How far the merits of this work may be perceived becomes not me to judge; I only know and feel that on me has devolved the endearing task of publishing the writings of my lamented child—that I am fulfilling the desire of her life.
The month of March, rough and stormy as it is in England, would perhaps be deemed mild and beautiful as May by those accustomed to meet and brave its fury in the eastern Highlands, nor would the evening on which our tale commences bely its wild and fitful character.
The wind howled round the ancient Tower of Buchan, in alternate gusts of wailing and of fury, so mingled with the deep, heavy roll of the lashing waves, that it was impossible to distinguish the roar of the one element from the howl of the other. Neither tree, hill, nor wood intercepted the rushing gale, to change the dull monotony of its gloomy tone. The Ythan, indeed, darted by, swollen and turbid from continued storms, threatening to overflow the barren plain it watered, but its voice was undistinguishable amidst the louder wail of wind and ocean. Pine-trees, dark, ragged, and stunted, and scattered so widely apart that each one seemed monarch of some thirty acres, were the only traces of vegetation for miles round. Nor were human habitations more abundant; indeed, few dwellings, save those of such solid masonry as the Tower of Buchan, could hope to stand scathless amidst the storms that in winter ever swept along the moor.
No architectural beauty distinguished the residence of the Earls of Buchan; none of that tasteful decoration peculiar to the Saxon, nor of the more sombre yet more imposing style introduced by the Norman, and known as the Gothic architecture.
Originally a hunting-lodge, it had been continually enlarged by succeeding lords, without any regard either to symmetry or proportion, elegance or convenience; and now, early in the year 1306, appeared within its outer walls as a most heterogeneous mass of ill-shaped turrets, courts, offices, and galleries, huddled together in ill-sorted confusion, though presenting to the distant view a massive square building, remarkable only for a strength and solidity capable of resisting alike the war of elements and of man.
Without all seemed a dreary wilderness, but within existed indisputable signs of active life. The warlike inhabitants of the tower, though comparatively few in number, were continually passing to and fro in the courts and galleries, or congregating in little knots, in eager converse. Some cleansing their armor or arranging banners; others, young and active, practising the various manoeuvres of mimic war; each and all bearing on their brow that indescribable expression of anticipation and excitement which seems ever on