[The manner in which this trifle was introduced
at the time to Mr. F. M. Reynolds,
editor of The Keepsake of 1828, leaves no
occasion for a preface.]

_August_, 1831.



  You have asked me, sir, to point out a subject
for the pencil, and I feel the difficulty of complying
with your request; although I am not certainly
unaccustomed to literary composition, or a total
stranger to the stores of history and tradition,
which afford the best copies for the painter's art.  
But although _sicut pictura poesis_ is an ancient and
undisputed axiom---although poetry and painting
both address themselves to the same object of exciting
the human imagination, by presenting to it
pleasing or sublime images of ideal scenes; yet
the one conveying itself through the ears to the
understanding, and the other applying itself only
to the eyes, the subjects which are best suited to
the bard or tale-teller are often totally unfit for
painting, where the artist must present in a single
glance all that his art has power to tell us.  The
artist can neither recapitulate the past nor intimate
the future.  The single _now_ is all which he can
present; and hence, unquestionably, many subjects
which delight us in poetry or in narrative, whether
real or fictitious, cannot with advantage be transferred
to the canvass.

  Being in some degree aware of these difficulties,
though doubtless unacquainted both with their extent,
and the means by which they may be modified
or surmounted, I have, nevertheless, ventured
to draw up the following traditional narrative as
a story in which, when the general details are
known, the interest is so much concentrated in one
strong moment of agonizing passion, that it can
be understood, and sympathized with, at a single
glance.  I therefore presume that it may be acceptable
as a hint to some one among the numerous
artists, who have of late years distinguished themselves
as rearing up and supporting the British

  Enough has been said and sung about

         The well contested ground,
     The warlike border-land---

to render the habits of the tribes who inhabited
them before the union of England and Scotland
familiar to most of your readers.  The rougher
and sterner features of their character were softened
by their attachment to the fine arts, from which
has arisen the saying that, on the frontiers, every
dale had its battle, and every river its song.  A
rude species of chivalry was in constant use, and
single combats were practised as the amusement
of the few intervals of truce which suspended the
exercise of war.  The inveteracy of this custom
may be inferred from the following incident.

  Bernard Gilpin, the apostle of the north, the
first who undertook to preach the Protestant doctrines
to the Border dalesmen, was surprised, on
entering one of their churches, to see a gauntlet or
mail-glove hanging above the altar.  Upon enquiring
the meaning of a symbol so indecorous
being displayed in that sacred place, he was informed
by the clerk that the glove was that of a
famous swordsman, who hung it there as an emblem
of a general challenge and gage of battle, to any
who should dare to take the fatal token down.  
``Reach it to me,'' said the reverend churchman.  
The clerk and sexton equally declined the perilous
office, and the good Bernard Gilpin was obliged to
remove the glove with his own hands, desiring
those who were present to inform the champion
that he, and no other, had possessed himself of the
gage of defiance.  But the champion was as much
ashamed to face Bernard Gilpin as the officials of
the church had been to displace his pledge  of

  The date of the following story is about the
latter years of Queen Elizabeth's reign; and the
events took place in Liddesdale, a hilly and pastoral
district of Roxburghshire, which, on a part
of its boundary, is divided from England only by
a small river.

  During the good old times of _rugging and riving_,
(that is, tugging and tearing,) under which term
the disorderly doings of the warlike age are affectionately
remembered, this valley was principally
cultivated by the sept or clan of the Armstrongs.  
The chief of this warlike race was the Laird of
Mangerton.  At the period of which I speak, the
estate of Mangerton, with the power and dignity
of chief, was possessed by John Armstrong, a man
of great size, strength, and courage.  While his
father was alive, he was distinguished from others
of his clan who bore the same name, by the epithet
of the _Laird's Jock_, that is to say, the Laird's son
Jock, or Jack.  This name he distinguished by so
many bold and desperate achievements, that he
retained it even after his father's death, and is
mentioned under it both in authentic records and
in tradition.  Some of his feats are recorded in the
Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, and others mentioned
in contemporary chronicles.

  At the species of singular combat which we have
described, the Laird's Jock was unrivalled, and
no champion of Cumberland, Westmoreland, or
Northumberland, could endure the sway of the
huge two-handed sword which he wielded, and
which few others could even lift.  This ``awful
sword,'' as the common people term it, was as dear
to him as Durindana or Fushberta to their respective
masters, and was nearly as formidable to his
enemies as those renowned falchions proved to the
foes of Christendom.  The weapon had been bequeathed
to him by a celebrated English outlaw
named Hobbie Noble, who, having committed some
deed for which he was in danger from justice fled
to Liddesdale, and became a follower, or rather a
brother-in-arms, to the renowned Laird's Jock;
till, venturing into England with a small escort, a
faithless guide, and with a light single-handed
sword instead of his ponderous brand, Hobbie Noble,
attacked by superior numbers, was made prisoner
and executed.

