DOCTOR Stewart Henry Scott lived in Scotland.
In 1838, when Victoria was being crowned Queen of England, Doctor Scott was keeping a little practice in Bread Street, Edinburgh, with the help of his younger associate Albert Grey. Now if you’ve read The Chronicles of Narnia (and I highly recommend you do) then you know that tall, exotic queens tend to be tricky and dangerous. Victoria stood five foot and she was about as exotic as a cucumber, so of course she made an excellent monarch. She ruled for sixty-three and a half years, and most people agree that her reign was comparatively peaceful and prosperous. Doctor Scott was comparatively peaceful and prosperous too—mostly because at the distinguished age of fifty-five the doctor wasn’t married, and he didn’t have any children. So when he wasn’t keeping his practice in Bread Street, Doctor Scott amused himself by reading books about ancient history, and he would take long holidays tramping all over Scotland and Ireland, poking his bald head and his long nose and his wiry mutton-chop whiskers into ancient tombs and crumbling castles. Doctor Scott wanted to know how people ever came to live in a place so far-removed as Scotland. Scotland is beautiful, but rugged and wild, and in bygone days the people who lived there were rugged and wild too. He learned about times, centuries ago, when Scotland’s charming capital was little more than a grim fortress perched on the edge of a lawless frontier; when the noblemen all carried hidden daggers and old-fashioned pistols, and they plotted and schemed and fought in brave duels and cowardly ambushes. The Borderlands between England and Scotland were even more perilous. Sometimes the English knights would invade Scotland leaving fire and destruction where they passed, and sometimes the Scottish lords would go pillaging and plundering in England. A good number of Bordermen made their living as soldiers of fortune, fighting for anyone who paid them and changing sides whenever they pleased. The Scots called these outlaws “reivers” or “lost men.” The reivers’ unceasing banditry made it particularly dangerous to travel in the Borders. So it happened, long ago, that the reivers found a champion in the notorious Sir Francis Stewart, fifth Earl of Bothwell. Francis was the favorite nephew of Mary Queen of Scots, and he was as handsome and as charming and as daring as a man could be. But there was a streak of pure madness in Sir Francis. His madness infected all his schemes (and proved his ruin, in the end). There are enough stories about the wild earl to fill a dozen books, yet the strangest tale of Francis Stewart was never told—not until doctor Stewart Henry Scott of Edinburgh happened upon an ancient, leather-bound book in a crumbling wooden chest in Hermitage Castle, Roxburghshire, on the evening of April 7, 1838. Writing in his diary Doctor Scott would later recall that he pulled a heavy, grayish tome more than eight inches thick out of a much-decayed wooden box. He said the pages were of vellum, badly stained and smelling like a leg of mutton that has been left out overnight in a warm pantry. Doctor Scott was not a superstitious man, and he certainly didn’t believe in anything so unscientific as ghosts. But as the last gleam of blood-red sunset faded from the western rim of the moors, and as the rising wind began to make a trembling cry through the gaps in the castle’s ruined keep, then the doctor began to hope (rather unscientifically) that ghosts didn’t believe in him. The book was so worn by time and decay that Doctor Scott could only make out a few words in the flicker of his little lantern. But before he left the ruin (rather briskly) Doctor Scott saw the title page was written in bold, even letters which read: The Last Will and Testament of THE PIRATE JOHN BLACKJOHN www.morganpublishers.com Twitter: @FrankTMorgan