Isabella Foster, was, on
this occasion, accompanied by her father and her acknowledged lover—a
young man of considerable property, but who was, nevetheless, much better
known in the country by the familiar, Border-like soubriquet of, "Jock o’
the Syde," than by his real name, which was Armstrong. Isabella herself
marked, and she did so with fear and trembling, the ominous gaze of the
unprincipled Lord of Hermitage; and she clung closer and closer to her
father and her lover, both of whom were also aware of the circumstance at
which she was so much alarmed. Her father saw it with a feeling of dread
and horror; for he knew well the infamous character of the man, and he
knew, too, that he would perpetrate any villany, and have recourse,
without the smallest hesitation or compunction, to any measures, however
violent or atrocious, to accomplish the gratification of his passions, and
he felt how vain would be all his precautions, how unavailing all the
means he could employ, to defeat the designs of a man at once so
determined so unprincipled, and so powerful.
On her lover, however, the
discovery that his Isabella had attracted the special notice of the Lord
of Hermitage had a different effect. It roused his young blood; and in the
look with which he contemplated him, as he gazed upon her, there was
plainly to be read a proud defiance at once of his personal prowess and
his power. Armstrong felt, at that moment, that his single arm, furnished
with his own good sword, was alone sufficient to protect his lover from
all the Lords of Hermitage that ever existed although they all came upon
him in a bundle.
With more experience of the
world, Isabella’s father, as we have shown, thought and reasoned
differently. He feared the worst; and these fears were much increased
when, on the dismissal of the congregation, the Lord of Hermitage rode up
to him, complimented him on the beauty of his daughter, and informed him
that he meant to do himself the pleasure of paying him a visit soon, when
he hoped, he said—at the same time turning towards and bowing to
Isabella—that the fair lily of Liddisdale would not be absent.
Isabella’s father made no
farther reply to this remark, than by bowing politely, and saying, with
equivocal hospitality, that his house should always be open to the Lord of
Isabella’s lover, who was
also of the party on this occasion, mechanically felt for the hilt of his
sword, while this conversation was passing—a motion which did not escape
the notice of him who had excited such an evidence of hostile feeling:
neither did the stern look, with which he contemplated the speaker, pass
"What chafes thee so mnch,
young man?" said the Lord of Hermitage, turning to the person whom
he addressed with a contemptuous smile. "Is yon fair maiden your
sweetheart, my flint-spark; and are you afraid I shall run away
"No names, if you please,
my Lord Hermitage," replied Armstrong; "I take no by-names but one—that by
which everybody knows me. All others I am apt to acknowledge in a way that
is pretty generally allowed to be disagreeable. And as to this lady being
my sweetheart," he went on— "perhaps she is, and perhaps not; but whether
she be or no, should you entertain any thoughts of running away with her,
take my word for it—take the word of ‘Jock o the Syde’—that you’ll run
pretty fast, and pretty far, too, if I don’t overtake you."
To this blunt language, the
Lord of Hermitage merely replied, evidently desirous of giving the whole
matter the turn of a joke, "that he was glad to find the young lady had
such a redoubtable guardian." Having said this, and made his obeisance to
Isabella, bowed to her father, and waved his hand slightly and. coldly to
Armstrong, the Lord of Hermitage rode off towards his own residence,
whither we shall take the liberty of accompanying him.
On entering the gate of his
castle, the Lord of Hermitage was met by a person who seemed to be a
retainer—for such his dress bespoke him; but there was a familiarity in
his manner, mingled with a sort of careless respect, that at once showed
that his lord and he were upon a much more intimate footing than is
usually displayed between master and servant.
"Well, my lord," said this
person, as he assisted his master to dismount, "have you seen her?"
"I have, Maxwell," replied
the Lord of Hermitage: "and on my soul, a most lovely creature it is.
Strange that I should not have heard of her before. Thou hast an admirable
taste, Maxwell," he went on; "and I owe thee something for this scent,
which thou shalt forthwith have. ‘Tis a rare prize, Maxwell, I assure
thee, and does thy diligence infinite credit."
"I guessed as much,"
replied the person addressed, and who was, if such an official can be
recognised, the confidential villain of the Lord of Hermitage, in the
shape of a domestic servant or personal attendant,—"I guessed as much, my
lord," he said, with a fiendish smile; "I felt assured that I had at last
caught something worth looking at."
Here the conversation
dropped for a time. The Lord of Hermitage being now dismounted from his
horse, proceeded into the castle, whither he was followed by Maxwell; when
the two having shut themselves up in a small retired apartment, resumed
the discourse which the movement just spoken of had interrupted; and
proceeded to discuss the question as to which was the best method of
getting Isabella Foster into their power.
