ardour in honour of
victory.

'Look!' whispered the simple-hearted, tawny-faced, tousled-haired
Brother Boniface to his neighbour, a sharp-eyed Anglian Brother, the
artist and illuminator of the little community, 'Look upon the ascetic,
saintly face of our beloved Prior! what joy must be his in that his
prayers prevailed this day!'

'Thou jolter-head!' muttered the Anglian to himself; then with a jog to
Boniface's ribs, 'Didst not mark the exact resemblance'--here he
delineated a contour with swift movement of finger--''twixt Red Eric and
our Prior?' Then to himself again he muttered, 'I doubt he is not long
for this world, since I met his wraith as I entered into the choir.'

But Boniface heeded not his words: his eyes were still fixed upon his
beloved Prior, who moved not, though the rest of the monks having sung
the '_Deo Patri sit gloria_' were leaving the choir.

Boniface moved a-tiptoe and touched his Superior reverently on the
shoulder. 'Beloved Prior,' he said, 'thou art outworn with the care of
thy community. Arise and seek repose.'

He touched the Prior's hand, then started back, for it was quite cold;
the Prior had already sought and gained eternal repose.



THE HAUNTED ALE-HOUSE


'_An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth_,' so Donald Macgregor
muttered to himself as he strode cautiously down the water of Coquet,
halting at the many crooks of that wayward water to spy out the land as
he went forward.

He had already good suspicions of where his quarry was harboured, for he
had seen and interviewed drovers who had returned from the great
Stagshawbank Fair, and had gleaned certain information of his
foster-brother Alastair.

But more than this he had to direct his feet; there was in his ears the
echo of Alastair's pibroch--the _piobaireachd_--which he was to hear
whenever the Laird would be in trouble or wanting him.

Onward the _piobaireachd_ led him--down the water of amber-coloured
Coquet--and now round the last crook he had just turned he saw a
building of dark grey stone upon the edge of the haugh below him.

He halted at once, retraced his steps, and hid himself in the bracken,
for he knew from the descriptions given him that the Slyme ale-house lay
there below him--the last place on the English border at which Alastair
had been seen or heard of. The Slyme ale-house had an ill repute, and
was said to be haunted moreover; none would lie there the night who had
anything to lose--'twas the haunt of kites and 'corbie craws.' As he
watched and waited there stole down from the fells above him 'oncome' of
mist or 'haar' from the eastward, which soon drew a plaid of hodden grey
above the shoulder of Shillmoor. On the lower level a ray of white light
still showed like the gleam of a malevolent eye behind a mask.

Meantime a cold mist came stealing up the valley. The eerie lonely
aspect of all about him made Donald shiver and earnestly debate his
intention.

Spying about, he saw an outcrop of rock some two hundred yards further
along the fell side. Thither he crawled like a rogue collie, and watched
therefrom, keen-eyed as a kestrel, the ale-house below.

He had some strips of meat with him and oatmeal in a bag, and with this
he satisfied his hunger as he lay at watch. All the while the
_piobaireachd_ was still sounding in his ears.

Through the mist he could see two cows 'coming home' on the haugh below
slowly and sedately to their milking.

Now three figures emerged from the inn; a tall, thin man came first--a
collie at his heels--that was at once sent off to round up a hirsel of
ewes on the hill.

A woman followed, calling 'guss-guss' to the pig routing on the bank;
finally a third figure--short, misshapen--a hunchback, as the watcher
noted, who called 'coop-coop' to a rough pony cropping grass in the
intake beyond the inn.

Shortly this gear was rounded up and driven into the walled enclosure--a
half pound attached to the western end of the buildings.

The three figures followed their stock within, and the watcher surmising
that all were housed for the night cautiously made his way down the
slope, but on a sudden all three reappeared, and the watcher dropped
like a shot rabbit straight into a bed of thistles and nettles, fearful
of discovery.

It seemed that they were about to secure themselves and their flocks
against evil by way of charm and spell, for round about the ale-house
they bent their steps--the way of the sun--brandishing rowan boughs and
chanting a fragment of ancient rhyme:

    '_By the rowan's power--
    By the thorn's might
    Safe i' the bower
    Be all our insight!_'

Having perambulated round their buildings and wall three successive
times they disappeared within, and the watcher heard to his
gratification the sound of bolt and bar being pushed home.

The solitary watcher smiled to himself--the secret smile of the
Highlander who has grasped the situation and knows how to make profit
thereof unknown to others.

The tall, thin man was the innkeeper--evidently a timorous fellow; the
hunchback was his 'man'--malevolent probably, the doer of the other's
dark behests; whilst the woman was presumably his wife, the cook and
housekeeper of the ale-house.

Well, while they slept he would investigate and complete his plans for
the early morn at the time when all three would reappear and drive forth
their flocks again.

There was a small haystack at the west end of the inn, which Donald
marked out as his resting-place for the night. Thither he made his
cautious way--the _piobaireachd_ sounding ever more clearly in his ears.

When he reached the haystack the melody seemed to be intensified; then
suddenly he heard it no more.

Ha! a flash of inspiration shook him. This must be the very spot where
Alastair was done to death--perhaps even buried here. He looked about
him and noted that the wind was freshening and the mist was scurrying in
dense clouds above as if it might lift, and then the moon might light
him to further discovery.

Thus reflecting he sat down behind the stack, and waited patiently for
the moon to rise and shine above the mist.

An hour passed, then a faint glimmer showed in the east above
Shillmoor's edge.

He stood up and peeped round the stack; he could distinguish the rounded
moon--nearly at the full--beating with white wings like an owl through
the tangled mist.

In another quarter of an hour he could see sufficiently well to commence
investigation. He noted as he searched the ground about him that quite
recently the earth had been disturbed just beyond the verge of the
haystack. A space had evidently been roughly dug over--a space that
seemed the size of a grave.

Hereupon he sought for some instrument wherewith to make further
investigation, and by good luck soon hit upon an old, broken-shafted
spade that lay in a small potato croft adjoining. With this he set to
work to howk the turf away, and found it light to work, for it had been
loosely shovelled in, and came away with ease. Working incessantly, at
four feet below the excavated turf, he saw an object lying loose, which
he seized in excited, trembling hands, and surveyed in the moonlight.
Ay, it was Alastair's bonnet, for there was the blackcock's tail
feathers which Alastair had always proudly worn in right of his birth.
Stained with blood--the bonnet itself cloven in twain with a blow from
hatchet or axe. 'My bonny Alastair!' he groaned aloud. 'Dear laddie!
But, by Gott--ye'll be avenged fine the morn's morning!' Reverently he
went on with his howking, and soon Alastair's pale face showed in the
moonlight, stained with soil, and bloody under the gash above his
forehead.

Donald kneeled down in the grave and kissed like a lover his
foster-brother on the brow.

Then pondering awhile he muttered brokenly, 'I'll hap ye in again,
Alastair, beloved; when I've a sign to bury wi' ye that will prove to ye
my troth.'

So saying he sat down beside the grave and cleaned Alastair's bonnet,
then placed it on his own head in token of his vow, and waited for the
dawn and his revenge.

He did not sleep, but thought again of the past: how he had had the care
of the young fatherless Laird, had learned him to stalk the red deer and
draw salmon from the river; how Alastair had even outstripped his
teacher, and how each after Culloden's fight had saved the other's life.
Then, finally, how he had counselled Alastair to turn drover with him
till the 'Redcoats' should depart, as the best method to avoid capture,
and how constantly Alastair's high spirits led them into danger. And now
it was all over--all over save the final duty to his brother. As he thus
meditated long and deeply the hours went swiftly by, and it was with a
sudden shock that he heard the bolts and bars being withdrawn on the
further side of the inn. Instantly he sprang to his feet, prepared for
action. He left his sword ready in the scabbard, and his dag primed for
use. Then he stole round the corner, and there saw the tall man and the
hunchback before him.

''Tis his wraith!' cried the tall man, noticing the bonnet, and swung
back in his terror, as he tried to cross himself by way of charm.

