The Last Galley Impressions and Tales
Through The Veil
He was a great shock-headed, freckle-faced Borderer, the lineal descendant of a cattle-
thieving clan in Liddesdale. In spite of his ancestry he was as solid and sober a citizen as
one would wish to see, a town councillor of Melrose, an elder of the Church, and the
chairman of the local branch of the Young Men's Christian Association. Brown was his
name--and you saw it printed up as "Brown and Handiside" over the great grocery stores
in the High Street. His wife, Maggie Brown, was an Armstrong before her marriage, and
came from an old farming stock in the wilds of Teviothead. She was small, swarthy, and
dark-eyed, with a strangely nervous temperament for a Scotch woman. No greater
contrast could be found than the big tawny man and the dark little woman; but both were
of the soil as far back as any memory could extend.
One day--it was the first anniversary of their wedding--they had driven over together to
see the excavations of the Roman Fort at Newstead. It was not a particularly picturesque
spot. From the northern bank of the Tweed, just where the river forms a loop, there
extends a gentle slope of arable land. Across it run the trenches of the excavators, with
here and there an exposure of old stonework to show the foundations of the ancient walls.
It had been a huge place, for the camp was fifty acres in extent, and the fort fifteen.
However, it was all made easy for them since Mr. Brown knew the farmer to whom the
land belonged. Under his guidance they spent a long summer evening inspecting the
trenches, the pits, the ramparts, and all the strange variety of objects which were waiting
to be transported to the Edinburgh Museum of Antiquities. The buckle of a woman's belt
had been dug up that very day, and the farmer was discoursing upon it when his eyes fell
upon Mrs. Brown's face.
"Your good leddy's tired," said he. "Maybe you'd best rest a wee before we gang further."
Brown looked at his wife. She was certainly very pale, and her dark eyes were bright and
"What is it, Maggie? I've wearied you. I'm thinkin' it's time we went back."
"No, no, John, let us go on. It's wonderful! It's like a dreamland place. It all seems so
close and so near to me. How long were the Romans here, Mr. Cunningham?"
"A fair time, mam. If you saw the kitchen midden-pits you would guess it took a long
time to fill them."
"And why did they leave?"
"Well, mam, by all accounts they left because they had to. The folk round could thole
them no longer, so they just up and burned the fort aboot their lugs. You can see the fire
marks on the stanes."