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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Wilson's Tales of the Borders and of
Scotland, Vol. XX, by Alexander Leighton

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Title: Wilson's Tales of the Borders and of Scotland, Vol. XX

Author: Alexander Leighton

Release Date: August 26, 2011 [EBook #37217]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK WILSON'S TALES OF THE BORDERS, VOL 20 ***




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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. XX.

LONDON:
WALTER SCOTT, 14 PATERNOSTER SQUARE,
AND NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE.
1884.


CONTENTS.

The Dominie of St Fillan's, (Alexander Leighton) 1
Sayings and Doings of Peter Paterson, (John Mackay Wilson) 34
The Heroine: A Legend of the Canongate, (Alexander Leighton) 66
The Barley Bannock, (Alexander Campbell) 93
Gleanings of the Covenant, (Professor Thomas Gillespie)—
     xx. John Govan's Narrative 111
    xxi. "Old Bluntie" 120
   xxii. Thomas Harkness of Lockerben 124
  xxiii. The Shoes Reversed 132
The Lost Heir of the House of Elphinstone, (Rev. G. Thomson) 143
Trials and Triumphs, (John Mackay Wilson) 194
The Miser of Newabbey, (Alexander Leighton) 226
The Sea Skirmish, (Anon.) 258

[Pg 1]

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


THE DOMINIE OF ST FILLAN'S.


CHAPTER I.

PLEASANT REMINISCENCES OF MY FATHER.

It is now about twenty years sin' I first raised my voice in the desk o' the kirk o' St Fillan's, in the parish o' that name, and He wha out o' the mouths o' babes and sucklins did ordain praise, hath never thought meet, by means o' ony catarrh, cynanche, quinsy, toothache, or lock-jaw, to close up my mouth, and prevent me frae leadin the congregation in a clear, melodious strain, to the worship o' the Chief Musician. When I was ordained session clerk, schoolmaster, and precentor, I had already passed about thirty years o' my pilgrimage; yet filled wi' Latin and Greek, till my pia mater was absolutely like to burst, I had, notwithstanding, nae trade by the hand. The reason was this. My father, who had been for forty years sexton o' the parish, had seen, wi' an e'e lang practised in searchin for traces o' death in the faces o' parishioners—for the labourer maun live by his hire, and the merchant by his customers, "and thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands"—a pleasant leucophlegmatic tinge about the gills o' Jedediah Cameron, my predecessor in the three offices already mentioned. Weel, as the[Pg 2] husbandman in dry weather, when his fields are parched, and his braird thin and weak, watches the clouds that contain rain—mair precious to him than the ointment that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's dry beard—my guid father watched the dropsical signs or indications in Jedediah's face, daily and hourly, in the fair and legitimate hope o' gettin the aridity o' my starvin condition quenched and satisfied. He was an argute sexton, and had learned, in his younger days, some smatterin o' Latin, though I never could ascertain that he retained more of the humane lear, than the twa proverbs, "Vita mortalium brevis," "Life is short," which comes originally frae Homer; and "Pecuniæ obediunt omnia," which comes frae the sixth chapter o' Ecclesiastes—"Money answereth all things."

But my father was never contented wi' his ain prognosis. His ain ee for death was as gleg as that o' the hawk for its quarry; but the glegness wasna a mere junction or combination o' a keen and praiseworthy desire to live, and a lang experience o' lookin for death in ithers; he had science to guide him; he knew a' the Latin names comprehended in Dr Cullen's "Nosology;" an' Buchan's "Domestic Medicine" was scarcely ever out o' his hands, except when there was a spade in them. I hae the auld, thumed, and faulded, and marked copy o' our domestic Æsculapius yet; and, as I look at the store from which he used to draw the lore that enabled him to see, as if by a kind o' necromantic divination, a guid lucrative death, though still lodged in the wame o' futurity, I canna but drap a tear to the memory o' ane wha toiled sae hard for the sake o' his son. But I examine the book, sometimes, in a mair philosophic way—to mark the train o' my auld parent's mind, as he had perused his text-book; for it was his practice, when he saw ony o' the parishioners exhibiting favourable symptoms—such as a hard, dry cough, puffed legs, white liver lips, or even some o' the mair dubious indications, such as a pale[Pg 3] cheek, spare body, drooping head, difficulty in walking, morbid appetite, or bulimia, the delirium tremens o' dram-drinkers, the yellow o' the white o' the ee o' hypochondriacs, and the like—to search in Buchan for the diseases portended by thae appearances, and, when he was sure he had caught them, to draw a pencil stroke along the margin opposite to the pleasantest parts o' the doctor's descriptions. I never saw mony marks opposite the common and innocuous complaints—cholica, or pain in the stamach; catarrhs, or cauld; arthritis, or gout; rheumatismus, or rheumatism; odontalgia, or toothache; and sae forth: thae were beneath his notice. Neither did I ever observe ony marks o' attention to what are called prophylactics, or remedies, to prevent diseases comin on: thae nostrums he plainly despised. But, sae far as I could discover, he had a very marked abhorrence o' what the doctors ca' therapeutics, or means and processes o' curin diseases, and keepin awa death; and as for what are denominated specifics, or infallible remedies, he wouldna hear o' them ava—showin his despite o' them by the exclamation—"Psha!" scribbled with contemptuous haste on the margin. The soul and marrow o' the book to the guid man—bless him!—were the mortal symptoms—the facies Hippocraticus, the Hippocratic face; the raucitus mortis, or rattle in the throat; subsultus tendinum, or twitching o' the hands and fingers; the glazing o' the ee, and the stoppin o' the breath, and the like o' thae serious signs and appearances. A strong, determined stroke o' the pencil marked his attention to and interest in the Doctor's touchin account o' thae turns o' the spindle wharby the thread o' our existence is wound up for ever. It may be easily and safely supposed, that the melancholy words, descriptive o' the oncome o' the grim tyrant himsel—"and death closes the tragic scene"—sae touchingly and feelingly introduced by the eloquent author werena lost on my respectit parent.

Guid man as he was, however, (I shall return presently[Pg 4] to his study o' my predecessor's dropsy,) it is painfu for his son to hae to say that, though very generally respectit by people when they were in health and prosperity, he hadna the same veneration extended to him by the same individuals when they fell into disease. But though rejectin his visits, sae lang as a patient was in life and capable o' bein benefited by his lively manners, the breath was nae sooner out o' the body, than he was sent for, ye might almost say by express. It is some consolation to me, that my parent was far abune shewin resentment at conduct sae contradictory and offensive. In place o' bein angry when invited to the house o' a dead patient, from which he had been expelled during his illness, he uniformly appeared well pleased—repairin, wi' the greatest good humour, to the residence o' the deceased, and disdainin to exhibit the slightest indication o' pique or anger. There are some men wha brak the prophet's command—"Rejoice not over thy greatest enemy being dead, but remember that we die all;" but I can safely and upon my honour and parole say, that my parent shewed nae greater signs o' happiness on the death o' an enemy than he did on the death o' a friend. A man has a pleasure in statin thae things o' a father.

These early associations hae a charm about them that's very apt to lead a person off his direct road; "Patriæ fumus igne alieno luculentior"—the very smoke o' our father's fireside is clearer than anither's flame. How bright, then, maun the virtue and honour o' a father and mother appear to a dutiful and affectionate son! I was stating, at the time when I was seduced into that pleasant episode, that my father kept up a daily inspection o' the leucophlegmatic face o' my predecessor, Jedediah Cameron; comparing, with, the greatest diligence, the aqueous symptoms there discernible, with the description given by his oracle, Dr Buchan; and, as his hopes strengthened, edging me, by slow degrees, into the dominie's desk, and the schoolmaster's chair o'[Pg 5] authority, as the friendly and gratuitous assistant o' the dying man. But my father had mair sense than to trust, entirely and allenarly, in an affair o' sae gigantic importance, to ony dead authority. He was at the heels o' Dr Dennistoun, our parish physician, as often as that worthy man would permit his approach; and it was sometimes said, though in a jocular way—and nae man likes a joke better than I do—that he consulted the doctor as the farmer does the barometer, with a view to a guid crop. But, were this even vero verius, certo certius, how could my parent be blamed for being industrious? Unless ye thresh and grind, ye hae little chance o' a dinner—"Ni purgas et molas, non comedes;" an auld saying o' Diogenianus, particularly applicable to my father, who had to support, by his industry, an idle sou—bos in stabulo—long, bare-boned, ill-filled up, as hungry and voracious as a Cyclops, and never weel-dined but on the day o' a dead-chack. I might blame my respectable parent for consulting Dr Dennistoun about expected deaths and burials, if mortals could avoid ony o' the twa; but we hae nae Elijahs in thae days, "to be taken up in a whirlwind of fire, and in a chariot of fiery horses." Death comes to a'—mors omnibus communis; and Jedediah Cameron—bless him!—had nae chance o' bein made an exception; otherwise my lank wame and lean cheeks stood a puir chance o' bein sae weel filled up as they afterwards came to be, when I held his three offices.


CHAPTER II.

A KIND PROVIDENCE SMILES ON MY PARENT'S SOLICITUDE.

If it hadna been to make certainty doubly sure, my father had nae occasion to hound after Dr Dennistoun in the way[Pg 6] he did, to ascertain the probability o' the death o' Jedediah Cameron, or ony other mortal that stood a chance o' needin a bit turf and a kindly clap o' his spade. His ee was as sure as a cockatrice's. He needed nae howling o' the moon-baying tyke, nae' death-watch, nae whip-lash on the table, nae dead-drap, nae dead-shaving at the candle, nae coffin-spark frae the fire, nae powers o second-sight, dreams, or divinations, to tell him when he was to hae a guid job. He came to be able to read death in men's faces, as he could do a printed book. Now, Jedediah Cameron didna deceive him. Ae day, when I was busy teachin the puir man's scholars, he came in, and whispered in my ear, that the parish clerk, schoolmaster, and precentor o' St Fillan's, was dead. I was, at the time, in the very act o' flogging an urchin wha had disputed my authority. The ferula fell from my hands; the urchin's rebellion was, I thought, ominous o' the rejection o' my claims o' succession; but, after a', there's nae oracle like the presentiments o' a man's ain soul, speaking frae the inspired tripod that is set owre the hollow-sounding, murmuring gulf o' an empty stamach; and so the ancient Pythonissa o' Apollo's temple at Delphi, judiciously took her seat over the abyss called the umbilicus orbis terrarum. Being an honest man, I confess frankly that the first feeling produced by my father's lively whisper, was a kind o' pleasure, approaching as near to delight as any sensation I had yet discovered in my microcosm. But I remembered the seventh verse o' the eighth chapter o' Ecclesiasticus, directed against rejoicing over the dead; and, upon the very instant, set vigorously to work, either to expel the delightful emotion frae my mind, or, at least, to push the sweet rebel off the cerebral throne—the pineal gland—and plunge him into some o' the deep ventricles, or dungeons, lying in the lower part of the brain, or ben in the cerebellum. It was a considerable struggle; but I succeeded to a perfect miracle—a circumstance I am the more pleased with, as I[Pg 7] hate mortally that abominable cant of the Calvinists, about necessity, as if a man hadna the whip-hand, direction, and guidance of his own will.

The grave o' Jedediah Cameron was, in due time, dog by my parent—wi' what feeling, whether o' sorrow or satisfaction, I am not bound to say, because a sense o' delicacy prevented me frae being present at the breaking o' the earth; but I consider myself under an obligation to state, that I never saw my respected parent cover up a mortal body so cleverly. Lest, however, ony hasty-minded, sanguine individual, should, from this admission o' mine, suppose that that cleverness, or nimbleness, had ony connection with the alacrity o' joy, or the morbid quickness o' a sorrow that wishes to get an unpleasant job out of hands, I must explain that my father merely wanted—surely a most legitimate object—to catch as many o' the parochial heritors present at the funeral as remained on the ground, reading grave-stanes, or laughing and chatting thegither, after the body was clappit down—with the view o' securing their votes for me, as the singular successor (to speak as the lawyers do) to the three vacant offices held by the now dead dominie.

But this is a sair subject—I can scarcely write upon it. My brain whirls like an old woman's spindle the moment I think on't. Guidness! what a risk I ran o' losin my three offices by the mere paternal fondness o' that honest man. Some o' the heritors had remarked the vivacity and agility o' my parent in throwin in the heavy moil on the clatterin coffin, wi' mair noise, force, and fervor than was ever used on an occasion o' the same kind afore; pushin and shovellin great hillocks o' stanes and banes at a mighty effort, usin his very feet in the process; sweatin, pechin, stumblin, and producin a noise frae the coffin lid like distant thunner; and mair, peradventure, resemblin the risin than the lyin doun o' the dead. The thing couldna be[Pg 8] concealed. My father was excited beyond a' prudence or decent decorum; and, when he had finished the wark, or rather pretended to finish it—for it was at best a clumsy business—and, drawin near, wi' the shovel in his hand, to a knot o' the heritors, standin on a flat gravestane, they asked him, wi' a significant expression, why he was in sae great a hurry in coverin up the puir dominie, a laugh rang amang the grave-stanes—a guid answer to my father's request—that stuck in his throat; and, in place o' gettin a vote, he hadna the courage to ask ane. The thing deed awa afore the meetin o' the heritors, an' I was saved frae ruin—an escape for which I hae offered up many thanks to the Author o' our mercies.

The pleasant duty o' filial love is sae fu' o' artfu' seduction, and winnin, pauky guile, that it has carried me awa frae my ain merits an' successes. The first thing I had to do was to keep a guid firm grip o' the schule, the parish books, and the dominie's desk; for I knew that possession is nine points o' the law. I got ready my testimonials wi' the greatest despatch; the mair by token, that some o' them were in a very forward state before Jedediah Cameron's breath was out. I ca'ed at the houses o' a' the heritors wha had bairns at the schule, and praised wi' decent pride the progress they had made under my care—music mair sweet to their ears than even the Bangor itsel. Meanwhile, I exerted mysel on the Sabbaths, to sing, wi' the greatest pith and clearness, the psalm tunes. I kenned the folks were fondest o' such as the Auld Hunder, Mount Pleasant, and that excellent favourite the Bangor. My execution, pathos, quavers, semi-quavers, were wonderfu. The parishioners were astonished, and followin my leadin tenor into the altitudes o' the highest inspiration, flew awa into the very Elysian fields o' enthusiastic devotion.

Nae doubt, some o' the auld, cunnin foxes, that never sang a stave looked at me as if they saw through my drift;[Pg 9] but I was far abune their envy, and was conscious o' the purity o' my heart. In the meantime, my most excellent and much-respected parent was hawking aboot amang the heritors my testimonials; and at the next meetin o' the heritors, I was duly elected parish-clerk, schoolmaster, and precentor o' St Fillan's. Weel do I recollect that joyfu occasion. Our dinner exceeded far ony dead-chack I ever saw. My father took a free glass; and, inspired wi' the generous liquor, made a speech to me as lang as a funeral oration.

"Noo, Gideon," he began, "yer namesake, the son o' Joash got his fortune read by a dream o' a barley cake that fell frae heaven, as we find i' the Book o' Judges. Yer barley-cake hath come frae heaven, and the forces o' Midian are delivered owre to ye. I can do nae mair for ye. I hae fed ye, clad ye, made ye. In yer mouth I hae put men's lear, in yer heart God's fear. For yer sake I watched, as the husbandman does the clouds, for signs o' mortality in the face o' Jedediah Cameron; and the first symptom o' water I saw in his body, comin atween me and the sun o' my hope, made a glitterin rainbow in my paternal ee. Muckle do ye owe me, Gideon; but I'll no be ill to satisfy. I'll be pleased if ye measure yer gratitude by the size o' that lank, toom wame, whilk I never saw filled to satisfaction till this blessed day, when ye hauld the three principal offices o' this parish."


CHAPTER III.

I EXERT MY GREAT ABILITIES ON A GREAT OCCASION.

When I had fairly made up my mind to tak a wife, I set mysel to the wark systematically. The first thing to be[Pg 10] dune was to put mysel in a convenient position for being struck; but a knowledge o' my combustible nature suggested caution against mere love at first sight—ex aspectu nascitur amor—lest I might be caught in yarn toils in place o' a goold chain. After a', there's nae place like a dominie's desk, for showing aff to the greatest advantage a man's personalities and graces. The openin o' the chest to let out the wind, naturally produces an erection o' the hail man. The keepin o' the time wi' the arm brings out a gracefu movement, just as ane were to set aff in a minuet. The lightin up o' the ee, and the fine attenuation o' a' the sma' limber muscles o' the face, wi' the power o' the music, is a direct expression o' the pure pathetic, showing at ance baith yer sentiment and yer beauty. Then singin itsel—and love, Augustinus says, will mak a musician out o' an ass—musicam docet amor—is a great grace and accomplishment, whether it be in warbling "Dundee's" wild measures, the "plaintive Martyrs," or "noble Elgin"—a' the very pick o' Psalm tunes—ranting "Tullochgorum," or spinnin out the lang, plaintive notes o' "The Flowers o' the Forest."

It may very safely be supposed, that I never lost sight o' thae advantages. A dominie, in urgent celibacy, has a' the invention aboot him o' a man in extreme hunger. In fact, I felt as keen to get a wife as I ever did to get my three offices. But I was weel aware that a' my dress—and Mr Meiklejohn himsel, the minister, hadna a finer gloss on his black coat, or a brighter white in his cravat—a' my posture-makin, my attitudes and smiles—a' my sentimental looks, and turnin up o' the white o' my een—could avail me little, unless I picked out some female as the object and mark o' a weel-directed and significant glowr. In case o' failure, I fixed upon twa—May Walker, the dochter o' Gilbert Walker, an auld cattle-dealer, wha rented Langacres frae a chief heritor; and Agnes Lowrie, the dochter o' Benjamin Lowrie, feuar o' Muirbank. Twa or three guid[Pg 11] glowrs were a' that was necessary, in the first instance, to show that I, the dominie o' St Fillan's, wanted a wife, and that I was even in a state o' great exigency. The moment I thought I had impressed my twa damosels with this idea, I laboured assiduously in my vocation of endeavourin to produce, by my gracefu attitudes and sweet singin, a favourable impression on their hearts.

I am a weel-disposed man, but love is a terrible thing, and it now hangs heavy on my conscience, that I did little else, during the duration o' Mr Meiklejohn's discourses, than to cast the glamour o' my attractions owre the een o' my dulcineas. There was ae particular occasion, however, beyond a', for expressin the pressure and exigency o' my situation, and, as it were, forcin attention to my wants and wishes. I used to gie out the purposed marriages at an early hour, before the congregation was half assembled; but I now took especial care, that the twa objects o' my affections should be calmly seated before I executed this part o' my duties. I began first by fixin my een on the ane I intended to devote that particular Sabbath to, (for I alternated my preferences;) and, as I looked at her as significantly as I could, I pronounced the emphatic words—"There is a purpose o' marriage between"—wi' sae muckle strong, heart-felt pathos—sometimes even inclinin my right hand a little in the direction o' my heart—that baith look and word maun hae pierced her very gizzard. It was perfectly impossible that this could fail. These preliminary operations I persevered in for sixteen Sabbaths.

Having prepared matters in this effectual—I may say irresistible way—I bethought mysel o' the maist efficient way o' followin up the advantage I had gained. I asked my respected parent which o' the twa lasses he thought I should attack first. He answered, wi' that wisdom for which he was sae remarkable, that that depended upon circumstances. Twa or three days afterwards, he said he was[Pg 12] prepared to answer my question—the interval being, I presume, occupied in gettin intelligence about the wealth o' the respective fathers o' the young women. He said, that, sae far as he could answer, May Walker was the preferable damsel. I asked him his reason. He replied, that he had taen the trouble o' ascertainin the hail circumstances o' her condition; and, though her father wasna sae rich as Agnes Lowrie's, he was paler, and a guid deal mair cadaverous looking. If my parent hadna been speakin professionally, as the sexton o' St Fillans, I might hae been inclined to think he was jokin, but he never was mair serious in his life; and, in fact, he had that very mornin been Buchaneezing, as he caed it, on Gilbert Walker's prognosis, and had come to a conclusion on his case, very favourable to my prospects in life.

The saxteen Sabbaths I had spent in limine, as it were, o' Cupid's temple, drove me sae hard up—in other words, increased the exigency o' my celibacy to such an extent—that, actin on my father's advice, I determined upon fa'in foul o' her the very first time I met her in an unprotected situation, and in a secret, sequestered, and convenient place. My respected parent aye said, that love was just like death. The twa powers are aye best, baith for themsels and their victims, when they tak them by storm, or, as the French say, by a coup de main. A lingerin death and a lingerin love (said the guidman) make the heart sick, and, for his part, (laying aside his professional feelings), he detested baith. He seized my mither, he said, just like an apoplexy, and she succumbed in a single groan o' consent.

"Gideon, take example by me," he continued; "never seize a woman like what Buchan ca's a hemiplegia—that is, by halves; comprehend in your embrace liver, pancreas, stamach, heart, spleen, and then ye're sure to move her compassion, and settle the affair in an instant."

Following my worthy genitor's advice, I watched for[Pg 13] May Walker, the next Sabbath, as she left the kirk after the afternoon's service. She was alane, and took the quietest road to Langacres. I dogged her most determinedly up the Willow Loan that leads into a solitary and sequestered howe, ca'ed the Warlocks' Glen, a place sae intensely romantic, sae completely sacred to the high feelins o' love and poetry, that it seemed impossible there for a woman to resist a man; and, if she might attempt it, she could look for nae mortal assistance. Having ogled her into a perfect state o' preparation, or predisposition to receive the attack, as the doctors say, I was quite certain o' success; and, just as an experienced sportsman lets a bird tak a lang flight afore he fires, to shew his ease, coolness, and confidence in his powers, I allowed her to be half-way up the Willow Loan afore I should pounce upon her. By some misfortune, however, she had got a glimpse o' me; for, just when I was meditating on the surest way o' makin my point guid, she took to her heels, like a springbok, and was off through the Warlocks' Glen in as short a time as I tak to gie out the first line o' a heroic Psalm verse.

I cam hame and reported my progress to my parent; but he wasna in the slightest degree dispirited; and next Sabbath, I got Andrew Waugh, a singin weaver o' the village, to officiate for me, under a pretence that I had caught a severe cauld. I repaired to the Warlocks' Glen, and sat doun on a stump o' an auld aik tree, allowin freely the inspiration o' the place to seize me, and nerve my energies for the bauld project I had in hand. In a short time, I espied the streamers o' a woman's bannet wavin amang the willows in the distance. Slouchin doun, like a tiger, behind a large broom bush, I watched the onward progress o' the sweet nymph, doubtless my beloved May. It was absolutely and indispensably requisite that I should take her by ambuscade; for, if she had seen even the hem o' my garment, I'm satisfied her ambulation would[Pg 14] hae been reversed, and in speed very considerably increased. I'm vexed to be obliged to mak this admission, which grates sae harshly against my self-conceit; but verity transcends, in beauty and importance, vanity; and I consider this biography to be naething but a confession frae beginnin to end.

