The border that separates Scotland from England runs harsh and ragged like a bloody spine. Many castles straddle that sorry backbone – a testament to the populations unable to look each other in the eye unless the steel glove of war pushes them forward.
There was one castle that was built on the east coast, spilling into the cold, granite sea: a dark, shadowy building – ominous in its simpliciity. It was strong and defensive, a masculine silhouette that punctured the cloudy sky. It always rained.
But this castle was also a home. In 1592 Alexander Seton brought his wife to live there, expecting from her the type of physical obedience that would break the body as well as the spirit. He wanted nothing from her but sons – annually, if at all possible. A male hierarchy to surround him and to plant his name throughout Scotland.
Four years passed. Each year Lady Seton retired to a private room with her ladies, wetnurses and maids to await the terrible pain. Each year a nurse emerged from the room carrying a female child. As each daughter grew to adulthood, they became aware of their father's disappointment, their mother's fear. He ignored them, and their mother's shoulder became wet with their tears.
In the fifth year Lady Seton, in a final, gallant effort, produced a remarkable child. Female, yes, but dainty and beautiful. Her features were clear, and her skin was as fair as the flower that was placed in the Virgin's young hands. She was named Lilias.
She grew up gentle and distant, a golden thread weaving through the shadows of the household. Such a jewel was kept hidden – for dowries and contracts beckoned, and in time she would have to sign away her obedience, as her mother had. For nearly 20 years her potential made her a prisoner. Through iron-clad windows she watched the Cheviot Hills across the border change color with the breath of each season. The smell of the earth and grasses spoke to her blood and she would feel them crushed beneath her feet.
She was lonely. When she looked through her window, who stared up into her radiant desparation? No one knew his name. Or, more likely, no one would tell. Perhaps they were envious of her pretty secret, and they guarded it as selfishly as if it was their own.
How the two of them met, where they went – the details of their furtive escapes became a myth of the family's shame, closeted away by Lilias' parents. Scoldings, reprimands, would not make her reveal her lover's name. She was slapped until her pale skin became livid, like a white and burning sky. For nine months she was starved, for guilt is a very thin food indeed.
When Lilias retired to the dark, confining room she was given all the simple preparations for the frightening time. She could smell the raspberry leaves and the boiled seaweed.
And when the time did come, her flesh pulled and rebeled. The castle shuddered under the weight of her agonies, before the proof of Eve's punishment. Lilias grew weak – but before she lost her awful consciousness, she heard the loud, hungry cry of a healthy baby.
When she woke up, it was a different day. It was windy, and the sibilent breezes lifted her hair and curled it around her shoulders. The angle of the sun was different, and she saw things she hadn't noticed before: a pair of slippers she had embroidered, a corner of a green, woolen dress winking from the darkness of her closet, a comforting memory.
But there was no child in her arms. It was then that Lilias noticed her mother seated beside her, The baby, Lady Seton told her in a frightened whisper, had been born dead. And she wept on her daughter's shoulder, begging forgiveness.
Months passed. Lilias walked the swirling staircases of the castle towers, the chilly hallways; her lovely face lingered by the window of her room, waiting. No one stared up towards her mooon-like sadness again.
Then a discovery was made in one of the rivers that bound the estate like a silver ribbon. A body – beaten to death, unrecognized…a nobody. But there was one thing that had escaped the attackers' notice: a chain the victim wore around his neck, bearing the image of a beautiful, pale woman, wearing a green dress.
Centuries passed. Time – which did not care – buried the tragic family, and let its name evaporate. The castle stumbled and fell, its lines no longer straight and sharp – no longer a threat to the horizon's delicate under pinings.
But people still do visit the castle's grandiose delapidation. And many have claimed to have seen a white face at a tower window, disappearing into the cold vapors of the castle's interior. Some have seen her outside; her arms clasped as if they were holding something – yet always quite empty. Whether the day is still or not, her hair is always stirring around her verdant body. She is young and cold, sad and patient – a lady in green waiting for justice.