Part 8 out of 8
unfortunate girl seated, or rather couched like a hare upon its
form--her head-gear dishevelled, her night-clothes torn and
dabbled with blood, her eyes glazed, and her features convulsed
into a wild paroxysm of insanity. When she saw herself
discovered, she gibbered, made mouths, and pointed at them with
her bloody fingers, with the frantic gestures of an exulting
Female assistance was now hastily summoned; the unhappy bride
was overpowered, not without the use of some force. As they
carried her over the threshold, she looked down, and
uttered the only articulate words that she had yet spoken,
saying, with a sort of grinning exultation, "So, you have ta'en
up your bonny bridegroom?" She was, by the shuddering
assistants, conveyed to another and more retired apartment, where
she was secured as her situation required, and closely watched.
The unutterable agony of the parents, the horror and confusion of
all who were in the castle, the fury of contending passions
between the friends of the different parties--passions augmented
by previous intemperance--surpass description.
The surgeon was the first who obtained something like a patient
hearing; he pronounced that the wound of Bucklaw, though severe
and dangerous, was by no means fatal, but might readily be
rendered so by disturbance and hasty removal. This silenced the
numerous party of Bucklaw's friends, who had previously insisted
that he should, at all rates, be transported from the castle to
the nearest of their houses. They still demanded, however, that,
in consideration of what had happened, four of their number
should remain to watch over the sick-bed of their friend, and
that a suitable number of their domestics, well armed, should
also remain in the castle. This condition being acceded to on
the part of Colonel Ashton and his father, the rest of the
bridegroom's friends left the castle, notwithstanding the hour
and the darkness of the night. The cares of the medical man
were next employed in behalf of Miss Ashton, whom he pronounced
to be in a very dangerous state. Farther medical assistance was
immediately summoned. All night she remained delirious. On the
morning, she fell into a state of absolute insensibility. The
next evening, the physicians said, would be the crisis of her
malady. It proved so; for although she awoke from her trance
with some appearance of calmness, and suffered her night-
clothes to be changed, or put in order, yet so soon as she put
her hand to her neck, as if to search for the for the fatal flue
ribbon, a tide of recollections seemed to rush upon her, which
her mind and body were alike incapable of bearing. Convulsion
followed convulsion, till they closed in death, without her being
able to utter a word explanatory of the fatal scene.
The provincial judge of the district arrived the day after the
young lady had expired, and executed, though with all
possible delicacy to the afflicted family, the painful duty of
inquiring into this fatal transaction. But there occurred
nothing to explain the general hypothesis that the bride, in a
sudden fit of insanity, had stabbed the bridegroom at the
threshold of the apartment. The fatal weapon was found in the
chamber smeared with blood. It was the same piniard which Henry
should have worn on the widding-day, and the unhappy sister had
probably contrived to secrete on the preceding evening, when it
had been shown to her among other articles of preparation for the
The friends of Bucklaw expected that on his recovery he would
throw some light upon this dark story, and eagerly pressed him
with inquiries, which for some time he evaded under pretext of
weakness. When, however, he had been transported to his own
house, and was considered in a state of convalescence, he
assembled those persons, both male and female, who had considered
themselves as entitled to press him on this subject, and returned
them thanks for the interest they had exhibited in his behalf,
and their offers of adherence and support. "I wish you all," he
said, "my friends, to understand, however, that I have neither
story to tell nor injuries to avenge. If a lady shall question
me henceforward upon the incident of that unhappy night, I shall
remain silent, and in future consider her as one who has shown
herself desirous to break of her friendship with me; in a word, I
will never speak to her again. But if a gentleman shall ask me
the same question, I shall regard the incivility as equivalent to
an invitation to meet him in the Duke's Walk, and I expect that
he will rule himself accordingly."
A declaration so decisive admitted no commentary; and it was
soon after seen that Bucklaw had arisen from the bed of sickness
a sadder and a wiser man than he had hitherto shown himself. He
dismissed Craigengelt from his society, but not without such a
provision as, if well employed, might secure him against
indigence and against temptation.