'I tell't ye,' quoth the hunchback unperturbed, 'that we should ha'
driven a stake through his inside to prevent him from walkin' this
gate.'

'Whisht ye, haud your damned whisht!' cried the other in a fury, his
knees shaking in terror. Then turning servilely towards Donald, whom he
now perceived to be a stranger, 'Ye are welcome, sir, to any ale or
Rhenish my poor inn affords, for ye will be a Highland grazier--yen of
our best customers,' he ended in an attempt at a bow.

'Draw and defend your nainsel',' was Donald's reply.

The tall man laid his hand to his whinger at his side, and shouted to
his 'man,' 'Draw, Jarret, and knife this murdering Scots villain.'

The hunchback, nothing loath, produced an evil-looking jockteleg, and
hastened to his master's assistance.

'Knife him i' the back,' cried the former, 'whiles I haud him i' play i'
front.'

The hunchback was so furious in his attack, which he pressed right home
within Donald's guard, that Donald was unable to ward off the tall man
in front of him.

Then just as the innkeeper had Donald at his mercy, and was in the very
act of striking home, his arm was suddenly paralysed, a spasm of terror
shook him through and through, his eyes glazed over. '_There's twa o'
them_,' he muttered, and instead of striking he shrank his hand back as
if to ward off a new assailant, and Donald had a momentary vision of his
brother by his side. The innkeeper made a pass, then his whinger
dropped; he turned to flee, tripped and fell upon his face, and lay
motionless--his whinger by his side. At this the hunchback broke into
rage, 'Ye're no worth fightin' for,' he cried in his fury, gave a kick
at his fallen master, and fled to the inn door.

Donald fired his dag at his retreating foe, winged him in the shoulder,
and hastened his retreat, but failed to bring him down. The door was
slammed to, the bolt was shot. The hunchback had gained his city of
refuge.

All was quiet; Donald was victorious; he looked upon the fallen
innkeeper, turned him over, and saw that his eyes were fixed in death.

'Ye hae helped fine to your ain vengeance, Alastair,' he said quietly,
as he picked up the fallen whinger. 'Ye niver failed me yet; and I haena
failed ye.'

Then Donald carried the whinger with him and went back to the graveside,
still open to the sky.

'I ha' paid the debt, Alastair,' said Donald, taking off his bonnet and
laying the whinger in the grave as proof of his fealty, 'and it is
farewell, my brother.'

Kneeling down he reverently happed him in afresh, then rising with a
heart contented, whistled triumphant as a pibroch, and took the airt of
Scotland by way of Cocklawfoot, murmuring to himself, '_an eye for an
eye, and a tooth for a tooth_.'



THE CRY OF THE PEACOCK


'Damn the dice!' cried the elder of the two players, in a spasm of rage;
'damn my ill-luck--damn everything!' and as he shouted his imprecations
he regarded his opponent askance, as if including him in his
malediction.

''Twas a thousand to one against you throwing two sixes,' he cried. Then
he flung his marker on the floor, pushed back his chair, and rising,
walked moodily to the chimney-piece and gazed despairingly into the
fire, for his estate had vanished--his last two farms had been lost to
the 'double six.' Not only had he lost his estate, but he was hopelessly
indebted to his companion for many an I.O.U. and bill beyond his
mortgage. He might be made bankrupt at any moment.

The other kept silence a few moments before he said anything. A gleam of
triumph and delight had shown for a second in his eye, but outwardly he
was as cool as ever.

''Tis a strange thing,' he said soothingly; 'I too have had my turn of
ill-luck before this. I remember well one evening at Oxford years ago
when I played high stakes with Lord Cantrip and others at "The House."
Hadn't a stiver left one night, but I pawned my grandfather's Louis xiv.
watch for the next evening's play. Luck turned, and I had my revenge.
Had it not been for that last heirloom I should have enlisted, and
probably have met my fate at Badajoz.'

The speaker was a powerfully built man of thirty-five years of age; he
was broad rather than tall, underbred, coarse in complexion, and his
jaw, well developed, seemed to indicate will power.

His companion was forty years of age, had a high, well-bred carriage,
and a sensitive face that showed charm rather than strength.

He made no reply to the other's sympathy or suggestion, but continued to
gaze moodily into the dying log fire on the hearth, and on the
smoke-begrimed Sussex 'back' which exhibited the 'Flight into Egypt.'

He groaned within himself; he too would have to make his 'flight into
Egypt,' There was nothing left in the dear old beloved manor house that
would furnish sufficient capital for another gamble.

'The last family heirloom,' he said finally, 'departed in my father's
time. The manor goes in mine.'

There was a space of silence. Then the elder threw out a fresh
suggestion.

'There's maybe something ye've left out of your calculation,' he said
suggestively, 'something that some might put as high as the estate
itself.'

'What d' ye mean?' inquired the other, turning about so as fully to see
the other's face.

'Well, as 'twixt friends and neighbours I'll speak out fairly,'
responded the man at the green table, 'and as I'm your guest you'll
understand I'm perfectly straight in my proposition. The long and short
o't then is that I'm settled in this new place of mine next yours; that
it is time for me to "range myself," and that if you'll give me your
daughter's hand--give me leave, that is, to propose for her hand in
marriage, and she does me the honour of accepting--well then, I'll
settle your manor, or what's left of it, on her and her heirs for ever.
Make a dower-house of it, in fact. And more than this, I'll burn all
your I.O.U.'s in addition. You'll be a free man once again.'

His host started violently, gave a sudden haughty and contemptuous look
at the speaker, made as if he would speak, then turned swiftly back to
the fire again.

He had a fierce desire to kick this vile newcomer--this Mosenthal, 'the
foreigner,' or 'ootner'--the son of a rich Jewish Manchester
tradesman--out of the house, but the fellow was his guest, and he
checked himself. Above all, he dreaded public bankruptcy; he, the last
male descendant of the proud race of Heronsbeck.

'Think it over,' said the other quietly. 'I think 'tis a fair
offer--free to take or free to drop.'

Still his host made no reply. The other after a little pause proceeded
with his tempting proposals. He had reached out his hand for the
dice-box on the table; he took it up and rattled the dice in the box as
if to throw on to the table.

'Come,' he cried vivaciously. 'Have a throw! Let luck decide. I'll back
your throw against mine. A hundred pounds to a penny.'

He rattled the dice noisily, and cast them on the table, still holding
the box tight over the ivory cubes.

The tempter prevailed; he had re-aroused the gambling fever in his host,
who now advanced to the table and looked irresolutely on the upturned
box.

'Done!' he cried suddenly. The other's fist lifted up; the cubes
nestled close together showing dots two and one.

'Luck's turned,' said his guest philosophically, as he laid down the
notes.

The other flung the dice swiftly on to the green board; the cubes rolled
apart, then as they settled they showed six and five.

A spark of momentary fire flickered in the gambler's eye; he picked up
the notes; then the frown came back to his brow; he shivered, looked at
the clock, then, 'It's damned late,' he said, 'and if you don't want any
more to drink we'd better go to bed.'

So saying Heronsbeck of Heronsbeck lit a candle for his guest, showed
him to his chamber, then went gloomily to his own.

There was no sleep, however, for him that night, for he dreaded the
morning and the astounded look of his darling Lily--his only child--when
he had to tell her of Mosenthal's proposal.

'Of course she won't do it--she couldn't. There'll be no harm done, for
she'd as soon accept a Hottentot as a rich Jew.' So her father reflected
aloud.

But she wouldn't like it. He hated to think of her expression when he
conveyed Mosenthal's offer to her.

The Jew's notes positively burned in his fingers as he had laid them
down on his dressing-table; the fellow's offer was extraordinarily
tempting. Ah, welladay! This was the end, then, of Heronsbeck Hall,
which he prized above every earthly possession after his daughter. His
father had lost the half of it over cards; now he himself had thrown
away the rest in like manner. There was the grouse moor; he counted up
the 'amenities' as he lay in bed, even as a lover enumerates the charms
of his mistress.

