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Title: Wilson's Tales of the Borders and of Scotland - Volume 10
Author: Various
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Wilson's Tales of the Borders and of Scotland - Volume 10" ***

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                     WILSON'S TALES OF THE BORDERS

                            AND OF SCOTLAND.

                HISTORICAL, TRADITIONARY, & IMAGINATIVE.

                            WITH A GLOSSARY.

                               REVISED BY

                           ALEXANDER LEIGHTON

              ONE OF THE ORIGINAL EDITORS AND CONTRIBUTORS.


VOL. X.

LONDON:

WALTER SCOTT, 14 PATERNOSTER SQUARE

AND NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE.

1885.



CONTENTS.


THE FIRST-FOOT, _(JOHN MACKAY WILSON)_

THE ROMANCE OF THE SIEGE OF PERTH, _(ALEXANDER LEIGHTON)_

THE PROFESSOR'S TALES, _(PROFESSOR THOMAS GILLESPIE)_

    PEAT-CASTING TIME
    THE MEDAL

THE MEETING AT ST BOSWELL'S, _(OLIVER RICHARDSON)_

THE STORY OF MAY DARLING, _(JOHN FRANCIS SMITH)_

I CANNA BE FASHED; OR, WILLIE GRANT'S CONFESSIONS, _(JOHN MACKAY
WILSON)_

TALES OF THE EAST NEUK OF FIFE, _(MATTHEW FORSTER CONOLLY)_

        THE CASTLE OF CRAIL; OR, KING DAVID AND MAUDE
        THE LEGEND OF THE CHURCH OF ABERCROMBIE
        THE ROMANCE OF THE MAY

CALEB CRABBIN, _(ALEXANDER LEIGHTON)_

THE SERJEANT'S TALES, _(JOHN HOWELL)_

        THE IMPRUDENT MARRIAGE

THE BEWILDERED STUDENT, _(JOHN BETHUNE)_

THE CROOKED COMYN, _(ALEXANDER LEIGHTON)_



WILSON'S TALES OF THE BORDERS, AND OF SCOTLAND.



THE FIRST-FOOT.


Notwithstanding the shortness of their days, the bitterness of their
frosts, and the fury of their storms, December and January are merry
months. First comes old Christmas, shaking his hoary locks, belike, in
the shape of snow-drift, and laughing, well-pleased, beneath his crown
of mistletoe, over the smoking sirloin and the savoury goose. There is
not a child on the south side of the Borders who longs not for the
coming of merry Christmas: it is their holiday of holidays, their season
of play and of presents; and old and young shake hands with Christmas,
and with each other. And even on the northern side of "the river," and
"the ideal line by fancy drawn," which "divide the sister kingdoms,"
there are thousands who welcome and forget not "blithe Yule Day." Next
comes the New Year--the bottle, the hot pint, and the _first-foot_--and
we might notice, also, Hansel Monday, and "Auld Hansel Monanday," which
follow in their wake, and keep up the merriment till the back of January
is broken. But our business at present is with the _first-foot_, and we
must hold. It matters not on what side of the Borders it may be--and
northward the feeling extends far beyond the Borders--there is a
mysterious, an ominous importance attached to the individual who first
crosses the threshold, after the clock has struck twelve at midnight, on
the 31st of December, or who is the _first-foot_ in a house after the
New Year has begun. The _first-foot_ stamps the "luck" of the house--the
good fortune or the evil fortune of its inmates throughout the year! But
to begin with our story. There was not a person on all the Borders, nor
yet in all Scotland, who attached more importance to the first-foot than
Nelly Rogers. Nelly was a very worthy, kind-hearted, yea, even sensible
sort of woman; but a vein of superstition ran through her sense: she had
imbibed a variety of "auld-warld notions" in infancy, and, as she grew
up, they became a part of her creed. She did not exactly believe that
ghosts and apparitions existed in her day, but she was perfectly sure
they _had_ existed, and _had_ been seen; she was sure, also, there was
something in dreams, and she was positive there was a great deal in the
luckiness or unluckiness of a first-foot; she had remarked it in her own
experience thirty times, and, she said, "it was o' nae use attempting to
argue her out o' what she had observed hersel." Nelly was the wife of
one Richard Rogers, a respectable farmer, whose farmhouse stood by the
side of the post-road between Kelso and Lauder. They had a family of
several children; but our business is with the eldest, who was called
George, and who had the misfortune to receive, both from his parents and
their neighbours, the character of being _a genius_. This is a very
unfortunate character to give to any one who has a fortune to make in
the world, as will be seen when we come to notice the history of George
the Genius--for such was the appellation by which he was familiarly
mentioned. Now, it was the last night of the old year--George was about
twelve years of age, and, because he was their first-born, and,
moreover, because he was a genius, he was permitted to sit with his
father and his mother, and a few friends, who had come to visit them, to
see the old year out, and the New Year in. The cuckoo clock struck
twelve, and the company rose, shook hands, wished each other a happy new
year, and, in a bumper, drank, "May the year that's awa be the warst o'
our lives."

"I wonder wha will be our first-foot," said Nelly; "I hope it will be a
lucky ane."

The company began to argue whether there was anything in the luck of a
first-foot or not, and the young genius sided with his mother; and,
while they yet disputed upon the subject, a knocking was heard at the
front-door.

"There's somebody," said Nelly; "if it's onybody that I think's no luck,
I winna let them in."

"Nonsense!" said Richard.

"It's nae nonsense," replied Nelly; "it may be a _flat-soled_ body, for
onything I ken; and do ye think I wad risk the like o' that. Haud awa,
see wha it is, George," added she, addressing the genius; "and dinna let
them in unless you're sure that they dinna come empty-handed."

"Did ever ye hear the like o' the woman?" said her husband. "Sic havers!
Rin awa, George, hinny; open the door."

The boy ran to the door, and inquired--"Who's there?"

"A stranger," was the reply.

"What do ye want?" inquired the genius, with a degree of caution seldom
found in persons honoured with such an epithet.

"I have a letter to Master Rogers, from his brother," answered the
stranger.

"A letter frae my brother John!" cried Richard, starting from his seat;
"open the door, laddie--open the door."

Now, Richard Rogers had a brother, who also had been considered a sort
of a genius in his youth. He was of a wild and restless disposition in
those days, and his acquaintances were wont to call him by the name of
Jack the Rambler. But it is a long road that has no turning--he had now
been many years at sea--was the captain of a free-trader--and as
remarkable for his steadiness and worldly wisdom, as he had been noted
for the wildness of his youth. There was a mysterious spot in the
captain's history, which even his brother Richard had never been able to
clear up. But that spot will be brought to light by and by.

George opened the door, and the stranger entered. He was dressed as a
seaman; and Nelly drew back and appeared troubled as her eyes fell upon
him. It was evident she had set him down in her mind as an unlucky
first-foot. He was not, indeed, the most comely personage that one might
desire to look upon on a New-year's morning; for he was a squat little
fellow, with huge red whiskers that almost buried his face; his burly
head was covered with a sou-wester, and his eyes squinted most
fearfully. Nelly could not withdraw her eyes from the man's eyes--she
contemplated the squint with horror! Such eyes were never in the head of
a first-foot before! She was sure that "something no canny would be the
upshot."

"Tak a seat, sir--tak a seat, sir," said Richard, addressing the sailor;
"fill out a glass, and mak yoursel at hame. Nelly, bring a clean
tumbler. And ye hae a letter frae my brother, the captain, sir," added
he, anxiously; "how is he?--where is he?--when did ye see him?"

"I left him at Liverpool, sir," replied the queer-looking sailor; "and,
as I intended to take a run down over and to Leith to see my old mother,
'Bill,' says he to me (for my name's Bill, sir--Bill Somers)--well, as
I'm saying, 'Bill,' says he, 'you'll be going past the door of a brother
of mine, and I wish I were going with you'--(and I wish he had, for, not
to say it before you, sir, there an't a better or a cleverer fellow than
Captain Rogers in the whole service--nor a luckier one either, though,
poor fellow, he has had his bad luck too in some things; and it sticks
to him still, and will stick to him)--however, as I say, said he to
me--'Bill, here is a bit of a letter, give it to my brother--it concerns
my nevy, George'--(yes, George, I think he called him). So I took the
letter and set off--that is some days ago--and I arrived at the
public-house, a little from this, about four hours since, and intended
to cast anchor there for the night; but having taken a glass or two, by
way of ballast, I found myself in good sailing trim, and, having
inquired about you, and finding that you lived but a short way off, and
that the people in the house said, it being New-year's times, you
wouldn't be moored yet, I desired the landlady to fill me up
half-a-gallon or so of her best rum, that I mightn't come
empty-handed--for that wouldn't be lucky, ma'am, I reckon," added he,
squinting in the face of Mrs Rogers, who looked now at his eyes, and now
at a large bottle, which he drew from beneath a sort of half greatcoat
or monkey-jacket. Nelly was no friend to spirit-drinking; nevertheless
she was glad that her first-foot, though he did squint, had not come
empty-handed.

The letter was handed to Mr Rogers, who, having broke the
seal--"Preserve us, Richard!" said Nelly, "that's a lang epistle! I
daursay the captain's made his will in't--what does he say?"

"It's a kind, sensible, weel-written letter," said Richard, "for John
was a genius a' his days; and there is mair about a will in't than ye're
aware o'. But there's nae secret in't. George will read it."

The letter was then given to the genius, who read as follows:--

     "DEAR DICK,--As one of my crew, Bill Somers, who has sailed
     with me for a dozen years, is going down to Scotland, and will
     pass your way, I take the opportunity of writing to you, and
     letting you know that I am as well as a person who has as much
     cause to be unhappy as I have can desire to be. The cause of
     that unhappiness you don't know, and few know it--but I do, and
     that's enough. I have made some money--perhaps a good deal--but
     that's of no consequence. I once thought that I might have
     _them_ of my own flesh and blood to inherit it; however, that
     was not to be. It is a long story, and a sad story--one that
     you know nothing about, and which it is of no use to tell you
     about now. As things are, my nevy George is to be heir to
     whatever money, goods, and chattels I possess."

As her son read this, Nelly thought that it was nonsense, after all, to
say that a squint first-foot was unlucky.

"Read on, George," said his father, "and tak heed to what your uncle
says."

The boy resumed the letter, and again read--

     "Now, as my nevy is to be my heir, I think it my duty to lay
     down a sort of chart--or call it what you like--by which I
     would wish him to shape his future conduct. I am glad to hear
     that his head is of the right sort; but let us have none of
     your fiddle ornaments about it. A lofty prow is not always the
     best for a storm, and looks bad enough with a Dutch stern.
     Beware, also, how you let him to sea before his vessel is
     fairly rigged, caulked, and waterproof--or, if you do, then
     look out for his growing top-heavy, and capsising in the turn
     of a handspike. If you set him off with a bare allowance of
     ballast, and without a single letter of credit--do you expect
     him to bring home a cargo? It is stuff, Dick--arrant stuff! All
     your boy exhibitions are downright swindling. Prodigies,
     forsooth!--why, parrots can speak, and jackdaws chatter. Or, to
     render myself intelligible to your agricultural senses, a tree
     blossoms in its first year, and a selfish, deluded idiot plucks
     it up, exhibits it in the market-place--the bud perishes, and
     the tree withers, while gaping lubbers wonder that it did not
     bear fruit! Now, Dick, this is always the case with all you
     fast-sailing miracles. Give a boy the helm, and get him to the
     drudgery of the cabin again, if you can.

     "As to his love affairs, provided the girl of his choice be
     virtuous, and tolerably pretty--though neither very rich nor
     very intelligent--see that you don't strike off at a tangent,
     and, like one of your own stupid cattle, run counter to his
     will. If you do, it will only hasten what you wish to
     prevent--or render a marriage certain, which the young couple
     thought sufficiently doubtful. Besides, your opposition might
     spoil a poor girl's reputation; and I have always found that
     imputations of a certain class, upon a man, are like marks left
     upon the sand within a tide-mark; but to a woman--a lovely,
     helpless woman--they adhere like a limpit to the rock. Besides
     this, Dick, I am certain the most powerful impression of moral
     rectitude you can imprint upon his heart would be like a pistol
     fired from a cock-boat, compared to the glorious and
     irresistible broadside of a seventy-four, when you contrast its
     influence upon his actions with the delightful and conquering
     emotions of love and esteem which he entertains for an amiable
     woman. Don't preach to me, Dick, for I know when the devil, the
     world, and the flesh, war against our better principles, and
     when early instructions, counsels, and all that sort of things,
     are fairly run down and drop astern, why, if a fellow just
     think for a moment of the beautiful being, whose soul is as
     pure as the blue sea on a summer day--if he just think of
     her--or of her last words, '_Don't forget me!_'--belay! is the
     word--about goes the helm--head round from the lee-shore of
     inconsistency, and he is again quietly moored in the fair-way
     of virtue.

     "When he begins to shape into manhood, _Discretion_ is the
     watchword; and whatever he or others may think of his
     abilities, let him douse _Presumption_, and stow it below,
     hoist a _desire to please_ at the fore-top, place
     _Perseverance_, at the helm, and _Civility_ and _Moderate
     Ambition_ upon the watch. People say they like a plain-spoken,
     honest fellow, who says what he thinks. But it is all a fudge.
     Just speak in the jack-blunt manner which they praise
     respecting themselves, and, mark me, they will march off to
     another tune. Let any man practise this for a time, and he will
     soon be hated by every soul on board. I don't mean to advise
     dissimulation; but a man can get enemies enough without making
     them; therefore, where he has no good to say of a person,
     though they may have injured him, let him hold his tongue.

     "Another thing, and an important one, for him to remember,
     is--he who is the king of good fellows, and a 'good soul'
     amongst his associates, is styled by the public a thoughtless
     man, and by his enemies a drunkard. Now, Dick, in the world of
     business, a _good fellow_ simply means a _good-for-nothing_.
     Therefore, see to it, and put my nevy on the look-out; for, not
     to speak of the growing influence of habit, just attribute
     unsteadiness to a man, and you bring him a wind ahead, stop his
     credit, and hurl him to ruin headlong. Sobriety is his
     compass--sobriety is his passport.

     "Again, Dick, I would neither wish to see him a booby nor a
     maw-worm; but I must tell you that the opinion the world forms
     of us is often cast upon very trivial circumstances. A
     heedlessly committed action, which we forget in half-an-hour,
     others will remember to our disadvantage for twelve months.
     There is nothing like being well-braced with circumspection;
     let him always look well to his bearing and distance, or he
     will soon find himself out in his latitude. No man of any
     ambition, or whether he was ambitious or not, ever loved a man
     who presumed to be in all things wiser that himself. I don't
     wish to lecture upon humbug humility, but diffidence and
     good-breeding should never be under the poop. Let him take
     heed, also, how he dabbles in politics or religion. Both
     concern him, and he must think and act upon both; but he must
     do so as becomes a man. I hate all your noisy boatswain
     politicians, both aboard the Commons and out of it. The moment
     I see a lubberly fellow swinging his arms about and blowing a
     hurricane, whether he be endeavouring to blow a nation or a
     tavern into agitation--there rages a grand rascal, say I; his
     patriotism, and the froth which he scatters from his mouth, are
     of a piece. Now, as to his religious principles, of all things,
     let him keep them to himself. Every man is as much in the
     right, in his own estimation, as he is. Nothing will procure a
     man more enemies than a real or affected singularity in matters
     of religion. For though there is a great deal of good sense
     afloat in the world, yet there is such a fry of feverish,
     canting, small craft, always skulking about, and peeping into
     our _pees_ and _ques_, which, though they cannot sink your
     character, they annoy it with their sparrow-hail. In a word,
     Dick, every intelligent being's religion lies between his own
     conscience and his Maker. Give my nevy a Bible, with a father's
     best blessing--in it he will find the ennobling hopes of
     eternity, and learn to do unto others as he would wish others
     to do unto him; and this, from the bottom of my heart, is the
     advice of his uncle Jack.

     "A sterling, upright, moral character, is absolutely
     indispensable. If the heart be well built, and kept in good
     sailing trim, he will have a tell-tale there which will keep
     all right aloft. As well set a seaman upon a voyage of
     discovery without a compass, as a young fellow upon the world
     without a character. But, d'ye see, because you can't go to sea
     without a compass of this kind, you are not to expect that, in
     all cases, it will insure you of reaching the pole. No, Dick,
     it is rather like a pilot sent out to steer you in, when you
     are within sight of land, and without whose assistance you
     cannot reach the port.

     "In conversation, too, I hate to see a smooth-water puppy
     running at the rate of twelve knots, as if no vessel in the
     fleet could sail but his own. I have seen fellows of this sort
     showing off like gilded pinnaces at a regatta, while they were
     only showing how little they had on board. Two things, in
     particular, I wish my nevy to avoid--namely, argufying in
     company, and speaking about himself. There is a time and a
     place for everything; and, though argument be well enough in
     its way, he who is always upon the look-out for one is just as
     sure as he finds it to find an enemy; and, as to speaking of
     one's-self, independent of its ill-breeding, it is like a dose
     of salt-water served round the company. The grand secret of
     conversation is, to say little in a way to please, and the
     moment you fail to do so, it is time to shove your boat off.
     Whenever you see a person yawn in your company, take your hat.

     "Independent of these things, let him look well to his
     tide-table. Without punctuality, the best character becomes a
     bad one. The moment a man breaks his word, or becomes
     indifferent to his engagement, why, the confidence of his
     commodore is at an end; and, instead of being promoted to the
     quarterdeck, he may slave before the mast till the boatswain's
     last whistle pipes all hands to his funeral. Punctuality,
     Dick--systematical, methodical punctuality--is a fortune to a
     fellow ready made. Let him once listen to the syren voice of
     delay--neglect to weigh anchor with the tide, and if he don't
     drift back with the current, go to pieces on a sand-bank, or be
     blown to sticks by a foul wind, my name's not Jack. Let him
     keep a sharp eye upon the beginning, the middle, and the end of
     everything he undertakes. He must not tack about, like a fellow
     on a cruise or a roving commission, but, whatever wind blows,
     maintain a straight course, keeping his head to the port.
     Burns, the poet, spoke like a philosopher, when he said it was
     the misfortune of his life to be without an aim. But I tell you
     what, Dick, we must not only have an object to steer to, but it
     must be a reasonable object. A madman may say he is determined
     to go to the North Pole, or the moon; but that's not the thing,
     Dick: our anticipations must be likelihoods, our ambitions
     probabilities; and when we have made frequent calculations, and
     find ourselves correct in our reckoning, though we have made
     but little way, then down with despondency, and stick to
     perseverance. I don't mean a beggarly, servile, grovelling
     perseverance, but the unsubdued determination of an
     unconquerable spirit, riding out the storm, and, while small
     craft sink on every side, disdaining to take in a single reef.

     "Now, having said thus much about shaping his course, and
     laying in a freight, it is material that I drop a concluding
     word with regard to his rigging. Send him out with patched
     canvas, and the veriest punt that ever disgraced the water will
     clear out before him. A patch upon his coat will be an embargo
     on his prospects. People affect to despise tailors; but it is
     base ingratitude, or shallow dissimulation. Not that I would
     for the world see my nevy an insignificant dandy, but remember,
     the moment the elbows of your coat open, every door shuts.

     "But my fingers are cramped with this long epistle, and,
     moreover, the paper is full; and with love to nevy George, to
     Nelly, and the little ones, I am, dear Dick, your affectionate
     brother,

    "JOHN ROGERS,

    "Otherwise, JACK THE RAMBLER."

All applauded this letter, when they had heard it, and they vowed the
captain was a clever fellow--a noble fellow--ay, and a wise one; and
they drank his health and a happy New Year to him, though half of what
he had written, from his nautical types and symbols, was as Greek and
Latin unto those who heard it, and worse unto George the Genius, who
read it; though some parts of it all understood.

When the health of Captain Rogers had gone round--

"I wonder in the world," said Richard, "what it can be that my brother
aye refers to about being unhappy? I've written to him fifty times, to
try to fathom it; but I never could--he never would gie me ony
satisfaction."

"Why," said the seaman, as he sat leaning forward, and turning round his
sou-wester between his knees, "I believe I know, or I can guess a
something about the matter. It's about ten years ago, according to my
reckoning, we were coming down the Mediterranean--the captain was as
fine a looking young fellow then as ever stood upon a deck. Well, as I
was saying, we were coming down the Mediterranean, and at Genoa we took
a gentleman and his daughter on board. She was a pretty creature; I've
seen nothing like her neither before nor since. So, as I'm telling you,
we took them on board at Genoa, for England, and they had not been many
days on board, till every one saw, and I saw--though my eyes are none o'
the smartest--that the captain could look on nothing but his lovely
passenger. It wasn't hard to see that she looked much in the same way at
him, and I have seen them walking on the deck at night, with her arm
through his, in the moonlight; and, let me tell you, a glorious sight
it is--moonlight on the Mediterranean! It is enough to make a man fall
in love with moonlight itself, if there be nothing else beside him.
Well, d'ye see, as I am saying, it wasn't long until the old gentleman,
her father, saw which way the land lay; and one day we heard the lady
weeping; she never came out of her cabin during the rest of the voyage,
nor did her father again speak to the master. We were laid up for a long
time, and there was a report that the captain and her had got married,
unknown to her father. However, we sailed on a long voyage; we weren't
back to England again for more than twelve months; but the day after we
landed, the captain shut himself up, and, for long and long, we used to
find him sitting with the salt-water in his eyes. We again heard the
report that he had been married, and also that his lady had died in
childbed; but whether the child was living or ever was living, or
whether it was a boy or a girl, we didn't know; nor did he know; and, I
believe, he never was able to hear any more about the old gentleman--so,
as I say, that's all I know about the matter, poor fellow."

Now, the squinting sailor remained two days in the house of Richard
Rogers, and he was such a comical man, and such a good-natured,
kind-hearted man, that Mrs Rogers was certain he would be a lucky
first-foot, even though he had a very unfortunate cross look with his
eyes; and she was the more convinced in this opinion, because, in a
conversation she had had with him, and in which she had inquired--"What
siller he thought the captain might be worth?"--"Why, I'm saying,"
answered the sailor, "Captain Rogers is worth a round twenty thousand,
if he be worth a single penny;--and that, I'm thinking, is a pretty
comfortable thing for Master George to be heir to!"--"Ay, and so it is,"
responded Nelly. And there was no longer anything disagreeable in the
sailor's squint.

Well, week followed week, and month succeeded month--spring came, and
summer came, and harvest followed; and it was altogether a lucky year to
Richard Rogers. Nelly declared that the squinting sailor had been an
excellent first-foot.

Another year came, another, and another, until eight years passed round
since they had been visited by the outlandish seaman. Nelly had had both
lucky and unlucky first-feet. George the Genius was now a lad of twenty,
and the other children were well grown--but George was still a genius,
and nothing but a genius. He was indeed a good scholar--a grand scholar,
as his mother declared--and a great one, as his father affirmed. He had
been brought up to no profession, for it was of no use thinking of a
profession for one who was heir to twenty thousand pounds; and, at any
rate, his genius was sure to make him a fortune. In what way his genius
was to do this was never taken into consideration. Many people said, "If
we had your genius, George, we could make a fortune." And George thought
he would and could. The joiner in the next village, however, said, that
"Wi' a' George's genius, he didna believe he could mak an elshin-heft,
and stick him!--and, in his opinion, there was mair to be made by making
elshin-hefts than by writing ballants!"

As I have said, eight years had passed; it was again the last night of
the old year, and a very dark and stormy night it was. Mr Rogers, his
wife, their son George, and the rest of their family, had again seen the
old year out, and the New Year in, and exchanged with each other the
compliments of the season, when the cuckoo-clock again announced the
hour of twelve. Nelly had "_happed_ up the fire" with her own hands--a
thing that she always did on the last night of the old year, that it
might not be out on a New-year's morning. She was again wondering who
would be their first-foot, and expressing a hope that it would be a
lucky one, when a chaise drew up before the house, and the driver,
dismounting and knocking at the window, begged that they would favour
him with a light, as the roads were exceedingly dark, and the lamps of
the chaise had been blown out by the wind.

"A licht!" exclaimed Betty, half petrified at the request; "preserve us!
is the man beside himsel? Do ye imagine that onybody is gaun to gie ye
out a licht the first thing on a New-year's morning? Gae awa!--gae awa!"

In vain the driver expostulated--he had met with similar treatment at
other houses at which he had called. "Ye hae nao business to travel at
siccan a time o' nicht," replied Betty to all his arguments. Her husband
said little, for he entertained some of his wife's scruples against
giving a light at such a time. George mildly ridiculed the absurdity of
the refusal; but--"I am mistress o' my ain house," answered his mother,
"and I'll gie a licht out o't when I please, and only when I please. Wi'
a' yer learnin, George, ye wad be a great fool sometimes."

The voice of a lady was now heard at the window with the driver,
saying--"Pray, good people, do permit us to light the lamps, and you
shall have any recompense." No sooner did George hear the lady's voice,
than, in despite of his mother's frowns, he sprang to the door and
unlocked it. With an awkward sort of gallantry he ushered in the fair
stranger. She was, indeed, the loveliest first-foot that had ever
crossed the threshold of Mrs Rogers. She had no sooner entered, than
Nelly saw and felt this, and, with a civility which formed a strange
contrast to her answers to the driver, she smoothed down for her the
cushioned arm-chair by the side of the fire. The young lady (for she
hardly appeared to exceed seventeen) politely declined the proffered
hospitality. "Sit down, my sweet young leddy; now, do sit down just to
oblige me," said Nelly. "Ye are our first-foot, and I hope--I'm sure
ye'll ba a lucky ane; and ye wadna, ye canna be gaun out without tasting
wi' us on a New-year's morning."

The young lady sat down; and Nelly hastened to spread upon the table
little mountains of short-bread (of which she was a notable maker), with
her spice-loaf, milk-scones, and her best ewe-cheese, and her
cream-cheese, which was quite a fancy! And while his mother was so
occupied, George produced three or four sorts of home-made wine of his
own manufacture; for, in his catalogue of capabilities as a genius, it
must be admitted that he had some which might be said to belong to the
useful.

"Now, make yoursel at hame, my dear leddy," said Nelly; "need nae
pressing. Or if ye wad like it better, I'll get ye ready a cup o' tea in
a minute or twa; the kettle's boiling; and it's only to mask, so dinna
say no. Indeed, if ye'll only consent to stop a' nicht, ye shall hae the
best bed in the house, and we'll put the horses in the stable; for it's
no owre and aboon lucky to gie or tak a licht on a New-year's morning."

A faint smile played across the lips of the fair stranger, at the
mixture of Nelly's kindness and credulity; and she thanked her for her
hospitality, but stated that she must proceed on her journey, as she was
hastening to the death-bed of a near and only relative. The young lady,
however, sat longer than she wist, for she had entered into conversation
with George--how, she knew not, and he knew not; but they were pleased
with each other; and there were times (though it was only at times) that
George could talk like an inspired being; and this was one of those
times. The knowledge, the youth, the beauty of the lovely stranger, had
kindled all the fires of his genius within him. Even his father was
surprised, and his mother forgot that the chaise-driver was lighting the
lamps; and how long the fair lady might have listened to George, we
cannot tell, had not the driver hinted, "All's ready, ma'am; the horses
will get no good in the cold." She arose, and took leave of her
entertainers; and George accompanied her to the chaise, and shook her
hand, and bade her farewell, as though she had been an old and a very
dear friend. He even thought, as she replied, "_Farewell_," that there
was a sadness in her tone, as if she were sorry to say it.

Richard and his spouse retired to rest; but still the thought of having
given a light out of her house on a New-year's morning troubled her, and
she feared that, after all, her lovely first-foot would prove an unlucky
one. George laid his head upon his pillow, to dream dreams, and conjure
up visions of the fair stranger.

A short week had not passed, however--Richard was returning from Kelso
market, the roads were literally a sheet of ice (it is said that bones
are most easily broken in frosty weather), his horse fell, and rolled
over him, and he was carried home bruised, and with his leg broken.
Nelly was loud in her lamentations, and yet louder in her upbraidings,
against George and against herself, that she permitted a light to be
carried out of her house on a New-year's morning.

"It was borne in upon me," said she, "the leddy wadna be lucky, that
something would come out o' the giein the licht!"

But this was not all: before two months elapsed, and just as her husband
was beginning to set his foot to the ground again, from friction and
negligence together, the thrashing-machine took fire. It was still a
severe frost, there was scarce a drop of water to be procured about the
place, and, in spite of the exertions of all the people on the farm, and
their neighbours, who came to their assistance, the fierce flames
roared, spread, and rushed from stack to stack, until the barn, the
stables, the stackyard, and the dwelling-house presented a heap of
smouldering ashes and smoking ruins. Yet this was not the worst evil
which had that day fallen upon Richard Rogers. He was one of those
individuals who have an aversion to the very name of a bank, and he had
the savings and the profits of twenty years--in fifty-pound notes, and
in five-pound notes, and crown-pieces--locked away in a strong drawer
in his bedroom. In the confusion of the fire, and as he bustled halting
about, with the hope of saving some of his wheat-stacks (for wheat was
selling high at the time), he forgot the strong drawer, and his twenty
years' savings, until flames were seen bursting from the window of his
bedroom. The window had been left open, and some of the burning
materials having been blown into the room, it was the first part of the
house which caught fire.

"Oh, I'm ruined!--I'm ruined!" cried Richard; "my siller!--my
siller!--my hard-won siller!"

A rush was made to the bedroom; but before they reached it, the stairs
gave way, the floor fell in, and a thick flame and suffocating smoke
buried the fruits of poor Richard's industry--the treasure which he had
laid up for his children.

"Now, I am a beggar!" groaned he, lifting up his hands, while the flames
almost scorched his face.

"Oh, black sorrow tak that leddy!" cried Nelly, wringing her hands;
"what tempted her to be my first-foot?--or what tempted me to gie her a
licht? George! George! it was a' you! We gied fire out o' the house, and
now we've brocht it about us! Wae's me!--wae's me! I'm a ruined woman!
Oh, Richard, what will we do? What was ye thinking about, that ye didna
mind the siller?"

Richard knew nothing of the number of his notes, and his riches had
indeed vanished in a flash of fire! He was now obliged to take shelter
with his family in an outhouse, which had been occupied by a cottar. He
had not heard from Captain Rogers for more than twelve months, and he
knew not where he was; therefore he could expect no immediate assistance
from him. It was now necessary that George should bring his genius into
action--his father could no longer support him in idleness; and, as it
had always been said that he had only to exert his genius to make a
fortune, George resolved that he would exert it, and he was pleased with
the thought of setting his father on his feet again by the reward of his
talents. He had read somewhere in the writings of Dr Johnson (and the
doctor had a good deal of experience in the matter), that "genius was
_sure_ to meet with its reward in London;" and, if the doctor was _sure_
of that, George was as _sure_ that he was a genius, and therefore ho
considered the reward as certain. So George determined, as his uncle
might live many years, that he would go to London and make a fortune for
himself, and to assist his father in the meantime. A cow was taken to
Kelso market and sold for eight pounds, and the money was given to
George, to pay his expenses to the metropolis, and to keep him there
until his genius should put him in the way of making the anticipated
fortune. His coat was not exactly such a one as his uncle desired he
should be sent out into the world in--not that it was positively a bad
coat, but it was beginning to be rather smooth and clear about the
elbows, a lighter shade ran up on each side of the seams at the back,
and his hat was becoming bare round the edges on the crown. To be sure,
as his mother said, "he would aye hae ink beside him, and a dip o' ink
would help to hide that." These, however, were things that could not be
mended--the wardrobe of the whole family had been consumed at the fire;
but these things did not distress George, for he did not consider it
necessary for a genius to appear in a new coat. There were many tears
shed on both sides when George bade adieu to his father, his mother, and
his brethren, and took his journey towards London.

It was about the middle of March when he arrived in the metropolis; and,
having spent two days wandering about and wondering at all he saw,
without once thinking how his genius was to make the long-talked-of
fortune, on the third day he delivered a letter of introduction, which
he had received, to a broker in the city. Now it so happened that in
this letter poor George was spoken of as an "_extraordinary genius_!"

"So you are a _great genius_, young man, my friend informs mo," said the
broker; "what have you a genius for?"

George blushed and looked confused; he almost said--"for everything;"
but he hung down his head, and said nothing.

"Is it a genius for making machines--or playing the fiddle--or what?"
added the broker.

George looked more and more confused; he replied--"that he could neither
make machines, nor did he know anything of music."

"Then I hope it's not a genius for making ballads, is it?" continued the
other.

"I have written ballads," answered George, hesitatingly.

"Oh, then, you must try the west end--you won't do for the city," added
the broker; "your genius is an article that's not in demand here."

George left the office of the London citizen, mortified and humiliated.
For a dozen long years everybody had told him he was a genius; and now,
when the question was put to him--"what had he a genius for?" he could
not answer it. This rebuff rendered him melancholy for several days, and
he wandered from street to street, sometimes standing, unconscious of
what he was doing, before the window of a bookseller, till, jostled by
the crowd, he moved on, and again took his stand before the window of
the printseller, the jeweller, or the vender of caricatures. Still he
believed that he was a genius, and he was conscious that that genius
might make him a fortune; only he knew not how to apply it--he was
puzzled where to begin. Yet he did not despair. He thought the day would
come--but how it was to come he knew not. He took out his uncle's
letter, which his father had put into his hands when he left him, and he
read it again, and said, it was all very good, but what was he the
better of it?--it was all very true--too true, for he understood every
word of it now; and he turned round his arm, and examined his coat with
a sigh, and beheld that the lining was beginning to show its unwelcome
face through the seams of the elbows. I should have told you that he was
then sitting in a coffee-house, sipping his three-halfpence-worth of
coffee, and _kitchening_ his pennyworth of bread, which was but
half-a-slice, slightly buttered--and a thin slice, too, compared with
those of his mother's cutting. He was beginning to feel one of the first
rewards of genius--_eating by measure_! To divert the melancholy of his
feelings, and the gloom of his prospects, he took up a magazine which
lay on the table before him. His eyes fell upon a review of a poem which
had been lately published, and for which the author was said to have
received a thousand guineas!

"_A thousand guineas!_" exclaimed George, dropping the magazine--"a
_thousand guineas_! I shall make a fortune yet!"

He had read some of the extracts from the poem--he was sure he could
write better lines--his eyes flashed with ecstasy--his very nostrils
distended with delight--a thousand guineas seemed already in his pocket!
though, alas! out of the eight pounds which he had received as the price
of his father's cow, with all his management, and with all his economy,
he had but eight shillings left. But his resolution was taken--he saw
fortune hovering over him with her golden wings--he purchased a quire of
paper and half-a-dozen quills, and hurried to his garret--for his
lodging _was_ a garret, in which there was nothing but an old bed and an
olden chair, not even an apology for a table; but sometimes the bed
served the purpose of one, and at other times he sat upon the floor like
a Turk, and wrote upon the chair. He was resolved to write an epic; for
the idea of a thousand guineas had taken possession of all his
faculties. He made a pen--he folded the paper--he rubbed his hands
across his brow for a subject. He might have said with Byron--had Byron
then said it--

    "I want a hero!"

He thought of a hundred subjects, and with each the idea of his mother's
beautiful but most unlucky first-foot was mingled! At length he fixed
upon one, and began to write. He wrote most industriously--in short, he
wrote for a thousand guineas! He tasked himself to four hundred lines
a-day, and in a fortnight he finished a poem containing about five
thousand. It was longer than that for which the thousand guineas had
been given; but George thought, though he should get no more for his,
that even a thousand guineas was very good payment for a fortnight's
labour. Of the eight shillings which we mentioned his being in
possession of when he began the epic, he had now but threepence, and he
was in arrears for the week's rent of his garret. The landlady began to
cast very suspicious glances at her lodger--she looked at him with the
sides of her eyes. She did not know exactly what a genius meant, but she
had proof positive it did not mean a gentleman. At times, also, she
would stand with his garret-door in her hand, as if she intended to say,
"Mr Rogers, I would thank you for last week's rent."

Scarce was the ink dry upon the last page of his poem, when George,
folding up the manuscript, put it carefully into his coat-pocket, and
hurried to the bookseller of whom he had read that he had given a
thousand guineas for a shorter work, and one, too, that, he was
satisfied in his own mind, was every way inferior to his. We do not say
that he exactly expected the publisher to fall down and worship him, the
moment he read the first page of his production, but he did believe that
he would regard him as a prodigy, and at once offer terms for the
copyright. He was informed by a shopman, however, that the publisher was
engaged, and he left the manuscript, stating that he would call again.
George did call again, and yet again, trembling with hope and anxiety;
and he began to discover that a great London publisher was as difficult
of access as his imperial mightiness the Emperor of China. At length, by
accident, he found the bibliopole in his shop. He gave a glance at
George--it was a withering glance--a glance at his coat and at his
elbows. The unfortunate genius remembered, when it was too late, the
passage in his uncle's letter, "the moment the elbows of your coat open,
every door shuts." We have already mentioned that the lining was
beginning to peer through them, and, during the fervour of inspiration,
or the _furor_ of excitement in composing the epic, he had not observed
that the rent had become greater, that the lining, too, had given way,
and that now his linen, which was not of a snow colour, was visible. He
inquired after his manuscript.

"What is it?" asked the publisher.

"A poem," answered George--"an epic!"

The man of books smiled; he gave another look at the forlorn elbows of
the genius--it was evident he measured the value of his poetry by the
value of his coat.

"A poem!" replied he; "poetry's a drug! It is of no use for such as you
to think about writing poetry. Give the young man his manuscript," said
he to the shopman, and walked away.

The reader may imagine the feelings of our disappointed genius: they
were bitter as the human soul could bear. Yet he did not altogether
despair; there were more booksellers in London. It is unnecessary to
tell how he offered his manuscript to another, and another, yea, to
twenty more--how he examined what books they had published in their
windows--and how he entered their shops with fear and trembling, for
his hopes were becoming fainter and more faint. Some opened it, others
did not, but all shook their heads, and said, nobody would undertake to
publish poetry, or that it was not in their way; some advised him to
publish by subscription, but George Rogers did not know a soul in
London; others recommended him to try the magazines. It was with a heavy
heart that he abandoned the idea of publishing his epic, and with it
also his fond dream of obtaining a thousand guineas. He had resolved
within himself that the moment he received the money, he would go down
to Scotland, and rebuild his father's house; and all who knew him should
marvel, and hold up their hands, at the fame and fortune of George the
Genius. But a hungry man cannot indulge in day-dreams, and his visions
by night are an aggravation of his misery; he therefore had to renounce
the fond delusion, that he might have bread to eat. His last resource
was to try the magazines. His epic was out of the question for them; and
he wrote songs, odes, essays, and short tales, on every scrap of paper,
and on the back of every letter in his possession. With this bundle of
"shreds and patches," he waited upon several magazine publishers. One
told him he was overstocked with contributions; another, that he might
leave the papers, and he should have an answer in two or three weeks.
But three weeks was an eternity to a man who had not tasted food for
three days. A third said, "he could seldom make room for new
contributors--poetry was not an article for which he gave money--essays
were at a discount, and he only published tales by writers of
established reputation." There was one article, however, which pleased
him, and he handed George a guinea for it. The tears started into his
eyes as he received it--he thought he would never be poor again--he was
as proud of that guinea as if it had been a thousand! It convinced him
more and more that he _was_ a genius. I need not tell you how that
guinea was husbanded, and how it was doled out; but, although George
reckoned that it would purchase two hundred and fifty-two penny loaves,
and that that was almost as many as a man need to eat in a twelvemonth,
yet the guinea vanished to the last penny before a month went round.

He had frequently called at the shop of his first patron, the publisher
of the magazine; and on one day when he so called--

"Oh, Mr Rogers," said the bookseller, "I have just heard of a little job
which will suit you. Lord L---- wishes me to find him a person to write a
pamphlet in defence of the war. You are just the person to do it. Make
it pungent and peppery, and it will be five or ten guineas for you, and
perhaps the patronage of his lordship; and you know no bookseller will
look at genius without patronage."

A new light broke upon George--he discovered why his epic had been
rejected. He hurried to his garret. He began the pamphlet with the
eagerness of frenzy. It was both peppery and passionate. Before the
afternoon of the following day it was completed, and he flew with it to
the house of the nobleman. Our genius was hardly, as the reader may
suppose, in a fitting garb for the drawing-room or library of a British
peer, and the pampered menial who opened the door attempted to dash it
back in his face. He, however, neither lacked spirit nor strength, and
he forced his way into the lobby.

"Inform his lordship," said George, "that Mr Rogers has called with the
pamphlet in defence of the war!" And he spoke this with an air of
consequence and authority.

The man of genius was ushered into the library of the literary lord,
who, raising his glass to his eye, surveyed him from head to foot with a
look partaking of scorn and disgust; and there was no mistaking that its
meaning was--"Stand back!" At length he desired our author to remain
where he was, and to read his manuscript. The chagrin which he felt at
this reception marred the effect of the first two or three sentences,
but, as he acquired his self-possession, he read with excellent feeling
and emphasis. Every sentence told. "Good! good!" said the peer, rubbing
his hands--"that will do!--excellent!--give me the manuscript!"

George was stepping boldly forward to the chair of his lordship, when
the latter, rising, stretched his arm at its extreme length across the
table, and received the manuscript between his finger and thumb, as
though he feared contagion from the touch of the author, or fancied that
the plague was sewed up between the seams of his threadbare coat. The
peer glanced his eye over the title-page, which George had not read--"A
Defence of the War with France," said he; "by--by who!--the
deuce!--George Rogers!--who is George Rogers?"

"I am, your lordship," answered the author.

"You are!--you!" said his lordship, "you the author of _the Defence_?
Impertinent fool! had not you the idea from me? Am not I to pay for it?
The work is mine!" So saying, he rang the bell, and addressing the
servant who entered, added, "Give that gentleman a guinea."

George withdrew, in rage and bewilderment, and his poverty, not his
will, consented to accept the insulting remuneration. Within two days,
he saw at the door of every bookseller a placard with the words--"Just
published, A DEFENCE OF THE WAR WITH FRANCE, by the Right Hon. Lord
L----." George compared himself to Esau, who sold his birthright for a
mess of pottage--he had bartered his name, his fame, and the fruits of
his genius, for a paltry guinea.

He began to be ashamed of the shabbiness of his garments--the withering
meaning of the word clung round him--he felt it as a festering sore
eating into his very soul, and he appeared but little upon the streets.
He had been several weeks without a lodging, and though it was now
summer, the winds of heaven afford but a comfortless blanket for the
shoulders when the midnight dews fall upon the earth. He had slept for
several nights in a hayfield in the suburbs, on the Kent side of the
river; and his custom was, to lift a few armfuls aside on a low rick,
and laying himself down in the midst of it, gradually placing the hay
over his feet, and the rest of his body, until the whole was covered.
But the hay season did not last for ever; and one morning, when fast
asleep in the middle of the rick, he was roused by a sudden exclamation
of mingled horror and astonishment. He looked up, and beside him stood a
countryman, with his mouth open, and his eyes gazing wistfully. In his
hand he held a hayfork, and on the prongs of the fork was one of the
skirts of poor George's coat. He gazed angrily at the countryman, and
ruefully at the fragment of his unfortunate coat; and, rising, he drew
round the portion of it that remained on his back, to view "the rent the
envious _hayfork_ made."

"By goam! chap," said the countryman, when he regained his speech, "I
have made thee a spencer; but I might have run the fork through thee,
and it would have been no blame of mine."

They were leading the hay from the field, and the genius was deprived of
his lodging. It was some nights after this he was wandering in the
neighbourhood of Poplar, fainting and exhausted--sleeping, starting,
dreaming--as he dragged his benumbed and wearied limbs along; and, as he
was crossing one of the bridges over the canal, he saw one of the long
fly-boats, which ply with goods to Birmingham and Manchester, lying
below it. George climbed over the bridge, and dropped into the boat, and
finding a quantity of painted sailcloth near the head of it, which was
used as a covering for the goods, to protect them from the weather, he
wrapped himself up in it, and lay down to sleep. How long he lay he
know not, for he slept most soundly; and, when he awoke, he felt more
refreshed than he had been for many nights. But he started as he heard
the sound of voices near him; and, cautiously withdrawing the canvas
from over his face, he beheld that the sun was up; and, to increase his
perplexity, fields, trees, and hedges were gliding past him. While he
slept, the boatmen had put the horses to the barge, and were now on
their passage to Birmingham, and several miles from London; but, though
they had passed and repassed the roll of canvas, they saw not, and they
suspected not, that they "carried Cæsar and his fortunes." George
speedily comprehended his situation; and extricating his limbs from the
folds of the canvas as quietly as ho could, he sprang to his feet,
stepped to the side of the boat, and, with a desperate bound, reached
the bank of the canal.

"Holloa!" shouted the astonished boatmen--"holloa! what have you been
after?"

George made no answer, but ran with his utmost speed down the side of
the canal.

"Holloa! stop thief!--stop thief!" bellowed the boatmen; and, springing
to the ground, they gave chase to the genius. The boys, also, who rode
the horses that dragged the boat unlinked them, and joined in the
pursuit. It was a noble chase! But when George found himself pursued, he
left the side of the canal, and took to the fields, clearing hedge,
ditch, fence, and stone wall, with an agility that would have done
credit to a first-rate hunter. The horses were at fault in following his
example, and the boys gave up the chase; and when the boatmen had
pursued him for the space of half-a-mile, finding they were losing
ground at every step they returned, panting and breathless, to their
boat. George, however, slackened his pace but little until he arrived at
the Edgeware Road, and there he resumed his wonted slow and melancholy
saunter, and sorrowfully returned towards London. He now, poor fellow,
sometimes shut his eyes, to avoid the sight of his own shadow, which he
seemed to regard as a caricature of his forlorn person; and, in truth,
he now appeared miserably forlorn--I had almost said ludicrously so. His
coat has been already mentioned, with its wounded elbows, and imagine it
now with the skirts which had been torn away with the hayfork, when the
author of an epic was nearly forked upon a cart, as he reposed in a
bundle of hay--imagine now the coat with that skirt awkwardly pinned to
it--fancy also that the button-holes had become useless, and that all
the buttons, save two, had taken leave of his waistcoat--his trousers,
also, were as smooth at the knees as though they had been glazed and
hot-pressed, and they were so bare, so very bare, that the knees could
almost be seen through them without spectacles. Imagine, also, that this
suit had once been black, and that it had changed colours with the
weather, the damp hay, the painted canvas, and the cold earth on which
he slept; and add to this a hat, the brim of which was broken, and the
crown fallen in--with shoes, the soles of which had departed, and the
heels involuntarily gone down, as if ready to perform the service of
slippers. Imagine these things, and you have a personification of George
Rogers, as he now wended his weary way towards London.

He had reached the head of Oxford Street, and he was standing irresolute
whether to go into the city or turn into the Park, to hide himself from
the eyes of man, and to lie down in solitude with his misery, when a
lady and a gentleman crossed the street to where he stood. Their eyes
fell upon him--the lady started--George beheld her, and he started
too--he felt his heart throb, and a blush burn over his cheek. He knew
her at the first glance--it was the fair stranger--his mother's
first-foot! He turned round--he hurried towards the Park--he was
afraid--he was ashamed to look behind him. A thousand times had he
wished to meet that lady again, and now he had met her, and he fled from
her--the shame of his habiliments entered his soul. Still he heard
footsteps behind him, and he quickened his pace. Ho had entered the
Park, but yet he heard the sound of the footsteps following.

"Stop, young man!" cried a voice from behind him. But George walked on
as though he heard it not. The word "stop!" was repeated; but, instead
of doing so, he was endeavouring to hurry onward, when, as we have said,
one of the shoes which had become slippers, and which, bad before, were
now worse from his flight across the ploughed fields, came off, and he
was compelled to stop and stoop, to put it again upon his foot, or to
leave his shoe behind him. While he stopped, therefore, to get his shoe
again upon his foot, the person who followed him came up--it was the
gentleman whom he had seen with the fair unknown. With difficulty he
obtained a promise from George that he would call upon him at his house
in Pimlico in the afternoon; and when he found our genius too proud to
accept of money, he thrust into the pocket of the memorable skirt, which
the hayfork had torn from the parent cloth, all the silver which he had
upon his person.

When the gentleman had left him, George burst into tears. They were
tears of pride, of shame, and of agony.

At length, he took the silver from the pocket of his skirt; he counted
it in his hand--it amounted to nearly twenty shillings. Twenty shillings
will go farther in London than in any city in the world, with those who
know how to spend it--but much depends upon that. By all the by-ways he
could find, George winded his way down to Rosemary Lane, where the
"_Black and Blue Reviver_" worketh miracles, and where the children of
Israel are its high priests. Within an hour, wonderful was the
metamorphosis upon the person of George Rogers. At eleven o'clock he was
clothed as a beggar--at twelve he was shabby-genteel. The hat in ruins
was replaced by one of a newer shape, and that had been brushed and
ironed till it was as clear as a looking-glass. The skirtless coat was
thrown aside for an olive-coloured one of metropolitan cut, with a
velvet collar, and of which, as the Israelite who sold it said, "de
_glosh_ was not off." The buttonless vest was laid aside for one of a
light colour, and the place of the decayed trousers was supplied by a
pair of pure white; yea, his feet were enclosed in sheep-skin shoes,
which, he was assured, had never been upon foot before. Such was the
change produced upon the outer man of George Rogers through twenty
shillings; and, thus arrayed, with a beating and an anxious heart, he
proceeded in the afternoon to the home of the beautiful stranger who had
been the eventful first-foot in his father's house. As he crossed the
Park by the side of the Serpentine, he could not avoid stopping to
contemplate, perhaps I should say admire, the change that had been
wrought upon his person, as it was reflected in the water as in a
mirror. When he had arrived at Pimlico, and been ushered into the house,
there was surprise on the face of the gentleman as he surveyed the
change that had come over the person of his guest; but in the
countenance of the young lady there was more of delight than of
surprise. When he had sat with them for some time, the gentleman
requested that he would favour them with his history and his adventures
in London. George did so from the days of his childhood, until the day
when the fair lady before him became his mother's first-foot; and he
recounted also his adventures and his struggles in London, as we have
related them; and, as he spoke, the lady wept. As he concluded, he
said--"And, until this day, I have ever found an expression, which my
uncle made in a letter, verified, that 'the moment the elbows of my coat
opened, every door would shut.'"

"Your uncle!" said the gentleman, eagerly; "who is he?--what is his
name?"

"He commands a vessel of his own in the merchant service," replied
George, "and his name is John Rogers."

"John Rogers!" added the gentleman; "and your father's name?"

"Richard Rogers," answered George.

The young lady gazed upon him anxiously, and words seemed leaping to her
tongue, when the gentleman prevented her, saying, "Isabel, love, I wish
to speak with this young man in private;" and she withdrew. When they
were left alone, the gentleman remained silent for a few minutes, at
times gazing in the face of George, and again placing his hand upon his
brow. At length he said--"I know your uncle, and I am desirous of
serving you--he also will assist you, if you continue to deserve it. But
you must give up book-making as a business; and you must not neglect
business for book-making. You understand me. I shall give you a letter
to a gentleman in the city, who will take you into his counting-house;
and if, at the expiration of three months, I find your conduct has been
such as to deserve my approbation, you shall meet me here again."

He then wrote a letter, which, having sealed, he put, with a purse, into
the hands of George, who sat speechless with gratitude and astonishment.

On the following day, George delivered the letter to the merchant, and
was immediately admitted as a clerk into his counting-house. He was
ignorant of the name of his uncle's friend; and when he ventured to
inquire at the merchant respecting him, he merely told him, he was one
whose good opinion he would not advise him to forfeit. In this state of
suspense, George laboured day by day at the desk; and although he was
most diligent, active, and anxious to please, yet frequently, when he
was running up figures, or making out an invoice, his secret thoughts
were of the fair Isabel--the daughter of his uncle's friend, and his
mother's first-foot. He regretted that he did not inform her father
that he was his uncle's heir--he might then have been admitted to his
house, and daily seen her on whom his thoughts dwelt. His situation was
agreeable enough--it was paradise to what he had experienced; yet the
three months of his probation seemed longer than twelve.

He had been a few weeks employed in the counting-house, when he received
a letter from his parents. His father informed him that they had
received a letter from his uncle, who was then in London; but, added he,
"he has forgotten to gie us his direction, where we may write to him, or
where ye may find him." His mother added an important postscript, in
which she informed him that "She was sorry she was richt after a', that
there wasna luck in a squintin first-foot; for he would mind o' the
sailor that brought the letter, that said he was to be his uncle's heir;
and now it turned out that his uncle had found an heir o' his ain."

It was the intention of George, when he had read the letter, to go to
the house of his benefactor, and inquire for his uncle's address, or the
name of the ship; but when he reflected that he might know neither--that
he was not to return to his house for three months, nor until he was
sent for--and, above all, when he thought that he was no longer his
uncle's heir, and that he now could offer up no plea for looking up to
the lovely Isabel--he resumed his pen with a stifled sigh, and abandoned
the thought of finding out his uncle for the present.

He had been rather more than ten weeks in the office, when the unknown
Isabel entered and inquired for the merchant. She smiled upon George as
she passed him--the smile entered his very soul, and the pen shook in
his hand. It was drawing towards evening, and the merchant requested
George to accompany the young lady home. Joy and agitation raised a
tumult in his breast--he seized his hat--he offered her his arm--but he
scarce knew what he did. For half-an-hour he walked by her side without
daring or without being able to utter a single word. They entered the
Park; the lamps were lighted amidst the trees along the Mall, and the
young moon shone over them. It was a lovely and an imposing scene, and
with it George found a tongue. He dwelt upon the effect of the
scenery--he quoted passages from his own epic--and he spoke of the time
when his fair companion was his mother's first-foot. She informed him
that she was then hastening to the death-bed of her grandfather, whom
she believed to be the only relative that she had in life--that she
arrived in time to receive his blessing, and that, with his dying
breath, he told her her father yet lived--and, for the first time, she
heard his name, and had found him. George would have asked what that
name was, but when he attempted to do so he hesitated, and the question
was left unfinished. They spoke of many things, and often they walked in
silence; and it was not until the watchman called, "Past nine o'clock,"
that they seemed to discover that, instead of proceeding towards
Pimlico, they had been walking backward and forward upon the Mall. Ho
accompanied her to her father's door, and left her with his heart filled
with unutterable thoughts.

The three months had not quite expired, when the anxiously-looked-for
invitation arrived, and George Rogers was to dine at the house of his
uncle's friend, the father of the fair Isabel. I shall not describe his
feelings as he hastened along the streets towards Pimlico. He arrived at
the house, and his hand shook as he reached it to the rapper. The door
was opened by a strange-looking footman. George thought that he had seen
him before--it was indeed a face that, if once seen, was not easily
forgotten. The footman had not such large whiskers as Bill Somers, but
they were of the same colour, and they certainly were the same eyes that
had frightened his mother in the head of her first-foot. He was shown
into a room where Isabel and her father waited to receive him. "When I
last saw you, sir," said the latter, "you informed me you were the
nephew of John Rogers. He finds he has no cause to be ashamed of you.
George, my dear fellow, your uncle Jack gives you his hand! Isabel,
welcome your cousin!"

"My cousin!" cried George.

"My cousin!" said Isabel.

What need we say more--before the New Year came, they went down to
Scotland a wedded pair, to be his mother's first-foot in the farmhouse,
which had been rebuilt.