Keepin my slouchin, sneakin attitude as weel as my lang gaunt body would permit, I had at least the exorbitant satisfaction o' seein the dear young woman walkin mournfully alang, unconscious o' the danger that awaited her. At a little distance from my lurkin place, she stood, as if she feared there was a snake in the grass; for the anxiety and solicitude I felt to get a glimpse o' her fair face, forced me to twist my body into unpleasant contortions, which produced a kind of a rustling amang the sere-leaves that lay on the ground. Findin a' quiet again, she seemed to renounce a' fear; though I secretly suspected that she kenned weel aneugh the cause o' the noise, for I had detected the hinder part o' my body in a higher state o' elevation than my will or security warranted, being considerably abune the broom, and, therefore, plainly in her ee. Keepin my suspicion to mysel, I watched her motions wi' still greater curiosity and intensity; because, if my suspicions were true that she kenned I was lyin sneakin there, her conduct, of course, required frae me a different rule o' construction. At last she sat doon, quite close to me—a circumstance that satisfied me still mair that she was aware o' my position, condition, and intentions—for it seemed to be a kind o' an invitation to me to dart upon her, and secure my prey. She spoke.

"Noo, this is no usin me quite weel," said she, "no to be here," (a mere blind, thinks I, to mak me think she doesna ken I'm lyin slouchin at her very side), "when I had sae muckle to say to him. Though I was shy to him the last time I saw him, he might hae learned eneugh o' the heart o' woman to ken that we hae certain arts and wiles, and[Pg 15] guiles about us—a kind o' secret charms—to increase an affection that we think over languid, and bring it out o' the dead-thraw o' a starved love into the warm life o' a lively passion. It canna be, that, after sae lang a period o' lookin, followin, and languishin, he doesna like me. If he only kenned the condition o' this puir, flutterin, beatin heart, that fears to listen to its ain timid voice, as if it were treason to love—how muckle mair wad he prize my sittin here, invitin—wae's my puir prudence!—thae very attractions I used to flee frae! But woman, weak woman, is doomed to be the sport o' men, as weel as o' her ain heart."

It was noo clearly my time to pounce. In fack, the young woman was invitin me. Up I sprang, like a jungle thief.

"How can you sit there, May," said I, "kennin I was lyin sneakin there under that broom bush, and yet abusin a faithfu creature for being slow and languid in his love, when last Sabbath ye flew frae him wi' a' the pith o' a bitter hatred disgust, and scorn! Languid in my affection! Is that like languidness?" (Throwing my arms fully around her, so as to include, if possible, the hail body in my ample embrace.) "Is that, dear May, like love in the dead-thraw? If that's no a sign" (still pressing her, as she struggled and cried) "o' the warm life o' a lively passion, as ye ca'd it, I kenna what it is?"

As I thus held her in my impassioned grasp—as firm as a tiger's—she screamed most inordinately, makin the hail Warlocks' Glen ring frae end to end, rousin the mawkins on every side, and makin them skip over the whin bushes as if they had been followed by a pack o' harriers. But I wasna to be deceived. She had, when I was sneakin under the bush o' broom, gien me the key to this conduct, in her cunnin monologue. This was ane o' the arts, wiles, guiles, and secret charms, to increase a languid affection, and bring it out o' the dead-thraw o' a starved love into the warm love o' a lively passion. Her[Pg 16] words still rung in my ears, and I was as determined as the very deevil to show her that her efforts to increase my love were perfectly effectual. I hugged her closer and closer. Heart, liver, pancreas, a'thegither, as recommended by my father, were in my embrace. I squeezed the dear creature like a vice, sae strong was my determination, increased every minute by her screams, to prove to her entire satisfaction—in fack, to demonstrate, beyond the possibility of a doubt—that there was nae mair occasion for her female guile or charm, and that she might rest assured that my affection could, nae mair than my grasp, be increased in point o' intensity. But a' wouldna do—her heart seemed to be insatiable. In addition to my squeezing grasp, I kissed her ruby lips. She cried the louder and the louder; and—oh! hae I lived to write it?—she actually spat on the face that was glowin red hot wi' affection for her. Still I persevered; for I thought that even the sputum might be ane o' her secret charms. The struggle continued, and her cries increased. She had recourse to her nails, and I felt the blude streamin doun my cheeks. We fell on the ground. A man's voice behind me cried—"My love, my love! knock doun the spoiler!" A tremendous blow on the head took frae me my senses; and, when I recovered, I was in my ain bed, with my respectit parents sitting by me, watchin, with the greatest and tenderest care, the return o' consciousness to their beloved son.


CHAPTER IV.

LIGHT STRUGGLES THROUGH A CLOUD TO GET TO ME IN MY MISFORTUNE.

I sune recovered my health, but my reputation and fair fame were for a time under a cloud. The parishioners, in[Pg 17] place o' shakin me by the hand, looked at me with averted eyes. I was treated as a dog that had been in bad company. A sough went throughout the parish, that Simon Begley—or, as the folks ca'ed him, with a humorous application to his craft, that of procurator-fiscal o' the county, Beagle—was busy takin a precognition with a view to layin the case before the Lord Advocate. But I was gien to understand, and privately, that the authorities didna intend, in the meantime, to lay hold o' me, as they had nae suspicion I would flee the country. Their object was to ascertain the truth o' the charge, and, if they found there was any real delictum, and Gilbert Walker and May persevered in their determination, to apprehend me then, and try me as an example and a warnin.

This misfortune brought upon me an attack o' hypochondriacism; and Melancholy, wi' a' her attendant hags, hounded me, as they say, frae house to hame. Wearied o' concealin myself within doors, I sought the by-ways, the loans, and the unfrequented paths—still, however, doin my duties, and facin the public whar I couldna weel sneak out o' the way. Ae day, I was sittin on a fence, no far frae my ain door, musin on the curious turn my love affair had taen, and generally on the "vanity of human wishes." I thought o' the poem o' that name by the only poet whose works I could ever thole to read, and cured, in some degree, my despondency, by repeatin to mysel the lines—

"Still raise for good the supplicating voice,
But leave to Heaven the measure and the choice."

"I hae dune baith," said a saft voice in my ear; "but the guid I hae prayed for is lang o' comin."

"It has a lang road to come, my bonny lass," said I to a young woman with a child in her arms, wha stood before me. "I, mysel, ken what it is to suffer; for a pickled rod is at this very moment on my puir back—sending,[Pg 18] as it cuts its way, the nippin brine into my very marrow. But I am exercisin patience. What may your compliant be?"

"My complaint," said she, wipin a clear, shinin tear frae her bonny blue ee, "lies owre near my puir broken heart to be tauld to a stranger; for wha but Him wha is 'the saul's portion,' should hear the secrets, or is able to cure the waes o' a deserted wife? Ken ye the session-clerk o' this parish?"

"Owre weel," said I, "guid woman; for, personally, I am noo sufferin for that officer. I, mysel, hold that honoured office, wi' its twa appurtenances."

"You are, then, the very man I wanted to see," said she; "but I maun speak privately to ye. I hae come far to see ye, and heavy are the burdens I hae carried, baith at this bosom (lookin at her child) and in it; an' maybe ye may be the means o' relievin me o' ane o' them."

"Which o' them mean ye, woman?" said I, no a'thegither at ease. "I hope ye dinna mean the bairn. Ae misfortune's enough at a time."

"Na, na," replied she; "I dinna mean that you should be the faither o' the child; but ye may be the means, in higher hands, o' gettin back its faither, and thereby relievin me o' a' my burdens and a' my sorrows thegither."

"Nae man likes to do guid better than I do," replied I, wi' a decent complacency, "though I hae been sair defamed. Come awa wi' me, an' tell me your story."

I took the puir woman hame, and, seein she was filled wi' naething but sorrow, ane o' the maist inflatin o' a' the non-naturals (for Hippocrates himsel couldna doubt that it's ane o' them,) I supplied her wi' as muckle victuals o' ae kind or anither—no bein very particular about the agreement or concurrence o' the elemental parts o' the polymixia or combination—as I thought would hae the double effeck o' gettin quit o' her hunger and her sorrow thegither. The[Pg 19] puir creature ate like a rhinoceros. I doubt if she had had any meat for a week. Cakes, milk, cheese, herrings, tea, and honey, a' disappeared; and naething remained but a blush o' shame on her bonny cheek, to tell how muckle abashed she was at her good appetite. Some ungracefu minded folks wad ha ta'en the sweet suffusion that covered her face, for the mere effect o' the fecht or warstle o' devouring sae muckle meat; but my delicacy suggested a truer, a mair feminine, and a mair gallant conclusion. I was sae muckle pleased with the refinement o' mind that led to this discovery, that I couldna help bringing't oot—for nae man should hide his candle under a bushel—

"Ye needna be ashamed, my bonny woman," said I, "at eating sae muckle; for, though it's no paid for, ye're perfectly welcome to it, ample and multitudinous as it is."

This had the desired effect; for the blush was instantly succeeded by a deadly paleness. I then asked her what was her particular object, in wishin to see and speak to me privately. It was some time afore she could answer—overcome, I fancy, by her admiration o' my delicacy o' sentiment; but at last, takin out a ragged handkerchief, as a kind o' preparation for a scene, a thing I like abune a' things—exceptin, maybe, that in the Warlocks' Glen—she began—

"I am the dochter o' an honest farmer, that lives down near the Tweed. His name is Arthur Græme; and my name—that is my maiden name—is Lucy Græme. He was ance accounted rich, and I was—no lang syne yet—considered to hae some claims to beauty—twa things that hae produced a' my wae. I was courted by the neighbourin farmers, wha vied wi' ane anither for my hand and my affections; but, as a prophet has nae credit in his ain country, sae neeborin lovers were little respeckit. The gree was born awa frae them by a perfect stranger, kenned neither to them nor to me. A young man, ca'ed, at that[Pg 20] time at least, Hugh Kennedy, whase looks were, alas! his best recommendation, if I shouldna speak of a soft honeyed tongue, whase sounds were music to my ear, recommended himsel to me at a neighbouring fair, and took frae me, whether I wad or no, my silly affections. He had heard o' my father's siller, and he saw my blooming face; but he never had the courage to come to our house and court me honourably, as my other wooers were glad and proud to do. Yet—strange backslidin o' the human heart!—I wadna hae gien a stowen kiss o' Hugh Kennedy, among the beech groves o' Sunnybrae, for a' the flatterin, wooin, and braw presents o' the rest o' my lovers thegither. The mere circumstance o' the puir youth being banned, as he was (for his secret courtship was sune kenned), frae the very neeborin woods, bound him to my heart the closer and the firmer. Though twenty een were upon me as gleg as hawks, and I was watched like a convicted thief, I saw him, spoke to him, wept wi' him, lay in his dear arms, and got my tears kissed awa wi' his burning lips."

Her throat got thick, and she paused. After some sobbing, she continued—

"Oh, forgie me, sir! To ye alane, wha hae my fortune in yer hands, wad I speak in this wild strain, for my heart is fu' o' love, grief, and a still revivin hope that winna dee. I never asked him a question, sae worthless and silly in the thoughts o' a lover, whar he wad tak me, and what he wad do wi' me, if I ran frae my faither's house, and married him. What cared I for things that were to come, when a' my joys were centred in the single moment when I was in his arms? Na, I never asked him whar was to be our bed—whar we were to get our dinner. Love had made me as light, as gay, as free, as thoughtless, as the birds o' the grove, whose food and raiment, hoose an' ha', are provided by nature, wha is kinder to them than to us proud human creatures. I need say nae mair. I flew[Pg 21] frae my faither's hoose, was married and ruined. My husband had nae trade by the hand, nae friends, nae hame. He trusted to my faither's wealth; but that took wings and flew away as fast as his dochter. We lived thegither, Gude kens hoo, for twa years, when, ae mornin aboot six months syne, he rose frae my side an' left me, an' I hae never seen him since. A month after, I bore this babe, wha hasna yet seen its faither. I inquired for him in every direction, an' at last I heard that he was livin in this parish, an' was on the eve o' bein married to a braw lass, wi' a better tocher than I could bring to him."

"This is a sad story, Lucy—Mrs Kennedy, I mean"—said I. "Your treacherous husband, and his unconscious victim, this second wife, whoever she may be, haena gien in their names to me yet, as clerk o' this parish; and Mr Meiklejohn is owre correct a man to marry them against the rules."

"Heaven be praised!" cried the poor woman. "I was afraid I might be owre late."

"Yer in braw time," said I; "but, if Mr Kennedy taks anither name, how will I ken him?—for he may forge certificates o' residence, or bribe some residenters to certify him—tricks no uncommon in the traffic o' matrimony."

"But maybe ye may ken his sweetheart," said she, wi a big heart, as she wrung the bitter name out o' her dry throat.

"It's no unlikely," said I; "I ken the maist o' the leevin folks o' the parish, and my faither kens a' the dead anes."

"Did you ever hear o' a young woman bearing the name o' May Walker?" said she.

"I think I hae," said I, hesitatingly, as if trying to recollect mysel; and, lookin suspiciously at her, for I thocht she had heard o' my misfortune, and was suspicious o' every individual that mentioned that charmed, dear, yet terrible name.[Pg 22]

"I think I hae," repeated I, drawing my hand owre my weel-shaved chin, as if to try my beard; and, satisfied o' the ignorance and innocence o' the creature, wishin to keep my secret.

"Did ye ever see her, or speak to her?" continued Mrs Kennedy. "Is she bonny?—has she a sweet voice?—is she like—like me?" And she burst into tears.

"I hae seen her," replied I, tryin to keep mysel frae greetin too; but a loud blubber burst frae me, in spite o' a' my efforts to keep it amang the lower pairt o' my lungs. "I hae seen her—I hae kissed—hum—I mean I hae spoken to her. She is bonny—O ay!" (with an increased blubber); "she is indeed bonny."

My answer increased the weepin o' the jealous wife, and we baith grat thegither.

"Has she muckle siller?" said she, calming a little.

"She will hae," replied I; "she maun hae, for her faither is in very bad health."

This new cause o' sorrow increased my paroxysm to a perfect buller.

"Ye are a maist sympathetic creature," said Mrs Kennedy, "to greet that way for anither's misfortunes."

"It's just my way," said I; "we canna restrain our heart or our stamach."

The mention o' the last word made the puir creature blush. It even stopped her tears. On hoo little springs do our passions depend!

This scene bein acted in the way I hae thus (I hope pretty graphically) described, I began to tak a mair philosophical view o' this important business. With an acuteness as natural to me as to a snip's tool, I penetrated the prudential course o' my operations in an instant o' inspired intuition. I fancy it wad smack considerably o' the inane gotium o' supererogation, besides being exposed to the[Pg 23] charge o' anticipation, to lay my plan before my readers in the clumsy way o' a chart, where there's sae guid a pilot. I like to seize a subject as my father did my mother when he courted and won her; or as I did May Walker, when I courted and lost her. To the heart at ance! I premised my operations, by askin Mrs Kennedy, in spite o' the gladiator-like way she had o' handlin her knife and fork, to remain in my house for a day or twa, till we saw whether her husband would ca' upon me, to gie in the names o' him and his—alas! what a change!—his dulcinea! In the meantime, Beagle's precognition was still proceedin; and Gilbert Walker and his dochter wouldna, it was said, relent. For about eight days, Mrs Kennedy sat and watched at the window, to see if she could espy her faithless husband; while I sneaked about, to try if I could ascertain the absolute truth of her story, and the real facks o' my ain deplorable case. My inquiries, conducted under the disadvantage o' being obliged to skulk, and beg, as it were, an answer to my questions, were not very successful. I, however, discovered that a young man, wi' black routhy whiskers, and a long romantic nose juttin out frae amang them, like a promontory frae the side o' a thick wud, was busy courtin May Walker, whase heart had got entangled in the forest o' his face, and couldna be liberated by a' the ruggin o' her father and her friends. This description o' him agreed wi' that I got frae Mrs Kennedy, wha couldna describe the coverin o' his face without tears. I was satisfied it was the man; and my satisfaction was confirmed by a kind o' recollection—strugglin through the inspissated gloom o' the oblivion I experienced after being knocked doon in the Warlocks' Glen—o' the figure o' an Orson-like individual, wi' a great rung in his hand, mixed with the evanescent sounds o' "My love!—my love!—knock doun the spoiler!" which produced, thegither, the conviction that Mr Hugh Kennedy was the very man on whom May Walker was[Pg 24] waitin on that eventfu Sabbath, and who felled me sae unmercifully to the earth.


CHAPTER V.

MY TALENTS BROUGHT STILL MORE IN REQUISITION.

Mrs Kennedy and I persevered, with the asperity o' hedgehogs, echini asperitate, (Pliny,) in our watch. Ae day, as I was sitting ben the house, where the parish register lies, the puir woman cam rinnin into the room, in a state of dreadful agitation, crying—

"There he's—there he's passing the very window—comin in, nae doubt, to gie in the names. Ah, traitor!"

"Be quiet, foolish woman," said I. "Awa again to the kitchen. There he is!" (there was now a loud knocking at the door;) "awa wi' ye to the kitchen!"

And I hurried her, obtorto collo, by the neck and shoulders, (for the exigency of the case obliterated every trace of my usual gallantry,) to the kitchen, whereinto I locked her, as firmly as guid smith's wark would permit. The prudence o' this preliminary step needs nae elucidation to them wha ken the nature o' a deserted wife. I then walked calmly to the door, which I opened slowly and decently, as became a session clerk.

"How do you do, Mr Willison?" said a man, with large, black, routhy whiskers, and a prominent nose, o' the aquiline, or romantic cut.

It was the very apparition o' the fever I caught in the Warlocks' Glen. He pretended never to have seen me before; but a blue mark on my forehead tingled the moment it caught his eye; and, as I unconsciously raised my hand to gie it the relief it asked, he smiled—a fair detection; but I said naething to shew that I recognised him.[Pg 25]

"As weel as can be expected," answered I, without mair significancy or intelligence than a babe or suckling would have exhibited.

"That is the answer of a lying-in wife in Scotland," said he, still smiling.

"Unfortunately, nane o' us hae ony experience o' that yet," said I, "if I can guess your errand to a parish clerk."

"You do guess rightly," said he. "I came here to request you, sir, to publish these banns, on the next three successive Sabbaths."

I received the paper he held out. It contained the names and designation o' the twa parties—George Webster, residing at Burnfoot; and May Walker, dochter o' Gilbert Walker, residing at Langacres.

"Where are your certificates o' residence?" said I.

He handed me a certificate, signed and attested wi' apparent regularity, but which I was predetermined to doubt, wi' a' the obstinacy o' a guid dogmatic sceptic.

"I fancy you'll be the George Webster mentioned here yersel, Mr Hugh Kennedy," said I.

He started, at the very least, three guid thumb-measured inches, frae my floor. The stroke was nearly as pithy as that he applied to me in the Warlocks' Glen.

"That is my name in the certificate, there," said he, recovering.

"I ken that brawly, Mr Kennedy," said I. "George Webster's your present name; but I forget neither auld names nor auld friends. Some folk, wi' new-fangled notions, hae, now-a-days, three names. Even Mr Meiklejohn, guid man, baptized his son Finlay Johnstone Meiklejohn, to the admiration o' the twa-named congregation o' St Fillan's; but it canna be expected that, when the laddie comes up, we are aye to address him by his three names. It would be owre great an expense o' wind and time."

"I have neither wind nor time to spend in this foolery,"[Pg 26] said he. "That is my name in the paper, and there are your fees."

"I dinna want to quarrel wi' you, Mr Kennedy," said I, "because I hae owre muckle respect for Mrs Kennedy—Lucy Græme, the dochter o' Arthur Græme o' Sunnybrae, on Tweedside—and her bonny bairn, to get into a dispute wi' the husband o' the ane and the father o' the other. But I can keep a secret, man. What are ye alarmed about? Though ye knocked me doun in the Warlocks' Glen, I hae nae ill-will to ye. I dinna object to cry ye next Sabbath, wi' May Walker; but ae gude turn deserves anither—ye can do me a service."

This statement utterly confounded Mr Kennedy. He tried first to bluster and swear, denied the truth of my assertion, calmed, blustered again; in short, gaed through a' thae useless and affected turns and movements that a hooked salmon taks the unnecessary trouble to do before it turns up the white o' its wame.

"Calm yoursel, my dear sir," said I. "Mrs Lucy Kennedy is in my power, under my key. She daurna stir. Ye may be married and awa lang afore she kens onything about it, puir thing. We can settle a bit o' ordinar business without the interference o' a woman. I pledge ye ye'll neither hear nor see her, if ye'll promise to do me the favour I want aff ye."

He fell back again into a rantin fit—swore he didna understand me—threatened to lick me—seized me by the cravat—took awa his hand again—gaed to the door—returned—calmed—rose, and calmed again.

"What a trouble ye put yersel to, Mr Kennedy!" said I, calmly. "I want naething frae ye o' ony consequence. Ye're quite welcome to May Walker." (A sentimental whine here treacherously insinuated itself into my speech.) "She's a braw lass, and will be a rich lass. Her faither's ga' blether's fu' o' ga' stanes, or as my faither ca'es them,[Pg 27] ga' nuts—a decided icterus or jaundice. My parent (ye ken he's sexton) says he's sure o' him in sax weeks, and, consequently, ye're sure o' yer tocher in that sma' period o' time. I dinna want to deprive ye o' a' thae blessings, though it's in my power, and I might be urged to't by baith love and revenge."

"What is't ye want, then?" roared he, at last, in a voice higher than Stentor's, while the fire flashed frae his ee in almost palpable scintillations o' fury.

"Just get yer sweetheart, May Walker," said I, softly, "to write twa lines to Simon Begley, or Beagle, as they ca' him, the fiscal o' the shire, passin frae her charge against me; and ye'll be cried on Sabbath, afore the congregation meets, and Mrs Kennedy will never hear o't."

"I'll admit naething aboot Mrs Kennedy," said he, as doggedly as a mule—"it's all an invention of the brain of a subtle dominie; but I'll get ye the line ye want, on condition that these idle fancies are lodged again safely in the addle-noddle where subtlety or folly engendered them, and when self-interest brought them to aid ye in a bad cause."

"It's dune," said I; "but mark ye, nae cryin till I get the discharge; at least, if I'm forced, as I may be, to do my duty, and ca' the names, there'll be somebody in the front seat o' the gallery to answer me. Ye understand, Mr Kennedy?"

Dartin a furious look at me, no unlike what a person might fancy o' the minotaur, he flew oot o' the hoose. As he passed the window, the yells o' Mrs Kennedy resounded through the house, and even, I believe, followed hard on the heels o' her husband, if they didna owretak him a'thegither, as he birred through the neeborin plantin like an incorporated personification o' fear. The moment he was oot o' sight, I liberated the puir, unfortunate woman frae her place o' confinement.[Pg 28]

"Whar is my husband?" she cried—"whar is that dear man, wha, in spite o' a' his guile and treachery, I maun see ance mair, though it were only to hauld up in his face this bairn, and then drap doun at his feet, and dee?"

"Calm yersel, my bonny woman," said I, dautin her on the back like a bairn. "It's time enough to talk o' deein—a subject my faither likes better than I do—when I hae renounced my endeavours to get ye back yer husband. It's a' in a fair way. He's got the shot. Ye may see by the way he ran, he's got something better than sparrow hail. Be assured he'll come doun. A deevil couldna flee wi' the weight o' cauld lead he carries under his wing."

"God bless ye!" said she, "and prosper yer efforts! I'll wait yer time."

In twa hours after this, a man on horseback, bespattered wi' the red loam o' the Warlocks' Glen up to the chin, arrived at my door. He cam frae Langacres, and carried a letter, he said, for the session-clerk o' St Fillan's. I snatched the letter frae his hands in an instant; tearin it open wi' a' the anxiety o' a creature strugglin for his precious reputation. It was just what I wanted. I asked the man to come in and get some refreshment; and the very instant I had him fairly within the house, I shut the door on him, and, mountin his swift, roan-coloured mare, flew like lightnin to Simon Begley's. He was at hame. I handed him the letter. He said it was just the very thing he wanted, for he acknowledged that the public authorities had no wish to prosecute a case involvin the ruin o' a puir man; but, until they got out the discharge o' the private prosecutor, they had nae power to relinquish their proceedins. He assured me that everything was now at an end, and the sough o' the country would dree the fate o' a seven days' wonder.[Pg 29]


CHAPTER VI.