"Carry her off, to be
sure—carry her off bodily," was the reply of Maxwell to this query—"why
should there be any hesitation?"
"Why, I don’t know,
Maxwell," replied the Lord of Hermitage, musingly. "It would make a stir
in the country, and set the fools a-talking. I’d rather it were quietly
done, if at all possible. I have told Foster," he added, after a pause of
some minutes, "that I would pay him a visit one of these days."
"Then, my Lord, excuse me,
you were wrong," said Maxwell, interrupting him—"you were wrong. He’ll
bundle the girl out of the way directly; and, if he does, we may look long
enough ere we find her again."
"Faith! I dare say, thou’rt
right, Maxwell," replied the Lord of Hermitage; "although I scarcely think
the scoundrel would dare to do that either. I should have a right to
consider such a proceeding as a personal insult, and feel myself warranted
in resenting it accordingly."
"No doubt, no doubt, my
Lord," said Maxwell: "but, in the meantime, observe you, the girl may be
gone—a loss this, for which the satisfaction of running her father through
the body would be but an indifferent compensation."
"Right again, Maxwell,
right again," replied his master, "why, then, suppose, after all, we do
the thing boldly and at once."
A proposition, this, which
ended in an arrangement that the Lord of Hermitage, accompanied by Maxwell
and other three or four trusty knaves, well armed with concealed weapons,
should, on the following day, set out for Foster’s residence, and, seizing
a fit opportunity, carry off his daughter.
On the day following,
accordingly, a party of five horsemen were seen, towards evening, riding
up the avenue, at the head of which Foster’s house was situated; when the
latter, having observed them approaching, and recognising the Lord of
Hermitage amongst them, hastened out to receiye them. On their coming up—
"I promised you a visit,
Foster," said the leader of the party, at the same time flinging himself
from his horse; "and I am now come to redeem my promise."
Foster made no reply, but
bowed and requested his visitor to walk in, an invitation with which he
immediately complied; but when a similar one was extended to his
followers, they, one and all, declined, saying that their master intended
staying so short a time, that it was not worth their while dismounting—an
apology with which Foster was, at the time, satisfied, although some
circumstances soon afterwards occurred that made him doubt its sincerity.
One of them was, his observing two of the horsemen who had dismounted,
notwithstanding what they had said just a moment before, skulking about
the door of the apartment in which he and his guest were.
After the latter had sat
for some time, and had partaken of some refreshment that had been
introduced, he inquired of his entertainer, with an affected carelessness,
what had become of his "fair daughter." Foster replied, that she was
unwell, and confined to her own apartment; which was, indeed, true.
"Unwell!" exclaimed his
guest, starting to his feet; "you do not say so! Ha! unwell!—I must see
her then. Perhaps I may be able to restore her to health. I have some
skill in the healing art. Come, Foster," he added, with a sudden ferocity
and determination of manner, which contrasted strongly with the benevolent
purpose he affected, "conduct me to her this instant—this instant, I say,
Foster." And he drew a sword from beneath the cloak in which he was
"What means this conduct my
Lord?" inquired his amazed and alarmed host.
"Mean, sirrah! mean!"
replied the Lord of Hermitage—"why, it means, that I am about to do your
daughter an honour." And, without waiting for the guidance he had
demanded, he rushed out of the apartment—when he was instantly joined by
two of his followers, with drawn swords in their hands—and proceeded to
search for the chamber in which the object of his villany was confined.
Having quickly found the apartment, the ruffians, after in vain soliciting
admittance from its inmate, whom the previous noise had alarmed, began to
force the doors. While they were thus employed, Foster, who had, in the
meantime, armed himself, and brought two or three of his men to his
assistance, suddenly rushed in amongst the assailants, and a close and
sanguinary contest immediately ensued.
At this moment, the
unfortunate young lady, hearing her father’s voice raised in anger, and
the clashing of swords in the passage which led to her apartment, undid
the door, and frantically rushed into the midst of the conflict. Fatal
indiscretion! She had scarcely stepped from her room, when the thrust of a
sword (not, however, meant for her), reached her heart, and she fell,
lifeless, amongst the feet of the combatants.
In a few seconds
afterwards, her unhappy father also fell, mortally wounded; when the
fiends, perceiving the purposes of their villany thus fearfully
frustrated, instantly quitted the house, mounted their horses, and fled.
This new atrocity of the
Lord of Hermitage’s—for he had been guilty of many, although, perhaps,
this was the most hideous of all—excited, when it became known, such a
universal feeling of horror throughout the country, that the miscreant,
powerful as he was, was obliged to fly the kingdom and betake himself to a
foreign land, to avoid the popular vengeance with which he was threatened.