The wine-dark moorland--how he loved it! And the great days in autumn
after grouse and blackcock. Then the fishing in the beck for trout as a
boy, and the call of the sounding 'forces.' Then the huntings afoot on
the high fells, and the reckless gallops on the haughs below. No wonder
he loved it, for he and his forefathers were part and parcel of the
land. They had been there and owned it since the days of the Testa de
Nevil. He was 'hefted' to it, as the farmers said of their stock.

Well, all was now over. The 'lament' must sound over Heronsbeck.
Mosenthal must take the estate; he himself would take Lily abroad and
live forgotten, for he had rejected Mosenthal's proposal now,
absolutely.

Just at this decisive moment he distinctly heard the cry of a peacock
sound--weird and discordant--without.

'The peacock's cry!' It was as the wail of the banshee in his ear.

Peacocks had long since disappeared from the Hall, yet their fateful
cry, which had sounded through the night of the strange death of his
ancestor who first brought them there, had been wonderfully allied with
the fortunes of his house.

He accepted the omen.

Rising up with the first gleam of dawn, he went out into the park.

He determined to appraise and make an inventory of all that remained on
the place that he could call his own still and sell. There was some
timber left. Then all the stock on the home farm would be disposed of.
As he endeavoured to 'tot' this up he noticed a figure swinging along
across the park at a great pace. Was a stranger already fearless about
trespass?

Turning away from the approaching intruder, he commenced his calculation
afresh. Suddenly a voice hailed him joyfully.

'Back again! Back again, Pater, at long last! Yes, the rolling stone has
gathered some moss after all--honourably, if luckily, come by. So here I
am, Pater, like the Prodigal--to crave forgiveness, and--to repay you my
debts.'

Heronsbeck turned and stared upon the speaker. 'Joe!' he cried faintly,
but with Joe, his only son, he had quarrelled. Joe had vanished on the
Klondyke in a blizzard. This must be his ghost.

'Come, Dad!' called the beloved figure in front of him beseechingly.

'My boy, my boy!' cried his father, pressing his son to his bosom.
'Thank God for ye, my boy, my boy! But how can it be that you're alive?'
he asked apprehensively, as though fearing his son might vanish again
from his eyes.

'A good Samaritan--this time disguised as a Jesuit Father, rescued me.
Then I saved a pal myself eventually, who died of fever and left me all
his pile.'

'Yet I heard the peacock cry this morning,' muttered Heronsbeck to
himself, still apprehensive of misfortune.

'And did you also, Pater, hear the peacock shouting?' asked his son in
astonishment.

'Why, as I came over the fell by the Hanging Stone at break o' day--just
above the young larch plantation where we had the record woodcock
shoot--I heard his rasping cry.

"Hallo!" I called back to him. "Hallo, old bugler! You've got it all
wrong this time. 'Tis not 'The Last Post,' but 'Réveillé' that you must
sound over Heronsbeck Hall this day."'



KITTY'S BOWER


When Eric Chesters of Chesters Castle married Miss Brocklebridge--the
bold and handsome heiress of Sir William, ironmaster, baronet, and
expectant baron, all the world and his wife clapped hands and cried 'an
ideal arrangement,' and foretold long years of success and happiness for
the happy pair.

At the club after the wedding the 'best man,' however, set forth a
different view of the matter.

'Of course on paper it's ideal,' he said; 'Sir William is of the order
of Melchisedec--having neither father nor mother, while Eric's pedigree
is the joy of the Heralds' College. Edith's money will pay off the
mortgages on Chesters Castle, no doubt, but, as Stevenson shrewdly said,
"_The Bohemian must not marry the Puritan._" Now Eric is not naturally a
marrying man; he yielded to his aged mother's solicitations and the
well-developed charms and black eyes of his wife. She sighs for a
career, and thinks Chesters Castle a fine foundation for it, but her
crest is a ladder; Eric's is a pierrot. In short, she is an Alpine
climber, and Eric a charming Prince Florizel of Bohemia. I give them a
year in which to find each other out--_après cela le déluge_.'

The 'best man' proved right in his casting of their horoscope, for a
prolonged honeymoon spent in going round the world revealed a rift in
the lute which a season in town developed into an undoubted crack.

Thus, when Mrs. Chesters pressed on her husband the desirability of
entering Parliament, he protested that he had only seven skins; and when
she wished to pay a round of visits to distinguished people he
maintained that they ought to reside at Chesters Castle for a while.

She yielded, but her husband's castle completed her disillusion. She had
thought of it as a social _point d'appui_--she found it in her own words
'a gloomy shooting barrack.'

But her husband loved it, and rejoiced in the opportunity of renewing
his youth with the salmon-fishing, the grouse and blackcock driving, and
the great days of hunting on the wide moorlands of the Border, over
which his ancestors in bygone centuries had ridden day and night on raid
and foray. Mrs. Chesters could ride, had enjoyed the social advantages
of the Quorn and Pytchley, but she hated what she called disdainfully,
'bogtrotting with Picts and Scots.'

She had not yet become indifferent to her husband, but she was terribly
disappointed with his total lack of ambition.

Now that the salmon-fishing was over and the covers shot, she pined for
town, but her husband begged for a few more weeks of hunting first.

What joy could he find in the long days out on the barren fells? She
realised that he had become indifferent to her, though his charm of
manner to herself was externally the same.

She grew suspicious, if not jealous. Then one day an anonymous letter
came to her--signed 'Your Well-Wisher,' which corroborated her own
uneasy thoughts--suggesting coarsely that her husband was chasing a
_vixen_--not a fox.

No name was actually mentioned, but Mrs. Chesters realised at once who
'the woman' was.

She remembered noticing a young girl at an early meet held at the
castle, who had attracted her attention by her air of breeding, beauty,
and faultless seat on her mare. She had learnt that the girl was the
daughter of an old yeoman farmer who lived on his farm, quaintly called
'The Bower,' far outbye on the moorland beside the Blackburn Lynn.

She had mentioned the matter to her husband, and asked him where the
girl had acquired her good looks and her breeding. He had replied--and
she thought now--with a slight uneasiness of manner, that Miss Todd came
of a 'grayne' that had lived on the Border before ever the Normans came
into the land, that by intermarrying with a few other ancient yeomen
families a distinct and natural aristocratic type had resulted. 'Clean
living, fresh air, and as much hunting as possible,' have all assisted.
Nature also has assimilated the lines of her children's faces to the
classical lines wind-chiselled of her great fells. Their oval faces,
blue eyes, fair hair, and clean-chiselled features are her endowment.

'The Todds,' he had concluded with a laugh, 'have a tradition that they
descend from Eylaf--one of the bodyguard of St. Cuthbert and his
coffin--who, in a time of famine stole a cheese, and was for a time
turned into a tod. The tod, or fox, is their totem, and him they
diligently pursue.'

All that he had said then came back now with special meaning. Mrs.
Chesters pondered deeply as to how she had best act in this
conjuncture, and had not yet determined, when on the next afternoon she
overheard a scrap of conversation as she was passing beside the stables.

She heard the head groom call to the stable lad to saddle a second horse
and ride out to meet the Master on his way home from hunting that
afternoon.

'Which way will I take?' asked the lad in reply.

'The Master rode the airt o' Ladiesdale,' the head groom had replied,
for he was somewhat of a wag. _Ladiesdale_ for Liddesdale! Mrs. Chesters
fled; her cheek was burning, but her mind was made up.

She got out maps and discovered where 'The Bower'--ominous name--lay,
and what tracks led thereto. Thither she would ride on the next hunting
day and confront the girl, settle the matter with her husband, and put
an end to his shameful intrigue at once.

She had not very long to wait, for in the week after the Meet was
advertised at the Craig, which was, she knew, some few miles west of The
Bower, overlooking the Black Burn.

Early in the afternoon she rode out 'to meet her husband,' as she told
the groom, when she mounted, but in reality to catch him, if she could,
with the girl on his way back with her to her home.