THE ROMANCE OF THE SIEGE OF PERTH.


In the year 1310, King Robert Bruce had overcome many of those
extraordinary difficulties that threatened to render all the efforts of
mere man unavailable in regaining for Scotland that perfect liberty of
which she had so long boasted, and which, though it had never been taken
from her absolutely, had been, by the unwarrantable schemes and policy
of the first Edward, loosened from her grasp, and lay trampled on by the
fierce genius of war. Great and wonderful, however, as had already been
the prowess and determination of Bruce, and successful beyond the
aspirations of hope as had been his efforts in the glorious cause of his
country's freedom, there was great room for question whether Scotland
would even at this period have triumphed, had the sceptre of England not
fallen so opportunely into the hands of the second Edward. The first and
greatest of all Scotland's foes, the first Edward, had died three years
before, at Burgh-upon-Sands, leaving, as Froissart informs us, his dying
injunction on his son, to boil his body in a caldron, till the bones
should part with the flesh, and to carry the grim relics with him into
Scotland, with the condition that they should not be buried till
Scotland was subdued. The legacy of dry bones, from which the spirit of
the great king had departed, was apparently all of his father that the
young Edward inherited; for he soon displayed so much vacillation of
policy, and so little genius for war, that, if Providence had intended
to work to the hands of Bruce for the salvation of his country, she
could not have brought about her designs with greater effect than by
giving Bruce as an enemy the young King of England. Things were going
straight forward to the result of Bannockburn. Bruce had been successful
almost everywhere. The clergy at Dundee had declared his right to the
throne, and the injustice of the decision that gave Baliol the crown;
the nobles, with the exception of Angus, Buchan, and some others, were
in his favour; but, above all, the common people, in whom the true
sovereignty of every country lies, had begun to see in their new king
those qualities that are calculated to move the heart. The hopes of
Bruce rose every hour; and, having scattered the forces of the English
in every recent encounter, he saw the necessity, and felt the power, of
seizing some of the walled towns that Edward had fortified with much
care, as if stone and lime could bind the freedom of Scotland. The town
of Perth was the one that seemed then of greatest importance, as well
from its central situation between the Highlands and Lowlands, as from
the state of its battlements, which were a regular fortification, with
strong walls defended by high towers, and all surrounded by a broad and
deep fosse.

The town had for some time been under siege, and, being one of those
that Edward was determined to hold to the last, was promised succour
with the first supplies that should enter the Tay. It was commanded by
William Oliphant, an Anglicised Scot, who, with a firmness worthy of a
better cause, had resolved to be true to the enemy of his country, and
to give up the town only with his life. But his efforts were sorely
thwarted by the remissness of Edward in sending provisions, and by the
effects of a grievous famine, that, as a consequence of the intestine
wars by which the country had been so wofully torn, was desolating the
land in every quarter. He had already drained the pockets of the most
wealthy of the citizens, by forcing them to supply him with money, by
which he contrived to get in provisions to enable him to hold out
against Bruce. Among the rest, a rich burgher from the Lower Provinces,
Peter of Ghent (his latter name has not reached us) was expected to lend
him a large sum of money. The Fleming was, in those days, what the Scots
afterwards became--remarkable for the possession of the faculty of
prudence--the legitimate offspring of the genius of merchandise. By the
importation of broadcloths and armour gear, he had contrived to realise
a large fortune, and was reported by the good men of Perth as one of the
wealthiest merchants in the kingdom. He had only one child, a daughter,
commonly known by the name of Anne of Ghent, a young creature of great
beauty, and, what may appear to have been somewhat remarkable in her
station, of a spirit that was deeply imbued with the love of chivalry.
But we would form a very inadequate estimate of the charms of that
extraordinary power which overturned kingdoms and damsels' hearts
wherever its influence was felt, if we were to limit its sphere to the
sons and daughters of nobility. Its principles, indeed, are found in
every bosom that responds to the sentiments of love and heroism; and
from the humble and beautiful Anne of Ghent, up to the noble and heroic
Isabella of Buchan, the spirit burned with a fervour that was only in
some accounted less strong because no opportunities wore afforded for
its display.

It was not in Scotland that this spirit had been first fanned into a
flame in the bosom of the fair Fleming, but in France, where the _preux
chevalier_ was seen in all his pride and glory. When about sixteen years
of age, she had accompanied her father to Flanders, when he resorted
thither for the purpose of traffic; and, in order to gratify his
daughter, of whom he was justly proud, he had taken her to Paris, to be
present at a joust held before Louis IX. The display of arms on that
occasion was a trial between Sir Piers Guyard and Sir William
Indelgonde, the latter of whom, having defamed the mistress of the
former, had been compelled, by order of Louis, to prove his assertion by
the issue of a mortal combat. The battle ended by the death of
Indelgonde; but what possessed greater charms to Anne than the details
of the _duellum_, was the extraordinary sight she witnessed of twenty
untried squires of France, all arrayed in shining coats of armour, with
long flowing plumes of various colours on their glittering basnets,
taking, according to the custom of these days, their first oaths,
"before the peacock and the ladies," that they would not see with both
eyes until they had accomplished some daring deed of arms. The gay bird
of gaudy hues was brought into a large pavilion erected at the end of
the arena; and, like that before which King Edward I. swore at
Westminster when he denounced poor Scotland, was encircled with a thin
covering of golden gauze, and placed on a tripod ornamented with many
carved devices of chivalry. The squires, one by one, knelt before the
bird, and recited their oaths, and then, turning round to the queens of
their destinies, solicited like mendicants, with one knee on the ground,
a silk riband to bind up the orb which was about to be deprived of the
fair sight of their charms. Nearly opposite to where Anne sat, a very
young chevalier of the name of Rolande of Leon knelt for his eye gear;
and though twenty ladies of birth, all anxious that their gifts should
be accepted, threw to him ribands of silk, it happened that, whether
from chance or from some mysterious sympathy between the hand and eyes
of the young mendicant, a narrow green stripe, that Anne in her
enthusiasm tore hurriedly from her head-gear, fell into his willing
grasp. When she saw the fluttering trophy in the hands of so comely a
youth, she trembled with modest fear; for she knew that, as the daughter
of a burgher, rich as he was, she had but a very questionable title to
compete for the honours of chivalry; but, when she saw the riband bound
round his head, and the helmet placed upon it, she was ready to faint
outright, and it was with difficulty that she retained her position on
the bench. As soon as the crowd began to move, she hastened away to join
her father, who was waiting for her beyond the palisades. Next day she
was on her way to Flanders, and shortly afterwards she arrived at the
city of Perth.

Two or three years had now passed since the fair Fleming acted the
almost involuntary part of a high lady, within the pale of the _Theatre
de la chevalerie_. Living, with the rich old merchant, within the walls
of a city devoted to traffic, she had had few opportunities of
witnessing another show of arms. The warriors of Scotland were then
holding their jousts in the open fields and thick forests; and, in place
of fighting for the smiles of women, were doing battle for the liberties
of their ancient and much-abused country. But the rising fame of Bruce,
his brother Edward, and Douglas, and Randolph, claimed her feelings of
admiration; and she would have given her rosary itself, with her
jewelled cross, to have got a glimpse of men of whom all the ladies of
Christendom were enamoured. She often pictured to herself, as she sat in
her small parlour that fronted the city wall, their forms firmly girt
with their shining armour; but a visor was never lifted up to the eye of
her fancy without revealing the feature of Rolande, as she saw him
kneeling at her feet for the gift he solicited and obtained. The face
had been deeply imprinted in her memory, and the encircling gift which
she had bestowed, seemed to connect her by some indefinable tie with one
whom she might never see again, but of whom she could never cease to
think. His elegant and manly form, which displayed all the graces of the
accomplished man-at-arms, mixed itself with all her thoughts, and her
greatest delight was to pre-figure to herself the appearance, on some
occasion, of that same warrior, with his left eye bound by the badge she
had given him, and a declaration on his tongue, as he knelt before her,
that she had the sole power of restoring him full-orbed to the light,
which he might now claim as the reward of his prowess.

Anne was thus one evening indulging in some of these reveries of a
love-sick brain, when Peter of Ghent entered the room. He was dressed in
his Sunday's suit, with his ample surcoat of the best broadcloth, girt
round the waist with a leather belt, his broad slouched hat of felt, and
boots of the old Flemish style turned down at the tops, forming
altogether a favourable contrast with the roughly-clad people of those
early times, when the rough hats, coarse jerkins, and untanned shoes,
constituted the apparel of Scotland's sons. Anne looked up, and a slight
feeling of surprise passed through her mind as she noticed him thus
arrayed.

"The town is still in great danger, Anne," said he, as he took a seat by
her side, at the fire of blazing faggots, that threw a bright glare over
the beautiful face of his daughter. "The enemies of Edward seem to be on
the increase. Dundee has surrendered, the whole of Galloway has been
ravaged, and Bruce, become bolder by his success, lies looking on our
good town, as the wolves of Atholl look on the sheepfold in the glen."

"If there had been lions in these parts, father," answered Anne, "I
might have heard from thee a comparison more suitable to the qualities
of that brave soldier."

"These words, Anne," replied Peter, "but ill become a liege woman of
King Edward. This poor country cannot thrive without the protecting
power of England, where more broadcloths are disposed of in one year
than Scotland uses in ten. The limbs of the sturdy hills and dales men
seem to spurn all modes of human comfort; yet verily the love of ease
and warmth to the body is the parent of all arts and improvement; and
until that begins to be felt, we can have no hope of Scotland."

Anne looked up, and smiled at this professional allusion to the source
of her father's wealth.

"But I need not so speak to the pretty Anne," he added, returning her
smile; "for I know that thou hast the fashionable womanish affection of
these times for steel, as the commodity of man's apparel; and thereto
appertaineth the subject of which I came to speak to thee. Our governor,
William Oliphant--who, though a Scotchman, is as true an adherent of
Edward as ever fought under the banner-borne bones of his
father--wanteth a thousand Flemish nobles, to enable him to get
provisions for our citizens from a Dutch galley in the Tay; and whom
should he apply to for it but Peter of Ghent, who is looked upon as
being the richest man of Perth?"

"And wilt thou give it him, father?" said Anne. "Of a surety, thou wilt
lose it, if thou dost; for, were Perth as strong as Roxburgh, which,
they say, is the strongest hold of these parts, it would not stand
against such a warrior as Robert Bruce; and where wilt thou get thy
money again, if the town falls into the hands of the Scots?"

"That is a good point of argument for a woman, love," replied Peter. "I
fear for the old town myself; for they tell me that Bruce's fame has
brought to his blue banner three French knights, with their left eyes
bound up by ladies' favours, who deem that their feats of arms in an
escalade of Perth may restore to them their sight. Doubtless they will
fight like lions or devils; but seest thou not, that, whether I give the
money or not, the town may fall, and all I have in the world may be
wrenched from me by these naked caterans, to whom a single merk, albeit
it were clipped to the dimensions of King David's bodles, would be a
fortune?"

Anne was silent. The mention of the monoculous knights of France had
driven merks and all other moneys from her mind, and she would have
rejoiced to have seen Perth taken upon the instant, provided always that
she were taken with it. But Peter understood not her absence of mind,
and resumed his argument, on the assumption that Anne was listening with
all due attention to his scheme.

"But Peter of Ghent," he again said, "never gave a silver piece, or a
woollen piece either, for nothing; and, if my dutiful Anne will enter
into my scheme, she may have for her consort no less a man than William
Oliphant himself, the Governor of Perth, and her wedding-dress shall be
of the best silks of Nismes, the richest gloves of Grenoble, and sandals
from the fair of Bocaire."

This announcement of some cunning purpose of her father filled Anne with
alarm. Oliphant, a dissolute man, had been sometimes in the habit of
calling at the house, and she had often thought that she herself was the
object of his attraction. Her father, by mentioning the French knights
that fought under the banner of Bruce, had raised a hope that her
chevalier of the green riband was among them, and now he had caused an
alarm that might have been read in her countenance.

"William Oliphant, the Governor of Perth," she replied, as she held down
her face towards the blazing faggots, "will not surely stoop to marry
the daughter of a Flemish merchant."

"Money will make any man stoop, fair Anne," replied Peter. "I have heard
the back armour of the bravest knight of the lists crack with the bow to
Mammon, as loud as when he knelt to the peacock. A merchant knows the
science of provisos, and conditions, and stipulations, and never a
Scotch plack will William Oliphant get from Peter of Ghent, but upon the
condition that he wed my Anne, when the town is saved from the arms of
Bruce and his blind knights, and the promised succours shall arrive from
England. By Saint Dennis, we may have a jolly wedding in the midst of
our jubilee of liberation. What sayest, my love?"

Anne still hung down her head. She feared to oppose her father, who was
indulgent to her, and had hitherto prided himself on her obedience. She
was, besides, overcome with the conflicting thoughts that had been so
suddenly raised in her mind by the mention of the French knights, and of
this new purpose of her father, that seemed to destroy all the hopes she
still entertained of one day enjoying the affections of the man who had
first produced an effect upon her heart. A deep sigh escaped from her,
and roused her father's suspicions of the cause of her silence.

"Speak, Anne," he said; "thou hast already captivated the governor by
thy beauty, and my money will do the rest. He will be knighted by
Edward, if he beat off the Bruce; and my daughter will be a lady."

"William Oliphant is not a man according to my heart, father," answered
she, at last, with a trembling heart; "but might I be absolved from my
engagement to marry him, if the town falls before the arms of the
Scots?" she added, as she looked modestly and fearfully into his face.

"Most certainly, love," replied Peter; "and, moreover, thou shalt not be
bound to Oliphant personally, for it is I that must make the condition
that he will marry thee, in consideration of the loan I gave him for the
good old town."

Well pleased with the dutiful answer he had got from his daughter, the
worthy man of traffic sallied forth to meet, by special appointment, the
governor, who anxiously waited for him in his residence. After he had
gone forth, Anne bethought herself of what her fear of offending her
father had wrung from her. Though timid from love and duty, she was of a
noble spirit, and upheld her heart, as it recoiled from the thought of
becoming the wife of a man she hated, by revolving in her mind the
chances of the gallant Scots forcing the town to surrender, and
relieving her from her qualified obligation. She wished all success to
the chivalrous Bruce, because she loved the character of him, and the
great and enthusiastic spirits who were struggling for freedom; but she
was filled with a high swelling hope, that burned in her bright eye, and
heaved her bosom, that her chosen knight of the lists was among the
three Frenchmen, who were undergoing their probation for the honours of
chivalry. At that moment, her lover was in all probability at a very
short distance from her--her lady-gift still bound the flowing hair of
dark auburn she had seen and admired, as it escaped from beneath his
helm; her power was still exercised in occluding one of the darkest and
most brilliant eyes that ever peered through the warrior's visor, and
the thought of her then sitting and dreaming of him was perhaps
occupying his mind, and filling his heart. Then rose the thrilling
thought, that, ere another week passed over, her own hands might be
required to unbind the pledge, and the light of the eye that had so long
been hid from the sun, might first be thrown upon the face of her who
bound it. The hazards of a siege were despised by her bold spirit, as it
contemplated these glowing visions. She feared nothing for either
herself or her father from men who, while they fought like lions for
their country's liberty, were actuated by the high and noble spirit of
chivalry. Possessing that confidence in the generosity of noble hearts
which seems to be natural to lovely women, she would throw herself on
the protection of Bruce himself; claiming that, she could defy all
danger, from whatever quarter it might come; and her request for safety
to her father would be as successful as her petition for herself. In the
siege and capture of the town, her best and dearest interests were
involved; for she would contemplate the success of great men fighting in
a cause she loved, she would have the chance of meeting her lover, and
she had the certainty of escaping the licentious Oliphant, who could not
claim her, in the event of losing his treacherous cause in fighting
against his country. The sounds of the clang of arms of the assailants
would at that moment have been the sweetest sound she ever heard; and
she drew deep sighs, as she contemplated the chances of their triumph.

Unconscious of the thoughts that were revolving in the excited mind of
his daughter, Peter of Ghent walked along the streets of Perth, till he
came to the residence of the governor. His mind was too much occupied on
the subject of his diplomatic undertaking to allow him to notice the
gazing burghers, who, from their windows, stared at the rich Fleming,
and suspected that the object of his expedition was in some way
connected with the perilous state of the town. He found the governor
waiting for him; and, having made his bow, was soon seated by the
official's fire.

"Well, Peter of Ghent," began Oliphant, "hast thou bethought thyself of
my request--to give me the thousand nobles that are required for the
support of the town against the arms of the Bruce, whose head deserveth
a spear, alongside of that which upholdeth Wallace's on London Bridge,
or whose body meriteth a cage, alongside of the Countess of Buchan's
crib, in the Castle of Berwick. What sayest thou?"

"The sum thou mentionest, Sir Governor," replied the cunning burgher,
"hath been laid apart for the tocher of Anne, who meriteth well of the
good consideration thou hast bestowed on her. The marriage dower is a
sacred gift. Dost thou think as well of her now as formerly?"

"Why, yes, Peter of Ghent, I do," replied Oliphant, who probably saw
some obscure connection between Peter's sentences which the words
themselves scarcely supplied. "No man with a heart could see that maiden
once, and forget her ever. Less beautiful women have been the cause of
the meeting of bleeding heads and sawdust; and thou wilt not be far
beyond the Saracen's head of thy suspicion, if thou deemest me a lover
of fair Anne of Ghent."

"That I have had a fair cause to suspect," said Peter; "and I am well
entitled to opine that Anne would give her consent to my paying the sum
required of me, upon the consideration that it was merely a species of
foreinstalment of dowery, given for the double purpose of saving the
town and securing a governor of her heart. A man that can defend, so
nobly as you have done, a walled city, could keep a woman's heart in
good discipline."

"A right fair point of dialects, Peter of Ghent," replied Oliphant; "but
we had better speak of concernments of love after the city is saved. Let
us have the nobles in the meanwhile, and we will discuss the merits of
the fair Anne, when we have time and leisure to appreciate the qualities
of womankind."

"Well and veritably indited," said Peter; "but it would lubricate and
facilitate the gaining of Anne's consent to the payment of this money,
if I could report to her that it was to be paid as a matrimonial propine
to the man she loveth; and, to be honest, I cannot, of a truth, pay it,
but upon that stipulation."

"And, by the honour of a governor! I am well pleased to think that I am
thus estimated by so fair a creature. Let us have the money; and, if all
goes well with the town, I shall look for a second tocher, of another
thousand, with the hand of thy daughter."

"Concluded, Sir Governor," cried Peter, in ecstasy.

And the two sat down to finish, over a bottle of Burgundy, the details
of a bargain which, on one side, was, at least, sincere; but on the
other, was deemed, by those who knew the faithless character of the man,
of, at least, dubious faith. Whatever sincerity, however, was felt and
exhibited by Peter, in so far as concerned the governor, it was very
clear that he had acted a part of true mercantile subtlety, in so far as
regarded the interests of his fair daughter. Meanwhile, the money was
paid, and extraordinary efforts were made by Oliphant to get foraging
parties sent abroad, to procure, for the inhabitants, the necessary
supplies. The motions of these troops, as well as those of the
besiegers, were regularly noticed by Anne from a part of the wall to
which she had access from her father's house. Her interest in the issue
of the impending strife was the greatest that could be felt by woman;
for it involved the dearest rights of her sex. Bound to Oliphant only in
the event of his success, his defeat might bring to her the object of
her affections, and she looked for every demonstration of activity on
the part of Bruce as a sign of her coming liberation.

During these watchful operations of the fair Fleming, the soldiers of
Bruce remained steady at their post, where they had already been for
five weeks, endeavouring to prevent any supplies from being sent into
the town. Their numbers as yet, however, were so few, and the
fortifications of Perth so extensive, that a considerable portion of the
ground surrounding the town was left under the surveillance of a species
of riding patrole, which the indefatigable endeavours of Oliphant
sometimes succeeded in enabling the purveyors to elude. A like good
fortune did not attend some of those sent to turn the merks of Peter of
Ghent into edibles; for several foragers were intercepted in their
passage from the country to the besieged city. One of these--a person
called Giles Mortimer--was taken before Bruce, and examined as to the
state of the town's provisions.

"Well, sirrah, are these rebels still determined to hold out?" said the
king.

"There are many murmurs in the town, sire," replied the man; "and were
it not, as fame reporteth, that a rich citizen hath given the governor a
thousand Flemish nobles, on condition that he marry his daughter, I do
believe that not another noble would have been wrung from any one in the
whole city."

"And what is the name of this rich citizen?" said Bruce.

"How could it be any other than Peter of Ghent?" said the man, with a
smile; "for is he not the richest citizen of Perth?"

"We have heard of this same Peter of Ghent," said Bruce; "and, by our
crown, we should not be ill pleased to be present at the wedding of his
daughter. We have some French knights here, who would dance merrily, in
honour of the fair bride. What is her name?"

"Anne of Ghent she is called," replied the man; "and, by'r lady, she
might, for the matter of beauty, be the wife of a king."

"And when is the wedding to be?" rejoined Brace.

"When the governor can declare the town to be safe from the Bruce,"
replied the man.

"And that will be when the hares in the pass of Ben Cruachan are safe
from the wolves of Lorn," replied Bruce, laughing, and looking around to
his chiefs. "Now, look around you, sir, at these warriors, and after
thou hast made a gauge of their numbers, and learned that every castle
we have yet attempted hath fallen before us, go and tell William
Oliphant that we intend to be present at his wedding with the fair Anne
of Ghent, and cannot think of waiting either for the succours of King
Edward, or for our own defeat. Hie thee on our message, sirrah."

The man was accordingly liberated; and Bruce, during that same day,
having resolved to perform by stratagem what seemed to be impossible by
the fair play of arms, took with him Sir James Douglas, and went to
reconnoitre. Great and even marvellous as was the courage of these
far-famed assertors of their country's freedom, it may be doubted
whether their genius for daring and successful stratagem did not excel
the chivalrous spirit of fair-fighting by which they were actuated to
perform deeds of arms that have made the whole world ring with their
fame. The capture of the peel or castle of Linlithgow, and that of
Edinburgh, afterwards performed, were the most cunningly-devised pieces
of military stratagem that had ever been witnessed; and the work of old
Polyænus on the warlike acts of the strategists of Greece exhibits
nothing that can be compared to them. Bruce had already exhibited this
talent for scheming, in the affairs of Lindon Hill and Cruachan Ben; but
his powers in this respect were yet to be developed on a grander scale,
and as it were by gradation, till the final triumph of Bannockburn
should establish his fame for ever. The capture of Perth was one of
those intermediate and probationary trials that were fitting the great
master for that final and glorious display of all his talents for war;
but, small as it was in comparison of what followed, it exhibited
perhaps as much of his peculiar genius as had yet been shown.
Accompanied by Sir James, he went, during the hours of twilight, up to
the margin of the fosse.

"We must know the depth cf this miniature Styx," he said to his
companion.

"But we have no measuring-rods," replied Sir James.

"By thine own St Bride! we have though," replied Bruce, smiling. "I am
six feet two inches in height." And, in an instant, he was up to the
neck in the water; proceeding forward he reached the bottom of the wall,
and satisfied himself that all the tall men of his army might make their
way through the ditch without incurring the danger of being drowned.
Having ascertained this, he returned to the camp, and having provided
himself and his companion (for he avoided any show of men) with
scaling-ladders of ropes, they again sallied forth under the shade of
the increasing darkness, and reached the spot that had already been
tested. With one of the ladders in his hand, he again plunged into the
water, and made a signal for Sir James to follow; but the knight wanted
full two inches of the height of the king, and hesitated a moment, from
a well-grounded suspicion that he would be overwhelmed. But shame
mastered his scruples, and in an instant he was alongside of the king,
who, however, required to seize and sustain him, to prevent his being
taken off his feet by the power of the water, that was almost on a level
with his lips. They paused a moment in this position, to listen if there
were any sounds of stir on the walls, and, perceiving all quiet, they
proceeded, and reached the bottom of the fortification. Sir James stood
close to the wall, and Bruce, by the aid of some jutting stones, mounted
upon his shoulders, remarking, with a quaint humour, that the knight
required some weight to be placed upon him, to enable him to keep his
erect position. In this strange attitude the king contrived to throw up
and fix the ladders to the top of the first bartizan of the wall, and
having tugged them with all his force, to ascertain their steadfastness,
he came down, and was about to retrace his steps, when Sir James, who
disdained to be behind even his king in feats of daring, seized the end
of one of the ladders, and, mounting up, looked calmly over the top of
the wall, and satisfied himself of two things--first, that the ladders
were properly fixed; and, second, that their daring act had not been
observed. Having descended, he was again laid hold of by the king; and
they reached the bank, where they deliberately shook the water off them
after the manner of water-spaniels, and returned to the camp.

Some of the heads of the army were informed of what had been done, and,
next morning, after all the inhabitants of the town were astir, the
clarion was sounded, loud and long, as if the city had been upon the
instant to be attacked. The tents were struck; but, in place of an
attack, a retreat was the order of the day, and in the course of an hour
the whole Scottish host were beyond the sight of the inhabitants of
Perth. The intelligence was soon therefore circulated within the city,
that Bruce had given up the siege, and had departed upon some expedition
of less difficulty; and the friends of Edward rejoiced that they were
liberated from so fearful a foe. The communication was received by many
with great rejoicings; and a courier, who arrived that same day from
England, announced that Edward had despatched succours to the city,
which would arrive in the Tay nearly as soon as the messenger would
reach the end of his journey. To Peter of Ghent, this change of
circumstances was the apparent prelude to the honours he expected to be
showered upon his daughter; but Anne herself, dreaming still of her
monoculous knight, and of her anticipated delivery by the champions she
desired so ardently to see, looked forward with fear and trembling to
the sacrifice that seemed to await her. Her watching at the city walls
had been persevered in; but all her care and perspicacity had not
enabled her to perceive the strange act of Bruce in suspending the
ladder before sounding a retreat. The guarding of the walls was in some
degree relaxed, and the inhabitants began again to go forth, and engage
in their avocations. About three days afterwards, the handmaid of the
fair Fleming, who was in the secret of her mistress, informed her that,
as she returned from a meeting near the fortifications with her lover, a
soldier, she had observed the top of a rope-ladder affixed to the lower
bartizan of the west wall; but the girl's information ended with the
announcement of the fact, for her simple mind had suggested no
explanation of the circumstance. But to Anne's quick thought the
communication presented an aspect pregnant of hope; and, having
cautioned the maiden against speaking of what she had seen to any of the
inhabitants, she sallied forth in the light of the moon, and by the
directions of her informant soon came to the spot where the ladder was
suspended. A train of reflections opened up to her the scheme of Bruce,
who had, as she thought, raised the siege, to lull the inhabitants into
a security which he might turn to his advantage. By some bold efforts,
she reached the part of the wall to which the instrument of escalade was
attached, and, in the height of her enthusiasm, she took from her dress
a narrow riband, and bound it to the top of the ropes.

"The design of these bold spirits," she said, "shall not lack the
inspiring gift of a woman to hail, as that favour streameth in the wind,
the success of the cause that giveth freedom to their country. If
Rolande de Leon may not see this, the eyes of Bruce, that are unbound,
may catch a sight of the trophy; and what better evidence may he have
that Anne of Ghent wisheth him triumph?"

After indulging in her short monologue, she retreated from the wall, and
with some difficulty escaped the eyes of some of the neighbouring
guards, as she sought with quick steps the house of her father. As she
entered, Peter of Ghent looked at her as if he would have questioned her
as to where she had been at so late an hour; but his mind was too much
occupied by matters of greater moment.

"Welcome, my love," said he to her, as she sat down by the fire. "I have
been with the governor, who is full of rejoicing at this unexpected
quittance of the Bruce and his host of wolves. The period of the
fulfilment of our condition approaches. The succours of Edward are
expected every hour; and then, Anne, I have a right to claim for thee a
lord, who is worthy of thy beauty and thy goodness."

"The Bruce may return, father," replied Anne. "It is not thus that he
resigns his prey."

"That is nothing to thee or to me, Anne," said Peter, somewhat roused.
"A knighthood will be the more sure to the governor; and I should like
as well to see that honour bestowed on thy husband as on thy betrothed.
Get ready thy marriage-gear, love, and lay aside thy maiden blushes,
which can aid thee as little in capturing a husband, as Bruce's
backwardness in the taking of Perth."

"The governor hath not claimed me, father," replied Anne, hesitatingly.
"He hath not called here since the money was paid to him."

"More still of thy doubtful questionings, wench!" cried Peter, rising in
his anger. "What is his remissness to thee, if I adhere to my condition,
and demand my bond? He is bound by his honour; to-morrow he is to be
here, and thou must show thy fairest qualities in his presence. Go and
assign thee thy appurtenances and paraphernals."

Anne rose silently and left the room; but it was not to obey her father.
Her mind was occupied with meditations on the chances of the return of
Bruce, upon which her safety from the arms of Oliphant, and her hope of
meeting her French knight, depended. Her calculations of the probability
of that event were but the operations of her own unaided mind, and
misgivings, ushering in painful fears, vindicated a place in her
thoughts, and made her alternately the victim of hope and apprehension.
She could not retire to rest, and her devotions before the Holy Virgin
were performed with a fluttering heart, that shook off the holy feelings
with which she was accustomed to kneel before the sacred image. The moon
still shone bright in at the window, and the stillness that reigned
within the house told her that the inmates had retired to rest. She felt
a strong inclination to go forth, and find that relief which is often
experienced by troubled spirits, in the calm beams of the queen of
night; and, wrapping around her a mantle, she obeyed the impulse of her
feelings. A large garden nearly connected the house with a part of the
fortifications; and, having perambulated the open space, she sauntered
along till she came to an embrasure, at which she set herself down, and
fixed her eyes on the surrounding ground, where she had formerly seen a
part of Bruce's besieging forces. She could perceive nothing now but the
wide plain spread forth in the silver light of the moon, and below her
feet the deep fosse which reflected the bright beams from its quiet
surface. The wind was hushed, and an unbroken silence seemed to reign
throughout all nature. A deep train of meditations took possession of
her mind; and the sublimed feelings that were called forth by the still
and solemn silence around her, mixed with and lent an influence to the
thoughts that were ever and anon busy with the hopes that had not yet
forsaken her breast. As she sat thus meditating, she thought she
observed a dark mass of some moving body upon the plain beyond; and, as
she gazed, her attention became more and more fixed upon the
extraordinary appearance.

In a short time, the dense mass became more perceptible, and she could
now distinguish that it was composed of a body of men, whose motion
forward was so noiseless that scarcely a single sound met her ear. There
was a small body somewhat in advance of the rest, and she now saw that
the direction which they held was towards the spot where she had seen
the instrument of escalade fixed to the wall. Rising hurriedly, she
crept along by the covered way, and was surprised to find that her
passage was not interrupted by a single guard, the men having, in
consequence of the fatigue to which they had been exposed for five
weeks, taken advantage of Bruce's retreat, and betaken themselves to
rest. She soon arrived at the spot, and about the same time she observed
that the van she had noticed had also got to that part of the fosse
opposite to where she was now placed. The silence enabled her now to
catch the low tones of the men; and the coruscations of their steel
armour, as the moonbeams played upon it, met her eye. She hesitated a
moment whether she would remain or retreat; for the terrors of a siege
were before her, and her father was in danger; but she felt that her own
freedom from a hated union depended upon the success of the besiegers,
and the workings of an enthusiastic spirit stilled the whisperings of
fear. She bent and listened, for articulate sentences now rose from the
warriors, who stood for a moment on the brink of the fosse. A gigantic
individual, in full mail, stood in the midst of the group, and he could
be no other than Bruce himself, whose height exceeded that of most men
of his day.

"Art ready?" said he, as he held forth his spear, the point of which
glittered in the moonbeams, as he waved it.

"Ay--on, noble king!" was responded by another behind him.

"Come on, then," again said the former, and immediately he dashed into
the water, which seemed to cover his body to the head.

Some of the others appeared to hesitate for a moment.

"What shall we say of our French lords," cried another, in a French
accent, "who live at home in the midst of wassail and jollity, when so
brave a knight is here putting his life in hazard to win a hamlet?" And
he was the second that followed the Bruce.

"Shall a Frenchman, who hath not yet redeemed the sight of his left eye,
bound by a lady's pledge, be the second to mount the wall," was said by
a third, as he rushed forward. In an instant the whole party were in the
water.

Bruce was now on the ladder. He stopped suddenly, and gazed for a moment
at the riband on the top of the escalade. Anne's voice met his ear.

"Come on, come on, brave warriors," she said, in a low tone.

"Who art thou, in Heaven's name?" replied he.

"Anne of Ghent, thy friend. The guard is asleep, and the governor
deemeth thee far away. I claim indemnity in life and limb to Peter of
Ghent."

"Granted, noble damsel, by the sword of Bruce!" was the answer;
"away--away!--to a place of safety."

Anne lost no time in obeying the command. She flew along the covered way
with the quickness of light. In her speed she stumbled on the feet of a
soldier who lay in a recess of the ramparts, and was almost
precipitated to the ground. The man looked up in agitation, and, seeing
that it was a woman, growled out a few incoherent sentences, and again
resigned himself to sleep, from which he might awake only to feel the
sharp steel of a Scotch dagger, as it sought his heart. She paused a
little, to satisfy herself that the man was not sufficiently roused to
hear the sounds of the assailants, and, finding all safe, she sought
hurriedly the dwelling of her father. He was sound asleep when she
entered, and there was no one stirring; but the sounds of horns were now
ringing through the city, and, as she opened the door of his
sleeping-apartment, the clamour roused him. Starting to his feet, he
called out to Anne to know the cause of the disturbance.

"The Bruce is in the act of storming the city, father," she said.

"Then are the dreams of my ambition finished," replied Peter; "and we
shall be the marks for the vengeance of these savages. I have no chance
of escape. My money is gone, and the reward that will be given for it
will be death."

"Fear not, father," said Anne, calmly; "thou art safe."

"Peter of Ghent," replied he, "who hath furnished money for the support
of the city, will be among the first objects of the vengeance of the
Bruce. Ha! I hear already the groans of the dying. Whither shall I fly,
or where shall I conceal myself?"

"Thou canst be safe only in this house," said Anne. "The Bruce hath, by
his sword, pledged his faith to me that Peter of Ghent shall be safe in
life and limb."

"What meaneth the damsel's strange words?" cried the father. "Art thou
mad? Where couldst thou have seen the Bruce?"

"Concern not thyself for that, father," replied she, with the same
unperturbed air. "Thou art safe. The Bruce hath said it."

Peter looked at his daughter in blank wonder; and, as the sounds of
horns, the clashing of swords, and the screams of the dying met his ear,
he trembled and seemed irresolute whether he should repose faith in her
words, or take means for his safety. A loud noise now approached the
house; the door was burst open, and three naked caterans entered the
apartment, with bloodstained swords gleaming in their hands. One of them
rushed forwards, and, seizing Peter, was on the point of thrusting the
weapon into his bosom.

"He is safe by the word of the Bruce," ejaculated Anne, as she rushed
between the soldier and her father.

"His name, then?" cried one of the soldiers behind.

"Peter of Ghent," answered Anne.

The sword of the soldier was dropped in an instant.

"To pe sure he will pe safe if that pe his name," said the man, with a
grim smile. "Te prince has said it. Here, Tuncan, guard this maiden and
her father, while I and Tonald will pe after sending te neebours to
their lang hames."

With these words the two caterans left the house, and joined the other
soldiers who were careering through the city, and slaying every
Anglicised Scot that came in their way. The guard Duncan remained in
Peter's house, and sat with grim majesty, surveying in silence the
terrified Fleming, who was lost in wonder at what he had seen and heard;
for everything appeared to him a mystery. Others of the soldiers burst
at intervals into the house, with the intent to slay the inmates; but
Duncan silenced them all by the watchword, "Peter of Ghent," and at
every demonstration of the charm the worthy burgher seemed more and more
surprised. He questioned Anne as to the meaning of the strange effect of
his name and of the unlooked-for security that it afforded to him who
deserved death more than any one in the city, except the governor
himself. But he got small satisfaction from the maiden, for she felt
that it was impossible for her to explain the part she acted, without
incurring the charge that she had been untrue to the cause of her
father, and the rights of the governor and the king. Neither would
Duncan give him any information but what tended rather to increase the
mystery; for he merely said that it was the command of the Bruce that
Peter of Ghent should be saved from the general massacre, and guarded
safely from the fury of the soldiers by the first man that entered his
house. In the midst of this mystery, a suspicion took possession of him,
that Bruce wished to save him for a more cruel death, after the siege
should be ended; and, notwithstanding of all that Anne could say to him
to calm his fears, he still retained doggedly the apprehension, and
sighed bitterly as he contemplated his expected fate.

"Thou hast given me no reason, girl," he whispered to her, "to satisfy
me that I am not reserved for the heading-block. Bruce hath, of a
verity, heard of the money I lent to the governor, and thou shalt by and
by mourn the death of thy father. But what didst thou mean, Anne, by thy
statement to the soldier, that I was safe by the word of the Bruce? Was
it a device of thy quick fancy to save me from the sword of that man,
who weareth no broadcloth on his body, and whose limbs are, of a
consequence, as hard as his heart?"

"If thou wilt stand by thy pledge, father," answered Anne, "that I shall
not be required to marry Oliphant, now that the city is taken, I will
pledge a simple damsel's word that thou shalt be as safe from the
headsman's falchion as thou art from the broadsword of that wild man,
whose bare limbs terrify me more than the bright steel of the Bruce."

"Of a surety I will stand by my pledge, girl; but I cannot rest
satisfied till I hear thy reason for the confidence thou reposest in the
clemency of the Scottish leader, whose name is a terror to every enemy
of his country."

"Nay, father, I am now trafficking with thee--driving a bargain, as thou
sayest," replied she, with a smile, which the still terrified Fleming
could not for the soul of him understand. "The bargain is concluded, and
I cannot, for my honour, say more, even to my father."

"Tell me, man," cried Peter, to the Highlander, who still stood guarding
the door, with the drawn sword in his hand--"tell me, since my daughter
will not, what the Bruce intendeth to do with Peter of Ghent, whose name
hath operated as a charm on thy ear?"

"Hoigh, hoigh, man!" replied Duncan; "ye'll pe trying to get secrets oot
o' Tuncan Thu Mohr."

"I will give thee money, my brave preserver," rejoined Peter, as he ran
forward. "Let me escape, and I will reward thee with ten nobles. Here
they are--see, see--it is meet thou shouldst have them, seeing thou wilt
get no share of the spoils of the city."

"Keep him securely," whispered Anne, in the ear of the Highlander, "and
I will reward thee better on the morrow."

"Thou art mad, Anne. What means the rebellious wench?" cried Peter,
angrily. "Thou hast become a trafficker with the enemies of thy father.
Henceforth I have no faith in thee. Wilt thou not let me free, good
Master Mohr?"

Duncan turned, and looked knowingly at Anne, who, he probably thought,
was wishing to torment the old merchant.

"To pe surely, she will pe keeping her prisoner," said he, in aid of the
imputed design of the fair accomplice, and with a twinkle in his eye.
"Te auld merchant's head will pe worth more than te ten nobles, she will
pe thinking."

"Dost thou not hear, Anne, that I am, as I suspected, doomed to lay my
head on the block?" cried Peter again. "Thou hast apparently some power
over the savage," he added, in a whisper; "aid me in bribing him, and
we may yet escape to Flanders, with my wealth, otherwise thou wilt lose
thy dowery, and I my head."

"I have told thee that thou art safe, and thou wilt not listen to me,"
replied she. "Thou oughtst to be thankful for thy condition. Hearest
thou not the groans of the dying citizens amidst the loud clang of arms?
Thousands are now dying, and thou hast a royal guard to save thee from
harm; yet art thou grumbling at thy fate!"

During all this time, the work of destruction had been going on in all
parts of the city. Bruce was well aware that the great evil he had to
cure could only be overcome by extreme measures, and the better feelings
of his nature had for a time given place to the thirst for vengeance for
the many wrongs he had suffered from the tyrants, who had not only
ruined the country, but stained his domestic hearth with the cruelties
of persecution. He gave orders, on entering the city, that every Soot
that had favoured Edward should die; and his command was but too
literally obeyed--thousands on that night felt, in the pangs of death,
the effects of his dreadful retaliation. When the day dawned, he
collected his captains in the court hall of the city, for the purpose of
issuing ordinances of confiscation, settling the terms on which the city
should in future be held, and passing sentence on the governor, who had
been taken alive, and stood in the hall bound in chains. Bruce sat in
the chair of office, his captains were ranged around him, and by his
left side sat two of the French squires already spoken of, who had
trusted to the events of that siege for getting the leave of the bravest
knights of these times to remove the bandages from their left eyes, and
be declared entitled to the rights and honours of chivalry. The scene
presented one of the most extraordinary aspects of these times of war
and bloodshed. Bruce himself had fought hand to hand with the officers
of the garrison, and slain every one who dared to withstand his terrible
onset. His face and hands were covered with blood; his bright armour
was stained; and the sword which he still held in his hand bore
evidence to the work of deadly execution it had done against Scotland's
foes. Sir James Douglas, Randolph, and others of the fiercest of his
captains, bore the same grim aspect; and the French squires exhibited by
their gore-stained shields that they merited the reward for which they
looked, from the honour-dispensing sword of the king.

At a table before the king, there sat a man habited as a clerk, with a
black cloak over his shoulders, and a small felt cap, that covered the
crown of his head. He was busy calling forth the names of the
inhabitants who had adhered to the cause of Edward; and, as he repeated
them, the king awarded his fiat of confiscation of the effects of the
individuals. As the man proceeded, he came to the name of Peter of
Ghent, and Bruce paused. The recollections of Anne and her father had
been, by the turmoils of the siege, for some time absent from his mind;
but now his face glowed as the adventure of the preceding night flashed
upon him, and the heroic conduct of the maiden was appreciated in the
triumph he was now enjoying. He thought for a moment, and remembered
that it was she who was to have been wedded to the governor. He could
not account for the apparent contradiction between this purpose and the
conduct of the girl in hailing him on to the siege of the city; but his
quick mind at once suggested the solution that she had been hostile to
the match, and that it had been projected merely by her father as a part
of the transactions of the loan that had been given for the support of
the city.

"Let Peter of Ghent and his fair daughter Anne be called to our
presence," cried the king. And in a short time the wealthy Fleming, with
Anne, who was covered with a deep veil, was led forwards in the midst
of the assembled chiefs. It was apparent, from Peter's manner, that he
was still actuated by the fear of punishment, for he trembled and shook
all over, while Anne, looking at him with side-glances from beneath her
veil, seemed to contemplate him with a mixed feeling of pity and
good-humour. Bruce, who was anxious to see the face of the maiden who
had acted so noble and fearless a part, would have requested her to lift
her veil; but the high-bred feelings inculcated by the peculiar formula
of knighthood induced him to wait till he could accomplish the object of
his wish after the legitimate manner of the chevaliers. Turning to the
trembling culprit, he raised his voice to the highest pitch.

"What does that inhabitant of old Scotland deserve," he said, as he
fixed his eyes on Peter, "who giveth his means in aid of rebellion
against his crowned king? Answer us, Peter of Ghent, according to the
estimate thou formest of thine own act, in giving to Mr Oliphant,
governor of our city, the money wherewith he endeavoured to resist our
authority."

Peter was silent, for he was now satisfied that he had been spared to be
reserved for the gallows or the heading-axe.

"Speak, sirrah!" cried the Bruce, assuming a more stern tone of
authority.

"What it meriteth in the mind of Scotland's lawful king," replied Peter,
at length; "but spare the old father for the sake of his child, and what
is left of my substance shall go to support the crown, which a king's
leniency to repentant subjects renders the more lustrous."

"Flattery is no atonement for rebellion," thundered out Bruce.

"God have mercy upon me!" cried Peter of Ghent. "Thou knowest, my liege,
that I had no power to resist the command of the governor, when he
demanded of me a thousand nobles; nor could I resist thy higher
authority, wert thou to ask of me to lay another thousand at this moment
at thy royal feet."

"Thou wouldst now even bargain for thy head, as thou didst for the
marriage of thy fair daughter," cried Bruce. "Is it not true, sir, that
thou didst sell the maiden to the traitor Oliphant?"

"It is even true that I did make it a condition of the advance of the
thousand nobles, that he should fulfil the intentions he had manifested
towards my daughter; yet I was not the less necessitated to give the
money, seeing it would have been taken from me otherwise."

"Then what does the man merit who sells his daughter for the liberties
of the country by whose industry and means he liveth?" replied the king.
"I put it to the nobles here assembled."

"The heading-block--the heading-block," resounded in hoarse groans
through the hall.

"Will she not yet throw off her veil?" muttered the king, as he cast his
eyes on Anne.

"Lead Peter of Ghent to the block," he cried aloud.

Anne threw back her veil, and, with her face uncovered, cast herself at
the feet of Bruce. The assembled lords fixed their eyes upon the damsel,
as she occupied a position which exhibited the graces of her perfect
figure, and the intelligence of her beautiful face lighted up with
feelings which moved the hearts of the sternest warriors around. They
were struck with the full blaze of a beauty that was not excelled by the
fairest woman of Scotland in her day, and whispers went round among them
that told eloquently the effect she had produced by the sudden display
of her charms.

"Is this the reward, my liege," she said, in a clear, tuneful voice,
"that is due to me for my humble efforts in behalf of the success of
thine arms? Is this the faith of the Brace, whose name has filled the
nations as the trumpet resounds within the palisades when honour is to
be sought and won?"

A smile played upon the face of the king. The quick, dark eye of the
maiden searched his heart, and was satisfied. A mantling blush,
accompanied by a smile that seemed to respond to the humour of the king,
enhanced her beauty, and showed that she understood the play that was
enacted by the noble monarch.

"It is the privilege of beauty," said the king, still smiling, "to
inspire its possessor with an unshaken faith in the sanctions of the
brave. We are not oblivious, fair Anne of Ghent, of our promise, as this
will testify." And he undid her own riband from his arm, and put it
around the neck of the supplicant. "The colour of this streamer shall
afterwards be that of the banner of Perth. Thy father is safe in life
and limb; but tell us, fair damsel, what other method could we have
adopted, to gratify our sense of justice and our love of beauty, than
to show thy father that he owes his safety to thee, and to make thee
throw off the veil that concealeth so fair a face?"

At this moment, one of the French squires, with his left eye bound up by
a green riband, advanced to the feet of the king, and stood for a moment
surveying the countenance of the supplicant.

"By the patron saint of the house of Leon," cried the Frenchman, "it is
my fair queen of the lists! Knowest thou this silken band, lady, by
which my left orb is occluded, and my affections bound to the giver?"

"If thou art Rolande de Leon," said Anne, as she rose, by the hand of
the king, "thou canst tell if that gift was bestowed by my hands. To
that valiant squire, Anne of Ghent did once award the humble pledge of a
silken band, which was to remain on his temples till he achieved a feat
of arms."

"Ha, well timed!" cried Bruce. "Hear the command of thy liege
sovereign. We command Anne of Ghent to give the light of heaven to that
occluded organ, which is so well entitled to see the glitter of the
sword of knighthood, and the charms of her who restores it to its
natural rights."

Anne proceeded, amidst the applause of the lords, to obey the commands
of the king. With a firm hand, but a palpitating heart, she undid the
bandage, as the Frenchman knelt at her feet.

"Rise not yet," said Bruce, when he saw the operation concluded; and,
taking his sword, he touched the back of the squire, and pronounced the
words, "Rise, Sir Rolande de Leon, one of the bravest knights that it
has been our good fortune to see fighting under the blue banner of
Scotland."

The knight rose, amidst the acclamation of the nobles. The clerk again
proceeded with his monotonous vocation of calling out the names of the
citizens. Peter, with his daughter, accompanied by Sir Rolande, left the
court-room, and proceeded to his house, where, after proper
explanations, the Fleming saw no reason to regret the taking of the
city. On that same day, William Oliphant was beheaded. The town was
quickly restored to order; and, before Bruce's army again set out on a
new expedition, Anne of Ghent became the lady of Sir Rolande de Leon.

This brave knight accompanied Bruce through all his engagements, taking
frequent opportunities, throughout the wars, of stealing a few days of
the society of his fair Anne of Ghent. In a short time he was covered
with honours; and, by the end of Scotland's period of direst strife and
danger, old Peter of Ghent died, leaving a large fortune to his
daughter. The couple, we have reason to believe, retired afterwards to a
castle somewhere in Perthshire, to enjoy the peace and happiness of a
domestic life, after so many toils and dangers. We have somewhere seen
the arms afterwards adopted by the knight, in which _three Lioncels
rampant topaz_ figure on a _field sapphire_, _crest_, wreathed with a
_riband vert_. The wreath we may easily understand; nor can we be at any
loss for the derivation of the young Lions, seeing that, according to
our authority, Anne bore Sir Rolande three sons, whose descendants,
under the name of Lion, long lived in Perthshire; and, if we are not led
astray by old writs, they afterwards intermarried with the Lions of
Strathmore.



THE PROFESSOR'S TALES.



PEAT-CASTING TIME.


In the olden times, there were certain fixed occasions when labour and
frolic went hand in hand--when professional duty and kind-hearted glee
mutually kissed each other. The "rocking" mentioned by Burns--

    "On Fastening's E'en we had a rocking"--

I still see in the dim and hazy distance of the past. It is only under
the refractive medium of vigorous recollection that I can again bring up
to view (as the Witch of Endor did Samuel) those images that have been
reposing, "'midst the wreck of things that were," for more than fifty
years. Yet my early boyhood was familiar with these social senile and
juvenile festivities. _There_ still sits Janet Smith, in her toy-mutch
and check-apron, projecting at intervals the well-filled spindle into
the distance. Beside her is Isabel Kirk, elongating and twirling the yet
unwound thread. Nanny Nivison occupies a _creepy_ on the further side of
the fire (making the third Fate!), with her shears. Around, and on
bedsides, are seated Lizzy Gibson, with her favoured lad; Tam
Kirkpatrick, with his jo Jean on his knee; Rob Paton the stirk-herd; and
your humble servant. And "now the crack gaes round, and who so wilful as
to put it by?" The story of past times; the report of recent
love-matches and miscarriages; the gleeful song, bursting unbid from the
young heart, swelling forth in beauty and in brightness like the waters
from the rock of Meribah; the occasional female remonstrance against
certain _welcome_ impertinences, in shape of, "Come now, Tam--nane o'
yer nonsense." "Will! I say, be peaceable, and behave yersel afore folk.
'Od, ye'll squeeze the very breath out o' a body."

        "Till, in a social glass o' strunt,
        They parted off careering
                          On sic a night."

    "Ye've heard a lilting at our ewes-milking."

How few of the present generation have ever heard of this "lilting,"
except in song. It is the gayest and sunniest season of the year. The
young lambs, in their sportive whiteness, are coursing it, and bleating
it, responsive to their dams, on the hill above. The old ewes on the
plain are marching--

    "The labour much of man and dog"--

to the pen or fold. The response to the clear-toned bleat of their
woolly progeny is given, anon and anon, in a short, broken, low bass. It
is the raven conversing with the jack-daw! All is bustle, excitement,
and badinage.

"Weer up that ewe, Jenny, lass. Wha kens but her woo may yet be a
blanket for you and ye ken wha to sleep in!"

"Haud yer tongue, Tammie, and gang hame to yer books and yer schoolin.
Troth, it will be twa days ere the craws dirty your kirk riggin!"

Wouf, wouf, wouf!--hee, hee, hee!--hoch, hoch, hoch!--there _in_ they
go, and _in_ they are, their horny heads wedged over each other, and a
trio of stout, well-made damsels, with petticoats tied up "_à la
breeches_," tugging away at their well-filled dugs.

"Troth, Jenny, that ewe will waur ye; 'od I think ye hae gotten haud o'
the auld tup himsel. He's as powerfu, let me tell ye, as auld Francie,
wham ye kissed sae snug last nicht ayont the peat-mou."

"Troth, at weel, Tam, ye're a fearfu liar. They wad be fonder than I am
o' cock birds wha wad gie tippence for the stite o' a howlet."

"Howlet here, howlet there, Jenny, ye ken weel his auld brass will buy
you a new pan."

At this crisis the crack becomes general and inaudible from its
universality, mixed as it is with the bleating of ewes, the barking of
dogs, together with the singing of herd-laddies and of your humble
servant.

Harvest is a blithe time! May all the charms of "Sycorax, toads,
beetles, bats, light on him" who shall first invent a reaping-machine!
The best of all reaping-machines is "the human _arm_ divine," whether
brawny or muscular, or soft and rounded. The old woman of sixty sits all
year long at her domestic occupations--you would deem her incapable of
any out-door exertions; but, at the sound of the harvest-horn, she
renews her youth, and sallies forth into the harvest-field, with hook
over shoulder, and a heart buoyant with the spirit of the season, to
take her place and drive her rig with the youngest there. The half-grown
boy and girl of fourteen are mingled up in duty and in frolic, in jest
and jibe, and jeer and laugh, with the stoutest and the most matured.
Mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, and, above and beyond all,
"lads and lasses, lovers gay!" mix and mingle in one united band, for
honest labour and exquisite enjoyment; and when at last the joyous kirn
is won--when the maiden of straw is borne aloft and in triumph, to adorn
for twelve months the wall of the farmer's ben--when the rich and
cooling curds-and-cream have been ram-horn-spooned into as many mouths
as there are persons in the "toun"--then comes the mighty and
long-anticipated festival, the roasted ox, the stewed sheep, the big pot
enriched with the cheering and elevating draught, the punch dealt about
in ladles and in jugs, the inspiring fiddle, the maddening reel, and the
Highland fling.

    "_We_ cannot but remember such things were,
    And were most dear to us!"

Hay harvest, too, had its soft and delicate tints, resembling those of
the grain harvest. As the upper rainbow curves and glows with fainter
colouring around the interior and the brighter, so did the hay harvest
of yore anticipate and pre-figure, as it were, the other. The hay tedded
to the sun; the barefooted lass, her locks floating in the breeze, her
cheeks redolent of youth, and her eyes of joy, scattering or collecting,
carting or ricking, the sweetly-scented meadow produce, under a June sun
and a blue sky!

    "Oh, to feel as I have felt,
    Or be what I have been!"

The favoured lover, namely, of that youthful purity, now in its
fourteenth summer--myself as pure and all unthinking of aught but
affection the most intense, and feelings the most soft and
unaccountable.

    "Ah, little did thy mother think,
      That day she cradled thee,
    What lands thou hadst to travel in,
      What death thou hadst to dee!"

Poor Jeanie Johnston! I have seen her, only a few weeks ago, during the
sittings of the General Assembly, sunk in poverty, emaciated by disease,
the wife of an old soldier, himself disabled from work, tenanting a dark
hovel in Pipe's Close, Castlehill of Edinburgh.