But his crime was of too deep a die to escape due punishment, even on
earth. There was one whose fierce and enduring thirst for revenge he could
not evade—one to escape whom all his windings and doublings were in vain,
and from whose arm neither distance of place or time could ultimately
On hearing of the dreadful
catastrophe, Isabella’s lover, Armstrong, vowed he would have a deadly
revenge, and, that he would never cease from the pursuit of the Lord of
Hermitage, while both remained in life, till he had accomplished his
destruction; and, in pursuance of this oaths (which he swore on the grave
of his lover), he abandoned home and friends, assumed the habit of a
palmer, and set out in quest of the murderer of Isabella Foster and her
On leaving the country, the
infamous Lord of Hermitage directed his steps to London, where he remained
for some time in concealment; for the singular atrocity of his crime,
which he had no doubt would soon be known far and wide, made him consider
himself unsafe, even in the heart of the English capital; and unsafe, even
here, he certainly was, although unaware of the particular character of
the danger that threatened him; for Armstrong had traced him, and he only
escaped him by the chance circumstance of his leaving London for the
continent, one single day before his pursuer had discovered his retreat.
Similar fortuitous circumstances saved him, at various subsequent turns in
the chase; but the bloodhound that tracked him, though often thrown out,
kept steathly to his purpose, and as often regained as he lost the scent
of his victim.
For two full years, the
lover of Isabella Foster pursued her murderer with unabated eagerness and
unflagging zeal; and, for two full years, the former, from various
accidental circumstances, escaped the vengeance that was thus, although
unknown to him, so closely pursuing him.
At the expiry of these two
years, however, the Lord of Hermitage, guided, in some measure, we
suppose, by a similar instinct with that which directs the hare back to
her form, however wide and numerous may have been the evolutions of her
intermediate career, sought his own castle again, entertaining also,
doubtless, a hope that his atrocious crime, though it could not possibly
be forgotten, would now be contemplated with less intensity of feeling
than on its first occurrence.
It was on a dark and stormy
night in November, that he arrived at his own gate on horseback, and
alone. Their Lord’s return being wholly unexpected by his domestics, he
had some difficulty in gaining admittance; but having at length satisfied
the porter, who kept the gate, that he was indeed his master, the former
was thrown open; and, all dripping with wet, and perishing with cold, the
Lord of Hermitage once more entered his own castle, where, in the
enjoyment of the luxuries of a blazing fire and an ample repast, he
quickly forgot the sufferings to which, for the last ten or twelve hours,
he had been exposed.
In little more than an hour
afterwards, however, the Lord of Hermitage’s arrival was followed by that
of another person, who rode furiously up to the gate, and inquired, in an
eager and anxious tone, if he had yet appeared. Being answered in the
affirmative, the stranger called on the porter to open the gate, saying
that he was an attendant of his master’s, whom the latter had hired some
days previously, and that he had lost both him and his way in the dark,
being a stranger in that part of the country. The man’s story was
plausible, and he was instantly admitted. On entering the courtyard, and
seeing some lights in the windows that overlooked it, the stranger
inquired of the person who admitted him, whether any one, and which of
these windows belonged to his master’s sleeping apartment. The porter,
naturally thinking that the question was put by the stranger with the view
of affording his master his services, pointed out the apartment he
inquired after, and gave him particular directions how to find it.
Desiring his informant now to hold his horse for a few minutes, till he
should have informed his master of his arrival, when he would return, he
said, to take charge of the animal himself, the stranger disappeared. In
an instant after, the door of the Lord of Hermitage’s apartment was
suddenly opened, and "Jock o’ the Syde" stood before its horror-struck
inmate, who at once guessed the intentions of the intruder. What followed
was the work of a moment. Armstrong—his eyes dilated with a fearful joy,
and with a deadly smile playing on his haggard countenance—seized the
unhappy Lord of Hermitage by the throat; and, as he struck a dagger to his
heart, exclaimed—"Villain! most atrocious of villains!—the hour of
vengeance is come. I have caught thee at last. This, and this, and this,"
he said, as he repeated his stabs, "is for Isabella Foster, and her
Elated beyond bounds at
this successful termination to all his weary toils and watchings, and
gratified to think that his vengeance had been, after all, consummated in
the very stronghold of the murderer—Armstrong flew to the court-yard,
leaped on his horse, and having called to the porter, in a voice of fierce
exultation, to open the gate, as his master had ordered him on a pressing
and important mission, "Jock o’ the Syde" galloped out of the castle; and
his loud and triumphant, but most appalling laugh, as he cleared the
gate-way, rang wildly through the darkness and solitude of the night, and
struck those who heard it with awe and dismay, for it was indeed