A SUCCESSFUL ISSUE TO THE EFFORTS OF MY GENIUS.

Next day, I tauld Mrs Kennedy to dress hersel, and be ready, wi' her bairn and her marriage-lines, to accompany me to a neighbour's house. We departed thegither. We took the road to Langacres. I felt the necessity here o' the maist inordinate caution—for I never could have been answerable for the effects o' my bein seen at a distance, walkin in my ordinary, erect, bauld, and somewhat martial manner, upon the house o' a jaundiced invalid, wha possessed the idea that I had already assaulted, and endeavoured to abduct his dochter. He might, in the first place, either be placed in a situation o' intense fear and alarm—prejudicial, if not fatal, to an invalid—or he might fire upon me from the windows, wi' ane o' his auld sportin guns, for he was ance a great sportsman. At same time it was necessary to conceal Mrs Kennedy, in case she might hae been recognised by her faithless spouse. We took, therefore, a circuitous route, under the cover o' a wood, that led up to the kitchen door. The moment I entered, the women in the kitchen began to scream and flee awa; but I soon shewed them I was perfectly canny, and even got the length o' bein allowed to daut ane o' them (but she was a little advanced in life) on the back. I was nae langer impeded in my endeavour to see Mr Gilbert Walker, whom I discovered in an arm-chair, as yellow as saffron, and as cankered as a nettle. He tried to start up when I entered; but, heaven be praised! his jaundice sune brought him to his seat again.

"I am come, sir," said I, "in a matter o' the maist interest in nature to you and your dochter May."

"How, sir," screamed he, "can ye dare to sully the[Pg 30] name o' that innocent creature, by makin't run the gauntlet o' thae treacherous lips! Awa wi' ye, ye vile Nicanor! ye wolf that carries woo on your back in place o' hair! Alas! what a warld is this! 'Baith prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness.'"

"Gilbert Walker," said I, calmly, "my intentions towards your dochter were honourable, and I am come here this day—little thanks to me!—to put you on your guard against one whose intentions are false, treacherous, and abominable. When I made love to May Walker, I wasna a married man; but I was scorned, knocked down, and nearly prosecuted, for merely bein owre warm and lovin in my chaste embrace; while the husband o' anither woman comes in and carries awa the prize frae the scorned though honourable Cœlebs. May Walker may, if she likes, despise me, her faithfu lover. Ninety-nine out o' a hunder would, for that mad act, convict her o' a vitiated and corrupt taste; but, if she had ane to side wi' her, she may, in a sense, be justified. But wha, save a Turk, could justify the taste o' a bonny maiden, wha married anither woman's man? There's no ane, there's no a leg o' ane, frae Buchaness to Ardnamurchan, frae the Mull o' Galloway to John o' Groat's, that would justify that taste in ane o' the chaste dochters o' virtuous Scotland."

"What is this?" cried May Walker, openin a side-door, and strugglin, in the arms of Mr Hugh Kennedy, to get forward. "What do I hear? Who says that George Webster is a married man?"

"Your greatest enemy!" cried Mr Hugh Kennedy; pointin theatrically with his outstretched hand. "Ha! ha! ha! Your spoiler, your rejected, dejected, envious, poisonous, adder-tongued lover, is he who has dared to spurt his venom on the meat destined for his rival. This is gratitude. He solicited me to get him discharged from your[Pg 31] just vengeance, and now he endeavours to gnaw the fingers of the hand that awarded him his safety."

"I see, I see it a'," cried May. "I ken the fox, or rather wolf, i' the auld. I hae met him in the Warlocks' Glen. He can sneak under broom bushes like the hairy adder, or lurk in the green moss like the yellow-wamed ask. It's no i' the wud alane that thae creatures carry their poison. They dinna cast it aff at the threshold o' the farmer's ha, whar they can crawl, an' spit, an' wound, an' kill, as weel as in the green wud. Dinna trouble yersel wi' the reptile, dear George. I gie him nae faith noo, ony mair than I did when he attacked me in the Warlocks' Glen."

I sadna a word. I turned, and ran out, and, as I departed, I heard spinnin after me, frae a' their lips at ance—

"Ay, ay, awa wi' ye!—it is your time, fause, treacherous dog; never shew your face in this house again."

In three minutes, I opened the door again, wi' my peculiar gentleness and calmness o' touch, and, wi' a jaunty manner, tinged wi' a kind of native etiquette, handed in, bowin the while amaist to the very carpet, Mrs Hugh Kennedy, wi' her bairn in her arms and her marriage-lines in her pouch.

"I beg leave to introduce to you," said I, "Mrs Hugh Kennedy, the lawfu wedded wife o' this man, whase real name is Hugh Kennedy, and no George Webster, which is a mere cover—a vile deceit, and an imposition."

I hadna time to get thae words fairly out, when Mrs Kennedy threw her bairn into my arms, and, fleein forward wi' the keenness and fire o a love that had been lang repressed and now burst its chains, seized, wi' her longing, greedy arms, her husband round the neck, like a ferocious mastiff. It's a' safe noo, thinks I. He may try and shake her aff if he can. The thing was just as impossible as it was for Prometheus to shake the king o' birds frae his liver. He shook, pulled, rugged, tore, kicked, and pinched her.[Pg 32] Her grasp waxed firmer and firmer. She stuck like a horse leech, whase blude rins fair through, it. Guid sense micht hae dictated submission, whar the evil was clearly beyond mortal remeid. But the foolish man struggled—vain, trebly vain, foolish, insane effort! O pithless man! The struggle continued. He wrestled, and blew, and puffed. She grasped him closer and mair close. At first his struggle was for liberty; but now it turned mair serious; it seemed to be for life. Her grip had extended to his neck, and, choking up his windpipe, impeded respiration. His face waxed blue. His tongue began to jut out, as if inclined to hang. Foam came frae his mouth. His een were turned up, to show their whites. A hollow raucitus, or rattle, began in his throat.

"Save the man frae strangulation," cried Gilbert Walker.

"Haud the young Kennedy, May," said I, throwin the bairn into her arms, squallin wi' a great noise.

I flew to save the man's life. Gettin behind him, I unclosed the woman's hands, which were fixed as if in the grasp o' death. The moment she was deprived of her hold, she fell senseless on the ground, and Kennedy, staggerin back, leaned on the wa', and tried to recover himsel. In a short time, the puir woman cam to hersel.

"Hugh, dearest Hugh," she cried, strugglin to get to her knees, "can it be possible that ye hae tried to desert me for anither—me, wha left, for yer sake, my dotin father, my hame, an' a' the comforts o' hame; the bonny holms o' Sunnybrae, whar we courted sae lang in secret; the scene o' my youthfu' pleasures and my maiden loves—for ay and for ever?"

"I know you not, woman," said he, doggedly.

"Dinna ken yer wedded wife!" cried she, weepin, an' searchin for her marriage-lines, which she held up in her hand. "Dinna ken Lucy Græme, dochter o' Arthur Græme, o' Sunnybrae, whase heart I hae broken by[Pg 33] marryin you! Mercy on me! Does he wha, by thae holy bands, is bound to cherish and protect me, his wedded wife, deny a' knowledge o' me? This is the last, the warst, the maist unbearable o' a' the ills ye hae brought on my puir head. That bairn," (risin an' seizin the child,) "that babe, that hadna seen the licht o' day when ye cowardly deserted its houseless, starvin mither looks to ye as its father, and mocks your cauld, cruel ignorance wi' its knowledge—got, dootless, frae heaven—o' its natural protector. O maiden, maiden," (lookin to May Walker,) "tak example by me. Yer hame here is warm and comfortable. Dinna leave it, dinna renounce it, but for ane ye ken, in heart, soul, name, pedigree, and means. He wha has ruined me wad hae trebly ruined ye; for he has taen frae me only my hame, my daily bread, and peace—he wad hae taen frae ye a' thae, and, ayont them a', your honour."

Kennedy had seen it was a' up wi' him before the termination o' his wife's speech, for his ee began to play about the door o' the room. I watched him, but he was an over-match for me. Runnin forward, he jostled me to a side—I stumbled and fell—the women screamed—and, before I got up, he had completely and finally bolted. The puir woman, wi' her bairn still in her arms, shrieked as she saw him depart, perhaps for ever. Nae power wad restrain her—she flew, wi' a' the force o' her feeble limbs, after her faithless husband, and we never heard o' them mair.

Gratitude for this return, on my part, o' guid for ill, in a short time completely changed the heart o' May Walker. I had saved her frae ruin. We were wed. I may some day write the fate o' my first-born, for that famous wark, "The Border Tales."


[Pg 34]

SAYINGS AND DOINGS OF PETER PATERSON.

An every-day biographer would have said that Peter Paterson was the son of pious and respectable parents; and he would have been perfectly right, for the parents of Peter were both pious and respectable. I say they were pious; for, every week-night, as duly as the clock struck nine, and every Sabbath morning and evening, Robin Paterson and his wife Betty called in their man-servant and their maid-servant into what now-a-days would be styled their parlour, and there the voice of Psalms, of reading the Word, and of prayer, was heard; and, moreover, their actions corresponded with their profession. I say also they were respectable; for Robin Paterson rented a farm called Foxlaw, consisting of fifty acres, in which, as his neighbours said, he was "making money like hay"—for land was not three or four guineas an acre in those days. Foxlaw was in the south of Scotland, upon the east coast, and the farm-house stood on the brae-side, within a stone-throw of the sea. The brae on which Foxlaw stood, formed one side of a sort of deep valley or ravine; and at the foot of the valley was a small village, with a few respectable-looking houses scattered here and there in its neighbourhood. Robin and Betty had been married about six years, when, to the exceeding joy of both, Betty brought forth a son, and they called his name Peter—that having been the Christian name of his paternal grandfather. Before he was six weeks old, his mother protested he would be a prodigy; and was heard to say—"See, Robin, man, see!—did ye ever ken the like o' that?—see how he laughs!—he kens his name already!" And Betty and Robin kissed their child alternately, and gloried in his smile. "O Betty," said Robin—for Robin[Pg 35] was no common man—"that smile was the first spark o' reason glimmerin' in our infant's soul!—Thank God! the bairn has a' its faculties." At five years old Peter was sent to the village school, where he continued till he was fifteen; and there he was more distinguished as a pugilist than as a book-worm. Nevertheless, Peter contrived almost invariably to remain dux of his class; but this was accounted for by the fact, that, when he made a blunder, no one dared to trap him, well knowing that if they had done so, the moment they were out of school, Peter would have made his knuckles acquainted with their seat of superior knowledge. On occasions when he was fairly puzzled, and the teacher would put the question to a boy lower in the class, the latter would tremble and stammer, and look now at his teacher, and now squint at Peter, stammer again, and again look from the one to the other, while Peter would draw his book before his face, and, giving a scowling glent at the stammerer, would give a sort of significant nod to his fist suddenly clenched upon the open page; and when the teacher stamped his foot, and cried, "Speak, sir!" the trembler whimpered, "I daurna, sir." "Ye daurna!" the enraged dominie would cry—"Why?" "Because—because, sir," was slowly stammered out—"Peter Paterson wud lick me!" Then would the incensed disciplinarian spring upon Peter; and, grasping him by the collar, whirl his taws in the air, and bring them with his utmost strength round the back, sides, and limbs of Peter; but Peter was like a rock, and his eyes more stubborn than a rock; and, in the midst of all, he gazed in the face of his tormentor with a look of imperturbable defiance and contempt. Notwithstanding this course of education, when Peter had attained the age of fifteen, the village instructor found it necessary to call at Foxlaw, and inform Robin Paterson that he could do no more for his son, adding that—"He was fit for the college; and, though he said it, that should not say it, as fit for it as[Pg 36] any student that ever entered it." These were glad tidings to a father's heart, and Robin treated the dominie to an extra tumbler. He, however, thought his son was young enough for the college—"We'll wait anither year," said he; "an' Peter can be improvin' himsel at hame; an' ye can gie a look in, Maister, an' advise us to ony kind o' books ye think he should hae—we'll aye be happy to see ye, for ye've done yer duty to him, I'll say that for ye."

So another year passed on, and Peter remained about the farm. He was now sometimes seen with a book in his hand; but more frequently with a gun, and more frequently still with a fishing rod. At the end of the twelve months, Peter positively refused to go to the college. His mother entreated, and his father threatened; but it was labour in vain. At last—"It's o' nae use striving against the stream," said Robin—"ye canna gather berries off a whin bush. Let him e'en tak his ain way, an' he may live to rue it." Thus, Peter went on reading, shooting, fishing, and working about the farm, till he was eighteen. He now began to receive a number of epithets from his neighbours. His old schoolmaster called him "Ne'er-do-weel Peter;" but the dominie was a mere proser; he knew the moods and tenses of a Greek or Latin sentence, but he was incapable of appreciating its soul. Some called him "Poetical Peter," and a few "Prosing Peter;" but the latter were downright bargain-making, pounds-shillings-and-pence men, whose souls were dead to

"The music of sweet sounds;"

and sensible only of the jink of the coin of the realm. Others called him "Daft Peter," for he was the leader of frolic, fun, and harmless mischief; but now the maidens of the village also began to call him "Handsome Peter." Yet he of whom they thus spoke would wander for hours alone by the beach of the solitary sea, gazing upon its army of waves warring with the winds, till his very spirit took part in the[Pg 37] conflict; or he could look till his eyes got blind on its unruffled bosom, when the morning sun flung over it, from the horizon to the shore, a flash of glory; or, when the moon-beams, like a million torches shooting from the deep, danced on its undulating billows—then would he stand, like an entranced being, listening to its everlasting anthem, while his soul, awed and elevated by the magnificence of the scene, worshipped God, the Creator of the great sea. With all his reputed wildness, and with all his thoughtlessness, even on the sea-banks, by the wood, and by the brae-side, Peter found voiceless, yet to him eloquent companions. To him the tender primrose was sacred as the first blush of opening womanhood; and he would converse with the lowly daisy, till his gaze seemed to draw out the very soul of the

"Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flower."

It, however, grieved his mother's spirit to see him, as she said, "Just idling awa his time, and leaving his learning at his heels." His father now said—"Let him just tak his fling an' find his ain weight—an he'll either mak a spoon or spoil a horn, or my name's no Robin Paterson." But, from Peter's infancy, it had been his mother's ambition and desire to live to see him, as she expressed it, "wag his pow in a poopit," or, at any rate, to see him a gentleman. On one occasion, therefore, when Robin was at Dunse hiring-market, the schoolmaster having called on his old pupil, "Ne'er-do-weel Peter," the two entered into a controversy in the presence of Peter's mother, and, in the course of the discussion, the man of letters was dumfoundered by the fluency and force of the arguments of his young antagonist. Silent tears of exultation stole into Betty's eyes, to hear, as she said, "her bairn expawtiate equal—ay, superior to ony minister;" and no sooner had the teacher withdrawn, than, fixing her admiring eyes on her son, she said—

"O Peter, man, what a delivery ye hae?—an' sae fu' o' the dictioner'! Troth but ye wad cut a figure i' the[Pg 38] poopit! There wad nae dust gather on your cushion—there wad be nae sleeping, nodding, or snoring, while my Peter was preachin'. An', oh, hinny, but ye will mak me a glad mother, if ye'll consent to gang to the college! Ye wadna be lang o' gettin a kirk, my man—I can tell ye that; an', if ye'll only consent to gang, ye shanna want pocket-money that your faither kens naething about—my bairn shall appear wi' the best o' them. For syne ever ye was an infant, it has aye been my hope an' my prayer, Peter, to see ye a minister; an' I ne'er sent a hunder eggs or a basket o' butter to the market, but Peter's pennies were aye laid aside, to keep his pockets at the college."

Peter was, in the main, a most dutiful and most affectionate son; but on this point he was strangely stubborn; and he replied—

"Wheesht, mother! wheesht!—nae mair aboot it."

"Nae mair aboot it, bairn!" said she; "but I maun say mair aboot it. Man! wad ye fling awa yer learnin' at a dyke-side, an' yer talents at a pleugh-tail? Wad ye just break yer mother an' faither's heart? O Peter! Peter, man, hae ye nae spirit ava?—What is yer objection?"

"Weel, keep your temper, mother," said he, "an' I'll tell ye candidly:—The kirk puts a strait-jacket on a body that I wadna hae elbow-room in!"

"What do ye mean, ye graceless?" added she, in a voice betokening a sort of horror.

"Oh, naething particular; only, for example, sic bits o' scandal as—the Reverend Peter Paterson was called before the session for shooting on his ain glebe—or, the Reverend Peter Paterson was summoned before the presbytery for leistering a salmon at the foot o' Tammy the Miller's dam—or, the Reverend Peter Paterson was ordered to appear before the General Assembly for clappin' Tammy the Miller's servant lassie on the shouther, an' ca'ing her a winsome quean—or"—[Pg 39]

"Or!"—exclaimed his impatient and mortified mother—"Oh, ye forward an' profane rascal ye! how daur ye speak in sic a strain—or wad ye be guilty o' sic unministerial conduct?—wad ye disgrace the coat by sic ungodly behaviour?"

"There's nae sayin', mother," added he; "but dinna be angry—I'm sure, if I did either shoot, leister, or clap a bonny lassie on the shouther, ye wadna think it unlike your son Peter."

"Weel, weel," said the good-natured matron, softened down by his manner; "it's true your faither says—it's nae use striving against the stream; an' a' gifts arena graces. But if ye'll no be a minister, what will ye be? Wad ye no like to be a writer or an advocate?"

"Worse an' worse, mother! I wad rather beg than live on the misery of another."

"Then, callant," added Betty, shaking her head, and sighing as she spoke—"I dinna ken what we'll do wi' ye. Will ye no be a doctor?"

"What!" said Peter, laughing, and assuming a theatrical attitude—"an apothecary!—make an apothecary of me, and cramp my genius over a pestle and mortar? No, mother—I'll be a farmer, like my father before me."

"Oh, ye ne'er-do-weel, as your maister ca's ye!" said his mother, as she rose and left the room in a passion; "ye'll be a play-actor yet, an' that will be baith seen an' heard tell o', an' bring disgrace on us a'."

Peter was, however, spell-bound to the vicinity of Foxlaw by stronger ties than an aversion to the college or a love for farming. He was about seventeen, when a Mr Graham, with his wife and family, came and took up his residence in one of the respectable-looking houses adjacent to the village. Mr Graham had been a seafaring man—it was reported the master of a small privateer; and in that capacity had acquired, as the villagers expressed it, "a sort o' money." He had a family of several children, but the eldest was a[Pg 40] lovely girl called Ann, about the same age as Peter Paterson. Mr Graham was fond of his gun, and so was Peter; they frequently met on the neighbouring moors, and an intimacy sprang up between them. The old sailor also began to love his young companion; for, though a landsman, he had a bold, reckless spirit: he could row, reef, and steer, and swim like an amphibious animal; and, though only a boy, he was acknowledged to be the only boxer, and the best leaper, runner, and wrestler in the country side—moreover, he could listen to a long yarn, and, over a glass of old grog, toss off his heel-taps like a man; and these qualifications drawing the heart of the skipper towards him, he invited him to his house. But here a change came over the spirit of reckless, roving Peter. He saw Ann; and an invisible hand seemed suddenly to strike him on the breast. His heart leaped to his throat. His eyes were riveted. He felt as if a flame passed over his face. Mr Graham told his longest stories, and Peter sat like a simpleton—hearing every word, indeed, but not comprehending a single sentence. His entire soul was fixed on the fair being before him—every sense was swallowed up in sight. Ringlets of a shining brown were parted over her fair brow; but Peter could not have told their colour—her soft blue eyes occasionally met his, but he noted not their hue. He beheld her lovely face, where the rose and the lily were blended—he saw the almost sculptured elegance of her form; yet it was neither on these—on the shining ringlets, nor the soft blue eyes—that his spirit dwelt; but on Ann Graham, their gentle possessor. He felt as he had never felt before; and he knew not wherefore.

Next day, and every day, found Peter at the house of Captain Graham; and often as love's own hour threw its grey mantle over the hills, he was to be seen wandering with the gentle Ann by his side, on the sea-banks, by the beach, and in the unfrequented paths. Again and again,[Pg 41] when no eye saw them, and when no ear heard them, he had revealed the fulness of his heart before her; and, in the rapture of the moment, sealed his truth upon her lips; while she, with affection too deep for words, would fling her arm across his shoulder, and hide her face on his breast to conceal the tear of joy and of love.

His parents looked upon Ann as their future daughter; and, with Peter, the course of "true love ran smooth." A farm had been taken in an adjoining parish, on which he was to enter at the following Whitsunday; and, on taking possession of his farm, Ann Graham was to become his bride. Never did exile long more ardently for his native land, than did Peter Paterson for the coming Whitsunday; but, ere it came, the poetical truth was verified, that

"The course of true love never did run smooth."

Contiguous to the farm of Foxlaw, lay the estate of one Laird Horslie—a young gentleman but little known in the neighbourhood; for he had visited it but once, and that only for a few weeks, since it came into his possession. All that was known of him was, that he wrote J.P. after his name—that he was a hard landlord, and had the reputation of spending his rents faster than his factor could forward them to him. To him belonged the farm that had been taken for Peter; and it so happened, that, before the Whitsunday which was to make the latter happy arrived, the laird paid a second visit to his estate. At the kirk, on the Sunday, all eyes were fixed on the young laird. Captain Graham was one of his tenants, and occupied a pew immediately behind the square seat of the squire. But, while all eyes were fixed upon Laird Horslie, he turned his back upon the minister, and gazed, and gazed again, upon the lovely countenance of Ann Graham. All the congregation observed it. Ann blushed and hung her head; but the young squire, with the privilege of a man of property, gazed on unabashed. What was observed by all the rest of the[Pg 42] congregation, was not unobserved by Peter. Many, with a questionable expression in their eyes, turned them from the laird, and fixed them upon him. Peter observed this also and his soul was wroth. His face glowed like a furnace; he stood up in his seat, and his teeth were clenched together. His fist was once or twice observed to be clenched also; and he continued scowling on the laird, wishing in his heart for ability to annihilate him with a glance.

Next day, the squire called upon the old skipper, and he praised the beauty of Ann in her own presence, and in the presence of her parents. But there was nothing particular in this; for he called upon all his tenants, he chatted with them, tasted their bottle, paid compliments to their daughters, and declared that their sons did honour to

"Scotland's glorious peasantry."

Many began to say, that the laird was "a nice young gentleman"—that he had been "wickedly misca'ed;" and the factor "got the wyte o' a'." His visits to Mr Graham's cottage, however, were continued day after day; and his attentions to Ann became more and more marked. A keen sportsman himself, he was the implacable enemy of poachers, and had strictly prohibited shooting on his estate; but, to the old skipper, the privilege was granted of shooting when and where he pleased. Instead, therefore, of seeing Peter Paterson and the old seaman in the fields together, it was no uncommon thing to meet the skipper and the squire. The affection of the former, indeed, had wonderfully cooled towards his intended son-in-law. Peter saw and felt this; and the visits of the squire were wormwood to his spirit. If they did not make him jealous, they rendered him impatient, impetuous, miserable.