In the upper district of Dumfries-shire--the land of my birth, and of
all those early associations which cling to me as the mistletoe to the
oak, and which are equally hallowed with that druidical
excrescence--there are no coals, but a superabundance of moss;
consequently peat-fires _are_ very _generally_ still, and _were_, at the
time of which I speak, _universally_, made use of; and a peat-fire, on a
cold, frosty night of winter, when every star is glinting and goggling
through the blue, or when the tempest raves, and

    "There's no a star in a' the cary,"

is by no means to be despised. To be sure, it is short-lived--but then
it kindles soon; it does not, it is true, entertain us with fantastic
and playful jets of flame--but then its light is full, united, and
steady; the heat which it sends out on all sides is superior to that of
coals. Wood is sullen and sulky, whether in its log or faggot form. It
eats away into itself, in a cancer ignition. But the blazing peat--

    "The bleezing ingle, and the clean hearth-stane"--

is the very soul of cheerfulness and comfort. But then peats must
be prepared. They do not grow in hedges, nor vegetate in meadows.
They must be cut from the black and consolidated moss; and a
peculiarly-constructed spade, with a sharp edge and crooked ear, must be
made use of for that purpose; and into the field of operation must be
brought, at casting-time, the spademen, with their spades; and the
barrowmen, and women, boys, and girls, with their barrows; and the
breakfast sowans, with their creamy milk, cut and crossed into circles
and squares; and the dinner stew, with its sappy potatoes and
gusty-onioned mutton fragments; and the rest at noon, with its active
sports and feats of agility, and, in particular, with its jumps from the
moss-brow into the soft, marshy substance beneath--and _thereby hangs my
tale_, which shall be as short and simple as possible.

One of the loveliest visions of my boyhood is Nancy Morrison. She was a
year or so older than me; but we went and returned from school together.
She was the only daughter of a poor widow woman, who supported herself,
in a romantic glen on the skirts of the Queensberry Hills, by bleaching
or whitening webs. In those days, the alkalis and acids had not yet
superseded the slower progress of whitening green linen by soap-boiling,
tramping, and alternate drying in the sun, and wetting with pure running
water. Many is the time and oft that Nanny and I have wielded the
watering-pan, in this fairy, sunny glen, all day long. Whilst the
humble-bee boomed past us, the mavis occupied the thorn-tree, and the
mother of Nanny employed herself in some more laborious department of
the same process, Nanny and I have set us down on the greensward--_in
tenaci gramine_--played at chucks, "head him and cross him," or some
such amusement. At school, Nanny had ever a faithful defender and
avenger in me; and I have even purloined apples and gooseberries from
the castle garden--and all for the love I bore "to my Nanny, oh!"

I know not that any one has rightly described a first love. It is not
the love of man and woman, though that be fervent and terrible--it is
not the love of mere boy and girlhood, though that be disinterested and
engrossing--but it is the love of the period of life which unites the
two. "Is there a man whose blood is warm within him" who does not
recollect it? Is there a woman who has passed through the novitiate of
fifteen, who has not still a distinct impression of the feeling of which
I speak. It is not sexual, and yet it can only exist betwixt the sexes.
It is the sweetest delusion under which the soul of a created being can
pass. It is modest, timid, retiring, bashful; yet, in absence of the
adored--in seclusion, in meditation, and in dreams--it is bold,
resolute, and determined. There is no plan, no design, no right
conception of _cause_; yet the _effect_ is sure and the bliss perfect.
Oh, for one hour--one little hour--from the thousands which I have
idled, sported, dreamed away in the company of my darling
school-companion, Nancy!

Will Mather was about two years older than Nancy--a fine youth,
attending the same school, and evidently an admirer of Nancy. Mine was
the love of comparative boyhood; but his was a passion gradually
ripening (as the charms of Nancy budded into womanhood) into a manly and
matrimonial feeling. I loved the girl merely as such--his eye, his
heart, his whole soul were in his future bride. Marriage in no shape
ever entered into my computations; but his eager look and heaving bosom
bespoke the definite purpose--he anticipated felicity. I don't know
exactly why, but I was never jealous of Will Mather--we were companions;
and he was high-souled and generous, and stood my friend in many
perilous quarrels. I knew that _my_ pathway in life was to be afar from
that in which Nancy and Will were likely to walk; and I felt in my heart
that, dear as this beautiful rosebud was to me, I was not _man_
enough--I was not _peasant_ enough to wear it in my bosom. Had Nancy on
any occasion turned round to be kissed by me, I would have fled over
muir and dale, to avoid her presence--and yet I had often a great desire
to obtain that favour. Once indeed, and only once, did I obtain, or
rather steal it. She was sitting beside a bird's nest, the young ones of
which she was feeding and cherishing--for the parent birds, by the
rapacity of a cat, had recently perished. As the little bills were
expanding to receive their food, her countenance beamed with pity and
benevolence. I never saw even _her_ so lovely--so, in a moment, I had
her round the neck, and clung to her lips with the tenacity of a
creature drowning. But, feeling at once the awkwardness of my position,
I took to my heels, becoming immediately invisible amidst the
surrounding brushwood.

Such was "Will Mather," and such was "Nancy Morrison" at the period of
which I am speaking. We must now advance about two or three years in our
chronology, and find Will possessed of a piece of information which bore
materially on his future fortunes. Will was an illegitimate child. His
mother had kept the secret so well that he did not know his father,
though he had frequently urged her to reveal to him privately all that
she knew of his parentage. In conversing, too, with Nancy, his now
affianced bride, he had expressed similar wishes; whilst she, with a
becoming and feminine modesty, had urged him not to press an aged parent
on so delicate a point. At last the old woman was taken seriously ill,
and, on her death-bed and at midnight, revealed to her son the secret of
his birth. He was the son of a proprietor in the parish, and a
much-respected man. The youth, so soon as he had closed his mother's
eyes, hurried off, amidst the darkness, to the abode of his father, and,
entering by a window, was in his father's bedchamber and over his body
ere he was fully awake.

"John Scott!" said the son, in a firm and terrible tone, grasping his
parent meantime convulsively round the neck--"John Scott of
Auchincleuch, _I am thy son_!"

Tho conscience-stricken culprit, being taken by surprise, and almost
imagining this a supernatural intimation from heaven, exclaimed, in
trembling accents--

"But who are you that makes this averment?"

"I am thy son, father--oh, I am thy son!"

Will could no more; for his heart was full, and his tears dropped hot
and heavy on a father's face.

"Yes," replied the parent, after a convulsive solemn sob--(O Heaven!
thou art just!)--"yes, thou _art_ indeed my son--my long-denied and
ill-used boy--whom the fear of the world's scorn has tempted me, against
all the yearnings of my better nature, to use so unjustly. But come to
my bosom--to a father's bosom _now_, for I know that voice too well to
distrust thee."

In a few months after this interesting disclosure, John Scott was
numbered with his fathers, and Will Scott (no longer Mather) became
Laird of Auchincleuch.

Poor Nancy was at first somewhat distressed at this discovery, which put
her betrothed in a position to expect a higher or genteeler match. But
there was no cause of alarm. Will was true to the back-bone, and would
as soon have burned his Bible as have sacrificed his future bride. After
much pressing for an early day on the part of the lover, it was agreed,
at last, that the marriage should take place at "Peat-casting Time," and
that Nancy should, for the last turn, assist at the casting of her
mother's peats.

I wish I could stop here, or at least proceed to give you an account of
the happy nuptials of Will Scott and Nancy Morrison, the handsomest
couple in the parish of Closeburn. But it may not be! These eyes, which
are still filled (though it is forty-eight years since) with tears, and
this pen, which trembles as I proceed, must attest and record the
catastrophe.

Nancy, the beautiful bride, and I (for I was now on the point of leaving
school for college) agreed to have a jump for the last time (often had
we jumped before) from a suitable moss-brow.

"My frolicsome days will sune be owre," she cried, laughing; "the
guidwife of Auchincleuch will hae something else to do than jump frae
the moss-brow; and, while my name is Nancy Morrison, I'll hail the
dules, or jump wi' the best o' my auld playmates."

"Weel dune, Nancy!" cried I; "you are now to be the wife o' the Laird o'
Auchincleuch, when your jumping days will be at an end, and I am soon to
be sent to college, where the only jump I may get may be from the top of
a pile of old black-letter folios--no half sae guid a point of advantage
as the moss-brow."

"There's the Laird o' Auchincleuch coming," cried Peggy Chalmers, one of
the peat-casters, who was standing aside along with several others.
"He's nae langer the daft Will Mather, wha liked a jump as weel as the
blithest swankie o' the barnyard. Siller maks sair changes; and yet, wha
wad exchange the Will Scott of Auchincleuch, your rich bridegroom,
Nancy, for the Will Mather, your auld lover? Dinna tempt Providence, my
hinny! The laird winna like to see his bride jumpin frae knowe to knowe
like a daft giglet, within a week o' her marriage."

"Tout!" cried Nancy, bursting out into a loud laugh; "see, he's awa
round by the Craw Plantin, and winna see us--and whar's the harm if he
did? Come now, Tammie, just ae spring and the last, and I'll wad ye my
kame against your cravat, that I beat ye by the length o' my marriage
slipper."

"Weel dune, Nancy!" cried several of the peat-casters, who, leaning on
their spades, stood and looked at us with pleasure and approbation.

The laird had, as Nancy said, crossed over by what was called the Craw
Plantin, and was now out of sight. To make the affair more
ludicrous--for we were all bent on fun--Nancy took out, from among her
high-built locks of auburn hair, her comb--a present from her lover--and
impledged it in the hands of Billy Watson, along with my cravat, which I
had taken off, and handed to the umpire.

"Here is a better moss-brow," cried one, at a distance.

And so to be sure it was, for it was much higher than the one we had
fixed upon, and the landing-place was soft and elastic. Our practice
was, always to jump together, so that the points of the toes could be
measured when both the competitors' feet were still fixed in the moss.
We mounted the moss-brow. I was in high spirits, and Nancy could
scarcely contain herself, for pure, boisterous, laughing glee. I went
off, but the mad girl could not follow, for she was still holding her
sides, and laughing immoderately. I asked her what she laughed at. She
could not tell. She was under the influence of one of those
extraordinary cachinnations that sometimes convulse our diaphragms,
without our being able to tell why, and certainly without our being able
to put a stop to them. Her face was flushed, and the fire of her glee
shone bright in her eye. I took my position again.

"Now!" cried I; and away we flew, and stuck deeply in the soft and
spongy moss.

I stood with my feet in the ground, that the umpire might come and mark
the distance. A loud scream broke on my ear. I looked round, and,
dreadful sight! I saw Nancy lying extended on the ground, with the blood
pouring out at her mouth in a large stream! She had burst a
blood-vessel. The fit of laughing which preceded her effort to leap had,
in all likelihood, distended her delicate veins, and predisposed her to
the unhappy result.

The loud scream had attracted the notice of the bridegroom, who came
running from the back of the Craw Plantin. The sight appalled and
stupefied him. He cried for explanation, and ran forward to his dead or
dying bride, in wild confusion. Several voices essayed an explanation,
but none were intelligible. I was as unable as the rest to satisfy the
unhappy man; but, though we could not speak intelligibly, we could act,
and several of us lifted her up. This step sealed her fate. The change
in her position produced another stream of blood. She opened her eyes
once, and fixed them for a moment on Will Scott. She then closed them,
and for ever.

I saw poor Nancy carried home. Will Scott, who upheld her head, fainted
before he proceeded twenty yards, and I was obliged to take his place. I
was almost as unfit for the task as himself; for I reproached myself as
the cause of her death. I have lived long. Will the image of that
procession ever pass from my mind? The bloodstained moss-ground, the
bleeding body, the trailing clothes, the unbound locks, are all before
me. I can proceed no further. Would that I could stop the current of my
thoughts as easily as that of this feathered chronicler of sorrow! But--

    "There is a silent sorrow here,
      A grief I'll ne'er impart;
    It breathes no sigh, it sheds no tear,
      But it consumes my heart."

I have taken up my pen to add, that Will Mather still remains a
bachelor, and that on every visit I make to Dumfries-shire, I take my
dinner, _solus cum solo_, at Auchincleuch, and that many tears are
annually shed, over a snug bottle, for poor Nancy.



THE MEDAL.


I was educated in a Scottish university, where prizes were distributed
to the most distinguished students in each class at the termination of
the session. The most distinguished prize was a gold medal, value ten
guineas, the gift of a departed _eleve_, and awarded to the best scholar
in the mathematical class. Having a natural turn or bias for
mathematical pursuits, I applied myself night and day to the attainment
of this my object of ambition; and this, too, at the expense and neglect
of all the other classes which I attended. I was a very imperfect Latin
scholar, I knew almost nothing of Greek, and held the unscientific
reasoning of logic and moral philosophy in great contempt. By great
labour, and after a severe competition, I succeeded in attaining the
distinction at which I aimed, and saw myself blazoned in several
newspapers as the holder of this distinguishing badge. My great chum at
college was a Mr Donald Ferguson, a lad of a staid and persevering
disposition, of a well-balanced and judicious mind, and without any
talents, _apparently_, which bespoke future distinction. We had been
friends and companions at school--our parents were friends before
us--and, although we differed materially in disposition, this did not
prevent the closest and most affectionate intercourse. Oh! such
recollections as now rush upon my mind!--

    "Dear happy scenes of innocence and ease--
    Scenes of my youth, when every sport could please!"

Ferguson and I spent whole days together in the solitude of nature, with
nothing but the deep blue and fleecy white overhead; the stunted thorn
and the croaking raven above; and the brawling brook and trout-dimpled
pool before us. In all games of activity I had the start of Ferguson,
and was always first chosen at "King o' Cantilon," "the dools," and
"shinty;" but he had the advantage again of me in feats of strength and
precision of eye--in the quoits and putting-stone. But I am wandering
from my purpose, and forgetting my narrative.

Ferguson would often admonish me that I was giving offence to several
professors, in order to gain the good opinion of one, and that the
applause which my medal would procure for me might be too dearly bought
at the expense of every other department of study. I took all this in
good part, but without altering, in the least, my conduct, as I answered
that my friend was making a virtue of necessity, and recommending that
course of obscure diligence to me which he, by nature, was destined to
pursue.

In consequence of the _eclat_ of the medal, I had an invitation to make
one of a pleasure party to Roslin, and had the happiness of being
introduced to some young ladies, who had previously expressed to my
friend Ferguson a wish to make my acquaintance. We spent a most
delightful day--

    "'Midst Roslin's bowers sae bright and bonny,
    And a' the sweets o' Hawthornden."

The ladies were young, bright, and beautiful, light of heart, and
delightfully pleasing in manners and conversation. I had not been
previously accustomed to such fascinating society; and I felt that kind
of intoxication which youth, innocence, and strong passion only can
feel. I was all day _off_ my feet, and gave way to every manner of fun,
frolic, and foolery, to show that, though I was an immense philosopher,
I was still a man in every pulse and vein. There was in this happy group
one divine countenance; an eye so blue, and so soft, and so
penetrating--lips that moved in meaning, and held every instant
communication of the most electric character, with a little playful,
almost wily dimple which gave the most varied fascination to a cheek of
sunshine and almost rosy hue. Her form

          "Was fresher than the morning rose
    When the dew wets its leaves--unstain'd and pure
    As is the lily or the mountain snow."

In a word, as you will easily perceive, I was captivated; and could do
nothing all the ensuing night but toss and think, and think and toss,
till nature at last steeped me anew, not in forgetfulness, but in all
the motley, medley joys and gambols of Roslin. I had now become a
student of divinity; but all study was with me at an end. No party of
young people--particularly where young ladies were concerned--could be
held without me; and I had the very great misfortune to be talked of by
them as monstrous clever. The young lady to whom I had so long paid
particular attention, and at whose house (that of the widow of a
respected clergyman of the Church of Scotland) I had long been a
habitual and a welcome guest, at last consented to receive me in future
in the light of a lover. We walked it, talked it, and laughed it from
morning to night, "as other lovers do," and scarcely thought of either
the past or the future, being so completely engrossed with the present.
Time flew by on angel wings, fleeting as bright, and the period of my
examination, previous to my receiving license, at last approached. I had
all the while a secret misgiving that I would not stand a trial, in the
Presbytery of Edinburgh in particular; but I had no other residence for
several years, and, consequently, no other way of becoming a licentiate.
As good fortune would have it, the mother of my betrothed, through her
interest with the Duke of Queensberry's factor, had every chance of
procuring me a presentation the moment I was qualified to accept of it;
and both she and her daughter would as soon have dreamed that I would
fail in opening my eyes, as in obtaining the indispensable requisite of
a license. What I had anticipated, however, actually took place: I was
found so deficient in the classics of Greece and Rome, that my license
was delayed, and I was remitted for twelve months to my studies. This
was a degree of disgrace and degradation which altogether unmanned me. I
could not face my beloved Mary, or her mother, or any of my own friends
and acquaintances, under such circumstances. Sleep fled my eyes, and my
mind became unhinged. Existence itself became a positive, insupportable
misery. I fled to the mountains; but they, through all their glens and
streams, had tongues that syllabled beloved names, which I wished, were
it possible, to forget. Wherever I went, the horrors of the past were
ever present. People seemed to me to stop and point the finger of scorn
at me from every street and doorway. At last, in a fit of despair, I
rashly resolved on self-destruction, and plunged headlong into Leith
harbour. I have the sound of the waters still in my ears, and that sound
will, I verily believe, remain till that of the last trumpet shall
mingle with it. When I awoke from seeming nonentity, I was surrounded by
many and unknown faces; and my passage back to life was more terrific
and painful by far than my exit. I had been for some time in a warm bed,
and undergoing the means of resuscitation. "Much kinder," thought I,
"had ye been to let me go." My name, parentage, &c., having been
ascertained, my father was written to, and I was kept in close custody
till his arrival. My father was a respectable farmer in Dumfries-shire,
and immediately hurried me away to my native glen. My mother met me with
tears; but they were those of sympathy and affection, and one word of
reproach she never uttered. I became gradually more and more calm: but
at times the thoughts of the paradise which I had lost, and the hell I
had earned, would throw me absolutely into convulsions. The calmness
which gathered over my soul was not that of resignation--it was the
settled gloom of despair. Religion was talked of and pressed upon me;
but as yet I had no settled views on that subject. I neither believed
nor disbelieved: I was willing, when the subject obtruded itself upon my
thoughts, to get rid of it the best way I could. At last my melancholy
gradually undermined a naturally good constitution, and it was manifest
to my medical adviser that I was verging towards that degree of
weakness and decay which, under various distinctive appellations, is
sure to terminate in death. A change of scene was urged, and I was
hurried away to Saturness Point, that I might inhale the sea breeze, and
be interested in new objects. This measure was at first partially
successful; but, happening to see a newspaper one day, in which the
settlement of my more steady companion in the very church which I had
once destined for myself was mentioned, and reading in the very same
page a notice of his marriage with my beloved Mary, I became immediately
frantic. For years my mind was so far unhinged that a person was
appointed to watch my motions, and guard me from self-destruction. "Oh,
that cursed medal!" was I heard again and again to exclaim; "it is to
this I have to trace my every wo." What I endured, during this dark and
fearful night, no power of fancy can image, no pen can describe.
_Horresco referens._

As God would have it, the person who was thus associated with me night
and day was religiously disposed, and took occasion, when opportunity
served, to lead my mind to serious subjects--to talk of eternity,
immortality, heaven, and hell. Often did I kick against the pricks, and
strive to resume my former indifference; but it would not do. The very
_possibility_ of such awful truths was terrific. I awoke all at once, as
it were, to a sense of my imminent danger. I found that I was sleeping
on a parapet, from which to fall was certain death. I fled with all
possible speed to the only city of refuge--to the redemption that is in
Christ Jesus. I grasped the truths of the gospel with the energy of a
dying creature. I hugged the very Bible to my bosom, and read it night
and day. Our conversations were protracted, and, to me, ultimately
delightful. I found that there was mercy even to the _chief_ of sinners,
and I regarded myself as personally referred to in the gracious
intimation. With the perception and cultivation of gospel truth, my
health gradually rallied, and my mind assumed a more balanced attitude.
It was about this time that my father died, and the superintendence of a
pretty extensive sheep-farm naturally devolved upon me. This avocation,
uncongenial as it was to my college pursuits and feelings, still
occupied my attention, and withdrew me from reflections of no very
pleasing nature. In cultivating, or rather in renewing, my acquaintance
with the soil, and with its productions, vegetable as well as animal, I
felt that I was placed as it were in the outer vestibule of God's
temple. Into the holy of holies, through the blessed mediation, I had
already been introduced, and it gave me pleasure to behold the outer, as
well as to contemplate the inner, courts of so stupendous an erection.
"The Shepherd of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. My sheep hear my
voice. He shall separate the sheep from the goats. The streams that run
amongst the hills. Mount Carmel, Mount Zion, Mount Horeb." These and
similar expressions, in which the Jewish Scriptures, in particular,
abound, came home to my newly-renovated, and, I trust, regenerated,
perceptions, with a vividness and a force formerly unknown. I seemed to
myself to be a dweller on the mountains of Jacob, and amongst the tents
of Israel, as my flocks scattered themselves on the hill-side, or
pursued the green pasturage by the streams of waters. There was a
harmony and correspondence betwixt the seen and the unseen, the present
and the past, the temporal and the spiritual life, of which I every day
became more and more aware.

About this time we received intimation of the death of my father's
brother, who had gone, early in life, to Kingston in Jamaica, and had,
by prosperous adventures as a merchant, realised a considerable sum of
money. After various delays and much peculation, the residue of his
fortune, together with his will, was transmitted home, and I found
myself, as my father's heir-male, entitled to upwards of £10,000. My
mother had already greatly declined, indeed she never fully rallied
after my father's death; and on the very day on which the papers
respecting the inheritance arrived, I had to perform the last sad duties
to one of the best of parents. Alas! that ever my unhappy conduct should
have occasioned pain and anxiety in a bosom where pure affection and
undefiled religion habitually resided! I had the consolation, however,
to receive my mother's blessing in her parting breath, and to hear her
construe my misconduct and misfortunes into merciful dispensations of a
wise Providence, who is ever bringing good out of seeming evil.

    "And better thence again, and better still,
    In infinite progression."

The lease of the farm having expired in a year after this, I did not
think of continuing on a spot which suggested so many recollections
connected with the departed; so I at once removed to furnished lodgings
in Edinburgh, and gradually renewed my acquaintance with a few of my
still surviving friends. Amongst these was the mother of my Mary, who
informed me that her daughter was now a widow and without family, and
was expected in a month or two to return to her old fireside from the
Manse of ----. I do not know how it was, but I trembled all over at this
information, and an image, which had for so long a time been almost
obliterated from my memory, now rose before me in all its original
loveliness. The two months appeared to me two twelvemonths, till I again
saw, and renewed my acquaintance, with the only woman whom my soul had
ever loved. Mutual explanations took place; she had married my friend
Ferguson, under the impression that, if not dead, I was confined in a
lunatic asylum; and had only consented, after all, at the earnest
request of her mother. It was but yesterday that we had a most
delightful drive to Roslin, where I renewed my addresses, and have been
accepted. I have taken a neat cottage near Hawthornden, where I mean to
spend with Mary the remainder of my days, if not in the fervour of young
love, at least in the more enduring, perhaps, and more rational
endearments of mutual affection, friendship, and esteem. The medal,
which was the foundation of all my sufferings, I have at this moment
suspended before me, in my study, that I may be ever reminded of that
false step which, but for the interposition of Providence, might have
ruined both soul and body for ever. If it shall be in God's providence
that I am blessed with any pledges of affection by my dear Mary, I shall
endeavour to save them from the danger which I so narrowly escaped; yet,
so strangely commingled are the good and bad things of life--so very
delicately are the fine threads that go to form the web of our moral
system connected and interlaced--that it requires a hand finer than mere
man's to remove some of the dingy lines, so as to restore to the whole
that beauty it possessed when spread in the garden of Eden. If we take
from the noble steed the emulation that may hurry him over the
precipice, we will see him distanced at the next St Leger. Must we,
then, secure the good, and run the risk of the attendant evil? The
answer does not seem difficult. Let emulation be by all means
encouraged; but let all teachers and parents impress upon the minds of
the fortunate competitors the true value of the prize won. And whilst
efforts are made in one direction, let it ever be remembered that a
_useful_ education comprehends _breadth_ as well as _length_; and that
the departments which have been neglected may prove, in future life,
those of the most essential value in promoting success and securing
happiness.



THE MEETING AT ST BOSWELL'S.


It is now some years since I happened to visit the pretty little village
of St Boswell's, in Roxburghshire, in company with a friend, who had
some stock to dispose of at the great annual fair then holding there.
Most of my readers are aware that the Duke of Buccleugh is lord of the
manor of St Boswell's, and that a dinner is always provided, at his
grace's expense, in a barn on the fair ground, for all gentlemen who
have tickets of admission from the baron bailie. While my friend was
busied with the disposal of his stock, I, being an idler, wandered up
and down the green, and was much pleased with the appearance of the
fair, which was more English, if I may be allowed to use the term, than
anything of the kind I had ever witnessed in Scotland. The numbers, neat
arrangement, and really handsome appearance of the "street" of
booths--the gay and well-dressed parties of gentlefolks--the cheerful,
joyous faces of the lower orders--the handsome equipages--the green at a
distance, swarming with cattle of various kinds--with a bright and
genial sun shining over all--formed altogether a pleasing and animated
scene. Pleased as I was, however, I caught myself several times
involuntarily yawning, and turning my eyes towards the barn; and I was
not at all sorry when the welcome sound of the drum announced that "the
roast beef" was ready. I was soon seated beside my friend, who, like
myself, was most ready and anxious to do justice to the duke's liberal
provision. I have a great talent for eating, but none for description,
so I will not attempt to enumerate or describe the variety of good
things which _dis_appeared before us; suffice it, we were all much more
contented with ourselves and each other when all was over, than before
our operations commenced. Commend me to a man who has just made a good
dinner--if he be not a philanthropist then, he never will be. Happening
to glance my eye towards the other end of the table, I observed that I
was the object of close and intense attention to one of the company--a
stranger of prepossessing aspect, who was seated at some distance at the
opposite side. He gazed at me with an earnestness almost amounting to
rudeness; and whenever I glanced in that direction, I perceived that his
eye was constantly riveted upon my countenance. At first, I was
considerably annoyed by the persevering scrutiny of his gaze; but, after
a time, I was conscious of a vague impression on my mind that I had seen
his face before; but when or where, I in vain endeavoured to recall. I
was in the unpleasant situation of one who hears a long-forgotten
melody, which stirs up within his mind overpowering and indefinable
emotions, though, at the moment, the associations connected with it are
forgotten. A confused train of visions of the past, of pleasure and of
pain, crowded through my brain, with a dreamy consciousness that the
stranger was, in some way or another, connected with them. I could not,
for the life of me, shake off the impression his features had made upon
my mind; and I wandered up and down, through all the bustle of the fair,
as abstracted as if I were in a desert--treading upon the toes of the
present, and raking up the ashes of the past, to puzzle out some
connection between them and the stranger; but in vain. The indignant
looks and half-suppressed curses of those I jostled or trod upon alike
failed in rousing me from my reverie, till a violent push from the elbow
of one of my victims sent me staggering against a gentleman who was
standing close to one of the booths. It was the stranger.

How wonderful and unaccountable are the workings of the human mind, and
what trifling incidents may present us with a clue to the labyrinth of
thought we have been in vain endeavouring to unravel!

In making my apologies to the stranger, my eye chanced to glance upwards
to the _sign_ above the entrance to the booth; it was "The Old Ship." A
flash of sudden recollection lighted up the dark places of my
memory--the friend of my early days stood before me.

"Sandford!--in the name of all that's strange, is that you?"

"My name is Sandford Grant," said he, "and I know and feel that you are
an old friend. I have been thinking of nothing else since I saw you in
the barn; but my memory plays me false--I cannot recollect when or where
we have met before."

"Look up at that board--perhaps it will assist your recollection, as it
did mine."

"The Old Ship!" exclaimed he, with a look of wonder and inquiry. "The
Old Ship!" he repeated, slowly and distinctly, and then he gazed long
and earnestly in my face, till at length the look of indecision and
doubt gave place to a sudden glow of delighted recognition. "Douglas!"
exclaimed he, with a long and cordial shake of the hand.

"The same, my dear fellow. It is ten long years since we met, and time
has left his marks upon us both; no wonder we did not recognise each
other at first; particularly as it was in such a very different scene we
last met, or rather parted."

We spent the evening together, as two long-separated friends should do,
in talking over the events of our early years, and relating our mutual
adventures since we parted. As I did not know Sandford myself at first,
it is hardly to be expected that the reader can know either of us
without a formal introduction; which is the more necessary, as we are
both to figure in the tale I am about to relate.

Those of my readers who have passed through Longtown in Cumberland may
have remarked, on the left-hand side of the main street, as they entered
the town from the bridge, a neat red-brick house, with an iron-railed
enclosure in front, and a large gateway to the right, leading into the
courtyard. In that house Sandford Grant and I first became acquainted
with each other; it was then an academy. The house still remains, but
master and pupils are "scattered to the four winds of heaven." For three
years we were class-fellows and friends; for we were just of the same
age, and a Scottish feeling of clannish regard made us cling to each
other more perhaps than we otherwise would have done. He was a handsome,
spirited boy, or rather child, and was always ready, at a word, to fight
my battles as well as his own. He was a great favourite on account of
his frank, liberal disposition; but the most unlucky little dog that
ever lived. If ever there was any mischief going on, he was sure to be
concerned in it, and as sure of being discovered and punished; if there
was only one puddle in the road on a Sunday, he, somehow or other,
contrived to go out of his way to tumble into it, dirty his white
stockings, and be recommended by the mistress to her husband's tender
mercies. In fact, he was constantly getting into scrapes; so much so
that "Sandford's luck" became quite a proverb among us.

It was with sad hearts and tears on both sides that we parted, when
circumstances obliged me to accompany my family to the south. We were
then about eleven years of age; and having lately read the tale of Damon
and Pythias, we felt assured that we would willingly follow their
example, and were ready, if necessary, to immolate ourselves on the
altar of friendship. Fortunately for us, there was no such necessity.
The spring of tears in youth lies too near the surface--it is soon
exhausted. We solaced our sorrows for the present, by promising that, as
we could no longer see each other, we would exchange long letters, at
least once a-week. At first our correspondence added considerably to His
Majesty's revenue; but our epistolary ardour soon cooled, till, at no
very long interval, our correspondence fell into a gradual decline, and
at last died away altogether. But the Fates had decreed that Sandford
and I were not to part so easily. We met some years afterwards at the
Military College at Addiscombe, where we added to the number of the
East India Company's _hard bargains_. There we were inseparable; for,
with all the warmth of early recollections around us, our renewed
acquaintance soon ripened into sincere and devoted friendship.

After the usual term of probation at Addiscombe, Sandford obtained an
appointment in the engineers, and I a cadetship of infantry, and we
sailed from England together. On our arrival at Calcutta, we separated:
he remaining at the presidency, and I being ordered up the country, to
join my regiment at Cawnpore.

I pass over the details of my life in India; suffice it that, after ten
years roasting under an eastern sun, I was pretty well done at last, and
my liver began to give me sundry gentle hints that it was time for me to
be moving, unless I wished to remain altogether where I was;
accordingly, I applied for and obtained furlough to visit Europe for the
benefit of my health. Though Sandford and I had been so long separated,
we had always kept up a regular intercourse by letter, and we had
arranged that, if practicable, we would take our furlough together; and,
accordingly, we managed matters so that we took our passage in the same
ship for England. Fortune had favoured us both in promotion; we had each
attained the rank of captain in our respective corps. In congratulating
Sandford on his good fortune, I remarked, in allusion to our
school-days, that it was better than "Sandford's luck."

"You would not say so, my dear fellow," said he, "if you knew all. I am
as unlucky a dog as ever; and you may have reason yet, before we part,
to wish we had not met again."

"Nonsense," said I; "let us enjoy the present, at all events, whatever
the future may have in store for us. Come, order your palanquin, and let
us be off; the boat was to be waiting for us at Champaul Ghaut at ten
o'clock, and it only wants a few minutes of the hour."

Our ship, the Dolphin, was a beautiful little chartered free-trader, of
about 600 tons, remarkably fast for a merchantman--a regular clipper, as
her captain called her--and manned by an active and effective crew. She
mounted twelve small carronades on her upper deck, and a neat brass
swivel which traversed on the head of the capstan. On the 28th August,
18--, we sailed from Sangor with several other merchantmen, under convoy
of H.M.S. Albatross. Our voyage was very tedious, unmarked by any
variety except that of wind and weather; and our captain, who was a
smart, active little man, an excellent disciplinarian, and much beloved
by his crew, was dreadfully annoyed by the detention occasioned by the
dull sailers of the fleet. At last he resolved, if possible, to effect
his escape, and make the best of his way home. After we left St Helena,
an opportunity, unfortunately for us, soon presented itself. One squally
evening, the frigate made a signal for the convoy to carry easy sail,
and to watch the commodore's motions during the night. Soon after dark,
the wind freshened up to a strong breeze, with passing squalls and heavy
rain at times. With her topgallantsails set over single-reefed topsails,
the little Dolphin bounded over the waves in such style as to do credit
to the name she bore; and, by keeping a little of the course she had
before been steering, and carrying a press of sail through the night,
made such good use of her _fins_, that at daybreak not a ship of the
fleet was to be seen. We were all at first delighted with our freedom,
and with the prospect of reaching our destination so much sooner than we
otherwise would have done; but, upon after reflection, we began to doubt
the prudence of trusting to our own legs and arms, when we would have
been so much safer under the wing of the Albatross. Captain Driver
himself, however, was in high glee; he said he knew that few even of the
crack privateers were matches for his little Dolphin. However, he
neglected no means of adding to, and improving, the efficiency of his
vessel: the men were exercised regularly at the guns, the passengers and
servants drilled in the use of the muskets, and every precaution was
adopted which skill and experience could suggest, to make our means of
defence as available as possible.

In this way our time passed away stirringly and pleasantly enough, till
we lost the south-east trade, and then we were tormented for nearly
three weeks with calms and burning heat during the day, and heavy
unceasing rains during the night. To add to our discomforts, a great
mortality had taken place among our live stock, and we were for days
floating about among a whole fleet of dead ducks and fowls, with the
pleasant prospect before us of salt junk and hard Curtis[1] for the rest
of the voyage.

[Footnote 1: A famous biscuit-baker.]

"My old luck," said Sandford.

We had at last contrived to crawl as far as four degrees north, when,
one afternoon, to our great joy, we observed signs of change in the
weather. Light grey clouds were beginning to appear to the northward;
and we watched with great interest those "ships of heaven" slowly and
gradually moving upwards. Light _cats'-paws_ began to ruffle the waters,
and every here and there we saw in the distance shoals of fish sporting
amid the roughness which the light and partial airs produced upon the
surface. But we were still lying becalmed; the awnings were all spread,
but the heat was oppressive; and the little Dolphin was rolling heavily
in the long sea, dipping her bright sides deep into the water. A long
dark line was now visible on the horizon to the eastward, which
gradually spread, and neared us.

"Thank goodness! there is a breeze at last!" said Captain Driver; and in
half-an-hour's time the Dolphin was once more dancing along, like a
living creature, over the waves. During the night, the wind drew
gradually round to the northward; and before morning we had a fine
steady north-east trade, which carried us as far as twenty-nine degrees
north. From this time nothing particular occurred, till we arrived
nearly in the parallel of the English Channel--the Lizard bearing about
north-east-by-east of us, fifteen hundred miles distant. Here, after a
succession of south-easterly breezes, we had another taste of
"Sandford's luck," in the shape of a calm of two days' duration. On the
morning of the third day, we were surprised by seeing, at some six or
seven miles' distance to the south-west, a long, low, rakish-looking
brig, with her royals furled and courses hauled up, and a pennant flying
at the mast-head. Immediately on noticing us, she hoisted an English
ensign, and fired a gun. Our boatswain, an old man-of-war's-man,
immediately exclaimed that he recognised her as H.M. brig Hawk; and upon
her firing a second gun, the quarter-boat was lowered and manned, and
the second mate despatched in her. Sandford, who was fond of novelty,
asked and obtained leave to join the party. Soon after the boat shoved
off from the Dolphin, a light breeze from the southward filled the
stranger's sails, and she drew a little nearer. We were all anxious for
news from England, and watched our boat with great anxiety, as she went
alongside of the brig; but what was our surprise to observe that the
crew were all called up, and two of the stranger's men were sent into
the boat! The brig was all this time slowly and gradually approaching
us, while we were lying helplessly becalmed, watching the breeze as it
rippled over the still, smooth water, about half-way between the
vessels. The stranger was now within two miles of us, when the light
air, which had so long been favouring her, began to roughen the sea
close under our stern. A bright flash and a thick cloud of smoke now
burst from the stranger's bow, and the loud, sharp report of a gun
broke, with startling import, on our ears, while, at the same moment,
the English ensign was hauled down, and the white flag of France
floated proudly in its stead, and a red cornet fluttered at the main.

"Here's a pretty business!" said Captain Driver. "We will give them a
run for it, however."

In an instant, all was bustle and activity an board the little Dolphin:
every stitch of canvas was spread to catch the coming breeze; two of the
guns were _trained_ aft, and pointed out of the cabin windows; not a
voice was heard on board, but that of the captain; the men moved
actively and noiselessly about, watching their commander's eye, and in
prompt obedience to his orders. The little Dolphin herself seemed
conscious that danger was near, so silently did she slip through the
water, as her lofty sails swelled out with the light but steady breeze.
There was such a hush among us on board, after all the sails had been
set, that the only sound heard was the hissing noise made by the ship as
she cut rapidly through the smooth water, and the small bubbles floated
away astern. Presently a tiny wave raised its white crest here and
there, and broke with a gentle murmur; there was glad music in the
sound--for it was a sign that the breeze was freshening. In the course
of an hour, though the water was still smooth, the Dolphin was beginning
to _speak_ audibly, and the white foam-bells danced merrily past her.

In the meantime, the stranger had not been idle. She had at first made
use of her sweeps; but, as the breeze freshened, she laid them in. Her
lofty spars were crowded with canvas, and she seemed to be rather
gaining upon us. We could see that her decks were crowded with men; and
every now and then she sent a shot after us.

"Talk away, my boys," said the gallant little captain. "I have no time
to return the compliment. If I can only keep clear of you till dark, I
will weather you yet." The poor little Dolphin glided away beautifully,
and proved that she well merited her good character; for, after some
hours' chase, the privateer had gained but little upon us; but still
there appeared no chance of our escaping in the long run. About noon,
the enemy was within range, and no sooner made the discovery, than she
began blazing away with her bow-guns, in hopes of disabling us; but
fortune, for once in her life, favoured the weaker party. The
privateer's shot riddled our sails; but our spars and hull were as yet
unharmed, when a well-aimed shot from one of our stern-chasers went
through her fore-topgallantsail, and struck the mast just above the cap.
Three cheers burst from our gallant crew, as they saw her small masts
first bend, then fall forward together before the foretopsail, dragging
with them the main-royal and skysail masts. The sailing of the two
vessels was so nearly equal, that we now had a decided advantage over
the enemy, which Captain Driver did all in his power to make the most
of. Two of the foremost guns were _trained_ aft, and the men were all
ordered to lie down on the deck close to the taffrail, to bring the ship
more by the stern. There were active hands, however, on board the
privateer. In a wonderfully short time, the wreck was cleared away, and
new spars had replaced the crippled ones. She came crawling quickly up
again; and it was evident to all on board the Dolphin, that, unless some
unforeseen accident saved us, a few hours would seal our fate.

It was now late in the evening; the sun had set, and dark, louring
clouds were hanging over the horizon to the westward. The water was
still tolerably smooth, and the wind was a little on our starboard
quarter; the privateer was coming up rather to leeward, gaining rapidly
upon us, and peppering away as fast as she could with her bow-chasers.
Some of her shot _told_ upon our hull, smashing the cabin bulk-heads,
but hurting no one; and, fortunately, our spars were as yet untouched.
But she was not so lucky--for we could see, by their getting
preventer-backstays upon her fore-topmast, that the mast was crippled.
Captain Driver perceived that there was no chance of escaping much
longer by fast sailing, and he determined to try what stratagem could do
for us. He called his men round him, and explained to them what his
intentions were; telling them that everything depended upon their energy
and activity, and promising them, in the name of his owners, a handsome
reward if they succeeded in saving the ship. Immediately after the next
shot fired by the privateer, the man at the helm, by Captain Driver's
orders, began to yaw the ship about--the stunsails were hauled in--the
royal sheets let go--the sails clued up, but not furled--the
topgallantsails lowered, and the colours hauled down. Every movement
must have appeared to the enemy indicative of terror and indecision; and
we could distinctly hear the cheers with which they hailed the lowering
of our ensign. In the midst of our apparent confusion, the yards of the
Dolphin were quietly drawn forward to starboard, and the men and
passengers stationed at the topgallant and royal halyards, and royal
sheets. The privateer, which some of our men now recognised as the
notorious Hercule of Brest, came bowling upon our larboard quarter,
taking in and furling all her small sails, and hauling up her courses.
When she was so close to us that we might almost have thrown a biscuit
on board, the French captain jumped upon the bulwark with his trumpet in
his hand, as if to hail us.

"Now, my lad," said Driver to the man at the helm, "remember what I told
you. When I call out to you to put the helm hard a-starboard, put it
hard a-port."

The privateer captain was just putting the trumpet to his lips, when
Captain Driver bawled out, "Put the helm hard a-starboard!"

As he expected, this order was instantly echoed on board the privateer,
who thought we intended to try and run aboard of him. As I said before,
the wind was a little on our starboard quarter; and the Frenchman, by
paying quickly _off_, threw his sails aback; while the little Dolphin,
_her_ helm having been put to port instead of starboard, flew _up_ to
the wind, and, her yards being all ready braced up, darted away like an
arrow to windward--this being her favourite sailing point; at the same
moment, the topgallant sails were sheeted home and set, and the royals
hoisted.

It was some little time before the privateer recovered from the surprise
and confusion occasioned by this unexpected manoeuvre; and, by the
time her yards were trimmed and sails set, the Dolphin had again a good
start of her. We had now reason to bless the fortunate shot that had
crippled her fore-topmast; for she was afraid to carry such a press of
sail as she otherwise would have done. However, disabled as she was, she
was still a match for us, and kept throwing her shot after us, in token
of her friendly feeling.

"Hurrah, my little beauty!" said Captain Driver, apostrophising his
ship; "another hour, and we are safe."

The privateer was gaining upon us slowly but surely, when the night,
which, fortunately for us, was dark and gloomy, set in. Captain Driver
kept a light burning in the stern cabin, and gave strict orders that
every other light in the ship should be put out. He then had a large
water-butt sawed in half, and fitted into it a light bamboo staff, to
the end of which a lantern was affixed. The tub was well ballasted; and,
when all was ready, it was lowered down nearly to the water's edge
astern, the lantern lighted, and the lamp in the captain's cabin
extinguished. Just as the lanyards were let go, and the tub, with its
decoy light, fell into the water, we fired both our stern-chasers, to
deceive the enemy, and immediately bore up, and stood away, under a
press of sail, to the westward. The night was pitch dark; the wind
drawing round to the southward and westward, and with every appearance
of further change.

Our ruse succeeded completely. We were only aware of the privateer's
position by the bright flashes of her guns, as she fired them in chase,
as she thought; and by the twinkling light of the floating lantern,
which was, at last, suddenly extinguished, after a brisk fire from the
Frenchman. We ran, for a couple of hours, to the westward; and then, the
wind gradually heading us, we kept away again for the Channel, and,
before morning, we had a fine staggering westerly breeze to help us
along.

At daylight, nothing was to be seen from the mast-head; and we
cheerfully pursued our voyage, rejoicing in our fortunate escape. We had
now time to think of and to lament the hard fate of our shipmates, who
had been so cleverly entrapped.

"Sandford's luck, again," said I. "Poor fellow, how strange it is that
such a fatality always seems to attend him!"

"You forget," said Captain Driver, "that the men who are with him are in
the same unlucky predicament, and of course are equally unfortunate. But
it _is_ curious to observe how some men are favoured and others
persecuted by fortune. When I was a youngster, I sailed with a captain
(a smart, active, intelligent man he was) who told me that ever since he
had commanded a ship, each alternate voyage had always been an unlucky
one. 'And this,' said he, 'is my unlucky one.' And sure enough it was
so; for, from the commencement to the close of it, it was one constant
series of misfortunes. However, I have no doubt our poor lads will be
well enough off on board the privateer--the French are fine fellows,
after all; but I do not envy them the quarters that await them on
shore."

The breeze continued steady; and in about ten days' time we had run down
a great part of our distance from the Lizard, which we expected to
_make_ in two days more. One morning the man at the mast-head reported a
large ship to the southward, and Captain Driver _made her out_ to be a
man-of-war. We immediately crowded all sail, with the horrors of a
French prison before us; but she had already noticed us, and come
bowling after us, firing a gun to bring us to, and hoisting English
colours. After a long and anxious survey of the stranger, Captain Driver
was satisfied that she was an English frigate, and accordingly hoisted
his colours and hove to. From the lieutenant who boarded us, we learned
that the frigate was H.M.S. ----, bound to Spithead. When we related to
him our adventure with the privateer, he told us that it was no wonder
we were deceived; for that the Hercule was often mistaken for the Hawk,
and that the real Hawk was cruising about the _chops_ of the Channel, in
hopes of falling in with her. We followed in the wake of the frigate up
Channel, and, on the 1st May, to our great joy, we cast anchor once more
on the shores of Old England. I remained two years at home, and then
returned to the East, without having heard any news of poor Sandford's
fate.

"And now, my dear Sandford," said I, "tell me all your adventures since
we parted company so unexpectedly."

"You may imagine our surprise," replied he, "when we found how quietly
we poor gulls had thrust our heads into the eagle's nest. The second
mate of the Dolphin and I had hardly set foot on the deck of the
stranger, when we saw at a glance our mistake; and, if we had any doubts
on the subject, they were soon set at rest by the captain, who said to
us, shrugging his shoulders, with a smile--

"'Messieurs, you are my prisonnars; dere is no use for de resiste; call
your men out of de boat.'

"We saw too plainly that resistance was vain, and we submitted to our
hard fate as patiently as we could. The boat's crew were sent down into
the hold, and sentries placed over them, and we were disarmed, but
allowed the range of the deck and cabin, giving our parole that we
would hold no intercourse with our own men or the crew. When we saw the
privateer's sails swell with the breeze and when with her long sweeps
she began to crawl along 'like a centipede,' while the little Dolphin
lay stationary and becalmed, we feared that we should soon have more
companions in captivity. Great was our delight when the gallant little
vessel glided away like a fairy before us, and we began to have some
hopes of your escape, knowing as we did what a character the Dolphin had
for sailing.

"'Well done, my beauty!' shouted the mate.

"'Ah, mon ami,' said the Frenchman, 'do not rejoice too queek; before
night, your leetel beauté, as you call hare, shall be mine.'

"I cannot describe his mortification at the skilful manoeuvre by which
you baffled him just as he thought he was sure of you, and contrived to
steal away again to windward of him; but, after a time, when his angry
feeling had passed away, he could not help exclaiming--

"'Parbleu! he is one clevare man, that capitane! He most be var weak
after lose one boat's crew, and yet how he manage his sheep skeelfully!
'Tis almost peety not let him rone away; bote I mos catch heem--he
cannot escape long.' When the night set in so dark and gloomy, he
said--'Well, begar, I do begin think that capitane of yours is not so
vary clevare man after all. How he most be fool to carry that
light!--without that lumiere I should lose sight of heem quite entirely,
the night is so, what you call, so tar--no--peetch dark.'

"'I suppose,' said I, 'in the confusion he has forgot it.'

"'Not a bit of it,' said Gordon, the mate, to me, aside; 'Captain Driver
is not such a fool as he thinks. He has some reason for what he is
doing, depend upon it.'

"After a time, the light, which had kept a pretty equal distance ahead
of us, became apparently stationary, and we came up to it with great
rapidity.

"'Ah,' said the Frenchman, 'he is tire at last. We have catch heem.'

"We all thought that some of our chance shots had taken effect, and that
the Dolphin, unable to escape, had hove to, to surrender. As we came
near the light, the small sails were taken in and furled, the courses
hauled up, and the boat was cleared away for lowering to board the
prize.

"'Begar, dis is ver extraordinare!' said the Frenchman to me--'dere is
de light, but I do not see de sheep. Sheep ahoy!' No answer. 'Sheep
ahoy! Answere, or I weel fire.' Still no answer. 'Tirez donc!' A
broadside was fired, and the light disappeared.

"Not a cry or sound of any kind was heard after the noise of the firing
had ceased. The poor little Dolphin, we thought, must have sunk at once;
but yet it was very strange that so large a vessel (she was large
compared to the Frenchman) could have been invisible and inaudible when
so near us. The boats were lowered immediately, and furnished with
lanterns, that their crews might see to save all they could. After a
short time, they returned, bringing back, as the sole remains of the
poor Dolphin, a few broken staves, and a bamboo, with a lantern lashed
to the end of it. The French captain's blank stare of astonishment was
at first quite amusing; but at last the truth flashed upon him, and,
with a loud laugh, he exclaimed--

"'Parbleu! that capitane is one dam clevare fellow! He throw out one tub
to catch a whale; he deserves to escape. _Néanmoins_, he is not safe
yet.'

"He then hauled close to the wind, and stood to the eastward, thinking
that you would make for the Channel as fast as possible. If it had not
been for the name of the thing, we would have enjoyed the cruise very
much; for the French captain and his officers were polite and
gentlemanly, and treated us as messmates and friends. _Their_
destination was Brest, and ours, eventually, a French prison, till we
should be ransomed or exchanged--a pleasant way for me to enjoy my three
years' furlough!

"One afternoon, just after dinner, as we were dodging to the eastward,
with the wind at north, a sail appeared ahead, but too far off to
distinguish what she could be. All sail was immediately made in chase,
and we rapidly neared the object of our pursuit. She was a lumbering,
heavy-looking brig, under topgallantsails, painted with a broad, dirty
white streak, turning up at each end with a _sheer_ like a bow. We
hoisted French colours, and fired a gun to leeward; she showed an
English ensign, and immediately began to make more sail, which she did
in a regular collier-like fashion, and went floundering and plunging
along like a cart-horse over a ploughed field; and the more sail she
made, the slower she seemed to go. We were all mightily amused with her
clumsy attempts to escape, and wondered at her folly in exasperating her
enemy by such unavailing efforts. Gun after gun was fired to bring her
to; but still she floundered on, kicking up her stern as if in derision,
as her heavy bow plunged deep into the water. At last the captain of the
privateer got into a towering passion, and swore he would sink her when
he got alongside. While the brig, or at least her crew, were straining
every nerve to escape, one of her maintopgallant sheets _went_; and the
awkward and slovenly manner in which the sail was handled excited the
laughter of all on board our small craft. The brig at this time, as if
aware that escape was hopeless, took in her royals, and lowered her
topgallantsails, but without altering her course, or striking her
colours. It was dusk when we came within speaking distance; and, running
up close under her quarter, our captain seized the speaking-trumpet, and
ordered the brig to strike her colours immediately, or he would sink
her. What was his surprise, when, in answer to his hail, three deafening
cheers resounded from the brig! Her deck was in an instant swarming
with men; and, while our crew were gaping with astonishment, _the
painted canvas screen_ disappeared from her side as if by magic, and a
broadside was poured into our hull, which made us reel again, and
wounded and killed several of the crew. In justice to the Frenchman, I
must say, that, as soon as the first surprise was over, he (the captain,
I mean) was as cool and collected as possible. His orders were given
rapidly and energetically; and actively and ably were they executed. He
instantly stood away to the southward and eastward, and trusted to his
heels to escape from an enemy whom he saw at a glance he was unable to
cope with. In a few minutes, from the truck to the water's edge, the
Hercule was one cloud of canvas; and merrily did she dance away over the
waves. The English man-of-war crowded all sail after us; very
differently was she _handled_, now she was no longer acting merchantman.
She seemed to have cast aside her sluggishness with her disguise, and,
to our great surprise, seemed rather to gain than lose ground. She kept
on our weather (larboard) quarter; and her bow-chasers were in constant
play, and remarkably well served--hardly a shot but told upon our
rigging or hull.

"The Hercule was considered the fastest privateer out of France; but,
before the wind, the brig was evidently gaining upon us. Not one of our
shot had, as yet, done her any material injury, though her head sails
were riddled through and through. This game could not last long;--the
privateer determined upon trying another move. He was obliged to keep
his pumps constantly going, for he had received several shots between
wind and water. Suddenly whipping in all his stunsails, he ran his yards
forward, and hauled to the eastward. This manoeuvre was rapidly and
skilfully executed; and, as we shot across the bows of the English brig,
we poured a raking broadside into her, which, we afterwards learned, did
not do so much damage as we expected, as our guns were pointed too high.
Three cheers rang from the English brig; as quick as thought, they _ran_
in their stunsails, and, following our movements, hauled to the wind.

"As the privateer had anticipated, the moment the brig rounded to, her
foretopsail and topgallantsail, already in tatters, blew clean out of
the bolt-ropes. This was a glorious sight for the privateer, but a sad
one for us poor prisoners; we thought that all chance of escape was at
an end, and that it was impossible for the brig to shift her sails
quickly enough to save her distance. But 'impossible' is a landsman's
word--there is none such on board a British man-of-war; her fore-rigging
was swarming with men in a moment, and in ten minutes more they were
_bringing_ a new topsail _to_ the yard, and the topgallantyard was on
its way to the mast-head again. In the meantime her bow guns had not
been silent; a pretty smart conversation was carried on between them and
our stern-chasers, and _their_ answers were most unpleasantly _true_ and
galling. Her guns must have had picked marksmen stationed at them, for
hardly a shot was thrown away.

"We were, however, leaving the brig rapidly, when a lucky shot from her
came through one of our quarter-ports, and knocked down the two men at
the helm. The privateer instantly flew up in the wind, and her
head-sails took aback; and though the helmsmen were instantly replaced,
and the vessel boxed off again skilfully and rapidly, yet the few
minutes that elapsed before she paid off and gathered way again, were
sufficient to make a great alteration in our relative positions.

"The English brig was now within half-a-mile on our weather quarter,
gaining steadily and slowly, and throwing her single shot into us with
the most unerring precision. At last an eighteen-pound shot struck our
weather maintopsail yardarm; and the spar snapped in two close outside
the slings. All chance of escape was now over; but the Frenchman, a
gallant fellow, was determined not to strike till the last; and all the
guns that could be brought to bear upon the brig were double-shotted,
and rattled into her. In answer to this salute, the man-of-war gave a
yaw to windward, and poured her starboard broadside into the privateer,
with deadly effect; and then, bearing suddenly up amid the clouds of
smoke, she ran close under our stern, and discharged her larboard guns,
sweeping our decks fore and aft, dismounting two of our guns, killing
five of our men, and carrying away our tiller-ropes. The privateer was
now perfectly unmanageable; her topmasts were hanging in splinters over
her sides; her brave captain was killed; there were three feet water in
the hold; and the active and indefatigable brig was playing round and
round, pouring in her remorseless fire. The French crew, seeing the
madness and inutility of further resistance, struck their colours; and
in a few minutes a boat came on board from H.M. brig Hawk, and the
officers of the privateer surrendered their swords to the lieutenant in
command; who, on receiving them, complimented the privateer's men highly
on their gallant defence. I was greatly grieved at the death of the
French captain, who, during our short sojourn with him, had endeared
himself to us by his handsome and gentlemanly behaviour. He had allowed
Gordon, the mate, and myself to dispose of ourselves as we thought
proper during the action, on our giving our parole that we would not in
any way interfere. As soon as the privateer ceased firing, the smothered
sound of three cheers came faintly up the hatchway from our poor fellows
in the hold, who rightly judged the result of the action. They were
immediately liberated; and a prize crew having been sent on board, the
French took up the quarters just vacated by the 'Dolphins.'

