Главная > Library (библиотека) > Scott, Walter: THE TAPESTRIED CHAMBER


3 апреля 2008. Разместил: tutor
The Tapestried Chamber, by Sir Walter Scott
Death of the Laird's Jock, by Sir Walter Scott



This is another little story from The Keepsake of 1828. It was
told to me many years ago by the late Miss Anna Seward, who,
among other accomplishments that rendered her an amusing inmate
in a country house, had that of recounting narratives of this
sort with very considerable effect--much greater, indeed, than
any one would be apt to guess from the style of her written
performances. There are hours and moods when most people are not
displeased to listen to such things; and I have heard some of the
greatest and wisest of my contemporaries take their share in
telling them.






The following narrative is given from the pen, so far as memory
permits, in the same character in which it was presented to the
author's ear; nor has he claim to further praise, or to be more
deeply censured, than in proportion to the good or bad judgment
which he has employed in selecting his materials, as he has
studiously avoided any attempt at ornament which might interfere
with the simplicity of the tale.

At the same time, it must be admitted that the particular class
of stories which turns on the marvellous possesses a stronger
influence when told than when committed to print. The volume
taken up at noonday, though rehearsing the same incidents,
conveys a much more feeble impression than is achieved by the
voice of the speaker on a circle of fireside auditors, who hang
upon the narrative as the narrator details the minute incidents
which serve to give it authenticity, and lowers his voice with an
affectation of mystery while he approaches the fearful and
wonderful part. It was with such advantages that the present
writer heard the following events related, more than twenty years
since, by the celebrated Miss Seward of Litchfield, who, to her
numerous accomplishments, added, in a remarkable degree, the
power of narrative in private conversation. In its present form
the tale must necessarily lose all the interest which was
attached to it by the flexible voice and intelligent features of
the gifted narrator. Yet still, read aloud to an undoubting
audience by the doubtful light of the closing evening, or in
silence by a decaying taper, and amidst the solitude of a half-
lighted apartment, it may redeem its character as a good ghost
story. Miss Seward always affirmed that she had derived her
information from an authentic source, although she suppressed the
names of the two persons chiefly concerned. I will not avail
myself of any particulars I may have since received concerning
the localities of the detail, but suffer them to rest under the
same general description in which they were first related to me;
and for the same reason I will not add to or diminish the
narrative by any circumstance, whether more or less material, but
simply rehearse, as I heard it, a story of supernatural terror.

About the end of the American war, when the officers of Lord
Cornwallis's army, which surrendered at Yorktown, and others, who
had been made prisoners during the impolitic and ill-fated
controversy, were returning to their own country, to relate their
adventures, and repose themselves after their fatigues, there was
amongst them a general officer, to whom Miss S. gave the name of
Browne, but merely, as I understood, to save the inconvenience of
introducing a nameless agent in the narrative. He was an officer
of merit, as well as a gentleman of high consideration for family
and attainments.

Some business had carried General Browne upon a tour through the
western counties, when, in the conclusion of a morning stage, he
found himself in the vicinity of a small country town, which
presented a scene of uncommon beauty, and of a character
peculiarly English.

The little town, with its stately old church, whose tower bore
testimony to the devotion of ages long past, lay amidst pastures
and cornfields of small extent, but bounded and divided with
hedgerow timber of great age and size. There were few marks of
modern improvement. The environs of the place intimated neither
the solitude of decay nor the bustle of novelty; the houses were
old, but in good repair; and the beautiful little river murmured
freely on its way to the left of the town, neither restrained by
a dam nor bordered by a towing-path.

Upon a gentle eminence, nearly a mile to the southward of the
town, were seen, amongst many venerable oaks and tangled
thickets, the turrets of a castle as old as the walls of York and
Lancaster, but which seemed to have received important
alterations during the age of Elizabeth and her successor, It had
not been a place of great size; but whatever accommodation it
formerly afforded was, it must be supposed, still to be obtained
within its walls. At least, such was the inference which General
Browne drew from observing the smoke arise merrily from several
of the ancient wreathed and carved chimney-stalks. The wall of
the park ran alongside of the highway for two or three hundred
yards; and through the different points by which the eye found
glimpses into the woodland scenery, it seemed to be well stocked.
Other points of view opened in succession--now a full one of the
front of the old castle, and now a side glimpse at its particular
towers, the former rich in all the bizarrerie of the Elizabethan
school, while the simple and solid strength of other parts of the
building seemed to show that they had been raised more for
defence than ostentation.