He was wandering alone upon the shore, at the hour which Hogg calls "between the gloamin' and the mirk," in one of those impatient, impetuous, and unhappy moods, when he resolved not to live in a state of torture and[Pg 43] anxiety until Whitsunday, but to have the sacred knot tied at once.

Having so determined, Peter turned towards Graham's cottage. He had not proceeded far, when he observed a figure gliding before him on the footpath, leading from the village to the cottage. Darkness was gathering fast, but he at once recognised the form before him to be that of his own Ann. She was not a hundred yards before him, and he hastened forward to overtake her; but, as the proverb has it, there is much between the cup and the lip. A part of the footpath ran through a young plantation, and this plantation Ann Graham was just entering, when observed by Peter. He also had entered the wood, when his progress was arrested for a moment by the sudden sound of voices. It was Ann's voice, and it reached his ear in tones of anger and reproach; and these were tones so new to him, as proceeding from one whom he regarded as all gentleness and love, that he stood involuntarily still. The words he could not distinguish; but, after halting for an instant, he pushed softly but hastily forward, and heard the voice of the young laird reply—

"A rose-bud in a fury, by the goddesses!—Nay, frown not, fairest," continued he, throwing his arm around her, and adding—

"What pity that so delicate a form
Should be devoted to the rude embrace
Of some indecent clown!"

Peter heard this, and muttered an oath or an ejaculation which we will not write.

"Sir," said Ann, indignantly, and struggling as she spoke, "if you have the fortune of a gentleman, have, at least, the decency of a man."

"Nay, sweetest; but you, having the beauty of an angel, have the heart of a woman." And he attempted to kiss her cheek.[Pg 44]

"Laird Horslie!" shouted Peter, as if an earthquake had burst at the heels of the squire—"hands off!—I say, hands off!"

Now, Peter did not exactly suit the action to the word; for, while he yet exclaimed "hands off!" he, with both hands, clutched the laird by the collar, and hurling him across the path, caused him to roll like a ball at the foot of a tree.

"Fellow!" exclaimed Horslie, furiously, rising on his knee, and rubbing his sores—

"Fellow!" interrupted Peter—"confound ye, sir, dinna fellow me, or there'll be fellin' in the way. You can keep yer farm, and be hanged to ye; and let me tell ye, sir, if ye were ten thousand lairds, if ye dared to lay yer ill-faur'd lips on a sweetheart o' mine, I wad twist yer neck about like a turnip-shaw! Come awa, Annie, love," added he, tenderly, "and be thankfu' I cam in the way."

Before they entered the house, he had obtained her consent to their immediate union; but the acquiescence of the old skipper was still wanting; and when Peter made known his wishes to him—

"Belay," cried the old boy; "not so fast, Master Peter; a craft such as my girl is worth a longer run, lad. Time enough to take her in tow, when you've a harbour to moor her in, Master Peter. There may be other cutters upon the coast, too, that will give you a race for her, and that have got what I call shot in their lockers. So you can take in a reef, my lad; and, if you don't like it, why—helm about—that's all."

"Captain Graham," said Peter, proudly and earnestly, "I both understand and feel your remarks; and, but for Ann's sake, I would resent them also. But, sir, you are a faither—you are an affectionate one—dinna be a deluded one. By a side-wind, ye hae flung my poverty in my teeth; but, sir, if I hae poverty, and Laird Horslie riches, I[Pg 45] hae loved yer dochter as a man—he seeks to destroy her like a villain."

"'Vast, Peter, 'vast!" cried the old man; "mind I am Ann's father—tell me what you mean."

"I mean, sir, that ye hae been hoodwinked," added the other—"that ye hae been flung aff yer guard, and led to the precipice o' the deep, dark sea o' destruction an' disgrace; that a villain has hovered round yer house, like a hawk round a wood-pigeon's nest, waiting an opportunity to destroy yer peace for ever! Sir, to use a phrase o' yer ain, wad ye behold yer dochter driven a ruined wreck upon the world's bleak shore, the discarded property o' the lord o' the manor? If ye doubt me, as to the rascal's intentions, ask Ann hersel."

"'Sdeath, Peter, man!" cried the old tar, "do you say that the fellow has tried to make a marine of me?—that a lubber has got the weathergage of Bill Graham? Call in Ann."

Ann entered the room where her father and Peter sat.

"Ann, love," said the old man, "I know you are a true girl; you know Squire Horslie, and you know he comes here for you; now, tell me at once, dear—I say, tell me what you think of him?"

"I think," replied she, bursting into tears—"I know he is a villain!"

"You know it!" returned he; "blow me, have I harboured a shark! What! the salt water in my girl's eyes, too! If I thought he had whispered a word in your ear, but the thing that was honourable—hang me! I would warm the puppy's back with a round dozen with my own hand."

"You have to thank Peter," said she, sobbing, "for rescuing me to-night from his unmanly rudeness."

"What! saved you from his rudeness!—you didn't tell me that, Peter; well, well, my lad, you have saved an old[Pg 46] sailor from being drifted on a rock. There's my hand—forgive me—get Ann's, and God bless you!"

Within three weeks, all was in readiness for the wedding. At Foxlaw, old Betty was, as she said, up to the elbows in preparation, and Robin was almost as happy as his son; for Ann was loved by every one. It was Monday evening, and the wedding was to take place next day. Peter was too much of a sportsman not to have game upon the table at his marriage feast. He took his gun, and went among the fields. He had traversed over the fifty acres of Foxlaw in vain, when, in an adjoining field, the property of his rival, he perceived a full-grown hare holding his circuitous gambols. It was a noble-looking animal. The temptation was irresistible. He took aim; and the next moment bounded over the low hedge. He was a dead shot; and he had taken up the prize, and was holding it, surveying it before him, when Mr Horslie and his gamekeeper sprang upon him, and, ere he was aware, their hands were on his breast. Angry words passed, and words rose to blows. Peter threw the hare over his shoulder, and left the squire and his gamekeeper to console each other on the ground. He returned home; but nothing said he of his second adventure with Laird Horslie.

The wedding-day dawned; and, though the village had no bells to ring, there were not wanting demonstrations of rejoicing; and, as the marriage party passed through its little street to the manse, children shouted, waved ribbons, and smiled, and every fowling-piece and pistol in the place sent forth a joyful noise; yea, the village Vulcan himself, as they passed his smithy, stood with a rod of red-hot iron in his hand, and having his stithies arranged before him like a battery, and charged with powder, saluted them with a rustic but hearty feu d'joie. There was not a countenance but seemed to bless them. Peter was the very picture of manly joy—Ann of modesty and love. They were within[Pg 47] five yards of the manse, where the minister waited to pronounce over them the charmed and holy words, when Squire Horslie's gamekeeper and two constables intercepted the party.

"You are our prisoner," said one of the latter, producing his warrant, and laying his hand upon Peter.

Peter's cheek grew pale; he stood silent and motionless, as if palsy had smitten his very soul. Ann uttered a short, sudden scream of despair, and fell senseless at the feet of the best-man. Her cry of agony recalled the bridegroom to instant consciousness; he started round—he raised her in his arms, he held her to his bosom. "Ann!—my ain Ann!" he cried; "look up—oh, look up, dear! It is me, Ann—they canna, they daurna harm me."

Confusion and dismay took possession of the whole party.

"What is the meaning o' this, sirs?" said Robin Paterson, his voice half-choked with agitation; "what has my son done, that ye choose sic an untimeous hour to bring a warrant against him?"

"He has done, old boy, what will give him employment for seven years," said the gamekeeper, insolently. "Constables, do your duty."

"Sirs," said Robin, as they again attempted to lay hands upon his son, "I am sure he has been guilty o' nae crime—leave us noo, an' whatever be his offence, I, his faither, will be answerable for his forthcoming to the last penny in my possession."

"And I will be bail to the same amount, master constables," said the old skipper; "for, blow me, d'ye see, if there an't black work at the bottom o' this, and somebody shall hear about it, that's all."

Consciousness had returned to the fair bride. She threw her arms around Peter's neck—"They shall not—no, they shall not take you from me!" exclaimed she.[Pg 48]

"No, no, dear," returned he; "dinna put yersel' about."

The minister had come out of the manse, and offered to join the old men as security for Peter's appearance on the following day.

"To the devil with your bail!—you are no justices, master constables," replied the inexorable gamekeeper—"seize him instantly."

"Slave!" cried Peter, raising his hand and grasping the other by the throat.

"Help! help, in the king's name!" shouted the provincial executors of the law, each seizing him by the arm.

"Be quiet, Peter, my man," said his father, clapping his shoulder, and a tear stole down his cheek as he spoke, "dinna mak bad worse."

"A rescue, by Harry!—a rescue!" cried the old skipper.

"No, no," returned Peter—"no rescue; if it cam to that, I wad need nae assistance. Quit my arms, sirs, and I'll accompany ye in peace. Ann, love—fareweel the noo, an' Heaven bless you, dearest!—but dinna greet, hinny—dinna greet!" And he pressed his lips to hers. "Help her, faither—help her," added he; "see her hame, and try to comfort her."

The old man placed his arm tenderly round her waist—she clung closer to her bridegroom's neck; and, as they gently lifted up her hands, she uttered a heart-piercing, and it seemed, a heart-broken scream, that rang down the valley like the wail o' desolation. Her head dropped upon her bosom. Peter hastily raised her hand to his lips; then turning to the myrmidons of the law, said sternly—"I am ready, sirs; lead me where you will."

I might describe to you the fears, the anguish, and the agony of Peter's mother, as, from the door of Foxlaw, she beheld the bridal party return to the village. "Bless me, are they back already!—can anything hae happened the minister?" was her first exclamation; but she saw the[Pg 49] villagers collecting around them in silent crowds; she beheld the women raising their hands, as if stricken with dismay; the joy that had greeted them a few minutes before was dead, and the very children seemed to follow in sorrow. "Oh, bairn!" said she to the serving maid, who stood beside her, "saw ye e'er the like o' yon? Rin doun an' see what's happened; for my knees are sinking under me." The next moment she beheld her husband and Captain Graham supporting the unwedded bride in their arms. They approached not to Foxlaw, but turned to the direction of the Captain's cottage. A dimness came over the mother's eyes—for a moment they sought her son, but found him not. "Gracious Heaven!" she cried, wringing her hands, "what's this come owre us!" She rushed forward—the valley, the village, and the joyless bridal party, floated round before her—her heart was sick with agony, and she fell with her face upon the earth.

The next day found Peter in Greenlaw jail. He had not only been detected in the act of poaching; but a violent assault, as it was termed, against one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace, was proved against him; and, before his father or his friends could visit him, he was hurried to Leith, and placed on board a frigate about to sail from the Roads. He was made of sterner stuff than to sink beneath oppression; and, though his heart yearned for the mourning bride from whose arms he had been torn, and he found it hard to brook the imperious commands and even insolence of men "dressed in a little brief authority;" yet, as the awkwardness of a landsman began to wear away, and the tumult of his feelings to subside, his situation became less disagreeable; and, before twelve months had passed, Peter Paterson was a favourite with every one on board.

At the time we speak of, some French privateers had annoyed the fishing smacks employed in carrying salmon[Pg 50] from Scotland to London; and the frigate on board of which Peter had been sent, was cruising to and fro in quest of them. One beautiful summer evening, when the blue sea was smooth as a mirror, the winds seemed dead, and the very clouds slept motionless beneath the blue sky, the frigate lay becalmed in a sort of bay within two miles of the shore. Well was that shore known to Peter; he was familiar with the appearance of every rock—with the form of every hill—with the situation of every tree—with the name of every house and its inhabitants. It was the place of his birth; and, before him, the setting sun shed its evening rays upon his father's house, and upon the habitation of her whom he regarded as his wife. He leaned anxiously over the proud bulwarks of the vessel, gazing till his imprisoned soul seemed ready to burst from his body, and mingle with the objects it loved. The sun sank behind the hills—the big tears swelled in his eyes—indistinctness gathered over the shore—he wrung his hands in silence and in bitterness. He muttered in agony the name of his parents, and the name of her he loved. He felt himself a slave. He dashed his hand against his forehead—"O Heaven!" he exclaimed aloud, "thy curse upon mine enemy!"

"Paterson!" cried an officer, who had observed him, and overheard his exclamation; "are you mad? See him below," continued he, addressing another seaman; "the fellow appears deranged."

"I am not mad, your honour," returned Peter, though his look and his late manner almost belied his words; and, briefly telling his story, he begged permission to go on shore. The frigate, however, was considered as his prison, and his place of punishment; when sent on board, he had been described as "a dangerous character"—his recent bitter prayer or imprecation went far in confirmation of that description; and his earnest request was refused.

Darkness silently stretched its dull curtain over earth and[Pg 51] sea—still the wind slept as a cradled child, and the evening star, like a gem on the bosom of night, threw its pale light upon the land. Peter had again crept upon the deck; and, while the tears yet glistened in his eyes, he gazed eagerly towards the shore, and on the star of hope and of love. It seemed like a lamp from Heaven suspended over his father's house—the home of his heart, and of his childhood. He felt as though it at once invited him to the scene of his young affections, and lighted the way. For the first time, the gathering tears rolled down his cheeks. He bent his knees—he clasped his hands in silent prayer—one desperate resolution had taken possession of his soul; and the next moment he descended gently into the silent sea. He dived by the side of the vessel; and, ascending at the distance of about twenty yards, strained every nerve for the shore.

It was about day-dawn, when Robin Paterson and his wife were aroused by the loud barking of their farm-dog; but the sound suddenly ceased, as if the watch-dog were familiar with the intruder; and a gentle tapping was heard at the window of the room where they slept.

"Wha's there?" inquired Betty.

"A friend—an old friend," was replied in a low, and seemingly disguised voice.

But there was no disguising the voice of a lost son to a mother's ear.

"Robin! Robin!" she exclaimed—"it is him!—Oh, it is him!—Peter!—my bairn!"

In an instant, the door flew open, and Peter Paterson stood on his parents' hearth, with their arms around his neck, while their tears were mingled together.

After a brief space wasted in hurried exclamations, inquiries, and tears of joy and surprise—"Come, hinny," said the anxious mother, "let me get ye changed, for ye're wet through and through. Oh, come, my man, and we'll hear a' thing by and by—or ye'll get yer death o' cauld, for[Pg 52] ye're droukit into the very skin. But, preserve us, bairn! ye hae neither a hat to yer head, nor a coat to yer back! O Peter, hinny, what is't—what's the matter?—tell me what's the meaning o't."

"O mother, do not ask me!—I have but a few minutes to stop. Faither, ye can understand me—I maun go back to the ship again; if I stay, they will be after me."

"O Peter!—Peter, man!" exclaimed Robin, weeping as he spoke, and pressing his son's hand between his—"what's this o't!—yes, yes, yer faither understands ye! But is it no possible to hide?"

"No, no, faither!" replied he—"dinna think o't."

"O bairn!" cried Betty, "what is't ye mean? Wad ye leave yer mother again? Oh! if ye kenned what I've suffered for yer sake, ye wadna speak o't."

"O mother!" exclaimed Peter, dashing his hand before his face, "this is worse than death! But I must!—I must go back, or they would tear me from you. Yet, before I do go, I would see my poor Ann."

"Ye shall see her—see her presently," cried Betty; "and baith her and yer mother will gang doon on oor knees to ye, Peter, if ye'll promise no to leave us."

"Haste ye, then, Betty," said Robin, anxiously; "rin awa owre to Mr Graham's as quick as ye can; for, though ye no understand it, I see there's nae chance for poor Peter but to tak horse for it before the sun's up."

Hastily the weeping mother flew towards Mr Graham's. Robin, in spite of the remonstrances of his son, went out to saddle a horse on which he might fly. The sun had not yet risen when Peter beheld his mother, his betrothed bride, and her father, hurrying towards Foxlaw. He rushed out to meet them—to press the object of his love to his heart. They met—their arms were flung around each other.

A loud huzza burst from a rising ground between them and the beach. The old skipper started round. He beheld a[Pg 53] boat's crew of the frigate, with their pistols levelled towards himself, his unhappy daughter, and her hapless bridegroom!

"O Ann, woman!" exclaimed Peter, wildly, "this is terrible! it is mair than flesh and blood can stand!"

"Peter! O Peter!" cried the wretched girl, clinging around him.

The party from the frigate approached them. Even their hearts were touched.

"From my soul, I feel for you, Paterson," said the lieutenant commanding them; "and I am sorry to see these old people and that lovely girl in distress; but you know I must do my duty, lad."

"O sir! sir!" cried his mother, wringing her hands, and addressing the lieutenant, "if ye hae a drap o' compassion in yer heart, spare my puir bairn! O sir! I implore ye, as ye wad expect mercy here or hereafter, dinna tear him frae the door o' the mother that bore him."

"Good woman," replied the officer, "your son must go with us; but I shall do all that I can to render his punishment as light as possible."

Ann uttered a shriek of horror.

"Punishment!" exclaimed Betty, grasping the arm of the lieutenant—"O, sir, what do ye mean by punishment? Surely, though your heart was harder than a nether mill-stane, ye couldna be sae cruel as to hurt my bairn for comin to see his ain mother?"

"Sir," said Robin, "my son never intended to rin awa frae your ship. He told me he was gaun to return immediately—I assure ye o' that. But, sir, if ye could only leave him, and if siller can do anything in the case, ye shall hae the savings o' thirty years, an' a faither's blessing into the bargain."

"Oh, ay, sir!" cried his mother; "ye shall hae the last penny we hae i' the world—ye shall hae the very stock of the farm, if ye'll leave my bairn!"[Pg 54]

The officer shook his head. The sailors attempted to pinion Peter's arms.

"'Vast there, shipmates! 'vast!" said Peter, sorrowfully; "there is no need for that; had I intended to run for it, you would not have found me here. Ann, love"——he added—his heart was too full for words—he groaned—he pressed his teeth upon his lip—he wrung her hand. He grasped the hands of his parents and of Mr Graham—he burst into tears, and in bitterness exclaimed, "Farewell!" I will not describe the painful scene, nor paint the silent agony of the father, the heart-rending lamentations of the bereaved mother, nor the tears and anguish of the miserable maiden who refused to be comforted.

Peter was taken to the boat, and conveyed again to the frigate. His officer sat in judgment upon his offence, and Peter stood as a culprit before them. He begged to be heard in his defence, and his prayer was granted.

"I know, your honours," said Peter, "that I have been guilty of a breach of discipline; but I deny that I had any intention of running from the service. Who amongst you, that has a heart to feel, would not, under the same circumstances, have acted as I did? Who that has been torn from a faither's hearth, would not brave danger, or death itself, again to take a faither by the hand, or to fling his arms around a mother's neck? Or who that has plighted his heart and his troth to one that is dearer than life, would not risk life for her sake? Gentlemen, it becomes not man to punish an act which Heaven has not registered as a crime. You may flog, torture, and degrade me—I do not supplicate for mercy—but will degradation prompt me to serve my king more faithfully? I know you must do your duty, but I know also you will do it as British officers—as men who have hearts to feel."

During this address, Peter had laid aside his wonted provincial accent. There was an evident leaning amongst the[Pg 55] officers in his favour, and the punishment they awarded him was a few days' confinement.

It was during the second war between Britain and the United States. The frigate was ordered to the coast of Newfoundland. She had cruised upon the station about three months; and, during that time, as the seamen said—"not a lubber of the enemy had dared to show his face—there was no life going at all;" and they were becoming impatient for a friendly set-to with their brother Jonathan. It was Peter's watch at the mast-head. "A sail!—a Yankee!" shouted Peter. A sort of wild hurra burst from his comrades on the deck. An officer hastily ascended the rigging to ascertain the fact. "All's right," he cried—"a sixty-gun ship, at least."

"Clear the deck, my boys," cried the commander; "get the guns in order—active—be steady, and down upon her."

Within ten minutes, all was in readiness for action.

"Then down on the deck, my lads," cried the captain; "not a word amongst you—give them a British welcome."

The brave fellows silently knelt by the guns, glowing with impatience for the command to be given to open their fire upon the enemy. The Americans seemed nothing loath to meet them half-way. Like winged engines of death rushing to shower destruction on each other, the proud vessels came within gunshot. The American opened the first fire upon the frigate. Several shot had passed over her, and some of the crew were already wounded. Still no word escaped from the lips of the British commander. At length he spoke a word in the ear of the man at the helm, and the next moment the frigate was brought across the bow of the enemy. "Now, my lads," cried the captain, "now give them it." An earthquake seemed to burst at his words—the American was raked fore and aft, and the dead and[Pg 56] dying, and limbs of the wounded, strewed her deck. The enemy quickly brought their vessel round—then followed the random gun, and anon the heavy broadsides were poured into each other. For an hour the action had continued, but victory or death seemed the determination of both parties. Both ships were crippled, and had become almost unmanageable, and in each, equal courage and seamanship were displayed. It was drawing towards nightfall, they became entangled, and the word "to board!" was given by the commander of the frigate. Peter Paterson was the first man who, cutlass in hand, sprang upon the deck of the American. He seemed to possess a lion's strength, and more than a lion's ferocity. In a few minutes, four of the enemy had sunk beneath his weapon. "On, my hearties!—follow Paterson!" cried an officer; "Peter's a hero!" Fifty Englishmen were engaged hand to hand with the crew of the American; and for a time they gained ground; but they were opposed with a determination equal to their own, and, overpowered by a superiority of numbers, they were driven back and compelled to leap again into the frigate. At the moment his comrades were repulsed, Peter was engaged with the first lieutenant of the American—"Stop a minute!" shouted Peter, as he beheld them driven back; "keep your ground till I finish this fellow!" His request was made in vain, and he was left alone on the enemy's deck; but Peter could turn his back upon no man. "It lies between you and me now, friend," said he to his antagonist. He had shivered the sword of the lieutenant by the hilt, when a Yankee seaman, armed with a crowbar, felled Peter to the deck.

Darkness came on, and the vessels separated. The Americans were flinging their dead into the sea—they lifted the body of Peter. His hands moved—the supposed dead man groaned. They again placed him on the deck. He at length looked round in bewilderment. He raised himself[Pg 57] on his side. "I say, neighbours," said he to the group around him, "is this our ship or yours?" The Americans made merry at Peter's question. "Well," continued he, "if it be yours, I can only tell you it was foul play that did it. It was a low, cowardly action, to fell a man behind his back; but come face to face, and twa at a time if ye like, and I'll clear the decks o' the whole ship's crew o' you."

"You are a noble fellow," said the lieutenant whom he had encountered, "and if you will join our service, I guess your merit shan't be long without promotion."

"What!" cried Peter, "raise my right hand against my ain country! Gude gracious, sir! I wud sooner eat it as my next meal!"

In a few weeks the vessel put into Boston for repairs; and, on her arrival, it was ascertained that peace had been concluded between the two countries. Peter found himself once more at liberty; but with liberty he found himself in a strange land, without a sixpence in his pocket. This was no enviable situation to be placed in, even in America, renowned as it is as the paradise of the unfortunate; and he was standing, on the second morning after his being put on shore, counting the picturesque islands which stud Boston harbour, for his breakfast, poor fellow, when a person accosted him—"Well, my lad, how is the new world using you?" Peter started round—it was his old adversary the lieutenant.

"A weel-filled pocket, sir," returned Peter, "will mak either the new warld or the auld use you weel; and without that, I reckon your usage in either the ane or the ither wad be naething to mak a sang about."