She mounted up the fell to the southward on whose crest the track showed
like a wisp of hay left by the reaper. Gaining the top she paused and
looked athwart the mighty view outstretched before her. To her husband
she knew it was as Swinburne's 'great glad land that knows not bourne
nor bound,' but to herself it was a desert.

Below her the barren moorlands spread away--'harvestless as ocean'--till
they met the whitelands of the further fells, where wandering sheep
sought their living. On the sky's verge ran the line of Rome's great
barrier of wall. This seemed to increase the sense of infinity already
given by the landscape, for the mighty wall was now but a wreck upon
Time's shore.

In the mid way 'twixt moor and whiteland lay The Bower. Mrs. Chesters
rode on down towards the farmhouse, where it stood eminent upon a knoll
beyond the burn, covered with ivy, and sheltered by ash trees from the
blasts of the west wind.

She had marked a clump of rowans and geans a hundred yards or so from
the burn where she determined to stop her horse and reconnoitre before
going up to the farm itself.

Concealing herself as best she could within the small copse she noticed
that the track descended to where usually a ford was discoverable. She
could note horses' hoofs on the bank top, but the cart road to the farm
ran on the farther side of the burn, winding in and out of the rolling
pasture. To the right hand fifty yards away, a light wooden bridge with
hand-rail leapt from rock to rock above the foaming water.

Boiling amidst the rocky chasm it poured an amber flood across the ford
below.

A bold rider might have perhaps leaped his horse across; that might
possibly have been safer than to walk a horse through where a stumble
might mean doom to both.

No, Mrs. Chesters decided; if she went up to the farm she would have to
dismount and walk across the little bridge. As she reflected thus the
farm door opened, and a young girl came out and gazed steadily to the
west as though expecting some visitor. Then she moved onward, and came
slowly down towards the ford.

Mrs. Chesters crouched lower upon her horse's shoulder, waited till the
maiden had reached the water's edge, then turned her horse and trotted
swiftly down to battle with her rival across the water.

'And so it's you who dare to set your cap at my husband, Mr. Chesters of
Castle Chesters, is it? And you're waiting at the ford for his
returning, like a sweet, innocent, rustic maiden?'

Kitty's cheek had blanched a little when she saw who the rider was, but
her voice was unshaken as she replied quietly, 'I ne'er set my cap at
him, not I. The Todds hae lived and owned land here years before ever a
Chesters came to Chesters Castle.'

Mrs. Chesters had scrutinised with harsh eyes every detail of her
rival's face and figure. Those delicate lines of hip and waist were
surely no longer as fine as before. She felt her worst fears were
realised. Losing her temper she said roughly:

'You little fool! Don't you know you're making a scandal of yourself up
and down the whole countryside? Have you no sense of shame?'

'I can fend for myself,' said Kitty quietly, though a touch of colour
had showed on her cheeks.

'There's but one way for you to avoid further trouble for every one and
eventual ruin for yourself, and that is, to promise me never to see my
husband again.'

'I'll mak nae such promise,' retorted the other hotly. 'Maybe,' she
added quietly, '_it's your ain blame that ye canna keep your man at
hame_.'

Mrs. Chesters flamed. She was furious with rage. She struck out with the
thong of her hunting crop at her rival across the burn, but she was a
yard or more short of the hateful, delicate form confronting her so
steadily.

'Why don't ye ride through the ford?' asked Kitty unabashed, and even
smiling. She knew that her rival was afraid and despised her, while Mrs.
Chesters knew that Kitty knew, and hated her all the more therefore. She
would have cheerfully given a thousand pounds for one clean cut with the
whip across that oval cheek.

As Mrs. Chesters was trying to choke her wrath down and regain her
speech, she saw Kitty's eye turn westward with a swift look of delight.

Mrs. Chesters followed the line; she saw a black dot riding down the
'Slack' of the fell, and guessed instantly it was her husband returning
to The Bower after hunting.

In an instant she had made up her mind. Evidently the girl was expecting
him to come by the ford. Well, she, Mrs. Chesters would ride out to meet
him and intercept him before ever he won thither to his paramour.

She turned the horse's head with never a word and rode quickly up the
burn, keeping out of sight as far as possible. A few hundred yards on
there was an outcrop of rock with alder and scrub oak intermingling. The
track seemed to run through it, by the edge of the Blackburn Lynn.
Pressing onward, Mrs. Chesters determined to ensconce herself there
behind the rocks, or in the trees, and surprise her husband as he rode
through. On he came, gaily whistling, happy as a thrush in spring
rejoicing in his mate; on he came, his horse trotting swiftly, scenting
a 'feed' at The Bower's stable.

'So I've caught you, Eric!' cried his wife, as she thrust her horse
across his path from behind an adjacent rock.

Eric's mare shied violently, missed her footing on the narrow rocky
path, staggered, then rearing upward on a vain spring forward fell
backward over like some huge stone into the black belly of the lynn.

Mrs. Chesters followed with her eyes--she felt herself turned to marble;
then she was conscious that a horse had reappeared in the black eddies
below, but no rider was on its back. Was this some horrid nightmare she
could not awake from?

Then she saw the girl on the opposite bank who cried accusingly, 'What
hae ye done wi' him, ye wicked woman?'

Mrs. Chesters was now released from her spell.

'His horse shied,' she called across the waters, 'and fell into the lynn
with him. You search that side and I this.' So saying she got down from
her horse, tied the bridle to a tree, and sought as best she could for
any trace of her husband's body on her side of the black cauldron of
waters.

'Ye hae been his deid,' Kitty had shouted above the tumult of the lynn.
Not another word did the rival mourners address to each other.

Kitty had helped to lead the fallen horse out of the channel on her side
of the burn, then smitten with a sudden thought she jumped into the
saddle and rode off down the water thinking the corpse must have been
carried down steam by the heavy current.

Mrs. Chesters vainly wandered up and down the rocky edges of the lynn,
peered into the black, circling cauldron in the centre, but seeing
nothing emerge she made her way to the farm, promised a great reward to
any one who could bring her news of her husband's body being found, then
rode wearily home across the weary moors.

That night Kitty lay sleepless on her bed caught in a storm of sobbing;
she recalled all the sweet details of her love episode, all the charms
of her lover--which were now buried for ever in the black lynn. Then she
sang to herself softly,

    'Nae living man I'll love again,
    Now that my lovely knight is slain.
    With ae lock of his gowden hair
      I'll bind my heart for evermair.'

She had scarcely finished her lament when she saw a faint light show
beside her window. Formless and nebulous at first it seemed to be
growing quickly into particular shape and cognisance. Kitty had watched
the strange light, paralysed with terror, then, with a sudden
inspiration:

'Eric!' cried she, starting up on her bed, 'Eric! Is it thou? I knew
thou wouldest return to me.'

The apparition answered only by beckoning with a forefinger.

'Lead me to him,' she cried, as she rose and hastily flung on her
clothes.

The wraith led onward; Kitty let herself out of the window, and thence
to the ground by help of the ivy roots.

The night was still and thronged with stars, that seemed to watch her
tenderly and to be cognisant of her love. 'He is alive, he is alive,'
she cried to them, as she followed hot foot after the wraith that led to
the rocky lynn.

Onward with steady foot and without a trace of fear she followed--in
through a tangle of alder, thence through a cleft in a big rock, and
there below her, stretched on a ledge from which the ebbing waters had
just receded, lay her 'Man.'

'My man!' she murmured with a little cry between a laugh and a sob, 'my
man is alive.'

'Eric,' and she bent down over him, lifted the wet hair from his brow
and kissed him on the forehead.

'Kitty,' he replied faintly, trying to lift his head to hers, 'I knew
thou wouldst find me, beloved; my soul went forth to seek thee.

'I was badly stunned,' he went on presently, 'but it is nothing serious.
The flood lifted me upon this ledge, and so saved me.

'Well, there is but one thing now to do, my love. I am dead to my wife,
and she is dead to me. Let the dead bury their dead,' he added with a
smile.