Delighted with the partial glimpses which he obtained of the
castle through the woods and glades by which this ancient feudal
fortress was surrounded, our military traveller was determined to
inquire whether it might not deserve a nearer view, and whether
it contained family pictures or other objects of curiosity worthy
of a stranger's visit, when, leaving the vicinity of the park, he
rolled through a clean and well-paved street, and stopped at the
door of a well-frequented inn.

Before ordering horses, to proceed on his journey, General Browne
made inquiries concerning the proprietor of the chateau which had
so attracted his admiration, and was equally surprised and
pleased at hearing in reply a nobleman named, whom we shall call
Lord Woodville. How fortunate! Much of Browne's early
recollections, both at school and at college, had been connected
with young Woodville, whom, by a few questions, he now
ascertained to be the same with the owner of this fair domain.
He had been raised to the peerage by the decease of his father a
few months before, and, as the General learned from the landlord,
the term of mourning being ended, was now taking possession of
his paternal estate in the jovial season of merry, autumn,
accompanied by a select party of friends, to enjoy the sports of
a country famous for game.

This was delightful news to our traveller. Frank Woodville had
been Richard Browne's fag at Eton, and his chosen intimate at
Christ Church; their pleasures and their tasks had been the same;
and the honest soldier's heart warmed to find his early friend in
possession of so delightful a residence, and of an estate, as the
landlord assured him with a nod and a wink, fully adequate to
maintain and add to his dignity. Nothing was more natural than
that the traveller should suspend a journey, which there was
nothing to render hurried, to pay a visit to an old friend under
such agreeable circumstances.

The fresh horses, therefore, had only the brief task of conveying
the General's travelling carriage to Woodville Castle. A porter
admitted them at a modern Gothic lodge, built in that style to
correspond with the castle itself, and at the same time rang a
bell to give warning of the approach of visitors. Apparently the
sound of the bell had suspended the separation of the company,
bent on the various amusements of the morning; for, on entering
the court of the chateau, several young men were lounging about
in their sporting dresses, looking at and criticizing the dogs
which the keepers held in readiness to attend their pastime. As
General Browne alighted, the young lord came to the gate of the
hall, and for an instant gazed, as at a stranger, upon the
countenance of his friend, on which war, with its fatigues and
its wounds, had made a great alteration. But the uncertainty
lasted no longer than till the visitor had spoken, and the hearty
greeting which followed was such as can only be exchanged betwixt
those who have passed together the merry days of careless boyhood
or early youth.

"If I could have formed a wish, my dear Browne," said Lord
Woodville, "it would have been to have you here, of all men, upon
this occasion, which my friends are good enough to hold as a sort
of holiday. Do not think you have been unwatched during the
years you have been absent from us. I have traced you through
your dangers, your triumphs, your misfortunes, and was delighted
to see that, whether in victory or defeat, the name of my old
friend was always distinguished with applause."

The General made a suitable reply, and congratulated his friend
on his new dignities, and the possession of a place and domain so

"Nay, you have seen nothing of it as yet," said Lord Woodville,
"and I trust you do not mean to leave us till you are better
acquainted with it. It is true, I confess, that my present party
is pretty large, and the old house, like other places of the
kind, does not possess so much accommodation as the extent of the
outward walls appears to promise. But we can give you a
comfortable old-fashioned room, and I venture to suppose that
your campaigns have taught you to be glad of worse quarters."

The General shrugged his shoulders, and laughed. "I presume," he
said, "the worst apartment in your chateau is considerably
superior to the old tobacco-cask in which I was fain to take up
my night's lodging when I was in the Bush, as the Virginians call
it, with the light corps. There I lay, like Diogenes himself, so
delighted with my covering from the elements, that I made a vain
attempt to have it rolled on to my next quarters; but my
commander for the time would give way to no such luxurious
provision, and I took farewell of my beloved cask with tears in
my eyes."

"Well, then, since you do not fear your quarters," said Lord
Woodville, "you will stay with me a week at least. Of guns,
dogs, fishing-rods, flies, and means of sport by sea and land, we
have enough and to spare--you cannot pitch on an amusement but we
will find the means of pursuing it. But if you prefer the gun
and pointers, I will go with you myself, and see whether you have
mended your shooting since you have been amongst the Indians of
the back settlements."