"After a few hours spent in repairing damages, and in vigorous exercise
at the pumps of the privateer, the Hawk, with her prize in tow, stood
to the northward and eastward; and in a few days the Hercule, with the
red ensign proudly floating above the flag of France, followed her
captor into Spithead. As soon as I possibly could, I hastened up to
town, where I found a letter lying for me at my agent's, to be delivered
as soon as the Dolphin arrived (my friends knew I had taken my passage
in that ship), begging me to hasten over to Ireland immediately, to
attend the death-bed of a maternal uncle. I arrived in Dublin in time to
attend the old gentleman's funeral, and to find, to my great surprise,
that he had left the whole of his Irish property and a large estate in
this country to his grateful nephew, on condition that I took his name.
Fortune was tired of plaguing me at last. I was obliged to remain nearly
three years in Ireland, in order to arrange matters satisfactorily with
my agent, and to put everything in train for making my tenants as
comfortable as possible. My other estate is in Perthshire, where I shall
be delighted to enjoy the pleasure of _your_ society, until you are
wearied of _ours_.--I say ours, because I have a new friend to introduce
to you in the person of my wife."

I accompanied Sandford home, and found his establishment such as I
should have expected from a man of his liberal and enlightened turn of
mind--handsome without ostentation--liberal without profusion. His lady
was a most amiable and agreeable person--unaffected and cheerful in her
manners. I was delighted with my first introduction to her. Coming
forward to meet me with all the graceful ease that distinguishes a
well-bred woman, and with all the warmth of manner of an old friend, she
shook me most cordially by the hand.

"Mr Douglas," said she, "I am delighted to see you; often and often has
Sandford talked over your mutual adventures, and regretted the evil
destiny that separated him from his earliest and dearest friend. Your
character is so familiar to me, that I feel as if, instead of
addressing a stranger, I were talking to an old friend. I hope you will
soon learn to look upon all here in the same light."

It was impossible not to feel instantly at home, where such genuine and
sincere cordiality was displayed; and in a few hours I was as completely
domesticated at Grant Hall, as if I had been its inmate for years. The
very servants seemed to feel that in pleasing me they were pleasing
their master and mistress; for whom, it was evident, they all felt the
greatest affection and respect. It is a good sign of the heads of a
house, when the servants grow grey at their posts; and most of those at
Grant Hall seemed in a fair way of doing so. But I am digressing. While
the ceremony of introduction between myself and Mrs Grant was in
progress, a young lady was seated at one of the open windows. She raised
her eyes on my entrance--and such eyes! However, I will say nothing more
about them; for, though so much has already been spoken and written
about ladies' eyes, one glance from such a pair as then beamed upon me
was worth volumes of description. There was nothing at first
particularly striking about the lady's appearance; at least nothing
sufficiently so for particular notice or description; but, on further
scrutiny, her features were faultlessly regular, and the expression of
her countenance was so placid and gentle, that, had it not been for the
lambent fire of her dark eyes, I might almost have fancied that some
pure, cold, faultless creation of the sculptor's fancy sat before me.
Hers was one of those faces which seldom _arrest_ admiration at first
sight, but which seem to display new beauties the longer they are gazed
upon. Sandford introduced her as his sister Alice.

"This is an unexpected pleasure, Miss Sandford," said I. "Your brother
wished to give me an agreeable surprise, I suppose; for he never told me
that you formed one of his family party."

"Sandford may have neglected to mention his sister to you, Mr Grant,"
said she, her bright eyes sparkling with animation, and giving life and
energy to her features; "but I assure you he has not been backward in
making you the theme of his discourse to us. I have often been inclined
to feel jealous of his brotherly regard for you."

"Upon my word, Ned Douglas," muttered I to myself, when I was
comfortably settled into my soft bed, "you're a lucky dog to have fallen
into such good quarters. A few weeks ago, you were afraid to move, lest
you should tumble out of your narrow cot, and break your invaluable head
upon a hard deck; and now you are afraid to move for fear of losing
yourself in this wilderness of a bed, or being smothered in an ocean of
feathers."

It was bright and beautiful July; all nature brightened in the smile of
the summer sun, and fair Alice smiled upon me. Could I be otherwise than
happy?

Sandford was a keen fisherman; and we used to wander together day after
day along the banks of the beautiful Tay--he to indulge in an amusement
which he enjoyed with enthusiastic relish, and I to gratify my love for
the beauties of nature, which are nowhere seen to greater perfection
than on the banks of that noble stream. We always returned home to a
late dinner, and the evenings were enlivened with music and song, in
which both the ladies excelled, and in talking over the adventures of
the day, and the stirring scenes of our past lives.

"What strange beings sailors must be!" said Alice to me one evening;
"such compounds of contradictions!--so lavish, yet so selfish--so
daring, yet so superstitious."

"Do you remember that strange old fellow, Rodney, the quartermaster,"
said Grant, "who used to be such a favourite of yours? What yarns, as he
called them, he used to spin!--enough to stagger the faith of the most
credulous; and yet I really think the old fellow had told them so often
that he believed them himself."

"Come, Mr Douglas," said Alice, "can you not revive your recollections
of the past sufficiently to favour us with a sample of his yarns, as you
call them? We have a long evening before us, and you know we ladies are
fond of novelty and excitement."

"Well, Miss Alice, I will endeavour to gratify your love of the novel
and marvellous; but, remember, the story I am about to tell is Rodney's,
not mine. You talked of the superstition of sailors--I will repeat you
one of his ghost stories, as it is less improbable than most of his
yarns; and I know for a fact that there were numbers besides Rodney who
firmly believed it."

"Well, but, Douglas," said Sandford, "let us have it in true Rodney
style--slang and all. Don't be alarmed, ladies, by slang I only mean the
peculiar phraseology of men of the Rodney stamp."

"Oh, do, Mr Douglas--now do! It will add so greatly to the effect of the
story; and I am sure you will not say anything to shock our ears."

"Well, Miss Alice, I will do my best to please you; but I must
endeavour, in the first place, to give you some notion of Rodney's
appearance. Do you remember him distinctly, Sandford? I have his figure
before my mind's eye--long, thin, and muscular; a kind of prototype of
that pink of all coxswains and quartermasters, 'Long Tom Coffin;' his
round, brightly-blackened hat flapped down upon his head, with an air of
careless indifference; his thin, iron-grey hair peeping out behind, as
if it was wondering where the queue was going to; and his face looking
out in front, as rough and unmoved as the surface of a weatherbeaten
rock.

"'Well, Rodney,' said I to him, one first-watch, when his spell at the
cunn was over, and he was taking what he called a fisherman's walk[2]
on the lee side of the poop--'well, Rodney, you really do believe in
Flying Dutchmen, ghosts, and all that kind of nonsense?'

[Footnote 2: "Fisherman's walk"--two steps and overboard.]

"'Believe!--Lord love your honour, to be sure I do! Didn't I sail with a
man once as had been in a ship where one of the lads had seen the Flying
Dutchman the voyage before, and swore to it, too? Believe! Why, axing
yer honour's pardon, and meaning no offence, there's none but fools and
long-shore chaps what doesn't believe them.'

"'Well, well; but ghosts, Rodney--did you ever see a ghost?'

"'Why, I can't say as how I ever seen one myself; but I knows them as
has.'

"'Ah! and what sort of ghost was it?'

"'Why, it's a longish yarn, yer honour; and ye're wanting to turn in.
You can't keep your eyes open like an old sailor; it's not naturable you
should, seeing you haven't had the same opportunity of larning. You
oodn't believe, now, I suppose, Mr Douglas, that I keeps watch and watch
with my peepers, and always goes to sleep with one eye open? And, for
the matter o' that, when I'm walking the deck by myself, I often takes
off one of my shoes, to give 'em spell and spell about.'

"'Why,' said I, 'I have seen you keeping your shoes at watch and watch;
but the eyes, Rodney--I can't swallow the eyes.'

"'Love yer honour, you hain't half a swally, then; when you've heerd as
many queer yarns as I've heerd, and seen as many deviltries as I've
seen, ye'll larn to swallow anything.'

"'But come, Rodney, let's have the ghost. I don't mean to turn in till
eight-bells.'

"The old man leaned back upon the hencoop on which I was sitting,
crossed his arms over the breast of his pea-jacket, and began:--

"'Well, yer honour, Jack Rodney never was the man to lay at his anchors
when the signal was made to get under weigh. I've been at sea, yer
honour, man and boy, five-and-thirty years come next quarter-day; and
there's ne'er a blue-jacket afloat as can say Jack Rodney ever sailed
under false colours, or stretched a yarn beyond its bearings. When once
old Jack gets his jawing-tacks aboard, his yarn runs off clear and
quick, like the line off a log-reel in a breeze. I hates them stuttering
beggars, axing yer honour's pardon, as boxes all the points of the
compass, and never steers no strait coorse after all. Their words come
creeping out as if they were afeerd the master-at-arms was a-going to
put them in limbo; but a steady helm and a straight coorse for old
Rodney, says I.'

"After the old man had talked himself into a proper opinion of his
merits, he began at once to steer a straight course, as he called it.

"'Ye've never been in Chainey, yer honour? Ah you long-togged gentry has
a vast to see! Why, you sits at home half your lives, and never knows
nothing. Why, now I'll make bould to say yer honour doesn't know how to
make a sea-pie or a dish of lobskous?'

"'Not I, Rodney.'

"'My eyes!' muttered the old man to himself, 'to think of a man coming
to his years, and not knowing how to make lobskous! Why, sir, axing yer
pardon, yer edication must have been sadly neglected.'

"'Oh, I shall improve under your tuition, Rodney; but now for the
ghost.'

"'Well, sir, you sees when I was aboard the old Bruisewater, East
Injeeman, we wor lying at our moorings in Wampoa Reach--that's in
Chainey, yer honour. There was a large fleet of us, all lying waiting
for a cargo, with nothing in the varsal world to do but to keep the
ships clean, and to play at race-horses with the boats. A grand sight it
was, yer honour, to see so many fine large craft lying at anchor, all
clean painted, and looking as gay as so many women rigged out for a
dance ashore, with their red and striped ensigns all fluttering in the
sunshine; and the lads all as neat and clean as shore-going gemmen.
Why, Lord love you, this here craft would look like a cockleshell
alongside o' them! 'Twas a sight to do an old sailor's heart good, to
see sich a show of merchantmen as no other country but Ould England
could produce. And then, for such an outlandish, out-o'-the-way place as
Chainey, the country wasn't so ill-looking neither. On each side of the
river were the level green paddy fields, with here and there a little
hill, with a joss-house peeping out from the bamboos; the green hills of
Dane's Island further up, and its valleys rich with orange-trees and
patches of sugar-cane. Further up still was the village of Wampoa, all
sticks and straw like, with a great thing like a lighthouse--what them
neggurs calls a pugodour--standing as stiff as a marine at attention, on
the opposite bank of the river. And then to see the outlandish-looking
mat sails--for devil a boat could you see belonging to them--cutting
across in all directions, as if they wor taking a walk in the paddy
fields! and the junks cocking up ahead and astern like nothing else in
the world, with eyes painted on their bows, because the natural fools
think they won't be able to see without them! Then, sir, there's the men
with tails like cows, and the women with feet like dolls, and the
children in the boats tied to calabashes, to prevent their drowning.
Why, bless ye, sir, if ye couldn't swally what I told you before, all
this 'll choke ye outright. Well, but to come to my story agen. I hates
all this here traverse sailing; I must take a fresh departure. The chief
mate of the Prince Royal, Mr Pattison, was a riglar out-an-outer, a man
as was well knowed in the fleet, and was a favoryte with high and low;
for he was a sailor every inch of him, and knowed right well how to keep
persons and things in their places. He was a taut hand, too; but none
the worse for that, for your true sailor, sir, loves an officer as is a
real officer, and gives every man his due, good or bad, without favour
or affection--one knows what one has to trust to with such a man. He was
quite a pet with the crew, though he made them fly whenever he spoke to
them; they were proud of old Charley, as they called him, and of their
ship--and high kelter[3] she was in. Well, sir, old Charley was taken
ill--then he got worse--then we heard he wasn't expected to live. There
wasn't a man or officer in the fleet but wor sorry for him; for them as
hadn't been shipmates with him knowed him by karacter. Of coorse, sir,
when the chief mate was in the doctor's hands, and hove down to repair,
the second did duty for him. One day, when Charley was very ill, the
second mate came on deck, and seed the carpenter a-standing in the sun
without his hat on; so says he--

[Footnote 3: Kelter--order.]

"'Mr Chips,' says he (the carpenters aboard them ships were all
warrant-officers, and so always had a handle put to their names)--'Mr
Chips, why are you standing in the sun without your hat? You'll be
getting a stroke of the sun.'

"'Oh, sir,' said the carpenter, with a face as long as the
maintop-bowline, 'it's of little consequence; my time's almost up; I
haven't much longer to live.'

"'What do you mean?' said the officer; 'what foolish notion have you
taken into yer head?'

"'Oh, sir, it's no foolish notion; _he_ told me so, and I never knowed
him deceive any one yet!'

"'Who told you so, Chips?' said the mate, kind and soothing like; for he
was afeerd that the sun really had got in at some little crack in his
upper works; '_who_ told you so?'

"'Mr Pattison himself told me so, sir, last night.'

"'Mr Pattison? Why, Chips, you're dreaming; he's regularly hove down,
can't stir hand or foot, poor fellow.'

"'No matter, sir, _he_ told me so; and if it wasn't him, it was his
ghost.'

"'But how was this, and when?'

"'Why, sir, as I was lying awake last night in my cot, I saw Mr Pattison
come into my cabin port. The cot shook under me, I trembled so with
fear, for I knew how ill he was; but I thought that, while the fever was
at its height, he might have got up and wandered to my cabin without
knowing what he was about; so I mustered courage to say to him, 'I am
glad to see you on your legs again, sir.' He shook his head mournfully,
and said, 'I shall never rise from my bed again; in two days' time my
eyes will be closed in death, and in three more you will follow me.' He
then disappeared, and left me with a weight upon my heart that will sink
me to the grave.'

"'Oh, nonsense, Chips,' said the officer; 'don't let your mind dwell
upon it. You must have been asleep--it was nothing but a dream.'

"'Dream or not, sir, I feel that I am a doomed man.'

"'Two days after this confab, yer honour, I saw the colours of the
Prince Royal slowly rise from the tafferel, as if they didn't like the
duty they were on; and then they hung mournfully half-way between deck
and the gaff-end: in three minutes, every ship in the fleet had her
colours hoisted half-mast, that well-known signal that some officer has
struck his flag to death. Poor Charley was no more! A circular was sent
from the commodore, to order two boats from every ship in the fleet to
attend the funeral--and a grand funeral it was. It was a beautiful sight
to see the procession, yer honour. There was the boat, with the coffin
in the starn-sheets, covered with a union-jack; and the mourners sitting
on each side of it, towed by one of the Prince's cutters; all her crew
in mourning, with black crape round their arms, and pulling
minute-strokes. Then came the Prince's launch, towed by another boat,
full of the ship's company, who had all asked leave to see the last of
their officer. Poor fellows! sincere mourners I believe they were.
Then, sir, there was a long line of boats from each quarter of the
long-boat, all following in each other's wake, and stretching from one
end of the reach to the other. As soon as the boat with the coffin in it
shoved off from the Prince, her bell began to toll slowly, and, as it
passed the gangway of the next ship, her bell took up the knell, and so
on all up the fleet. It was a beautiful sight, yer honour, to see the
long lines of boats, with their neat jacks fluttering half-mast from the
staffs; the men of each boat dressed alike; some crews in blue jackets;
others in white, but all with the crape round their arms: then the flags
of all the fleet--English, French, American, and Dutch--waving,
mournful-like, half-mast high; not a sound to be heard, yer honour, but
the dull sound of the minute-strokes, and the fluttering of the colours,
and the long clear tones of the bells, as they died away further and
further up the fleet:--oh, sir, it was a sad and a beautiful sight! He
was buried, where all the other English officers are buried, on French
Island. Well, yer honour, now comes the end of the business. Three days
afterwards I was quartermaster of the deck, and was standing on the
foksle, when I see'd three boats a-passing, with their jacks half-mast,
and a coffin in the starn-sheets of the foremost on 'em; so says I to
Tom Rattlin, the captain of the foksle--"Tom," says I, "what boats is
them?"--"The Prince's," says he; "I believe her carpenter is dead." And
sure enough it was the carpenter, sir; the ghost didn't tell him no lie;
his signal for sailing was made at the very time he named. Now, sir,
after that yarn, will you tell me that there are no such things as
ghosts? It was my old shipmate, Bill Buntling, that told me; and, if all
tales are true, that's no lie.'

"There was no answering such a truism; so I thanked the old man for his
yarn, and giving him a stiff'ner,[4] when the watch was over, turned
into my snug cot, little dreaming that I would ever repeat the story on
the banks of the Tay."

[Footnote 4: Strong glass of grog.]

"Thank ye, Mr Douglas, for your 'yarn,'" said Alice, "I really think you
would make as good a 'spinner of yarns,' as you call it, as old Rodney
himself."

"What became of old Rodney, did you ever hear?" said Sandford.

"Yes. He was lost from the Dundas Indiaman, poor fellow! some years ago.
I used often to be talking of him on board the Dolphin, and Captain
Driver told me that he knew the man, and that he had heard his fate. He
went out to put additional lashings on the sheet-anchor in a heavy gale
of wind, a sea struck the bow, and tore him away while clasping the
anchor in his arms. He was swept twenty yards from the ship, poor
fellow! at once, and all hopes of saving him were at an end. He was an
excellent swimmer, and was seen to take off his pea-jacket with the
greatest coolness, and, whenever he rose on the top of a sea, he was
seen waving his hat for assistance; at last he was seen on the crest of
a sea, but when it rose again Rodney was gone----"

"Where many a true heart has gone before him!" said Sandford, as the
ladies were rising to bid us good-night.

"How happy ought you and I to be, Douglas, enjoying all the comforts of
a cheerful home, while so many brave fellows are exposed to all the
storms and dangers of the deep!"

I _was_ happy; I had felt like a new man ever since my visit to
Perthshire; a gleam of sunshine had brightened the dark and gloomy path
of my life. I was no longer an isolated being--I had met with congenial
hearts--I contrasted with gratitude the present with the past, and
looked forward with hope to a calm and happy future. I have before
spoken of my first impressions of Alice Sandford: I soon learned to look
upon her with feelings of warmer interest than I had thought I would
ever experience again towards mortal being. I will not waste more words
in endeavouring to describe the beauty of a face which, lovely as it
was, owed its principal charm to its sweet and amiable expression. That
her countenance was a true index to her heart, I have had well-tried
experience; for Alice Sandford has been the wife of my bosom for many
years, and never, in joy or in sorrow, has she given me a moment's cause
to repent of my choice. My friend Sandford (Grant, I should call him)
persuaded me to fix my quarters in a handsome villa on his property; and
I have ever since had reason to be thankful to Providence for the
happiness I have enjoyed, and for the blessed chance that led to my
meeting with my friend in the barn at ST BOSWELL'S.



THE STORY OF MAY DARLING.

    "Lay her i' the earth;
    And from her pure and unpolluted flesh
    May violets spring!"--HAMLET.


It is a lovely spot, Grassyvale--"beautiful exceedingly." But its beauty
is of a quiet, unimposing description; the characteristic feature of the
landscape which would strike the eye of a spectator who surveyed it from
the highest neighbouring eminence, is simply--repose. There are no
mountains, properly so called, within a circuit of many miles--none of
those natural pyramids which, in various parts of our beloved land of
mountain and of flood, of battle and of song, rise in majestic grandeur,
like columns of adamant to support the vault of heaven. The nearest are
situated at such a distance that they appear like clouds, and might
readily be mistaken for such, but for their death-like stillness, and
the everlasting monotony of their outline. No waterfalls hurl their
bolts of liquid crystal into dark, frowning, wave-worn chasms, which had
echoed to the thunder of their fall since the birth of time. There is no
far-spreading forest--no yawning ravine, with "ebon shades and
low-browed rocks"--no beetling cliff or precipice, "shagged" with
brushwood, as Milton hath it. There is nothing of the grand, the
sublime, the terrible, or the magnificent--there is only quiet; or, if
the terms do not sound affected to "ears polite," modest, unassuming
beauty, such as a rainbow, were it perpetually present in the zenith,
might form a characteristic and appropriate symbol of. Nature has not
here wrought her miracles of beauty on a Titanic scale. What, then, is
so attractive about Grassyvale? it will be asked. We are not sure but we
may be as much stultified with this question as was the child in
Wordsworth's sweet little poem, "We are Seven" (which the reader may
turn up at leisure, when the propriety of the comparison will be seen),
and may be forced, after an unsuccessful attempt to justify ourselves
for holding such an opinion, to maintain, with the same dogmatic
obstinacy, it is beautiful. But the length of our story compels us to
exclude a description of the landscape which we had prepared.

The village of Grassyvale, which is situated on the margin of a small
stream, consists of about one hundred scattered cottages, all neatly
whitewashed, and most of them adorned in front with some flowering
shrub--wild-briar, honeysuckle, or the like--whilst a "kail-yard" in the
rear constitutes no inappropriate appendage. There is one of those
dwellings conspicuous from the rest by its standing apart from them, and
by an additional air of comfort and neatness which it wears, and which
seems to hallow it like a radiant atmosphere. It is literally covered
with a network of ivy, honeysuckle, and jasmine, the deep green of whose
unvarnished leaf renders more conspicuous "the bright profusion of its
scattered stars." The windows are literally darkened by a multitude of
roses, which seem clustering and crowding together to gain an entrance,
and scatter their "perfumed sweets" around the apartment. Near the
cottage, there is also a holly planted--that evergreen-tree which seems
providentially designed by nature to cheer the dreariness of winter,
and, when all is withered and desolate around, to remain a perpetual
promise of spring. But we have more to do with this beautiful little
dwelling than merely to describe its exterior.

Behind Grassyvale, the ground begins to swell, undulating into
elevations of mild acclivity, on the highest of which stands the parish
church, like the ark resting on Ararat--faith's triumph, and mercy's
symbol. Numerous grassy hillocks scattered around indicate the cemetery
where "the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep." Amongst those
memorials which are designed to perpetuate the recollection of virtue
for a few generations--and which, with their appropriate emblems and
inscriptions, preach so eloquently to the heart, and realise to the
letter Shakspere's memorable words, "sermons in stones"--there is one
which always attracts attention. It is not a "storied urn, an animated
bust"--one of those profusely decorated marble hatchments with which
worldly grandeur mourns, in pompous but vain magnificence, over departed
pride. No; it is only a small, unadorned slab of rather dingy-coloured
freestone; and the inscription is simply--"To the memory of May Darling,
who was removed from this world to a better, at the early age of
nineteen. She was an affectionate daughter, a loving sister, and a
sincere Christian.

    "Weep not for her whose mortal race is o'er;
    She is not lost, but only gone before."

Ah! there are few, few indeed, for many miles round, who would pass that
humble grave without heaving a sigh or shedding a tear for her who
sleeps beneath--her who was so beloved, so admired by every one, as well
as being the idol and pride of her own family, and whose romantic and
untimely fate (cut off "i' the morn and liquid dew of youth") was the
village talk for many a day.

John Darling, the father of our heroine, was, what is no great
phenomenon amongst the peasantry of Scotland, a sober, industrious,
honest man. In early life he espoused the daughter of an opulent farmer,
whose marriage-portion enabled him to commence life under very
favourable auspices. But, in spite of obedience to the natural laws, the
mildew of misfortune will blight our dearest hopes, however wisely our
plans for the future may be laid, and however assiduously and
judiciously they may be pursued. Untoward circumstances, which it would
unnecessarily protract our narrative to relate, had reduced him, at the
period to which our tale refers, to the condition of a field-labourer.
Death had likewise been busy singling out victims from amongst those who
surrounded his humble but cheerful fireside; and of a large family there
only remained three, and he was a widower besides. May was the eldest;
and, accordingly, the superintendence of the household devolved upon
her. The deceased parent was of a somewhat haughty and reserved turn of
mind, for the recollection of former affluence never forsook her; and
this circumstance kept her much aloof from the less polished and
sophisticated matrons of the village, and also rendered her a strict
family disciplinarian. She concentrated her mind almost entirely upon
the affairs of her own household; and her children were accordingly
watched with a more vigilant eye, and brought up with more scrupulous
care, than was usual with those around her. It was her pride, and "let
it be her praise," to see them arrayed in more showy habiliments than
those worn by their associates; and, to accomplish this darling object,
what serious transmutation did her finery of former days undergo, as the
mutilated robes descended from child to child, turned upside down,
inside out, and otherwise suffering a metamorphosis at every remove! The
dress of May, in particular--her first-born bud of bliss, the doated on
of her bosom--was always attended to with special care; nor was the
cultivation of her mind in any way overlooked. She very early inspired
her with a love of reading, which increased with the development of her
faculties, and many a day survived her by whom the passion had been
awakened.

In person, May was slender; but her light, airy, sylph-like form was
eminently handsome. Hair and eyes of intense depth of black contrasted
admirably with a countenance which may be designated as transparent--it
was nearly colourless; and only on occasions of unusual bodily exertion,
or when some mental emotion suffused the cheek with a damask blush,
would a tint of rosy red fluctuate over her pure skin. It can scarcely
be called pale, however--it had nothing about it of that death-in-life
hue which indicates the presence of disease.

    "Oh, call it _fair_, not pale!"

The expression was at once amiable and intellectual--mellowed or
blended, however, with a pensiveness which is usually, but most
erroneously, called melancholy. Melancholy had nothing to do with a
"mind at peace with all below--a heart whose love was innocent." The
countenance, in general, affords an index of the mental character--it
takes its "form and pressure," as it were, from the predominant workings
of that inward principle which is the source of thought and feeling. It
is there that thought and feeling, those subtle essences, are made
visible to the eye--it is there that mind may be seen. The most casual
observer could not fail to perceive that the soul which spoke eloquently
in the eye, "and sweetly lightened o'er the face," of May Darling, was a
worshipper of nature, of poetry, and of virtue; for they are often
combined--they have a natural relation to one another; and, when they
exist simultaneously in one individual, a mind so constituted has a
capacity for enjoying the most exalted pleasure of which humanity is
susceptible. May Darling was indeed imaginative and sanguine in a very
high degree; and books of a romantic or dramatic character were mines of
"untold wealth" to her.

    "Many are poets who have never penn'd
    Their inspirations."

And, although the name of this rural beauty, this humble village maiden,
will be looked for in vain in the rolls of fame, she enjoyed hours of
intense poetical inspiration. In both her mental character and in the
style of her personal attractions, she rose far above her companions of
the village. Need it be told, that often, of a fine evening, she would
steal away from her gay, romping, laughing associates, and, with a
favourite author in her hand, and wrapped in a vision of "_sweet_ coming
fancies," follow the course of the stream which intersected her native
vale, flowing along, pure and noiseless, like the current of her own
existence?

The favourite haunt in which she loved to spend her leisure hours was a
beautiful dell, distant about half-a-mile from the village. It was a
place so lonely, so lovely, so undisturbed, that there (but then all
these fine old rural deities, those idols shrined for ages in nature's
own hallowed Pantheon, have been expelled their temples, or broken by
science--why should this be?)--there, if anywhere, the genius of
solitude might be supposed to have fixed her abode. It was a broken
piece of ground, intersected by several irregular banks, here projecting
in hoar and sterile grandeur (not on an Alpine scale, however), and
there clothed with tufts of the feathery willow or old gnarled thorn.
The earth was carpeted with its usual covering of emerald turf; and
interwoven with it, in beautiful irregularity, were numerous wild
flowers--the arum, with its speckled leaves and lilac blossoms; the
hyacinth, whose enamelled blue looks so charmingly in the light of the
setting sun; and oxlips, cowslips, and the like--throwing up their
variegated tufts, like nosegays presented by nature for some gentle
creature like May Darling to gather up and lay upon her bosom. The air,
of course, was permanently impregnated with the perfume which they
breathed out--the everlasting incense of the flowers rising from the
altars of nature to her God. Such was the sanctuary in which May gleaned
from books the golden thoughts of others, or held communion with her
own; and well was it adapted for nursing a romantic taste, and giving a
tenderer tone to every tender feeling.

The personal attractions of this sweet and lovely creature increased
with her years, and she became the reigning belle of Grassyvale and all
the country round. It followed, as a matter of course, that her admirers
outnumbered her years; and that the possession of her affections was,
with many a rustic Adonis, a subject which troubled the little kingdom
of the soul, like the Babylonish garment. At every village fête--a
wedding, a harvest-home, or other rural festival--hers was the step most
buoyant in the dance, hers the hand most frequently solicited, hers the
form and face that riveted all eyes, and thrilled the heart of the
ardent admirer "too much adoring." Amongst the other accomplishments of
our heroine, skill in music was not the least prominent. Not that she
excelled in those intricate graces which are often had recourse to by
vocalists to conceal a bad voice, and atone for want of feeling and
expression; but her "wood-note wild" was eminently characterised by the
latter qualities of singing; and the effect which she produced was
accordingly calculated to be lasting.

It must not be supposed, however, that the flattering unction of
adulation, at best like the love of Kaled to Lara, "but half-concealed,"
had any pernicious influence over her mind. She was neither puffed up
with vain conceit, nor display of haughty reserve and distance towards
those who numbered fewer worshippers than herself; still humility of
heart, which was "native there, and to the manner born," characterised
her deportment; nor was there any relaxation in the discharge of the
household duties which devolved upon her; and the comfort of her father,
and the proper care and culture of the younger branches of the family,
were as faithfully attended to as if her deformity, instead of her
beauty, had been proverbial. She folded the little flutterers under her
wing, like a mother bird; and, if there was one thing more than another
that she took delight in, it was the training of their young minds to
the love and practice of virtue and religion--the only fountains whence
happiness, pure and uncontaminated, can be drawn in this life.

    "So pass'd their life--a clear united stream,
    By care unruffled; till, in evil hour----"

But we anticipate.

It was on a fine summer morning that May, with one of her little
sisters, set out to visit the annual fair of the county town. Such an
event naturally excites considerable interest over all the country
round; and old and young, blind and cripple, male and female, pour along
the public ways--not in "weary" but in lighthearted "droves"--full of
eagerness and expectation, like the Jews to the Pool of Bethesda, when
the angel was expected to make his annual descent, and impart a healing
virtue to its waters; for there there is to be found variety of
amusement for every mind--from the Katerfelto wonderer, "wondering for
his bread," down to the more humble establishment of the halfpenny
showman, with his "glorious victory of Waterloo," his "golden beetle,"
or "ashes from the burning mountains." But, on the occasion to which we
refer, there was an exhibition in the shape of a theatrical booth, which
presented extraordinary attractions for May Darling; and, accordingly,
after deliberately balancing the gratification which she anticipated
with the expense which it would cost (her exchequer was, of course, not
very rich), she at length found herself comfortably seated near the
front of the stage. The tragedy of "George Barnwell" was going off with
prodigious _eclat_; and the performers had arrived at that scene where
the hero is about to assassinate his uncle, when the insecure props that
supported the gallery began to indicate a disposition to disencumber
themselves of their burden, and at last finally gave way. The confusion
which now ensued, not to mention the shrieks and other vocal notes of
terror and dismay, it is needless to describe--these have nothing to do
with our tale. Barnwell, instead of imbruing his hands in innocent
blood, even "in jest," became the most active agent in rescuing his
hapless audience from their perilous situation. He was a tall, handsome
young man, of a very prepossessing exterior, and appeared to great
advantage in his showy stage habiliments. The general rush was towards
the door, the most likely avenue of escape which presented itself to the
astonished rustics; but a few, amongst whom was our heroine, with more
collected judgment and presence of mind, found a place of security on
the stage. May was slightly bruised in her endeavours to shelter her
young charge; and, although not much injured, her forlorn yet
interesting appearance drew the attention of the histrionic Samaritan,
and he kindly conducted her into the back settlements of the theatre.
The affair was not of such a serious nature as might have been
anticipated. A few dilapidated seats, and a score or two of trifling
contusions, made up the sum total of the damage. A hat or two might have
changed owners in the confusion; but these are things beneath the
dignity of a tragedian to look after; and, as soon as matters were
adjusted on the grand theatre of commotion, he returned to the object of
his first solicitude. She was seated on a stool in what was dignified
with the sounding appellation of a green-room--looking paler, and
lovelier, and more loveable than ever. He quieted her apprehensions with
respect to the catastrophe; for he was an adept in the art of imitation,
and politely requested the honour of conducting her to her place of
residence. It is not difficult to conceive what was the first impression
which the request made upon the mind of May Darling; but the scruples of
modest, virgin innocence yielded at last to the importunities of the
actor, and they left the scene of mirth and confusion together.

On their journey homewards, the conversation naturally turned upon the
drama; and many a fine passage, which May admired, was recited to her
with all the eloquence and stage artifice which the actor was master of.
And he would speak feelingly of "the gentle lady married to the
Moor"--her love--the love of Desdemona, pure, exalted, all-enduring,
such as death alone could quench--her wo and her fate, so replete with
all that can agonise the human soul, and awaken its profoundest
sympathies;--of Ophelia--"the fair Ophelia," the young, the beautiful,
and the gentle--her devoted, child-like affection, her mournful
distraction, and her untimely doom;--of Miranda, the island bride--the
being of enchantment--half-earthly, half-heavenly--around whom the
spirits of the air hovered, and ministered unto as vassals;--of Imogen,
the fair and faithful--the patient, long-suffering, and finally
fortunate Imogen;--of Cordelia--she of the seraph-spirit, pure and
peaceful--whose love for a father surpassed that of the Roman
daughter;--of Perdita, "the prettiest low-born lass that ever ran on the
greensward"--the shepherdess and the princess;--of Juliet--the martyr of
passion--she who drew poison from earth's sweetest flower, love, and
died thereby; by love's own flame "kindled she was and blasted." These,
and many other creations of fancy, which omnipotent genius has rendered
almost real historical personages--not shadow, but substance--were the
topics of discourse which were handled by our hero of the buskin, until
the cottage of John Darling was reached. From the description which has
been given of May's character, it need be no matter of surprise that the
impression made upon her gentle bosom was profound; and, on taking leave
of her, a request on the part of Mr Henry Wilkinson (such was the
tragedian's name) to be permitted to visit her on some future occasion,
made under cover of a pretext to inquire after the state of her health,
was acceded to. Again and again Mr Wilkinson visited the cottage, and
poured into the ear of the humble, unsuspecting, and happy inmate many a
story of love, and hope, and joy--such as his knowledge of the drama,
which was great, supplied him with.

                "These things to hear
    Would Desdemona seriously incline;
    But still the house affairs would draw her thence;
    Which ever as she could with haste despatch
    She'd come again, and with a greedy ear
    Devour up his discourse."

Substitute the name of May Darling for that of Desdemona, and the
description becomes perfect of our heroine's situation, whilst the
result was similar: in a short time, the happiness of our village maiden
was entirely at the disposal of Mr Wilkinson. Hitherto her heart had
slept, like some untroubled lake, reflecting only heaven, and nature
grand and beautiful around; but now its waters were darkened and
disturbed by one single image--and that was her lover's. Her ears were
no longer open to the murmurs of her native stream, or the gush of song
of the fairy-winged and fairy-plumaged birds, whom she almost knew one
from another: she only heard the music of her lover's voice. Her
secluded dell was no longer visited alone: her walks were no longer
solitary, or, if they were, it was only to meet him whom her heart
loved, and to see if his speed "kept pace with her expectancy."
Everything was beheld through one all-hallowing atmosphere--and that was
love. It lay upon her soul like the shadow on the sundial, and time was
measured by it. How, it will be asked, was all this looked upon by her
father? With no favourable eye--nay, with many suspicious forebodings
and prophetic fears.

It was about three months after the catastrophe which took place in the
provincial theatre, that Mr Wilkinson made proposals of a union to May,
which, being accepted, the consent of her parent was next applied for.
The advances of the actor were for a time checked by an uncompromising
refusal; but May's father gradually became less peremptory, until there
remained only one objection, but that was insurmountable--namely, the
profession of Mr Wilkinson--one, in general, very obnoxious to a
Scottish peasant. It was, however, finally obviated, by the actor's
promising to abandon it, and become a teacher of elocution in the town
of H----. The father's consent was obtained at last, though with
reluctance, and the day of their nuptials was fixed.

It was a beautiful evening, that which preceded the day when May Darling
was to give her hand to the man for whom her heart cherished a love as
deep, intense, and concentrated, as ever was awakened and nursed in
woman's gentle bosom. The sun--just sinking through those vast masses of
clouds which usually attend his exit, and assume, as he descends,
various wild and fantastical shapes, and catch every hue, from the
intense purple to the scarcely perceptible yellow--showered on the face
of nature a stream of rich but mellowed radiance, which softened without
obliterating the outlines of objects, and produced that "clear obscure,
so softly dark, so darkly pure," which is so favourable to indulgence in
tender emotions.

    "Sweet hour that wakes the wish and melts the heart!"--

sweet hour, when reflection is deepest and feeling most profound--when
the mind, abroad all day, busied with the concerns of this work-a-day
world, comes home to itself, and broods, and sleeps, and dreams golden
dreams--sunny, hope-illumined dreams!--sweet hour, when the ties of
social being which the day had severed are reunited, and around the
household hearth the "old familiar faces" are assembled!--sweet hour,
when the shades of evening, gradually deepening, are sufficient to
conceal the blush which might mantle beauty's cheek, too warmly, fondly
pressed, as, in a voice half-sighs, half-whispers, she confesses the
secret of her love; and when, in the arms which gently enfold her
yielding form, she seems, in the fine language of Rogers, to become less
and less earthly,

     "And fades at last into a spirit from heaven!"

'Twas at this enchanting hour that Wilkinson and his betrothed set out
on one of those charming walks during which they had so often exchanged
vows of mutual and eternal love. The road which they at first took was
sufficiently retired to admit of their conversing aloud with unreserved
confidence; but, continuing their journey, unconscious where they were
going, they found themselves at last in the vicinity of the high road
which leads to the town of H----. Turning to strike down a narrow
hedgerow path, a moving spectacle presented itself to their observation.
Upon a grassy knoll lay a female fast asleep, with a child at her
breast, vainly attempting to force its little fingers within the folds
of the handkerchief which concealed the bosom of its mother. May uttered
a faint exclamation, somewhat between pity and fear; for she was taken
by surprise. But her lover's astonishment was still greater than hers;
for, after he had contemplated the careworn features of the wayfarer, he
started, and, had not the increasing gloom of evening prevented any
change of countenance from being perceptible, May might have seen his
face turn ashy pale; but she felt the arm in which hers was fondly
locked tremble distinctly.

"This touches your feelings, Henry," said May; "but can we not, love, do
something to alleviate the sufferings of this, no doubt, unfortunate
female? Had I not better awake her, and conduct her to my father's,
where refreshment and rest can be procured?"

"Nay, dearest love," said Wilkinson; "sleep is to the wretched the
greatest boon that can be bestowed: let us leave her alone, nor deprive
her of the only comfort which, possibly, she is capable of enjoying."

So saying, he hastily retired, bearing May, somewhat reluctantly,
homewards; for her sympathy was much excited, and she would fain have
carried her generous purpose into effect; but gave way to the entreaties
of her lover, who had some miles to walk ere he could reach his place of
residence. After seeing May safely beneath the domestic roof, Wilkinson
bade farewell for the night to his betrothed bride, and took his
departure, with the intention, he said, of immediately returning to
H----. He did not proceed directly home, however; but, making a
retrograde movement, he fell back upon the place where the fatigued
traveller had been seen. She was gone when he arrived; and whether the
circumstance gave him pleasure or the reverse, we have never been able
to ascertain; but, at all events, he now set out in good earnest for
H----. What should have interested Wilkinson so much in this apparently
wandering mendicant?--_Pacienza_.

On the evening which we have described, let the reader picture to
himself two aged crones, comfortably seated upon a rough slab of wood,
elevated two feet or so above the ground, by a massive block of granite
which supported either end. This, together with the cottage wall against
which their backs reclined, might, even with individuals more fastidious
than its present occupants, have appeared a luxury little inferior to a
sofa, especially in that bland and beautiful hour when daylight dies
along the hills, and our feelings, partaking of the softness of the
scene and hour, dispose us to be pleased, we ask not why, and care not
wherefore. On either hand was situated a door, over which hung suspended
a very homely signboard. From one of these the wayfarer might learn that
good entertainment for man and beast could be supplied within, by Janet
Baird, who, it appeared, was, by special permission of government,
permitted to retail spirits, porter, ale, and other items. Lest any
mistake should occur as to the nature of the invitation (or perhaps it
was a ruse to provoke the alimentary faculties), there was a painting of
the interior, representing a table, which seemed to groan under the
weight of bottles, glasses, porter and ale cans, bread, cheese, and what
not; whilst two jolly companions, with rubicund faces, where an infinity
of good-nature predominated, sat round it, each with a cup in hand, and
both evidently sublimed by their potations far above this "dirty planet,
the earth." At the entrance to the apartment was seen the landlady, who
with one hand pushed open the door, whilst the other, projecting
forwards, supported a huge tankard, charged with the favourite beverage,
which mantled or effloresced at the top like a cauliflower. The
neighbouring sign had fewer attractions for the weary traveller or the
droughty villager, throwing out merely hints as to the condition of the
reader's linen, by intimating that clothes might here undergo
purification, and be mangled by the hour or _peace_ (such was the
orthography) by Nelly Gray.

The two neighbours lived on terms of the utmost harmony; for there was
no rivalry of interests. Their callings were antipodes to each
other--one being devoted to the decoration and comfortable appearance of
the human exterior, whilst the other took special cognisance of the
internal condition of the animal economy. They, of course, carried on a
mutual traffic; but it was on the primitive principle of barter--the
weekly account for washing and dressing which Janet owed being duly
balanced by her accommodating Nelly with a certain potent nostrum, which
we shall not name, but merely describe as a sovereign remedy for aching
bones and pains, and other complaints of the stomach, to which this
petticoat Diogenes (for she likewise practised in a tub) was very
subject, especially after washing a whole day, or impelling her crazy,
creaking machine for the same space of time. It was their invariable
practice to spend an hour or two every evening in what is termed in the
vernacular a "twa-handed crack," either seated out-doors, or snugly
immured in Janet's back parlour--a small dark room, encumbered with
sundry articles of retail. The subject of their conversation, on the
present occasion, will immediately become apparent.

"They say he's gaun to learn folk ellykeashun," said Janet, in reference
to May's lover.

"And what's that, Janet?" asked the other.

"Ne'er a bit o' me kens very weel," rejoined Janet; "but I'm thinkin
it's the way the gentry speak, eghin and owin, and sichin and sabbin,
and makin yer voice gang up and doun, like daft Jock playin on the
fife."

"Ay! ay! that's an idle kind o' way o' makin ane's bread," sighed Nelly.
"It's naething else than beggin. He'd better pit a nappin-hammer in his
hand, and tak the roadside for an honest livelihood."

"'Deed, Nelly, it's my opinion he's been on the road before, followin
anither trade," said Janet. "I'm sair mistaen if he's no a hempie; and
we'll maybe hear mair aboot him yet than some folks wad like to ken o'.
I never liked your land-loupers and spoutin gentry a' my days. They're
nae better than tinklers, that carry aff whatever they lay their hands
on, nae matter whether it's beast or body. It cowes the gowan hoo sae
sensible a man as John Darling wad e'er hae looten his dochter tak up
wi' sic-like clam-jamphrey. But he was aye owre easy wi' his family, and
gied them owre muckle o' their ain wull frae the first. But the mother
was sair to blame in pittin sic daft-like notions intil a bairn's head
as to read playactorin books and novels. Wae am I to say sae, noo that
she's whar the Lord wull."

"Is't true, Janet, that they're to be coupled i' the kirk?" asked Nelly.
"They say the minister's taen an unco likin to the lad; and, to mak
things look as genteel as possible, he's offered the use o' the kirk for
marryin them in; and's to gie them a ploy forbye, after it's a' owre."

"Guid faith, it's a true sayin, 'The fat sow gets a' the draff,'"
rejoined Janet. "It wad be lang or he did a turn like that for ony puir
body like oorsels. The birkie doesna stand in need o' cash; for he gies
saxpence to this ane, and a shillin to the tither ane, for gangin
errans. He micht hae provided something for the waddin folks doun at
Michael Crummie's, whase tred's no sae brisk noo, sin' that kick-up wi'
him and the mason-lodge folk, wha swore he gied them up ill whusky--and
that was maybe nae lee. He ne'er, since ever I mind, keepit the real
stuff, like that o' mine. But see, Nelly, whatna puir, waebegone-lookin
cratur's that comin alang the road, scarcely able to trail ae leg after
anither? and a bairn, too, help us a'!"

The object which drew the attention of the honest ale-wife was, as the
reader may have already sagaciously conjectured, the same forlorn being
whom May Darling and her lover had accidentally encountered. With a slow
and faltering step she approached the village dames, and inquired of
them how far it was from the town of H----.

"Five miles guid," said Janet Baird, and continued--"But ye'll no think
o' gaun there the nicht; it's gettin dark, and ye've mair need o' a
while's rest; and maybe ye wadna be the waur o' something to support
nature; for, wae's me! ye do look thin and hungert like! Tak her in by,
Nelly, and I'll fetch her some cordial, as weel as a morsel to eat."

So saying, she proceeded to her shop, for the purpose of making good her
word, whilst Nelly followed up that part of the duty of relieving the
stranger which devolved upon her, and conducted the "wearied one" into
the interior of her humble domicile.

"Ye'll hae travelled a gey bit the day, na, I sudna wonder?" said Nelly.

"Yes," said the stranger, whom we shall now designate as Mrs B----.
"Since morning I have prosecuted my journey with all the speed which
want and weariness would permit of. But these were nothing, did I only
know how it was to terminate."

Meantime Janet had returned, bearing in her apron an ample stock of
provisions; and, having heard the latter part of Mrs B----'s reply to
Nelly, her curiosity was not a little excited to know something of her
history. This she set about with the characteristic _pawkiness_ (there
is no purely English word sufficiently expressive) of the Scotch--that
style of speaking which is half-asking, half-answering a question; and
she was successful in her endeavours.

"It'll be the guidman that ye're gaun to meet at H----?" said Janet.
"He'll be in the manufacturing line, nae doot; for there's little else
dune there; and, indeed, that itsel has faun sair aff sin' that dirt o'
machinery was brocht in to tak the bread oot o' the puir man's mou."

"Yes--no; he is not in that line, nor do I know, indeed, if he is to be
found there at all. But--but--excuse me, kind friends, for showing a
little reserve touching one who----"

Here, however, her feelings overcame her; and, turning round to gaze on
the helpless being that clung to her bosom, tears from her suffused eyes
began to find a ready passage down her pale emaciated cheek--a channel
with which they appeared to be familiar.

"He never saw thee, my little Henry, my sweet boy! Methinks, that cherub
smile of innocence which lies upon that countenance would be powerful
enough to melt the icy feelings of his soul, and recall ----. Pardon me,
kind friends," she continued; "but the name of husband is associated in
my mind with all that human nature can suffer of unmitigated, hopeless
wretchedness. You see before you the victim of ----. But you shall hear
all."

She then commenced her history, recounting every circumstance of a tale
of misery but too common. As it is in some measure connected with that
of May Darling, we shall give a few of its leading facts.

She was the daughter of a respectable farmer in the north of England,
and, being an only child, received an accomplished education; and, from
her engaging manners, personal attractions, and skill in music, she was
much courted, even by those who moved in the higher circles. At the
house of a neighbouring clergyman, Mr G----, she was a very frequent
visiter; and her charms captivated the heart of Dr G----, a young
medical gentleman, and the nephew of the clergyman. On her part,
however, there was no attachment, although the ardour with which Dr
G---- pressed his suit might have captivated a bosom less stubborn than
hers. But another idol was shrined and secretly worshipped there. This
was a Mr Henry Bolton, a fellow-student of Dr G----'s, who, in calling
at the house of Mr G---- to see his friend the doctor, was induced to
spend a few days with him. His stay was protracted to weeks, months--in
short, till the farmer's daughter and he, having come to an
understanding with respect to the all-important matter of love, agreed
to join hands for better, for worse. The marriage took place at a
neighbouring town, where the couple remained for several months, living
in a state of great privacy, for no one was in the secret of their
union, not even the lady's father. The finances of Mr Bolton became
exhausted; and a letter from his father having shut out all hope of
succour from that quarter, he was thrown into a state of extreme
dejection. His temper soured, and harshness towards his wife soon
followed; for an application on her part to her father, to whom she was
compelled by necessity to reveal her situation, met with a reception
similar to the other. One day, he dressed himself with more than usual
care, packed up in a small parcel the principal part of his
body-clothes, and having told his wife that he meant to go as far
as ----, naming a considerable town, which was situated at some miles
distance, parted from her, like Ajut in "The Rambler," never to return.
The sun arose and set, and arose again and again, and week after week,
but still he came not; nor was she ever able to obtain the faintest
trace of him. Her health began to droop, and, in the depth of her
humiliation and misery, like the prodigal of old, she was compelled to
seek for shelter under the paternal roof. Her father received her even
with kindness; for time, the softener of affliction, the soother of
wrath, had not passed over his head without exercising its due influence
upon his feelings. Here she gave birth to a child, the baby which now
lay at her breast. Time passed away, and still no intelligence of her
runaway husband reached her, till, "about a week back," she said,
"communication was made me by letter, that, if I would repair to the
town of H----, I would hear something of my lost husband. Without the
knowledge of my father, I have undertaken the journey; and God alone
knows whether the information, so mysteriously conveyed to me, be true
or false--whether my hopes will be disappointed or realised. A few
hours, however, will be sufficient to set my mind at rest. I have
wearied you, I fear; but my present wretched appearance required some
explanation on my part--for, oh, it is difficult to lie under the
suspicion of being a vagrant or vagabond, as Heaven knows I am neither."
And, clasping her hands and raising her eyes, she remained for a few
minutes in that reverential but death-like attitude which is assumed
when a human soul prays in agony.

Her painful narrative had its due influence upon the minds of those to
whom it was addressed; and, although both admitted the propriety of
proceeding to the town of H----, yet they earnestly exhorted her to
remain with them for a night; and to this proposal she acceded. After
breakfast next morning, Mrs B---- (who must now be looked upon as one of
the principal of our _dramatis personæ_) set out for the town of H----.
What the nature of her reflections were, as she drew near the
termination of her journey, may be readily conceived; but of their
intensity, no idea can be formed by any one except by the brokenhearted
female who has passed through the same fiery ordeal of desertion and
despair. She had arrived within a short distance of the town, when a
chaise, driving rapidly down the principal entrance to it, attracted her
attention. It approached, and from the favours which profusely adorned
the driver, his team, and his vehicle, it was evident that some happy
pair were destined soon to become its occupants. The blinds were all
drawn up; but, as the chaise passed her, one of them was partially let
down, and she heard some one from within instruct the driver to proceed
to the manse by a road more retired than that usually taken. There was
something in the tone of the voice (though indistinctly heard from the
rattling of the wheels) which startled Mrs B---- from a reverie in which
she had been indulging, and made every fibre of her body to thrill, as
if an electric discharge had shot through it. In mute astonishment, not
unmingled with thick-coming fancies, horrible forebodings, which,
without assuming any definite form, were prophetic of wo, she fixed her
eyes upon the retiring vehicle, and, rooted to the spot where she stood,
motionless as a Niobe of stone, gazed and gazed till her eyeballs ached.
"Can it be?" she at last exclaimed, with wild emotion--"can it
be?--No--no--'tis but fancy; yet the place!--gracious powers!" Her eyes
continued to follow the retiring wheels, fixed upon them she knew not by
what mysterious power; and long she might have remained in this
position, had not some person from behind softly addressed her. She
turned round, and her eyes fell upon her former suitor, Dr G----. Let
her astonishment be imagined--we will not attempt to give words to her
feelings.

"It is to you, then," she said, after recovering from her surprise--"it
is to you, Dr G----, that I am indebted for information regarding my
lost husband."

"It is," he replied; "but not a moment is to be lost. Things are in a
worse condition than they were when I despatched my letter to you. But
let us proceed instantly to Grassyvale. On the way I will inform you of
all that has come to my knowledge regarding that monster--it were a
profanation of language to call him husband."

So saying, they commenced their journey, which we shall leave them to
prosecute whilst we bring up some parts of our narrative which have
been necessarily left in the rear.

We need hardly say that the morning of her marriage was an anxious and a
busy one to May Darling. It is true that she had plenty of assistance
afforded her by the village matrons, and by a few youthful associates,
whom she had singled out as especial favourites, from amongst many who
were regarded by her with affection. But still a fastidiousness of taste
always seizes people on those occasions when they are desirous of
appearing to the best advantage. Besides, when there are a number of
lady's-maids, all busily engaged in decorating a single individual, a
difference of opinion relative to the various items of dress always
takes place, and occasions much delay. One of them is clear that such
and such a colour of riband will best suit the complexion of the wearer;
another holds out strongly for an opposite hue; and a third silences
them both by asserting that neither answer the colour of the bonnet.
What sort of flowers would most fittingly ornament the hair was also a
subject of protracted debate; and half-an-hour was wasted in determining
whether the riband which was to circle her waist like a zone should hang
down or not. Matters, however, were at last adjusted--the bride was
arrayed, the hour of twelve was struck by a small wooden clock which
ticked behind the door; and with the hour there arrived at the cottage a
sort of rude palanquin, fashioned of birch-tree boughs, which
intertwisted with each other, and were interwoven with branches of
flowering shrubs; and upon this some of the kindest and blithest-hearted
of the villagers had agreed to bear May to the kirk. Some modest
scruples required to be overcome before she would be induced to avail
herself of this mode of conveyance; and, after being seated, with the
bridesmaid walking on one side, and John Darling on the other, the
cavalcade began to move. Many hearty good wishes for the happiness of
the bride from the elder people, and many joyous shouts from the younger
part of the villagers, greeted the ears of the marriage party; whilst a
pretty long train which drew itself out in the rear, sent up its
rejoicings on the wind from a distance. But one step must bring us to
the altar of Hymen. Side by side stood the bridegroom and the bride; and
a more interesting, handsome, and apparently well-matched pair, never
were seen in the same situation, as we are informed by the clergyman who
officiated on the occasion. The ceremony proceeded with due
formality--one moment more would have joined their hands, when a person
who had just entered the church called to the clergyman to stay the
nuptials; and, at the same moment, a shriek from a female who had
entered along with him, rose so wild, thrilling, and distracted, that
every bosom shook beneath its glittering attire.

"Base, inhuman miscreant!" shouted Dr G----, addressing himself to
Wilkinson (which name must now be supplanted by his real one, Bolton),
at the same time rushing forward to seize the bridegroom.

He, however, had ere this dropped the hand of May Darling--that hand
which, till now, like Desdemona's, had "felt no age, nor known no
sorrow"--and, unsheathing a dagger which was concealed about his person
(doubtless one of his theatrical weapons), he threatened to make a ghost
of any one who disputed his retreat from the church. His menacing
attitude and wild gesticulations terrified every beholder, and even Dr
G---- gave way, allowing him unmolested to quit the sacred place which
he was about to profane, and possibly might have stained with blood.
Only one attempted to arrest him, and for a short time succeeded. It was
his wife--she who the night previously had kindled up in his soul the
fires of conscience, as she lay asleep, unsheltered save by heaven's
blue canopy, and apparently an abandoned outcast.