'Now go fetch me dry clothes. I will change, and then we will ride away
to Heathdown junction, and thence away to a new life in a new land.'

Kitty drew in her breath. 'But are ye able? Are ye strong enough, Eric?
Art sure thou canst give up all for a life with me?'

'Faith of a Borderer!' he answered gaily, as he kissed her hand. 'Now go
and do as I bid. There's no time to be lost. See! I grow stronger every
minute,' and he rose up on his knee and crawled forth from his refuge
assisted by Kitty. Then she went swiftly back to the farm and brought
with her dry clothes and a plaid, a second time she returned for meat
and drink for her lover, and the third and last time for his horse,
which she had already stabled in the byre.

'And now,' said Eric in her ear, as he lifted her into the saddle,
'we'll ride westward where we'll buy another "Bower" in another land.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Through the early mist that morning an old shepherd was making his way
home from a late mart, when he encountered what he swore was 'the wraith
o' a great muckle moss-trooper wi' his marrow ahint him ridin' the ae
black horse.'

Arrived at home, he roused his wife, and imparted his information.

'Whisht, man, hand your whisht,' retorted she. 'Noo get intil your ain
bed. Ye aye see _double_ after a mart day.'



THE TALE OF THE THREE ANTIQUARIES


Thomas Turnbull stood beside his spade and gazed rapturously at a small
portable Roman altar which he had just unearthed. Owing to a fortunate
legacy he had recently been enabled to retire from his business as a
ship's broker, and had bought a farm not far from the line of the Roman
Wall in mid Northumberland.

He prided himself on being a practical man in all he undertook--'Plain
Tom Turnbull' he styled himself, and in the pursuit of antiquities,
which was now his hobby, he sneered at all theorists, and relied upon
the spade. '_Magister Palae_' was his motto, and now he had justified
his belief in his farm's occupying the site of an early out-lying Roman
camp.

Squat in build, sanguine in complexion, and auburn-haired, he stood
'four-square to all the winds'; his bold, prominent eyes recalled the
muzzle of an ancient blunderbuss ready to loose off at a moment's
notice.

Now the Society of Antiquaries of Oldcastle, of which he was a member,
were making a pilgrimage along the Wall on the next day, and he had
offered to provide tea for their refreshment at the conclusion of their
excursion.

Thus his 'find' was twice fortunate. He would now be enabled to confound
Telfer, one of the most learned of the Society's members, by the
evidence of his spade work. Telfer was an antiquary of the
'well-documented' kind, an attorney by profession, thin and anæmic--'a
parchment browser,' Turnbull called him, as one founding himself upon
references in all discussions on antiquity. He had been indeed very
sceptical of the existence of Turnbull's 'early, out-lying camp' and had
annoyed 'Plain Tom' by his doubts.

Turnbull laid aside his spade, wiped the perspiration from his brow, and
took up his altar again reverently. Then he drew from his pocket a small
flask, poured a few drops into the tiny _focus_ on the top as a libation
to Bacchus, and himself toasted 'the spade.' Carefully handling his
precious possession he returned home with it in his arms and placed it
on the drawing-room mantelpiece, to the dismay of his wife, who
misdoubted the religion of the Romans. 'That's a settler for Telfer,' he
said triumphantly; 'he'll be up to-morrow, and he'll have to swallow
it.'

'Swallow it! Swallow it!' echoed his wife. 'My dear, what do you mean?'

'He'll have to swallow it first, then he can have his tea on the top of
it,' replied her husband with a grin. 'But do you give a look to it
before he goes, for he'd pinch it if he got the chance.'

'You don't mean to say that he would actually steal it?' queried his
wife, aghast.

'Wouldn't he, though? He'd lift anything that was not too heavy or too
hot,' retorted her husband.

The next day proved to be a lovely autumn morning, and the prospect
along the Wall perfect for the antiquary, who could see it crawling like
some great serpent on its belly, with many an undulation from east to
west, over many a mile beneath the racing clouds and sunshine.

Turnbull walked down to meet the party of excursionists beside a newly
excavated mile-castle where they were to eat their sandwiches and
discuss their theories. After that he was to conduct them to his house
'The Crag,' and show them his altar and give them refreshment.

Turnbull took the very earliest opportunity of informing them of his
'find,' and while his friends congratulated him Mr. Telfer opined that
its discovery proved nothing as to a camp, for a portable altar might
easily be discovered anywhere along the Wall, and there was no record of
any camp at that particular spot. 'The spade will show,' cried 'Plain
Tom,' triumphantly. 'It's just my first-fruits. Wait a few weeks and my
spade will prove it.' Almost at once the party moved onwards, for they
had an early train to catch, and as soon as they reached the house tea
was set before them, and their host handed round the altar for
inspection. 'Pity there's no record on it to show to what God it was
dedicated,' said one, 'and by whom.'

'It probably belonged to some pioneers along the Wall who built
themselves a temporary camp whilst prospecting,' said Turnbull.

Telfer, on the other hand, was of opinion that the altar was not of the
local freestone, had probably been brought from a neighbouring camp, and
eventually thrown away when the Picts and Scots overran the Wall.

'If you'll show me the place where you found it,' he added, 'I can prove
to you, I think, that the surrounding stone is different.'

'My pioneers probably imported it,' said the other boldly, 'but the kind
of stone is neither here nor there. However, I'll gladly show you the
identical spot where I howked it out.'

While the rest of the party made their way down the valley towards the
railway station, 'Plain Tom' went off with his sceptic to the place of
excavation.

'There,' said he, pointing to the spot, 'that's where it came from,' and
as he spoke he turned over with his spade some debris that had fallen
into the hole. His companion took up a fragment of stone, examined it,
shook his head, then proceeded to 'howk' out with his stick a stone of
some size lying half-bedded in the earth at the bottom of the hole. He
levered it away, and it rolled over on its side; something glittered
beneath. 'Ha! an aureus!' cried the attorney, and dashed upon it.

'I told you so, I told you so,' shouted his host in triumphant joy.
'This proves it!'

His joy was perhaps excessive; it seemed to eclipse at least his
surprise, but his companion paid no attention to him in his own
excitement.

'Ha! an aureus of Hadrian--and in excellent preservation,' rejoined the
other, after a careful examination. 'What an uncommonly lucky find!' and
without more ado he slid it into the palm of his left hand.

'A find!' echoed 'Plain Tom,' choking upon astonishment and rage. 'Here,
hand it over--I'm owner here,' for his own particular pet coin was
disappearing from his ken.

'Even if you were the Lord of the Manor you could not make your claim
good,' replied the attorney coolly. 'He who finds, keeps. Treasure trove
to be claimed must be hidden--_lucri aut metus causâ_. This aureus was
evidently lost or cast away in flight. The finder retains it.'

'Cast away in flight' sounded ludicrously enough in the other's ears,
but he was incapable of speech. Indeed, 'Plain Tom' with difficulty
controlled the fires that were scorching him within. His hands trembled
convulsively on the handle of the spade; his enemy had turned about and
taken a step down the hillside as if to follow his companions. Now
beckoned Opportunity. 'Plain Tom' grasped his spade more tightly, lifted
it in air, and brought it down with a thud on the top of his enemy's
cloth cap. The attorney's knees gave way instantly; he sank in a heap,
then slowly rolled forward and onward down the slope. The aureus had
dropped from his limp hand. 'Plain Tom' was on to it like a knife--the
song of Deborah and Barak on his lips. Then he paused and looked upon
the motionless figure of the man below now lying half hidden amongst
some bracken. What was to be done? A shudder of dismay crept up the
observer's spine. Could he be dead? No, no, he was only stunned.

Well, 'Plain Tom' swiftly determined on his line of action. There was a
shepherd's cottage only a quarter of a mile away where he might get help
to lift and carry the fallen man; he would leave him there for the night
after explaining that he had found him lying unconscious from a faint in
the bracken. That done, he would himself go for the local doctor and
explain how he had found the attorney's body. Then he examined the spade
carefully. There was no sign of blood upon it, fortunately. He had
caught his enemy squarely with the flat of it; all was well, for none
had seen him--not even his victim--lift it and strike.