The General gladly accepted his friendly host's proposal in all
its points. After a morning of manly exercise, the company met
at dinner, where it was the delight of Lord Woodville to conduce
to the display of the high properties of his recovered friend, so
as to recommend him to his guests, most of whom were persons of
distinction. He led General Browne to speak of the scenes he had
witnessed; and as every word marked alike the brave officer and
the sensible man, who retained possession of his cool judgment
under the most imminent dangers, the company looked upon the
soldier with general respect, as on one who had proved himself
possessed of an uncommon portion of personal courage--that
attribute of all others of which everybody desires to be thought

The day at Woodville Castle ended as usual in such mansions. The
hospitality stopped within the limits of good order. Music, in
which the young lord was a proficient, succeeded to the
circulation of the bottle; cards and billiards, for those who
preferred such amusements, were in readiness; but the exercise of
the morning required early hours, and not long after eleven
o'clock the guests began to retire to their several apartments.

The young lord himself conducted his friend, General Browne, to
the chamber destined for him, which answered the description he
had given of it, being comfortable, but old-fashioned, The bed
was of the massive form used in the end of the seventeenth
century, and the curtains of faded silk, heavily trimmed with
tarnished gold. But then the sheets, pillows, and blankets
looked delightful to the campaigner, when he thought of his
"mansion, the cask." There was an air of gloom in the tapestry
hangings, which, with their worn-out graces, curtained the walls
of the little chamber, and gently undulated as the autumnal
breeze found its way through the ancient lattice window, which
pattered and whistled as the air gained entrance. The toilet,
too, with its mirror, turbaned after the manner of the beginning
of the century, with a coiffure of murrey-coloured silk, and its
hundred strange-shaped boxes, providing for arrangements which
had been obsolete for more than fifty years, had an antique, and
in so far a melancholy, aspect. But nothing could blaze more
brightly and cheerfully than the two large wax candles; or if
aught could rival them, it was the flaming, bickering fagots in
the chimney, that sent at once their gleam and their warmth
through the snug apartment, which, notwithstanding the general
antiquity of its appearance, was not wanting in the least
convenience that modern habits rendered either necessary or

"This is an old-fashioned sleeping apartment, General," said the
young lord; "but I hope you find nothing that makes you envy your
old tobacco-cask."

"I am not particular respecting my lodgings," replied the
General; "yet were I to make any choice, I would prefer this
chamber by many degrees to the gayer and more modern rooms of
your family mansion. Believe me that, when I unite its modern
air of comfort with its venerable antiquity, and recollect that
it is your lordship's property, I shall feel in better quarters
here than if I were in the best hotel London could afford."

"I trust--I have no doubt--that you will find yourself as
comfortable as I wish you, my dear General," said the young
nobleman; and once more bidding his guest good-night, he shook
him by the hand, and withdrew.

The General once more looked round him, and internally
congratulating himself on his return to peaceful life, the
comforts of which were endeared by the recollection of the
hardships and dangers he had lately sustained, undressed himself,
and prepared for a luxurious night's rest.

Here, contrary to the custom of this species of tale, we leave
the General in possession of his apartment until the next

The company assembled for breakfast at an early hour, but without
the appearance of General Browne, who seemed the guest that Lord
Woodville was desirous of honouring above all whom his
hospitality had assembled around him. He more than once
expressed surprise at the General's absence, and at length sent a
servant to make inquiry after him. The man brought back
information that General Browne had been walking abroad since an
early hour of the morning, in defiance of the weather, which was
misty and ungenial.

"The custom of a soldier," said the young nobleman to his
friends. "Many of them acquire habitual vigilance, and cannot
sleep after the early hour at which their duty usually commands
them to be alert."

Yet the explanation which Lord Woodville thus offered to the
company seemed hardly satisfactory to his own mind, and it was in
a fit of silence and abstraction that he waited the return of the
General. It took place near an hour after the breakfast bell had
rung. He looked fatigued and feverish. His hair, the powdering
and arrangement of which was at this time one of the most
important occupations of a man's whole day, and marked his
fashion as much as in the present time the tying of a cravat, or
the want of one, was dishevelled, uncurled, void of powder, and
dank with dew. His clothes were huddled on with a careless
negligence, remarkable in a military man, whose real or supposed
duties are usually held to include some attention to the toilet;
and his looks were haggard and ghastly in a peculiar degree.

"So you have stolen a march upon us this morning, my dear
General," said Lord Woodville; "or you have not found your bed so
much to your mind as I had hoped and you seemed to expect. How
did you rest last night?"

"Oh, excellently well! remarkably well! never better in my
life," said General Browne rapidly, and yet with an air of
embarrassment which was obvious to his friend. He then hastily
swallowed a cup of tea, and neglecting or refusing whatever else
was offered, seemed to fall into a fit of abstraction.

"You will take the gun to-day, General?" said his friend and
host, but had to repeat the question twice ere he received the
abrupt answer, "No, my lord; I am sorry I cannot have the
opportunity of spending another day with your lordship; my post
horses are ordered, and will be here directly."