  With this weapon, and by means of his own
strength and address, the Laird's Jock maintained
the reputation of the best swordsman on the border
side, and defeated or slew many who ventured
to dispute with him the formidable title.

  But years pass on with the strong and the brave
as with the feeble and the timid.  In process of,
time, the Laird's Jock grew incapable of wielding
his weapons, and finally of all active exertion, even
of the most ordinary kind.  The disabled champion
became at length totally bed-ridden, and entirely
dependent for his comfort on the pious duties
of an only daughter, his perpetual attendant
and companion.

  Besides this dutiful child, the Laird's Jock had
an only son, upon whom devolved the perilous task
of leading the clan to battle, and maintaining the
warlike renown of his native country, which was
now disputed by the English upon many occasions.  
The young Armstrong was active, brave, and
strong, and brought home from dangerous adventures
many tokens of decided success.  Still the
ancient chief conceived, as it would seem, that his
son was scarce yet entitled by age and experience
to be intrusted with the two-handed sword, by the
use of which he had himself been so dreadfully distinguished.

  At length, an English champion, one of the
name of Foster, (if I rightly recollect,) had the
audacity to send a challenge to the best swordsman
in Liddesdale; and young Armstrong, burning
for chivalrous distinction, accepted the challenge.

  The heart of the disabled old man swelled with
joy, when he heard that the challenge was passed
and accepted, and the meeting fixed at a neutral
spot, used as the place of rencontre upon such occasions,
and which he himself had distinguished by
numerous victories.  He exulted so much in the conquest
which he anticipated, that, to nerve his son
to still bolder exertions, he conferred upon him,
as champion of his clan and province, the celebrated
weapon which he had hitherto retained in his
own custody.

  This was not all.  When the day of combat arrived,
the Laird's Jock, in spite of his daughter's
affectionate remonstrances, determined, though he
had not left his bed for two years' to be a personal
witness of the duel.  His will was still a law to his
people, who bore him on their shoulders, wrapt
in plaids and blankets, to the spot where the combat
was to take place, and seated him on a fragment
of rock, which is still called the Laird's Jock's
stone.  There he remained with eyes fixed on the
lists or barrier, within which the champions were
about to meet.  His daughter, having done all she
could for his accommodation, stood motionless beside
him, divided between anxiety for his health,
and for the event of the combat to her beloved
brother.  Ere yet the fight began, the old men
gazed on their chief, now seen for the first time
after several years, and sadly compared his altered
features and wasted frame, with the paragon of
strength and manly beauty which they once remembered.
The young men gazed on his large
form and powerful make, as upon some antediluvian
giant who had survived the destruction of
the Flood.

  But the sound of the trumpets on both sides
recalled the attention of every one to the lists,
surrounded as they were by numbers of both
nations eager to witness the event of the day.  
The combatants met in the lists.  It is needless to
describe the struggle: the Scottish champion fell.  
Foster, placing his foot on his antagonist, seized
on the redoubted sword, so precious in the eyes of
its aged owner, and brandished it over his head as
a trophy of his conquest.  The English shouted in
triumph.  But the despairing cry of the aged champion,
who saw his country dishonoured, and his
sword, long the terror of their race, in possession
of an Englishman, was heard high above the acclamations
of victory.  He seemed, for an instant,
animated by all his wonted power; for he started
from the rock on which he sat, and while the garments
with which he had been invested fell from
his wasted frame, and showed the ruins of his
strength, he tossed his arms wildly to heaven, and
uttered a cry of indignation, horror, and despair,
which, tradition says, was heard to a preternatural
distance and resembled the cry of a dying lion
more than a human sound.

  His friends received him in their arms as he sank
utterly exhausted by the effort, and bore him back
to his castle in mute sorrow; while his daughter
at once wept for her brother, and endeavoured to
mitigate and soothe the despair of her father.  But
this was impossible; the old man's only tie to life
was rent rudely asunder, and his heart had broken
with it.  The death of his son had no part in his
sorrow: if he thought of him at all, it was as the
degenerate boy, through whom the honour of his
country and clan had been lost, and he died in the
course of three days, never even mentioning his
name, but pouring out unintermitted lamentations
for the loss of his noble sword.

  I conceive, that the moment when the disabled
chief was roused into a last exertion by the agony
of the moment is favourable to the object of a painter.
He might obtain the full advantage of contrasting
the form of the rugged old man, in the
extremity of furious despair, with the softness and
beauty of the female form.  The fatal field might
be thrown into perspective, so as to give full effect
to these two principal figures, and with the single
explanation, that the piece represented a soldier
beholding his son slain, and the honour of his country
lost, the picture would be sufficiently intelligible
at the first glance.  If it was thought necessary
to show more clearly the nature of the conflict,
it might be indicated by the pennon of Saint
George being displayed at one end of the lists, and
that of Saint Andrew at the other.

               I remain, sir,

                 Your obedient servant,

                         THE AUTHOR OF  WAVERLEY.