"Henry," she said, holding up their child, and stretching forth her
arms--"Henry, look on this dear pledge of our affection, the child of
love, though born in bitterness and tears, the offspring of your
choice--look on him, Henry, and let the voice of conscience in your
breast, which must be heard now or hereafter, plead in his behalf. The
helpless darling innocent--of what crime has he been guilty, that his
natural protector should cast him forth to meet the buffetings of fate
without a shield--that he should be launched upon the sea of life
without an oar? If not for my sake, at least for the sake of little
Henry--for he bears your name--restore us both to honour and society, by
returning to the path of duty. The arms that have so often embraced you
will again encircle the neck to which they have clung so often and so
fondly. O Henry, Henry! reflect for an instant on my destitute outcast
condition--without you, I am a weed cast from the rock, to be driven
whithersoever the storm sets wildest. Think what my sufferings have been
and must be!--God alone can estimate them. Henry, hear me. Stay but one
instant--Henry, Henry!" And, taking her child in one arm, she stretched
out the other to detain him; but the heartless villain shook her rudely
from him, and darted from the church.

What were May Darling's feelings during this heartrending scene? She was
not a spectator of it. The moment that the dreadful truth flashed upon
her mind, she sank into the arms of her father, dead to consciousness
and time. By the same conveyance which had brought her in triumph to the
church, covered with the insignia of happiness, and palpitating with
rapture almost too intense for the human soul to enjoy for any length of
time without experiencing pain and a revolution of feeling--by that same
conveyance, not an hour after, she was borne to her father's cottage, a
wretched, but a gentle maniac.

Days, weeks, months, passed away, and she remained the same listless,
mild, and inoffensive creature--a baby-woman, a human being ripe in
years, and an infant in thought, feeling, and everything mental. 'Tis
painful to contemplate the situation of an individual overwhelmed by
such a calamity under any circumstances; but, under the present, how
terrible indeed! To be struck down at the altar, arrayed in bridal
robes, and with all her hopes blooming around her--how does it humble
human pride, set at nought all calculations of human happiness, and
assign narrow limits to human hope! And yet there was mercy in the
dispensation. Better unconscious almost of existence itself, than alive
to all the horrors of a doom like that of May Darling. Better the vacant
stare, and the look of silent indifference on all beneath the sun, than
the wild gesticulations of violent grief, the shriek of wo, or the agony
of despair, for the alleviation of which "hope never comes that comes to
all."

Every means were had recourse to for rousing her from the dismal trance
into which she had fallen, to dispel from her thoughts the gloomy, the
dead images by which they were haunted--but in vain. Sometimes she would
sit amongst her gay companions; and, whilst they laughed, chatted, and
sung, as in former happy days, a faint smile would rekindle about her
lips, so rosy once, so wan and withered now, and for a moment playing
like a mental coruscation, would suddenly expire, and then she would
droop again into the gloom of moody madness, and weep amidst all the
gaiety that surrounded her--weep even like a child. If spoken to, she
made no reply; but, lifting up her dark streaming eyes, sparkling
through the humid medium in which they were suffused, like a star in
motionless water, she would sing snatches of old songs about
disappointed love, blighted hopes, and broken hearts. And the melancholy
tones of her voice would sadden all around her, as if some powerful
spell had suddenly passed over their minds like a cold wind, and frozen
up the fount of joyous feeling; and they would weep too--weep along with
her; for she was so beloved, so good, so beautiful, so happy once, and
so wobegone and wretched now. Then would the gentle maniac start up on
a sudden, as if some one had hastily summoned her, and, rushing towards
home, would mutter, in a quick tone of voice--"I am coming--I am coming!
I knew we would be in time!--I knew we would be in time! He is
there!--he--he!----Who?" She was silent now. Many an eye was filled with
tears as she passed through the straggling village of Grassyvale.

Winter had passed away; the vernal eruption of spring had been matured
into the bloom and the promise which spring gives of autumn, when May
Darling one evening wandered forth from her father's cottage, attended
only by a little sister. Striking into that beautiful and unfrequented
path where she had last walked with him who, on the following day, was
to have become her husband, she had arrived at the very spot where lay
asleep on the grassy bank by the hedge-side the wife of Bolton. A train
of thought seemed suddenly to rush through her mind; for she sat, or
rather dropped, gently down. 'Twas the recollection of former events
which had begun to be reanimated within her; and, though faint, it was
sufficient to cause a temporary suspension of muscular energy: her sight
became dim, only vague images being presented to the eye; and she might
probably have fallen backwards, had not a person sprung through the
hedge, and, putting his arms around her slender form, maintained her in
an erect position. The individual who had thus so opportunely come to
her assistance was closely wrapped up in a greatcoat, although the
warmth of the weather rendered such a covering scarcely necessary. The
upper part of his countenance was concealed by a slouched hat drawn
pretty far down; but from what of it was visible, it was plain that
care, remorse, and dissipation, had gone far to modify its natural
expression.

May gradually revived from her partial swoon; and the stranger,
uncovering his head, and fixing his eyes upon the languid features which
began to assume the hue of life and the expression of conscious being,
said, in a low, trembling voice--

"May Darling, hear me--do not curse me--I am miserable enough without
the malison of her whom----" But his feelings, for a moment, choked his
utterance. "Through a thousand dangers and difficulties have I sought
this interview, only that I might obtain your forgiveness, and
acceptance of this small gift." Here he flung a purse down by her side.
"Say you forgive me, May--breathe but the word, and in a few days an
ocean shall roll between us."

But he spoke to ears which heard not. The moment that May recognised
Bolton, reason was restored, but animation fled, and she sank dead for a
time in his arms. He was about to take measures for her restoration,
when the rapid trampling of horses' hoofs drew his attention in another
direction; and, looking over the hedgerow, he perceived two horsemen, at
a very little distance, advancing towards the village. He seemed to be
aware of their errand, and the cause of their speed; for no sooner had
he cast his eyes on them, than his head instinctively slunk down behind
the hedge. But his precaution was too late. He had been seen; and that
night he was led, a fettered man, to the jail of H----, charged with
highway robbery. We may as well conclude his history, as well as that of
the other individuals who have been interwoven with our tale, before
returning to May Darling.

Mr Henry Bolton was found guilty of the crime with which he was charged,
and condemned to perish on the scaffold, although it was only his first
offence, and, to do him justice, he had committed the crime for the
purpose of having it in his power, in some measure, to requite May
Darling for the injury which she had received at his hands. How
wonderful are the ways of Providence in punishing the guilty! Actuated
by a motive unquestionably virtuous, Bolton commits a capital crime, and
the woman whom he had wronged becomes, unconsciously to herself, the
ultimate cause of his punishment! However, by powerful intercession on
the part of his friends, the sentence was commuted to transportation for
life. But it was destined that he should end his days miserably. "Whoso
sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." Bolton was
virtually a murderer, as we shall see; and the curse could not be eluded
by the decision of any earthly tribunal. 'Twas vain to attempt to fly
from it. The vengeance of Heaven would have pursued him through all the
regions of space; and, screened by the closest envelope of darkness and
disguise, would have struck its victim down. In a skirmish with the
natives of the place to which he had been transported, he was taken
prisoner, and by them put to a cruel and lingering death.

After the painful interview with her husband in the church of
Grassyvale, Mrs Bolton returned to her father, secluding herself from
the world, and devoting her time to household duties and the education
of her son. Rumours of the death of her husband penetrated at last to
the remote part of the country where she resided, and, on its being
officially authenticated, Dr G----, who had commenced practice in a
neighbouring town, became a frequent visiter at the farmhouse. His
former courtship was renewed; and, when the days of mourning were over,
and time had done much to alleviate grief, to restore the faded charms
of Mrs Bolton, and to throw the events of the past into dimness and
distance, they were united; and are still, according to the last
accounts, living happily together, surrounded by a family of thriving
children. Nelly Gray and Janet Baird still pursue their respective
callings in Grassyvale--the latter never failing, on every possible
occasion, to boast of her sagacity in detecting the real character of Mr
Henry Wilkinson, _alias_ Bolton. But let us return to the suffering May
Darling.

She was borne to her cottage home insensible, in which state she
remained all that night, and next day revived, only to know that she was
dying. Yes, the arrow that had pierced her was poisoned; but the venom,
though fatal, worked slow. Gold is refined by fire, and the more intense
the heat applied, the purer will the metal become. So is it with the
human soul. It is made perfect through suffering; and the more it is
destined to endure, the fitter will it become for taking a part with the
choirs of saints and angels, when it shall have thrown aside the garment
of mortality, and mounted on high, like the unshadowed moon, through
parted clouds. But May was happy notwithstanding. In all her looks and
movements were disclosed the peace of mind which passeth understanding.
It was diffused, like light from heaven, over her countenance; it was
heard, like a rich chord of music, in the tones of her voice; her every
word and action betrayed its presence and all-prevailing power. Her
Bible, although always a favourite study, became now her sole one; and
by its all-hallowing influence, her mind, looking down with calm
complacency on all terrestrial things, had an early foretaste of
immortality, in many a delightful contemplation of that abode and that
felicity which shall reward the just.

"It was a delightful evening, about the middle of autumn," says the
worthy clergyman to whom we have been indebted for many of the facts of
the foregoing narrative, "that I was hastily summoned by John Darling to
visit his daughter, who, he believed, was dying. I lost no time in
proceeding to his cottage, and found that his conjecture was but too
true. In an easy-chair, placed at an open window which faced the west,
reclined the victim of a broken heart. On her pale cheek death had
impressed his seal, though there the deceitful rose-tint fluctuated,
which was not so in her days of health and hope. Her words, when she
spake (and that was seldom), seemed to come forth without her breath;
and the lightest down that ever was wafted through summer's air might
have slept unfluttered on her lips. I kneeled down, and prayed that the
gentle spirit, which was about to be released from its mortal bonds,
might receive a welcome to the realms of life and light. She understood
distinctly that she was dying; and, in token that her mind was at
perfect ease, she faintly uttered, when I had finished, 'Yes! oh yes!
Heaven! he----!' The words died unfinished on her tongue, and her spirit
rose to its native sky.

    'Peace to her broken heart and virgin grave!'

"In what a noble, what a truly grand point of view does this instance of
triumphant faith place the glorious religion in which we believe! In
what bold relief does its value to our fallen race appear! What a
luminous light does it shed in life's last agonies, opening up a radiant
vista through the clouds and darkness which settle on the soul, like the
shadows of approaching death! There is nothing better qualified to
develop the intellectual faculties, enlarge the understanding, and
strengthen and foster the latent virtues of the heart, than the love and
the study of literature. I am no advocate for the exclusive study of
Scripture--nay, I am not sure if such restricted reading would not lead
to narrowness of mind and gloomy unconcern about the affairs of life,
and the duties connected with it, if not also to selfish moroseness and
illiberal bigotry--a want of community of feeling and sympathy with
human nature in general. But what would literature _alone_ have done for
May Darling? Would the recollection of Shakspere's finest bursts of
inspiration, where the dramatist seems struggling with nature which
shall be the greatest, have buoyed her spirit up under the load which
oppressed it, or given but one, only one, faint assurance of
immortality? Alas! they could only have reminded her of what it would
have been far better to forget for ever, to bury in everlasting oblivion
beneath the waves of Lethe. How finely does the bard of Hope write, in
reference to the anticipation of eternal felicity in the hour of
dissolution!

    'What though each spark of earth-born rapture fly?--
    The quivering lip, pale cheek, and closing eye?
    Bright to the soul thy seraph hands convey
    The morning dream of life's eternal day!'

Or what could philosophy have done for her? Science has only reference
to this life--its eagle eye has never caught a ray reflected from that
which is to come. Matter may be tortured by methods, varied with
infinite ingenuity; but every secret thus disclosed only relates to
_matter_--there is nothing of spirit brought to light in all the
experiments of the chemist, in all the observations of the astronomer,
in all the gropings and searching investigations of the geologist; for,
though he reveals past time--ay, almost a past eternity--the strata of
the earth, with their world of organic wonders, which record the
transpired history of our planet in imperishable hieroglyphics, tell
nothing of the future. The ocean, with its buried wrecks and its
countless treasures; the mountain, over which the mighty deep once
rolled its undulating expanse, and there deposited its myriads of living
creatures; the desert, which heaps its ocean of sand over entombed
cities, once the glory of the earth----But why should we go
on?--everything speaks of the past, but not a whisper comes from
creation's breast of what is to come. The Bible alone discloses the
mighty secret. May all, therefore, find it what it proved to be to May
Darling: light, when all is dark--hope, when all is despair--pleasure in
pain--life in death.

It was upon her that a nameless rustic bard, who had been an admirer,
composed the following lines:--

    "She faded like a flower
      That wastes by slow decay;
    Not snatch'd in an untimely hour,
      But wither'd day by day.
    'Twas sad to see those charms,
      So heavenly once, decay'd;
    And oh! to blight thee in our arms,

      In bridal robes array'd!

    But Heaven commenced with thee
      Whilst yet below the sun;
    And, ere the mortal ceased to be,
      The seraph had begun.
    Calm, then, on Nature's breast,
      In dreamless sleep, sleep on,
    Till angel voices break thy rest
      In music like thine own!"



I CANNA BE FASHED!

OR, WILLIE GRANT'S CONFESSIONS.


"Here's a bonny day, sir," said old Willie Grant, "and the Whitadder's
in excellent trim--will ye get your gad and your creel, and we'll awa
see what sort o' sport there is. If I'm no mistaen, the trouts will rise
as fast as ye throw the line to-day."

"Oh, I canna be fashed," said the individual to whom he spoke.

"What's that I hear ye say?" added Willie, seriously. "Ye canna be
fashed! can ye no? Do ye think ye could be fashed to read the 'Cottagers
o' Glenburnie?' Ye would there see the meaning and the effects o' 'I
canna be fashed' illustrated. But if ye can be fashed to hear, I'll gie
ye an example in my ain case; and, I assure ye, that those four words,
'I--canna--be--fashed' (he spoke them very slowly, laying emphasis on
each)--I say, sir, those four words hae cost me a thousand pounds twice
told. I got them for naething; but, certes, they proved a dear bargain
in the long run. They hae made me acquainted wi' a sair skin, a sair
heart, and an empty pocket. I hae nae remembrance wha learned me the
words, nor am I altogether certain but that they are words that just
spring out o' the laziness and indolence o' our dispositions, like weeds
out o' a neglected soil. But weel do I remember the first time when I
was made to hae a feeling remembrance o' having used them. My faither
was a bit sma' laird in East Lothian--no very far frae Dunglass--and the
property consisted o' between thirty and forty acres, so that he managed
to bring up a family o' five o' us very comfortably, and rather
respectably--and the more especially as my mother was a very thrifty
woman. I was the third o' the family; and, as I was gaun to say to ye,
there was ae day that we were a' gilravishing about the floor, and
wheeling ane anither in a little wheelbarrow that my faither had got a
cartwright in Dunbar to mak for us (for he was a man that liked to see
his bairns happy), when, says he to me--

"Willie, tie yer whings,[5] and dinna let yer shoon be shaughlin aff yer
feet in that gate, or ye maun gang barefoot. Folk shouldna hae shoon
that dinna ken hoo to wear them."

[Footnote 5: Shoe-ties.]

"I canna be fashed, faither," said I, and continued running after the
wheelbarrow; but, before ever I wist, and before I thought that I had
done ill, he gied me a cuff i' the haffits that made me birl half
donnert by the cheek o' the lum.[6]

[Footnote 6: Chimney.]

"Ay, man!" says he, "what's that I hear ye say--'_ye canna be fashed_!'
Let me hear the words come out o' your lips again if ye daur, and I'll
knock the life out o' ye."

That was the first time that I particularly remember o' having made use
o' the phrase, and I am only sorry that the clout which my faither gied
me didna drive it out o' my head frae that day henceforth, and for ever;
though, truly, it had nae such effect, as ye shall hear, and as I
experienced to my sorrow. I sat down whinging till my faither gaed out
o' the house, and, as soon as his back was turned, I dried my een, and
began to drive about the barrow again wi' my brothers and sisters; but I
hadna ran aboon ten minutes, till my mother, wha was tired wi' the noise
we were making, cried--

"Willie, laddie, gie me aff your stockings instantly. Preserve us! the
callant has holes in their heels ye micht put yer nieve
through!--There's what ye've dune wi' your running about without yer
whings tied."

"Hoot, mother," cried I, "I canna be fashed--darn them again' nicht."

"I'll '_canna be fashed_' ye--ye lazy monkey, ye. Did your faither no
gie ye aneugh for that no ten minutes syne, and ye'll tell me ony
siccan a story!"

She grippit me by the neck, and for my faither's ae clout she gied me
ten, at every cuff saying, "I'll _canna be fashed_ ye!" And at last she
threw aff my shoon, and pulled the stockings aff my legs, and pushed me
awa frae her wi' a great drive, crying, "Now, only let me hear ye making
use o' thae words again, and ye'll maybe see what I can be fashed to
do."

"Oh dear me!" thought I, "what ill have I done?" And I sat down, and I
grat and I roared most heartily, and I kicked my bare feet upon the
floor.

"Kick awa there, my man," said my mother--for she was a woman that never
got into what ye could call a passion in her family, as I have seen some
mothers do--"kick awa there," says she; "and if ye drive a hole in the
heels o' the stockings you've on now, ye'll darn them yoursel."

But this, sir, was only the first thrashing that I got for "I canna be
fashed"--it wasna the last, by a score o' times. My faither was a man
that never liked to lay out a shilling where it could be saved; and he
always grudged to employ other people to do anything when he thought it
could be done within his own house--that is, by the members o' his own
family--therefore, about the back end o' spring, or the fore end o'
summer, he would have said to us--

"Now, bairns, haud awa to your beds, and before school-time the morn,
gang and howe the potatoes, or weed the corn."

I never durst say onything then, but slipped awa to bed very
unwillingly--just feeling as if I felt it a trouble to put aff my claes.
But before sunrise in the morning, when my brothers would have wakened
me, I used to rub my een, and gaunt, and say--

"What!--what!--hoots!--I canna be fashed!"

And my father, frae the ben-a-house, would have cried out, wi' a voice
that made the very nails on my fingers shake, "What's that he's
saying?--I'll _be fashed_ him!"

Then up I would have got, shrugging my shoulders, and wriggling them
frae side to side, and cried peevishly to one, "Where's my stockings?"
and to another, "Where's my jacket?"

Then my faither would have cried out again, "_I'll seek_ it for ye!"
Then I soon found it, and got out o' the house wi' the rest o' them.

It was precisely the same thing when my brothers used to shake me in a
morning, and say--

"Get up, Willie--ye haena your task yet."

I had invariably the same answer for them on such occasions also. I
appeared as if naething could drive it out o' me. I have heard auld
wives say, if ye were taking infants to ony part o' the globe ye like,
and keeping them where they never would hear a human voice, nor speech
o' one kind nor anither, that they would speak Hebrew! Now, I verily
believe that, if ye had done the same by me--if ye had taken me, when a
week auld, into the deserts o' Arawbia, wi' naething but dummies round
about me, and not a living soul nor a living thing endowed wi' the power
o' speech allowed to see me or come near me--I say, that I verily
believe the first words I would have spoken would have been, "_I canna
be fashed_!" in guid braid Scotch. The words literally seemed born wi'
me. And, as I was telling ye about getting up to learn my tasks in the
morning, many, many is the time, in the cauldest day o' winter, that my
favourite phrase has caused the tawse to warm my hands, when the fingers
o' a' the rest o' the scholars were dinnlin wi' cauld, and they were
holding them at their mouths, and blowing their hot breath on them to
take out the frost. My faither should have paid no coal-money for me.
And more than this, the four insignificant and carelessly-uttered words
which I allude to, while I was at school, always kept me near the bottom
o' the class; or, if I rose one or two towards the top, it was purely on
account o' others having been awa from the school for a day, or
half-a-day, and having to take the foot o' the class, on account o'
their absence, as a matter o' course. Often and often I could have
tripped their heels, and taken my place aboon them--and the teacher
kenned it as weel, and many a weary time has he said to me, "Oh, ye
stupid stirk! why do ye stand there? why didna ye trap him?"

And once, in particular, I remember I answered him, "I couldna be
fashed, sir!"

"Fashed!" he cried, in a perfect fury, and he raised the tawse to his
teeth--"fashed, sirrah!" he cried again; "then I'll learn ye to be
fashed!"

But o' a' the belabourings I ever got frae either faither or mother, for
the same cause, they were naething to the schoolmaster's. It's a miracle
to me that there was a tail left on his tawse; for he loundered me round
the school and round the school; and, aye as he loundered, he ground his
teeth together, and he cried, "Heard ever onybody the like o' that!
Canna be fashed, truly!--I'll fash ye, my man!--I'll learn ye to gie me
an answer o' that kind again!"

But a' the thrashings that faither, and mother, and master could thrash
at me, on every occasion the confounded words were aye uppermost--they
were perpetually at my tongue end. I was just an easy, indolent
being--one that seemed disposed to steal through the world wi' my hands
in pocket, as smoothly as possible. When I grew to be a lad, I daresay
those that kenned me best were surprised that I could be fashed to gang
a-courting, like other youngsters. But even then, when others would
brush themselves up, and put on their half-best coat, and the like o'
that, in order that they might look as smart as possible, I have thought
to mysel, I wonder if I should shave and wash my face, and gie mysel a
redd-up before I gang to see _her_ the nicht; but perpetually I used to
say to mysel--"Ou, I carena; I canna be fashed--I'll do very weel as I
am." And there wasna less than three or four young lasses that I had a
particular liking for--and each o' them, I daresay, would made an
excellent wife, and I could been very happy wi' ony o' them--but they
all broke off acquaintance wi' me, "just," as they said to their
friends, "because I was o' such a slovenly disposition, that I couldna
even be fashed to mak mysel purpose-like when I gaed to see a body."

The like o' this was very galling to me; but it hadna the effect o'
making a better o' me. I couldna be fashed to be ony better, let come
what might. "Losh-a-day," thought I, "I wonder what folk would hae me to
be at, or how they can gie themsels sae meikle trouble, and be sae
particular?"

But, beyond all others, there was one young woman that I had an
affection for in a very extraordinary degree. She was as dear to me as
the apple o' my ee; and I am sure she could hae done onything wi'
me--save to break me o' my habit o' saying "I canna be fashed." That was
beyond her power. It was my fixed intention to marry her; and, indeed,
not only was the wedding-day set, but her wedding-gown and my coat were
made, and the ring was bought, and she had spoken to her bridesmaid;
and, besides buying a' sort o' things hersel, she had got her mother to
have her providing packed up, and everything was in readiness just to be
lifted to our new house--that is, the house we were to occupy. Now, when
all this had taken place, there was one bonny starlight nicht that we
were walking together, just as happy as twa wood-pigeons, and talking
owre the settlements o' every thing, that she said to me--

"What did the joiner say last nicht, Willie?--will he be sure no to
disappoint us wi' the furniture?--for I would like everything richt at
the very first."

"Eh! weel-minded, my dear," says I; "I really forgot to gang and see
him, for I was sae tired when I got hame last nicht, that--I couldna be
fashed."

"That was silly o' ye, man," said she; "it was very thoughtless. But I
hope ye didna forget to gie in the marriage lines to the minister?" (The
session-clerk was ill at the time.)

"Save us a', hinny!" said I, "weel, I am sure that dings everything!
But, as sure as death! as I told ye, I was sae tired, that I never
minded a word about it till bed-time, when I had my waistcoat unbuttoned
and my shoon off, and I couldna be fashed to put them on again, and, at
ony rate, it was owre late."

"Very weel, Willie," says she, and apparently a good deal hurt, "I
wouldna thought it o' ye--but no matter."

"No, love," said I, "it's no great matter, sure enough; for this is only
Saturday nicht, and I'll just call in at the manse in the by-going, as I
gang hame, and tell the minister a' about it. The thing can be done in a
minute."

"Indeed, no," said she, "though I should never be cried,[7] ye are to go
no such way. This is Saturday nicht--the morn is the Sabbath, and the
minister will be at his studies, and ye are not to disturb him upon my
account."

[Footnote 7: Cried--Publication of banns.]

"Very well, love," said I, "we'll just have to put off a week, then."

"Maybe sae," said she. But I thought there was something unco dry in her
manner o' saying "maybe sae." However, as I couldna be fashed to call
upon the minister that nicht, I took nae mair notice o' the subject.

I could hardly get a word out o' her after this, for above an hour that
I remained in her company. However, she rather came to a little (for she
was a kind-hearted lassie), when we were about to part; and we promised
faithfully to meet one another at the usual trysting-place, on the
Wednesday nicht following, at eight o'clock, within a minute; and I was
to have everything arranged wi' the minister and the joiner in the
meantime.

On the Sunday morning, the minister passed me between the manse and the
kirk, and, says he, quite familiarly--for he was a man that had nae
stiffness about him--

"Willie, I thought you was to have been cried to-day."

"I beg your pardon, sir," said I; "but it was all my neglect; for I
couldna be fashed until last nicht, and then I thought ye would be at
your studies, and it was owre late to trouble ye."

"You were very considerate," said he, wi' a smile; "but I'll save you
the trouble next week."

"I'll be obliged to ye, sir," said I, taking off my hat.

In going home, I overtook the joiner--no, I'm wrong, the joiner overtook
me--and, after he had observed that it was a fine day, and I had said it
was, and he had asked me what I thought o' the sermon, and so on, I said
to him--"Now, I expect that ye'll no disappoint me wi' the furniture."

"Ye needna be feared o' that, Mr Grant," said he; "ye ken ye proposed
that it was to be a ready-money transaction. It's no every day that we
meet wi' jobs o' that kind, and ye may tak my word on't, I'll no
disappoint ye--both for your sake and mine."

"Weel," thought I, "that's twa things aff my head--Isabella will surely
be pleased now (for they ca'd her Isabella). I've been fortunate in
meeting wi' them baith--in killing twa birds wi' ae stane."

But the appointed Wednesday nicht came, and perfectly do I recollect,
that a dark, dirty, gousty nicht it was. I had full three miles to go to
see her, and about seven o'clock I pulled out my watch, and I went to
the door. A sma' drizzling rain came battering on my face. I looked a'
round about the heavens, and saw that there was nae appearance o' the
nicht's clearing up, and, thinks I--"Weel, she'll ne'er think o' coming
to meet me the nicht. She'll no be sae daft. It's o' nae use o' me gaun,
and--I canna be fashed."

So I went into the house again, and sat down quite contented; and a
nicht or twa after, the weather having settled, I went to see her at her
faither's. The auld folk received me, as usual, very kindly; and the
auld man got a seat for me next the fire, and inquired if there were any
news--while his guidwife asked me if I wadna hae my stockings changed,
as the roads were very wet, and my feet might be damp--and I thanked
her, and said "No." But there sat _my intended_, plaiting at a
cap-border, or frill, or something o' that sort, as stiff and as silent
as a stucco image, never letting on that she either saw or heard me. I
spoke to her twice or thrice, and she gied a sort o' low, half cough,
half _hem!_ but not a syllable did I get out o' her. Never did she look
to the side o' the house I was on. Her head seemed to be fixed in a
blacksmith's vice in an opposite direction, and dear kens what sort o'
cap or frill it was she keepit plait, plait, plaiting at; but her task
was never like to come to an end, and she keepit pingle, pingling, and
nip, nipping at it wi' a knife, until my patience was fairly worn out.
In my opinion her fingers had discovered the perpetual motion; and when
I had sat until vexation and anxiety were like to choke me, I felt a
sort o' ha!--ha!--haing! in my throat, as though I could hae burst out
into a fit o' passion, or greeting, or I dinna ken what--and wi' a great
struggle I got up, and I managed to say--

"Will ye speak at the door, Isabella dear?"

"_I canna be fashed!_" said she.

O sir! sir! had ye experienced what I felt at that moment. The
lounderings o' my faither, my mother, and my dominie, and the slights o'
former sweethearts, were a mere naething to what her answer caused me to
endure. I expected naething but that I would drop down upon the floor.

"Oh, ye foolish lassie, ye!" said her mother, who was sorry for me,
"what do ye mean?"

"Get up!" said her faither.

"I canna be fashed!" said she again, more cuttingly than before, and
half turned her een upon me, as she said it, in a manner that gaed
through my breast as if ye had drawn a sharp knife across it.

Weel, sir, our names were ca'ed on the Sunday following; and between the
first day o' their being published, and the day on which the marriage
was to take place, I was three or four times back and forward at her
faither's--but I got nae mair out o' her. I almost thought that I ought
to stop the banns; but I thought, again, that that would be very unco
like, and very contrary to what I wished; so I allowed them to go on,
Sunday after Sunday.

I never imagined but that she was just in the pet at me having broken my
tryst, and that, like everybody that was in the pet, she would come out
o't when she found it necessary, and the sooner frae being left to
hersel. But, on the very day we had fixed for the wedding, and when the
best-man and I went to her faither's house, expecting to find her and
the best-maid, and the whole o' them, in readiness to go before the
minister--to my unutterable astonishment and dismay, there was she,
sitting in her morning gown, as unconcerned as a judge, just as if
naething had been to happen.

"Mercy me! Isabella!" says I, "are ye no ready?--where's the women?"

"Ready!" returned she--"what for?--what do ye mean?--what women?"

Oh! guid gracious! I'll never forget the sensation that I felt at that
moment. I'm surprised that I didna drop dead on the floor. "Isabella,"
said I, "are ye no perfectly aware that this is our wedding-day, and
that we were to be at the manse at twelve o'clock precisely?"

"Ay!" said she, "had ye keepit your tryst at such a time, and at such a
place, nae doubt this would have been the day; but ye couldna be fashed
to keep it then--and I canna be fashed now."

"Oh, confound it!" cried I; "Isabella, do ye want to drive me mad?"

"I dinna think there's ony danger o' that," replied she.

Vexation and surprise put me fairly beyont mysel--I was taken in a
moment.

"Weel!" exclaimed I, "ye'll rue it, Isabella! ye'll rue it--there shall
nae woman mak a fool o' me!"

"Nor man o' me," said she.

"Be it sae," said I; "yet, guidness me! you're no in earnest?"

"Earnest!" said she; "I tell you I canna be fashed."

At the sound o' the terrible words, I banged out o' the house. I never
stopped till I came to Dunbar, and there, at the very moment I arrived,
I took the coach for Edinburgh; and there I stopped but two days till I
set off for London, for my heart was in such a terrible state o'
perturbation, that I could have gone to the world's end, ay, and round
it, and round it again, if I had had the means, in order that I might
have found rest.

It seems that poor Isabella thought that I would come back--and the
best-man persuaded her that I would--and she went to dress hersel, and
sent for the best-maid. But little did she understand the character she
had to deal wi'. I was either a' laziness, or a' desperation. I knew no
medium; and I have no doubt that, before she got her hair dressed, and
her gown fairly on, I was half-way to Edinburgh--for I flew to Dunbar as
though furies had pursued me.

But, sir, the upshot was, that Isabella died a spinster, and I am a
bachelor until this day, and will be, until the last day o' my
existence; and thus did the four never-aneugh-to-be-detested words--"I
canna be fashed"--place eternity, yea, an infinite chasm, between me and
the only woman for whose sake I could have laid down my life, as cheaply
as though it hadna been worth a sixpence.

Ye may think that the few instances I have related to ye, and their
consequences, would have been aneugh to have cured me o' ever making use
o' the words again--but ye shall see.

Now, you'll observe that, before the time I'm speaking o', my faither
and mother were both dead, as well as two o' their family, so that there
were but three o' us left, and we sold the property, and divided the
money amongst us in equal shares. Therefore, when I got to London, I was
not altogether bare-handed. Now, to my shame, I must confess that I had
not been long there, till the remembrance o' Isabella, and the cause
that had provoked me to come to desert her, were almost forgotten; for
ye must remember that absence makes many changes--and there is many a
bonny face in London. So, after I had looked about me for a week or two,
I thought to mysel that I saw nobody doing better than the keepers o'
wine and spirit vaults. It seemed a' ready-money; it was just nipper
after nipper--that is, glass after glass, owre the counter--the money
down, and done wi' it. I resolved to become a wine-vault keeper, and I
looked around to see where such premises were to let. At length I
pitched upon a shop that I thought would suit me exactly, on the north
side of Clerkenwell Street, and nearly facing Jerusalem Passage.

There were a very great number o' compositors and pressmen, and
bookbinders and gold-beaters, and other trades, in the immediate
neighbourhood; and I understood that they were in the habit o' making
the vaults which I was about to take their pay-house and house-o'-call.
So I took the house, and entered upon the business, and, in a very short
time, I thought very little about Isabella, or the grief she had caused
me. I hadna long opened the house until the compositors and the
pressmen, the bookbinders, gold-beaters, and others, a' came back to it.
They were weel-spoken, civil lads. They spent a deal o' money, and I
certainly tried to be as civil and obliging to them as I could; and, in
short, they called me "a fine chap," and "the best Scotsman out of all
_sorts_ they had ever met with."

Weel, in a week or two, some o' them began to get on to my slates--not
by name, for I didna like to ask it; it was impudent; and, thought I,
oh, it might spoil their custom at ony rate; and I canna be fashed; it
would be an awfu trouble writing names upon a slate, especially the
names o' so many. But I knew them a' by head-mark, and I thought there
was no need for it.

However, one got into my books, and another got into my books; but, no,
I am wrong there again, for they only got on to the slates--I couldna be
fashed to carry them into the books; I thought there was nae need for
it; they generally paid upon the Saturday nicht, and there was nae fear
o' me forgettin.

But, in a short time, there never was a Saturday nicht but there was
always some o' my debtor customers amissing; and when I inquired for any
o' them, the reply was--

"Oh, you're one of his ghosts, are you? well, I wish you may get
it--he's _got the bag_.[8]"

[Footnote 8: Got the bag--_i. e._, paid off, or discharged.]

"So, so," I would say; "and he is off with his finger in my bag too."

Well, in this way I lost more money than I can tell. But I lost it in
another way also, and from the same cause. You know that in London every
public-house has a porter-walk, or a beer-walk, as they call it, the
same as the rounds of a milk-woman here, and they go round twice a-day,
at dinner-time and supper-time. Well, to my surprise, in a few months I
got the best beer-walk in all London. I couldna think how it was. I was
almost rivalling the Alderney dairy which was at my very hand, for I had
to engage two pot-boys to carry out my supply. But I gave credit; I
trusted to the lads to keep an account of what they took out, and they
trusted to me. I said "I couldna be fashed wi' the like o' that;" but
they said they gave me the names and number o' the individuals with whom
they had intrusted both porter and pewter-pots; and if I did not mark it
down and see after it, it was my look-out, and not theirs. In this way,
I believe, I lost five butts o' porter within twelve months. Yet, sir,
these were not the only griefs and the only losses that the four words
which are the subject of my story have brought upon me. Not only did I
frequently neglect to insert in my own books what I had sent out on
credit, but I as frequently delayed to mark down what had been sent to
me by the brewer or distiller, and said, "Hoot, I haena time--I canna be
fashed to enter it to-day, I will do it the morn, or the next day." But
the next day and the next came, and I could be less fashed than ever,
and the entry remained untouched. Many a heavy loss I am sensible this
has caused me; and often has it made me appear as a rogue, when my
intentions were honest.

Sir, what I have told ye is but a sample o' what "_I canna be fashed_"
has cost me. I could relate to you a thousand o' its consequences; but
half-a-dozen are as good, and perhaps better than a thousand, by way o'
example.

I had been about fifteen years in business, when I became bond, for a
friend that I thought I could have trusted as my own brother, to the
extent o' three thousand pounds. I was certain he was perfectly solvent,
and from the acquaintance I had had o' him, I could nae mair hae doubted
him than I could hae doubted that I was the son o' my mother. But a few
weeks after I had signed the bond, a mutual acquaintance called upon me,
and, says he--

"Grant, you have acted like a fool."

"I dinna doubt," says I, for I was perfectly aware that I often had;
"but what do ye mean to be at?"

"Why," says he, "So-and-so has taken you in. He is preparing to be off,
bag and baggage, for America, and you will be left to pay the piper."

"Oh, ye are a suspicious wretch," says I; "man, I couldna believe the
like o' that if ye were to swear it to me."

"Believe it or not," says he, "if you don't see after it instantly, your
three thousand pounds are gone."

"Hoot! babbles!" said I, "the man's daft!--do ye think I dinna ken him
better than that? The man is as sure as the bank. I would be the last
man he would injure a farthing--I ken that weel aneugh. But, at ony
rate, I am particularly busy, and I canna be fashed wi' ony nonsense o'
the kind; so ye may keep yoursel easy, and I am only sorry that ye
should hae such an opinion o' ony friend o' mine."

"Canna be fashed!" cried my acquaintance, hurrying from the shop; "what
a deuced fool! Grant, you'll repent it."

I laughed at the man; for I had perfect confidence in my friend, and I
knew that he had property worth three times the money that I was bond
for him.

On the very next day, the same acquaintance came into my house very
hastily, and says he--

"Grant, if you don't look after your money, and that very sharply, you
will find your friend's property is no go, and you are in for paying the
three thousand."

"Ye dinna mean to say the like o' that?" said I.

"Say that, you blockhead!" returned my acquaintance--"wherefore wouldn't
you believe me yesterday?" And placing his arm through mine, he dragged
me out o' the house. We reached the habitation o' the worthy gentleman
for whom I was surety in the sum o' three thousand precious pounds
sterling. But he was off--off like a bird whose nest has been robbed o'
its eggs. Twelve hours before, he had sailed for America, or some other
quarter o' the globe; but where I never knew.

"Come home, Grant," said my friend, "don't distress yourself now."

"Oh, dinna speak to me," says I--"I canna be fashed; my three thousand
pounds!--my poor three thousand pounds!"

We went into a tavern, and I drank out o' pure desperation until I could
hardly stand; and as we were going home I fell, and I dislocated my arm,
or I broke it; at ony rate I did something to it, and it never was like
to get better; and my friends advised me to send for a surgeon--but----

"What to do wi' a surgeon?" says I; "I canna be fashed wi' them. The arm
will get better itsel."

But from that day until the present hour, I have never had the right use
o' it. It made me useless, in a great measure, in the way o' business.
Therefore I sold the goodwill o' my house, and wi' the other little
remains o' what I had saved, I came down here, just to live as easy and
as cheap as possible. And now, sir, as ye have seen what a _great
gainer_ I have been by the words "_I canna be fashed_," I hope and
implore ye will never use them again, but take a warning by the example
o' Willie Grant.



TALES OF THE EAST NEUK OF FIFE.



THE CASTLE OF CRAIL; OR, KING DAVID AND MAUDE.

    "Ev'n kings hae taen a queen out o' the plain,
    And what has been before may be again."--ALLAN RAMSAY.


The reign of the illustrious Malcolm III., surnamed Canmore, King of
Scotland, which began in the year 1057, was not more distinguished for
heroism and literature than for love. He was both a religious and a
valiant king, and was often victorious against the Danes, who frequently
invaded Scotland. In his time, William, Duke of Normandy, conquered
England, and in the great battle of Hastings, which took place in 1066,
killed King Harold. Edgar, the lawful heir to the English crown, seeing
the country conquered, and the nobles routed and dispersed, took
shipping with his mother and sisters, and arrived in the Frith of Forth,
and landed at Queensferry, which received its name from Margaret, the
eldest sister of Edgar, whom King Malcolm afterwards married. King
Malcolm was killed at the siege of Alnwick by Robert Moubray, who,
unarmed, upon a light horse, came out of Alnwick Castle, with a lance in
his hand, and bearing the keys of the castle upon its point.

King Malcolm, while earnestly regarding the keys, was stabbed by Moubray
through the left eye to the brain, and died instantly. King William the
Conqueror, in consequence of this achievement, changed the name of
Moubray to that of Percy, of whom are descended the Dukes of
Northumberland.

After sundry usurpations, Edgar and Alexander, the first and second sons
of King Malcolm, severally reigned for a number of years, and died
childless; and in 1124, David I., the hero of our tale, ascended the
throne. He possessed a large share of his father's virtues, and during
his reign cultivated those arts and sciences which Malcolm had
encouraged. His heart was particularly susceptible of the tender
passion, and of the power of beauty. It is a well-established historical
fact, that King David occasionally resided at the Castle of Crail, which
stood on a rock overhanging the harbour, and vestiges of this royal
residence still remain. A summer-house now stands on the site,
surrounded by a large garden; and the place is sometimes occupied by the
owner, a landed gentleman in the neighbourhood, and his friends, for the
purposes of good fellowship and social intercourse.

While residing at the Castle of Crail, the king and his younger nobles
resolved on partaking of the wild sports of the neighbourhood; and with
this view they proceeded one day, well mounted, and attended by the
hounds, to Kingsbarns, a fine tract of land belonging to the crown,
where the grain was stored in barns for payment of the king's rents; and
from thence they passed on to an extensive and thickly-wooded
district--in fact, a large forest, which now constitutes a considerable
portion of the Parish of St Andrews and surrounding parishes. The
ancient name of this district was _Cursus Apri_, or, the Boar-Chase, and
hence is derived the present name of the village contiguous,
"Boar-hills."

Having started a wild boar out of this forest, it took a westerly course
towards Kingsmuir (which, as its name implies, also belonged to the
crown), and the party set off in hot pursuit. This muir, now highly
cultivated, was, at the time to which we refer, a waste or common of
little value, and on which many of the neighbouring proprietors, in
consequence, claimed a servitude right of pasturage; but it was under an
officer of the crown, styled "Heritable Keeper of the Kingsmuir." Here,
then, while engaged in the exciting sport of the chase of the boar
(which, in the end, was killed at Kingscairn Mill), a deer, a fox, and a
wild cat also broke cover, and the attention of the hunters and hounds
being thus divided, the party separated, and the king found himself
alone upon the muir.

David was in the prime of life--a very handsome man, and of princely
bearing, and, while thus unattended and unknown, he met with a lovely
young shepherdess in a lonely part of the muir, tending her father's
sheep. The name of the young woman, he found, was Maude, or Matilda,
and, having inquired of her where she abode, he departed, resolving to
cultivate the acquaintance he had thus accidentally formed. He
frequently visited the shepherdess after this (who was entirely ignorant
of his rank), in the capacity of a private gentleman, and her
conversation was his delight. There was something mysterious to him in
her deportment and her accomplishments: she possessed the strictest
innocence and the most dignified bearing without the slightest
embarrassment. Though plainly attired, "grace was in all her steps," and
every action exhibited courtly propriety and ease. Though her
observations were chiefly confined to her flocks, and to rural affairs,
yet she would occasionally surprise the king with her remarks upon
astronomy, history, geography, morals, and agriculture, which bespoke a
mind informed far above the common level. Being thus engaging in her
mind and manners, it was not to be wondered at that every additional
visit increased the love and affection of the astonished king, whose
dignity was her torture. His passion grew stronger every day.

The king was captivated with her charms. Honour, however, governed his
actions, and subjected his wishes to the control of virtue: he wished to
raise her to an exalted situation, not to triumph over her innocence--in
short, he wished to make her his royal bride; but this seemed
impossible, and he returned dejected to his Castle of Crail. He
regretted that high rank should now stand in the way of his happiness,
and almost wished he had not been born a king. He consulted the Lord of
Douglas, his prime minister, urged the beauty, the virtue, the genius of
Matilda, but all in vain; the reply was, that policy and prudence
required him to seek a union with some exalted character--an alliance
with the daughter of a powerful and wealthy prince; and that, were he to
place a shepherdess on the throne, his nobles would be disgusted, and
quit his court, and in all probability proceed by open violence to
resent the supposed insult to their dignity. The king admitted that what
was said was too likely to be the fact, and at the same time reprobated
that pride which deemed an alliance with obscure and untitled virtue
disgraceful; but he knew the prejudices of his nobility were
unconquerable, and he submitted with great reluctance to his fate. His
friends--and amongst others the Lairds of Cambo, Anstruther, Grangemuir,
and Balcombie, the Provost of Crail, and Prior of St Rufus, the remains
of whose chapel may still be seen a little eastward of Crail, near Roome
Bay, and whose well (called the Prior's Well) is yet resorted to
occasionally by the good people of the Nethergate--those friends, we
say, tried in vain to divert the king's thoughts, and alleviate his
distress. They informed him of the great antiquity of the burgh--that it
was a place of note in the ninth century. They conveyed him on horseback
to the Dane's Dyke, the remains of a bulwark of stones thrown up by our
Danish invaders in one night, where human bones, in great quantities,
are yet cast up by the plough on the farm of Kilmining; and they then
passed on to the Cave of Balcombie Sands, where they told him one of his
majesty's predecessors, Constantine, the Scottish king, was beheaded by
the Danes, in the year 871, he having been taken prisoner in a skirmish,
while the enemy were retreating. The party then visited the Castle of
Balcombie, a lofty and extensive pile of building, of immense strength
and remote antiquity, where, in after years, Mary of Guise was
hospitably entertained, on landing, after a tempestuous passage, at
Fifeness-haven, in order to be married to King James V. From hence King
David proceeded to Airdrie, or Ard-rhi--a name which in the Celtic
language denotes "the king's height"--then a favourite royal
hunting-station on the borders of Kingsmuir; and, returning to Crail,
the Runic Cross was not forgotten.[9]

[Footnote 9: This is a singular monument, and of great antiquity. At the
repair of the church of Crail, it was laid down in place of a piece of
Arbroath pavement, to form one of the passages, and is thereby already
somewhat mutilated, and had it been allowed to continue much longer in
that situation, it must have been entirely obliterated; but it is
gratifying to state that, while these lines are going to press, a
gentleman from the Cape of Good Hope, on a visit to Crail, his native
parish, has had the good taste to get the stone removed, and placed in
the wall of the church, where it will be now preserved from further
dilapidation.]

It were endless to tell of all the devices resorted to by his friends to
alleviate the king's melancholy. The greatest beauties of the castle
courted his smiles without effect. Their charms seemed but to remind him
of the superior fascinations of his beloved Matilda. Nothing seemed to
remain to him but the trying task of parting, perhaps for ever, from his
captivating shepherdess.

The king often thought of asking Matilda for the story of her life, but
dreaded that the narrative would but confirm his misery. Upon one of his
visits, he missed her at the accustomed spot, but found a venerable old
man attending the sheep in her place. The king anxiously inquired for
Matilda, and was informed that she was visiting a family in the
neighbourhood.

The family which she had gone to visit lived in an unpretending mansion
beautifully situated on a ridge of rising ground, which stretches from
east to west, nearly through the middle of what is now the Parish of
Carnbee. This ridge rises in different places into hills of a beautiful
conical form, and are green and verdant to the summit; these are
Carnbee-law, Kellie-law. Gillingshill, and Cunner-law. It was to
Gillingshill Matilda had directed her steps, and, occupying as it did an
elevated position, the house commanded an extensive and splendid
view.[10]

[Footnote 10: Among the objects which the eye now takes in by a short
sweep are the noble mansion of Kellie Castle, belonging to the Right
Honourable the Earl of Mar and Kellie; Grangemuir, the residence of the
Right Honourable Lord William Douglas; Balcaskie, the seat of Sir Ralph
Abercrombie Anstruther, Baronet; together with Elie House and village,
with its commodious harbour; Kilconquhar House, with its beautiful loch;
Balcarras, with its picturesque craig, its ivy-mantled chapel, and its
many military, historical, and literary associations; Pitcorthie, with
its magnificent mansion; Gibleston, with its fine woods and gardens, and
many villas of lesser note.]

The maiden had acquainted her father that she often had a visiter when
keeping her flocks in the muir, and, from her description of him, the
old man conceived the individual present to be that person, and
accordingly invited him to their habitation, which invitation David,
throwing aside for awhile his usual courtly ceremony, accepted.

He went on with sorrowing steps, and yet would not have staid behind.
The small and unpretending cottage before him damped him at first, but
when he thought upon it as the home of his fair enchantress, his spirits
were again cheered. He found in the place neatness and rural elegance.
He would have been happy to have changed his sceptre for a shepherd's
crook, and his noble Castle of Crail for this humble dwelling. He was
invited to refresh himself, and Matilda soon joined them; but, although
the table was spread with healthful rustic dainties, he could not do
justice to the feast. Matilda's charming company and conversation was
his regalement. The old man apologised for the homeliness of his fare,
supposing _that_ to be the cause of his guest's abstinence, and said,
"That once he could have entertained him better, but now he had little
more to offer than a hearty welcome."

A knock was heard at the door, and a young farmer having entered who
wished to buy some sheep, the old man retired with him with the view of
making a bargain.

The young couple being left alone, David moved his chair nearer to that
of Matilda, and began to renew his attentions to her; but, however much
she was pleased with the courtly air and intellectual conversation of
her visiter, she was resolved to act with prudence and circumspection.
She therefore took this opportunity of stating to him, in a polite and
kindly manner, that, as he had said his visits were paid for the purpose
of making _her_ acquaintance, and that while she thanked him for the
favourable opinion he had often expressed with regard to her, yet, as he
was a stranger, and had never been regularly introduced, she should be
obliged to decline his future visits. She further stated, that he must
be well aware there can be no safe principle except this, that every man
aiming at our acquaintance must be introduced to us by some person we
already know, who becomes a guarantee, as it were, for the propriety of
his behaviour and the honour of his views; that without this we can
never be sure that the individual addressing us is not a designing
adventurer, who would think nothing of making our happiness his sport;
and that for a young female to admit the addresses of an unknown young
man, however fascinating his manners or noble his air, would be to run a
great risk of disappointment and unhappiness for life.

The old man now came into the room, and the subject of conversation
being changed, King David shortly afterwards took leave of his
entertainers, bowing respectfully as he retired.

Matilda's father had been her tutor, and he was well qualified for that
office. To aid the development of her infant mind--to pour forth to her,
as she grew in years and in reason, all the fruits of his own
richly-cultivated intellect, was the solitary consolation of one over
whose head was impending the misfortune of incompetence, or deficiency
of means for the adequate support of himself and his daughter. Matilda
was gifted with a mind which, even if her tutor had not been her father,
would have rendered tuition a delight. Her lively imagination, which
early unfolded itself; her dangerous but interesting vivacity; the keen
delight, the swift enthusiasm with which she drank in knowledge, and
then panted for more; her shrewd acuteness, and her innate passion for
what was excellent and beautiful, filled her father with rapture, which
he repressed, and made him feel conscious how much there was to check,
to guide, and to form, as well as to cherish, to admire, and to applaud.

As she grew up, the bright parts of her character shone with increased
lustre; but, in spite of the exertions of her instructor, some less
admirable qualities had not yet disappeared. She was still too often the
dupe of her imagination; and though perfectly inexperienced, her
confidence in her theoretical knowledge of human nature was unbounded.
She had an idea that she could penetrate the character of individuals at
first meeting; and the consequence of this fatal axiom was, that she was
always the slave of first impressions, and constantly the victim of
prejudice; she was ever thinking individuals better or worse than they
really were, and she believed it to be out of the power of any one to
deceive her. Constant attendance during many years on a dying beloved
mother, and her deep religious feelings, had first broken, and then
controlled, a spirit which nature had intended to be arrogant and
haughty. Her father she adored; and she seemed to devote to him all that
consideration which, with more common characters, is generally
distributed among their acquaintances.

We hint at her faults. How shall we describe her virtues? Her unbounded
generosity, her dignified simplicity, her graceful frankness, her
nobility of thought and feeling, her firmness, her courage, and her
truth, her kindness to her inferiors, her constant charity, her devotion
to her parents, her sympathy with sorrow, her detestation of oppression,
her pure unsullied thoughts, her delicate taste, her deep religion--all
these combined would have formed a delightful character, even if
unaccompanied with such brilliant talents and such brilliant beauty as
she possessed. Nature and art were the graces which had combined to form
this girl. She was a jewel set in gold, and worthy of a king.

After the remarks made by Matilda on his last visit, the king resolved
to make known to the old man and his daughter his rank and station with
as little delay as possible; but, being wishful at the same time to
ascertain previously what were the feelings of Matilda towards him as a
private individual, irrespective of his kingly crown and dignity, he
thought it best to postpone the communication until he should have
learned the history of the old shepherd and his family. For this purpose
he repaired on an early day to Kingsmuir, and bearing in mind the few
words which formerly fell from the old man in reference to his having
seen better days--words which had greatly raised the hopes of the king,
and fixed his attention on the story of their fortunes--he entreated the
sage to relate the same, which he agreed to do, and began as
follows:--"I was formerly Earl of Northumberland, and husband of
Juditha, grand-daughter of William the Conqueror. Our family were nearly
connected with royalty, and my possessions in lands, flocks, and herds,
exceedingly extensive and valuable. I lived in becoming splendour. I was
beloved by my neighbours, and happy in my family. My estates are
situated not far from the borders of Scotland, and were frequently
invaded by the Scottish chiefs. For a long time my tenants and servants
bravely repelled these attacks, but at length increasing in their
numbers, we were overpowered. They spoiled and ravaged all our lands,
and drove away our flocks and herds, save a small portion, with which I
removed to the East of Fife, to find security and protection. Here have
I since lived--suppressed my style and title, and passed myself off as a
poor old shepherd, with this my humble but virtuous and affectionate
daughter, the comfort and support of my declining years."

The king struggled to conceal the thrilling emotions which he felt at
this narration, and asked the old man whether he had applied at court
for succour in his distress. His question was answered thus:--"No; my
family, consisting of but myself and young Matilda, and my desires being
confined to narrow bounds, by the dictates of religion and philosophy, I
thought it unjust to ask of this country that support which health and
honest industry could procure, and thereby deprive more useful subjects
of their just reward." The king admired the generous spirit of the
venerable sage; told him he had interest at court; assured him that the
king would be glad to see him, and insisted that he and his daughter
should hasten thither; which journey, after considerable hesitation,
they resolved to undertake.

It is impossible to describe the transports of the young king on this
occasion. He came back to the castle, to inform his courtiers that two
interesting strangers were shortly to visit them, and he made all due
preparations for his expected and welcome guests. The scene was now
changed from deep despondency to the most complete joy and felicity.

At the appointed time the old shepherd and his lovely daughter arrived
at the good old town and Castle of Crail; and having recovered from
their surprise, the king introduced them to the court in their rural
habits, without disclosing their rank. As companions of the king, the
courtiers were obliged to receive them with civility, but their affected
politeness could ill conceal their absolute contempt. The court broke
up, and the king again engaged in conversation with the Earl of
Northumberland. He requested to know where his daughter derived so much
knowledge? To which the earl replied, "From my own poor stock. She was
my sole companion. I thought it my interest as well as my duty to teach
her every science I knew. She had an apt and comprehensive intellect,
and easily received instruction."