All who were present showed surprise, and Lord Woodville
immediately replied "Post horses, my good friend! What can you
possibly want with them when you promised to stay with me quietly
for at least a week?"

"I believe," said the General, obviously much embarrassed, "that
I might, in the pleasure of my first meeting with your lordship,
have said something about stopping here a few days; but I have
since found it altogether impossible."

"That is very extraordinary," answered the young nobleman. "You
seemed quite disengaged yesterday, and you cannot have had a
summons to-day, for our post has not come up from the town, and
therefore you cannot have received any letters."

General Browne, without giving any further explanation, muttered
something about indispensable business, and insisted on the
absolute necessity of his departure in a manner which silenced
all opposition on the part of his host, who saw that his
resolution was taken, and forbore all further importunity.

"At least, however," he said, "permit me, my dear Browne, since
go you will or must, to show you the view from the terrace, which
the mist, that is now rising, will soon display."

He threw open a sash-window, and stepped down upon the terrace as
he spoke. The General followed him mechanically, but seemed
little to attend to what his host was saying, as, looking across
an extended and rich prospect, he pointed out the different
objects worthy of observation. Thus they moved on till Lord
Woodville had attained his purpose of drawing his guest entirely
apart from the rest of the company, when, turning round upon him
with an air of great solemnity, he addressed him thus:--

"Richard Browne, my old and very dear friend, we are now alone.
Let me conjure you to answer me upon the word of a friend, and
the honour of a soldier. How did you in reality rest during last

"Most wretchedly indeed, my lord," answered the General, in the
same tone of solemnity--"so miserably, that I would not run the
risk of such a second night, not only for all the lands
belonging to this castle, but for all the country which I see
from this elevated point of view."

"This is most extraordinary," said the young lord, as if speaking
to himself; "then there must be something in the reports
concerning that apartment." Again turning to the General, he
said, "For God's sake, my dear friend, be candid with me, and let
me know the disagreeable particulars which have befallen you
under a roof, where, with consent of the owner, you should have
met nothing save comfort."

The General seemed distressed by this appeal, and paused a moment
before he replied. "My dear lord," he at length said, "what
happened to me last night is of a nature so peculiar and so
unpleasant, that I could hardly bring myself to detail it even to
your lordship, were it not that, independent of my wish to
gratify any request of yours, I think that sincerity on my part
may lead to some explanation about a circumstance equally painful
and mysterious. To others, the communication I am about to make,
might place me in the light of a weak-minded, superstitious fool,
who suffered his own imagination to delude and bewilder him; but
you have known me in childhood and youth, and will not suspect me
of having adopted in manhood the feelings and frailties from
which my early years were free." Here he paused, and his friend

"Do not doubt my perfect confidence in the truth of your
communication, however strange it may be," replied Lord
Woodville. "I know your firmness of disposition too well, to
suspect you could be made the object of imposition, and am aware
that your honour and your friendship will equally deter you from
exaggerating whatever you may have witnessed."

"Well, then," said the General, "I will proceed with my story as
well as I can, relying upon your candour, and yet distinctly
feeling that I would rather face a battery than recall to my mind
the odious recollections of last night."

He paused a second time, and then perceiving that Lord Woodville
remained silent and in an attitude of attention, he commenced,
though not without obvious reluctance, the history of his night's
adventures in the Tapestried Chamber.

"I undressed and went to bed so soon as your lordship left me
yesterday evening; but the wood in the chimney, which nearly
fronted my bed, blazed brightly and cheerfully, and, aided by a
hundred exciting recollections of my childhood and youth, which
had been recalled by the unexpected pleasure of meeting your
lordship, prevented me from falling immediately asleep. I ought,
however, to say that these reflections were all of a pleasant and
agreeable kind, grounded on a sense of having for a time
exchanged the labour, fatigues, and dangers of my profession for
the enjoyments of a peaceful life, and the reunion of those
friendly and affectionate ties which I had torn asunder at the
rude summons of war.

"While such pleasing reflections were stealing over my mind, and
gradually lulling me to slumber, I was suddenly aroused by a
sound like that of the rustling of a silken gown, and the tapping
of a pair of high-heeled shoes, as if a woman were walking in the
apartment. Ere I could draw the curtain to see what the matter
was, the figure of a little woman passed between the bed and the
fire. The back of this form was turned to me, and I could
observe, from the shoulders and neck, it was that of an old
woman, whose dress was an old-fashioned gown, which I think
ladies call a sacque--that is, a sort of robe completely loose in
the body, but gathered into broad plaits upon the neck and
shoulders, which fall down to the ground, and terminate in a
species of train.