The lieutenant pulled out his purse—"I am not rich, Paterson," said he; "but, perhaps, I can assist a brave man in need." Peter was prevailed upon to accept a few dollars. He knew that to return to Berwickshire was again to throw himself into the power of his persecutor, and he communed with himself what to do. He could plough—he could[Pg 58] manage a farm—he was master of all field-work; and, within a week, he engaged himself as a farm-servant to a proprietor in the neighbourhood of Charleston. He had small reason, however, to be in love with his new employment. Peter was proud and high-minded, (in the English, not the American acceptation of the word,) and he found his master an imperious, avaricious, republican tyrant. The man's conduct ill-accorded with his professions of universal liberty. His wish seemed to be, to level all down to his own standard, that he might the more easily trample on all beneath him. His incessant cry, from the rising of the sun until its setting, was, "Work! work!" and with an oath he again called upon his servants to "work!" He treated them as beasts of burden. "Work! hang ye, work!" and a few oaths, seemed to be the principal words in the man's vocabulary. Peter had not been overwrought in the frigate—he had been his own master at Foxlaw—and, when doing his utmost, he hated to hear those words everlastingly rung in his ear. But he had another cause for abhorring his employment; his master had a number of slaves, on whom he wreaked the full measure of his cruelty. There was one, an old man, in particular, on whom he almost every day gratified his savageness. Peter had beheld the brutal treatment of the old negro till he could stand it no longer; and one day, when he was vainly imploring the man who called himself the owner of his flesh for mercy, Peter rushed forward, he seized the savage by the breast, and exclaimed—"Confound ye, sir, if I see ye strike that poor auld black creature again, I'll cleave ye to the chin."

The slave-owner trembled with rage. "What!" said he—"it's a fine thing, indeed, if we've wollopped the English for liberty, and after all, a man an't to have the liberty of wollopping his own neeger!"

He drew out his purse, and flung Peter's wages contemptuously on the ground. Peter, stooping, placed the money[Pg 59] in his pocket, and, turning towards Charleston, proceeded along the bridge to Boston. He had seen enough of tilling another man's fields in America, and resolved to try his fortune in some other way, but was at a loss how to begin. I have already told you how Peter's mother praised his delivery in his debate with the schoolmaster; and Peter himself thought that he could deliver a passage from Shakspeare in a manner that would make the fortune of any hero of the sock and buskin; and he was passing along the Mall, counting the number of trees on every row, much in the same manner, and for the same reason, as he had formerly counted the islands in the harbour, when the thought struck him that the Americans were fond of theatricals; and he resolved to try the stage. He called at the lodgings of the manager in Franklin Place. He gave a specimen of his abilities; and, at a salary of eighteen dollars a-week, Peter Paterson was engaged as leader of the "heavy business" of the Boston corps dramatique. The tidings would have killed his mother. Lear was chosen as the part in which he was to make his first appearance. The curtain was drawn up. "Peter, what would your mother say?" whispered his conscience, as he looked in the glass, just as the bell rung and the prompter called him; and what, indeed, would Betty Paterson have said to have seen her own son Peter, with a red cloak, a painted face, a grey wig, and a white beard falling on his breast! Lear—Peter—entered. He looked above, below, and around him. The audience clapped their hands, shouted, and clapped their hands again. It was to cheer the new performer. Peter thought they would bring down the theatre. The lights dazzled his eyes. The gallery began to swim—the pit moved—the boxes appeared to wave backward and forward. Peter became pale through the very rouge that bedaubed his face, and sweat, cold as icicles, rained down his temples. The shouting and the clapping of hands was resumed—he felt a trembling about his limbs—he[Pg 60] endeavoured to look upon the audience—he could discern only a confused mass. The noise again ceased.

"Attend——France——Burgundy——hem!—--Gloster!" faltered out poor Peter. The laughter became louder than the clapping of hands had been before. The manager led Peter off the stage, paid him the half of his week's salary, and wished him good-by. It is unnecessary to tell you how Peter, after this disappointment, laid out eight dollars in the purchase of a pack, and how, as pedlar, he travelled for two years among the Indians and back-settlers of Canada, and how he made money in his new calling. He had written to his parents and to Ann Graham; but, in his unsettled way of life, it is no wonder that he had not received an answer. He had written again to say, that, in the course of four months, he would have to be in New York in the way of business—for Peter's pride would not permit him to acknowledge that he carried a pack—and if they addressed their letters to him at the Post-office there, he would receive them. He had been some weeks in New York, and called every day, with an anxious heart, at the Post-office. But his time was not lost; he had obtained many rare and valuable skins from the Indians, and, with his shop upon his back, he was doing more business than the most fashionable store-keeper in the Broadway. At length, a letter arrived. Peter hastily opened the seal, which bore the impress of his mother's thimble, and read:—"My dear bairn,—This comes to inform ye that baith your faither and me are weel—thanks to the Giver o' a' good—and hoping to find ye the same. O Peter, hinny, could ye only come hame—did you only ken what sleepless nights I spend on your account, ye wad leave America as soon as ye get my letter. I wonder that ye no ken that Ann, poor woman, an' her faither an her mother, an' the family, a' gaed to about America mair than a year and a half syne, and I'm surprised ye haena seen them."[Pg 61]

"Ann in America!" cried Peter. He was unable to read the remainder of his mother's letter. He again flung his pack upon his shoulder, but not so much to barter and to sell, as to seek his betrothed bride. He visited almost every city in the States, and in the provinces of British America. He advertised for her in more than fifty newspapers; but his search was fruitless—it was "Love's labour lost." Yet, during his search, the world prospered with Peter. His pack had made him rich. He opened a store in New York. He became also a shareholder in canals, and a proprietor of steam-boats; in short he was looked upon as one of the most prosperous men in the city. But his heart yearned for his native land; and Peter Paterson, Esq., turned his property into cash, and embarked for Liverpool.

Ten long years had passed since the eyes of Betty Paterson had looked upon her son; and she was busied, on a winter day, feeding her poultry in the barn-yard, when she observed a post-chaise drive through the village, and begin to ascend the hill towards Foxlaw.

"Preserve us, Robin!" she cried, as she bustled into the house, "there's a coach comin' here—what can folk in a coach want wi' the like o' us? Haud awa out an' see what they want, till I fling on a clean mutch an' an apron, an' mak mysel wiselike."

"I watna wha it can be," said Robin, as he rose and went towards the door.

The chaise drew up—a tall genteel-looking man alighted from it—at the first glance he seemed nearly forty years of age, but he was much younger. As he approached Robin started back—his heart sprang to his throat—his tongue faltered.

"Pe—Pe—Peter!" he exclaimed. The stranger leaped forward, and fell upon the old man's neck.

Betty heard the word Peter!—the clean cap fell from her[Pg 62] hand, she uttered a scream of joy, and rushed to the door, her grey hairs falling over her face; and the next moment her arms encircled her son.

I need not tell you of the thousand anxious questions of the fond mother, and how she wept as he hinted at the misfortunes he had encountered, and smiled, and wept, and grasped his hand again, as he dwelt upon his prosperity.

"Did I no aye say," exclaimed she, "that I would live to see my Peter a gentleman?"

"Yet, mother," said Peter, "riches cannot bring happiness—at least not to me, while I can hear nothing of poor Ann. Can no one tell to what part of America her father went?—for I have sought them everywhere."

"Oh, forgie me, hinny," cried Betty, bitterly; "it was a mistake o' yer mother's a'thegither. I understand, now, it wasna America, they gaed to; but it was Jamaica, or some ca, and we hear they're back again."

"Not America," said Peter: "and back again!—then, where—where shall I find her?"

"When we wrote to you, that, after leaving here, they had gaen to America," said Robin, "it was understood they had gaen there—at ony rate, they went abroad someway—and we never heard, till the other week, that they were back to this country, and are now about Liverpool, where I'm very sorry to hear they are very ill off; for the warld, they say, has gaen a' wrang wi' the auld man."

This was the only information Peter could obtain. They were bitter tidings; but they brought hope with them.

"Ye were saying that ye was in Liverpool the other day," added his mother; "I wonder ye didna see some o' them!"

Peter's spirit was sad, yet he almost smiled at the simplicity of his parent; and he resolved to set out in quest of his betrothed on the following day.

Leaving Foxlaw, we shall introduce the reader to Sparling Street, in Liverpool. Amongst the miserable cellars[Pg 63] where the poor are crowded together, and where they are almost without light and without air, one near the foot of the street was distinguished by its outward cleanliness; and in the window was a ticket with the words—"A Girl's School kept here, by A. Graham." Over this humble cellar was a boarding-house, from which, ever and anon, the loud laugh of jolly seamen rang boisterous as on their own element. By a feeble fire in the comfortless cellar, sat an emaciated, and apparently dying man; near him sat his wife, engaged in making such articles of apparel as the slop-dealers send to the West Indies, and near the window was a pale but beautiful young woman, instructing a few children in needle-work and the rudiments of education. The children being dismissed, she began to assist her mother; and, addressing her father, said—

"Come, cheer up, dear father—do not give way to despondency—we shall see better times. Come, smile now, and I will sing your favourite song."

"Heaven bless thee, my own sweet child!" said the old man, while the tears trickled down his cheeks. "Thou wilt sing to cheer me, wilt thou?—bless thee!—bless thee! It is enough that, in my old age, I eat thy bread, my child!—sing not!—sing not!—there is no music now for thy father's heart."

"Oh, speak not—think not thus," she cried, tenderly; "you make me sad, too."

"I would not make thee sad, love," returned he, "but it is hard—it is very hard—that, after cruising till I had made a fortune, as I may say, and after being anchored in safety, to be tempted to make another voyage, where my all was wrecked—and not only all wrecked, but my little ones too—thy brothers and thy sisters, Ann—to see them struck down one after another, and I hardly left wherewith to bury them—it is hard to bear, child!—and, worse than all, to be knocked up like a useless hulk, and see thee and thy mother[Pg 64] toiling and killing themselves for me—it is more than a father's heart can stand, Ann."

"Nay, repine not, father," said she: "He who tempereth the wind to the shorn lamb, will not permit adversity to press on us more hardly than he gives us strength to endure it. Though we suffer poverty, our exertions keep us above want."

The old woman turned aside her head and wept.

"True, dear," added he, "thy exertions keep us from charity; but those exertions, my child, will not long be able to make—I see it—I feel it? And, oh, Ann, shall I see thee and thy mother inmates of a workhouse—shall I hear men call thy father, Bill Graham, the old pauper?"

The sweat broke upon the old man's brow from his excitement; his daughter strove to soothe him, and, with an assumed playfulness, commenced singing Skinner's beautiful old man's song, beginning—

"Oh, why should old age so much wound us!"

Now, Peter Paterson had been several days in Liverpool anxiously inquiring for Captain Graham, but without obtaining any information of him or of his daughter, or where they dwelt. Again and again he had wandered along the docks; and he was disconsolately passing up Sparling Street, when the loud revelry of the seamen in the boarding-house attracted his attention. It reminded him of old associations; he paused for a moment, and glanced upon the house and, as the pealing laughter ceased, a low, sweet voice, pouring forth a simple Scottish air, reached his ear. Peter now stood still. He listened—"That voice!" he exclaimed audibly, and he shook as he spoke. He looked down towards the cellar—the ticket in the window caught his eye. He read the words, "A Girl's School kept here, by A. Graham." "I have found her!" he cried, clasping his hands together. He rushed down the few steps, he stood in the midst of them—"I have found her!" he repeated, as he entered. His[Pg 65] voice fell like a sunbeam on the cheerless heart of the fair vocalist. "Peter!—My own"——she exclaimed, starting to her feet. She could not utter more; she would have fallen to the ground, but Peter caught her in his arms.

I need not describe the scene that followed: that night they left the hovel which had served as a grave for their misfortunes. Within a week they had arrived at Foxlaw, and within a week old and young in the village danced at a joyful wedding. I may only add, that, a few weeks after his marriage, Peter read in the papers an advertisement, headed—"Upset Price Greatly Reduced.—Desirable Property in the neighbourhood of Foxlaw, &c." It was the very farm now offered for sale of which Peter was to have become a tenant some twelve years before, and was the remnant of the estates of the hopeful Laird Horslie; and Peter became the purchaser. The old skipper regained his wonted health and cheerfulness; and Betty Paterson lived to tell her grandchildren, "she aye said their faither wad be a gentleman, and her words cam true." Even the old schoolmaster, who had styled him "Ne'er-do-weel Peter," said, he "had aye predicted o' Mr Paterson, even when a callant, that he would turn out an extraordinary man."


[Pg 66]

THE HEROINE.

A LEGEND OF THE CANONGATE.

After it became known that the wily Sir Robert Carey had hurried away from the deathbed of Queen Elizabeth, to announce to the delighted monarch of Scotland his succession to the crown of England, a great many English noblemen and gentlemen came north on much the same errand that brings so many of them at this day—viz., to hunt; the game, in the one case, being place and favour, and in the other, blackcock and grouse. Among the rest, was one Sir Willoughby Somerset, of Somerset-Hall, in Devonshire, a knight of gay and chivalric manners, excellently set off by an exterior on which nature and art had expended their best favours, but exhibiting, at same time, in his total want of true honour and mental acquirements, that tendency to a fair distribution, which nature, in all her departments, delights to display—suggesting, as it did, to an ancient philosopher, that the pulchrum and the utile are dealt out in equal portions under a whimsical law against their union in one person.

Having arrived, with his gay suit of servants and splendid equipage, at the palace of Holyrood, Sir Willoughby was informed that there were no apartments close to the palace which could be given to him for his accommodation, in consequence of the great influx of noble visiters who had come from all parts of Scotland and England to testify their allegiance, and express their satisfaction, whether real or assumed, on the occasion of King James' succession. Sir Willoughby, therefore, took up his abode in a house in the Canongate, which was pulled down more than a hundred[Pg 67] years ago—at that time known by the name of the House of Gordon, in consequence, it is supposed, of having at one time been occupied by the ducal family of that name. It was situated on the south side of the street, and nearly opposite to the close called Big Loch-end Close, which possessed at that time a very different appearance from what it does at present; for the double row of low Flemish-looking huts which lined the narrow entry, have given place to modern buildings, which do not look half so well as their more humble predecessors.

Now, in one of these little huts there lived, at that time—unconscious, doubtless, that their names would thus become of historical interest centuries after they were gathered to their fathers—a man called Adam Hunter, and his wife, Janet, both of some importance in the small sphere of their own little gossiping world; but, if these humble individuals had been all that their lowly mansion contained, the chronicler would scarcely have stooped to notice either it or its inhabitants. There was a third inmate in that house—an orphan girl, called Margaret Williamson—a young, slender, azure-eyed creature, about seventeen years of age, of bewitching beauty, and of a simplicity, kindness, and meekness of disposition, that endeared her to thousands. Producing that kind of interest and sensation in her own limited circle, which is so often found to be the effect of the mysterious power of beauty, though allied to poverty, which, indeed, sometimes enhances it, Margaret seemed as unconscious of the magic influence of her charms, as she was of the singular fate that awaited her. She had been heard of where she was not seen; and, innocent and harmless as she was, she had not been passed unheeded by the "wise women" of her day, who, in spite of fire and King James' wrath, provided her, according to their love or their spite, with a prison or a palace, as her lot upon earth. As already hinted, Margaret was represented as being an orphan,[Pg 68] brought up by the gratuitous kindness of Adam Hunter and his wife, though there were not wanting some who thought that her parentage was not of the equivocal kind that was represented.

Scotland was not, at that time, so far behind in the love and practice of gossiping, as that there should be any want of the usual kind and number of remarks on the new-comers to the house of Gordon; and the family of Adam Hunter were not behind their neighbours in their curiosity.

"He's a braw knight that wha has come to the House o' Gordon," said Janet Hunter, one night when they were sitting round the fire.

"Ken ye wha, or what, or whence he is," inquired Adam, "atour the mere title an' form o' his knighthood?"

"I ken naething aboot him," replied Janet, "save that his name is Sir Willoughby Somerset, and that he has a great number o' servitors, wham he treats like princes. They say he is gallant and weel-favoured, and Elspet Craig, the wise woman o' the Watergate, says, in her fashion o' speech, that he is a rock whereon the happiness, and peace o' mind, and honour o' mony a bonny maiden may perish, like the silly boats that trust to the smiles o' an autumn day. But, if I'm no cheated, Peggy Williamson can tell mair aboot the knight than a' the 'wise women' frae the Watergate to St. Mary's."

"An' if she can," said Adam, "it may be waur for her than if she were as deep learned as Elspet Craig in the mysteries o' that art, whereby she works sae meikle mischief to her faes, and may, peradventure, bring upon her head the vengeance o' the law. I houp better things o' Peggy."

"I ken naething aboot the Knight o' the White Feather," said Margaret, with a deep sigh; "and wherefore should I?—he's far abune my degree."[Pg 69]

"But ye ken, at least," rejoined Adam, "that he wears a white feather, my bonny bird—and feathered creatures are flichtie, especially when they're far frae their ain countrie. Even our ain robin, wha condescends to come and eat our crumbs, when the snaw is on the hill, leaves us in summer; and, mair than a' that, he's a bird o' prey, and doesna hesitate, when he has a guid opportunity, to soil his bonny red breast wi' the blood o' his companions."

It was apparent that both Adam Hunter and Janet were suspicious of Margaret's limited knowledge of the knight, and they had good reason to be so; for Janet had been told that, one night, when Margaret had said she was going to meet a person of the name of Simon Frazer—a tradesman who had been making honourable proposals to her, along with many others who were proud to be called her suitors—she had been seen walking with a gentleman wrapped up in a Spanish cloak, supposed to be Sir Willoughby, in the glen of St Arthur's Seat, called the Hunter's Bog. On another occasion, she had been followed by Simon Frazer to a trysting place, known by the name of the Hunter's Rest—a large boulder of basalt lying on the side of the bog, and remarkable to geologists by its unaccountable position. On this stone Margaret had sat till the moon had concealed her horns behind the top of St Arthur's, and the glen had gradually become enveloped in the shade of the hill. Simon Frazer took advantage of the gloom, and concealed himself near to the spot where Margaret sat; and, amidst the silence which reigned in this secluded place, he could distinctly hear the sighs of the maiden, as the hope of seeing the person she had come to meet became fainter and fainter.

"Wae's my puir, deluded heart!" she said, in a desponding and tremulous voice; "what is it that drives me, like a charmed bird or a dementit thing, into the power o' this braw knight, in spite o' the warnings o' Elspet Craig, the[Pg 70] admonition o' Adam Hunter, and, what's abune a', the fearsome visions o' my ain wild dreams? Can it be that I, wha hae seen, and may still see, sae mony bended knees o' lovers o' my ain country supplicating my favours as if their condition here and in anither warld depended on a blink o' these worthless een, sit here, even noo, at the Hunter's Rest, a mile frae my ain hame, and when naething but spirits are in the glen, to meet a lover frae a strange land, wha speaks a strange language, and mak's love in a strange fashion? But it is even sae. My heart is nae langer my ain. He has ta'en it into his ain keeping, and he may, in his ain pleasure, as easily break it as he may crush the bonny blue bells that flower there i' the glen."

At the termination of Margaret's simple soliloquy, the sound of footsteps was heard, and there soon followed the greeting of lovers. Margaret's spirits soon revived, and, having taken Sir Willoughby's arm, she said, playfully, as she looked up into his face—"The faithless moon has been truer this nicht than ye hae been; for she left the tap o' the hill half an hour syne, and ye are only here noo."

"Upbraid me not, my fair Margaret," answered Sir Willoughby; "for I was scared at the Friar's Path by some person who seemed inclined to follow me, and I was obliged to change my road; but thou knowest that love is fed by hindrances, and its course is none of the straightest."

"I didna think," answered the simple maiden, "that true love stood in need o' onything else in this warld, than the company and kindness o' the twa lovers to ane anither."

"By my feather, Margaret, that is a true maiden's speech! But I do not think that St Arthur, who must surely be the lover's saint, will thank us for an argument, instead of a love-token, on such a beautiful night as this. Observe these gleams of Cynthian glory, falling like streaks of silver[Pg 71] on the tops of the crags, investing the darkness of this glen with a mystery in which love delights, and thou wilt forget thy argument, in the sweets of our accustomed dalliance."

"That is a licht aith, Sir Willoughby, that ye hae sworn," answered the maiden; "but every land, as the sang says, has its ain laugh, and it may also hae its ain aith; and I may weel forgie ye that, for the bonny words ye hae now spoken. Foreign lands hae finer words than puir Scotland; but dinna think that I canna enjoy the beauty o' these silvery rocks and that mirky glen, because my silly heart can find nae utterance to its feelings, but by its ain unmeaning thrabs."

"And that is nature's best and most beautiful language, my sweet bird," said Sir Willoughby, kissing the yielding maiden; "nor would I give one throb of thy fair bosom for all the eloquence of poetry."

Holding such conversation, the lovers passed deeper into the shades of the hill, and disappeared; but the death-like silence of the place discovered, to the disappointed Simon Frazer, many sighs and protestations which otherwise would have been sacred to the happy pair.

Well, many such meetings had Sir Willoughby and Margaret. Their walks became more frequent, and of longer duration; and it was often a late hour before Margaret returned to her home. It could not be that such a change in the habits of the girl could escape the keen eye of public curiosity, and far less the suspicious guardianship of Adam Hunter. Wide spread, and generally known, as was the beauty of the maiden, so, in proportion, was the voice of scandal heard over the town, whispering the strange tidings, that Peggy Williamson had been seduced by the great knight who lived in the House of Gordon.

The circumstance, indeed, very soon became apparent, from the appearance of the unhappy girl, who could no[Pg 72] longer conceal her condition. She was, in consequence, sorely beset by Adam Hunter, and interrogated whether she had received any promise of marriage, or any pledge whereon she could found any expectation or hope that the knight's intentions towards her were of an honourable nature. On this subject, no satisfaction could be got from Margaret, who persisted in a dogged silence, whenever any question was put to her, tending to implicate, in any way, the man who, to all appearance, had ruined her. But chance brought to light what Margaret had been so anxious to conceal; for one evening, Janet Hunter discovered in Margaret's sleeping apartment a small scented paper, curiously folded up, which she instantly carried to her husband. Adam took the paper to a learned clerk, in Blackfriars' Hospital—(for few persons, at that day, could either write, or read writing)—who read it to him; and he was surprised to find that it contained a promise, on the faith of a knight, that Sir Willoughby Somerset would make, when time and circumstances afforded opportunity, Margaret Williamson his wedded wife. The paper was again returned to the place from which it was taken.

This paper, combined with Margaret's condition, having satisfied Adam Hunter of the truth of the general report and his own suspicions, he lost no time in waiting upon the knight. Being a man of hasty and even furious temper, he taxed Sir Willoughby, in unmeasured terms, with the seduction of his ward, and demanded, with a stern determination, satisfaction to the maiden and to himself. Touched to the quick, and wounded in his pride by the pertinacious manner of Adam Hunter, Sir Willoughby lost in turn his temper, and seizing a baton which lay near him, he struck the choleric Scot a heavy blow on the head, and, with the aid of his servants, kicked him out of the house. One of Sir Willoughby's servants, who aided in this ejection and outrage, was Richard Foster; the person who, it[Pg 73] was supposed, first procured a meeting between his master and Margaret. He was possessed of his master's secrets, in this and many other dishonourable amours; and, though he now, by his master's orders, assisted in the expulsion of Adam Hunter, he hated him in his heart, in consequence of a blow which he had some time before received from him, on which occasion he had threatened to report his master's practices to Sir Robert Carey, who would not have failed to communicate them to King James, whereby Sir Willoughby's status at Court would have been lost, and his ruin accomplished. The knight wished, therefore, to get quit of Richard; but to part with him living was to part with his secrets; and he had accordingly made up his mind to get him disposed of in such a manner as that he could tell no tales. An opportunity for this occurred sooner than might have been expected.