Bucklaw afterwards went abroad, and never returned to Scotland;
nor was he known ever to hint at the circumstances attending his
fatal marriage. By many readers this may be deemed overstrained,
romantic, and composed by the wild imagination of an author
desirous of gratifying the popular appetite for the horrible; but
those who are read in the private family history of Scotland
during the period in which the scene is laid, will readily
discover, through the disguise of borrowed names and added
incidents, the leading particulars of AN OWER TRUE TALE.
Whose mind's so marbled, and his heart so hard,
That would not, when this huge mishap was heard,
To th' utmost note of sorrow set their song,
To see a gallant, with so great a grace,
So suddenly unthought on, so o'erthrown,
And so to perish, in so poor a place,
By too rash riding in a ground unknown!
POEM, IN NISBET'S Heraldry, vol. ii.
WE have anticipated the course of time to mention Bucklaw's
recovery and fate, that we might not interrupt the detail of
events which succeeded the funeral of the unfortunate Lucy
Ashton. This melancholy ceremony was performed in the misty dawn
of an autumnal morning, with such moderate attendance and
ceremony as could not possibly be dispensed with. A very few of
the nearest relations attended her body to the same churchyard to
which she had so lately been led as a bride, with as little free
will, perhaps, as could be now testified by her lifeless and
passive remains. An aisle adjacent to the church had been fitted
up by Sir William Ashton as a family cemetery; and here, in a
coffin bearing neither name nor date, were consigned to dust the
remains of what was once lovely, beautiful, and innocent, though
exasperated to frenzy by a long tract of unremitting persecution.
While the mourners were busy in the vault, the three village
hags, who, notwithstanding the unwonted earliness of the hour,
had snuffed the carrion like vultures, were seated on the
"through-stane," and engaged in their wonted unhallowed
"Did not I say," said Dame Gourlay, "that the braw bridal would
be followed by as braw a funeral?"
"I think," answered Dame Winnie, "there's little bravery at it:
neither meat nor drink, and just a wheen silver tippences to the
poor folk; it was little worth while to come sae far a road for
sae sma' profit, and us sae frail."
"Out, wretch!" replied Dame Gourlay, "can a' the dainties they
could gie us be half sae sweet as this hour's vengeance? There
they are that were capering on their prancing nags four days
since, and they are now ganging as dreigh and sober as oursells
the day. They were a' glistening wi' gowd and silver; they're
now as black as the crook. And Miss Lucy Ashton, that grudged
when an honest woman came near her--a taid may sit on her coffin
that day, and she can never scunner when he croaks. And Lady
Ashton has hell-fire burning in her breast by this time; and Sir
William, wi' his gibbets, and his faggots, and his chains, how
likes he the witcheries of his ain dwelling-house?"
"And is it true, then," mumbled the paralytic wretch, "that the
bride was trailed out of her bed and up the chimly by evil
spirits, and that the bridegroom's face was wrung round ahint
"Ye needna care wha did it, or how it was done," said Aislie
Gourlay; "but I'll uphaud it for nae stickit job, and that the
lairds and leddies ken weel this day."
"And was it true," said Annie Winnie, "sin ye ken sae muckle
about it, that the picture of auld Sir Malise Ravenswood came
down on the ha' floor, and led out the brawl before them a'?"
"Na," said Ailsie; "but into the ha' came the picture--and I ken
weel how it came there--to gie them a warning that pride wad get
a fa'. But there's as queer a ploy, cummers, as ony o' thae,
that's gaun on even now in the burial vault yonder: ye saw twall
mourners, wi' crape and cloak, gang down the steps pair and
"What should ail us to see them?" said the one old woman.
"I counted them," said the other, with the eagerness of a person
to whom the spectacle had afforded too much interest to be
viewed with indifference.
"But ye did not see," said Ailsie, exulting in her superior
observation, "that there's a thirteenth amang them that they ken
naething about; and, if auld freits say true, there's ane o' that
company that'll no be lang for this warld. But come awa'
cummers; if we bide here, I'se warrant we get the wyte o'
whatever ill comes of it, and that gude will come of it nane o'
them need ever think to see."