"I thought the intrusion singular enough, but never harboured for
a moment the idea that what I saw was anything more than the
mortal form of some old woman about the establishment, who had a
fancy to dress like her grandmother, and who, having perhaps (as
your lordship mentioned that you were rather straitened for room)
been dislodged from her chamber for my accommodation, had
forgotten the circumstance, and returned by twelve to her old
haunt. Under this persuasion I moved myself in bed and coughed a
little, to make the intruder sensible of my being in possession
of the premises. She turned slowly round, but, gracious Heaven!
my lord, what a countenance did she display to me! There was no
longer any question what she was, or any thought of her being a
living being. Upon a face which wore the fixed features of a
corpse were imprinted the traces of the vilest and most hideous
passions which had animated her while she lived. The body of
some atrocious criminal seemed to have been given up from the
grave, and the soul restored from the penal fire, in order to
form for a space a union with the ancient accomplice of its
guilt. I started up in bed, and sat upright, supporting myself
on my palms, as I gazed on this horrible spectre. The hag made,
as it seemed, a single and swift stride to the bed where I lay,
and squatted herself down upon it, in precisely the same attitude
which I had assumed in the extremity of horror, advancing her
diabolical countenance within half a yard of mine, with a grin
which seemed to intimate the malice and the derision of an
incarnate fiend."

Here General Browne stopped, and wiped from his brow the cold
perspiration with which the recollection of his horrible vision
had covered it.

"My lord," he said, "I am no coward, I have been in all the
mortal dangers incidental to my profession, and I may truly boast
that no man ever knew Richard Browne dishonour the sword he
wears; but in these horrible circumstances, under the eyes, and,
as it seemed, almost in the grasp of an incarnation of an evil
spirit, all firmness forsook me, all manhood melted from me like
wax in the furnace, and I felt my hair individually bristle. The
current of my life-blood ceased to flow, and I sank back in a
swoon, as very a victim to panic terror as ever was a village
girl, or a child of ten years old. How long I lay in this
condition I cannot pretend to guess.

"But I was roused by the castle clock striking one, so loud that
it seemed as if it were in the very room. It was some time
before I dared open my eyes, lest they should again encounter the
horrible spectacle. When, however, I summoned courage to look
up, she was no longer visible. My first idea was to pull my
bell, wake the servants, and remove to a garret or a hay-loft, to
be ensured against a second visitation. Nay, I will confess the
truth that my resolution was altered, not by the shame of
exposing myself, but by the fear that, as the bell-cord hung by
the chimney, I might, in making my way to it, be again crossed by
the fiendish hag, who, I figured to myself, might be still
lurking about some corner of the apartment.

"I will not pretend to describe what hot and cold fever-fits
tormented me for the rest of the night, through broken sleep,
weary vigils, and that dubious state which forms the neutral
ground between them. A hundred terrible objects appeared to
haunt me; but there was the great difference betwixt the vision
which I have described, and those which followed, that I knew the
last to be deceptions of my own fancy and over-excited nerves.

"Day at last appeared, and I rose from my bed ill in health and
humiliated in mind. I was ashamed of myself as a man and a
soldier, and still more so at feeling my own extreme desire to
escape from the haunted apartment, which, however, conquered all
other considerations; so that, huddling on my clothes with the
most careless haste, I made my escape from your lordship's
mansion, to seek in the open air some relief to my nervous
system, shaken as it was by this horrible rencounter with a
visitant, for such I must believe her, from the other world.
Your lordship has now heard the cause of my discomposure, and of
my sudden desire to leave your hospitable castle. In other
places I trust we may often meet, but God protect me from ever
spending a second night under that roof!"

Strange as the General's tale was, he spoke with such a deep air
of conviction that it cut short all the usual commentaries which
are made on such stories. Lord Woodville never once asked him if
he was sure he did not dream of the apparition, or suggested any
of the possibilities by which it is fashionable to explain
supernatural appearances as wild vagaries of the fancy, or
deceptions of the optic nerves, On the contrary, he seemed deeply
impressed with the truth and reality of what he had heard; and,
after a considerable pause regretted, with much appearance of
sincerity, that his early friend should in his house have
suffered so severely.

