Yes, it was most decidedly Black Duncan the smith who was at the bottom of the whole affair. He was the author of the remark that set everybody gaping, and made such a tremendous fuss in the town. He it was who let fall the fatal joke, when his wife brought in the dish of broiled haddock that morning at breakfast; and though it is not the best taste to laugh at one’s own pleasantries, he, I must confess, did so. It was beyond measure funny, and not a bite or sup would he taste till he had had his laugh out.
Thus begins Walter Douglas Campbell’s Beyond the border (1898). It appears to be a children’s story, with a king and queen, a talking cat and a hag who lives in a tower with her daughter who has a “flat, yellow face, speckled like a trout”.
Helen Stratton (fl. 1892-1925) provided 167 black and white illustrations to accompany the text. A British illustrator who was particularly associated with children’s books and fairy tales, she was sometimes influenced by the Glasgow School of Art and art nouveau movement; at other times was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite style of painting.
The book itself has a green Victorian cloth binding, with a front cover design depicting a witch dropping frogs into a cauldron, and highly-stylised cats on the spine. It was presented to J. Patten MacDougall from Innis Chonain in 1899. Innis Chonain is the Scottish Island on which Douglas Walter Campbell, an amateur architect, had built a large home.