And thus, croaking like the ravens when they anticipate
pestilence, the ill-boding sibyls withdrew from the churchyard.
In fact, the mourners, when the service of interment was ended,
discovered that there was among them one more than the invited
number, and the remark was communicated in whispers to each
other. The suspicion fell upon a figure which, muffled in the
same deep mourning with the others, was reclined, almost in a
state of insensibility, against one of the pillars of the
sepulchral vault. The relatives of the Ashton family were
expressing in whispers their surprise and displeasure at the
intrusion, when they were interrupted by Colonel Ashton, who, in
his father's absence, acted as principal mourner. "I know," he
said in a whisper, "who this person is, he has, or shall soon
have, as deep cause of mourning as ourselves; leave me to deal
with him, and do not disturb the ceremony by unnecessary
exposure." So saying, he separated himself from the group of his
relations, and taking the unknown mourner by the cloak, he said
to him, in a tone of suppressed emotion, "Follow me."
The stranger, as if starting from a trance at the sound of his
voice, mechanically obeyed, and they ascended the broken ruinous
stair which led from the sepulchre into the churchyard. The
other mourners followed, but remained grouped together at the
door of the vault, watching with anxiety the motions of Colonel
Ashton and the stranger, who now appeared to be in close
conference beneath the shade of a yew-tree, in the most remote
part of the burial-ground.
To this sequestered spot Colonel Ashton had guided the stranger,
and then turning round, addressed him in a stern and composed
tone.--"I cannot doubt that I speak to the Master of
Ravenswood?" No answer was returned. "I cannot doubt," resumed
the Colonel, trembling with rising passion, "that I speak to the
murderer of my sister!"
"You have named me but too truly," said Ravenswood, in a hollow
and tremulous voice.
"If you repent what you have done," said the Colonel, "may your
penitence avail you before God; with me it shall serve you
nothing. Here," he said, giving a paper, "is the measure of my
sword, and a memorandum of the time and place of meeting.
Sunrise to-morrow morning, on the links to the east of Wolf's
The Master of Ravenswood held the paper in his hand, and seemed
irresolute. At length he spoke--"Do not," he said, "urge to
farther desperation a wretch who is already desperate. Enjoy
your life while you can, and let me seek my death from another."
"That you never, never shall!" said Douglas Ashton. "You shall
die by my hand, or you shall complete the ruin of my family by
taking my life. If you refuse my open challenge, there is no
advantage I will not take of you, no indignity with which I will
not load you, until the very name of Ravenswood shall be the sign
of everything that is dishonourable, as it is already of all
that is villainous."
"That it shall never be," said Ravenswood, fiercely; "if I am
the last who must bear it, I owe it to those who once owned it
that the name shall be extinguished without infamy. I accept
your challenge, time, and place of meeting. We meet, I presume,
"Alone we meet," said Colonel Ashton, "and alone will the
survivor of us return from that place of rendezvous."
"Then God have mercy on the soul of him who falls!" said
"So be it!" said Colonel Ashton; "so far can my charity reach
even for the man I hate most deadly, and with the deepest
reason. Now, break off, for we shall be interrupted. The links
by the sea-shore to the east of Wolf's Hope; the hour, sunrise;
our swords our only weapons."
"Enough," said the Master, "I will not fail you."
They separated; Colonel Ashton joining the rest of the mourners,
and the Master of Ravenswood taking his horse, which was tied to
a tree behind the church. Colonel Ashton returned to the castle
with the funeral guests, but found a pretext for detaching
himself from them in the evening, when, changing his dress to a
riding-habit, he rode to Wolf's Hope, that night, and took up his
abode in the little inn, in order that he might be ready for his
rendezvous in the morning.
It is not known how the Master of Ravenswood disposed of the
rest of that unhappy day. Late at night, however, he arrived at
Wolf's Crag, and aroused his old domestic, Caleb Balderstone, who
had ceased to expect his return. Confused and flying rumours of
the late tragical death of Miss Ashton, and of its mysterious
cause, had already reached the old man, who was filled with the
utmost anxiety, on account of the probable effect these events
might produce upon the mind of his master.