The shepherd was at home, and at once accompanied him to the spot. 'He's
deid,' said the herd, lifting up a limp arm. 'I'm doubtin' he's got
awa.'

'Nonsense,' said his companion with affected assurance. 'He'd a weak
heart, I know, and the long walk has been over much for him. His pulse
is all right,' he added, pretending to feel upon the wrist. 'Now we'll
carry him to your house, and I'll fetch the doctor. He'll be all right
in an hour or two, I'll bet a guinea.'

The attorney was of slim build, and the two men carried him easily to
the cottage. Leaving him there Turnbull strode off for the doctor, whom
he found at home. Explaining how he had found the body, he helped the
doctor saddle his pony and bade him ride with all speed, requesting him
to bring him word to 'The Crag' when he had recalled his patient to
consciousness.

Then 'Plain Tom' set off for his home, whistling to himself to keep up
his spirits, and ever and anon glancing at his recovered aureus with
joy. 'Magister Palae,' he muttered to himself, ''tis a fine weapon.'

The doctor did not arrive at The Crag till some two hours later, and
when he did he showed a long face. After he had seated himself in
Turnbull's little sanctum, sacred to his antiquities, he delivered
himself slowly of his professional opinion. 'He's bad,' he said
mournfully, 'verra bad,' for the doctor was Scotch; 'he's had an unco
shock'--he glanced keenly at his companion as he spoke--'and a verra bad
fall. His hairt is gey weak--and he says--if he disna recover he'll
haunt ye--for what ye've done.'

'For what I've done!' cried 'Plain Tom,' aghast. 'The poor man's brain's
affected. What on earth can he mean?'

'And he said also that if the worst should happen,' continued the other
with unmoved visage, 'that he would bequeath me the aureus. He's a
warrum-hearted body, an' he kens that I'm a bit of an antiquary mysel'.'

'_His_ aureus!' exclaimed 'Plain Tom' with re-aroused indignation, and
forgetful of secrecy, 'why, the damned fellow--no, I don't mean that--I
mean he's delirious; but he'll be all right again soon, doctor?' he
appealed earnestly.

'I'm nane so sure of that,' replied the other, shaking his head. 'I
thought as I came alang I had a sort of a feeling as of a wraith nigh
about me--a lang, eldritch sort o' a form i' the mist.'

His host shuddered, looked through the window apprehensively in the
gloaming, saw some vague, misty wraith approaching. Then he felt for the
aureus in his waistcoat pocket.

'Oot wi' it,' the doctor demanded, and 'oot' it came after a struggle.
The doctor rose and held out his hand. 'Aweel,' he said, 'it's safe wi'
me. I'll awa noo--back to my patient, for I'll no' can leave him just
yet.'

Then the door closed silently behind him. '_Vicisti, O Caledonia_,'
groaned 'Plain Tom,' and as he spoke he rose up in search of the whisky
bottle and consolation.



APUD CORSTOPITUM

(_per lineam murus._)


L. Sentius Castus--at one time an officer in the 'Domestici,' or
Emperor's Guards--had volunteered for active service, and was now a
'Vexillarius,' or Standard Bearer to the first squadron of horse
attached to the Sixth Legion--'the Victorious and Faithful,' that had
come over to Britain with the Emperor Hadrian. He was sitting one August
afternoon by the fountain in the Forum of Corstopitum, engaged upon
improving a system of fire signals for use on the great wall, which
Hadrian was building from the Tyne estuary to the Solway Firth.

As he reflected he glanced occasionally up at the tall figure of a
youthful Briton beside him--a noble of the tribe of the Brigantes--whom
the soldiers had nicknamed 'Rufus' on account of his auburn hair.

These two had become such close friends that the prefect of the camp had
likened them to Nisus and Euryalus, for they were inseparable. '_His
amor unus erat pariterque in bella ruebant._'

'Rufus' was employed as an 'explorator'--a pioneer, or scout, along the
wall, as he had an exact knowledge of the country, but he was at the
moment engaged upon a piece of sculpture--having a natural gift for the
chisel--and was putting a final touch to the figure of a lion standing
above a dead stag.

He stooped and drew a stopper of clay from the lion's mouth, and at once
a stream of water broke through and flashed into the trough.

'_Euge! Macte virtute, puer!_' cried Castus in delight; ''tis a superb
fountain head! And the carving is wondrous, for though thou hast seen
the stag thou hast not the lion; yet there he stands full of pride and
challenge on his kill, just as I have seen him in the Circus Maximus in
Rome.

'By the way,' he continued, 'I have ordered Scaevola, the camp's head
mason, to cut that altar which we promised to set up to Sylvanus when we
brought down the famous Grindon stag--that great hart o' grease--which
every officer in Corstopitum had hunted in vain.'

As he spoke he rose up and laid his tablet and style aside.

'How jealous they all were,' he continued. 'How the Prefect doubted its
weight and sneered at its tynes and the bay and tray!'

'I think,' replied his friend with a laugh, 'that he would willingly
himself have set up an altar to every god from Jupiter Optimus Maximus
to our local Mogon, had he had the luck to grass him.'

'The Forum would have been lined with them,' assented his friend,
smiling also. 'Well, this is the inscription I gave to Scaevola to cut
on the one altar we promised--he was cheap at one.

    'Silvano invicto sacrum
    L. Sentius Castus signifer Leg VI.
    Et Tetricus explorator murus
    Ob cervum eximiae formae captum
    Quem multi antecessores eorum
    Praedari non potuerunt.

'That is work for a mason, not for an artist like yourself, who have
embellished Cæsar's town in Ultima Thule with a masterpiece.

'Mark this day with white chalk, for thou shalt behold Cæsar himself,
since he hath just ridden in from Pons Aelii, and will shortly inspect
his new town of Corstopitum. Think on the immensa Romanae Pacis Majestas
when thou seest him here!'

'I wish greatly to see him,' replied the young Briton, 'yet I dread the
eagle eye of our Imperator.'

'Nay,' said his friend, 'he will never affright thee, for though he is
the ruler of the broad universe he hath a human heart that takes
interest in all things under the sky, being soldier, traveller,
administrator, builder, student, and poet at once.'

There came a sudden shrilling of the tuba at this moment.

'See!' cried the Vexillarius. 'There he goeth into the Praetorium.'

The twain stood watchful as sentinels, and very shortly they saw Cæsar
proceeding to the steps leading into the Forum, accompanied by the Comes
Brittanorum and the Clarissimus and the Consularis, attended by his
guard, on whose shields were blazoned as insignia the forts upon the
mighty wall.

Cæsar was clad, they noted, not in the long robe of Imperator, but in
the shorter tunic of the Consul, with heavy purple border.

The two young men stood stiff at the salute as Hadrian drew near. Then
the Emperor, recognising his former guardsman, spoke to him kindly by
name.

'Ha! Castus. Thou lookest right well. Art better employed here than in
trailing thy toga and neighing after the beautiful ladies in Rome? Thou
hast found soldiering on the confines of our Empire to thy liking?'

'Yes, indeed, sire,' replied the standard-bearer, ''tis the sole
profession for a man.'

Hadrian looked upon the erect figure, keen eye, and sun-tanned face of
the speaker with evident approval. Then as he was about to pass onward
his eye was struck by the newly carved fountain-head.

'Who hath carved this fountain?' he inquired. 'I did not know we had an
artist in the camp.'

''Twould scarce disgrace the garden of the Palatine,' replied Castus,
overjoyed at the opportunity of praising his comrade in Cæsar's
presence; ''tis the handicraft of my friend here--a pioneer upon thy
wall--one who though born a Briton is now more Roman than myself, and
hath expended all his skill upon the carving in the hope of pleasing the
eye of Cæsar.'

