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Wilson's Border Tales
Death of Chevalier de la Beaute


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 errand.

"Urgent!—babbler!" replied 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 he spoke.

The stranger bowed, and replied—"The Regent"—

"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 messenger.

"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 your visions."

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 tidings?"

"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 is—vengeance!"

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 us kinsman.

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 to him."

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?"

"Hold!" exclaimed 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.

Death of the Chevalier Each 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."


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