It was near midnight, on
the 12th of October, 1516, when a horseman, spurring his jaded steed, rode
furiously down the path leading to the strong tower of Wedderburn. He
alighted at the gate, and knocked loudly for admission.
"What would ye?" inquired
the warder from the turret. "Conduct me to your chief," was the laconic
reply of the breathless messenger.
"Is your message so urgent
that ye must deliver it tonight?" continued the warder, who feared to
kindle the fiery temper of his master, by disturbing him with a trifling
the other, impatiently— "today the blest blood of the Homes has been
lapped by dogs upon the street; and I have seen it."
The warder aroused the
domestics in the tower, and the stranger entered. He was conducted into a
long, gloomy apartment, dimly lighted by a solitary lamp. Around him hung
rude portraits of the chiefs of Wedderburn, and on the walls were
suspended their arms and the spoils of their victories. The solitary
apartment seemed like the tomb of war. Every weapon around him had been
rusted with the blood of Scotland’s enemies. It was a fitting theatre for
the recital of a tale of death. He had gazed around for a few minutes,
when heavy footsteps were heard treading along the dreary passages, and
the next moment Sir David Home entered—armed as for the field.
"Your errand, stranger?"
said the young chief of Wedderburn, fixing a searching glance upon him as
The stranger bowed, and
"Ay!" interrupted Home,
"the enemy of our house—the creature of our hands, whom we lifted from
exile to sovereignty, and who now with his minions tracks our path like a
blood-hound!—what of this gracious Regent? Are ye, too, one of his
myrmidons, and seek ye to strike the lion in his den?"
"Nay," answered the other;
"but from childhood the faithful retainer of your murdered kinsman."
"My murdered kinsman!"
exclaimed Wedderburn, grasping the arm of the other, "what!—more
blood!—more!— What mean ye, stranger?"
"That, to gratify the
revenge of the Regent Albany," replied the other, "my lord Home and your
kinsman William have been betrayed and murdered. Calumny has blasted their
honour. Twelve hours ago I beheld their heads tossed like footballs by the
foot of the common executioner, and afterwards fixed over the porch of the
Nether Bow, for the execration and indignities of the slaves of Albany.
All day the blood of the Homes has dropped upon the pavement, where the
mechanic and the clown pass over and tread on it."
"Hold!" cried Home, and the
dreary hall echoed with his voice. "No more!’ he continued; and he paced
hurriedly for a few minutes across the apartment casting a rapid glance
upon the portraits of his ancestors. "By heavens! they chide me," he
exclaimed, "that my sword sleeps in the scabbard, while the enemies of the
house of Home triumph." He drew his sword, and approaching the picture of
his father, he pressed the weapon to his lips, and continued—"By the soul
of my ancestors, I swear upon this blade, that the proud Albany and his
creatures shall feel that one Home still lives!" He dashed the weapon back
into its sheath, and approaching the stranger, drew him towards the Lamp,
and said— "Ye are Trotter, who was my cousin’s henchman, are ye not?"
"The same," replied the
"And ye come to rouse me to
revenge," added Sir David; "ye shall have it, man—revenge that shall make
the Regent weep—revenge that the four corners of the earth shall hear of,
and history record. Ye come to remind me that my father and my brother
fell on the field of Flodden, in defence of a foolish king, and that I,
too, bled there—that there also the the bones of my kinsman, Cuthbert of
Fastcastle, of my brother Cockburn and his son, and the father and brother
of my Alison. Ye come to remind me of this; and that, as a reward for the
shedding of our blood, the head of the chief of our house has been fixed
upon the gate of Edinburgh as food for the carrion crow and the night owl.
Go, get thee refreshment, Trotter; then go to rest, and dream of other
heads exalted, as your late master’s is, and I will be the interpreter of
Trotter bowed and withdrew,
and Lady Alison entered the apartment.
"Ye are agitated, husband,"
said the gentle lady, laying her hand upon his—"hath the man brought evil
"Can good tidings come to a
Home," answered Sir David, "while the tyrant Albany rides rough-shod over
the nobility of Scotland, and, like a viper, stings the bosom that nursed
him? Away to thy chamber, Alison—leave me—it is no tale for woman’s ears."
"Nay, if you love me, tell
me," she replied, laying her hand upon his brow, "for since your return
from the field of Flodden, I have not seen you look thus."
"This is no time to talk of
love, Aley," added he; "but come—leave, silly one--it concerns not thee;
no evil hath overtaken the house of Blackadder, but the Homes have become
a mark for the arrows of desolation, and their necks footstool for
tyrants. Away, Alison—to-night I can think of but one word, and that
Lady Alison wept and
withdrew in silence; and Wedderburn paced the floor of the gloomy hall,
meditating in what manner he should most effectually resent the death of
It was only a few weeks
after the execution of the Earl of Home and his brother, that the Regent
Albany offered an additional insult to his family by appointing Sir
Anthony D‘Arcy warden of the east marches—an office which the Homes had
held for ages. D’Arcy was a Frenchman, and the favourite of the Regent;
and, on account of the comeliness of his person, obtained the appellation
of the Sieur de la Beautie. The indignation of Wedderburn
had not slumbered, and the conferring the honours and the power that had
hitherto been held by his family upon a foreigner, incensed him to almost
madness. For a time, however, no opportunity offered of causing his
resentment to be felt; for, D‘Arcy was as much admired for the discretion
and justice of his government as for the beauty of his person. To his care
the Regent had committed young Cockburn, the heir of Langton, who was the
nephew of Wedderburn. This the Homes felt as a new indignity, and,
together with the Cockburns, they forcibly ejected from Langton Castle the
tuters whom D’Arcy had placed over their kinsman. The tidings of this
event were brought to the Chevalier while he was holding a court at Kelso,
and immediately summoning together his French retainers and a body of
yeomen, he proceeded with a gay and gallant company by way of Fogo to
Landton. His troop drew up in front of the castle, and their gay plumes
and burnished trappings glittered in the sun. The proud steed of the
Frenchman was covered with a panoply of gold and silver, and he himself
was decorated as for a bridal. He rode haughtily to the gate, and demanded
the inmates of the castle to surrender.
