The Abbey of Coldingham is described from a local compilation of the early part of the century, with an account of the history of that grand old foundation, and the struggle for appointments between the parent house at Durham and the Scottish Government. Priors Akefield and Drax are historical, and as the latter really did commission a body of moss-troopers to divert an instalment of King James’s ransom into his own private coffers, I do not think I can have done him much injustice. As the nunnery of St. Abbs has gone bodily into the sea, I have been the less constrained by the inconvenient action of fact upon fiction. And for the Hospital of St. Katharine’s-by-the-Tower, its history is to be found in Stowe’s ‘Survey of London,’ and likewise in the evidence before the Parliamentary Commission, which shows what it was intended by Queen Philippa to have been to the river-side population, and what it might have been had such intentions been understood and acted on—nay, what it may yet become, since the foundation remains intact, although the building has been removed.
C. M. Yonge.
November 24, 1869.
CHAPTER I: THE GUEST OF GLENUSKIE
A master hand has so often described the glens and ravines of Scotland, that it seems vain and presumptuous to meddle with them; and yet we must ask our readers to figure to themselves a sharp cleft sloping downwards to a brawling mountain stream, the sides scattered with gray rocks of every imaginable size, interspersed here and there with heather, gorse, or furze. Just in the widest part of the valley, a sort of platform of rock jutted out from the hill-side, and afforded a station for one of those tall, narrow, grim-looking fastnesses that were the strength of Scotland, as well as her bane.
Either by nature or art, the rock had been scarped away on three sides, so that the walls of the castle rose sheer from the steep descent, except where the platform was connected with the mountain side by, as it were, an isthmus joining the peninsula to the main rock; and even this isthmus, a narrow ridge of rock just wide enough for the passage of a single horse, had been cut through, no doubt with great labour, and rendered impassable, except by the lowering of a drawbridge. Glenuskie Castle was thus nearly impregnable, so long as it was supplied with water, and for this all possible provision had been made, by guiding a stream into the court.
The castle was necessarily narrow and confined; its massive walls took up much even of the narrow space that the rock afforded; but it had been so piled up that it seemed as though the builders wished to make height compensate for straitness. There was, too, an unusual amount of grace, both in the outline of the gateway with its mighty flanking towers, and of the lofty donjon tower, that shot up like a great finger above the Massy More, as the main building was commonly called by the inhabitants of Glenuskie.