Stung with an ungovernable rage, Adam Hunter, on passing the threshold of the house of Gordon, threw himself on his knees, and vowed to Almighty God that he would take the first opportunity that fortune afforded him of depriving his enemy of life. This dreadful purpose, thus definitively and impiously settled, calmed Adam Hunter's rage; for he felt, as if by anticipation, that he was revenged. He walked deliberately home, and without hinting anything of his deadly intention to his wife, sent for Simon Frazer, Margaret's rejected suitor, communicated to him his design, and requested his co-operation. Frazer entered into the scheme with all the spirit of his clan, and all the rage of a disappointed lover towards his successful rival. They resolved to fix the manner of accomplishing their purpose that evening, after Janet and Margaret had retired to rest.

In the evening, when Adam Hunter and Simon Frazer met, Margaret had just retired to bed, but not to sleep. Her mind was occupied with the thoughts of her situation. She had now become suspicious of Sir Willoughby's intentions.[Pg 74] In her late interviews with him, he had been distant and shy; and he had even refused, on one occasion, to meet her, alleging, as an excuse, that he was engaged to go to an evening entertainment, to which it was ascertained he never went. He had, besides, endeavoured to get back from her the letter, which, in an unguarded moment, when intoxicated with love and wine, he had given to her. All these circumstances satisfied the unhappy maiden that she was about to become, or rather had already become, the dupe of a heartless villain. She now considered herself standing on the very verge of ruin; about to become, as Elspet Craig had foreboded, the victim of a passion insidiously introduced into her young heart; and left to the scorn of an unfeeling world, or the unavailing pity of a conceited and unfruitful philanthropy. These reflections were passing through her mind, when she heard Simon Frazer come into the house; for her bed was so situated that she could hear everything that occurred in the adjoining apartment. She soon ascertained the object of this late meeting of the two friends; and with feelings that shook her whole frame, she heard it fixed that, on the following evening, when Sir Willoughby was expected to go to an evening entertainment at the palace, Adam Hunter should gain the staircase window of Widow Hutchison, fire upon his enemy, and, upon seeing him fall, make his escape, along with his friend, by a back passage that led to the North Back of the Canongate. This resolved upon, the two friends parted.

The agitation which the knowledge of this fierce and bloody purpose produced in the mind of Margaret, was proportioned to the love which she still bore to her seducer, and to the gentle character of the maiden, who shrunk from the very thought of violence. Her nerves had, moreover, been severely affected by the train of sorrowful thoughts which, at the moment when she heard the fatal resolution, were passing through her mind. But a new feeling soon[Pg 75] arose. She was now called upon to act, and the urgency of the case requiring the most prompt communication to Sir Willoughby, assuaged, in some degree, her nervous excitement, by forcing her ideas into a train calculated to the contrivance of some method of meeting him in the morning.

At daybreak, Margaret rose from her sleepless pillow, wrapt herself up in her plaid, and went and secreted herself behind a large tree, which stood in the garden at the back of the House of Gordon, from which she could observe the bedroom window of Sir Willoughby. It was a cold raw morning; the rain was pouring in torrents, and bursts of distant thunder shook the heavens. In this situation, Margaret sat for two hours, wet, wearied, and disconsolate. Her attention was, in some degree, arrested by a new equipage that stood in the court-yard, apparently newly arrived from a distance; and she concluded that Sir Willoughby had visitors—a prediction which she had good reason to verify. Her eye sought continually the casement of the knight's sleeping apartment, which was at last opened, and to her surprise and mortification, she saw standing behind the dressing-glass, the form of a gay and fashionable lady, with Sir Willoughby standing behind her—his head leaning on her left shoulder, and his right hand patting, with playful fondness, her cheek, and arranging her ringlets with the sportive gaiety and confidence of a professed libertine.

Overcome by this apparition, which so completely justified Margaret's suspicions of the character of her lover, and wearied and wasted as she was by the scene of the previous night, the fevered vigil which succeeded, and the cold and wet position she had so long occupied on this morning, she became faint; and, being unable longer to stand, leant herself, in a stooping posture, against the stem of the tree under which she stood. Sir Willoughby now entered the garden; he had observed her from the window, and came with marked displeasure in his countenance.[Pg 76]

"Why this early visit, young maiden?" he said, with a querulous tone of voice, and without making any effort to assist her to rise.

"I dinna come here this morning, Sir Willoughby Somerset," replied Margaret, with the warmth of offended pride, and standing up, nerved by her feelings, which were roused as far as the gentleness of her nature permitted—"I dinna come here this morning on my ain account, though maybe I hae as meikle reason to do that as the braw leddie wha sits, even noo, in your sleepin chamber, and whose braw hair ye were pleased, in a fashion of merriment, to put in disorder. Oh, that it had pleased heaven that ye had deranged nae mair o' me than my worthless locks, I might this morning hae been the blithe, thochtless, and innocent Peggy Williamson, that I was when my stray wits left me to mysel' at the Hunter's Rest! Na, Sir Willoughby, I dinna come to tell ye o' your broken troth, and my lost love, and the ruin o' a puir lassie, wha wad gladly hae laid down her worthless life to save yours. These things—though, by our memories, whilk are but as the quicksand to the finger-marks of the drowning sailor, they may ance be forgotten—are recorded, doubtless, whar' they shall remain, ay, as the graving on adamant. Yet, though these things, in this world at least, concern only me, wha am, doubtless, o' sma concernment to ony living mortal; and though they may cost me my life, may be o' sma avail, they are o' less importance to me at this time than what I cam' to tell ye, being naething less than how to save your ain. Adam Hunter has resolved to slay ye this night, as ye gang to Holyrood. Tak' anither road than the Canongate; or, what is better, stay at hame, and save a life that is dearer to Peggy Williamson than her ain.—Fareweel, fareweel!" And before Sir Willoughby could reply, she had left him, waving her hand to him as she went. But, on looking back, as she opened the wicket, she saw the same[Pg 77] lady—whom she afterwards ascertained to be lady Arabella Winford, a person of bad repute, with whom Sir Willoughby had resided for some time on the continent—enter the garden, and greet him in a manner very different from the modest custom of Scotland at that day.

After the departure of Margaret, Sir Willoughby, instead of being in any degree affected by gratitude for the preservation of his life, or by compassion for the kind maiden who had been instrumental in doing him that service, projected, from her information, a scheme marked by cowardice and cruelty, whereby he might get rid of his servant Richard Forster, and put an end to him and the secrets with which he had entrusted him, at the same moment. He resolved, and true to the character he bore—a combination of cruelty and frivolity—he resolved, amidst the blandishments of meretricious affection, and the imbecile badinage and persiflage of a strumpet's conversation, to send Richard down the Canongate in the evening, wrapped up in his cloak, and wearing his hat and white plume, by which he had become so remarkable. The project was executed as it was planned; and a deed was done with which Edinburgh, and indeed Scotland, rang for many a day. Richard Forster, wearing the cloak and plumed hat of his master, was shot dead in the Canongate, opposite the house of the widow Hutchison, by the unerring hand of Adam Hunter, who, seeing his supposed victim fall, flew in the direction of the Calton Hill, leaving the gun, with which he had done the deed, lying in a hedge, which at that time skirted a part of the north back of the Canongate.

A hue and cry was soon raised against Adam Hunter who, about a week after the crime was committed, was laid hold of by the officers of the law, and lodged in prison. Sufficient evidence having, in the opinion of the crown authorities, been procured for a conviction, the unfortunate man was, in due course of time, brought to trial before the[Pg 78] High Court of Justiciary. The court met on the 15th day of November; and Adam Hunter, guarded on each side by members of the City Guard, sat, with the stoical indifference which marked his character, to hear the evidence to be brought forward against him, and, in all probability, to receive sentence of death. The august appearance of the judges, sitting in their silk robes, the venerable and even dignified aspect of the unfortunate culprit, and the strange and mysterious crime with which he stood charged, joined with the fate of the well-known Canongate beauty, with which that crime was unaccountably associated, produced a sensation in the Justiciary Court which had not been experienced for many years. The deepest silence prevailed when the indictment was read; and the Lord Justice-Clerk, having put the ordinary question to the pannel of guilty or not guilty, Adam Hunter rose with firmness, and calmly and respectfully answered—"Not guilty, my Lord, of the murder of Richard Forster." The trial proceeded, and the crown advocate spoke:—

"My Lords, and gentlemen of the jury, this is a case of murder, whereto, so far as I can see, no defence or plea of justification, or even palliation, can be set up by the prisoner at the bar, unless it be that which is indeed an aggravation, that he did intend to kill one man against whom he entertained malice prepense, and slew another against whom he had no cause of quarrel. On the day preceding the commission of this murder, the prisoner at the bar was, in consequence of his outrageous and brutal conduct in the House of Gordon, occupied at present by Sir Willoughby Somerset, kicked by that honourable knight out of doors, whereby, being fiercely enraged, he impiously vowed a desperate revenge, the which, though he had taken it instanter and killed his enemy, percitus rixa, would still, by the just laws of this land, which make no distinction between forethought felony, and chaude melée, have been[Pg 79] murder, and sufficient to subject the prisoner to the penal consequences of that heinous crime. But, my Lords, the prisoner cannot even plead homicidium in rixa; for he went home and meditated upon his crime; settled deliberately the modus trucidandi in cool blood—or, as we say, sanguine frigida; and, on the following day, watched, sanguinem sitiens, for his victim; and more like a bloodhound, canis vestigator, than a human being, deprived him, whom he supposed to be his victim, of life. But revenge is known to be blind, and, instead of his enemy, the prisoner murdered, by shooting him through the body, a person who was not in any degree guilty of having offended him; but who was going about his private affairs, as any of us might have been, unconscious of meriting, standing in no fear of receiving, and knowing no reason for expecting such an awful fate as that which awaited him. This, I say, is an aggravation of the crime of murder, in so far as, while in the ordinary case there may, in man's estimation, be some palliation in consequence of the infliction of an injury—in this there can be none."

The witnesses for the crown were then called. The death of Richard Forster, caused by a shot from a gun, was proved. It was also proved, that the gun found in the hedge was Adam Hunter's. The quarrel with Sir Willoughby Somerset was next established, as also the fact that the deceased wore, on that evening, the dress of his master. The macer of court then called out the name of the next witness, which was that of Margaret Williamson; but, before she had time to make her appearance, Adam Hunter rose from his seat and addressed the court in the following terms:—

"My Lords, it doesna appear to me, that, in the eye o' God, or even in that o' man, it can abide the twitch o' natural reason that a puir bairn should, in ignorance o' the relation she bears to him against whom she is to swear, be entrapped by cunning men o' the law, to gie evidence[Pg 80] against the life o' him wha gave her life. The veins o' Margaret Williamson are filled wi' my bluid, albeit her heart mayna beat wi' the ordinary feelings o' a bairn to a father; for she, puir thing, has nae knowledge that Adam Hunter is her parent, whom she is bound to love and respect, and therefore she may this day, in that unseemly ignorance which I and my wife Janet have imposed upon her, say what at some future time she may repent wi' tears o' bitterness, whilk winna recall to her the parent she has slain. I canna think, therefore, my Lords, that ye can consider it unreasonable in a parent—a character maybe some o' yourselves bear, and, if ye do, oh, think what it is to be doomed by your ain bairn!—that this puir lassie be tauld, before she be examined, that she is bane o' the bane, and flesh o' the flesh, o' him whom she is about to arraign o' murder."

As soon as Adam Hunter had finished his speech, which, delivered with much emphasis, produced a great sensation in all the persons present, who never understood that Margaret Williamson was in any way related to him, the crown counsel stood up and said—

"My Lords, this is an ingenious device, on the part of the prisoner at the bar, to deprive the law of its evidence. This girl, who is about to be brought forward as a witness, has been held out to the world as an orphan—a fact that may be testified by hundreds of persons, and is, indeed, admitted by the culprit himself. The story now fabricated by the prisoner is, indeed, improbable—as what father would deny his child? I cannot, therefore, consent to allow any communication to be made to the witness, whereby the fountain of evidence may be contaminated by prejudice, and truth itself sacrificed to the false feelings and hysterical emotions of a relationship which, in my opinion, has no foundation in fact."

The judges, having disbelieved the statement of Adam Hunter, refused to comply with his request. Margaret[Pg 81] Williamson was, accordingly, brought in and placed in the witnesses' box. Upon being examined, she gave, in evidence, the substance of the conversation which took place between Adam Hunter and Simon Frazer on that night when the death of Sir Willoughby Somerset was resolved upon. She was then asked whether she had, between that period and the death of Richard Forster, any communication with Sir Willoughby; but to this question she refused to give any answer, or rather she, by the effect of her simplicity—in this instance, however, made subservient to something approaching to cunning—so completely baffled the men of law that they were obliged to give up the question in despair.

On the part of Adam Hunter, an attempt was made to prove an alibi; but that having failed, the jury, upon the charge of the judge, who considered the crime proved, returned a verdict of guilty, and Adam Hunter received sentence of death.

The speech which Adam Hunter had made on the occasion of his trial, as already said, excited much sensation, and the truth of the fact stated by him was subjected to investigation. It was found to be perfectly true, though no notice is taken of it in the books of adjournal. Margaret Williamson was the illegitimate child of Adam Hunter, by the daughter of Elspet Craig, who died in giving birth to the infant; and it was to gratify the prejudices of Janet Hunter, who refused to bring up the child on any other condition, that the parentage had been so industriously concealed.

The unfortunate Adam Hunter was executed according to his sentence. At the time of his execution, considerable uproar was observed among the populace, who, displaying the usual shrewdness of the lower orders in Scotland, perceived that, although Adam could not be justified, he was only one of the actors in the tragedy; and that, while their unfortunate countryman was expiating his crime by an[Pg 82] ignominious death, the English knight, whose enmity towards Richard Forster, and shameful conduct towards Adam's daughter, were now generally known, was allowed to escape.

The rumours thus circulated by the crowd at the execution of Adam Hunter were not unknown to the crown officers, who felt the force of the extraordinary circumstance, that Richard Forster should, on that fatal night, have worn the clothes of his master. That fact was, moreover, in a considerable degree, explained by another, which had been elicited from one of Sir Willoughby's servants, of the name of William Evans, viz., that Sir Willoughby and Richard had had a quarrel, which produced high words between the parties, and some threats on the part of the knight. The crown officers were, besides, moved by the curious circumstance, that Margaret Williamson had so artfully evaded the question put to her on the occasion of the trial of Adam Hunter; while it was almost impossible to believe that she would not have communicated to Sir Willoughby the plot that was laid for his life, notwithstanding of the injury she had received by being made the victim of his seduction.

A warrant was accordingly issued for the apprehension of Sir Willoughby Somerset. He was found by the officers in the company of Lady Arabella Winford, torn from her arms, and lodged in jail. The charge against him was the murder of Richard Forster, perpetrated by his having, sciens et prudens, sent him where death awaited him. Application was, in the meantime, again made by the crown officers to Margaret Williamson, for information as to whether she had had any communication with Sir Willoughby on the day on which Richard Forster was slain. Margaret's answers were still of an evasive character, and her examinators left her, stating that they would visit her again, and use some other means of extorting the truth. Before this threat was put in execution, the knight, having heard that Margaret was in the hands of the examinators, overcome by fear and cowardice,[Pg 83] and indulging the mean and despicable hope of being able to persuade his victim to save his life a second time, still without rendering her justice, sent for her to visit him in prison—a request with which she instantly complied.

"My fair Margaret," commenced the knight, "I have sent for thee to know what are still thy feelings towards one who loves thee, and now requires some aid and consolation, such as only thou canst render him. I flatter myself that, at one time, I was not indifferent to thee; and, if my present peril were past (and thou art the arbiter of my fate), I may find a suitable opportunity of showing thee that I still love thee as fervently as I did when I used to meet thee, by the light of the moon, at the Hunter's Rest. I understand that my persecutors have been with thee, and it is my pleasure to be informed, from thy own fair lips, that it is not thy intention to communicate to them what passed between thee and me in my garden, on the day of the death of my worthless servant."

"I didna think," replied Margaret, with calmness and dignity, "that Sir Willoughby Somerset could hae mistaken sae far the heart of Margaret Williamson as to find, in the compass o' his ain, any doubt sufficient to cause him to put that question to her. Aince already hae I saved your life, and I would be laith to throw that awa now which I had before sae meikle pains—though wae's my heart! sae little thanks or reward—to preserve. Na, na; let the officers of the law tak' their course—mine has been lang fixed; and a' the hand-screws and stocks o' Scotland, and even the black wuddy itsel', winna wrest frae me sae meikle as would injure a single hair o' your head. It may be that I only preserve ye for the love o' anither; but I will at least hae that satisfaction—and it is better to the broken heart than a fause love that has now nae power to bind it—that I hae rendered, as our holy religion inculcates, good for evil."[Pg 84]

These sentiments only interested or concerned Sir Willoughby in so far as they told him that the fair maiden would not betray him. He mistook entirely the Scotch character generally; and he had not himself any of those high-minded qualities which could enable him to appreciate Margaret's. Betrayed, by her determination to do justice to her own standard of female duty, into an idea that the sacrifices she had thrown, and was again to throw, on the shrine of that duty which she had, in her fervid imagination, defied, were mere indications of a wish to oblige and conciliate him, Sir Willoughby thought he might safely go a step further, and endeavour to wring out of her the written promise of marriage he had so unguardedly given her. He began by using some more of the bland language by which he had originally beguiled her; but he had scarcely approached the subject on which her mind was fixed, when Margaret, with the perspicacity of her sex in these tender points, interrupted him; and, raising herself to the utmost extent of her height, while the fire flashed from her dark blue eye, said—

"If ye can tak' frae me the burden o' shame I hae carried for six moons under my broken heart, and restore to me my lost repute, aince pure as the snaw that the winds o' heaven hae driven o'er muir and mountain, and tear from my puir crazy brain the image I hae made an idol o', and on whose unholy alter I hae sacrificed my maiden virtue—and maybe that eternal life that hasna been promised to the trafficker in sin—then, Sir Willoughby, ye may ask me for that whilk stands to me in the place of ane haly covenant. It is the only solace left to bind up my broken spirit, and be a sign and a token to your bairn whom I hae yet to bear, that its puir mother, though doubtless guilty o' a great sin, was the victim o' a knight's broken troth, and maybe entitled to a drap o' mercy in her burning cup. Tell me, sir to keep frae the officers o' the law the secret that would[Pg 85] bring ye to a shamefu' death, and I will part wi' it as sune as I will part wi' the written testimonial of what a merciful God, and the less merciful laws o' my countrie, may, peradventure, deal wi' as ane haly bond o' marriage."

With these words, Margaret abruptly left the prison, and Sir Willoughby, concerned only for his liberation, denied access to his heart to the sentiments which reflected so much honour on the feelings of his victim, from whom he was entitled to expect nothing but revenge.

Margaret was soon again visited by the officers of the law; but she remained firm to her resolution, not to say anything tending to implicate Sir Willoughby. Recourse was therefore had, according to the usages of that period, to the ordinary mode of dealing with an unwilling witness. She was now told, that, as a person refractory, and disobedient to the laws of her country, she must go to prison, where the means of extorting her withholden testimony would be more in the power of the crown officials. She was, accordingly, conveyed to the prison in which Sir Willoughby was confined, and intimation was solemnly made to her that, on the following morning, she would be subjected to the rack of the thumbikins. The threat was fulfilled with fidelity and vigour. On the first application of this cruel instrument, the poor girl screamed with agony; but the unstability of her frame, attenuated and weakened by her previous sufferings, and her pregnancy, loosened, under the effect of the torture, that connection between agony and resolution, without which all tortured methods of extorting testimony must be unavailing. Every increased pressure produced an agonized scream, succeeded by a state of insensibility, or faint, which these deluded searchers for truth had as much difficulty in bringing her out of, as they had in producing. The torture continued to be applied, at stated intervals, for days, and the screams of the unfortunate maiden could not fail to find their way to the ears, if not to the[Pg 86] heart, of the wretch by whom her sufferings had been occasioned. Little impression, however, was produced on Margaret's resolution to die with her secret; and, upon the occasion of one application of the instrument, the syncope produced had so long a period of duration, that the medical man who was present declared that it could not be applied without danger of producing death.

The officers were now inclined to allow the period of Margaret's pregnancy to pass before they again applied the instrument—a circumstance of rather an anamolous nature in the proceedings of these lovers of truth; for a true medical philalethes would naturally have conceived, that the weaker the habit of the patient, the more certain was the chance of a recovery. In the meantime, however, a circumstance came to the ears of the king's prosecutor, which induced him to relax his energies in the prosecution of Sir Willoughby. Several of his servants now declared, (no doubt by the aid of concealed bribery), that Richard Forster was in the habit of attiring himself in his master's garments, and personating him in the prosecution of amours. In addition to this, Janet Hunter, though called upon, could not swear that Margaret Williamson had stirred from the house on the day of the murder. Unable to force Margaret to speak, and influenced by the testimony of these witnesses, the public prosecutor came to the resolution of liberating Sir Willoughby, and the knight was accordingly let out of gaol.

Within a few hours after his liberation, he was on his way to England, in company with Lady Arabella. He had devoted the whole period of his imprisonment to writing letters to her, and venting curses against Scotland. Margaret Williamson was forgotten, in the hope of finding in the arms of Lady Arabella a panacea for his wrongs, and a solace of his sufferings—for it is as true as it is remarkable, that the truly wicked are the most querulous of justice, and the most impatient of her retributions.[Pg 87]

Nothing was, for a long time, heard of Sir Willoughby; but she whom he had ruined and deserted, remained to the inhabitants of Edinburgh as an object of their pity, and an example to their children. Margaret bore a son, and Janet Hunter soon died of a broken heart, for the loss of Adam. Margaret was thus left to the charity of a world which is often moved to pity only through the selfish conceit of a comparison between the alms-giver and the alms-receiver, and begged her bread from the doors of the inhabitants of Edinburgh.

Now, it was five years after the transactions I have detailed, and when King James had been nearly as long seated on the throne of England, that Lionel Apsley, a gentleman in the confidence of the king, arrived in Edinburgh. He was observed to make inquiries after a person of the name of Margaret or Peggy Williamson, who, he was informed, resided in a small ground room in the White Horse Close, in the Canongate of Edinburgh. A man who was standing at the top of Leith Wynd took him to Margaret's residence. Upon entering the humble abode, he found the object of his search making porridge for the son of the English knight. Lionel entered into conversation with Margaret, and endeavoured to draw her into a recital of the story of her life; but she evaded, though in the gentlest manner, his efforts, stating, that her griefs and her secrets were her own, and that the making the one known would not make the other unfelt. She had been much annoyed, she said, by the impertinent interrogations of gossiping people, who often insulted her by withholding their charity when they found their love of gossip ungratified.