Hadrian, ever a patron of the arts, glanced quickly at the reddening
cheeks of the young Briton, then stepped forward to the fountain-head,
and scrutinised it with close attention. 'He hath the true eye of the
artist, this friend of thine,' he said, with evident appreciation, 'for
the stag is admirably depicted--the tongue hanging loose from the mouth
as I have noted myself when a beast is slain, and as for the lion,
though he can scarce ever have seen a lion in Britain, I suppose, 'tis
admirable in its decorative effect.' He turned to the blushing artist
and thanked him graciously for his accomplishment, adding that he would
send him a bronze ewer from his own table as a trifling recompense.

So saying he passed on, and the two comrades looked at each other
joyously.

'Now!' cried the Roman standard-bearer, 'thou hast seen, and been
addressed by, the Ruler of the world.

'Art thou not proud this day? Art not at least an inch taller? Is Cæsar
not like to one of the immortal gods, thinkest thou?'

'He is, indeed,' replied the young Briton. 'I knew not such majesty and
kindness could dwell together in mortal man. To die for him would be no
virtue but a pleasure. I have never seen so noble a face; strength
therein is sustained by intelligence as columns uphold a mighty roof.
His mouth speaks even when he utters no words. He unites in himself the
charm of a woman to the power and dignity of a man.'

'Thou hast spoken it,' replied his companion; 'thou hast hit off his
strange and unique qualities. I had not thought of it before like that,
but thy observation, as Cæsar himself said, is excellent, and thy
description is true. The one thing I like not,' he added, 'is the beard
he hath grown; that is a new thing in a Roman Emperor and, as I judge
it, somewhat barbaric.'

The next day Hadrian set forth again to ride _per lineam murus_ across
moor and fell to Luguvallum and the western sea.

Castus and Rufus accompanied him as guides, and the Prefect with his
guard escorted the Emperor to the wall that was being swiftly built on
the brow of the hill above Corstopitum.

There Castus pointed out to Hadrian the track of Dere Street--the road
of Agricola--that seemed to flutter like some white butterfly up the
distant and opposite fell-side crowned by the Wannys' heights--birthplace
of the river Wansbeck.

'That track, sire, leads to Habitancum, Bremenium, Ad Fines, and
Trimontium beside Tweed,' said Castus. 'I would it might be prolonged to
Mons Grampius, and even to the Cimmerian sea, where I would set up the
_Arae finium Imperii Romani_ on the very edge o' the world.'

Hadrian smiled at his officer's enthusiasm, then he said gravely: 'The
Empire's weight is heavy enough already--Atlas himself could scarce
sustain it. Buttresses are needed, and my wall and camps will furnish
them on this furthest frontier. Beyond is but a waste given over to
wolves, wild boars, and painted savages. But what a prospect is here!
'Tis like the sea stretching away for ever in harvestless waves.'

On and westward they rode and along the windy crest of the fell, then
dipped down to the north Tyne river and the camp of Chesters set
thereby, thence through the limestone crags to Boreovicus on the
moorland--established on the edge of the basaltic outcrop that frowns
upon Bromlea Lough.

This great camp was already finished and garrisoned by Tungrian
auxiliaries; the great wall that was to link together the various camps,
trailed its length like a serpent till it mounted to Winshields height.
Across the valley rose the purple fells of South Tyne, and in the
distant haze Skiddaw's crest soared like an eagle.

On Winshields height Cæsar was met by the Prefect of Luguvallum and his
guard, and here Castus and Rufus bade him farewell, and turned back
towards Corstopitum.

As they rode eastward, and had gained the edge of a fir wood beyond
Boreovicus, a very beautiful girl stepped suddenly forward, and laid a
hand on the rein of Rufus's pony.

She is of an extraordinary beauty, thought Castus, as he noted the
wealth of hair, blue eyes, clear skin, and finely chiselled features.
Evidently of noble birth, for she wore a linen shirt under her robe of
fur, and carried a gold chain about her neck. There was a look of
arrogance about her--a disdain, as it were, that set off her beauty like
a jewel, and as she conversed with Rufus she seemed, so Castus thought,
to be eyeing himself not without interest.

'What dost thou think of me, O Roman?' she seemed to ask through her
disdainful eyes. 'Am I not more beautiful than all the women of Rome?
Wouldst like to possess me? I care for none that proves not himself to
be a conqueror.'

Castus moved his pony slowly onward, then pausing for his comrade looked
back upon this proud girl of the wood who had aroused sensations he
thought he had left behind him in Rome.

As she bade good-bye to Rufus she turned away, but her last glance was
not upon Rufus but upon Castus, as the latter delighted to note.

'Who is this moorland beauty?' he inquired of his comrade, as the two
rode on again together.

'She is a cousin of mine,' Rufus replied carelessly. 'My mother and her
father and mother desire us to wed, but there is no hurry for that. I
long for more hunting with thee, O Castus, and to be the complete
soldier before I give myself to marriage.'

'How is she named?' inquired his friend further, unable to subdue his
interest.

'Penchrysa,' said Rufus, 'but for short I call her Pen.'

'Penchrysa,' repeated Castus to himself; ''tis a fit and most romantic
name.' Then aloud he asked, 'Did she look upon Cæsar as he passed by
this morning?'

'Yes,' replied Rufus, 'she heard he was to pass along the wall, and she
saw him from the shelter of the wood.'

'Does she then love Rome like yourself?' pursued Castus.

His companion hesitated a moment before he replied. 'She hath a proud
soul in her. She loves courage and prowess above all else, and so will,
I believe, love Rome even as I, at the last. The great wall,' continued
the young Briton, 'will prove to her Rome's might, and Corstopitum with
its stored granaries and streets of shops will show her its
civilisation. I have bid her come in to-morrow with her small brother
when the market is open and the country folk bring in their mead and
honey and fowls, and any grouse and salmon they may have netted.'

'Good,' replied Castus, 'we will show her the sights of Rome's newest
achievement.'

Then fearing he might be playing false with his friend he thrust away
all idea of this disdainful beauty of the moors from him and commenced
to explain to his comrade his simplification of the then method of
sending five signals from turret to turret, from mile castle to mile
castle along the length of the wall, so as to ensure greater accuracy.

Yet ever the challenge of the arrogant moorland princess assailed his
heart.

Proud as a stag she had stood regarding him; as graceful in all her
limbs--her breast curved like a breaking wave. She was infinitely more
fascinating than Lalage of Corinth, who had lately devastated the youths
of Rome. Her clear oval face, the bluebells of her eyes, her auburn hair
haunted him.

    '_Iam matura viro plenis jam nubilis annis._'

He began to weave sophistries whereby he proved to his own satisfaction
that Rufus cared not for his cousin, that she disdained him, and
consequently was fair game for himself. By midday on the morrow the
forum of Corstopitum was crowded; there was a throng of British
country-folk come in to sell, and of Roman auxiliaries from diverse
camps come in to purchase.

Castus and Rufus were acting as interpreters between buyers and sellers
when they saw their invited guest approaching in company with a handsome
boy of some fifteen years, whose hand she held in hers.

'Welcome!' cried Rufus. 'Now what will you like best to see first? The
pottery shop with its wares--Samian and Castor and rustic, or the great
corn granaries, or the metal-worker's booth where you can buy a fibula
for yourself, or a boss for your horse's bridle?'

His cousin hesitating, Castus suggested the metal-worker's booth as
being closest, and thither they repaired.

Rufus explained with evident delight the use of the various articles set
forth, and Castus, discerning that the fair visitor had a little Latin,
joined in the conversation.

'Here is a fibula,' he said, 'skilfully ornamented with the head of
Minerva. Take it,' he said, as he gracefully presented it to her, 'as a
memento of Rome's most northern town.'

Quietly she accepted the gift with a word of thanks, then added, 'but
not from Rome,' with an enigmatic smile that strangely attracted the
Roman soldier. '_Not from Rome!_' repeated Castus to himself, with
throbbing heart, 'then _from me_ she must mean,' he conjectured, and the
passion in his breast flamed hotter than before.

