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"A House with Glass Windows" & "Witch Hunt!"

Publication

1975

Length

Short stories

Audience

Young adult

Historical era

16th century

Co-author

Margaret Lyford-Pike

Adaptation

BBC Scotland – ?

Collection

We Lived in Drumfyvie

Previous

The Man-at-Arms

Next

We Sign the Covenant

"A House with Glass Windows" and "Witch Hunt!" are the eighth and ninth stories in the 1975 collection We Lived in Drumfyvie, originally co-written with producer Margaret Lyford-Pike as episodes of an unidentified children's radioplay series. The two are described together on this page because they feature the same main character.

"A House with Glass Windows" synopsisEdit

Master Mason William Forsyth narrates how he was contracted to build a grand new house outside of Drumfyvie for the Bailie Alan Ferguson and his enthusiastic wife Isobel. The house is newfangled and no expense is spared, built of stone with a ground floor Great Chamber, an indoor turnstile stair, glass windows and a gallery, and an English garden house by the burn. The slight rerouting of this burn is the cause of some friction, as it arises under the Castle mound that is still thought by the credulous, such as the woodwright Long Jock, to be a fairy mound.

Jock's niece Nannie, a friend to plants and children, becomes a favourite with the Fergusons' youngest child Ritchie, and Mistress Ferguson's assistant in the planning of her garden. On Midsummer's Eve, the completion date of Master Forsyth's contract, Mistress Ferguson throws a ball to present her new house to the local gentry. Forsyth, Nannie, Jock, and other lesser folk gather in the kitchens to join in the celebrations. During the evening, they discover that that Ritchie has left his bed and set out to search the property for him. Nannie sees him on the balcony roof of the incomplete garden house, about to sleepwalk off the unbalustraded drop into the burn. She catches him, but slips herself and hits her head. Jock rails that the Fairy Folk have taken payment for their interference with the burn. Nannie recovers, but Forsyth wonders if Jock might have been right, and whether they will be satisfied, or return for "the full price", and who will pay it.

"Witch Hunt!" synopsisEdit

Tam Webster, Master of the Mary Lindsay, narrates why he ran away to sea, vowing never to return to Drumfyvie. As a small child, he became dear friends with Old Nannie, the herb-woman who became a recluse after a blow to the head in her youth. She tells him, after he first musters to courage to go to her for a bee-sting, that he will repay her in gold when he is a sea captain, though he has never confided his dream of sailing to anyone, especially his unsympathetic father.

When Tam is 16, gossip about Francis Bothwell's alleged witchcraft leads Rolf Fleming to tar Nannie as a witch, particularly in view of her tame fox Rory, whom she had rescued from a trap. Later that summer, an enthusiastic young hunter named Nick Drummond shoots Rory, and soon the whole town knows that he's killed Nannie's familiar. That autumn, a gale damages the Drummonds' silk warehouse. A hard winter punctuated by inconvenient accidents culminates in Drumfyvie's first experience of the Sweating Sickness in spring.

Just after Easter, a mob led by Rolf Fleming demands that the Provost put Nannie on trial, and when he refuses, goes to drag her out of her house and swim her in the pond. Tam, after failing to put them off, cuts through the woods to warn her, but sprains his ankle in the dark. He turns instead to Piper's Pool, where he once again fails to convince them not to throw her in the water. When she sinks, the townspeople pull her out, but the shock has already killed her.

Tam, finding his father sitting by at home, waits a fortnight for his ankle to heal, then leaves Drumfyvie, taking ship to Amsterdam. Years later, as Master of his own ship, he returns to Drumfyvie to settle his share of his father's business. He goes to High Riggs Wood to look once more at Nannie's fallen-down bothy, and removes his golden earrings, to lay them in a hollow of the hearth.

ChronologyEdit

Dates for We Lived in Drumfyvie are given in the chapter headings. "A House with Glass Windows" takes place in 1562-3, narrated from almost thirty years later. "Witch Hunt!" takes place in 1588-9, narrated from many years later, in the peak of the teenage narrator's adult career.

  • Spring 1562: Forsyth takes on the Ferguson contract, to be completed in 14 months by Midsummer's Eve 1563.
  • Michaelmas 1562: Alan Ferguson elected Provost
  • Midsummer 1563: Mistress Ferguson's Ball. Nannie's injury.
  • 1578, Tam Webster is 6 or 7: he meets Old Nannie
  • 1588, Tam is 16, St. Ninian's Day: Rolf Fleming accuses Nannie of witchcraft
  • Shortly thereafter: Nick drummond shoots Rory
  • Autumn: a gale damages the Drummonds' warehouse
  • Winter: a series of minor annoyances
  • 1589, Spring: the Sweating Sickness
  • After Easter: the Burgesses kill Nannie
  • Last June, Tam is an adult: he returns to Drumfyvie

CharactersEdit

  • A House with Glass Windows
    • William Forsyth, Master Mason, narrator of AHWGW
    • Alan Ferguson, wine merchant and Bailie, prospective Provost
    • Bailie Anderson, Forsyth built a house for him
    • Isobel Ferguson, the prospective Provost's wife, conscious of her position
    • Jeannie Forsyth, William's wife
    • Long Jock, Forsyth's best woodwright, deeply superstitious
    • Nannie, Jock's niece, a nurturer
    • Ritchie Ferguson, benjamin of his house, a limb of Satan
    • Mistress Kerr and Mistress Anderson, Mistress Ferguson's rivals
    • Mary, a maidservant
  • Witch Hunt!
    • Tam Webster, narrator, son of a bonnet-maker and Master of the Mary Lindsay
    • Luke Webster, bonnet-maker, Tam's father
    • Old Nannie, a middle-aged woman who turned strange after a head injury in her youth, an herb-woman
    • Master Donaldson, surgeon-apothecary
    • Mistress Morrison, the Websters' neighbour
    • Mistress Morrison's sailor brother
    • Willie Webster, bonnet-maker, Tam's older brother
    • Rory, a dog-fox with a limp
    • Francis Bothwell, in league with the Devil [Francis Stewart, 5th Earl of Bothwell]
    • Rolf Fleming, a crony of Luke's
    • King James, warming the throne for Bothwell [James VI]
    • Nat Hawthorn, a crony of Luke's, somewhat skeptical
    • The Queen, a Dane [Anne of Denmark]
    • Rob Henderson, a crony of Luke's
    • Nick Drummond, a menace with a fowling-piece
    • Bailie Drummond, silk merchant, his fond papa
    • Granny Dunlop, cow owner
    • the Provost's wife, Mistress Boyd, ex-ring owner
    • Davey the Smith, succumbs to occupational hazard
    • Andrew Boyd, the Provost, a second Pilate
    • The Dolphin, Tam's first ship

PlacesEdit

  • Drumfyvie
    • the High Street, merchants' shops and residences
    • the Headrow, land beyond the old town filling up with rich merchants' houses
      • Bailie Ferguson's house, with a downstairs Great Chamber, an inside stair, glass windows, and a garden-house
      • the burn, springing from under the Castle mound
    • The Castle, built on a reputed fairy mound
    • Eldonrigg, Nannie's father's farm a mile outside of town
    • High Riggs Woods, site of Old Nannie's bothy
    • Market Street
    • Piper's Pool, at the end of the Castle burn
  • Stirling
  • St. Andrews, has a university
  • Leith, the port of Edinburgh
  • North Berwick, site of a witches' convention
  • Amsterdam, first ticket out of Leith

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