Lionel made many visits to Margaret, and, by degrees, succeeded in breaking down her reluctance to speak of herself. He told her, that he had been commissioned to visit her, and had come down to Scotland for the sole purpose of seeing and serving her, and pledged his honour, as a gentleman,[Pg 88] that the only use he would make of her information would be in turning it to her advantage. He was evidently already well acquainted with many parts of her story; but the chief object of his inquiry related to the written promise of marriage which, he had been given to understand, she had got from Sir Willoughby. Margaret, at first, would not admit that any such document existed, and appeared to feel acute pain from Lionel's urgent solicitation to see it. Overcome, at last, by his importunity, she went to a little chest, which was secreted in a recess dug into the wall of her apartment, and having drawn it out, and opened it with trembling hands, she took from it the small, but curiously folded piece of paper, still retaining the fragrance with which Sir Willoughby's gallantry had invested it. With conclusive sobs, Margaret looked at the paper, and handed it to the stranger. Lionel read it, and found it to contain the following words, written in a small affected character, which bore evident traces of having been penned by the writer when in a state bordering at least on intoxication. "Sir Willoughby Somerset, of Somerset Hall, knight of the noble order of—(here there was drawn a rude image of George and the dragon)—doth, by these lines, declare that he doth truly intend to wed Margaret Williamson, and this he promises to do on the faith of a knight of the order to which he belongs. Given at the Hunter's Rest, this 26th day of April, in the year of the succession of King James to the throne of England."

This document Lionel copied, and having returned the original to Margaret, he asked her if she would accompany him to London.

"If it be to meet Sir Willoughby Somerset," answered she, "I will sooner walk to the graves o' Sir Patrick Spence and the Scottish lords wha lie between Leith and Aberdour."

"It is not to meet Sir Willoughby, my fair maiden," said[Pg 89] Sir Lionel; "and if thou wilt trust to the honour of one who is your friend, I promise thee thou shalt not have cause to regret thy journey."

After much solicitation, Margaret agreed to go to London and take her child with her; and Lionel having got her equipped in a manner so as to escape observation, they departed for London, where they arrived after ten days' travelling. On their arrival, Margaret and her child were taken to respectable lodgings, where she was requested to remain till Lionel called for her.

After some days, a coach drove up to the door, and a lady, carrying a bundle, came out, and asked to be shown to the apartment occupied by the Scotch lady. This was the wife of Lionel, who brought with her a number of specimens of tartan, which she exhibited to Margaret, requesting her to point out the kind she wore when she lived with Adam Hunter. This Margaret did; and the next request made by the lady was, that Margaret should describe to her the shape of the garments, and the manner in which she wore them; all of which Margaret complied with, and the lady departed.

In two days more, the same lady called with the garment made, and requested Margaret to put them on, and, with the child, accompany her to the place where she was going. Margaret complied, and they departed together in a coach. After driving for some little time, the coach stopped at a large house, into which they entered. The lady led Margaret and her child up a great many stairs, and round winding passages, until they came to a room, where she was requested to remain. After waiting about ten minutes, a gentleman of a fair complexion entered, and shook her kindly by the hand, launching, at the same time, and without any explanation, into a quick spoken and confused speech, which formed a part of his salutation.

"Why, woman, didna ye mak' some legal use o' the bit paper ye got frae your braw lover, Sir Willoughby Somerset?[Pg 90] Can it be possible that ye didna ken, that by the law o' your country, a promise o' marriage, coupled wi' a—a—hem! hem!—a bairn, is, to a' intents and purposes, as gude a marriage as if it were celebrated wi' a' the solemnities o' haly kirk? By my royal troth, ye hae been a blate and silly lassie, whatever folk may sae o' ye, praising ye for the hich and michtie honour ye made sae meikle fashion o', to save the life o' a ne'er-do-weel villain, wha ruined ye, and slew his servant, and cheated the wuddy o' my countrie, though made o' guid aik, a mair suitable wife to him, God wot, than the like o' ye. But lat that alane—tempus reparabit—ha! ha! ye ken naething o' Latin, I fancy, but I meant only by that flicht to tell ye that ye will be revenged."

While in the act of delivering this strange speech, the gentleman began to drag Margaret, somewhat rudely, out of the room where they were, into another; his speech and the dragging operation going on at the same time. She now found herself in a large hall, where she saw an elevated chair overshaded by a canopy of crimson velvet, on the top of which was a crown. The gentleman, still in the same confused manner—speaking sometimes to himself, and sometimes to her—shoved her behind a small screen, apparently placed there for the purpose of concealing some one, telling her to remain there until she was called for.

The folding doors of the apartment now opened, and Margaret heard the voices of heralds, and saw a great number of high-dressed ladies and gentlemen come in, and stand round the elevated chair. Among these she observed Sir Willoughby Somerset, and a lady (the same she had seen in the garden of the House of Gordon) leaning upon his arm. "Come forth, Margaret Williamson," cried the gentleman who had first spoken to her; and Margaret, with her tartan plaid around her, and her child at her foot, stood before King James. Opposite to her stood Sir Willoughby Somerset and his lady, dressed in the most gorgeous style,[Pg 91] and forming a strange and striking contrast with the plaided stranger.

"I am right glad," said James, "to see my auld subjects o' my native kingdom; and I greet ye weel, Peggy Williamson, and wish ye and your bairn mony braw days. I also greet ye weel, Sir Willoughby Somerset, Knight, and your braw leddie, wha is, nevertheless, only your wife, in sae meikle as she is nearest your heart, in the fashion o' the connection whilk exists between our auld Scotch wuddy and the heart o' Mid-Loudon. But awa wi' this—Et nunc labores exantlare—whilk means, to wark, to wark. Ken ye this Scotch lassie, Sir Willoughby Somerset?"

"No, sire," answered the knight, in evident confusion, but still retaining a portion of his natural impudence.

"It's fause, sir," answered the King, whose choler now rose to the boiling point of his royal fervour—"It's fause, sir; ye ken her as weel as did our royal faither our royal mither, or as Hamman did his wuddy, whilk was made o' sweet-smelling cedar, as is clearly made out by the learned Chrysostom. I canna believe you; for our royal brither Solomon hath said, that if a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants shall be wicked. But, maybe, ye may ken your ain handwriting better than ye do the lassie. Look at that, man; do ye ken that?"

Sir Willoughby was silent.

"I will take your silence, man, for an ill-favoured confession; and now, sir, let it be understood by ye, that that bit writing and that bit callant—wha doesna ken ye sae weel as ye ken his mither—maks a gude marriage by the law o' Scotland. I dinna mean, sir, in the presence o' this assembly, to disgrace ye, mair than will serve the purposes o' justice; and I leave ye to reflect, if ye hae sic a thing about ye as reflection, how ye treated this po'r lassie, wham ye ruined, and wha, though fire, and famine, and death, and scorpions, are given, as Ecclesiasticus says, for vengeance,[Pg 92] sat quietly and—seeking nae other satisfaction—sucked, wi' her honied lips, the poison which your shaft carried to her broken heart; and wha, though exposed to terrible and racking tortures, saved, on twa occasions, your life, regardless o' her ain. Now, sir, though the lassie can claim ye as her husband, she alane has the power o' severing that connection on the ground o' your cohabitation wi' that leddie, wham ye call your wife; whilk power, by my advice, she will doubtless exercise. But, sir, there maun here be a solatium; and I ask you if you are willing to sign that paper whilk Lionel Apsley is ready to shaw ye?"

Sir Willoughby took the document, which purported to be a conveyance to Margaret Williamson, in liferent, and her son in fee, of one-half of the domain of Somerset Hall, calculated to amount to £2,000 a year; and, having read it, he seemed to hesitate to sign it. During his hesitation, James whispered in his ear the name of Richard Foster. His manner changed, and he signed the deed.

Margaret Williamson received the deed from the King, giving, in return, one of her best curtsies. She came down to Scotland, prosecuted a divorce against Sir Willoughby Somerset, and lived a much honoured and respected lady, in Edinburgh, for many years.


[Pg 93]

THE BARLEY BANNOCK

Between Falkirk and Stirling are the remains of a wood, even yet pretty extensive, which existed in the times of Wallace and Bruce. It is the well-known Torwood, so frequently mentioned in the histories of these Scottish heroes, and so celebrated for the shelter and concealment it afforded them on frequent occasions during their seasons of adversity. In those days, however, if we may believe old chronicles, the Torwood covered a great deal more ground than it does now, extending, on its northern side, it is said, to the banks of the Forth, a distance of about four miles. Experiencing the fate of our other ancient woods, the progress of cultivation and improvement has now greatly lessened its extent; but it forms even in the present day, a singularly striking and impressive piece of sylvian scenery. Its outward characteristics, striking as they are, may not differ from those of other forests; but there are associations connected with the Torwood, which fill its sombre, solitary depths and recesses with a profound and solemn mystery, and which diffuse throughout its picturesque glades a golden atmosphere of poetry and romance. The spirit of the olden time is there, and has flung its bewitching glamoury around the forest scene. There are few who have wandered through its green arcades, and have penetrated its far and gloomy depths, with a knowledge and recollection of the scenes which they have witnessed, and the sounds they have heard—the mustering of Wallace's patriot bands, and the stirring strains of the bugle of Bruce—few, we say, who have roamed through the dark solitudes of the Torwood, and who have thought of these things, but must have felt the fullest, the deepest[Pg 94] effect of those sacred associations and recollections which enshrine the memory of the mighty dead.

At the period we refer to, namely, the glorious period when Bruce was struggling to complete the work which his great predecessor Wallace had begun—to compass the independence of Scotland—a rude little cottage or bothy reared its humble form on the eastern skirts of the Torwood, or rather a little way within the verge of the forest.

This lowly and lonely domicile was then occupied by a widow woman of the name of Margaret Grahame. Her husband had been killed, some years previous to the period at which we introduce her to the notice of the reader, in a skirmish with a party of the English garrison from Stirling; and she was thus left to bring up, as she best might, a family of young children; the eldest of whom, a beautiful girl, named after her mother, was only nine years of age at the time of her husband's death.

Margaret, however, was not one of those women who sink under misfortune—who unresistingly yield to the pressure of calamity. In that which had befallen her, she only saw an additional reason for redoubling those exertions in behalf of her family which had never, at any time, been wanting. After her husband's death, she continued to cultivate, with the assistance of her children, the little patch of ground, which, together with a small track of pasturage, on which two cows, her whole stock of bestial, grazed, formed her only means of subsistence.

Small and humble as these means were, however, the industry and thrifty management of Margaret Grahame rendered them sufficient to place herself and family beyond the reach of want. The fare, indeed, which she could put before her children, was homely enough in quality, but it was abundant.

In character, Margaret, who had been a remarkably[Pg 95] good-looking woman in her day, and who was even yet a comely dame to look upon, was what we, in Scotland here, call "furthy." She was a lively, rattling, kind-hearted, out-spoken person; warm in her feelings, active in all her habits, and possessing a natural courage and presence of mind, that singularly fitted her for performing the duties of friendship in cases of difficulty, danger, or distress.

Such, then, was Margaret Grahame, and such were the circumstances in which she was placed at the period when we bring her before the reader. These essential preliminary matters recorded, we proceed to say, that, on a certain evening, a wet and stormy one, in the month of October, 1307, as Margaret was busily employed, with the assistance of her eldest daughter—the younger children having been put to bed—in toasting some barley meal bannocks before the fire, some one rapped smartly at the door.

"Wha's there?" exclaimed Margaret, in some surprise at the lateness of the visit, and little accustomed to the calls of either friends or foes at her remote and solitary dwelling, wondering who the person could be who sought admittance. To her inquiry, a mellow-toned, but masculine voice replied—that the person without was one who had no other place of shelter to go to for the night, and who would cheerfully pay for a little refreshment, and an hour or two's shelter from the storm.

"A houseless stranger! Rin Margaret and open the door and let him in."

"I'm feart, mother," replied the timid girl, holding back, and putting her finger to her mouth.

"Feart, ye little cowardly thing; what are ye feart for?" exclaimed Mrs Grahame, hastening herself to the door. "Wha wad do us ony harm, ye gowk," she continued, as she undid the fastenings of the door; "and is't feer, think ye, that's to hinder us frae gien shelter to the shelterless, or food to the hungry?"[Pg 96]

As she uttered the last word, she flung the door widely and boldly open; and there entered a figure which might well have appalled even the stout heart of Margaret Grahame. This figure was that of a man of gigantic stature and powerful frame, wearing a steel cap and shirt of mail that glanced through the openings of a leathern doublet by which it was covered, and in some measure concealed. From a belt which passed over his right shoulder, depended a sword of dimension corresponding to the tremendous strength indicated by the proportions of the wearer; and in another belt, which passed round his middle, and which was joined in front by a silver clasp, part of whose fashioning displayed two lion's heads, was stuck a richly hilted dagger. A small silver bugle horn, which was suspended from his neck by a chain of the same metal, completed his appointments.

On the entrance of this formidable figure, the little girl uttered a scream of terror, and flew to a remote corner of the apartment. The gigantic stranger smiled, and, turning to her mother, said—

"I am sorry that my appearance is so alarming as to make young ladies fly me. I would have them believe that I would much sooner protect than injure them. God forbid it should ever be otherwise. Come hither, my little primrose, and let me assure thee of all safety at my hands." And the stranger drew out a silken purse and took from it a small gold coin, which he seemed desirous of presenting to the little fugitive fair one. He was, however, interrupted.

"Never mind her, sir; never mind her," said her mother, who now perceived that her guest was a person apparently of some note; "she'll sune learn no to be sae frichtened for the men. Sit doon, sir, sit doon. Tak a seat, and throw aff your wat jerkin, and I'll gie ye a pair o' my puir gude-man's stockins to draw on, for I'm sure ye're soakit to the skin; and a pair o' slippers to yer feet." And while the[Pg 97] kindly-hearted and hospitable woman was thus rattling away, she was actively employed in seeking out the various comforts which she enumerated.

In a very few minutes after, the portly figure of the stranger filled the favourite arm-chair, by the fire, of Mrs Grahame's late husband, in as comfortable a plight as the hospitable attentions of his hostess could place him. Several of these, however, he declined. He would not part with his boots, nor divest himself of any part of his apparel or appointments, excepting his steel cap and sword, both of which he placed on the floor close by his chair, as if desirous that they should be within reach on the slightest appearance of emergency.

"Now, my good dame," said the stranger, after enjoying for a few minutes the invigorating warmth of a blazing fire, which his hostess had heaped with faggots for his comfort, "I must be plain enough to tell ye that I am famishing of hunger, and that these barley bannocks of yours look most tempting."

"And do ye think, sir, I wasna gaun to mak ye an offer o' a tastin o' them? That wad be a gay churlish like thing, I think; I was but waiting till they war ready, to place some o' them before ye, wi' a soup milk, and a bit butter, cheese, and a cauler egg or twa. Ye'll hae them a' in ten minutes, and welcome."

"Thank you, my kind lady, thank you; and now, with your leave," added Margaret's guest, whose hunger seemed to be in one of its most active moods—"I'll just see what state the bannocks are in," and he stretched out his hand, took one from the fire, blew on it, tossed it quickly to and fro in his hands—for it was too hot to hold steadily—and, finally, when it had cooled a little, broke it, took a mouthful, pronounced it nearly ready, and, with great gusto, despatched the remainder.[Pg 98]

"Dear me, man," said Mrs Grahame, who witnessed this gastronomic feat of her guest with a feeling of increased compassion for his condition; "but ye are awfu' hungry, I dare say, or ye wadna hae eaten a half-raw barley bannock that way."

"The sweetest morsel ever I ate in my life!" replied the stranger, smiling. "I'll never forget it; nor you either, my good dame."

"Pho, nonsense, man; but I see you're dreadfu' hungry;" and she commenced an active turn of the bannocks, to expedite the process of toasting.

This done, she redoubled her exertions in general preparation, and with such effect, that in a few minutes, a little round table, spread with a clean white cloth, which she placed by the elbow of her guest, was covered with the homely but wholesome edibles which she had enumerated—namely, a small basin of fresh eggs, a quarter of a cheese, a plate of butter, a large bowl of milk, and a heaped-up platter of warm smoking barley bread.

"Noo, sir, set to, and do me and yoursel credit by makin a hearty supper. I'm sure ye're welcome; and I houp I needna say that again."

Obeying, without hesitation or further ceremony, the kind and cordial invitation of his hostess, the stalworth stranger commenced a vigorous attack on the tempting viands placed before him; and, had the credit of Mrs Grahame been dependant on the quantity he might consume, it was safe, for he did, indeed, make a splendid meal of it.

The stranger had completed his repast, but his hostess had scarcely removed the surplus and other traces of the meal, when both were suddenly alarmed by the sound of the trampling of horses' feet from without, mingled with occasional shouts by the riders, some of mirth, and some of imprecation.

"No sound of bugle—they cannot be friends!" exclaimed[Pg 99] Mrs Grahame's guest, starting to his feet and seizing his sword. "Now, my good weapon," he added, as he unsheathed the shining blade, "stand me in as good stead this night as thou hast hitherto done, and thou shalt find that I will do my duty by thee."

"Fecht, sir! ye'll fecht nane here," exclaimed Margaret Grahame, who had been, during the previous instant, listening eagerly with her ear close to the door, endeavouring to make out who or what the approaching party of horsemen were. "Fecht! ye'll fecht nane," she exclaimed, rushing up to her guest, and seizing him by the sword arm. "It wad be madness, perfect madness. It's a party o' Englishers frae Stirlin Castle—a dizzen at least. And what could your single arm, strong as it is, do against sae mony? No, no, come here—here wi' me," she added, in a state of great excitement. "Leave me to fecht the Englishers; I ken how to do't. I'll fecht them wi' barley bannocks and dauds o' butter. Keep thae chiels chowan, and deil haet else they'll think o'."

By this time Margaret Grahame had conducted, or rather dragged her guest, who passively, and, it may be added, prudently yielded to her proceeding, into a dark back apartment. This gained, she hastily threw aside the curtain of a bed, which occupied a corner of the room, opened a press or closet, the door of which the former concealed, and unceremoniously thrust her guest, without saying another word, into the unoccupied receptacle, fastened the door, and drew the curtains of the bed again before it.

All this was the work of but an instant, and there was need that it should be so; for the English troopers—such they were—were already thundering at the door for admittance.

"Comin this moment!" exclaimed Margaret Grahame. "Dear me, will ye no gie folk time to throw on their[Pg 100] claes," she added, as she undid the fastenings of the door. "To raise folk out o' their beds this way at this time o' nicht."

As she said this, she threw the door open, and, in the same instant, six or eight dismounted troopers, who had given their horses in charge to two or three comrades remaining mounted outside, entered.

On the entrance of the soldiers, Margaret Grahame, in pursuance of the particular line of tactics which she had laid down for herself, commenced, with great volubility of speech, to overwhelm her visiters with both words and deeds of hospitality—she stirred the fire to warm them, and covered her homely board with the best she had to regale them, and all this with such expedition, accompanied by such an outpouring of expressions of kindness, that the soldiers could do nothing but look at each other in surprise, and, by their smiles, express the perplexity into which such an unexpected reception had placed them.

One obvious general effect, however, was produced on them all by Margaret's proceedings; this was the completely disarming them of all vindictive feeling, and substituting in its place one of kindness and sympathy.

Pressed by their hostess, and nothing loth themselves, the soldiers now sat down to the well-spread board which the former's hospitality had prepared for them, and ate heartily; those first served giving place to their comrades, until the whole had partaken of the widow's good cheer.

This done, the soldiers, though not without apologies for the rudeness which their duty imposed on them, informed Margaret Grahame that the purpose of their visit was to search her house for a certain important personage—not naming him—who, they had information, had been seen in that neighbourhood in the course of the day.

Having given her this intimation, the soldiers, attended by Margaret herself, proceeded to search the house, but in[Pg 101] a temper so mollified by the kind treatment they had received, that they went through the process more as a matter of form than duty.

On completing their brief and cursory search, the troopers, after thanking their hostess for her hospitality, remounted their horses, and departed.

It was not for some time after they were gone, that Margaret Grahame ventured to seek the hiding-place of her first guest of the evening. There were two reasons for this delay. The first was to ensure the perfect safety of the latter, by allowing her late visiters to get to a secure distance; the other was one of a less definite and more perplexing nature. From some expressions which had dropped from the troopers in the course of their search, she had now no doubt that her concealed guest was no other than Robert Bruce.

It was under this impression, then, and under the feeling of reverential awe it inspired, that Margaret Grahame at length went to intimate to her concealed guest that the troopers were gone, and that he might now come forth from his hiding-place.

On the latter's stepping from his concealment, Margaret flung herself on her knees, and calling him her King, implored his pardon for the homely and familiar manner in which, in ignorance of his quality, she had treated him.

"So, my good dame," replied Bruce, smiling—for it was indeed he—and taking his hostess kindly by the hand, and raising her from her humble position, "so you have discovered me? These troopers have blabbed, I fancy. Well, my secret could not be in safer keeping, I feel assured, than in thine, my kind hostess. It is even so. I am Robert Bruce, and none other."

Overcome by the various and tumultuous feelings which the incident, altogether, was so well calculated to excite, Margaret Grahame burst into tears, and, raising the corner[Pg 102] of her apron to her eyes, stood thus for some seconds without uttering a word.

Bruce, affected, even to the starting of a tear, took his hostess again by the hand, and, not without very evident emotion, said—"Come, my good dame, why those tears?"

"I canna richtly tell mysel, sir. I dinna ken. I canna help it. Maybe it is to see you in this plight—to see Scotland's chief without a single attendant, and glad o' the shelter o' sae lowly a roof as mine."

"Pho, pho, my kind hostess, and what is in that?" replied Bruce, in a cheering tone. "We must all rough it out as we best can in these times, king and cobbler, baron and beggar. Better days are coming, and we will then think of our present hardships only to laugh at them. As to attendants," he added, with a look of peculiar intelligence, "I am not, perhaps, so destitute of them as I may seem; although they are not, it may be, within calling at this moment. Half-an-hour's walk into the Torwood, however, and half-a-dozen blasts of this little horn would bring around me a band of as stalworth, nay, as brave hearts as Scotland can boast."

"God be thankit for that!" said Bruce's enthusiastic hostess. "Then there is hope yet."

"There is, there is. A day of reckoning is coming. But now, my good dame," he added, glancing at a little window, through which the dull, faint light of the breaking day had just begun to gleam, "I must take my departure. I must be at the mustering place an hour after daybreak." Saying this the redoubted warrior drew out a leathern purse, from whence he took several pieces of gold coin, which he vainly endeavoured to press on the acceptance of his hostess.

"Well, well, my good dame," he said, on finding his urgency only gave offence; "we'll settle all this on some[Pg 103] future day. Depend upon it, I will not forget the score which stands against me here. In the meantime, farewell; and fare ye well too, my little maiden," he said, taking his hostess's daughter by the hand; "you and I will meet again." Having said this, and having once more bid mother and daughter adieu, Bruce left the house, and soon after disappeared in the depths of the Torwood.

Margaret Grahame stood at the door, and, with the corner of her apron at her eye, looked after the stately figure of the patriot chief, as long as it remained in sight. When it had disappeared, she returned into the house, and began, as she busied herself in brushing up, or, as she would herself have called it, "redding" up her little cottage, after the hospitalities of which it had been the scene, in crooning a popular Scottish ditty of the day, of which the two first verses ran thus,

"Guid speed the wark o' bow and brand
That's raised for Scotland's weal,
And blessins on the heart and hand
O' the ever true and leal."
"Come frae the east, come frae the wast,
Come frae the south and north;
For Bruce's horn has blawn a blast
That's heard frae Clyde to Forth."
"Guid speed the wark," &c.

Here, we beg to apprise the reader, the first act of our little drama closes—the curtain drops; and when we again raise it, years have passed away, and many things have undergone those changes which the lapse of time so certainly produces.

During the interval to which we allude—an interval of eight or ten years, Scotland, after a long and arduous struggle, had achieved her independence, and Bruce was now in secure and peaceable possession of the Scottish crown.

To all, however, the changes which had taken place had not been equally fortunate or favourable. On many the[Pg 104] sanguinary and ruthless warfare which had desolated the country brought poverty and ruin.