"I am the more sorry for your pain, my dear Browne," he
continued, "that it is the unhappy, though most unexpected,
result of an experiment of my own. You must know that, for my
father and grandfather's time, at least, the apartment which was
assigned to you last night had been shut on account of reports
that it was disturbed by supernatural sights and noises. When I
came, a few weeks since, into possession of the estate, I thought
the accommodation which the castle afforded for my friends was
not extensive enough to permit the inhabitants of the invisible
world to retain possession of a comfortable sleeping apartment.
I therefore caused the Tapestried Chamber, as we call it, to be
opened, and, without destroying its air of antiquity, I had such
new articles of furniture placed in it as became the modern
times. Yet, as the opinion that the room was haunted very
strongly prevailed among the domestics, and was also known in the
neighbourhood and to many of my friends, I feared some prejudice
might be entertained by the first occupant of the Tapestried
Chamber, which might tend to revive the evil report which it had
laboured under, and so disappoint my purpose of rendering it a
useful part or the house. I must confess, my dear Browne, that
your arrival yesterday, agreeable to me for a thousand reasons
besides, seemed the most favourable opportunity of removing the
unpleasant rumours which attached to the room, since your courage
was indubitable, and your mind free of any preoccupation on the
subject. I could not, therefore, have chosen a more fitting
subject for my experiment."

"Upon my life," said General Browne, somewhat hastily, "I am
infinitely obliged to your lordship--very particularly indebted
indeed. I am likely to remember for some time the consequences
of the experiment, as your lordship is pleased to call it."

"Nay, now you are unjust, my dear friend," said Lord Woodville.
"You have only to reflect for a single moment, in order to be
convinced that I could not augur the possibility of the pain to
which you have been so unhappily exposed. I was yesterday
morning a complete sceptic on the subject of supernatural
appearances. Nay, I am sure that, had I told you what was said
about that room, those very reports would have induced you, by
your own choice, to select it for your accommodation. It was my
misfortune, perhaps my error, but really cannot be termed my
fault, that you have been afflicted so strangely."

"Strangely indeed!" said the General, resuming his good temper;
"and I acknowledge that I have no right to be offended with your
lordship for treating me like what I used to think myself--a man
of some firmness and courage. But I see my post horses are
arrived, and I must not detain your lordship from your

"Nay, my old friend," said Lord Woodville, "since you cannot stay
with us another day--which, indeed, I can no longer urge--give me
at least half an hour more. You used to love pictures, and I
have a gallery of portraits, some of them by Vandyke,
representing ancestry to whom this property and castle formerly
belonged. I think that several of them will strike you as
possessing merit."

General Browne accepted the invitation, though somewhat
unwillingly. It was evident he was not to breathe freely or at
ease till he left Woodville Castle far behind him. He could not
refuse his friend's invitation, however; and the less so, that he
was a little ashamed of the peevishness which he had displayed
towards his well-meaning entertainer.

The General, therefore, followed Lord Woodville through several
rooms into a long gallery hung with pictures, which the latter
pointed out to his guest, telling the names, and giving some
account of the personages whose portraits presented themselves in
progression. General Browne was but little interested in the
details which these accounts conveyed to him. They were, indeed,
of the kind which are usually found in an old family gallery.
Here was a Cavalier who had ruined the estate in the royal cause;
there a fine lady who had reinstated it by contracting a match
with a wealthy Roundhead. There hung a gallant who had been in
danger for corresponding with the exiled Court at Saint
Germain's; here one who had taken arms for William at the
Revolution; and there a third that had thrown his weight
alternately into the scale of Whig and Tory.

While lord Woodville was cramming these words into his guest's
ear, "against the stomach of his sense," they gained the middle
of the gallery, when he beheld General Browne suddenly start, and
assume an attitude of the utmost surprise, not unmixed with fear,
as his eyes were suddenly caught and riveted by a portrait of an
old lady in a sacque, the fashionable dress of the end of the
seventeenth century.

"There she is!" he exclaimed--"there she is, in form and
features, though Inferior in demoniac expression to the accursed
hag who visited me last night!"

"If that be the case," said the young nobleman, "there can remain
no longer any doubt of the horrible reality of your apparition.
That is the picture of a wretched ancestress of mine, of whose
crimes a black and fearful catalogue is recorded in a family
history in my charter-chest. The recital of them would be too
horrible; it is enough to say, that in yon fatal apartment incest
and unnatural murder were committed. I will restore it to the
solitude to which the better judgment of those who preceded me
had consigned it; and never shall any one, so long as I can
prevent it, be exposed to a repetition of the supernatural
horrors which could shake such courage as yours."

Thus the friends, who had met with such glee, parted in a very
different mood--Lord Woodville to command the Tapestried Chamber
to be unmantled, and the door built up; and General Browne to
seek in some less beautiful country, and with some less dignified
friend, forgetfulness of the painful night which he had passed in
Woodville Castle.

* * *

DEATH OF THE LAIRD'S JOCK, by Sir Walter Scott.