He watched her closely as they fared through the town, and though she
was quick to perceive, she did not seem surprised at the novelties she
saw, whereby Castus found himself more attracted by her than ever.
Barbarian she might be held in Rome, but there was a beauty, pride, and
strength in her he had never met with on the Via Sacra.

When the time came for her to depart Castus eagerly suggested that she
should come again two days later when games for all comers were to be
held in the town.

'Yes,' added Rufus, 'you must come. The games will be superb.' Then with
a laugh, 'Castus and I are to box.'

Penchrysa's eye quickened; she shot one glance at Castus, then promising
to return she waved a hand and departed, leading her small brother with
the other. Castus waited long to see if she would not look back over her
shoulder, but no, she went steadily forward, and this only whetted his
appetite the more.

The afternoon set apart for the games was fair and gay with a west wind
that speeded like a greyhound over the wide fells.

The little arena--dug out in the hollow below the camp--was surrounded
by a vast throng of eager spectators drawn from along the wall and the
moor beyond.

There was a holiday in camp; the rumour of a fighting with cocks had
brought in the Britons; some Spaniards had come over from Chesters,
sundry Gauls from Vindolana, and there were the Tungrian auxiliaries
from Boreovicus itself.

So it was amid a motley throng of spectators that Castus and Rufus stood
up to box together with the _caestus_ that afternoon, and a murmur of
admiration rose up from the spectators as the two handsome, graceful
young men stepped lightly into the grassy arena. Their right arms and
fists were bound about with thongs of bull's hide; the balls of lead and
iron usually attached thereto in the case of professional _pugils_ were
absent, as the encounter was a friendly one, and meant to amuse and
instruct the soldiers. So, stripped for the match and smiling upon each
other, they took their places in the green arena, and, facing north and
south so as to avoid the sun, saluted the Prefect, after the manner of
gladiators, and at once began preluding to the attack.

Rufus had been carefully instructed by Castus for some little time past,
and was now almost as skilful as his instructor. In strength probably
the Roman was the superior, but the Briton was somewhat more alert and
active on his feet.

The first round was devoted to a display of their art; the second grew
somewhat more intent in purpose, the applause of the spectators
stimulating the two boxers to put forth their whole strength.

Castus had seen Penchrysa sitting in the amphitheatre to his right hand,
and had at once realised that she was really interested in the fight and
was applauding himself, not her cousin.

Inspired by this to renewed effort he deceived his friend by a clever
feint, then getting in a fine clean hit with his left on the forehead,
followed it up with a right-hander on the jaw. Rufus staggered backward,
swayed wildly on his feet, then fell unconscious to the ground.

Applause broke out over the whole amphitheatre, and Castus was proudly
conscious that the white hands of Penchrysa were clapping him
vigorously, even as he ran forward to raise his friend's head and assist
him to his feet as he recovered from his faint.

After this some cock-fighting followed, and many of the spectators left
or changed their seats. Castus marked Penchrysa rise and walk away with
her brother, and he followed them amid the crowd.

'I am victorious,' he said, as he came up with them, 'but the victory is
yours, for had you not applauded I had not won.'

Penchrysa looked upon him with a glowing eye that seemed to Castus to
have lost its first hostility, as she said simply she was pleased that
he had been victorious.

She said she must go, and bending down her head, added in a low, hurried
voice, '_If thou wishest further converse with me meet me as the moon
rises by the limestone crags above Chesters to-morrow night._' She laid
her finger on her lip, and moved away with her supple grace through the
straggling crowd.

Castus, enraptured by the thought that he had captured this proud
beauty, could scarce contain himself for joy. He had no difficulty in
keeping his assignation, for he had a good pretext in an old promise to
advise with the Commander of the Chesters Camp. Thus he rode out
joyously next afternoon from Corstopitum, and as dusk drew on and the
time for the moon's rising came near, he dismounted below the limestone
crags and led his horse slowly up to the highest point of the limestone
outcrop where a monolith stood dark and threatening. Tethering his
horse to a tree near by he advanced towards it, and the moon--now
risen--faintly touched it with light. Two figures moved from it as he
came up. The first was Penchrysa, the second an old, grey-bearded man.

'Welcome, O Roman!' said she gravely, then with more emotion, 'thy looks
and actions tell me thou lovest me. If so I have a proposal to make to
thee; and as I know your tongue but ill this old man, my friend, who has
served with your armies, will set it before thee, for I have no skill in
the Roman language.'

Castus, carried away by his passion, seized her hand and kissed it, and
was about to put his arms about her, but she put up her hand and bade
him wait for her proposal from the interpreter's lips.

'Thou art strong, O Roman,' said the old man earnestly, 'brave, and
canst command men, for my Princess has watched thee narrowly. She is of
royal birth, and royal amongst womankind. None surpasses her. She will
give thee herself if thou wilt command our hosts. The Caledonii will
avenge Mons Grampius and rise with the British race, fling off the hated
yoke of Rome, and make this island free as it was of old. There are ten
thousand within call of us now!' He whistled thrice like a golden
plover, and on all sides dark forms showed themselves in response to his
call. 'The rule of Rome approacheth its doom. This wall proves their
weakness. The Emperor is in the western land and can be dispatched with
ease. We want a leader, and our Princess chooseth thee. Take her and be
Emperor of Britain.'

As he spake thus, Penchrysa leaned forward and whispered in the ear of
the astounded Roman, 'Come, and we will rule together!' Her lovely face
showing lovelier in the soft moonlight, her breath honey-sweet upon his
cheek, the vision of rule together had almost intoxicated him. But then
the shame of betrayal rose in him like a flood. Lust dropped from him as
a garment. In one second he had drawn his sword and stabbed his
temptress to the heart. 'So perish!' he cried aloud, 'all enemies of
Rome!'

       *       *       *       *       *

He bounded to his horse, leapt on its back, and at breakneck speed they
hurtled down the fell. He was wounded by darts in shoulder and right
arm, and his horse's loins were gashed by a spear, yet the camp at
Chesters was but two miles away, and, setting his teeth together, he
gave his horse the rein and leaned forward on its neck to take his
weight off the loins.

The yells of the pursuers became fainter as he sped onward. Soon he saw
the dark outline of the camp on the haugh below, and in a few minutes
arrived at the western port.

'Who are ye?' inquired the sentry of the port.

'Castus, Vexillarius of the first squadron, Sixth Legion,' he shouted
hoarsely, 'the Britons have risen!'

The stone gate jarred on its hinge; Castus, thrusting through,
dismounted and wiped the foam from his gallant steed.

'What a fool I have been!' he murmured. 'Never again will I traffic with
a woman. _Vale, O Femina--in eternum vale!_ Henceforth I dedicate my
life to Rome--

    "_Romae matri meae--
    Orbis Imperatrici._"'

And, ratifying his vow by the head of Cæsar, he fell to the ground,
unconscious through loss of blood.



      Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty
                at the Edinburgh University Press



Transcriber's Notes.


Words have been hyphenated consistently within each story, and
punctuation has been corrected without notation.

Spaces in common contractions (whether in dialect or not) e.g. "there's"
"Aah'll" and "ye'd" have been closed up.

Dialect contractions, e.g. "o't" and "wi't", or "is 't" and "D' ye" are
given as generally printed.

Footnotes have been moved to the end of each story.

The following obvious typographical errors in the original have been
corrected:

    On Page 158, "and swings away at a hand gallop" changed to "and
    swings away at a hard gallop".

    On Page 181 "for Ah'll stan' none" changed to "for Aah'll stan'
    none" (consistent with spelling in same speech).

    On Page 209, "went forward at a good trot an drecked" changed to
    "went forward at a good trot and recked."

    In Footnote 1 to "Muckle-Mouthed Meg" (i.e. Footnote to Page 205)
    "Provost is really an anacronism" changed to "Provost is really an
    anachronism."

The questionable spellings of "Château-Laffite" and "Vindolana" are as per
the original book.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Border Ghost Stories" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home