The conduct of Ravenswood did not alleviate his
apprehensions. To the butler's trembling entreaties that he
would take some refreshment, he at first returned no answer, and
then suddenly and fiercely demanding wine, he drank, contrary to
his habits, a very large draught. Seeing that his master would
eat nothing, the old man affectionately entreated that he would
permit him to light him to his chamber. It was not until the
request was three or four times repeated that Ravenswood made a
mute sign of compliance. But when Balderstone conducted him to
an apartment which had been comfortably fitted up, and which,
since his return, he had usually occupied, Ravenswood stopped
short on the threshold.
"Not here," said he, sternly; "show me the room in which my
father died; the room in which SHE slept the night the were at
"Who, sir?" said Caleb, too terrified to preserve his presence
"SHE, Lucy Ashton! Would you kill me, old man, by forcing me to
repeat her name?"
Caleb would have said something of the disrepair of the chamber,
but was silenced by the irritable impatience which was expressed
in his master's countenance; he lighted the way
trembling and in silence, placed the lamp on the table of the
deserted room, and was about to attempt some arrangement of the
bed, when his master big him begone in a tone that admitted of
no delay. The old man retired, not to rest, but to prayer; and
from time to time crept to the door of the apartment, in order to
find out whether Ravenswood had gone to repose. His measured
heavy step upon the floor was only interrupted by deep groans;
and the repeated stamps of the heel of his heavy boot intimated
too clearly that the wretched inmate was abandoning himself at
such moments to paroxysms of uncontrolled agony. The old man
thought that the mroning, for which he longed, would never have
dawned; but time, whose course rolls on with equal current,
however it may seem more rapid or more slow to mortal
apprehension, brought the dawn at last, and spread a ruddy light
on the broad verge of the glistening ocean. It was early in
November, and the weather was serene for the season of the year.
But an easterly wind had prevailed during the night, and the
advancing tide rolled nearer than usual to the foot of the crags
on which the castle was founded.
With the first peep of light, Caleb Balderstone again resorted
to the door of Ravenswood's sleeping apartment, through a chink
of which he observed him engaged in measuring the length of two
or three swords which lay in a closet adjoining to the apartment.
He muttered to himself, as he selected one of these weapons: "It
is shorter: let him have this advantage, as he has every other."
Caleb Balderstone knew too well, from what he witnessed, upon
what enterprise his master was bound, and how vain all
interference on his part must necessarily prove. He had but
time to retreat from the door, so nearly was he surprised by his
master suddenly coming out and descending to the stables. The
faithful domestic followed; and from the dishevelled appearance
of his master's dress, and his ghastly looks, was confirmed in
his conjecture that he had passed the night without sleep or
repose. He found him busily engaged in saddling his horse, a
service from which Caleb, though with faltering voice and
trembling hands, offered to relieve him. Ravenswood rejected his
assistance by a mute sign, and having led the animal into the
court, was just about to mount him, when the old domestic's fear
giving way to the strong attachment which was the principal
passion of his mind, he flung himself suddenly at Ravenswood's
feet, and clasped his knees, while he exclaimed: "Oh, sir! oh,
master! kill me if you will, but do not go out on this dreadful
errand! Oh! my dear master, wait but this day; the Marquis of A-
--- comes to-morrow, and a' will be remedied."
"You have no longer a master, Caleb," said Ravenswood,
endeavouring to extricate himself; "why, old man, would you cling
to a falling tower?"
"But I HAVE a master," cried Caleb, still holding him fast,
"while the heir of Ravenswood breathes. I am but a
servant; but I was born your father's--your grandfather's
servant. I was born for the family--I have lived for them--I
would die for them! Stay but at home, and all will be well!"
"Well, fool! well!" said Ravenswood. "Vain old man, nothing
hereafter in life will be well with me, and happiest is the hour
that shall soonest close it!"