"Surrender! boasting Gaul!"
replied William Cockburn, the uncle of the young laird; "that is a word
the men of Merse have yet to learn. But yonder comes my brother Wedderburn--speak
D’Arcy turned round, and
beheld Sir David Home and a party of horsemen bearing down upon them at
full speed. The Chevalier drew back, and waiting their approach, placed
himself at the head of his company.
"By the mass! Sir Warden,"
said Sir David, riding up to D’Arcy, "and ye have brought a goodly company
to visit my nephew. Come ye in peace, or what may be your errand?"
"I wish peace," replied the
Chevalier, "and come to enforce the establishment of my rights—why do ye
interfere between me and my ward?"
"Does a Frenchman talk of
his rights upon the lands of Home?" returned Sir David, "or by whose
authority is my nephew your ward?"
"By the authority of the
Regent, rebel Scot!" retorted D’Arcy.
"By the authority of the
Regent!" interrupted Wedderburn—"dare ye, foreign minion, speak of the
authority of the murderer of the Earl of Home, while within the reach of
the sword of his kinsman?"
"Ay! and in his teeth dare
tell him," replied the Chevalier, "that the Home now before me is not less
a traitor than he who proved false to his sovereign on the field of
Flodden, who conspired against the Regent, and whose head now adorns the
port of Edinburgh."
"Wretch!" exclaimed the
henchman Trotter, dashing forward, and raising his sword, "said ye that my
master proved false at Flodden?"
Wedderburn, grasping his arm—"Gramercy! ye uncivilised dog! for the sake
of your mastor’s head would you lift your hand against that face which
ladies die to look upon. Pardon me, most beautiful Chevalier! the
salutation of my servant may be too rough for your French palate, but you
and your master treated my kinsman somewhat more roughly. What say ye, Sir
Warden, do ye depart in peace, or wish ye that we should try the temper of
our Border steel upon your French bucklers?"
"Depart ye in peace, vain
boaster," replied D’Arcy, "lest a worse thing befall you."
"Then on, my merry men!"
cried Wedderbuni, "and to-day the head of the Regent’s favourite—the
Chevalier of Beauty—for the head of the Earl of Home!"
"The house of Home and
revenge!" shouted his followers, and rushed upon the armed band of D’Arcy.
At first the numbers were nearly equal, and the contest was terrible.
man fought hand to hand, and the ground was contested inch by inch. The
gilded ornaments of the horses were covered with blood, and their
movements encumbered by their weight. The sword of Wedderburn had already
smitten three of the Chevalier’s followers to the ground, and the two
chiefs now contended in single combat. D’Arcy fought with the fury of
despair, but Home continued to bear upon him as a tiger that has been
robbed of its cubs. Every moment the force of the Chevalier was thinned,
and every instant the number of his enemies increased, as the neighbouring
peasantry rallied round the standard of their chief. Finding the most
faithful of his followers stretched upon the earth, D’Arcy sought safety
in flight. Dashing his silver spurs into the sides of his noble steed, he
turned his back upon his desperate enemy, and rushed along in the
direction of Pouterleiny, and through Dunse, with the hope of gaining the
road to Dunbar, of which town he was governor. Fiercely, Wedderburn
followed at his heels, with his naked sword uplifted, and ready to strike;
immediately behind him, rode Trotter, the henchman of the late Earl, and
another of Home’s followers named Dixon. It was a fearful sight as they
rushed through Dunse, their horses striking fire from their heals in the
light of the very sunbeams; and the sword of the pursuer within a few feet
of the fugitive. Still, the Chevalier rode furiously, urging on the
gallant animal that bore him, which seemed conscious that the life of its
rider depended upon its speed. His flaxen locks waved behind him in the
wind, and the voice of his pursuers ever and anon fell upon his ear, like
a dagger of death thrust into his bosom. The horse upon which Wedderburn
rode had been wounded in the conflict, and, as they drew near Broomhouse,
its speed slackened, and his followers, Trotter and Dixon, took the lead
in the pursuit. The Chevalier had reached a spot on the right bank of the
Whitadder, which is now in a field of the farm of Swallowdean, when his
noble steed, becoming entangled with its cumbrous trappings, stumbled, and
hurled its rider to the earth. The next moment, the swords of Trotter and
Dixon were transfixed in the body of the unfortunate Chevalier.
"Off with his head!"
exclaimed Wedderburn, who at the same instant reached the spot. The bloody
mandate was readily obeyed; and Home, taking the bleeding head in his
hand, cut off the flaxen tresses, and tied them as a trophy to his
saddle-bow. The body of the Chevalier de la Beaute was rudely
buried on the spot where he fell. A humble stone marks out the scene of
the tragedy, and the people the neighbourhood yet call it—"Bawty’s
grave." The head of the Chevalier was carried to Dunse, where
it was fixed upon a spear at the cross, and Wedderburn exclaimed--"Thus be
exalted the enemies of the house of Home!"
The bloody relic was then
borne in triumph to Home Castle, and placed upon the battlements. "There"
said Sir David, "let the Regent climb when he returns from France for the
head of his favourite—it is thus that Home of Wedderburn revenges the
murder of his kindred."