You have asked me, sir, to point out a subject for the pencil,
and I feel the difficulty of complying with your request,
although I am not certainly unaccustomed to literary composition,
or a total stranger to the stores of history and tradition, which
afford the best copies for the painter's art. But although SICUT
PICTURA POESIS is an ancient and undisputed axiom--although
poetry and painting both address themselves to the same object of
exciting the human imagination, by presenting to it pleasing or
sublime images of ideal scenes--yet the one conveying itself
through the ears to the understanding, and the other applying
itself only to the eyes, the subjects which are best suited to
the bard or tale-teller are often totally unfit for painting,
where the artist must present in a single glance all that his art
has power to tell us. The artist can neither recapitulate the
past nor intimate the future. The single NOW is all which he can
present; and hence, unquestionably, many subjects which delight
us in poetry or in narrative, whether real or fictitious, cannot
with advantage be transferred to the canvas.

Being in some degree aware of these difficulties, though
doubtless unacquainted both with their extent and the means by
which they may be modified or surmounted, I have, nevertheless,
ventured to draw up the following traditional narrative as a
story in which, when the general details are known, the interest
is so much concentrated in one strong moment of agonizing
passion, that it can be understood and sympathized with at a
single glance. I therefore presume that it may be acceptable as
a hint to some one among the numerous artists who have of late
years distinguished themselves as rearing up and supporting the
British school.

Enough has been said and sung about

"The well-contested ground,
The warlike Border-land,"

to render the habits of the tribes who inhabited it before the
union of England and Scotland familiar to most of your readers.
The rougher and sterner features of their character were softened
by their attachment to the fine arts, from which has arisen the
saying that on the frontiers every dale had its battle, and every
river its song. A rude species of chivalry was in constant use,
and single combats were practised as the amusement of the few
intervals of truce which suspended the exercise of war. The
inveteracy of this custom may be inferred from the following

Bernard Gilpin, the apostle of the north, the first who undertook
to preach the Protestant doctrines to the Border dalesmen, was
surprised, on entering one of their churches, to see a gauntlet
or mail-glove hanging above the altar. Upon inquiring; the
meaning of a symbol so indecorous being displayed in that sacred
place, he was informed by the clerk that the glove was that of a
famous swordsman, who hung it there as an emblem of a general
challenge and gage of battle to any who should dare to take the
fatal token down. "Reach it to me," said the reverend churchman.
The clerk and the sexton equally declined the perilous office,
and the good Bernard Gilpin was obliged to remove the glove with
his own hands, desiring those who were present to inform the
champion that he, and no other, had possessed himself of the gage
of defiance. But the champion was as much ashamed to face
Bernard Gilpin as the officials of the church had been to
displace his pledge of combat.

The date of the following story is about the latter years of
Queen Elizabeth's reign; and the events took place in Liddesdale,
a hilly and pastoral district of Roxburghshire, which, on a part
of its boundary, is divided from England only by a small river.

During the good old times of RUGGING AND RIVING--that is, tugging
and tearing--under which term the disorderly doings of the
warlike age are affectionately remembered, this valley was
principally cultivated by the sept or clan of the Armstrongs.
The chief of this warlike race was the Laird of Mangerton. At
the period of which I speak, the estate of Mangerton, with the
power and dignity of chief, was possessed by John Armstrong, a
man of great size, strength, and courage. While his father was
alive, he was distinguished from others of his clan who bore the
same name, by the epithet of the LAIRD'S JOCK--that is to say,
the Laird's son Jock, or Jack. This name he distinguished by so
many bold and desperate achievements, that he retained it even
after his father's death, and is mentioned under it both in
authentic records and in tradition. Some of his feats are
recorded in the minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, and others are
mentioned in contemporary chronicles.

At the species of singular combat which we have described the
Laird's Jock was unrivalled, and no champion of Cumberland,
Westmoreland, or Northumberland could endure the sway of the huge
two-handed sword which he wielded, and which few others could
even lift. This "awful sword," as the common people term it, was
as dear to him as Durindana or Fushberta to their respective
masters, and was nearly as formidable to his enemies as those
renowned falchions proved to the foes of Christendom. The weapon
had been bequeathed to him by a celebrated English outlaw named
Hobbie Noble, who, having committed some deed for which he was in
danger from justice, fled to Liddesdale, and became a follower,
or rather a brother-in-arms, to the renowned Laird's Jock; till,
venturing into England with a small escort, a faithless guide,
and with a light single-handed sword instead of his ponderous
brand, Hobbie Noble, attacked by superior numbers, was made
prisoner and executed.

With this weapon, and by means of his own strength and address,
the Laird's Jock maintained the reputation of the best swordsman
on the Border side, and defeated or slew many who ventured to
dispute with him the formidable title.