So saying, he extricated himself from the old man's hold, threw
himself on his horse, and rode out the gate; but instantly
turning back, he threw towards Caleb, who hastened to meet him, a
heavy purse of gold.
"Caleb!" he said, with a ghastly smile, "I make you my
executor"; and again turning his bridle, he resumed his course
down the hill.
The gold fell unheeded on the pavement, for the old man ran to
observe the course which was taken by his master, who turned to
the left down a small and broken path, which gained the sea-
shore through a cleft in the rock, and led to a sort of cove
where, in former times, the boats of the castle were wont to be
moored. Observing him take this course, Caleb hastened to the
eastern battlement, which commanded the prospect of the whole
sands, very near as far as the village of Wolf's Hope. He could
easily see his master riding in that direction, as fast as the
horse could carry him. The prophecy at once rushed on
Balderstone's mind, that the Lord of Ravenswood should perish on
the Kelpie's flow, which lay half-way betwixt the Tower and the
links, or sand knolls, to the northward of Wolf's Hope. He saw
him according reach the fatal spot; but he never saw him pass
Colonel Ashton, frantic for revenge, was already in the field,
pacing the turf with eagerness, and looking with
impatience towards the Tower for the arrival of his antagonist.
The sun had now risen, and showed its broad disk above the
eastern sea, so that he could easily discern the horseman who
rode towards him with speed which argued impatience equal to his
own. At once the figure became invisible, as if it had melted
into the air. He rubbed his eyes, as if he had witnessed an
apparition, and then hastened to the spot, near which he was met
by Balderstone, who came from the opposite direction. No trace
whatever o horse or rider could be discerned; it only appeared
that the late winds and high tides had greatly extended the usual
bounds of the quicksand, and that the unfortunate horseman, as
appeared from the hoof-tracks, in his precipitate haste, had not
attended to keep on the firm sands on the foot of the rock, but
had taken the shortest and most dangerous course. One only
vestige of his fate appeared. A large sable feather had been
detached from his hat, and the rippling waves of the rising tide
wafted it to Caleb's feet. The old man took it up, dried it, and
placed it in his bosom.
The inhabitants of Wolf's Hope were now alarmed, and crowded to
the place, some on shore, and some in boats, but their search
availed nothing. The tenacious depths of the quicksand, as is
usual in such cases, retained its prey.
Our tale draws to a conclusion. The Marquis of A----, alarmed
at the frightful reports that were current, and anxious for his
kinsman's safety, arrived on the subsequent day to mourn his
loss; and, after renewing in vain a search for the body,
returned, to forget what had happened amid the bustle of politics
and state affairs.
Not so Caleb Balderstone. If wordly profit could have consoled
the old man, his age was better provided for than his earlier
years had ever been; but life had lost to him its salt and its
savour. His whole course of ideas, his feelings, whether of
pride or of apprehension, of pleasure or of pain, had all arisen
from its close connexion with the family which was now
extinguished. He held up his head no longer, forsook all his
usual haunts and occupations, and seemed only to find pleasure in
moping about those apartments in the old castle which the Master
of Ravenswood had last inhabited. He ate without refreshment,
and slumbered without repose; and, with a fidelity sometimes
displayed by the canine race, but seldom by human beings, he
pined and died within a year after the catastrophe which we have
The family of Ashton did not long survive that of
Ravenswood. Sir William Ashton outlived his eldest son, the
Colonel, who was slain in a duel in Flanders; and Henry, by whom
he was succeeded, died unmarried. Lady Ashton lived to the verge
of extreme old age, the only survivor of the group of unhappy
persons whose misfortunes were owing to her implacability. That
she might internally feel compunction, and reconcile herself with
Heaven, whom she had offended, we will not, and we dare not,
deny; but to those around her she did not evince the slightest
symptom either of repentance or remorse. In all external
appearance she bore the same bold, haughty, unbending character
which she had displayed before these unhappy events. A splendid
marble monument records her name, titles, and virtues, while her
victims remain undistinguished by tomb or epitath.