In a few days the king again assembled all his courtiers. He had
previously advised with the prime minister and privy councillors on the
propriety of a marriage with an earl's daughter of royal lineage, and
obtained their unqualified consent and approval. He then introduced the
old man as the Earl of Northumberland, and the beautiful shepherdess as
his daughter Matilda. Shame seized the ungenerous nobility for their
former conduct, but the offended parties soon removed their
embarrassment; and a noble suite of apartments were soon set aside for
the earl and Matilda in the house of the governor of the castle.[11]

[Footnote 11: The Castle of Crail was an important station in early
times. The fortress was entered by a massive gate in the Shoregate, the
site of which is now occupied by a house some time belonging to the late
Mr William Cowan. Within the rampart which defended the entrance were
placed the guard-house and apartments for officers. For centuries the
castle consisted of little more than these houses and a single tower,
surrounded by a barbican, and other defences; but after the end of the
eleventh century it became of more importance as a royal residence for
King David. In his reign the fortifications were considerably extended;
a governor's house was erected, with two circular towers, from which a
grand view was obtained to seaward, and of the surrounding country.
Within a second gate were two courts, containing the king's palace, the
parliament hall, the chapel, and other buildings. The roof of the king's
room in the palace was completely covered with rich carving in oak, long
regarded by the town's-people with veneration. There was also a house
for storing grain, and a well of excellent water within its walls. This
fortress was considered the key of the East of Fife, and, before the
invention of gunpowder, was deemed impregnable.]

In a fine summer afternoon David and his beloved Matilda were seated
alone in a room of the governor's house.

Now, as interviews between lovers are usually very delightful to our
fair young friends in general, we might for their benefit narrate at
great length all that was said and done by the parties above mentioned;
but, without disappointing them altogether, we shall be very brief on
the subject, and rather hasten to unfold more important parts of their
adventures.

"Sweet Matilda," began David, "my heart, that never knew another love,
is all your own. Since we first met on Kingsmuir, your image has not
quitted my mind for a second. Not for a moment have I ceased to think
you the best, the most beautiful, the most enchanting, the most
endearing creature that ever graced our country."

She turned; her eye glistened; her arm fell over his shoulder; she
buried her head in his breast. At this very moment the door opened, and
the earl her father entered; and David exclaimed, "Oh, my dear earl, I
am the happiest man that ever breathed."

"What is all this?" inquired the earl.

"Is it possible," said the king, "that you have not long before detected
the feelings I ventured to entertain for your daughter? In a word, she
requires only your sanction to my being the most fortunate of men."

"My gracious sovereign," cried the earl, "it is out of the power of man
to impart to me any event which could afford to me such exquisite
pleasure."

The earl then approached his daughter, and, bending down, pressed the
lips of his child. It was the seal to their plighted faith, and told
without speech that the blessing of a father mingled with the vows of a
lover. At this moment Matilda thought only of her father--that friend of
her life in prosperity and adversity, whose love had never been
wanting--was she now about to leave him? She rose; she threw her arms
about her father's neck, and wept.

The earl at this time considerately remembered that he wanted to see his
servant, and they were left alone. Their eyes meet; their soft looks
tell that they are thinking of each other. His arm steals round the back
of her chair, and with the other hand he gently lays hold on hers. But
why more? First love--first love, how many a glowing bard has sung thy
charms! Nature herself seemed to those loving hearts more beautiful than
ever. Their own thoughts reflected themselves in every object that met
their view, as they wandered amidst the shady woods or along the sunny
braes near the royal residence.

But although the young king was in love, duty was not to be neglected;
and the old earl entreated that the youthful pair should cease to wander
on the West Braes, and Roome Links, and woods, and muirs which at that
time surrounded the burgh. He urged the king to examine and make good
the walls of the town, and the gates at the East and West Ports, and
Jockey's Port, as well as those of the Nethergate and Shoregate; also
the castle walls, gates, and defences, and whole fortifications. The
armoury came likewise under observation, and an inspection took place of
the bowmen, while practising archery in the Bow Butts. These precautions
became necessary, as rumours began to be circulated that a war might
speedily be expected with the English.

The affairs of state having also received due attention, the court
resolved to visit the Isle of May.

The morning was remarkably fine, when the king, with the Earl of
Northumberland, Matilda, and a number of his court, embarked at Crail in
a pleasure-yacht for the May. The air was pure, the sea slightly ruffled
with a favouring breeze, and the sky almost cloudless; all nature looked
bright and beautiful, and the morning sun cast the shadows of the
vessel's masts across the water in the harbour.

The harbour of Crail presented a very animated scene. Everything was in
unison with the sunny day and the illustrious occasion. The piers were
lined with soldiers, and behind them were dense crowds of spectators.
The royal Scottish standard was flying from the castle, and from the
south pier-head. The harbour was crowded with boats and small craft, to
witness the departure. On the yacht leaving the harbour, the cheer was
taken up by the soldiers and the populace, while the band struck up the
national air.

The Island of May was reached in less than an hour. In sailing round the
western side, the most discordant sounds saluted the ear from
kittiewakes, seagulls, scouts, and other wild sea-fowl, which inhabit
the rock in myriads, and nestle in the bare crevices; and some of the
party, wishful to display their skill in archery, brought down a few of
the birds with their arrows, both sitting and on the wing. A landing was
safely made on the southern side, and the company separated into small
parties, to stroll over the island, and view its natural curiosities and
various remains of antiquity, particularly its priory and gifted holy
well.

After spending a delightful day, the court embarked with the afternoon's
tide for Crail, and, when at a distance from the island, they viewed
with interest the romantic Castle of Dreel, the stronghold of the
Anstruthers of Anstruther, to whom the king had lately granted a
charter, wherein the heir is designed "Filius Willielmi de Candela,
domini de Anstruther:" "son of William de Candela, Lord of Anstruther,"
a name obviously of Norman origin. This castle lies at the bottom of the
bay, between the Billowness and Craignoon Rock, with its rough, grey,
antique houses clustering round the mouth of the Dreel burn. Brightly on
sea and on shore shone the unclouded afternoon's sun on the white cliffs
of the isle, and the rugged shore of the East of Fife, with all its
caverns, rocks, and towers, its ancient burghs, with their pointed
spires, and long and straggling fishing villages, that dot the rocky
beach. The scene was lovely and beautiful. The Forth shone like a stream
of lucid gold; West Anstruther, with its old church of Norman
architecture; Royal Crail, with its lofty castle, its chapel, and
turreted battlements; Castle Cunningham, at the West Braes, and its
gloomy caverns not far distant--all these were visible at once, and
bathed in ruddy light.

King David having now declared his intention of espousing Matilda, the
marriage was soon after solemnised within the chapel of the castle, with
much splendour and dignity. The guests of the bridal were the nobility
and dignified clergy, and in their suite a numerous assembly of vassals.
A thousand knights, in their robes of silk, attended the bride on the
morn of her nuptials, and several days were spent in hunting, feasting,
dancing, and other circumstances of pomp and revelry.

A tournament, the frequent amusement of this warlike age, also took
place. This was a martial sport or exercise which the ancient cavaliers
used to perform to show their address and bravery. On this occasion,
Walter Bisset, a powerful baron, who piqued himself on his skill in his
weapons, was foiled by Patrick, Earl of Athole. An old feud which
existed between these families embittered the defeat, and Athole was
found murdered in his house, which, probably for the purpose of
concealment, was set on fire by the assassins. The suspicion of this
slaughter--which, even in an age familiar with ferocity, seems to have
excited unwonted horror--immediately fell upon the Bissets; and although
_Walter_ was the person concerned in the tournament, the popular clamour
pointed to _William_, the elder brother, and chief of the family. He was
pursued by the nobility, who were incited to vengeance by the Earl of
March and David de Hastings, and would have been torn to pieces, had not
the interference of the king protected him from the fury of the friends
of Athole. Ultimately the Bissets were condemned, their estates
forfeited to the crown, and they were ordered to repair to Palestine,
and there, for the remaining days of their lives, to pray for the soul
of the murdered earl.

When we muse on the chivalric and martial sports which distinguished
our ancient burgh in former days, and witness the silence and gloomy
depopulation which now reign in our streets; when we compare its lofty
and formidable castle with its present bare and defenceless walls; when
we think of the great maritime and commercial interest carried on,
before the Union, between its harbour and Holland, and other foreign
countries, and see its present limited coasting trade, we can scarcely
help regretting the loss of its ancient grandeur. One cannot help
_feeling_ that of this royal residence, where princes feasted and heroes
fought--now in the bloody earnest of storm and siege, and now in the
games of chivalry, where beauty dealt the prize which valour had
won--all is now desolate, all its glory is departed. The mossy ruins of
its castle walls only serve to show what their extent and splendour once
was, and to impress on the mind of the musing visiter the transitory
nature and value of all human possessions, and the true happiness of
_those_ who enjoy a humble lot in virtuous contentment.

Some of our readers may deem the marriage of David and Matilda a
singular and improbable circumstance; but we can tell of a far more
romantic bridal, and one well attested by historical evidence, which
happened little more than a hundred years afterwards--viz., in
1272--with which important consequences were connected:--A Scottish
knight of high birth, Robert de Bruce, younger of Annandale and
Cleveland, was passing on horseback through the domains of Turnberry,
which belonged to Marjory, Countess of Carrick. The lady happened at the
moment to be pursuing the diversion of the chase, surrounded by her
squires and damsels. They encountered the Bruce. The young countess was
struck by his noble figure, and courteously entreated him to remain and
take the recreation of hunting. Bruce, who, in those feudal days, knew
the danger of paying too much attention to a ward of the king, declined
the invitation, when he found himself suddenly surrounded by the
attendants; and the lady, riding up, seized his bridle, and led off the
knight with gentle violence to her Castle of Turnberry. Here, after
fifteen days' residence, the adventure concluded as might have been
anticipated: Bruce married the countess, without the knowledge of her
relations, or obtaining the king's consent; upon which King Alexander
seized her Castle of Turnberry. The intercession of friends, however,
and a heavy fine, conciliated the mind of the monarch. Bruce became, in
right of his wife, Lord of Carrick, and the son of this marriage of
romantic love was the great Robert Bruce, the restorer of Scottish
liberty.

Soon after the royal marriage, preparations were made for the queen's
coronation (King David having been crowned when he ascended the throne),
and the royal pair, with the court, proceeded to Scone Palace for that
purpose.

It was a fine morning in the month of July when the party set out, and
the dawn was beautiful. Before them lay the great Frith of Forth,
rolling down in the bright sunshine from the mountains of the west, its
shores teeming with fertility and natural loveliness. Along the banks
the mists were rising from the verdant cones and waving woods of
Innergellie, Lochton, and Balcomie. It was a spacious prospect of
flowering meadow and ripening corn-field--of foliaged coppice and
flowing ocean--of rising eminence and busy burgh town--of ships and
fishing-boats at anchor or under sail, with the glorious sunshine
beaming over all, and everything was full of life, of light, and of
happiness around them. The road from Crail passed through Airdrie Woods,
by the back of Kellie-law, and thence through the muirs to Falkland.[12]
Here the royal party stopped and partook of refreshments, and thereafter
proceeded on their journey to the Palace of Scone.

[Footnote 12: It is still open, and of great breadth in various parts of
the line, and retains the name of the King's Cadgers' Road, because the
fish carriers from Crail travelled along it with fish from that royal
burgh to supply the king's table when resident at Falkland Palace].

The mode in which the ceremony of Queen Matilda's coronation was
performed is strikingly illustrative of the manners of the age. The
Bishops of St Andrews and Dunkeld, with the Abbot of Scone, attended to
officiate. The Bishop of St Andrews explained to her majesty the
respective oaths, which were to be taken first in Latin, and afterwards
in Norman French. They then conducted her to the regal chair or sacred
stone of Scone, which stood before the cross in the eastern division of
the chapel. Upon this she sat; the crown was placed on her head; she was
invested with the royal mantle, and the nobility kneeling in homage
threw their robes beneath her feet. A Highland bard or sennachy, clothed
in a scarlet mantle, with hair venerably white, then advanced from the
crowd, and bending before the throne, repeated in his native tongue the
genealogy of the youthful queen.

Many years pass. Maude is dead; and our fancy, under a spell, leads us
to Crail Church. The usual service has not yet commenced, and
consequently neither the king, his family, nor attendants, have entered
the church; but it is whispered that they may be looked for every
moment, as his majesty was scrupulously punctual at prayers.

There was soon a large congregation assembled, certainly not less than a
thousand persons, drawn hither by loyalty and curiosity, and in
compliment to the royal birth-day. A soft and solemn strain of music now
rose from the organ, and time is given, during the voluntary, to collect
the distracted thoughts, and to compose them into calmness and order
suitable to the occasion. There now ran a muffled whisper of "The King!
the King!" and a vista being opened in front, his majesty is seen quite
distinctly. He is a venerable old man, hoary and furrowed--no grandeur,
no majesty, no assumption of princely dignity. Shading his dim eyes with
one hand, he reverently knelt down, and inwardly breathed his composing
aspiration to the Throne of Grace. The other hand rested on the
shoulder of the fair-haired child who stood by his side, his little
grand-daughter, whom he had led in his hand to the place of worship.

All this had passed in a few seconds: and there was now a deep hush, for
the priests were in their places. The staring and whispering were
suspended; the service commenced, and the aged monarch, bareheaded, his
thin, trembling hands fervently clasped, his eyes uplifted as it were to
the place to which all his earnest thoughts were now directed, in the
attitude of intense, absorbing devotion--presented a picture of devotion
of a character so solemn and impressive, that anything more striking
could rarely be witnessed or imagined.

Here, then, is an end to all our previous dreams of royal splendour, for
there stands the pious monarch, David, King of Scotland,

    "His staff his sceptre, his grey hairs his crown,"

trembling in presence of his God, breathing the general confession of
his sins with the beings of the same kindred and frail nature as himself
that stood around him.



THE LEGEND OF THE CHURCH OF ABERCROMBIE.


From authentic documents referred to by Sir John Connel in his "History
of Tithes," Abercrombie, or Abercromlin, appears to have been a parish
as far back as 1174. How long that character pertained to this portion
of Fife we cannot say, but the church is obviously of very great
antiquity. Having become so ruinous as to be unfit for a place of
worship, it was abandoned in 1646, and since that time the parishes of
Abercrombie and St Monans have been united, and the old church of St
Monans, situated on the sea-shore, has served for the use of both.

In a romantic and beautiful situation within the grounds now forming
part of the domain of Sir Ralph Abercrombie Anstruther of Balcaskie,
Baronet, and in the old burying-place, still used as a cemetery by the
Balcaskie family, stands the remains of the old grey parish church of
Abercrombie, with its encircling lime-trees and its green ivy garment
duskily investing its aged walls.

Dedicated to St Mary and St Margaret, tradition has deduced the origin
of Abercrombie Church from the piety and wealth of two sisters similarly
named.

About the middle of the twelfth century, the broad lands and swelling
coffers of Sir Humphrey Abercrombie (failing male issue) devolved upon
two maiden sisters, Mary and Margaret, only children of the baronet; and
as both were young, and of unimpeachable descent--the true Norman blood
mantling in every vein--the heiresses early became objects of absorbing
interest in the eyes of such of the surrounding knights and thanes as
could advance pretensions to as clear a shield and pure a lineage as
their own.

Educated within the walls of the convent at Haddington, the sisters'
limited experience and unripe notions of the world would have
inadequately fitted them for the duties entailed upon them by their new
position, were it not that nature had beneficently gifted the elder with
a certain strength and self-reliance of character, imperfectly developed
in the cloister, but daily expanding and maturing in a broader sphere,
in proportion as circumstances seemed to call it into action, and demand
its vigorous exercise.

The younger was a graceful, gentle girl, gifted with rare beauty, and
with a disposition as femininely soft and placid as the mild and
dove-like eyes through which her soul looked out upon a world but newly
revealed to her enfranchised gaze.

How was it, then, that thus differing--thus unlike in mind and
feature--the high-souled Mary and the shrinking, soft-eyed Margaret
should, almost simultaneously, have set their hearts on one object? Was
it that, under the handsome exterior of her soldier-cousin, Philip de
Candela, the elder sister recognised a spirit similar to her own? And
was it that the pliant mind of Margaret, putting forth a host of
tendrils--impulses, affections, sympathies--craved some object for
support, something to cling to and weave themselves around, encircling
what they garlanded? Was it in the harder nature of the soldier these
budding tendrils found, as it were, a massive trunk wooing their embrace
and strengthening their growth? Was it that the elder loved him for the
perils he had undergone in Palestine and in France, the exciting scenes
in which he had conspicuously borne a brave man's part, and for the
spirit of daring and adventure by which he had been influenced in his
busy brief career? We may know that it was so; that continued
intercourse confirmed and ripened love; that Mary's ears were seldom
regaled with tales of war and chivalry, while the songs of Provence were
carolled with a frequency and fervour most gratifying, it would seem, to
the happy, hopeful Margaret; and that, in short, the soldier and his
soft-eyed cousin plighted their troth, and then irrevocably sealed it
with a sacred union. The ceremonial was performed by St Monan, a hermit
or religious recluse belonging to the Monastery of Pittenweem, which was
sheltered in a recess amongst the banks, walls, and crevices at the west
end of the village of the same name, with a dusky-coloured mass of hard
whinstone overhanging it behind, and a stair or gully winding past it in
front. Haste and secresy could be purchased then as now, and Philip and
his bride were ferried across the frith, and landed at North Berwick,
hours ere their lengthened absence had been noted by the elder sister as
an unusual circumstance.

How fierce and violent a storm of passion then swelled within the
disappointed sister's breast--how from her heart she cursed them
bitterly, bridegroom and bride--how vowed an unmitigable hatred to them
both--how every soft and womanly feeling seemed utterly extinct--how in
their stead arose an intense, consuming thirst to be avenged--how, in
fact, her whole nature seemed changed, and how she moodily immured
herself within her Castle of Abercrombie, day after day, week after
week, brooding upon the scornful slight which had been put upon her
love, and upon the cunning, as she deemed it, of the sister who had
supplanted her--it were a charity to the infirmities of our common
nature to touch upon but lightly, and so pass on to after incidents.

Six months had scarcely run their course after the marriage, when the
war broke out between Stephen, the unpopular usurper of the English
throne, and his fair relative and competitor, Maude. Margaret's husband
was among the first to join the standard of King David, and to fling
himself within the ranks of those who opposed Stephen. Alas! he was
among the first also to fall a victim to that sanguinary strife, being
slain in a mere chance skirmish, into which his zeal and well-known
bravery had unhappily led him.

Poor Margaret might well be overwhelmed by such a fearful and
unlooked-for bereavement. Reason almost gave way; and during the time
that partial delirium deprived her of consciousness, her husband's
kinsmen mercifully consigned the gashed and ghastly corpse to its last
home, that the widow's eye might never look with agony upon the loved
and distorted features of her slaughtered soldier.

When the elder sister heard of this sudden sharp calamity, her heart
melted within her. In the presence of death, anger and hate, and
jealousy, and wounded love, and baffled hope, stood solemnly rebuked.
The cause of their disunion no longer found a place within their
memory; but a more unclouded past, childhood and girlhood, the
recollections of an era teeming with thoughts and images of love and
tenderness--of a time when they two nestled their soft cheeks upon the
same pillow, wove the same woof, shared the same rambles to Kellie-law
and Kilconquhar Loch, to Macduff's Cave and Balcarras Craig--cherished
the same dear rose-tree, wept and laughed, grew pale or crimson, sad or
merry, as the same feelings swayed the hearts of both--came thronging to
her mind; and as the past brought with it such gentle harmonising
influences, why should they not renew it in the future? They had been
too long widely and unwisely severed. Henceforth they would have, as
they had had of yore, but one home and one heart.

Borne down, indeed, still almost distraught with grief, the younger yet
could find a solace and a mitigation of her sorrow in her reunion with
her elder sister; and when the latter fell upon the widow's bosom, and
brokenly sobbed out her sorrow for the past, her grief for this last
heavy stroke, and spoke of hope for better days, when suffering should
be softened down by time, and submission soothe regret, her dark eyes
kindled through her tears, and a faint smile, like a ray of fleeting
sunshine gilding the blackness of the storm, played momentarily upon her
compressed and pallid lips.

So the old Castle of Abercrombie received them once again, linked
together by a closer tie--wiser and sadder both--the joyousness of youth
displaced by thoughts of a graver, if not gloomier, texture, as though a
few short months had done the work of years, and prematurely stamped the
feelings of a later epoch upon their youthful minds. Perhaps the
solitude in which they lived, disposing them to ponder on the after
destination of the soul, or perhaps the converse of a priestly adviser,
anxious to aggrandise the church (for there was only _one_ church then,
and for three hundred years after there was no other, namely, the Church
of Rome) of which he was a member; or perhaps that natural revulsion of
the mind from matters of momentary to matters of imperishable
importance, which results from worldly disappointment and domestic
calamities, influenced them in coming to the determination to which they
came; but whatever may have been the influences which operated on them,
this alone is certain--that the sisters mutually resolved to _found a
church_, and dedicate it to the service of the Almighty, in token of
their reconciliation; purposing likewise to endow it at their decease
with the personal wealth of which they were possessed.

At that time the whole surrounding country, or at least the muirland
portion of it, was little better than a leafy wilderness, intersected by
numerous bridle-ways, with here and there a broader track, offering a
passage for the slow and cumbrous carts and sledges of those rude days.
At scattered intervals large clearances had been made; and out of the
old primeval trees, and with the aid of turf taken from the soil, and
rushes gathered from the margin of the burns, rivulets, and lochs,
groups of cottages were framed, windowless and chimneyless--a miserable
shelter for the hardy cottars who tenanted them. A frank tenementer's
more commodious abode, a smithy, or perhaps a huckster's store, were the
only tenements that varied that otherwise uniform aspect of these
primitive clachans. Wherever the ground swelled into anything like a
reasonable eminence, the stronghold of a baron might be observed perched
on the summit, while the circumjacent hollow would exhibit its
irregularly-clustered hovels, overlooked by the more massive and
enduring residence of the rural magnate. Such churches, too, as then
existed, were mostly built upon a rising ground, and seemed to serve as
landmarks in that wild untravelled breadth of muir-moss and forest-land.
It may be readily conceived, therefore, that at such a time, and in such
a district, the rumour of the meditated erection in the first instance,
and afterwards the commencement, continued progress, and completion of
the sacred structure, were regarded as the gradual evolution of an event
peculiarly important.

It was an event, moreover, that was regarded with the utmost
satisfaction by the Romish Church, upon whose dignitaries, in due time,
devolved the task of formally consecrating the edifice to the sacred
object for which it was intended, and who purposed to lavish in the
ceremonial all those adventitious aids by which the Church of Rome
imparted a character of such imposing grandeur to every rite and
ceremonial to which she lent her countenance, or in which she bore a
part: and hence the consecration of this edifice, followed, or rather
accompanied, by a solemn presentation of the sisters at the altar, in
token of compunction for dissensions past, and thankfulness for love
restored, was marked by features of such rare magnificence, by such
impressive pomp, and such professional display, and witnessed by such a
multitude of wondering spectators, gathered from far and near, that both
the solemnity itself, and its strange issue, lived in the memories of
succeeding generations for centuries afterwards.

On that solemnity we need not tarry to comment; our legend has reference
to _its issue_ only. As the sisters knelt before the altar, thus by a
formal act to ratify their reconciliation in the sight of God and man,
and the venerable diocesan, Bishop Arnold of St Andrews, bent down to
give his benediction on them both, a flash of vivid lightning on a
sudden filled the sacred edifice with a ruddy light, and a rattling peal
of thunder rolled, as it were, along the very roof of the building.

There was a hush--a silence that was almost audible--a deep, dead calm
reigning for a space in every portion of the holy pile. Most of the
congregation lay prostrate on the pavement; the sisters knelt upon the
altar steps, with buried heads and clasped hands; the old prelate stood
alone erect, and folding his hands upon his breast, with eyes uplifted
and serene, at length emphatically said, "Thy will be done!" A thousand
voices as by one impulse, blending into chaos, made response, "Amen,
amen!"

And then the good old bishop, gently touching the kneeling sisters, bade
them rise; but neither speech nor motion answered him, for still they
knelt, with heads bowed low and fingers intertwined--with mute lips and
eyelids drooping heavily. Again and yet again he would have them raised
from their kneeling posture; but there was neither word nor sign; and
then awe fell upon the hearts of all present, for they knew that _death_
was there! The spirits of the sisters, forgiving and forgiven, had
passed away, and doubtless angels and redeemed spirits had heralded them
to the mansions of the blessed.



THE ROMANCE OF THE MAY.


The Isle of May, which lies at the mouth of the Forth, is about six
miles from Crail, and is about a mile in length, and three-quarters in
breadth. It has a well of excellent water, a small loch, and affords the
finest pasturage for sheep.[13] The island contained a religious house
and chapel dedicated to St Adrian, who was murdered by the Danes in 872,
and buried at Anstruther-Wester, where his stone coffin is yet to be
seen. The island belonged to the crown; King David afterwards presented
it to the abbot and convent of Reading in Berkshire; and from this and
many other valuable benefactions to the church, King James I., when he
visited his tomb, three hundred years after, called him "a sair saint to
the crown." From Prynne's records it appears that the abbot afterwards
unwarrantably sold the island to William Lamberton, Bishop of St
Andrews. It afterwards came into the possession of General Scott of
Balcombie, whose daughter, the Duchess of Portland, sold it to the
Commissioners of Northern Lights.

[Footnote 13: Two-year-old May wether mutton is said to be a feast
worthy of the gods, if they would admit anything more substantial than
ambrosia.]

Some remarkable events are connected with this island. The first we
shall advert to is the "Battle of the May."

Our readers have all doubtless heard or read of Sir Andrew Wood of
Largo, a famous Scottish admiral in the reign of James III. In the year
1490, King Henry, the English monarch, mortified at the defeat of some
of his ships by Admiral Wood the previous year, assembled his officers,
and offered rewards to any of them who should take the sea against Sir
Andrew, and bring him to him dead or alive. One Stephen Bull, a London
merchantman, who, like Sir Andrew Wood, combined the pursuits of warfare
and commerce, accepted the offer, and with three large ships set sail
for the Frith of Forth, in order to get between Admiral Wood and the
land on his return from Flanders, to which he had escorted a fleet of
merchantmen.

The English ships anchored under shelter of the Isle of May; and Bull,
having captured some sailors, compelled them to give him intelligence
about Sir Andrew's movements.

Early by daybreak, on a fine summer morning, the 10th of August, Sir
Andrew's two vessels, the one named "The Flower," and the other "The
Yellow Carvel," were observed to come in sight, on which the English
commander made preparations for engaging them, and distributed wine
amongst his men to raise their courage. With regard to the Scottish
admiral, Pitscottie the historian says, "On the other hand, Sir Andrew
Wood came pertly forward, knowing no impediment of enemies to be in his
gate, till at last he perceived their three ships under sail, and coming
fast to them in fier of war. Then Sir Andrew Wood, seeing this, exhorted
his men to battle, beseeching them to take courage against their enemies
of England, who had sworn and made their vows that they should make us
prisoners to the King of England, but, God willing, they shall fail of
their purpose. Therefore set yourselves in order, every man in his own
place. Let the gunners charge their artillery and the cors-bows make
them ready; with the lyme-pots and fire-balls in our tops, and
twe-handed swords in your fore-arms; and let every man be stout and
diligent for his own part and for the honour of Scotland, and thereto he
caused fill the wine, and every man drank to other."

The engagement that took place is described as being of the most
desperate character. The Scottish admiral contrived to get to windward
of the enemy. The fight lasted from sunrise to sunset, and was beheld by
an immense crowd of men, women, and children on the coast of Fife. At
last the two fleets were parted by the darkness, and drew off from each
other, till the daylight next morning again enabled them to see what
they were about.

The signal for a renewal of the engagement was then given by blowing of
trumpets on both sides, when the two hosts encountered each other again,
"and fought so cruely," says our historian, "that neither the skippers
or mariners took heed of their ships," but allowed them to drift away
with wind and tide till they reached as far as opposite the mouth of the
Tay, the crews all the while contending hand to hand. At last the
English admiral was compelled to yield, and to give up his sword to Sir
Andrew Wood; and his three ships were then towed up to Dundee, where the
wounded were landed, and placed under medical care. A few days after,
Sir Andrew, our brave countryman, presented the English admiral and his
officers to his majesty, James, King of Scotland, who, so far from
returning evil for evil, released and sent back Admiral Bull, his
officers and men, with their vessels, and with rich gifts as a present
to the English king. King Henry of England had thus, in addition to his
vexation at this signal defeat, the humiliation of being obliged to
acknowledge the generosity and princely bearing of the Scottish king,
whom he had insulted and injured without the slightest provocation.

The next occurrence which we shall record is the melancholy accident
which took place on the Island of May in January, 1791.

For two evenings no light was exhibited from the lighthouse, and the
weather was such as no boat could put off to ascertain the cause. On the
third day the storm abated, and a boat was manned from Crail. No sooner
had the crew of the boat landed, than they were assailed by a strong
sulphurous smell, and proceeding directly to the lighthouse, they found
the door shut, and no one answered their call. Forcing an entrance, they
saw the keeper, his wife, and five children, all lying suffocated, and a
sixth infant sucking its dead mother. In another room were found two men
almost expiring, but who, by the timely assistance rendered,
providentially recovered. It was supposed that this sad accident was
occasioned by some burning coals being blown among some cinders and
refuse lying at the bottom of the lighthouse.

The last incident to which we shall refer is the boat disaster at the
island in 1837.

On the 1st of July, 1837, a skipper and boat-owner belonging to
Cellardyke set sail from that harbour, with a large party, on a pleasure
excursion to the Isle of May. The day was fine and wind favourable, and
the party, chiefly young men and women, consisting of sixty-five
persons, including the crew, were all in high spirits, having music on
board, indulging freely in mirth and gaiety, and little thinking of the
sad event impending over their heads, by which, in a little half-hour,
so many of them were to perish.

Having approached close to the island, on the western side, it was not
deemed fitting to land at the place called "the Stand," or
"Atterstones," but to proceed round the southern end of the island to
the eastern side thereof, with intention to disembark at a creek on the
eastern side, called "Kirken Haven." In the attempt to enter this haven,
there being a swell of the sea, or surge, setting in from the eastward
at the time, the boat became unmanageable, and was violently driven
against the shore; the _stem_, in consequence, having stuck fast on the
rocks, while the _stern_ floated in deep water, the swell or eddies, and
broken water, upset or caused the boat to sink, and a great number of
persons belonging to Anstruther, Cellardyke, and the neighbouring towns,
were drowned. Of those, ten were young unmarried women, two married
women, and one infant--in all, thirteen persons. One individual lost his
wife, his mother, and his child; another, a young man, observing his
sister and a young woman to whom he was warmly attached both struggling
in the water, and sinking in the midst of furious breakers, boldly
plunged into the boiling sea, and made his way to the perishing girls.
And oh what a sight for those on shore, to see the noble-minded youth
risking his life for those he loved! He supports both for some time; he
comforts them with hopes of succour; but his strength begins to fail.
What shall he do? Shall he part with one? and if so, which of the two?
No; the idea is torment to him--he cannot for a moment entertain it. He
will save both, or perish in the attempt. He sinks, and rises, and sinks
again, with his precious burden. The waters close over their heads--they
are given up for lost. The two young women perish, but a huge wave casts
the young man nearer the shore; his comrades on the beach make the most
extraordinary efforts to save him, and he is at last rescued from the
very jaws of death.



CALEB CRABBIN.



As a good theorising spirit in philosophy is the very soul of all
progress in science, and the creatures that dabble in experiments with
crucibles and retorts are no better than pioneers to the great geniuses
that combine and generalise, so some think it an undoubted truth that
speculation is the great spirit of commerce (including, of course, in
the articles of that commerce, _wives_), and that those who do not make
a bold stroke seldom make an effectual one. In no department of commerce
is speculation held of greater importance than in that of marriage; and
how rare is it to find a man who thoroughly understands it--if, indeed,
it may not be said that ninety-nine out of a hundred do not know even
the difference between buying and selling. The women marriage-traders,
indeed, form a very creditable exception, because every one of
them--knowing very well, for a surety, that they have on hand a stock
that does not improve by keeping--are sellers, out and out; while the
males again are almost all buyers, though, if they had the sense of a
tortoise, they might know that they have just as good a stock to dispose
of as their fair customers. There are, doubtless, some exceptions in our
sex that go far to retrieve our characters; but, alas! they are very
few; and it is just on that very account that we think it proper to give
some account of Mr Caleb Crabbin, hosier in the Lawn-market in
Edinburgh--so great a genius in the department to which we have alluded,
that he discovered that all mongering in blankets and stockings was a
perfect bagatelle in comparison of the profitable disposal of his own
person; and no sooner did he make the discovery than he acted upon it,
with all the boldness that belongs to original thinkers.

The worthy we have thus mentioned favourably--because we admire a
supporter of the rights of free trade--had laboured for a period of six
or eight years in disposing of articles of hosiery, for every one of
which he paid a high price; and, whether it was that he could not buy to
advantage--his genius, probably, not lying in that way--or that he
could not sell with a profit, wherein he displayed the same want of
natural tact--it is certain that he became a bankrupt about as soon as
other people merely begin to see they might make "a good thing" of a
stop. So he wound up cleverly, and made just as little of his
bankruptcy--a matter of profit often to those who are mere bunglers in
the department of solvency--and took it into his head to sell himself.
So, accordingly, as chance would have it, he threw his eyes on Miss
Belinda Yellowlees, who combined the two comely properties of wealth and
weakness--in other words, she possessed a thousand pounds, and a very
bad constitution; and here it was that Caleb's properties began to be
manifested; for the man who thought himself not worth one farthing--and
was, in fact, not worth more, in the estimation of any of his own
sex--was proved to be worth no less than a thousand pounds, at which
price Miss Yellowlees bought him, and thought, too, that she had got a
very good bargain. Seldom, indeed, it happens that both buyer and
seller, in a transaction of pure business concerns, think that they have
made a hit; yet, of a surety, it was the case in this marriage; for Mr
Caleb Crabbin actually conceived that he had made as good a bargain as
did Miss Belinda Yellowlees; and so, to be sure, it was soon proved, by
an exceeding good probatory test; for Miss Belinda, within six months,
went the way of the dead, and her thousand pounds went the way of the
living--that is, into the possession of her surviving husband.

No one will deny that this was undoubtedly a good beginning in this new
commercial enterprise of Mr Caleb; and the best feature of the whole
transaction was, that, along with the thousand pounds, he had actually
got back again the commodity which he gave for it, and was thereby in a
capacity to dispose of it again, on far better terms than ever. Many a
good article of hosiery he had disposed of over the counter, and never
seen a single glimpse again either of the price or the article; whereas
here there was all the difference in the world; for he held the
possession of both--the thing sold, and the price got for it; and,
stimulated by his success, he, as soon as decency would permit, set
about again endeavouring to make a bargain, upon the same, or better,
terms than before. Nor was he long about encompassing his object; for
the money he had got by the first transaction yielded a facility to the
progress of the second; and, within a year of the death of the first
unfortunate, Mrs Belinda Crabbin, he, after a hunt comprehending nearly
all that period, found out an individual not only in every way worthy of
his attention, but exhibiting all the features of being as good a
market-woman as he was an out-and-out trader. The lady, whose name was
Miss Amelia Reddie--clearly an orthographic phase of the cognomen
Ready--was eager, or "yape," as the Scotch call it, for a transaction;
and, having nothing to boast of but her patrimony of twelve hundred and
fifty, she made the most of what she had; and the never a man of all she
had ever spoken to but knew, as well as he did the number of his own
fingers, the exact sum, to the odd fifty, which she was willing to give
as the consideration. Many a dozen of suitors had heard her set forth
her mercantile recommendation; but, then, she was the last of five, who
had all died of consumption, leaving her the heir of the small sums that
belonged to them; and this fact, which she tried assiduously to conceal,
had, in a great measure, destroyed her saleable capability, till the
time when there appeared in the mart Mr Caleb, who, instead of deeming
it an objection, thought it the consideration next best to the amount of
her funds. Well, without exhausting a lexicon upon the affair, we come
to the point, as cleverly as did the hero himself, who was, in the
thirteenth month after the death of his first wife, duly and lawfully
put in possession of Miss Amelia Reddie and her twelve hundred and
fifty.

"A deuced deal better than hosiery this!" said Caleb to himself, on his
marriage night; "for here have I not made two thousand two hundred and
fifty pounds in one year and a month, without ever a shop, or signboard,
or risk or trouble at all!"

If we were to say that there was an atom of affection in a concern of
this kind, we would assuredly be doing not only Mr Caleb a great
injustice, but be committing a libel on the taste of our sex; and, to be
sure, save for the money, there was none at all. But we have more to
say; and that is, that, where a man does not love the woman (as why
should he?) whom he has married for money, it follows, as a natural
corollary, that he wishes her dead. With "a trembling hand," like that
of the poet Tibullus, he would hold the fair one, when dying; but then
the hand would tremble lest she should recover, not lest she should go
the way of all flesh. But, alas for the plans of mortals! the greatest
geniuses sometimes fail in noble undertakings; and, not long after Mr
Crabbin had begun to discover ailing symptoms on the part of his
helpmate, the truth broke upon him that he was about to become a father;
and a father, too, in good time, he became, of as healthy a child as
ever blessed a living husband who liked his wife.

"If I am to have half-a-dozen, or mayhap a dozen, of these," said he,
"the devil a merchant that ever sold cheaper than he bought, ever made
so bad a bargain. Every one of those creatures will cost, at least,
three hundred pounds; so that, if I shall have six of them, I will be a
loser to the extent of five hundred and fifty."

The speech was prophetic; for every year, for a period of six, the
consumptive Mrs Amelia Crabbin presented her husband with a healthy
pledge; and on every birth-day Mr Caleb made a speech almost the same,
but with increased lugubrity. But for this he might have found very good
authority among the ancients; and if he had known of that strange man
who wept at the birth of a child, or of Xenophon, who continued the job
of a sacrifice he was at, though a messenger told him of the death of
his boy, he would have thought them very sensible men, of a very
different kidney from the fool, John Zopilah, who died of joy, when he
heard that his wife had brought him an heir male. But it availed Mr
Caleb nothing.

"Better," said he, "I had stuck by the counter; for I might have become
bankrupt as often as I chose; and, if I had made the never a penny by
it, I might at least have got quit of my creditors; but children are a
sort of creditors that a man cannot sweep off by any means, not even the
famous cessio."

And what made the matter more intolerable was, that all this time, when
Mrs Crabbin was thriving so excellently well, in the way of adding to
the number of the human species, she was gradually declining in health,
having, by the time she had the third child, become so lean and
shrivelled, that neither the Atlas nor the Hercules would have insured
her life at a premium of fifty per cent. Yet, as we have said, three
more followed in good time, and healthier creatures never opened their
eyes on an evil world. Mrs Amelia Crabbin had now, however, done her
worst; and, having been wasted away to a mere sigh, she one night took
Mr Caleb round the neck, and, weeping bitterly, told him she was going,
in the midst of her prosperity, to where she once thought she would have
gone six years before--even where her five sisters were--the grave;
recommending to him to take care of the twelve hundred and fifty, for
the sake of the six children she had left, as every penny of it, and
more, would be needed by the dear orphans. Mr Caleb wept too; but it was
at the touching allusion she had made to the danger she had escaped, of
dying before the first of the children was born; and Mrs Amelia, seeing
what she conceived to be undoubted evidence of his affection, hung
awhile upon his neck, and then bid him bring in every one of the six.
They were accordingly ranged by the side of her bed.

"Now, my little ones," she said to them, tenderly, "Caleb, Andrew,
Maria, George, Amelia, and Augustus, your mother is going to die, and
you may never see her again after this hour. Mr Crabbin," she continued,
looking to her husband, "you must know that these children are the last
of the blood of our Reddies, and proud am I to think that it has pleased
Heaven that I should be the means of thus leaving so many scions of our
ancient race, that there is no chance of the name being forgotten,
seeing that they have all three names, the middle one being Reddie in
every instance. I hope they will multiply as I have done. Bless you, my
dear children! Your father will protect you; and thankful am I that the
twelve hundred and fifty is yet all left, so that you will get your
shares when you come to be of age."

In an hour afterwards Mrs Amelia Crabbin was no more, and in three days
afterwards she was buried.

"It is finished," said the husband; "and a fair speculation never turned
up an uglier balance, since the days of the bubble of the South Sea."

So he took to real weeping; and there was not a friend that came to give
him consolation, but went away with the impression that he had been one
of the most loving of husbands, and was one of the tenderest of men.
Among those visiters, were two or three acquaintances of his deceased
wife, and one or two of them possessed even more than twelve hundred and
fifty. So, Mr Caleb, seeing through his wet eyes that his grief took
with them very well, continued the indications--a very easy process,
seeing he had only to look to the debit and credit of his speculation to
make the tears drop as fast as hailstones.

"It's a heavy loss you have sustained, Mr Crabbin," said Miss Jean
Gibbs.

"Very heavy loss," rejoined he, with emphasis on the principal word.

"But the children are a consolation."

"To be sure they are," answered Caleb; "and I have six of them, and now,
you see, all without a female to take charge of them."

The hint did not take, as the saying goes; and Miss Jean having
departed, and Miss Isabella Gentle, who had also a competency, having
arrived, he tried the same plan with her; for his spirit for speculation
was still strong; and he expected, yet, to make a far more successful
hit than he had even done in the case of Miss Belinda Yellowlees. Now,
Miss Isabella was just as sincere in her admiration of his sorrow as was
Miss Jean Gibbs; and all that was gone over about the loss he had
sustained, and the consolation of the children, and the feeling he
exhibited, as became a good husband and a loving father. But the moment
he made a hint about the poor creatures having no female to look after
them, the same effect was as evident as in the case of Miss Jean--for
Miss Isabella, for a certainty, did not seem to relish it.

"All this may come of my being too eager and too soon," said he. "But I
fear these six children will be stumbling-blocks in the way of my
farther enterprise; for a woman will not give so much for a man with six
children, as she would do for himself. Had my second transaction come up
to the first, I might to-day have been an independent man. But a third
may do better; and, if it don't, it shall not, by Hymen, be Mr Caleb
Crabbin that will be to blame."

Nor, indeed, could it be alleged that he spoke falsely; for, as soon as
the proper time came, he set about a very vigorous search for a third
helpmate in every direction where he thought he had any chance. He tried
again Miss Jean Gibbs and Miss Isabella Gentle; but the children formed
an objection which they could not get over.

"I will never marry a man with six children--no--nor five, nor four, nor
three, nor two," said Miss Jean.

"I would far rather live and die an old maid, than become the slave of
another woman's family," was the reply of Miss Isabella.

And then he tried Miss Julia Cross, who had something of a lying stock,
though not much, and her answer was just as peremptory.

"I hold the woman to be mad, Mr Caleb Crabbin," said she, "who would
undertake the charge of six children. One might as well become a
schoolmistress at once."

And after this rebuff, he tried Miss Angelina Crabbe, who had an annuity
of somewhere about seventy-five pounds, besides about three hundred of
old savings; but Angelina said that she would not be a stepmother for
the whole earth.

"I see it will not do," said he, after some farther rejections. "Unless
I take a wife with nothing, I will never get another, where it is known
that I am burdened with six children. But he who takes a wife with
nothing is but a sorry trafficker; and the never a wife with nothing,
were she as fair as Venus, will Caleb Crabbin marry in this world. I
will pack off the whole crew, and try my fortune under other colours."

The resolution thus formed he put in execution, by getting the whole of
his children boarded with friends who lived at a distance, upon the
pretence that he was going to take a trip away somewhere abroad. Having
achieved this preliminary, he set off for the nearest good
watering-place, being no other than the noted Pitcaithly, where so many
"wanters," have, with various success, been supplied; and he had not
been a week there when he fell in with a buxom widow of five-and-thirty,
who was reported as being worth not a jot less than one hundred and
fifty pounds a-year, secured on the strong Atlas, by the providence of
her deceased husband. The name she carried, Mrs Jemima Bowsie, was a
mixture of her own maiden name and the surname of her husband, very well
blended; and she carried herself with such an air of frankness,
surrounded with the eclat of her fortune, which she had taken care to
blaze pretty well, that Mr Caleb Crabbin was immediately struck.

"That is my mark," said he, "as sure as was Belinda Yellowlees; and, if
I'm not worth the purchase at one hundred and fifty pounds per annum, on
the life of Mrs Jemima Bowsie, I have lost all my saleable commodity."

One who had twice sold himself, and offered himself for sale a score of
times over, had no difficulty in getting matters placed in a train for a
new offer; and an hour had scarcely elapsed after the monologue we have
mentioned, when Mr Caleb Crabbin and Mrs Jemima Bowsie were walking and
talking together as if they had been acquainted from the period of
conning the alphabet. Nor was their intimacy long limited to talking
a-field; for he found his way to the house where she lodged, and she
found her way to the house where he had taken up his quarters, and, in
the course of these meetings, mutual hints and questions tended towards
the expression of mutual wishes.

"By the way, Mr Crabbin," said Mrs Jemima, one evening when they were
sitting together in her lodgings, "I have a question to put to you; and,
as you respect a widow, left, as it were, alone in the world, you will
answer me according to your conscience."

"That will I, Mrs Bowsie," answered Caleb, "as sincerely as if you were
my wedded wife."

"That is tenderly and beautifully indited, Mr Crabbin," answered she.
"Pray, sir, is the Atlas a strong company?"

"I believe it is a very strong concern, madam," replied he; "not much
less so, I fancy, than the Royal, where I happen to have two thousand
pounds deposited on an operating account. But might I have the great
boldness, madam, to ask you why you put that question to me?"

"I am not sure," replied Mrs Jemima; "yet, let me see. Why, there can't
be much harm in it either, only one does not like to trumpet forth her
private affairs. But then it is to be remembered that I am a lonely
creature in the world; and to whom can an unprotected widow speak, if it
isn't to one who is just in her own situation?--for you hinted to me
that your wife has gone, and left you also solitary."

"Too true," answered Caleb, affecting some ocular moisture. "My house is
indeed empty enough. Indeed I have the key of it in my pocket; and one
who has the never a one to speak to at home just wanders about where the
fancy lists."

"How our positions and sentiments _do_ coincide!" replied she. "Well, as
to the reason for my putting the question about the strength of the
Atlas; this," she continued, as she opened a box, and took out a
policy--"this may explain it." And she handed the policy to Mr Caleb
Crabbin.

"An annuity policy for one hundred and fifty, for the natural life,"
said he, as he affected surprise at what he knew as well as he did the
amount of the sums possessed by his two deceased wives. "A handsome
thing, madam, of a certainty."

"Very well for two single people," rejoined she, sentimentally; "but
believe me, sir, I would not have put the question, had it not been that
a female is apt to get nervous where her all is laid out on the security
of one concern."

"There need be never a tone of apology about the matter, madam; for, to
be plain with you, I often make inquiries about the stability of the
Royal, where, as I told you, I have two thousand pounds deposited on an
operating account; and, to be plainer still, I do not hesitate to tell
you, madam, that my house being, as I said, locked up in these gloomy
days of my widowhood, I carry about with me my receipt. Here it is."
(Opening his pocket-book.) "You may take a glance at it just as I have
done at your policy. Giff-gaff, as we say, makes good friends."

"And you have just hit upon the very reason," replied she, "why I carry
about my policy with me; for, where there is no one at home to take an
interest in one's affairs, or a charge of their effects, one feels
uneasy about a valuable document, such as these in our hands. Of course
you do not tell any one of the question I put to you; because, you know,
the Atlas might come on me for damages."

"No fear on't, madam," said Caleb; "but pray--hem! hem!--is it your
intention, Mrs Bowsie, ever again to change your name?"

"And, pray, Mr Crabbin," replied she, holding away her head, "is it your
intention ever to give yours to another woman?"

"The never a doubt on't, madam," rejoined Mr Caleb. "Loneliness is poor
company; and I would marry to-morrow, were it for nothing else than to
produce some stir of life in my deserted house."

"And, for society's sake, I would almost be tempted to change condition,
too," rejoined she, rising to put past the policy and conceal her
blushes.

Unluckily, at this interesting moment, an acquaintance entered, and put
an end to a conversation that was clearly tending towards a crisis, to
which the boldness of Mr Caleb would soon have brought it. But enough
had been said to dream upon; and by the time that the two met next day
in the woods, the matter had been arranged in the minds of both. The
question was "popped," a gracious answer returned, and, as Caleb had
clearly induced her to believe, without any direct statement, that he
had not a single child to mar Mrs Jemima's happiness, he saw the
necessity of getting the transaction concluded without the loss of a
moment of time, lest discoveries might break it up. But the widow was
just as anxious for quick despatch as he was; and he did not fail to
take advantage of so favourable a circumstance. So to Perth he went, and
got all things put in readiness for a proclamation of banns. This
preliminary was gone through on the following Sunday; on the Monday
after, Mr Caleb Crabbin and Mrs Jemima Bowsie were man and wife; and
thus had Caleb disposed of himself, for the third time, on terms which
he conceived to form the elements of a good bargain.

These matters we have run over rapidly, leaving it, of course, to be
understood that several explanations--such as the localities of their
locked-up houses, their connections, and so forth, were mutually made
and mutually relied on; and it becomes us, in the same manner, to leave
to the fancy all the pretty excursions and conversations that lasted for
the legitimate period of the sweet moon, at the end of which the couple
arrived in Edinburgh to take possession of the husband's deserted house.
And, to be sure, the house was empty enough, in so far as regarded human
beings; for there was no one in it, and Mrs Jemima Crabbin surveyed it
as her future home with no small expression of satisfaction. A new
servant was got. A week passed, and all was as it should be--not a word
of the six children having, as yet, been uttered by Caleb, and no one of
the neighbours having taken it upon them to supply the want of knowledge
which Caleb conceived to be necessary to a continuation of his
happiness. On the eighth day, they went out together to draw the
quarterly annuity from the agent of the Atlas Company; and never was a
man better pleased with himself than Caleb, when he pocketed the
thirty-seven pounds ten shillings, the first earnest of many drawings,
even so long as the life of his helpmate. This was clearly not fated to
last; because it behoved Caleb to make the necessary disclosure, to
prevent its being made, perhaps, in a manner fraught with more pain to
her who apparently looked forward to a life of genteel ease. It was
clear that the sooner the disclosure was made the better; and a stronger
cup of tea than usual (brewed on the head of the quarter's annuity)
having been served up, he sat ruminating on the best way of breaking the
intelligence.

"What are you thinking of, Mr Crabbin?" said the lady, as she sat
filling out the first cup of tea, and while the door stood open that the
servant might bring in the toast.

"There he is, you little darlings," said Mrs Reddie of Pennicuick, as
she entered; and at the same instant Master Caleb Reddie Crabbin, Master
Andrew Reddie Crabbin, and Miss Maria Reddie Crabbin, rushed forward
with a united cry of "Papa! papa! papa!" and hung round his neck, and
jumped on his knee, with a demonstration of affection that a father, in
ordinary circumstances, would have been delighted to see.

"I couldna keep them awa, sir," said the woman. "They would be in,
reason or nane."

Mrs Crabbin sat with the teapot in her hand, held nearly as high as her
mouth, and contemplated the affectionate scene, with open lips and wide
staring eyes; but never a word had Mr Caleb said, though the dear little
ones hugged him more fondly than ever.

"Are these your children, Mr Crabbin?" at last said the wife.

Caleb looked at her, and saw something like a smile playing round the
corner of her lips, in the midst of sufficient indications of surprise;
but the meaning thereof transcended all his powers of construction.

"The children, you hear, say I'm their father," replied he, still gazing
in her face, to try if he could catch again the same symptom he had
observed before; and, to be sure, he did catch it, and, with it, another
symptom that astonished him more still; for Mrs Crabbin immediately
ejaculated--

"Why did you not tell me of this, Mr Crabbin? What nice, dear, sweet
creatures! I'm delighted to see them. Come to me, George; come to me,
Andrew; and, Maria, you are the prettiest little girl in the world."

"What an amiable wife I have got!" ejaculated he, as he saw her take the
little ones and fondle them as kindly as if they had been her own.

"When saw ye the others," said Mrs Reddie--"George, Amelia, and
Augustus? Are they weel aneugh?"

"Three more!" ejaculated Mrs Crabbin.

And Caleb again searched her face, to see if there was not some irony
lurking about the muscles; but the never a trace could he find but
satisfaction. He was puzzled as never man was puzzled since the days of
OEdipus.

"Have I been at all these pains," muttered he, "to conceal what yields
her pleasure rather than chagrin?"

"Now, Mr Crabbin," said his wife, as she still fondled the children,
"you must send to-morrow for the others, that I may see them; for I long
to show them that I shall be as kind to them as would have been their
own mother."

"The never such another woman is to be found in all Christendom!"
muttered Caleb.

"Jenny," cried Mrs Crabbin, "bring cups here, that the children may have
their tea."

And so the cups were brought; and the whole group, Mrs Reddie--whose
mouth had been closed up by the effect of the extraordinary
scene--included, sat down in the most perfect harmony.

On the very next day, a messenger was sent off for Master George Reddie
Crabbin, Miss Amelia Reddie Crabbin, and Master Augustus Reddie Crabbin;
and they were expected to arrive at the house of their father within
three days afterwards. Meanwhile, Mrs Crabbin displayed still the same
degree of kindness she had at first exhibited; and Caleb continued to
wonder more and more at conduct that seemed to set at defiance all the
matrimonial maxims he had got proved to him by the many women he had
solicited to become his wife. Nor can there be a doubt that he was
pleased--if, indeed, it might not be said that he was delighted; for it
cannot be denied that the weight of the secret he had carried about had
materially interfered with his connubial happiness; and even the light
of the honeymoon had been dashed with streaks of shade, thrown up from
the cavern where the dread fact had lain concealed.

On the day on which the additional children were expected, Mrs Crabbin
was occupied in making preparations for their home-coming. A thousand
little matters were gone about with maternal assiduity; and, everything
having been arranged, the couple and the three children sat down to tea,
much in the same spirit they had done on the previous occasion. It was
about five o'clock; and the coach would arrive somewhere about that
time.

"Here they come at last," said Caleb, as he listened to a tread of many
steps on the stair, accompanied by the clear clack of the tongues of
happy children.

And, to be sure, in they came; but there happened to be no fewer than
five, accompanied by an old nurse; and they had no sooner entered, than
they ran forward to Mrs Crabbin, crying out "Mamma! mamma! mamma!" all
together, and hanging round her neck, and kissing her, and climbing on
her knees, just in the same affectionate manner that had been exhibited
by Mr Crabbin's children on the prior occasion.

Meanwhile, Mrs Jemima Crabbin was busy with the face of Mr Caleb, to see
what she could find there; but the man, who never had any great sense
of justice, showed no smile, as she had done when _his_ children came so
unexpectedly in upon her. A sombre gloom covered his face, and he sat
and looked as glum as he did on every occasion when Mrs Amelia Crabbin
had brought him a child; and, probably, if there had been any deeper
shade, or rather five times as deep as that expression, it would have
found a place upon his face.

"Are all these your children, madam?" said Caleb, with a voice that
expressed with the question a tendency to choke.

"Yes," answered Mrs Crabbin; "but you see, my dear sir, you beat me;
for, while I have only five, you have six."

"Eleven of a family to support on two thousand pounds of principal, at
four per cent., and one hundred and fifty per annum on the life of Mrs
Jemima Crabbin!" groaned Mr Caleb. "A deuced poor trafficker I am proved
to be! Would I not have been better as a hosier?"

"A hosier!" ejaculated Mrs Crabbin. "I took you for a gentleman, as Mr
Frederick Bowsie was, every inch of him."