But years pass on with the strong and the brave as with the
feeble and the timid. In process of time the Laird's Jock grew
incapable of wielding his weapons, and finally of all active
exertion, even of the most ordinary kind. The disabled champion
became at length totally bedridden, and entirely dependent for
his comfort on the pious duties of an only daughter, his
perpetual attendant and companion.

Besides this dutiful child, the Laird's Jock had an only son,
upon whom devolved the perilous task of leading the clan to
battle, and maintaining the warlike renown of his native country,
which was now disputed by the English upon many occasions. The
young Armstrong was active, brave, and strong, and brought home
from dangerous adventures many tokens of decided success. Still,
the ancient chief conceived, as it would seem, that his son was
scarce yet entitled by age and experience to be entrusted with
the two-handed sword, by the use of which he had himself been so
dreadfully distinguished.

At length an English champion, one of the name of Foster (if I
rightly recollect), had the audacity to send a challenge to the
best swordsman in Liddesdale; and young Armstrong, burning for
chivalrous distinction, accepted the challenge.

The heart of the disabled old man swelled with joy when he heard
that the challenge was passed and accepted, and the meeting fixed
at a neutral spot, used as the place of rencontre upon such
occasions, and which he himself had distinguished by numerous
victories. He exulted so much in the conquest which he
anticipated, that, to nerve his son to still bolder exertions, he
conferred upon him, as champion of his clan and province, the
celebrated weapon which he had hitherto retained in his own

This was not all. When the day of combat arrived, the Laird's
Jock, in spite of his daughter's affectionate remonstrances,
determined, though he had not left his bed for two years, to be a
personal witness of the duel. His will was still a law to his
people, who bore him on their shoulders, wrapped in plaids and
blankets, to the spot where the combat was to take place, and
seated him on a fragment of rock, which is still called the
Laird's Jock's stone. There he remained with eyes fixed on the
lists or barrier, within which the champions were about to meet.
His daughter, having done all she could for his accommodation,
stood motionless beside him, divided between anxiety for his
health, and for the event of the combat to her beloved brother.
Ere yet the fight began, the old men gazed on their chief, now
seen for the first time after several years, and sadly compared
his altered features and wasted frame with the paragon of
strength and manly beauty which they once remembered. The young
men gazed on his large form and powerful make as upon some
antediluvian giant who had survived the destruction of the Flood.

But the sound of the trumpets on both sides recalled the
attention of every one to the lists, surrounded as they were by
numbers of both nations eager to witness the event of the day.
The combatants met in the lists. It is needless to describe the
struggle: the Scottish champion fell. Foster, placing his foot
on his antagonist, seized on the redoubted sword, so precious in
the eyes of its aged owner, and brandished it over his head as a
trophy of his conquest. The English shouted in triumph. But the
despairing cry of the aged champion, who saw his country
dishonoured, and his sword, long the terror of their race, in the
possession of an Englishman, was heard high above the
acclamations of victory. He seemed for an instant animated by
all his wonted power; for he started from the rock on which he
sat, and while the garments with which he had been invested fell
from his wasted frame, and showed the ruins of his strength, he
tossed his arms wildly to heaven, and uttered a cry of
indignation, horror, and despair, which, tradition says, was
heard to a preternatural distance, and resembled the cry of a
dying lion more than a human sound.

His friends received him in their arms as he sank utterly
exhausted by the effort, and bore him back to his castle in mute
sorrow; while his daughter at once wept for her brother, and
endeavoured to mitigate and soothe the despair of her father.
But this was impossible; the old man's only tie to life was rent
rudely asunder, and his heart had broken with it. The death of
his son had no part in his sorrow. If he thought of him at all,
it was as the degenerate boy through whom the honour of his
country and clan had been lost; and he died in the course of
three days, never even mentioning his name, but pouring out
unintermitted lamentations for the loss of his noble sword.

I conceive that the moment when the disabled chief was roused
into a last exertion by the agony of the moment is favourable to
the object of a painter. He might obtain the full advantage of
contrasting the form of the rugged old man, in the extremity of
furious despair, with the softness and beauty of the female form.
The fatal field might be thrown into perspective, so as to give
full effect to these two principal figures, and with the single
explanation that the piece represented a soldier beholding his
son slain, and the honour of his country lost, the picture would
be sufficiently intelligible at the first glance. If it was
thought necessary to show more clearly the nature of the
conflict, it might be indicated by the pennon of Saint George
being displayed at one end of the lists, and that of Saint Andrew
at the other.

I remain, sir,

Your obedient servant,

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