'I will leave now, sir, as you wish. But I beg you to reconsider. Think of Dorothy. We
truly love each other, and we will not be parted for long.'
Sir John's color deepened once more. 'Get out of my house, you insolent young dog,' he
exclaimed, 'or I will have you thrown out. My daughter will never marry you, and you will not
see her again.'
The heartbroken Dorothy was confined to her room for several days after this by her irate
parent, but somehow her loved one managed to smuggle a letter to her in which he suggested a
secret meeting in the woods surrounding the Hall, which in the sixteenth century was situated in
the midst of a great forest of oaks. (Today Samlesbury Hall stands beside the main road between
Preston and Blackburn.) An obliging maid-servant, who was walking out with one of the neighboring
knight's footmen, delivered her young mistress's reply into the hands of her sweetheart,
who passed it on to Robert, and thus a meeting between the parted lovers was arranged.
They met under a particular tree in the woods, far enough from the Hall so that it would be
most unlikely for anyone to pass that way, and where they could find a little privacy surrounded
by the broad sheltering trunks and enveloping branches of the friendly oak trees.
Sir John's opposition to their attachment made them even more determined to marry, and
after two or three meetings they planned to elope. Sir John was going to be away for a few days
on business of state, and the lovers made their plans accordingly.
But they reckoned without Dorothy's brother, as rigid a Romanist as his father, and totally
opposed to his sister's marriage into a family which espoused the hated Protestant faith.
One evening the two lovers met in their usual secret place and planned the details of their
elopement, unaware of the fact that the trees which sheltered them also concealed an eavesdropper-
Dorothy's brother. Overhearing their plans to run away together, and well knowing of
his father's objection to such a union, which he certainly shared himself, he decided that he must
prevent the elopement at all costs. He knew that his father would commend him for doing so, for
protecting the family honor in his absence. The brother laid his own plans accordingly.
Meanwhile Dorothy, blissfully unaware that her secret had been discovered, went about
her own preparations with a light heart. By the time her father returned to Samlesbury she would
be far away with the man she loved. She dressed in white, as befitting a bride, and ventured out
of her room and along the broad corridors, choosing the right moment when both members of the
family and the servants were otherwise occupied. Her wide-skirted dress with the fulness held
out by a tight bodice by the fashionable farthingale, made her appear as though she was floating
across the long gallery and down the wide staircase, so quickly did her dainty feet carry her, her
heart beating fast with excitement, fearing every moment that she would be discovered and her
happy plan frustrated.
But she met no one and let herself out quietly by a little used side door which she had
chosen so that the nearby bushes would give as much concealment to her as possible. So she
hurried across the park into the woods where her lover was awaiting her in the company of two
trusted friends who were there to help them and to speed them on their way to happiness.
Alas, neither of the three young men was armed. But Dorothy's brother, watching from a
vantage point, was. His sword was at the ready. He was an excellent and experienced
swordsman, and the fact that he had three men to contend with did not deter him in the least. On
the contrary, his triumph fight for the Southworth honor would be the more glorious.
When Dorothy arrived and was greeted by her lover, the waiting swordsman sprang out to
the attack, and was upon them before they realized what was happening. The three unarmed men
were defenseless before the flashing steel of the determined brother. Robert's two friends went
down mortally wounded from well-aimed sword-thrusts. Robert's first thought was to protect his
loved one, and he fell at her feet with her brother's sword plunged into his heart.
Dorothy knew nothing of what happened after that, for she swooned and when she
recovered her senses she was back in her room at Samlesbury, crying out the name of her lover
who would never again embrace her.
That night the bodies of the three men were secretly buried within the precincts of the
domestic chapel attach to Samlesbury Hall.
Lady Dorothy never really recovered from the shock of witnessing her lover's death at the
hands of her own brother. She was ill fro a long time, a prisoner in her room. Her father's
reaction to the tragedy and the part his overzealous son played in it, is not on record; but he was a man of importance at the court of Queen Elizabeth, and could not afford a domestic scandal of
this kind. The Queen did not desire to widen the already wide breach between the Protestants and
the adherents of the old religion.
Whatever Sir John might have though of the violent and murderous manner in which his
impetuous son dealt with the situation in his absence, it was not possible to do anything about it.
He did not wish such a scandal in the delicate political balance which existed in England at that
As for the unfortunate, broken-hearted Dorothy, there was only one thing to do, and her
parents had no hesitation in doing it. She was bundled into a convent. It was the conventional
solution for such circumstances in those days, though what Dorothy's parents must have thought
at having to do it in these particular circumstances can well be imagined, for it must not be
assumed that they were insensitive or without feeling towards their wronged daughter.
They decided to send her abroad, where, it is said, she was kept under strict surveillance,
for she was showing signs that her mind was breaking under her desperate grief. 'The name of
her lover,' said Harland in his Lancashire Legends, 'was ever on her lips.' Her great grief finally
drove her right out of her mind, and she died, her lover's name being the last word she spoke.
According to legend, Lady Dorothy's ghost was seen in her old home and the surrounding
woods immediately after her death, when her spirit returned to seek her lost love. On quite, clear
evenings-the same as that happy evening when she had tip-toed starry-eyed for that last meeting
with her lover-many people have seen a white lady gliding down the corridors and the galleries of