"And I took you for a solitary widow, as you led me to believe,"
responded he.

"And so, to be sure, I took you for a solitary widower, carrying the key
of your house in your pocket, as you previously told me," was the just
reply.

At this juncture the conversation was interrupted by the entrance of the
other three Crabbins, who acted over again the scene of their brothers
and sister; and thus there were brought on the carpet no fewer than
eleven of a family, one-half strangers to their half-brothers and
sisters, and all talking, and laughing, and romping in a manner that
might have afforded no small joy to well-conditioned parents. Yet Mr
Caleb was not to be cajoled by their fun into anything like good humour,
for no man likes to behold the evidence of the almost total defeat of a
darling project, which he had held to be the pride and profit of his
existence. Nor was the bringing of eight more tea-cups, instantly
ordered by Mrs Crabbin, likely to effect what the romping of the "dear
ones" had not been able to accomplish; and it is impossible to say how
long he would have remained under the cloud of his gloom, had not Mrs
Crabbin risen, and, going round to him by the backs of the circle of
children, gently and playfully clapped him on the hanging clouded cheek.

"Come, now, Mr Crabbin," said she, "you see we are just in the position
of the pot and kettle that fell into warfare, calling each other
blackamores. You have cheated me, and I have cheated you, and therefore
are we on a par. No good can come of complaining where each has so good
a rejoinder; and, to be plain with you, if you gloom, I'll gloom, having
just as good a right; whereas, if you are well pleased, and love my
five, I shall be well pleased, and love your six; and thus we may make
the best of a bad bargain. What say you, Mr Caleb Crabbin?"

Caleb threw his eye around the table, and groaned; but necessity is a
strong monitor; and so he turned round--where there was a matrimonial
kiss awaiting him--and, having taken the offering for better and for
worse--

"I believe, Jemima, you are right, after all," said he; "but still it is
a bad business; for, if we add five or six more children to that small
army, we may come to starve."

"You can begin business again as a merchant (but not in the hosiery way)
with your two thousand, and I shall be as frugal a wife as ever made the
two ends of coming and going out meet."

Caleb meditated.

"You are right again, Jemima," said he; "for, after all, I have not been
happy under the trade of wiving I have driven for so many years--always
idle, and pointed out as one who lives on the means of his wives--so, to
be sure, I'll immediately betake myself to an honourable calling, and
before I die I may yet acquire the reputation of what is called a
respectable member of society. For true it is," he added, "that a
fortune-hunter, even if he has run down the game of thousands, is only a
fortune-hunter to the end of the chapter. Out of my evil, you see, has
come my good; and you, who a little ago seemed my bad angel, have turned
out to be my good. So here be all our strife ended."

And another embrace settled the affair.

"Now," said Caleb, "you'll be kind enough to tell me the names of these
children. By my faith, they are pretty ones--as pretty as my own!"

"This is William--this is George--this is Andrew--this is Mary--and this
is Margaret."

"Well, we must fall upon some way of distinguishing those of mine and
those of yours, who carry the same name. Let it be your George and my
George, your Andrew and my Andrew. I see now no difficulty about the
matter."

"Neither do I," answered Jemima. "All we have to provide against is to
avoid calling our own _mutual_ children George or Andrew, for a third of
the name wouldn't do."

"Neither it would," rejoined he.

According to these arrangements, Mr Crabbin commenced business again;
and, having been taught experience by his former failure, did very well.
We believe there were at least two or three additional children born
afterwards; but that was of no consequence, because Mr Crabbin's means
became, by his own industry, proportionate. A good lesson hangeth by the
peg of our tale, or we are somewhat out.



THE SERJEANT'S TALES.



THE IMPRUDENT MARRIAGE.


Serjeant Square again resumed the narrative of his adventures:--

There is a strange feeling, that every reflecting person must have often
been conscious of, accompanying the idea of time. We feel as if in
contact with the past, as far back as our memory can reach. If our
reading has been extensive, it requires reflection to disentangle the
events of early ages, as well as those of a more recent date; and, even
as regards the time to come, we feel as if it also were for us, until
the melancholy certainty of the shortness of life forces us back upon
the present moment, which, until passed, we cannot call our own. Neither
is there a situation in which we can be placed, in which we do not feel
some cause of uneasiness, from the faintest shade of unfulfilled
anticipation, to the depth of real suffering.

Gloomy were the reflections that haunted my mind for the first three
weeks after my arrival in London. Often and far as I had been from
Scotland, never until now had I been home-sick--if it could be called so
in one who had neither kindred nor home in the world. Destitute of
kindred as I was, the feeling seemed to extend my relationship: every
Scotchman being my relation, and his accents music to my ears. An
unaccountable melancholy was upon me; and I felt a strange presentiment
as if some evil were about to befall me. I felt no pleasure, as I was
wont, in walking about. My time was spent at my lodgings, in Lower
Thames Street, save when I went occasionally to the neighbourhood of
Covent Garden, to visit Captain H----. Even these visits had become
irksome, as no good seemed likely to arise to me from them. I was always
received in the most friendly manner. Still there was a constraint upon
me I could not overcome, arising from the relative situation in which we
had formerly stood towards each other as private seaman and captain. I
would have felt far more at my ease had he treated me in a more distant
manner. Frugal as my mode of life was, my cash wore done apace, and I
had fixed upon no mode of obtaining a new supply. Once or twice I had
made inquiries among the shipping for a situation, without success.
Perhaps the fault was my own, as I was rather nice to please, and not
over anxious to go to sea if I could do better. I hoped that the captain
or his friend would propose something for my advantage; and thus the
time had run on, while my lowness of spirits increased upon me. The
weather had become wet and foggy. I cared not to leave the house, and
remained at home for several days, so depressed that I even wished I
were dead, and away from a world in which I had suffered so much. The
pleasures I had also enjoyed were entirely blotted out from my
recollection. All my life appeared to have been a scene of suffering,
with no prospect before me but further misery and endurance.

This was a state of mind that could not long endure without leading to a
fatal result. I began to regard suicide as the only remedy for my
misery; and even to look upon it as a crime of no very deep atrocity.
Yet there was a feeling within me that made death as a remedy horrible.
At length, by an effort that cost me more to accomplish than anything I
had ever done before or since, I shook off this, the darkest moral
incubus of the darkest period of my life, and, after an absence of ten
days, waited upon Captain H---- to bid him farewell, as I was resolved
to leave London, and enter on board the first vessel wherever bound for,
and in any capacity I could obtain a berth. When I reached the house, I
found it shut up, and could obtain no information whither he had gone.
All I learned was, that they had left the house three days before, it
was believed for the country. I felt indignant and hurt, although I had
no reason, at this sudden departure. I had no claim upon him. I had ever
been overpaid for any service I had rendered. Still, this was not my
feeling at the time; and I bent my steps towards my lodgings in no
enviable mood, either with myself or the world. A numbing sensation was
upon me. I felt once more alone in the world; and passed through the
busy crowds that thronged the streets, almost unconscious of the
presence of a human being, until I had reached Tower Hill, when my
attention was roused by a crowd of men and boys, who were hooting and
jostling an old man of rather respectable appearance, whose impatient
anger caused them only to increase their shouts and annoyance. They were
calling to him, "Rebel Scot," and "Scottish traitor;" and crying, "Roll
him in the kennel," "Duck him in the river." I was in a humour to
quarrel with any one, or even dare a host. My blood was on fire in a
moment, for the old man upbraided them in Scotch, although tinctured by
a foreign accent. He was tall, and had once been a very powerful man.
His hat had been knocked off, and his grey hairs were in disorder, save
what were retained by a neat cue that bobbed from side to side, as he
was pushed, or turned to aim a blow at his cowardly assailants, many of
whom, I blush to say, had reached man's estate. In an instant I was by
his side, and shouted, to overtop the noise--

"For shame, to use an old man and a stranger so! Is that like
Englishmen?"

For a moment there was a pause; it was but for a moment. My Scottish
accent turned them as much against me as him whom I wished to befriend.

"They are both rebel Scots--serve them alike!" shouted a stout young
fellow, as he aimed a blow at me. The others joined in the cry. The blow
took effect upon the side of my head. I was stunned a little; but
returned it with so good effect that he staggered back a pace or two.
The blood flowed from my cheek, which was cut, pretty fast. In a moment
the shouting ceased, and "A ring! a ring!" was the cry. "Give the
Scottish sailor fair play--he has pluck in him." "Go it, Joe!" cried
others; and their attention was directed from the old man to me and my
opponent. A ring was formed. I gave my jacket and hat to the old man to
hold, and to it we went; but, tall as I was and stout, I was forced to
give in after a severe contest; my enemy's science prevailed; but my
object was attained. The old man and myself were no longer hated. "I was
a bit of good stuff," they said, "and had stood well up to fighting Joe
of Smithfield." Even Joe said he would give any one a beating who
molested us. We were conducted to a public-house, where I got myself
cleaned and my bruises dressed. The old gentleman gave me a thousand
thanks for the part I had taken in his rescue, and seemed to feel much
more for the injuries I had received than I did myself. As soon as we
had had some slight refreshment, he caused a coach to be brought, and
accompanied me to my lodgings. During our short drive, I learned that he
had only arrived from Holland the evening before, and was a stranger in
London. He said he had resided for the last ten years there; that he had
not been in Scotland for many years; and that he was on his way to it to
lay his bones in the graves of his fathers. There was a reservedness of
manner that interested me much in the man; and every time I looked to
him, I grew the more certain that his face had been familiar to me at
some former period of my life. Even his voice fell on my ear like some
well-known sound. Neither of us had inquired the name of the other. The
coach stopped at the door of my lodging, into which he assisted me; and
I immediately went to bed at his request, he promising to call upon me
in the morning.

After passing a restless night, I was awoke in the morning by my
landlady entering my room to inquire if I would see Lieutenant Speare,
the old gentleman who had accompanied me home the evening before.
Although I felt rather feverish, I replied that I would be glad to see
him. In a few minutes I was astonished to see him enter in an undress,
until he informed me that he had been so fortunate as to obtain a room
from my landlady; and, if I was agreeable, he wished to breakfast along
with me and spend the day, as I was not, he felt assured, in a state to
leave my room. I did not conceal that I felt very unwell, and would be
happy to have his company. After he was seated, I inquired by what
accident he had become involved with the rabble upon Tower Hill. After a
short pause--

"You and I," replied he, "are countrymen, but strangers to each other.
From the disinterested manner in which you interfered in my behalf, I
feel that I may trust you with my secret. Even if we differ in opinion,
you will not betray me; I therefore shall make no reserve.

"I was born and bred an adherent of the exiled royal family of Great
Britain; have bled in their cause; suffered exile from all I held dear;
and even now I tread my native land with a halter about my neck, which
one word from you might attach to the fatal tree that has ceased to have
any horrors for me, were it not for a sacred duty I have to perform
before death put a period to my long life of suffering. Yesterday
afternoon I had only been a few hours in London, for the first time in
my life; yet its gloomy Tower, and blood-drinking Tower Hill, had long
been familiar to my mind, as scenes of cruelty and tyranny, where the
best blood of Scotland was poured out like water to satisfy the thirst
of a usurper. I had surveyed the scene for some time in silent agony,
when my oppressed feelings called before me the heroes, as I had seen
and admired them, in manly vigour, struggling in a righteous cause, with
the sad termination they experienced, when their headless trunks were
insulted by an unfeeling crowd. All caution left me, and I expressed my
thoughts aloud. I was overheard and assailed. You delivered me. I
acknowledge my imprudence; and, on your account, lament what I have
done."

"On my account there is no cause of regret," said I. "I am happy your
unguarded language had no more fatal result. Your secret is safe in my
keeping. I myself have been a sufferer through that fatal affair,
although too young to distinguish between parties; for the miseries of
civil war fall heaviest upon the innocent, the females and children. By
it I was deprived of both my parents, and thrown destitute upon the
world, without friends or home. If the great will struggle, urged by
ambition or party zeal, what have the poor to do with their strife, who
can, at the best, only change their taskmasters? Had my father remained
in Edinburgh, my mother had not broken her heart, and I had not been an
outcast orphan boy."

"Edinburgh, did you say, young man?" replied he. "Few joined the Prince
from that city." His voice faltered; his whole frame shook. He gazed
fixedly upon me for a short time; then, starting to his feet, he
staggered to my bedside, supporting himself by the bedpost. "What is
your name?" he eagerly said.

"John Square," I replied.

Uttering a cry that resembled a heavy groan, he sunk upon the bed, and,
grasping my hand, bathed it with tears; then, clasping me to his breast,
kissed my forehead. His heart was too full to speak; he held me in his
embrace, and gazed upon my face. I was so much amazed at the strange
conduct of the old man, that it was some time before I recovered from my
surprise, or could inquire the cause of his, to me, unaccountable
proceeding. Still grasping my hand--

"Now, welcome death!" said he. "My mission is accomplished. I shall die
in peace. I have found thee, my long-forsaken and injured boy."

It was now my turn to feel the utmost agitation. Did my father really
stand before me? I feared to ask the question, yet burned to do so.

"Are you my father?" cried I.

"Alas! no! I am not your father," said he. "Yet I am all the father you
ever knew; and you were, and are, dear to me as my own son. Ah, my poor
Mary!--she was a kind mother to you. Told she not the secret of your
birth before she died?"

"No," was my answer. "I was too young and thoughtless at the time. I
recollect she called me to her bedside often, and wept over me; but she
only prayed, and blessed me. She sent one of her neighbours, who was
very attentive, for the minister to come to her, saying she had
something important to intrust him with; but, before he arrived, her
mind began to wander, and she remained in that condition until her
death, two days after. She had even forgot she had sent for the good
man, who, after offering up a prayer, departed." I paused, for the old
man wept bitterly while I spake. I did respect his feelings; but my own
were too impetuous to be restrained. "Who was my father, since you are
not?" cried I. "Is he alive? If you ever loved me, pause not a moment.
Nay, I shall tear the secret from you." And I started up in my bed, sore
as I was, and looked wildly at him, as he appeared to hesitate.

"Be composed, my dear John," said he. "It is a melancholy tale. I would
more willingly spare your feelings than wound them by the relation; but
it were cruel now to withhold it from you. You will have no cause to
blush for your relatives. My own history is so deeply interwoven with
that of your parents, that I cannot disentangle them, and therefore must
give them, connected as they are. It was upon the borders of the
romantic Esk I first awoke to consciousness, in the hospitable house of
your grandfather, to whom my father had been head servant for many
years. I was within a few weeks of the same age as John, your father,
his third son. I was his foster-brother and playfellow, unequal as was
our rank. I loved him with more than a brother's love, and would have
risked my life for him, had he been in danger. He was my young master;
his comfort was all my duty and care; and swiftly the days and hours
passed on, until the period arrived that he was to go to Edinburgh to
attend the classes at the university, and whither I was to accompany
him. We were both young and inexperienced. Your father was of a
fearless, open, and generous temper; and his rank in life gave him
access to the best society in the city. At one of the assemblies he
became acquainted with a young lady, the orphan daughter of an officer
who had fallen in the wars of Marlborough. She resided with two rich
maiden aunts, upon whom she depended for her present support and future
fortune. Their intimacy soon ripened, unfortunately, into love. As
politics raged at this time with a force and bitterness that divided
friends and relations, even the sacred mysteries of love were
interrupted by the offerings to the stern genius of discord. Rose's
aunts were stern Whigs, supporters of what were then styled by us the
Hanoverian usurpers; and their only surviving brother was an officer
high of rank in their armies; while your grandfather was faithful to his
lawful king, and as true a Tory as ever lived or bled for the Stewarts.
Neither your father nor myself had ever troubled ourselves about the
rival factions; yet we were, as we had been bred, staunch adherents to
the royal exiles; but Love is of no party, and we were both under his
influence. From the cause I have mentioned, your father's visits were
unacceptable at Rose's aunts; their interviews were stolen, and, of
course, more sweet. She was at times allowed to walk out for exercise,
and to visit, but never unaccompanied by her maid, who had been her
servant before her mother's death. She was a bar in my master's way;
and, if he dared to converse with his beloved, she would have been kept
entirely from his sight. To aid him in his interviews, I became
acquainted with Mary, the servant, and was soon as deep in love as my
master. Little did our young and joyous hearts dream of the bitter dregs
that lay in the cup of pleasure we quaffed in the hours of romance, as
we walked, or sat scarce in sight of each other, among the cliffs and
sheltered valleys of Arthur Seat. Nothing but my love for your father
could have blinded me to the folly he was guilty of, and the ruin that
awaited his future prospects in life. As for myself, I could not be
other than I was. Mary was of my own rank, born to toil, and with little
to lose; while they had a fearful height to fall from, if they wedded
without consent of friends. But when, alas! did ever youthful love
calculate consequences aright, until the calculation is useless?

"Thus intoxicated with love, the time ran on with unheeded speed; yet my
master was unremitting in his studies. He had, with the consent of his
father, fixed upon the law as his profession, as the political opinions
of the latter gave his son small chance of rising in the army. Rose and
he had often exchanged vows of mutual constancy, until more fortunate
times for their love should arrive. Your father had pictured to himself
speedy success at the bar; and the first use he was to make of his fame
was to claim your mother from her aunts; and if they refused, as, from
the vain efforts he had made to gain their good graces, he had every
reason to expect, to wed her without their consent, or one farthing of
fortune. His father's consent he knew he could not hope for before the
marriage; but his forgiveness afterwards he had no doubt of obtaining.
Thus had he lulled himself into a pleasant dream of security, from which
he was soon awakened. It was in the beginning of the third session of
college, that one of the two aunts was taken suddenly ill, and died in a
few days, without making any will. Elizabeth, the younger sister, who
had never been very kind to Rose, was now her sole protector; and she,
sweet lady, was rendered very unhappy--a circumstance that gave great
pain and uneasiness to your father, and was the cause of the imprudent
step he took. Scarcely was the funeral over, when Mary her maid was
discharged, as an unnecessary burden; and, with my master's consent, she
and I were married. Aided by his bounty, I began housekeeping, still
waiting upon him; and, meanwhile, our house was the scene of the meeting
of the lovers. The penury and harshness of her aunt rendered the young
lady's life miserable. Her secret was communicated to my wife, who again
told my master. This precipitated the consummation of the long
courtship. He prevailed upon his beloved to give her consent to a
private marriage, that he might have the right to shelter her from
suffering longer from her aunt's tyranny. They were privately married in
my house, at the head of Mary King's Close.

"Your father had not yet passed as an advocate, and had no means of
subsistence, save what he got from his father. It was imperative that
his marriage should be kept secret from every one. Your mother resided
with her aunt only until your father had furnished a small house, near
the foot of our close, for his beloved wife--an achievement he could not
get accomplished so quickly as he wished, without raising curiosity as
to the cause of his repeated demands for money. Nearly four months
passed on after the marriage, and your mother still resided with her
aunt, who, since her sister's death, had become gay, and had many
visiters--principally bachelors--all paying her court, old as she was,
for the sake of her wealth; and several of them often paying more
attention to the young wife than she wished. Among the visitants was
one, a great favourite with the aunt, a retired officer, of an abandoned
turn, but connected with some of the oldest families in Scotland. He was
well received in most companies, and welcomed for his wit and jovial
manner. I recollect I was waiting your father's return from a tavern
party, principally young lawyers, before I went to my own house for the
night, when he came home much sooner than I had expected, greatly
agitated, and in high anger. Alarmed at his unwonted manner, I, with
all the humble freedom I could ever use with him, implored him to tell
me what had occurred to disturb him so much. After he had become more
calm, he told me that Captain Ogilvie had been of the party; that they
had drunk pretty freely, and were giving toasts; that the captain
pledged Rose, your mother, and spoke more lightly of her than he could
endure to hear; and that a quarrel had ensued, and blows had been
struck. He then desired me to see that his rapier was sharp and in
order, as he was to meet the captain by five the next morning in the
Duke's Walk. My anger against the vile traducer was as great as that of
my master. I wished I could meet him in his place; for I had a strong
feeling that evil would come out of it; but this was impossible.

"Your father sat down to his writing-table, and began two letters--one
for his young wife, the other to his father--and, while he was thus
employed, I ran home, told Mary not to expect me home that night, and
put on a suit of plain clothes. Before he was done, I had his sword and
my own in excellent order; for I was as good at fencing as he was, in
consequence of having practised with him all the manly exercises he had
learned. As soon as he was ready, we began play at the swords; as the
captain was an expert swordsman, while my master had had no practice for
several years. Thus we passed the night until past four o'clock. When we
sallied forth, we called at Blackford's Wynd upon his second, whom we
found waiting upon him, and then proceeded by St Mary's Wynd Port and
the South Back of the Canongate to the ground, which we reached a few
minutes before the appointed time. The captain and his friend arrived
almost as soon as we did. Since then, I have seen blood spilled as
freely as water; but never did my heart quail as at this time. In
fighting with the blood warm, there is a fierce pleasure; but to me
nothing is, or can be, more distressing than to stand an idle
spectator, and see your friend engaged, and hear the clash and rasp of
the weapon aimed at his heart, as if it were your own, and your hands
bound. Such were my feelings at this time. The seconds wished to
reconcile them, but neither would hear of it. Each drew, and stood on
his guard. A fearful pause of a few seconds ensued, while they eyed each
other like hungry wolves. My eyes felt as if they would start from their
sockets; my breath was suspended; all was still as death; a sudden clang
rung on my ears; their swords gleamed in the rays of the rising sun; and
so rapid were their movements, that my eye could not follow them. I saw
that the captain, from his fence, was a complete master of his weapon,
having practised abroad. My master had been foiled in his favourite
assault--the one, indeed, on which I had placed my reliance. A moment's
pause ensued; neither had drawn blood. Again they closed, and, after a
few unsuccessful attacks, paused again for breath. I saw the blood upon
my master's arm, from a slight cut. My hand grasped my sword; but, by a
violent effort, I restrained myself. They had been engaged nearly
half-an-hour; my master's hand was dyed in blood; but he was young and
alert; while his antagonist was rather corpulent, and his constitution
shaken by dissipation. His play became now more feeble and cautious, and
my confidence began to revive. He was yet without a scratch; and,
collecting all his energies, he made a desperate lunge, which your
father only parried so far as to make it pass between his side and the
sword-arm, piercing his vest; and the captain lay at his feet
transfixed. My heart leaped for joy as I ran to your father's aid. I
bound up his arm, while the two seconds attended to the captain. I found
my master but slightly hurt. He despatched me for aid to his antagonist,
with which I returned; and, as the captain's wound appeared to be
mortal, we left them, and proceeded over the hill. We scarcely
exchanged words. Passing up the valley, we stood upon the crest of the
height that commanded a view of Craigmillar Castle, and the distant
hills, with the level country between. Here we paused; and your father,
clasping his hands in agony, gazed around for a few minutes in silence.
My own heart was too full to speak, and I stood looking upon his mental
suffering, which I knew no mode of soothing, and reverenced too much to
interrupt. At length he said, as if unconscious of my presence,
'Farewell, sweet scenes of my happiness! my cruel destiny drives me from
you, and her who is dearer to me than life. But that thought is
distraction. Rose! my beloved Rose! in what a state am I forced to leave
you! Alas! I dare not even bid you farewell. My hands are red with
blood, and the avengers will soon be on my track; but in defence of your
honour it was shed, and Heaven will justify the act. Who now--who will
protect you when I am an outlaw?'

"He dashed his hands upon his forehead, and groaned. I could endure in
silence no longer, and at length soothed him into something like
composure. It was agreed that he should go to his father, inform him of
his duel, and act by his counsel; while I should return to my own house,
watch the progress of the captain's wound, and, happen what would, meet
him at Roslin Chapel at ten o'clock in the evening, to consult what was
farther to be done. We parted at St Leonard's Hill.

"In the forenoon nothing was talked of in the city but Captain Ogilvie's
duel; and it had become a party question. The Whigs had one version of
the cause of quarrel, the Tories another, I gave no ear to either; but
was rejoiced to learn that the captain was not dead, although his life
was despaired of.

"It was now past six o'clock--the quarter had chimed upon the clock of
St Giles. I had my hand on the latch to go once more to the captain's,
to know how he continued since my last inquiry, when the rasp was gently
moved. I opened the door, and your mother staggered into my arms, pale
as death, and swooned away. With difficulty Mary and I restored her to
consciousness. I told her of your father's safety; and she replied that
she was now, save for her husband, a destitute outcast; that her aunt,
who only waited a pretext, had turned her out upon the world; and that
the cause of her expulsion was her conduct in being the mean of her
aunt's favourite, Captain Ogilvie's death. I told her that the captain
was not yet dead, and would, I hoped, survive; and, leaving her in
charge of Mary, I hurried to ascertain what ground there was for any
hope. I found that the captain was still alive, but that his death was
hourly expected.

"With a sorrowful heart I hurried out by Bristo Port, after getting the
word for the night from the keeper, that I might be admitted, on my
return, into the city. I was at the chapel some time before ten o'clock,
and found my master waiting for me. When I told him that the captain was
still in life, he took my hand--'Square,' he said, 'this has been a sad
and dreary day to me. It is a fearful thing to have blood upon our
hands, even in a just cause. I pray with my whole soul he may recover,
both for his own sake and mine.'

"I then told him what had befallen your mother.

"'I am happy it is so,' he said, 'I shall leave her under the keeping of
Mary and you with more confidence than I could in her aunt's. My mind is
relieved of a burden; my greatest difficulty was how to dispose of my
beloved until my return; for, by the command of my father, I set off for
France to-morrow--to St Germains, where I will remain until this
untoward affair blows over. If all go as we anticipate, you will,
perhaps, see me here sooner than you expect--ay, with a gallant band of
patriots, to redress Scotland's wrongs, and restore our rightful
prince. My father is not displeased at my conduct--would that he knew
the right I had to take my Rose's part! But the time will come. As I
know not how soon the officers of justice may be in quest of me, I must
depart to-morrow morning for England, on my way to France. I must
therefore see Rose, to bid her good-by for a short season. I shall be
waiting for her near St Anthony's Chapel, to weep our parting, where we
have so often smiled at our meetings. O William, William! these thoughts
unman me.'

"'My dear master,' said I, 'am I to accompany you?'

"'No, William,' replied he--'no; I leave my beloved wife to your care
until my return, when I will requite you as she shall report of you.'

"It was early in the morning before I reached Edinburgh. I found your
mother and Mary still out of bed, awaiting my return. The night was
spent in tears by the females, and a melancholy presentiment was on my
own heart. Before we set out to meet the fugitive, I caused them to
disguise themselves--your mother having my wife's maud, and she a dress
she had never before worn. They proceeded down the street by themselves,
while I went to inquire how the captain had spent the night. I found he
was still in life, but no hopes were entertained of his recovery.

"The shades of evening were beginning to fall before this last and
sorrowful parting terminated. They never met again. Your mother, who was
in the family way, although we knew not the fact for weeks afterwards,
began to droop and pine--a sadness of heart seemed to consume her; in
vain we strove to cheer her gloom; and her aunt made no inquiries after
her. Once a-week I visited the banks of the Esk to inquire after my
master; and occasionally got accounts of his welfare; but they were few
and far between--only, indeed, when the letters could be forwarded by
some one coming to Scotland. No letter had as yet come to me for his
wife. How often have I left her, with a faint smile of hope dispelling
the habitual sadness of her lovely countenance, and returned with an
aching heart to witness her increased melancholy. Your father had left
her all the gold he could, even more than he could spare; yet we would
have given it all for a single letter from his hand; but none came.
Meanwhile Captain Ogilvie, who continued long in a precarious state,
ultimately recovered.

"At length you were born; but your unfortunate mother did not survive
many days; and scarcely was the sod green on her grave, when my master
came back to Scotland. His grief, his agony, I shall not attempt to
describe. In a few weeks after he returned to France, for his native
country was hateful to him; and I would have accompanied him, but that
Mary was in delicate health, and I could not leave her. As his father
was displeased at him for relinquishing his study of the law, he gave
him only a small sum to maintain him in France. You passed, meanwhile,
as my own child, and went under my name.

"At length the long-expected deliverer came. I concealed the certificate
of your father's marriage, and some other papers, in the wainscot of our
room, and would have joined my master in the north; but, as the party
were in rapid advance to Edinburgh, I thought I could be of more service
to the cause in Edinburgh. It was I who contrived the way, and caused
the easy entry of the Prince into the city, by the Netherbow Port. The
gentleman you saw once or twice in conversation with Mary, whom you took
for your mother, was your father; but it was not thought prudent to
undeceive you. We had the greatest confidence in the success of our
righteous cause. Alas! we were prosperous for a time, only to feel more
bitterly our reverse. We advanced into England, elate with the victory
of Tranent, where we scattered the red-coats like frightened deer. I had
no opportunity of visiting Edinburgh again, until it would have been
death to me to dare the act. Your father was wounded at the Battle of
Falkirk, and required my utmost care. After the Prince retired from the
siege of Stirling, and Cumberland's arrival in the north, our affairs
began to wear a different aspect. Carlisle had been recaptured, and our
success seemed farther from us than at the commencement. My master's
wound was, by good management, so much better that he could travel by
easy stages. The volunteers and adherents of the Hanoverians were
beginning to show more bravery, by apprehending all whom they knew
belonged to the Prince; so that, without taking leave, we left our
landlord in the night; and, crossing at Kincardine, got into Fife, and
travelled down the shores of the Forth until we reached Dysart, where
your father was confined to bed, by fever, for some days. Here we
received the heart-breaking intelligence of Culloden Field, and the
massacre of the friends of royalty. Scotland was no longer a country for
us. My master had acted too open and conspicuous a part to hope for
pardon. I would, perhaps, on Mary's account and yours, have ventured my
life in a return to Edinburgh; but I could not leave your father in his
present situation. As yet no one suspected we had belonged to the
Highland army; for I had so adroitly concealed my master's wound, that
he was thought to be only sick of a fever. Fortunately, there was a
vessel about to sail for Rotterdam. We embarked for Holland without
interruption, and arrived safe. During your father's convalescence we
were reduced to great straits; for our supply of cash was, when we left
Scotland, much reduced, and here it entirely failed. My master had
written to his brother for assistance; but he had found it for his
advantage to change sides; and, so far from sending a remittance, he
never answered one of his letters. Had it not been for the disinterested
aid of a Scottish merchant, who was established in the place of our
retreat, and who had been a college friend of your father, we must have
been reduced to absolute want. Through his influence, he obtained for
him a commission in the Scottish Brigade, then in the service of the
States; and thus relieved him from the humiliation of dependence; but
this was not accomplished until nearly the end of the second year after
I had left my peaceful home. During all this time we were in the
greatest anxiety--he about his son, I about my dear wife. Yet we had no
means of ascertaining your fates; and the consciousness of the poverty
you must be plunged in embittered all our thoughts. As soon as my master
joined the division of the brigade, which was quartered in
Bergen-op-Zoom, he borrowed a sum of money for my use. At all hazards I
had resolved to return to Edinburgh, use all the precaution I could to
avoid being recognised, and bring over with me to Holland you and my
dear Mary.

"All being prepared, I bade adieu to your father, and embarked, in the
dress of a Dutch skipper, on board of a vessel bound for Dysart,
principally loaded with old iron, for the nailers of Pathhead. She was a
Fife vessel; and the captain knew me only as William Speare, a Dutchman.
Upon our arrival, I crossed, with the first Kinghorn boat, for Leith,
and hurried up to Edinburgh. Our passage across the Frith had been very
tedious; and the shades of evening were just coming on when I reached
the Abbey Hill. With a heart equally divided between hope and fear, I
walked up the Canongate, through the Netherbow Port, and up the High
Street. I saw many that I had known in happier days, and my heart
yearned to address them; but, alas! I was a proscribed outlaw, shut out
from the society I loved. When I reached Mary King's Close, my heart
beat so ardently, that I was forced to pause for breath as I climbed the
stair to my old door. I took the rasp in my hand, and gave my wonted
tirl. A female opened the door, about the same height as her I loved. It
was very dusky. That it was my wife I had no doubt. I threw my arms
around her, crying, 'Dear Mary!' The female pushed me from her, and
screamed out for help. I thought I would have sunk to the ground, and
leaned against the door for support. An elderly female came in haste
with a light. I attempted to speak, but could only sob, and felt sick
almost to death. The women looked upon me in amazement, for the tears
were silently stealing down my face. After whispering a few words, I was
kindly invited into the house which I had expected to have been my own.
It was tidily furnished; but everything in it was strange to me, and
wore a look of desolation and loneliness. Neither my wife nor you were
there. Not to betray myself, I told them that I had not been in
Edinburgh for a long time; but that, when I left it last, a very dear
friend had resided there, whom I had hoped to find where I left her, and
that my mistake must plead my excuse for any apparent rudeness. Their
answers to my inquiries crushed all my hopes. Mary was in her silent
grave, and you had disappeared. Nothing now remained to me in Scotland
that I cared for; and, after in vain offering a reward to any one who
could give any information concerning you, and shedding a few tears over
the grave of my wife, I returned to Holland with my sorrowful
intelligence. Your father, quite sunk with your uncertain fate, fell
into a lowness of spirits that preyed upon his health, and continually
reflected upon himself as the cause of your mother's early death, and
your destitution.

"As the monotony and dulness of garrison duty in a strongly-fortified
town served to increase his melancholy, which threatened to merge into
consumption, he, by the advice of his physician--that change of scene,
and a warm climate, might remove all the bad symptoms he
exhibited--exchanged into a regiment stationed in the Island of Ceylon,
into which I also enlisted, that I might accompany him. There was,
alas! no other individual on earth for whom I cared. Far from recovering
on the voyage, its tedious dulness sunk him more and more into his
habitual lowness of spirits; and, on our arrival on the island, he grew
worse, and did not survive many months. I buried him at Trincomalee.
Alas! how true is the saying, that 'all men know where they were born,
but none where they shall lay their bones.'"

So intense had been the interest I felt in his narrative, that I
scarcely moved, lest I should lose a word, or interrupt him. He paused
at this event, and wiped a tear from his eyes. William and Mary I had
until this hour looked upon as my real parents. For those I now heard
of, I had new feelings to acquire. I noticed that he did not tell me the
surname of my parents, and I pressed not the question. All that I asked
of him was to continue his history, and inform me what had induced him
once more to return to Scotland.

"Can a Scotsman ask that question of a Scotsman?" said he. "In whatever
part of the globe he may be, the hope to lay his bones with his fathers
is the Polar Star that cheers his wanderings, be they prosperous or
adverse. Remove this hope, and his energies from that moment sink, for
he has lost all of life worth caring for. I have both known and felt it.
But to proceed:--

"After your father's death, I felt the most solitary of men for many
months. Still I continued to do my duty as a private soldier, without
taking any interest in surrounding events. About two years after my
arrival, a revolt broke out in the colony: the Singaleese were aided by
the Candians from the mountains; and the handful of Europeans could
scarce make head against the multitudes of the natives, who had courage
and ferocity more than sufficient to have exterminated us every man;
but, fortunately for us, they had no discipline or other mode of
warfare, but to rush on their enemy and overpower them. This they found
to be a vain attempt; yet they never changed their mode until compelled
to sue for peace, by the immense slaughter made of them in this war of
carnage and massacre. I had been several times the decided cause of
victory to the Dutch, in preventing small detachments from being cut
off, and directing the movements of the main body; for which services I
was promoted to a lieutenantcy. I never rose higher, nor do I believe I
would have attained this rank, had it not been to enable me to take
command of small parties, for which I was qualified from my being ever
on the outskirts of the army, or in the borders of the jungle. Great
numbers of my men died through fatigue and fever. I, myself for several
years, remained robust; but my turn came at length. I fevered and
relapsed; several times my life was despaired of for whole weeks; and
many wounds I had received from the Candian spears and arrows broke out
afresh, and baffled the power of medicine. My constitution triumphed
over my malady; but I was unfit for service. I have one wound here on my
side that is hurrying me to my grave; which, I hope, will be in
Pennycuick churchyard. But, now that I have the happiness to find my
long-lost charge, there is one more duty for me to perform when we reach
Edinburgh, whither you must return with me, to consign me to the dust.
That duty I never did expect to be called to perform--it is to
re-possess myself of the certificates of your father's marriage and your
baptism, which are, as I told you, concealed behind the wainscot in the
house in Mary King's Close. I trust, for your sake, they are still safe,
and may be the means of placing you in your proper rank in society."

"Dear father," I replied--"for I must still call you so--if it is to be
of any service to me alone, it is of no avail to proceed further on that
errand, for fortune baffles all my undertakings, and I tell you you will
not succeed; still I have no objection to return with you to Scotland,
although my present object in London was to go to sea in a vessel bound
for the Indian seas--the only place of all I ever visited where fortune
smiled upon me, and I scorned her favours."

After dinner I gave the lieutenant an outline of my adventures since he
had left Edinburgh, at which he was much moved. When I told him of the
obligation I lay under to the worthy lawyer--

"Ah, Johnnie!" said he, "we have already half-gained the victory. Mr
Davidson was at college and intimate with your father, and ho knows me
well as your father's servant. Scotland does not contain a better man
for our purpose. I shall fee him liberally, and fortune may yet smile
upon us." It was now late in the evening, and the lieutenant left me for
the night.

Scarce was he gone, when a new passion took entire possession of
me--that of pride and ambition. I felt myself quite changed, and strange
visions of imaginary importance floated before me. My present finances
were now deemed low enough--eleven guineas--which at one period I would
have considered an immense sum. So sanguine had a few hours made me,
that I looked upon it only as so many pence. From this period I date a
complete revolution in my train of thoughts. Formerly I had cared but
for the passing hour, nor heeded for to-morrow. My early education had,
until now, clung to me in all my vicissitudes, being ever the outcast
orphan boy, who, his belly full, his back warm, had nothing further to
obtain. My contentment was now gone. But to proceed:--

For a few days I was forced to keep at home, until the marks of my Tower
Hill affray had disappeared; during which, urged by my new passion
(pride), I got myself equipped in the extreme of fashion. I now smile at
my folly, when I look back to these few weeks in which I was swayed by
it. But no young lady, getting her first ball-dress, was ever more
fidgety or hard to please than John Square. The lieutenant was pleased
to see me ape the gentleman; for he really looked upon me as such, and
paid me every deference, as the son of his master. The money he had
saved while in Ceylon he counted as mutual; nor would he allow me to
expend one farthing of my own. We both were now anxious to proceed to
Edinburgh, and embarked in the first trader bound for Leith. This voyage
was the most pleasant I had ever made; I was in fairyland, and the
lieutenant not far behind me.

When we were landed, with the earliest convenience we proceeded to
Edinburgh, with far different feelings from any I had before
experienced. Having arrived in the evening, it was next morning, after
an early breakfast, that we proceeded from our inn in the Canongate
towards the Cross, to reconnoitre the old domicile of William Square,
the house in which I had first drawn breath. You may judge our horror,
surprise, and grief--I cannot describe it--that loved edifice had
disappeared from the earth; it no longer existed. Where it had once
stood, new walls were shooting up towards the firmament. It and many
others had been swept away, to make room for the site of the present
Royal Exchange. A feeling of desolation, bordering on despair, took
possession of my heart. The lieutenant, uttering a groan, wrung his
hands, and looked upon me with a gaze that pierced me to the soul. I
felt his frame leaning upon me with the weight of death. He would have
sunk to the ground, had I not supported him. With, difficulty I conveyed
him into Corbet's tavern, under the Piazzas, where, after a time, he
recovered, only to give vent to a burst of anguish.

"Ill-fated parent and ill-fated child!" he cried, "it was not that my
heart yearned not to tell you the family from whence you sprang, but
a presentiment hung heavy upon my mind that there was evil still
in store for you. Alas, my poor John! are you really doomed to dree
the weird assigned your forebears. Your father's father was Mr
William ---- of ----. Can it be possible that these canting Whigamores
have the spirit of prophecy? This almost forces me to think they had--

    'For saints' blood and saints harried,
    The third generation will ne'er inherit.'

"It is too true, too true!"

These last sentences he repeated to himself several times as if
unconsciously, and again sunk back upon his chair in a state of stupor;
nor could I rouse him by all the gentle methods I could use. At length I
called a sedan-chair, and had him conveyed to the inn, and put to bed.
He seemed quite unconscious and passive, until, disturbed by our moving
him into bed, when, as if mechanically, he again said--

    "'For saints' blood and saints harried,
    The third generation will ne'er inherit.'

My poor boy! my poor boy!"

At this time a physician arrived, and, having administered the remedies
he thought most efficacious in my foster-parent's case, was about to
retire, when I inquired if he thought there was any immediate danger. He
candidly said he thought there was; for the patient's constitution was
much reduced, and he had received some violent shock, which might dash
out the remaining drops from the nearly exhausted glass. He advised that
he should not be left alone for any time; and, above all, that he must
be kept quiet, until he called again in the afternoon.

As soon as I had recovered myself a little from the agitation this
untoward event had produced, I wrote a note to Mr Davidson, requesting
he would be so kind as call upon me as soon as convenient, stating that
I had urgent business to consult him upon, and pleading, as my excuse
for putting him to the trouble, the sudden illness of a friend. When the
cadie was sent off with my card, I began to ruminate upon my prospects,
which again had been so suddenly overcast. He on whom my sole dependence
was placed lay in the room where I sat, in a state of prostration
bordering almost upon unconsciousness. The visions of pride and
consequence in which I had indulged, from the time I first heard of my
gentle forefathers, began to fade from before me; a short time of sad
and melancholy reasoning on probabilities had swept them away as
completely as the innovating hands of the good citizens had removed the
old tenement in which the testimonials of their reality had been
concealed. In the midst of these reflections, the lawyer arrived. His
astonishment at seeing me was equalled by my joy at meeting with one in
whose judgment and shrewdness I had the utmost confidence. The sight of
him renewed my hopes; and the fond clinging to self-importance, so
natural, yet so foolish, when it is derived from no merit or endeavour
of the individual, again returned upon me.

After mutual congratulations, we at once proceeded to business. After
stating my arrival in London, and strange meeting with the lieutenant, I
narrated the melancholy fate of my parents. He heard me to the end with
all the imperturbability of a man of business; yet his countenance
betrayed the interest he took in my recital. When I concluded, he rose
to his feet; and, placing his hands behind his back, moved quickly two
or three times across the room, then stopped at the side of the bed
where the lieutenant lay; and, after gazing for a short time upon his
altered countenance, turned to me, and gave his head an ominous shake.

"Mr Square," said he, "this is a strange business. I myself have not a
doubt of the truth of all the circumstances, some of which I have a
distinct recollection of--more especially the quarrel and duel; but how
to obtain the necessary evidence I at present cannot divine. The loss of
the papers is a very material point; and the sudden illness of your
foster-parent is very unfortunate. But there is also another difficulty,
even were we so fortunate, as I hope we will be, as to restore him to
health and consciousness: his testimony could not be taken in any court
of justice; he is an outlaw, tainted by actual rebellion, and liable to
be apprehended and executed as a traitor. His mildest punishment, if not
pardoned after sentence, would be banishment; and, what is not the least
worthy of serious consideration, the object to be attained, unless your
friend is very rich, may not be worth the expense and trouble. That
foolish rhyme has been fulfilled, in the meantime, so far. Your
great-grandfather was a zealous partisan of the Lauderdale
administration in Scotland; and, I believe, rather rigorous with the
adherents of the Covenant. At the Revolution, he fell into disgrace with
the powers that assumed the reins of government, and so turned his hopes
upon the restoration of the exiled family, and impoverished himself in
aiding the intrigues to restore them. Your grandfather had been bred in,
and adhered to, the same politics, now a losing game. He still farther
reduced the rent-roll by sales and bonds; and, at his death, your two
uncles, who remained at home, changed their party. The older died young,
without having married; and the younger succeeded to what remained of
the estate of his ancestors--a mere wreck, soon spent in dissipation.
Not one furr of land that once owned your ancestors as lord now owns
their sway. With the sum produced by the last sale, your uncle bade
adieu to Scotland; and you are the last of the race. I would advise no
farther proceedings than to endeavour, if possible, to recover the
documents relating to your birth and legitimacy, if they have not been
destroyed in pulling down the old walls."

Why should I dwell on my disappointment. Mr Davidson used every effort,
by inquiries and offers of reward; but the papers never were recovered,
although we got from one of the workmen the brass Dutch box in which
they had been placed. He had purchased it from one of the labourers who
picked it up in the ruins, and had destroyed the papers as of no
importance. I had now the knowledge of the family from whom I was
descended, but no proof to establish my claim, even though my right to
property to any amount would have been the consequence.

As for my foster-parent, he gradually recovered from the stupor that had
overwhelmed him, but never regained his wonted energies. He was
possessed of a few hundred pounds, besides his half-pay from the Dutch
Government, which was regularly paid. He never could endure me for any
length of time out of his sight; and I remained with him until his
death, a few years afterwards. I know that I was wasting my time; yet I
could not desert the old man, whose whole happiness was concentrated in
me; and, shall I confess, I felt a strange happiness in his society--for
he alone of all mankind treated the beggar-boy of former years as an
individual of rank; and our conversation was generally about the
traditions of my ancestors. When the weather would permit, it was our
wont to leave our house at Clock Mill, to wander over the scenes he
loved--the spots in and around the bosom of Arthur Seat, where he had
first won the affections of his departed Mary--and point out the
favourite haunts which my father and mother used to sit in or walk. On
these we would gaze, until our imagination seemed vested with the power
of calling the personages before us. Thus passed on the time until the
lieutenant's death, which happened suddenly.

I was thus once more alone in the world, without a tie to bind me to it,
save the natural love of life inherent in man.

In Edinburgh I had formed no acquaintance; a continual soreness haunted
me as to the dignity of birth, yet I never assumed even the name of my
parent. I only heard it pronounced by my foster-father, who urged me to
adopt my family honours. The conversation of the lieutenant had given my
mind a military bias. I was weary of Edinburgh, which recalled to my
mind too many sad reflections; and I mentioned to Mr Davidson the
resolution I had formed. After winding up the affairs of the lieutenant,
I found that I was possessed of one hundred and seventy pounds. Mr
Davidson, who still insisted that the money I had left as a gift in his
hands was at my disposal, generously offered to advance the amount
required to purchase me an ensigncy; but this I would on no account
allow. My pride revolted at a pecuniary obligation, as a derogation from
my family dignity, which still hung heavy upon me. By his advice, and
through his assistance, I sunk in the hands of the magistrates one
hundred and fifty pounds, as the most profitable way I could invest
it--the interest to accumulate until my return in person to claim it. It
was about the year 1775, when the troubles in America had commenced.
Accounts had just arrived that blood had been shed at Lexington and
Concord; and the bootless victory at Boston was announced, but not
confirmed. It was the month of August, and the utmost excitement reigned
among the people in the city: every means, both legal and scarcely
legal, being employed to raise troops. The comprehending act was passed,
by which the justices of the peace were empowered to impress and send to
the army all idle or immoral characters: an engine of great tyranny and
oppression in their hands; for every person who was in the least
obnoxious to them was hurried to the army, whatever his character might
be. Without informing my friend Mr Davidson, I bade him farewell, and
proceeded to Glasgow, where I entered as a private into the Fraser
Highlanders, resolved to carve out my own fortune with my sword. This I
did through my foolish pride, so little had I learned by my former
experience. During my short stay with the party, before I joined the
regiment, my mind became disgusted by the modes I saw practised to
augment the army, by trepanning and actual violence. The landed
gentlemen and magistrates appeared to have lost, in their zeal, every
sense of justice. The most disgusting modes were resorted to: such as
putting a shilling into a drinking jug, and causing the king's health to
be pledged; while the soldier, in plain clothes, sitting in company as a
tradesman, or a person from the country, was ready to seize the person
whom he had pitched upon, the moment he drank the royal toast. If he
resisted, nothing could save him from prison; enlist, and attest he
must. So prevalent, indeed, was this mode, that the publicans were under
the necessity of getting pewter jugs with glass bottoms to drink from,
or their houses would have been deserted. This gave security to the
customer that there was not a shilling in the bottom; and allowed him to
watch through the glass the motions of the persons with whom he drank.
The only redress the kidnapped individual got was, that he might choose
the regiment he would join; and he in general fixed upon some other one
than the one to which his betrayer belonged. One instance disgusted me
beyond endurance. It happened to a good-looking young lad, belonging to
Hamilton. An intimate acquaintance of his had been enlisted, whether
voluntarily or not I do not recollect, but he was still without any
marks of his new profession. Several of the old soldiers were also with
him, prowling about for recruits, when he recognised his former friend
in the Briggate, accompanied by his intended bride and their mothers,
who had come to Glasgow with the young people to purchase their
plenishing. Rejoiced to meet an old acquaintance in the city, the party,
being fatigued with their walk and the heat of the weather, retired to a
neighbouring public-house to rest and refresh themselves. The companions
of the betrayer, to avoid suspicion, had passed on, as if they were not
of his party, but entered the house a short time after. As those from
the country had business to transact, they refused to tarry, and the
new-made soldier insisted to pay for the entertainment, which, after a
good-natured dispute, he was allowed to do. By design, or otherwise, he
sat at the far end of the table, and when the landlady was called, he
said, handing forward a shilling--

"Here, George, is a shilling; be so good as hand it to the landlady."

"The reckoning is one and sixpence," said she.

"Oh, I have plenty of the king's coin. Here is another for you, George."

To the alarm and grief of the bridal party, when they were at the door
to proceed on the business they had come to town upon, the soldiers in
waiting seized the young man, and declared him one of the king's men.
The betrayer shrunk back, not yet hardened to the trade; but his
associates compelled the victim to go with them to the jail. Fortunately
for them and the young man, they had respectable friends in the city,
who waited upon some of the magistrates. An investigation took place.
The soldiers scrupled not to maintain that he was enlisted, and were
willing to swear that he had taken the second shilling in the king's
name--the usual words of voluntary enlistment. They even produced the
landlady, who, either leaning towards the soldiers (her good customers),
or not paying much attention at the time, declared that she heard, when
the second shilling was given, distinctly the words "king and coin." So
powerful was the feeling at this time, that he was declared duly
enlisted, and only escaped by paying to the party a round sum of
smart-money.

After passing the winter at drill, I was embarked with a numerous body,
to reinforce the army besieged in Quebec, where we arrived in the month
of May. I was now on the field where I was to reap the fruits of my
ambition; but I found it unpromising, and strewed with thorns. Still I
had an object to attain, however distant it might be, and my oppression
left me. I was most assiduous in my duties, and was soon made a
corporal. My heart leaped for joy. This was the first step to my
ambition; my hopes began to brighten, and I submitted to our privations
without a murmur. At the storming of St John's, I was made a serjeant;
and here I stuck. In vain was all my daring and good conduct. At the
descent upon Long Island, I was as conspicuous as I dared to be by the
rules of strict discipline, and, in consequence, often had the charge of
small picquets upon dangerous service, and was twice slightly wounded.
Once I led the company, and took several prisoners, after both the
captain and ensign were carried to the rear dangerously wounded. The
ensign died in a few days of his wound; and it was generally believed by
the men of the regiment that I would have been promoted to his rank. At
length, in the month of August, 1781, I was made paymaster-serjeant;
which rank I did not long retain; for the army was not long after
completely surrounded by the Americans, besieged in Yorktown and at
Gloucester, and, after suffering the extreme of hardships for twelve
days, from sickness, famine, and the fire of the enemy, Lord Cornwallis,
hopeless of being relieved, surrendered himself and army prisoners of
war. This put an extinguisher upon all my hopes. I was now a prisoner,
sick, and looked upon for death, and must have perished, had it not been
for one of the captains of the American army, to whom the sick prisoners
were delivered over. He proved to have been one of the palantines--an
Aberdeen lad--who had been my companion in early misfortune, now an
extensive proprietor in New England. To him I was indebted for much
kindness during my imprisonment until the peace. When I returned to
Britain, I was discharged with a pension of one shilling per day, being
what is called the king's letter, which, with the accumulation of my
annuity, enables me to finish my chequered career in competence, and
wander as I list amidst these scenes of wo and pleasure, lovely by
nature, and endeared by former recollections.



THE BEWILDERED STUDENT.[14]


[Footnote 14: The author of this tale, John Bethune, was one of the two
brothers, self-educated labourers, referred to in the Editor's note
appended to "The Young Laird."--ED.]

Fifty years ago, the roads in many parts of Scotland were so bad that
they could only be travelled on with safety in broad daylight. The
dangers which the tourist had to encounter did not arise from the
lawless dispositions of the people; for Scotland was then a highly moral
and highly hospitable country. But, ere the genius of road-making had
visited it, the benighted wanderer had more reason to apprehend
destruction from the delusive light of the "moss-traversing spunkie,"
than from the sudden flash of the robber's pistol. Vast undrained
marshes were common in every part of the country. From these marshes
many a goodly peat-stack had been delved, and the holes were soon filled
up with stagnant water--covered with zoophytes and other aquatic plants,
and surrounded by tall rushes, which concealed from the eye those
dangerous pits, where a whole regiment of soldiers might have found an
inglorious grave.

The roads, in many places, passed so close to these unwholesome bogs,
that a false step in the dark was often equal to stepping out of this
world. Nor was this the only risk that a traveller had to calculate
upon, when settling the propriety of making his will before he undertook
a journey; for the highways--properly so called, at that
period--frequently ascended in the most abrupt manner from the swampy
valley to the rocky hill-side, where they winded along the edges of
precipices, which afforded admirable facilities for despairing lovers to
take the _loup_ without being suspected of suicide.

Besides the actual danger which attended travelling in those days, there
were many inconveniences, which, though less appalling, were even more
perplexing to a forward spirit, than the risk of tumbling from a
rock-head, or plunging into a peat-bog. The roads in many places
branched out in different directions upon lonely muirs, where no
information could be obtained concerning the places to which they led;
and the consequence was, that many a weary wight, after cogitating
half-an-hour upon the propriety of turning to the right hand or the
left, dashed into one of the doubtful paths, and proceeded for another
hour at his utmost speed, to no better purpose than simply to receive
information that he had walked four miles out of his way. Inns, too,
were almost unknown, except in the towns and upon the most frequented
roads; and even there the accommodation was so meagre, that equestrians
had often the greatest difficulty in finding lodgings for themselves and
horses. Steam-waggons and stage-coaches, as yet, lay packed up in the
heads of their inventors; and the traveller, though otherwise in
comfortable circumstances, had no other means of conveyance but his own
two legs, and an oaken or hazel staff, with which he urged them onward
when ascending, and prevented them running away with him when descending
the hill-side. Thus equipped, he could find lodgings in the first
cottage which he came to; and, if his mind was not too refined for the
conversation of simple, social, warm-hearted men, nor his taste too
delicate for the "halesome parritch, chief o' Scotia's food," he could
generally pass the night with tolerable comfort, and very little
expense. In this way, many of the most eminent men of the time became
acquainted with the humble homes and virtuous habits of the peasantry of
their native land; and the information which they thus acquired formed a
link of connection between the different classes of society, which the
prejudices of fashion could never afterwards wholly destroy. But we have
a simple story to narrate, which will sufficiently illustrate the kindly
hospitality which characterised the poorest of our rural population, and
the generous feeling with which the greatest could remember and requite
the little services which inclination _induced_, or necessity _forced_,
them to accept.

Upon the banks of one of the most beautiful little lakes which is to be
found in the Lowlands of Scotland, and not far from the ancient and now
half-forgotten village of Lindores, stand four humble cottages, which
are still the abodes of men; though, to the eyes of a modern traveller,
their low walls and moss-covered roofs would present the idea of
sheep-cots or cattle-sheds, rather than that of human habitations. The
fields around them are now in the highest state of cultivation; and the
gentle hills with which they are on all sides surrounded, where
inaccessible to the plough, are, for the most part, covered with
thriving plantations, which give a sheltered and picturesque appearance
to the little world in which they are situated. These simple shielings
seem to have outlasted many of their humble contemporaries, the sites of
which are now only indicated by two or three decaying trees, which, in
the greenness of youth, must have beautified the little gardens of sober
old men, who are long ago in their graves, and shaded the sports of
children, who are now, perhaps, tottering with bleached locks through
the crowded streets of some smoky town, forgetful alike of the quiet
fields upon which they danced away the innocent morning of existence,
and the spreading trees beneath whose branches they had imitated the
voice of the cuckoo, and listened to the song of birds, with spirits as
light and musical as their own.

About fifty years ago, one of these cottages was occupied by James
W---- and his wife, a most respectable and industrious pair, whose humble
virtues are still remembered with esteem by the elderly part of the
community in the neighbourhood where they lived. James was a weaver,
and, like most of his craft at that time, he manufactured his own yarn,
and sold his own cloth. But, besides this little business, which he
carried on for himself, he was often employed by the country people in
what was called customer work. He also farmed a small piece of ground,
which afforded him a healthful occupation in the spring months, and
supported a cow, whose produce, to use his own language, "keepit a fu'
house a' the year round."

James was rather an intelligent man for his station. Besides being
deeply versed in all that Biblical knowledge which was then so happily
cultivated by the labouring class in Scotland, he had read Josephus and
some other old historians, whose writings he quoted with so much
promptness and propriety, that many of his simple listeners believed him
to be almost inspired, and some of them went even so far as to say that
his speech wanted only a little polishing to make him a match for the
minister. But, though James really possessed a greater amount of
knowledge than most of those with whom he mingled, he never exhibited
that arrogant, overbearing manner, which is too often allied to superior
abilities. His good-nature was equal to his other acquirements, and he
was a special favourite with all who knew him. He could explain an
abstruse doctrine to the satisfaction of the old gudemen, and enlarge
with great animation on the merits of good housewifery, not forgetting,
in the course of discussion, to pay a delicate compliment to the thrifty
dames who intrusted him with the manufacturing of their linen. Nor was
he less admired by the younger part of the community; for, while the old
and sober asserted that James was a _canny_ man, and a learned man, the
young and frolicsome assured one another that he was a droll man, and a
funny man. On the harvest field he was the very "soul of all;" for he
never wanted a queer story or a witty jest, to cheer the spirits of his
fellow-labourers, when they began to flag under the heat and toil of the
day. His wit, however, was of that quiet, inoffensive kind, which
delights those who listen, without wounding the feelings of those upon
whom it is exercised. He possessed a happy turn, too, for settling the
disputes which frequently arose among the young and fiery spirits
composing the little army of reapers with whom he was engaged. When a
competition, or _campe_, as it was called, occurred, James's mediation
was often necessary to reconcile the contending parties to the results
of the contest; and his talent was seldom exerted in vain. While the
pride of the vanquished brought forth charges of unfair play to cover
the shame of defeat, and while these charges were repelled by the
boasting of the victors, James stepped forward with some humorous
remark, or displayed some piece of ludicrous mimicry, which overpowered
the spirit of contention, and united both parties in a harmonious roar
of laughter. He was not only umpire in their quarrels, and master of the
ceremonies at their feasts, but chaplain in ordinary at their common
breakfasts and dinners among the stooks. Upon these occasions, it was
pleasing to remark the solemnity which prevailed in the usually noisy
assembly, when James took off his old dimpled hat, and, with a
devotional gravity, which contrasted finely with the cheerful expression
of his ordinary countenance, solicited the blessing of God upon the
simple repast of which they were about to partake. If at any time the
sly winks of some mischievous wag succeeded in raising a titter among
the younger part of the company, it was suppressed in a moment; for,
though James was extremely good-natured, he was always severe in
rebuking the conduct of those who showed the least disrespect to
religion.

Having thus given a general account of James's character, we must now
proceed to narrate a simple anecdote in his life, which we consider
worthy of being known, not only on account of the generosity of feeling
which it exhibits, but also on account of the opportunity which it
affords for displaying the genuine simplicity of manners prevailing
among the class to which he belonged at the period when it occurred.

One fine afternoon, in the beginning of the winter of 1776, as James was
busily employed at his occupation in the shop, Nanny, his wife, entered
with a handful of pirns, and a countenance which betokened something of
importance. She was evidently in a hurry, and needed her husband's
assistance; but hesitated about the propriety of asking it.

"When Jamie's aff the loom," said she to herself, "neither beam-traddles
nor bore-staff'll budge a single bit; and, if he fa's in wi' onybody by
the gate, wha kens when he may come back again?--for the greatest faut
that oor Jamie has, is just that he likes a crack owre weel."

Notwithstanding of these prudential considerations, Nanny did broach the
subject in a most becoming and delicate manner, by asking her husband's
advice in her present perplexity.

"What are we to do noo, Jamie?" said she, in a rather depressed tone.
"There's no a pickle meal i' the barrel; and I hae the cow's supper to
get in, and the butter to mak, and the bed to mak, and the milk to
'earn, forby mony a ither thing that _maun_ be done--sae, ye see, I hae
nae time to gang for meal the nicht."

"Hout, lassie!" said James, with a smile; "I'll tell ye what we'll do.
I'll just get a pock, and set up by to Sandy Laing's for a peck or twa
to keep oor teeth gaun till oor ain melder come frae the mill."

"Weel, aweel, Jamie," said the guidwife, glad to find such a ready
remedy for all her difficulties. "If ye'll bring the meal, I'll mak the
parritch, lad; but it wad hae been a braw thing if we had haen a bit
cratur o' oor ain to gang an errant like this, and we micht hae been
makin something at oor wark i' the time."

"It's very true, lassie," said James; "but, if we hae nae bairn to carry
meal, we hae nane to eat it--let's aye be content, woman."

James was soon provided with a clean linen bag, which he deposited in
his pocket; and, crossing his arms upon his back, he set off to the
neighbouring village of Lindores for the necessary supply of meal. As he
was proceeding along the ridge of a natural embankment, which forms the
north-eastern boundary of the loch, he saw a well-dressed young man
advancing towards him. The stranger seemed to be in a hurry--at least
one might have supposed so from the rapidity of his motion; but he
occasionally stopped and looked down upon the frozen lake, which
expanded to the sky like a mighty mirror for the passing clouds to
behold their own shadows in. After gazing for a few minutes, as if he
had forgotten the length of his journey in contemplating the beauty of
the prospect which extended beneath him, he would start off at a quicker
pace, as if anxious to redeem the time which he had lost in gratifying
an idle curiosity. When he drew near, James could easily discover, from
his superior dress, slender make, and pale, meditative countenance, that
he did not belong to that class "who drudge through wet and dry with
never-ceasing toil;" and, notwithstanding of his itch for conversation,
he would have passed the stranger without making any remark upon the
state of the weather, the beauty of the scenery, or the antiquities of
the parish. But the young man, who seemed to be as inquisitive as James
was communicative, addressed him in a tone of frank cordiality, which at
once removed every feeling of reserve.

After a few questions had been asked and answered, James, recollecting
his errand, pulled out the bag which he had received from his wife, and,
exhibiting it to his new-found acquaintance, remarked--

"I'm just gaun doon by to Sandy Laing's here, to get twa pecks o' meal;
and gin ye'll stap at leisure for a wee, I'll gae doon the hill wi' ye,
and point oot a' the curiosities o' the place by the gate."

The stranger agreed to this proposal, and James marched off with most
ungentlemanly strides to the merchant's, from which he returned in an
incredibly short time, with his meal on his back, his hat in his hand,
and his body bent forward several degrees beyond its usual perpendicular
position.

"Ugh!" said James, as he again came up with the stranger, "I'm clean oot
o' breath wi' my hurry; but an auld body's blast's sune blawn, and
that's a stiff brae to climb wi' a burden; but mine's no a heavy ane."

"Permit me to carry it a bit till you recover yourself," said the
stranger, taking hold of the bag.

"Na, na, sir," said James, laughing. "I'm muckle obliged--greatly
obliged, sir; but ye dinna ken the penalty o' carryin a pock o' meal
yet. Only look at my back, and think hoo sic a melvyin wad suit on your
fine black coat. It wad mak ye look like a miller athegither; and the
ladies, whan they saw ye neist, wadna ken that it was just yersel again.
But I'll gather wund in a wee; and, i' the meantime, as I promised to
gie ye an account o' the curiosities o' the place, I'll just begin wi'
the nearest first; and, I assure ye, if onything short o' real
richteousness can hallow the dust o' the earth, we noo stand on hallowed
ground. This very spot where we noo breathe bears the name o' M'Duff's
Hill; and thae auld stumps o' wa's, that ye see lookin oot amang the
grass there, are the remains o' what was ance a castle or a palace
belangin to the Thanes o' Fife. It wad be a very _unpregnable_ place
afore the invention o' gunpowther; for ye'll observe that it has
Lindores Loch on the south, the Dog Loch on the wast, the Boistart Loch
on the north, and the Childert Loch on the east; and there's nae doot
but they wad hae ditches atween, to prevent their enemies frae gettin in
upon them by surprise. I could tell ye some fine stories about the
sieges and battles that hae happened here; but, as it wad tak owre
muckle o' yer time, I shall just mention hoo the lochs cam to get their
names. About Lindores Loch I need say naething. A'body kens that it's
just ca'ed after the little towny there, that stands on the north side
o't. But the Dog Loch's rather a darker subject. It's supposed to hae
derived its name frae the purpose it was devoted to. In auld times, ilka
great chief had twa or three packs o' hounds, for huntin boars, and
deers, and men wi'; and it's believed that the dogs frae the castle were
aye driven to that loch to drink, when the chase was done; and the auld
anes, that were owre sair bursten to rin again, were thrown into the
middle o't, wi' stanes about their necks, to droon. Sae, ye see, frae
this circumstance it got the name o' the Dog Loch. The Boistart Loch,
again, as ye'll observe, lies atween twa hills; and when the wind blaws
frae the east or the wast, it gathers into great gusts i' the glen, and
maks the water jaw, and jawp, and foam like a caldron; and for this
reason it has been ca'ed Boistart, or Boisterous, Loch. But there's a
better story than this connected wi' the name o' the Childert Loch; and
I aye like to tell't, on account o' the generosity that it displays, and
the honour that it reflects upon oor countrywomen, wha, even in the
maist savage times, werena athegither withoot some gliffins o' natural
affection. It was the custom, it seems, in thae rude ages, for the
leddies to engage in oot-door sports as weel as the men; and a very
common amusement hereabout, wi' mothers and nurses o' a' descriptions,
was the drawin o' their bairns, in a sort o' boxes or cradles, upon the
smooth ice o' the loch. This diverted the women folk, and exercised the
little anes, wha were thus prepared for the hardships o' the wild life
that they afterwards led. Aweel, ae fine winter afternoon, as ane o' the
bairns' maids frae the castle was pu'in a young Macduff, in a braw
silver-mounted cradle, upon the loch, and his mother lookin at them frae
the hill here--maybe frae the very place where we noo stand--the ice
brak, and doon gaed the cradle, bairn and a', to the bottom o' the loch.
The puir lassie, wha stood upon a stronger part o' the ice, and still
had the broken leadin-strings in her hand, heard the screams o' the
distracted mother, and saw the muddy water risin owre the head o' the
helpless wean; and, castin a confused look around, to see if ony
assistance was at hand, she plunged into the same hole; and, in tryin to
save the bairn, lost hersel. The watchman on the castle-tower heard the
screams o' the leddy, and saw the melancholy accident; and ae tout o'
his horn sent a hunder hardy callants to the place; but they were owre
late. The bairn and his nurse were pu'ed oot o' the loch clasped in ane
anither's arms; but the life had gaen oot o' them baith. It's said,
however, that the body o' the bit lassie wha had perished in tryin to
save that young sprout o' nobility received a' the honour that the
gratitude o' its high-minded parents could confer. The last act o' her
life was noble, and she was buried in the same grave wi' the son o'
Macduff. But, noo that I've recovered my breath, we'll be joggin awa, if
ye like; for ye'll be clean wearied oot wi' waitin upon an auld man's
havers."

"I assure you I am not," said the stranger. "I have been much delighted
with your recital; and I shall never think that time lost which is spent
listening to such interesting anecdotes. But, pray, what is the name of
that old, grey-roofed house upon the bank, at the western extremity of
the loch?"

"Ou, that's just oor auld kirk," said James; "and a very venerable
biggin it is, too. It was ance a Roman Catholic chapel; but the altar
and the images hae been a' demolished; and the only vestige o'
superstition that remains noo is the cross upon the riggin, and the
jugs, and a stane basin for the holy water, in the porch. But that's a
fine, solemn situation, ye'll alloo, for a kirk; and that's a bonny
burying-ground around it, too. It's just a pleasure to puir bodies like
me to think that they hae a claim to sic a quiet inheritance, when a'
the toils and troubles o' life are past."

"Tis indeed a sweetly-retired spot," said the stranger; "and it wants
only that 'cheerless, unsocial plant,' the sepulchral yew, to make it
accord exactly to the description given by Gray in these beautiful
lines of the Elegy--

    'Beneath these rugged elms--that yew-tree's shade,
      Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
    Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
      The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.'"

"The description agrees unco weel, sir," said James; "for mony a sober
Christian and mony a royit callant lie thegither below yon grassy divot,
withoot bein sensible o' the company they keep. But, noo that we're
speakin o' kirks, gin y'll just turn a wee bit to the richt wi' me, I'll
let ye see a kirk construckit by the hands o' the _Creawtor_ himsel;
and, I'm sure, he has been mony a time as devootly worshipped there as
ever he was in temples built by human hands."

The distance was but a few steps out of the way; and, as the stranger
was enthusiastic in his desire to see every curiosity, he readily agreed
to accompany James to the place. They accordingly turned into a narrow
footpath, which diverged to the right, and winded among the gorse in a
more southerly direction. The lake, which had been for some time
concealed by a shoulder of the hill, again appeared; and the hill
itself, divided into two ridges--forming a capacious amphitheatre,
covered by smooth grass, and surrounded on all sides by tall broom and
impenetrable furze. At the head or northern end of this dingle, the
ground rises into a mound of considerable height and regularity of form;
and from this mound the prospect in all directions is unobstructed and
extensive.

"There," said James, "is the kirk o' the Covenanters; and mony a guid
sermon has been preached there, in defiance o' the winter's cauld and
the summer's heat, and the persecution o' cruel men, that was waur to
bide than them baith. In that howe stood the minister, upon a muckle
stane that has been lang syne removed; and the congregation sat upon the
brae around him. The sentry stood upon this knowe here, at yer richt
hand; and it still bears the name o' the Watchman's Tower. His business,
as ye'll maybe ken, was to watch for the appearance o' an enemy, and gie
warnin to the preacher and his hearers to provide for their safety, by
standin to their arms or takin to their heels. Mony a time I picture to
mysel the confusion that wad tak place amang the women folk, when a
party o' wild dragoons were seen scamperin in this direction. I think I
hear the watchman fire his gun, as he rins to the congregation; I think
I see the minister faulding up the Word o' God, and descendin to his
audience wi' the composed dignity o' ane that has settled his account
wi' time, and is prepared to dee for the doctrines he has advanced; then
there is the animatin address that he delivers to his little flock, as
they gather around him, wi' their swords in their richt hand, and their
Bibles in the left; the tears o' their greetin wives, and dochters, and
sisters, and sweethearts, fa'in thick as a simmer shower, while they
stand tremblin and sabbin, and pleadin wi' their freens to flee frae the
dangers o' the comin storm. I think I see them wringin their hands and
rivin their hair wi' agony, when their entreaties are answered by the
deliberate determination o' the auld, and the fiery resolution o' the
young, wi' the fearfu assurance that they will conquer or dee. I think I
see that little company o' matrons and maidens retirin slowly frae the
scene o' confusion; while aye noo and then some kind-hearted youth, wha
convoys and comforts them, fa's oot frae the band, and rins back to the
ranks. Then they begin singin a hymn o' praise to the God o' battles,
wha is able to withstand the powerfu, and protect the oppressed; and
immediately--when the crack o' the guns and the clang o' the swords has
convinced them that the deadly wark is indeed begun--they are kneelin
doon on the grass, wi' their een turned up to heaven, and sabbin oot
wordless prayers for the success and the safety o' their freens; there
is that little band o' heroes, noo broken and driven back by superior
numbers, noo rallyin around their leader, and returnin to the charge wi'
a shout o' triumph that maks a' the hills ring; they are noo ance mair
repulsed, and nearly borne down by the heavy onset o' their mair skilfu
enemies--and, just as my heart begins to tremble for their sakes, I hear
the cheers o' a fresh reinforcement o' countrymen, and see their swords
brandishin owre the brae, as they rush down to the assistance o' their
freens, wha welcome them to the ranks wi' the inspirin war-cry o' the
party, 'God and oor country!' The bluidy persecutors are at last broken
and dispersed afore the irresistible charge o' the united _pawtriots_;
and, while they are scamperin frae the field wi' mony a toom saddle in
their train, the victors are busy, devoutly offerin up thanks to Heaven
for the battle they hae won.

"But this is no a', sir. I think I see the women folk returnin to the
scene o' strife, to lament owre the dead, and to administer consolation
to the deein. There is a puir widow supportin the lifeless head o' her
husband--kissin his bluidy lips i' the agonies o' her grief, and strivin
to close the gapin wounds, that gie nae mair pain to the body that bears
them; a beautifu and an affectionate dochter kneelin by the side o' her
expirin parent, twinin her arms around his neck, and droonin wi' her
bitter lamentations the deep groans o' the deein man; a band o' sisters
are noo endeavourin to bear awa the dead body o' a fair-haired striplin,
wha had been the pride o' their family, and the joy o' their hearts; and
there is ane there wha, though nae relation to the youth, feels his fate
mair deeply than the nearest o' his kin; upon her pale face there is a
fearfu struggle between modesty and grief--the last overcomes, and,
forgetfu o' the presence o' ony but the dead, she clasps him in her
arms, while her breast heaves and sabs like ane wha is suffocatin wi
some unutterable feelin! Then there are her neebors, wha never kenned
onything o' her affections, till death had divulged them, remarkin, in
the language o' Scripture, 'Behold how she loved him!' But, 'deed, sir,
I maun hae dune; for ye'll be like to think that I've gane clean daft
athegither wi' sae muckle nonsense; and I maun confess, that, when I get
on thae auld stories, I haena guid gettin aff them again."

"I just think," said the stranger, "that, if you _had_ lived in the days
of the Covenant, you would have been a most inveterate conventicler;
and, to confess a truth, had I lived at the same period, I would most
likely have been found in the same ranks; for, ere I arrived at that age
when men are ashamed to cry, I often wept most heartily over the
sufferings of the poor hillmen. But night approaches; and, as I suppose
I have a long way to go before I can get a bed, I would thank you to
direct me the nearest road to Cupar."

"To Cupar, sir?" said James, in surprise. "Ye dinna surely intend to
gang to Cupar this nicht?"

"No," said the stranger; "I only intend to go as far as the first
public-house where I can find accommodation for the night; but that will
not be just at hand, I believe."

"Atweel no, sir," said James; "for there's no a public-house on the road
to Cupar nearer than John Denmill's--and that's at Easter Fernie a' the
gate. But John's a queer chap, and he _will_ divert ye, if ye ance get
there."

"Well," said the stranger, "a good fire, a good supper, and a jolly
landlord, make the best entertainment for a traveller on a winter
evening."

Our two friends proceeded for a short distance farther together; and
before they parted, James not only gave the young man the best
instructions he could with respect to the road, but also invited him to
come to his cottage, which was just at hand, and partake of some bread
and cheese, assuring him at the same time "that he wad get nae meat on
the hill, and that his guidwife wad be as proud as a duchess to hae sic
a guest under her roof."

The stranger thanked James most heartily for his kindness, but civilly
declined the offered entertainment. They parted with mutual esteem.
James went home with his meal, and the stranger went on his way.

By this time the sun had sunk to the verge of the horizon, and the sky,
which had been previously clear, began to overcast. A fresh gale, too,
sprung up from the east, and blew full in the stranger's face. Night was
approaching fast; and he had five miles to travel upon an intricate
hilly road, before he could reach any place of shelter. The moon, upon
which he had depended for light, now threatened to be of little service;
for though she occasionally burst upon his eye through the ragged edges
of the driving clouds, it was but a momentary flash, which deepened,
instead of dissipating the surrounding darkness. He buttoned his coat,
drew his hat closer down upon his head, and made all the speed he could
against the tempest, which now blew so violently that it sometimes
brought him to a dead stand; and notwithstanding of his perilous
circumstances, he could not refrain from laughing at himself, as he
struggled with the viewless element which opposed his progress, and
whistled defiance to his vengeance.

He at length came to a place where the road divided, and, turning his
back to the storm, he stood for a few minutes to recollect the
instructions which he had received from his late guide. A number of
little lights now caught his eye, twinkling from the cottage windows in
the vale below; and as he again proceeded on his way, he could not help
looking back, and indulging a momentary feeling of envy over the
condition of those who were sitting warm and dry by their own firesides,
while he was toiling amid the tempest. The poorest inhabitants of these
cottages, thought he, are, for the present, blessed, when compared with
me. They possess all the comforts of home, and perhaps do not appreciate
their worth, while I am destitute of all but a deep knowledge of the
value of what I do not possess.

As he advanced, the lights began to disappear. He seemed to have passed
beyond the limits of the inhabited country, and nothing was to be seen
but an uncertain road before him, and darkness on every side. The storm
grew wilder, and the doubtful path, which he had previously pursued,
terminated in a number of little tracks, which diverged in all
directions among the furze, as if they had been formed by a flock of
sheep scattered over the hill in search of their pasture. He tried to
retrace his steps, in the supposition that he had taken the wrong road;
but a blinding shower of snow came driving with the wind, and concealed
every object which might have guided him in his return. He became
completely bewildered, and every moment increased his confusion. The
snow began to drift; and all the stories that he had ever heard of
benighted travellers lost among the hills rushed into his mind with
painful distinctness. He began to run in the direction, as he supposed,
of the little hamlets which he had passed in the afternoon; but his feet
got entangled among the gorse and broom which covered the hill, and he
fell several times at full length among the snow. He stood still and
listened, with the faint expectation that he might hear some sound which
would lead him to the abodes of men. Something tinkled at a distance,
between the gusts of the storm, like the ringing of a bell. He
immediately shaped his course by the sound, and was glad to hear that it
grew louder as he advanced. Though he could not conjecture the purpose
of a bell in that deserted region, yet such it certainly was; and, as no
bell will ring without motion, he trusted to find some one who would be
able to direct him to a place of shelter. But, after he had walked for a
considerable time, at his utmost speed, he found himself very little
nearer the object of his pursuit, which seemed to retire as fast as he
advanced. He again began to run, and soon had the satisfaction to find
himself within a very few yards of the sound; but still he could not
perceive the object from which it proceeded. The mysterious bellringer
seemed to increase his speed, as if he had discovered a pursuer, and
determined to elude his grasp.

The stranger was out of breath; he paused to listen. The bell still
rung, and still retired, though at a less rapid rate. He had never
believed in ghosts nor fairies; but this mysterious phenomenon seemed to
confirm his nurse's tales, and make "chimeras true." He was not one,
however, who would shrink from phantoms without evidence of their
existence.

"Honest, honest, Iago!" said he, quoting Shakspere,

    'If that thou be'st a devil, I cannot kill thee.'

But, devil or ghost, I will hunt thee to thy den, and if I can overtake
thee, I will tread thee under my feet."

So saying, he renewed the chase, and, in a few minutes, the bell was
again jingling at a fearful rate, almost among his feet. He called out
to the flying mystery to stop and speak with him. No answer was made;
but his words seemed to produce some effect; for in a moment more the
bell was off in another direction, tinkling and jingling as loudly as
ever.

"You shall not escape me thus," said the stranger, who had quite
forgotten his own bewildered condition in his earnestness to discover
the cause of this unaccountable noise.

He again turned, and followed the bell with his utmost speed; and, after
a long pursuit, and many doublings and windings among the broom, he at
length tumbled over some soft body, which rolled among his feet. He
grasped it in his arms and listened. The bell had ceased to jingle, and
nothing was to be heard but the howling of the wind and the rustling of
the drift.

"I have you now, my boy," said the stranger; "and I will bring you to a
severe reckoning for all this sport."

"Bae!" cried the terrified bellringer, struggling to escape from the
rude grasp which held him.

"Bae!" said the stranger, imitating the voice of the animal. "What a
silly pursuit I have been engaged in! But I am glad to find that I am
not alone on these wild hills in this wild night."

The young man's knowledge of rural economy convinced him that he had
chased from his companions a poor sheep, who had been intrusted with a
bell about his neck, as was the custom in many parts of the country, to
enable the shepherd to discover his flock in the morning. The adventure
of the renowned Don Quixote occurred to his mind, and he could not help
laughing at himself even in the midst of his misery.

Both the sheep and the man were completely exhausted, and they lay still
together for some time among the snow; but the piercing blast and the
gathering drift soon convinced the latter that he must either renew his
exertions, or perish with his fleecy companion beneath the accumulating
heap. He accordingly started up, and proceeded--he knew not where. His
imagination became haunted with the horrors of his condition, and the
idea

    "Of covered pits unfathomably deep,
      A dire descent, beyond the reach of frost;
    Of faithless bogs; of precipices huge,
      Smoothed up with snow"--

'so paralysed his powers that he could scarcely move. But again

              "The thoughts of home
    Rush'd on his nerves, and call'd their vigour forth."

He now found himself descending the hill-side; but whether it was the
same side which he had ascended, or some other, he could not conjecture.
By this time the snow had accumulated to a considerable depth in the
hollows; and he frequently plunged into it up to the middle before he
was aware. He pulled out his watch to try if he could ascertain the
hour; but he could not. He tried his voice, in the hope that some one
might hear him, and come to his assistance; but his feeble cry died away
unanswered upon the blast. His situation was a desperate one, and he
resolved to make one desperate effort more for existence. He turned his
back to the storm, determined to run before it as far as he was able;
and, should he perish, if possible to perish upon his feet. He had not
proceeded far, however, when he tumbled over a steep bank, and rolled
from hillock to hillock till he reached the bottom of the den in a state
of insensibility. When he again recovered, he found himself beneath the
storm, stretched among the undrifted snow, which was lying about a foot
deep around him, while close by his side a brawling stream was dashing
over the large stones which, like him, had rolled down the hill, and
rested in the bottom of the glen. "Here," thought the stranger, "I have
at last found a place where I may die in peace; and it is, perhaps,
better to give up the struggle, then again to rush into the tempest only
to perish beneath its pitiless pelting."

What were his religious feelings in the prospect of death we know not;
but his home and his friends, the grief which his early fate would
occasion, and the melancholy satisfaction which they would derive from
bestowing the last rites upon his lifeless remains, were present to his
imagination. And, lest they should be deprived of the performance of
these sadly-pleasing duties, by the ignorance of those who found him, he
pulled out his pocket-book, and endeavoured to write his own name, with
the name of his father's farm, and the name of the parish in which it
was situated.

While thus engaged, in that

    "Hopeless certainty of mind
      Which makes us feel at length resign'd
    To _that_ which our foreboding years
      Presents the worst and last of fears,"

the deep sonorous sound of a well-blown horn fell upon his ears, and
roused him to fresh exertions. He had crossed the burn and clambered to
the top of the bank before the blast had ceased; and, as he endeavoured
to fix the direction of the sound, the horn was again winded. It seemed
not to be very distant. Hope invigorated his weary limbs, and he dashed
through the opposing wreaths as stoutly as if his toils had been only
newly begun. Another blast was blown, and he continued to run upon the
sound till it ceased, and it was not again repeated.

He recollected that it was common for the farmers, in many parts of
Scotland, to blow a horn at eight o'clock on the winter evenings, for
the purpose of warning their servants to attend to the suppering of the
horses; and he hoped that, if he could keep to the proper direction,
this might lead him to some hospitable farmhouse, where he would soon
forget the horrors of the storm before a comfortable fire. He now
proceeded more leisurely, striving not to deviate from the course which
the horn had induced him to take; and keeping a sharp look-out on all
sides, and an intense attention to every sound, in the expectation that
some cottage light might twinkle upon his eye, or some human voice reach
his ear, in the intervals of the deafening blast. But still he could
discover no sight nor sound of man; and the shifting tempest, which
attacked him from every direction, soon confounded all his ideas of time
and distance. In some places, too, the snow had accumulated in such
immense masses, that he could not pass through them; and the circuits
which he was obliged to make tended farther to confuse his mind. His
spirits again began to sink, and his limbs to falter; and that sluggish
indifference which follows the extinction of hope again took possession
of his senses. But, while he was dragging himself onward with slow and
feeble steps, a new and extraordinary noise broke upon his ear. He stood
still and listened; but he could not conjecture the cause of it. It
seemed to mingle with, and yet it was different from, the ravings of the
storm. It proceeded from one quarter, and remained steadily in one
place. There was a mingling of sounds, like the dashing of waves, the
rushing of winds, and the jingling of a thousand little bells,
accompanied occasionally by a harsh, guttural cry, like that which is
emitted by a band of wild geese when disturbed in their "watery haunt."

Though this mysterious noise was more appalling than attractive, and
though it promised neither rest nor shelter to the stranger, yet it
operated upon his curiosity, and induced him to continue his exertions.
The terrific sounds grew louder and louder as he advanced. The clouds of
snow, which were every moment dashed into his face, prevented him from
seeing more than a few yards before him; and an involuntary shudder
passed over his frame, as he thought that he might even now be toppling
upon the brink of some dreadful gulf, and that another step might
precipitate him into destruction. Something terrible was certainly at
hand; but what was the nature of the danger was beyond his powers of
conception.

The unaccountable noise, which was now thundering beneath him, resembled
most the dashing of a cataract, or the roaring of the ocean, when its
far-accumulated waves are broken into foaming madness among hidden
rocks. He stood still, and gazed intently in the direction of the sound.

The storm abated a little in its violence, and he thought he could
perceive a black expanse at a little distance stretching out before him.
He advanced a few steps nearer it. It was tossing in fearful commotion,
and here and there streaked with lines, and dotted with patches of
white. It was evidently water; but whether lake, river, or ocean, was
all a mystery.

"Can it be possible," thought he, "that the storm has insensibly driven
me in the right direction? Do I now stand among the rocks that look down
upon the breaker-beaten bay of St Andrews? Or have I returned again to
the banks of the Tay? Or can this be the little loch which I passed in
the afternoon, and which then lay stretched out in frozen tranquillity
beneath me?"

His heart grew sick and his brain dizzy with conjecture. He turned away
from the stunning scene with a shiver of despair. A strange sense of
torpidity and madness passed along his nerves--it was the confused
energy of an active soul, struggling with the numbedness of exhausted
nature. The snow seemed to swim around him--his eyes became heavy, and,
when he closed them, numberless phantoms seemed to pass before him, like
figures in a dream. In this state of drowsy insensibility, he lost for a
time all recollection of his sufferings--his blood began to stagnate in
his veins, and the icy coldness of death was stealing over his
extremities, when a covey of wild ducks swept past, and their short,
sharp cries startled him again into consciousness of his condition. When
he opened his eyes, a faint light seemed to be glimmering from a
hill-side about a hundred yards above him. It was now seen, and now
lost, as the clouds of drift passed between him and the place from which
it issued. But still it was there; and its dim, shadowy lustre was to
him like life to the dead. Hope again returned to his heart, and
animation to his limbs; and in a few minutes he had reached the window
of a little cottage, which was so completely drifted up with snow on all
sides save that on which he stood, that any one might have passed in
broad daylight without supposing it to be a human habitation.

The stranger looked in at the window. The fire, which was composed of
peats, had been covered up with ashes to prevent them from wasting
through the night; but, by this time, the small dust had passed through
the grate, and there only remained a little heap of live embers, which
cast a sombre glow around the interior of the cottage. The family were
in bed. The stranger rapped gently on the window, and then listened for
an answer; but nothing stirred. He rapped a little louder, and again
listened.

"What's that, Jamie?" said a female voice within.

"Hoch, hoch, hey!" said another, yawning and stretching out his arms
from the same box or bed, as if to relieve them from the uneasiness of
lying long in one position. It was evident that the voice of the first
speaker had awakened the second, without communicating to his mind the
purport of the question, which was again repeated.

"What was that Jamie?"

"What was _what_, lassie?" said the wondering husband. "I see naething
by ordinar."

"Man," returned the guidwife, "did you no hear yon awfu rattle at the
windock? My flesh's a' creepin, for I fear something no canny's aboot
the back o' the hoose. It was just like the noise that was heard at
Willy Patty's windock last year afore his mither dee'd."

"Havers, lassie; ye've just been dreamin," said the guidman, who was
anxious to quiet his partner's fears, though he was not altogether free
from some tremours himself.

The stranger gave another rap.

"Hear ye that, then, Jamie?" said the guidwife. "It's no sic a dream, I
trow; for that's something awfu."

"Deed is't," said James, who was now convinced that the "rattle" was not
quite so terrible as it had been represented; "it's an awfu thing for
ony puir body to be oot in sic a nicht as this; but let's be thankfu,
Nanny, that we hae a roof to hap oorsels frae the storm, and a door to
let a hooseless body in at."

James flung himself around, and disentangled his feet from the
bedclothes, with the intention of going immediately to admit the
stranger; but, ere he got away from the bedside, his "better half" laid
hold of him, and cried out, in great perturbation--

"Stop, Jamie--stop, I beseech ye; and consider weel what ye're aboot;
for ye ken that, forby the danger o' robbers and rascals, the evil
spirits just delight to range aboot in sic a nicht as this, like roarin
lions, seekin wham they may devour; and wha kens what may come owre ye,
if ye pit yersel i' their merciment."

"Havers, woman!" said James again; "let me go, I tell ye; for I'll speak
at the windock, and spier if he wants shelter, though it war auld Satan
himsel."

Nanny relaxed her grasp; but she seemed determined that the guidman
should encounter no danger which she did not take a share of; and she
too sprung to the floor, and followed him to the window.

"Wha's there?" cried James, in a voice that showed he was neither to be
_cowed_ by fiends, fairies, ghosts, nor men.

"A bewildered stranger," was the reply.

"Weel," said James, "a great stranger may be a great villain; but, for
a' that, if I understand my Bible richtly, the words, 'I was a stranger
and ye took me in,' will never be addressed to ane wha has the hard
heart to refuse a hameless wanderer the shelter o' his roof in sic a
nicht as this. Sae just gang ye aboot to the tither side o' the hoose,
and come alang the fore wa' a' the gate, till ye find the door, and I'll
let ye in."

"Thank you!" said the stranger.

Nanny, who now discovered that the object of all her fears was neither
ghost nor goblin, but a conversable and civil creature of her own
species, thought that her husband might be safely trusted in his
presence without her support; and she accordingly returned again to her
bed.

James lighted the lamp, and went to admit the stranger; but, when he
opened the door, he opened no passage for his entrance. A solid wall of
snow still separated the guidman and his intended guest.

"Preserve's a'!" cried the former, "that's been an awfu' nicht, indeed.
The door's drifted up to the lintel; and there's no a hole i' the hale
hicht o't, that a mouse could creep oot or in through. Are ye aye there
yet, freen?" (addressing the stranger, who answered in the affirmative.)
"Aweel, aweel," he continued, "ye maun just content yersel awhile or I
get a spade and try and mak some oot-gate in't."

James got a spade, and commenced to delve the snow into the passage,
between the _hallant_ and the outer door; but he had no sooner broken
down a part of the barrier, than the insidious drift entered the
aperture, and, getting under his shirt, which was the only garment he
had on, it whirled about his bare legs. He persisted for awhile, but his
powers of perseverance ultimately forsook him. He flung down the spade,
and, as every gust of wind brought a fresh volley of snow whistling
about his ankles, he leaped as high as the henroost, which formed the
ceiling of the lobby, would permit.

"Preserve's a', that's dreadfu!" he at length cried out, making a most
magnificent jump at the same time. "Flesh and bluid canna endure
that--it wad gar a horse swither. Ye'll just hae to thole awee till I
get my claes on, lad."

James bounded into the house, and commenced immediately to get his
shivering limbs conducted into the proper openings of a pair of canvas
trousers. But this was no easy task. He had got one foot in, and the
other within a few inches of the entrance, when his great toe unluckily
got entangled in one of the pockets of the garment, and, as he was
striving to preserve his equilibrium, by hopping through the house
backwards upon one leg, the stranger, who had forced himself through
the aperture which he had made in the doorway, entered like a moving
mass of snow. James at length succeeded, by the support of the bed,
which happily resisted his retrograde movement, in getting on his
clothes; and then all his attention was directed to the comfort of his
guest.

"Dear me, man," said he, taking hold of the stranger's arm with the one
hand, and a broom with the other, "ye'll need hauf-an-hoor's soopin
afore we get a sicht o' ye. I'm sure ye're unco far frae comfortable
below that wread o' snaw."

As the stranger was standing before the fire, while James was
endeavouring to clear away the snow from his neck and shoulder, the
sudden change of temperature which he had experienced, expanding the
fluids faster than the vessels which contained them, produced in his
extremities that agonising sensation which is more forcibly expressed by
the Scottish word _dinnling_, than by any other word with which we are
acquainted. Sickness and pain overpowered his exhausted nerves. His eyes
turned wildly up to the roof of the cottage. He gave one suffocating
gasp for breath, and sank senseless upon the floor. James seized him in
his arms, and called out to his wife--

"O Nanny, Nanny, woman! get up and help's here! The puir callant's fa'en
into a drow, and I'm feared he's gaun to dee upon our hands athegither.
Get up, woman, and let's try if onything can be dune to bring him aboot
again."

Nanny sprang up at the call of her husband; and, seizing the stranger by
the hand, cried out--

"Preserve us a', Jamie! he's perfectly perishin'; his hand is as cauld
and stiff as the poker. I maun get on the kettle and heat some water to
thaw the snaw aff him."

"Na, na," cried James, "that wad mak him waur, woman. Rin ye to the door
and get a gowpen o' snaw, and rub his hands wi' _it_ and a rough clout
time aboot, and sprinkle some cauld water in his face, and he'll may be
sune come till himsel again."

"Jamie," said the guidwife, in a tone of gentle remonstrance, "the lad's
gotten owre muckle snaw and cauld water already; that's just what's the
matter wi' him. I maun hae up the fire and get something warm till 'im."

"Ye're haverin, Nanny," said James, who was too much agitated to be
respectful. "Gang ye and get the snaw, I tell ye; for ye understand
naething o' the matter."

"Aweel, aweel, then," said Nanny, "ye hae mair skill o' doctory than me,
Jamie; but it's a very unnatural-like cure, to rub cauld snaw on a man
perishin' wi' the cauld."

Nanny got the snow, and commenced the operation with great activity,
while James reached his hand to a pitcher which was standing near, and
sprinkled a few drops of water in the stranger's face. He soon began to
show some symptoms of returning animation, and James earnestly
inquired--

"How are ye yet? Are ye better noo?"

After a considerable pause, the stranger replied, as if the question had
only then reached him--

"I'm better now, I thank you!"

"God be praised that it's sae!" said James. "Gie him a drink, Nanny,
woman, and he'll be a' richt in a wee again."

Nanny brought some water, and, while she was endeavouring to pour it
into the stranger's mouth, James got a full view of his face, and cried
out--

"He's the very young gentleman that I cam doon the hill wi' this
afternoon. Dear me, what a nicht he's had, wanderin amang the drift sin
yon time!"

"He's a bonny laddie at ony rate," said Nanny, looking close into his
face, "Ye'll no grudge to let him get some heat noo, Jamie. Help me aff
wi' his coat and his shoon; and we'll just coup him inowre in oor ain
warm bed, here."

"That's weel thocht on," said James. "I canna say but ye hae sometimes a
gliffin o' sense aboot ye, Nanny."

The stranger soon recovered so far as to be able to put off his own
clothes; and though he remonstrated strongly against taking possession
of the honest couple's bed, they would not be resisted in their
kindness; and he was obliged to comply. Nanny now took the management of
the patient wholly into her own hands; and, as she had all her life
considered heat the only remedy for a man perishing with cold, she began
to make preparations for applying her own cure. She stirred the fire,
supplied it with fresh fuel, laid a brick across it on each side, and
placed a panful of water between them. She then took James's leather
apron, and folded it so as to form a substitute for a fan; and with it
she blew the slumbering embers into flaming activity. In a very short
time the bricks were _red_, and the water boiling hot. The former were
immersed in water, and then wrapped up in flannel, and laid to the
stranger's feet and breast; the latter was converted into gruel, which,
though not very thirsty, he drank with a very good appetite--having
missed his supper that night on the hill.

"Noo, sir," said Nanny, "ye maun just lie doon and try if ye can get a
gloffen o' sleep; for I'll warrant ye're baith tired and drowsy, after
sic a wrastle amang the snaw. Gin ye want onything, Jamie and me'll just
be sittin at the ingle here; but we'll mak nae din to disturb ye."

Thus heated within and without, the stranger soon lost all recollection
of his wanderings, in a deep and refreshing sleep.

    "The storm without micht rair and rustle,
    _He_ didna mind the storm a whustle."

James betook himself to his old companion, Josephus; and Nanny sat down
by the other side of the fire, and resumed her evening's employment,
which had been the knitting of a pair of stockings for the guidman. She
now felt all a mother's anxiety for the comfort of the stranger; and she
frequently rose and peeped into the bed, to see how he rested; then
returned to her husband, with a smile, and whispered into his ear--

"The lad's sleepin as sound as a tap, yet."

The night passed away; and by the time that daylight dawned down the
_lum_--the little windows being drifted up with the snow--Nanny had
prepared a warm breakfast for the stranger, the guidman, and herself. It
consisted of oatmeal porridge, served up in two wooden platters, with a
jugful of milk and three horn spoons set down on the table between them.
Nanny now awakened the stranger by asking how he had rested. She then
took his clothes, which had been carefully dried and warmed before the
fire; and, handing them into the bed, which had to serve the purpose of
a dressing-room also, she closed the lids--remarking, that "the parritch
was ready; and it wad be better to sup them afore they got owre cauld."
The stranger dressed, and took a seat beside his kind entertainers.
James asked a blessing, apologised for the coarseness of the fare, and
despatched his portion of the repast in shorter time than a fashionable
eater would take to stir about his coffee and crack the shell of his
egg. It occurred to Nanny that she might make the porridge more
agreeable to the stranger's delicate taste, by giving him cream, instead
of milk, to sup them with. She accordingly brought her evening's
_meltith_, and skimmed it into his dish, remarking, at the same time--

"Ye'll no like oor coorse way o' livin, sir; but hunger's guid kitchen,
they say, and that's no ill sap, I think, for it was just drawn frae the
coo yestreen." The stranger assured her that he liked the dish
exceedingly well; and Nanny added--"Ye'll be used to drappies o' tea, I
warrant; but we haena had ootower twa brewins i' the hoose sin we were
married; and, though a wee sirple o't may do brawly when the sap's
scarce, yet I aye thocht that it was an unco feckless sort o' a diet,
for a manbody especially."

After breakfast, the young student (for such was the stranger) gave his
entertainers an account of his wildered wanderings on the hill, as we
have already narrated them; and James explained all the mysteries which
he had met to his entire satisfaction. We shall only give his exposition
of the last; namely, the fearful minglings of sounds which had alarmed
him so much when he approached the lake. These were occasioned by the
breaking up of the ice, which, driven ashore in innumerable fragments by
the wind, rose and fell with every wave, making a confused tinkling,
like the ringing of a thousand little bells.

The storm had now abated; and, though the roads in many places were
entirely blocked up, by keeping along the high ground it was possible
for a person on foot to pursue his journey. The stranger, who was
travelling to the College of St. Andrews, prepared to depart. He offered
Nanny such a sum of money as he could spare, in acknowledgement of her
kindness; but she refused it.

"Na, sir!" said she, "we'll hae nae reward. Only look what a dad o' a
stockin I've wrocht, that wadna been wrocht gin ye hadna been here; and
the guidman's gotten as muckle lear oot o' that auld book, as may ser'
him for a twalmonth to crack aboot; sae, ye see, we hae made some profit
o' yer visit, forby a' the pleasure o' yer company."

James also refused money; and still further enhanced his kindness, by
accompanying the stranger to the top of the hill, where he gave him the
best directions with respect to the road, and bade him an affectionate
farewell.

Many years after this, a medical student from the neighbourhood was
attending the lectures of the celebrated Dr. B---- of Edinburgh, who one
evening intimated a desire to speak with him after the class was
dismissed. He accordingly waited, and the doctor opened the conversation
by inquiring if he knew an individual of the name of James W----, who
lived near the village of Lindores. He was answered in the affirmative.


"Well," said the doctor, "I owe my life to the exertions of that old man
and his wife; and I received my first lessons in medical science from
them. When I was a student at the College of St. Andrews, I lost my way
among the hills, and was nearly smothered among the snow. I at last
discovered their cottage, and was kindly admitted. Like all good knights
of _misventure_, I fainted and fell down upon the floor. James and his
wife held a consultation over me, and I afterwards came to learn that
even here 'doctors differed.' James was an Emperic, and argued from
experience, or experiment, that cold water and friction was the best
remedy for numbed fingers. Nanny adhered to the Dogmatics, and inferred,
from reason and nature, that heat was the best application for driving
away cold.

"Thus Epilogism and Dogmatism contended in the mouths of people who had
probably never heard of the names of Aristotle and Plato in their lives.
But, in my case, both the systems were adopted with advantage. I was
resuscitated by the empiric with cold, and recovered by the theorist
with heat. And, what is more wonderful still, my kind physicians, unlike
all other members of the profession, refused to take any fee. But they
are not forgotten. They cast their bread upon the water, and they shall
find it again after many days."

We shall only add, that in a short time after this James received an
elegant silver-mounted snuff-box, bearing the following
inscription:--"From Dr B---- to James W----. 'I was a stranger, and ye
took me in.'"

Nanny at the same time received a more useful present; and both rejoiced
that they had once possessed an opportunity of being useful to a man
whose genius had made him an honour to his country, and an ornament to
the profession to which he belonged.



THE CROOKED COMYN.


Walter Comyn, Earl of Menteith, one of the "three Comyns," all earls,
who, in the minority of Alexander III., possessed so much power in
Scotland as to be able to oppose all the other nobility together, was a
very remarkable man. Of low stature, deformed in his person, dark in his
complexion, of gigantic strength--he possessed the spirit of a lion with
the subtlety of a fox. Neither in the planning nor the executing of a
political scheme could any man in Scotland or England cope with him. He
made his two brothers, and the thirty-three knights who joined him
against the measures of the English regency, his puppets, allowing them
no will of their own, but subjugating them entirely to his direction. He
could read the human countenance even of a courtier of Henry III. of
England as easily as he could do the court hand of the clerks of his
time; and, to complete his character, he so falsified the muscles of his
face, by mixing up smiles and frowns in such a thorough confusion of
activity and change, that no one could tell his thoughts or his
feelings.

His wife, the countess, was directly the reverse of her husband. Tall in
her person, handsomely formed, with graceful movements and accomplished
manners, she was accounted open-hearted, good-humoured, approaching to
simplicity, destitute of all guile and deceit. Her countenance wore a
continual smile, and was so open and ingenuous, that it might be read
like the page of a book. The best proof of her goodness was the kindness
she exhibited to the deformed partner of her life. She boasted--and he
admitted--that she was the only person who could read him, not from her
powers of penetration, but from his yielding relaxation of the deceptive
discipline of his face and manners. He often remarked that it was
fortunate for him that his Countess Margaret was so much of a child; for
he felt and acknowledged that it was only in the presence of children
that he considered himself safe in throwing off his disguise, and
appearing for a time in his natural character. Such are the effects of
ambition.

A legend saith that, on one occasion, the following conversation took
place between these dissimilar yet well-mated companions--

"Wert thou not so simple, fair Margaret," said the earl, "I would
suspect thou hadst no great affection for him whom King Henry calleth
the 'Crooked Comyn.' Men may love me for my subtlety and power, from
interest; my brothers because I am their brother, from instinct; and my
wolf-dog, Grim, because I join him in the chase. Now, to gratify my
humour for frolic on this night when I think I have overturned the power
of the English regent, tell me what thou lovest me for, good simpleton;
for I cannot doubt that simpletons have their fancies like other folks;
and, if thou dost not love me, why hast thou prepared for me, even now
on this night of my triumph, that cup of warm milk curdled with sack
which thou callest a posset? I asked it not of thee, and love must have
suggested it."

"What should I love my Walter for," replied Countess Margaret, "but his
noble qualities, placed in a person the defects of which, as he states
them, I cannot see? Custom hath made thee straight, and love hath
embellished both thy mind and body; but, above all, I love thee because
thou lovest me; for it is an old saying in our cottage, that love begets
love, and"--patting him playfully on the cheek--"my heart must have been
barren indeed, if, after ten years of thy wooing, it produced no more
affection than was able to prepare for thee a posset of milk and sack on
the evening of the day of thy triumph."

"Thou hast made a good turn of the subject, simpleton," said Comyn. "If
I beat my political opponents during the day, thou worstest me at night
by thy ingenious pleasantry. Thou conquerest even nature's twists and
torsels, for my crooked mind and deformed body become straight under the
soft ministration of thy simple manners. I cannot help sometimes
thinking that, if it had been thy fate to be wedded to such a fair piece
of nature's handiwork as the English baron, John Russel, who banqueted
with us yesterday--a thing of red and white pigment--an automaton
mannerist, without a mind--every woman's slave, and never his own
master--thy simplicity would have lost its power, for, having no foil,
it would have merged into the idiocy of thy husband, and you would have
become a pair of quarrelsome simpletons."

"And if thou hadst got a wife," answered Countess Margaret, smiling, "as
deep and subtle as thyself, the charm thou hast for me--thy mental
superiority--would have been lost, for want of a foil; but thou wert too
clever to fall into that snare, and didst avoid artful and knowing
women, though beautiful, as anxiously as I, if I were still unmarried,
would avoid that fair painted Jackalent thou hast mentioned, the English
baron, John Russel. Sheep, thou knowest often fight, and get entangled
in each other's horns. They are then an easy prey to the wolves. I would
not give my 'Crooked Comyn' for all the Russels of England."

"Thy rattle pleaseth me, sweet Margaret," said Comyn. "But how is this?
I feel ill. What can ail Comyn on the night of his day of triumph? These
pains rack me. So sudden an attack! These are not usual feelings that
now assail me."

"Ill in the midst of health!" cried Countess Margaret. "What meaneth
this!--where is the complaint? Speak, dear husband! tell thy devoted
wife what may enable her to yield thee relief."

"A burning pain wringeth my heart," replied Comyn, with an expression of
agony, "and unmanneth a soul that never knew subjugation; that is to me
the only symptom of danger. When Comyn trembleth, death cannot be far
distant."

"Thou alarmest me, dear husband," cried Countess Margaret; "speak not in
such ominous terms of what I could not survive one solitary moon. What
can I minister to thee?"

"Water, water from the icy springs of Lapland!" cried the frantic earl;
"yet the frozen sea will not quench this burning fire! What availeth now
the wiles, the subtlety, the courage of Scotland's proudest earl? I
never was master or director of such pains as these. Death! how
successfully dost thou earn thy reputation of being the grim king!
Water, beloved Margaret, for this miniature hell!"

"It is here, good heart," cried Countess Margaret. "God bless its
efficacy!--drink."

"It is as nothing," cried Comyn, after swallowing the contents of the
cup. "It is as nothing--these tormina laugh at the puny quencher of
fires fiercer than those of Gehenna. I must submit. Thou wilt have no
terce from my earldom, wherein I am not yet feudally seised. Alas! shall
my innocent be left terceless--a beggar--the dependant of my brothers?
'Sdeath, this is worse than these scorching fires! Call the clerk of St
John's--quick."

The countess flow out of the room, and in a short time returned with the
clerical lawyer.

"Attend, sir," cried Comyn. "Thou seest one in the hands of death;
prepare, with the greatest speed of thy quill, a liferent disposition of
my whole earldom in favour of Countess Margaret, my wife. I shall then
confess to thee, and thou shalt pray for me."

"The liferent disposition I shall make out," replied the clerk of St
John's; "for Comyn's commands must be obeyed. But I, in behalf of the
holy brethren of our order, must tell thee, noble earl, that our prayers
can be of little avail if they are limited, in point of time, to the
period of thy sojourn on earth. Thy mausoleum must be lighted for ten
years with wax tapers, a thousand masses must be said for thy soul, and
a pilgrimage to the Holy Land must be performed, ere we can hope to
bring thee out of purgatory. If thou leavest the liferent of thy earldom
to Countess Margaret--the fee going to thy eldest brother as heir--what
is to pay the monks of St John for all their labours, in thus
endeavouring to free thee from the pains of that temporary place of
punishment?"

"No purgatory can equal these pains, man," cried the earl. "Thou shalt
have my earldom this instant for one hour's relief from this hell-fire."

"Why, good priest," said the lady, "canst thou thus talk of worldly
possessions to one in such agony? While I am thus ministering to the
body, it would better become thee to minister to the soul, while it is
still in its earthly tabernacle. I, his dear wife, asked for no
liferent, and yet thou requirest a mortification."

"It is for his own sake," said the priest, "that I have recommended the
provision of the means for saving his soul. We are not bees, to produce
wax for tapers; nor birds of paradise, to fly from hence to Jerusalem,
and sit on the holy shrine, without being fed as other birds; nor are we
canonised saints, requiring no meat nor drink. We must live, or we
cannot pray. Wilt _thou_, madam, give up a half of thy liferent, to aid
in the redemption of the soul thou lovest so ardently?"

"Thou hast heard my lord's commands," rejoined the lady. "I cannot allow
my mind to be occupied at present with thoughts of that contemptible
trash thou callest gold. What is all the earldom of the Comyns to the
preservation of the life of my dear husband?--Walter, dear Walter! what
can be done for thee?"

"The priest hath already my commands," answered the earl. "The
parchment!--the parchment!--and--and--water--water!"

"Hie thee away to thy work, good monk," cried the lady. "There's no time
for parley. Away. Thou seest that _I_ deny him not his request."

"Water costeth little," said the priest, with a smile of suspicion, "and
availeth little either to assuage these pains or those of purgatory."

The priest retired, and in the course of an hour returned, with the deed
extended, and two witnesses at his back. The paper was read. Comyn was
still able to sign it. He attached his name, and in a few minutes
expired.

Thus died that remarkable man. A dark story now arose in Scotland:
Countess Margaret had encouraged a criminal passion for the English
baron, John Russel, and was openly accused of having poisoned her
husband, by means of a posset of milk and sack, to make way for her
paramour, whom she married with indecent haste. Insulted and disgraced,
she and her husband were thrown into prison, despoiled of their estate,
and compelled to leave the kingdom. It was afterwards rumoured in
Scotland that she quarrelled with Russel--who ill-used her, and stood in
continual fear of being treated in the same way as Comyn--and, finally,
drowned herself in the river Thames.


END OF VOL. X





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