Amongst the sufferers of this description was Margaret Grahame. About three years after the occurrence of the incidents which occupy the preceding pages, a party of English soldiers had first plundered and then burned her little cottage, driving herself and family forth on the world, to earn a livelihood as they best might, or to subsist, if other means failed, on the scanty doles of charity.

On being driven from her home, Margaret Grahame, followed by her children, in melancholy procession, wandered she knew nor cared not whither; but, instinctively, taking that direction which promised to leave further danger at the greatest distance behind her. This direction was westward, and on this route she continued; subsisting by the way on the benevolence of the humane; most of whom, however, were more willing than able to relieve her, till she reached the neighbourhood of the village of Kilpatrick, on the Clyde. Exhausted with fatigue, and famishing with hunger, the widow and her children here applied at a respectable farm-house, which stood a little way off the road, for relief.

The door was opened by the farmer himself, a man of mild and benevolent disposition. To him, therefore, the petition of the destitute widow was not proffered in vain. Herself and children were instantly admitted, and a plenteous meal of bread, and cheese, and milk, placed before them.

When the famishing family had satisfied the cravings of hunger, the farmer, whose name was Blackadder, inquired, but in the most delicate manner possible, into the history of the widow. She told him her story. When she had concluded, Blackadder, looking at her two sons, said that they were fine stout boys, and that he thought, if she chose, he could find them employment about his farm.

"Ye're kind, sir, very kind," replied the widow; "but I'm[Pg 105] sweart to pairt wi' my bairns. Destitute as I am, I canna think o' separatin frae them."

"But there's no occasion for that either," replied the farmer. "I'm willin, in consideration o' their services, to gie ye a bit sma cot to live in, and ye'll never want a pickle meal, and a soup o' milk forbye. And for this bonnie lassie, here," he added, and now looking at Margaret, who had grown into a tall and handsome girl, "she micht mak herself useful about my house too, for which, of course, I wad gie her the wages gaun. Ye micht then be a' comfortable aneuch, for a wee, at ony rate."

Need we say that the kind offers of Blackadder were readily closed with. We think we need not. The grateful family, the children, by looks of glee and satisfaction, and the mother by broken sentences and tears of joy, acknowledged their deep sense of the obligation proposed to be conferred on them.

"And wha kens," said the farmer, on this matter being settled, "an wha kens," he said, smiling; "but this bonny lassie here," laying his hand on Margaret's shoulder, "may sune fa' in wi' a bit canny guidman hereawa, wi' a weel-stocked mailin."

"I doot, sir, that's a' settled already," replied the widow, smiling, "although there's but little gear in the case. Margaret, I'm jalousin, has left her heart at the Torwood. There's a certain young lad, a farmer's son there, that I'm thinkin she wadna willingly forget. But want o' warl's gear aften sunders fond hearts."

"Better times may come roun, guidwife," replied Mr Blackadder; "an' the lass may get her leman for a'."

During this conversation, the subject of it seemed in an agony of maidenly distress. With a face burning with blushes, she vainly attempted, with a series of unconnected interjections, amongst which were several denials of the fact, to arrest her mother's communications regarding the secrets[Pg 106] of her heart. Finding these efforts ineffectual, the bashful girl retreated behind her mother's chair, and there, concealing herself as much as possible, awaited, in suffering silence, the conclusion of the, to her, most annoying discussion.

In less than a week from this period, Widow Grahame was comfortably domiciled in a small cot-house at a little distance from the residence of her benefactor, Blackadder. Here, contented with her humble lot, and grateful to a kind Providence, which had so timeously interposed in her behalf, Margaret Grahame plied her wheel the livelong day, singing as merrily, the while, as the "laverock in the lift." Her boys were giving every satisfaction to their employer, and her daughter was no less successful in pleasing in her department. She was thus in the enjoyment of one of the greatest happinesses of which her condition was susceptible, and she fully appreciated the blessing. It was while matters were in this state with Widow Grahame, and somewhere about two years after she had settled at Kilpatrick, that her eldest son said to her one evening, on returning home after the labours of the day were over:—

"Mother, they say the King has come to Cardross Castle and I believe it's true; for I saw, frae the braes, a great cavalcade o' knights and gentlemen on horseback, doon on the Glasgow road, gaun towards Dumbarton as hard's they could bir."

"An' what's that to me, laddie, whar the King, God bless him, is?" replied his mother. "I'm aye blithe to hear o' his weelfare, for auld lang syne; but what mair is there aboot it?"

"I dinna ken, mother," said the boy; "but I've been thinkin that if he kent you were here, or kent whar to fin ye, he wad maybe let you see that he hadna forgotten the barley meal bannocks o' the Torwood, that ye hae sae aften tell't us aboot."

"Tuts, ye foolish boy," replied his mother, plying away[Pg 107] at her wheel. "Whatna notion is that? The King, honest man, has, I daresay, forgotten baith me and my bannocks many a day syne. He had owre muckle to do and owre muckle to think o' after that, to keep ony mind o' sae sma' and ordinary a matter as that. The recollection o' that nicht, Jamie, is, at onyrate, reward aneuch for me."

"Feth, I dinna ken, mither," said the pertinacious youngster; "but I think ye micht do waur than try. Ye micht do waur than tak a step doun to Cardross Castle—it's only about seven or aucht miles frae this, and get a sicht o' the King, an' tell him wha ye are. It micht do us a' guid."

To this very distinct and rational proposition, Margaret made no reply. It threw her into a musing mood, in which she continued for some time; making the wheel revolve, the while, with redoubled velocity. At length, studiously, as it appeared, avoiding all recurrence to the subject on which her son and herself had been speaking,

"Tak your bread and milk, Jamie, and gang to your bed. Ye ken ye hae to rise by three the morn's mornin."

The boy, without further urging his proposal, or saying anything more regarding it, did as he was desired—ate his bread and milk, and retired to bed, where he quickly fell fast asleep. His mother, on ascertaining that he had done so, got up from her wheel, went to a small wooden tub that stood in a corner of the cottage, and filled from it a small basin of barley-meal. With this meal she forthwith proceeded to bake a bannock of small size, which she subsequently toasted with great care. This done, she placed it in a cupboard, and soon after retired to bed. On the following morning, at an early hour, Margaret Grahame, dressed in her best, and carrying in her hand the identical barley meal bannock above spoken of, neatly wrapped up in a snow-white towel, was seen posting stoutly along the Dumbarton road, and evidently bent on a journey of some[Pg 108] length. It was so: Margaret was making for Cardross Castle, where she arrived about three hours after leaving her own house. On reaching the outer gate of the castle, Margaret addressed herself to a sentinel who was walking backwards and forwards with a drawn sword in his hand.

"Is the King here, sir, just now?" she said.

"He is," replied the man, shortly.

"Could I see him, sir, do you think?"

"Indeed, mistress, I think you could not," replied the sentinel, peremptorily. "None but properly accredited persons can obtain access to him at present."

"I'm sure, however, he wad be glad aneuch to see me," said Margaret; "for him and I are auld acquantance."

"Perhaps so," replied the soldier. "Of that I know nothing; but I know my duty, and that is to keep out all unknown and unaccredited persons. But here's Balcanquhail, the King's confidential personal attendant, and you may speak to him if you like. Ho, Balcanquhail, here's a woman who claims old acquaintanceship" (a smile accompanying, and intelligent emphasis laid on these two words) "with the King, and who wants admittance to his Majesty," added the sentinel, beckoning her towards him, and now addressing the person whom he named.

"You cannot be admitted, honest woman," said Balcanquhail, scanning the supplicant with something of a contemptuous expression of face. "You cannot, on any account, so it's no use insisting."

"Weel, sir," replied Margaret, calmly, "if ye winna let mysel in, will ye tak in this to the King?" and she presented the white towel with its inclosure to the "chaumer chiel" of Robert Bruce. "Let the King hae that, and, if I'm no mista'en, ye'll sune hae orders to fling a' the gates o' the castle open to me."

"What is it?" said Balcanquhail, peering curiously into the folds of the towel.[Pg 109]

"Atweel it's neither mair nor less," replied the widow, "than a barley-meal bannock. Nae very rare nor costly commodity; but place ye't before the King, and he'll understand what it means. I'll wait here till ye come back."

Accustomed to such symbolical communications, which were much resorted to in these days, and sometimes on very important occasions, Balcanquhail readily agreed, without further inquiry or remark, to comply with the widow's request.

Hastening to the King's private apartment—the King being at the moment at breakfast—Balcanquhail placed his charge on the table before him, in the precise state in which he received it, without saying a word.

"What's this, Balcanquhail?" said Bruce, opening out the towel as he spoke, and without waiting for a reply. "Ah! a barley bannock. What can this mean?" and he mused for an instant. Then suddenly starting from his seat—"I have it!—I have it!" he exclaimed, with eager delight. "How should I forget the barley bannocks of the 'Torwood?' Who brought this bannock, Balcanquhail? Where is the person who brought it?" Balcanquhail informed him.

"Send her up to me instantly—instantly!" rejoined the excited monarch. "This is the good woman about whom I have been so anxiously, but vainly, inquiring for these two or three years back. Quick, quick, bring her hither, Balcanquhail?"

In less than two minutes afterwards, Margaret Grahame was in the presence of her Sovereign. On her entrance, the King hastened towards her with extended hand, and after giving her a cordial welcome:—

"Where in all the world hast thou been, my good dame?" he said, "that I have not been able to find thee, although I have had emissaries employed from time to time, in all directions, for the last two or three years, to[Pg 110] trace thee out, with the offer of a reward to him who should first discover thee? No one about thy old place of residence—whither I went myself to seek thee—could tell aught of thee. They knew not what had become of thee, nor where thou hadst gone to. Where, on earth, hast thou been?"

Margaret gave the history of her whole proceedings, and of all that had happened her since the eventful night on which she had entertained the king in her little cot on the skirts of the Torwood.

When she was done, Bruce, with many expressions of kindness, presented her with a large purse of gold for her present exigencies. He subsequently built her a handsome mansion-house, where she lived in comfort and independence for many years, on the site of her ruined cottage—a locality which he chose in order to commemorate the event which forms the ground of this tale—gave her a charter of three or four extensive farms that lay around it, dowered her daughter Margaret Grahame, who was by this means enabled to wed the man of her choice, and, finally, placed her two sons in situations of profit and trust about his own person.

And so, gentle reader, ends the story of the "Barley Bannock."


GLEANINGS OF THE COVENANT.

[Pg 111]

XX.—JOHN GOVAN'S NARRATIVE.

In the Greyfriars' Churchyard of Edinburgh I have often spent a solitary hour, during what, in Scotland, is called the "gloaming." The large and handsome monument which still records the sufferings of the covenanted friends of freedom, always occupied my deepest thoughts; and when I looked around me on the quiet solitude of the scene, on the modest and unassuming style of the sacred edifice, and on the old and scarcely-visible fort,[1] which had stood so many sieges, and witnessed so many changes, I have often let the moon peep upon my meditative movements, over the top of the Calton Hill, Arthur's Seat, or Salisbury Crags. There passed, on the outside of the wall, the light-hearted carter, whistling alongside of his horse; or the fish-wife, proclaiming the caller commodity she wished to sell; or the merry school boy, indicating his relish of freedom from school restraint by boisterous mirth and unrestrained motion;—and yet, on the inner side of the wall, all was alone and peaceful, as if I had taken up my station in a far-off Highland glen. These were the days of my youthful feelings, and warm and generous emotion. If my blood did not boil within me, it warmed exceedingly, as the vision of other times and far different scenes crossed my brain, and was reflected from my heart. From the works of our historians—of Knox and Woodrow in particular—I had early become acquainted with the history of those times, (which are still continuing to interest our feelings and influence our judgment;) and I could not fail to image out more particularly the dismal aspect which[Pg 112] this very locality presented in 1679. Whilst engaged one evening in these reveries, I inadvertently wandered away behind the church, and stood looking out upon the moonshine, which, "o'er the dark a silver mantle threw;" whilst the officer of the Greyfriars' Church, seeing nobody in the yard, quietly and unperceived by me, locked the door, and retired to his home in the Netherbow. Accordingly, when I began to think, about eleven o'clock, of home and repose, I was not a little surprised to find all egress by the customary outlet impossible. The night was indeed lovely—mild and still; but yet there was something not altogether satisfactory in being compelled to enjoy it in company with the dead of many generations. A large mastiff, too, which had concealed itself for some time under the wall, came forth into the moonlight, with a bone in his jaws—manifestly a human skull.

"And I saw the lean dog, beneath the wall,
Hold o'er the dead its carnival;
And its white tusks crunched o'er the whiter skull
As it slipped through its jaws, when the edge grew dull,
As it lazily mumbled the bones of the dead."

The sight was not only jarring to all my more composed and soothing reflections, but not unaccompanied with a certain indefinite apprehension of evil. The season had been hot, and hydrophobia had shewn its dreadful existence in Leith Walk and in the Canongate. Two persons had died of it raving mad. I was, therefore, exceedingly anxious to place the high wall which surrounded the Greyfriars' Churchyard betwixt my companion and myself. But how was this to be effected? I ventured to raise my voice, and shout aloud; but no notice was taken of my call. Nay, my growling and crunching neighbour approached me—offering seeming defiance. He was a fearful animal, of that very breed which I have all my life trusted the least—I may say feared and abhorred the most. I began to speak soothingly to[Pg 113] him; but, to all my "poor fellows," and other accents of friendly intercourse, he only answered with a deeper growl. What was to be done? I was afraid to renew my shout; for that manifestly annoyed him; and yet he seemed evidently approaching me. Merciful God! I could see the very glare of his eyes, even in the softened moonlight. I looked up, in perfect despair, to the moon and to the stars, and could not help envying them their secure positions. I would have become anything heavenly, even a star of the very least magnitude, to have secured my retreat from this bull-headed monster. I edged myself towards the monument of the Martyrs; and, with some difficulty, got myself elevated a considerable way up one of the pillars. I clung to every projection like one perishing; and, being young, slender, and full of elastic vigour, I at last gained the top of the wall, from whence I immediately informed a night watch, then passing along, of my terrible situation. In the meantime, the hideous monster made a spring from a tombstone to the top of the same wall; but, instead of visiting me, he dropped himself quietly into a carrier's cart, to which he belonged, and which stood near the doorway of the "Harrow" public house. I was immediately relieved both from my fears and my position, by the assistance of John Brown, the Greyfriars' Church officer, who opened the gate, and assisted me in my descent. The incident was somewhat singular; and, as I stood in need of some refreshment, and honest Johnny Dowie's shop did not shut till twelve, I asked the pleasure of John Brown's company to a red herring and a glass

"Of as guid nappy liquor
As ever reamed in horn or bicker."

During the discussion of these viands, (and, maybe, a wee drap of Highland whisky made into warm todd,) John Brown and I became exceedingly well acquainted. He had[Pg 114] occupied his present office for upwards of forty years, was an enthusiast about the Covenanters, and possessed, in fact, some written documents on the subject, which he promised to shew me. He was a lineal descendant, he informed me, of the famous Thomas Brown, who suffered, along with John Waddel, Andrew Sword, John Clide, and James Wood, on Magus Muir. The documents, as I afterwards found, were nothing more nor less than some scattered and pencilled notices by one John Govan, in the parish of Kirkliston, of his share in the affair of Bothwell Brig, and his sufferings in consequence thereof. I shall avail myself partially of these pencillings, in the following narrative:—

"O Lord, thy mercies are manifold! Thou wilt not desert thine ancient inheritance—thy puir, suffering, persecuted remnant. O Lord! thou wilt, and thou must stand by thy servants, godly Hamilton, and Cargill, and Rathillet, and by us and our cause—which, guid Lord, is, after all, thine own—in this awful day. I see the Duke's men on the hill-side opposite. They are now, even now, making downwards towards the bridge. They have opened their guns. I must up and do my duty. Lord, stand by the righteous!"

The battle, as is here anticipated, began; and (owing to the sad divisions in the camp of the nonconformists) was won by the Duke of Buccleuch and Monmouth, almost without any resistance. Notwithstanding the humane exertions of the Duke—owing to the sanguinary revenge of Clavers in particular—the slaughter after the battle, in what may be termed the wantonness of cruelty, was very great indeed. The next extract from Govan's diary, confirms this historical truth:—

"And thou, O Lord, hast yet more work to do for poor John Govan. But poor Samuel Logan lies dead in the next field there—I saw him run when I fell into a ditch, and just lay still; but the destroyer was hard behind him.[Pg 115] Sam darned at last in a corn-field; and there I saw him shot through the head by that terrible Clavers. He did not give him an instant to make his peace wi' his Maker. O Lord! wherefore is it thus with thy Zion? But it belongs not to poor John Govan to find fault wi' sic a Master—thy ways are not as our ways, nor thy thoughts as ours."

Poor John Govan was, however, at last taken prisoner, whilst endeavouring to conceal himself in an outhouse of a farm-steading in Strathavon, but not till after a whole volley of balls had been poured in upon his retreat, only one of which, however, had taken effect, and that on the fleshy part of his leg. Notwithstanding his wound, and the stiffness, which, after it had bled profusely, was induced upon the limb, he was compelled to march on foot, along with upwards of three hundred prisoners—many of them badly wounded—towards Edinburgh. Mr Reid and Mr King—both of whom were afterwards tried, tortured, hanged, and quartered—were of the number. To avoid the commiseration and sympathy of the more populous districts, Clavers marched the prisoners through the upper district of Lanarkshire. At Lanark the first halt was made for the night; and there the men were tied together by twos and threes, and compelled to bivouac in the open air, in a barn-yard. In vain were all their groanings and complainings—some from their wounds, others from hunger or thirst, and not a few from the dismal fate which had overtaken the cause which they supported. The infamous soldiery, urged on, or at least not properly checked by their leaders, only laughed at their calamities, telling them to be patient—that patience was a d——d good supper—a great deal too good for a covenanter, &c., &c. Upon this I found the following reflections in Govan:—

"O Lord! when will their ire be stayed?—when will thy face return and shine again upon thy heritage? This[Pg 116] night has been an awful night: my sufferings, all our sufferings, have been great, great beyond bearing—four of our number have died of their wounds and fatigue. My own cousin, William Young, has paid the debt of nature; he has gone to the bosom of his God; for William was a just, and a good, and a holy man. I held his head till he expired; it was a sore struggle, but he quailed not; he repeated as long as he could speak—'Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him; my heart and my flesh may faint and fail—oh, yes! the earthly house of our tabernacle must be dissolved; but we have a house, John, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens; and the Spirit and the bride say, Come;' and, with these words, he bowed his head and he gave up the ghost. He and I were tied together by the legs, and I sat till morning light with his dead body in my arms. These dreadful men only scoffed when I spoke of death, and bade me take my supper off the dead man's bones. O Lord! how long? O Lord! how long?"

The next resting-place seems to have been in the midst of the "Lang Whang"—a barren and bleak muir, which stretches eastward ten or eleven miles beyond Carnwath. Here an enclosure was effected by means of stakes and ropes, as the binding system had been found ineffectual, there being generally some method adopted by the fettered sufferers to relieve themselves. Within this enclosure these three hundred men stood or lay during a dark and a rainy night, without fire, and with very scanty provisions; whilst the demons on the outside of the enclosure lighted up fires of the heath, and of some peats which were found ready dried in the neighbourhood, and spent the night in roasting all manner of barn-door fowls, pigs, and even sheep, which they had captured as they passed along. Refreshment of a spirituous character was not denied them; and their songs, and their blasphemies, and their insulting language, "rose up in the midst of the wilderness" as Govan[Pg 117] expresses it—"to the throne of the Most High, calling for vengeance in the day of retribution, on the head of the oppressor."

"This," continues he, "is a second morning, and a cold, and a gloomy, and a dreadful one it is. Clavers and his attendants are galloping up from Carnwath, where they have been spending the night in jollification wi' the laird; and we are just about to renew our dismal march. My leg is exceedingly troublesome; but, as we advance but slowly, I make a shift to get on. One man died last night raving mad; and another, I much fear, has put an end, with his own hand, to an unendurable existence. O Lord, give me strength to bear whatever thy wisdom sees meet to inflict!"

From the Lang Whang, the Grass Market was reached on the succeeding evening, and, after being united with two hundred prisoners from Stirling, they were all marched from the Grass Market; and, after some seasonable refreshment, ordered by the humane and kind-hearted Duke of Monmouth, into the Greyfriars' Churchyard, there to abide—from the month of June to that of December following—all the peltings of the pitiless storm, without a sufficiency of food, and entirely without covering.

Men of Scotland, was there ever anything like this? Can the remembrance of such atrocities ever be obliterated? Can century upon century, as they slowly roll on their course, ever place these events, and this event in particular, beyond the range of your interest? We read with horror of the scaffold and the guillotine; but what immediate death could equal in atrocity their protracted sufferings? Friends have they, indeed, within these walls, but they cannot, or but seldom, and at great risk, obtain an entrance. Many are disposed to supply the houseless prisoner with couch and covering, but they only supply additional means of debauchery to the ruffian soldiery. The chambers of the[Pg 118] many dead are defiled and rendered pestilential by the presence of the many living. Death, in ordinary circumstances, is a boon to this. Winter approaching—(nay, has arrived)—the sleety shower plashing over the Castle—the whirling drifts, eddying about, amongst, and beneath the tombstones—the wild, long, endless night, to which succeeds no dawn of comfort—no warm chamber—no invigorating and cheering meal. Oh, honest and fearless shades, tell us all! how did you stand it? How was it that you did not sell your remaining strength as dearly as possible?—that you did not rush like tigers upon your guards, and perish whilst rending them with your teeth and nails? But ye are silent as becomes ye; so I must apply to honest John Govan's MS.

"This is now the sixth week that I have dwelt in this dreary place. Oh, happy they who lie beneath! they are covered, and feel not our privations, and pains, and sufferings; and yet freedom and home is offered to us, and accepted by many. God forgive them, if it be His will!—but John Govan will never accept his liberty on such terms. His mother's shade would rise up in judgment. Shall I take their infamous oaths, or subscribe their no less infamous bonds? Shall I swear that the Bishop's death is murder, and that the resistance of an oppressed and persecuted people is rebellion? Shall I 'bind, oblige, and enact myself,' that I shall not hereafter take up arms in so good a cause? No! I will sooner perish, inch by inch; I will sooner suffer the tortures of the boot, and the final cruel judgment of the maiden. Men are yet unborn that will bless us—a whole people, happy in a pure religion and a free government, will adore the memory of the most humble son of the Covenant; they will build and erect pillars and monuments to our memory; they will count, anxiously count, kindred with us; they will record and register our deeds and our sufferings; and, when this world, with all its[Pg 119] interests, shall have ceased to exist, we shall be in everlasting remembrance."

Thus reasoned, and thus were supported, these men, who set at defiance threats, and entreaties, and insidious reasonings; who valued the approbation of their own consciences above every other; who feared their God, and had no other fear.

As winter drew on, the intercourse with the inhabitants of Edinburgh became more frequent and less easily obstructed. It was absolutely necessary that brothers, and even sisters, and wives, and mothers, should be permitted occasionally to carry some warm broth, or some still stronger stimulants, to those whose rations were so limited, and whose exposure to the cold air was so dismally protracted. Even partial scaffoldings were erected around the churchyard, and towards the east, or town side in particular; and some imperfect, no doubt, but still acceptable shelter, was thus extended to the perishing inmates. It was not possible that disease should not walk in the train of so much deprivation. Many died of fever; some of consumption or bad colds; and not a few of downright debility. The guards, too, became tired of the monotony of their task, and often retired into adjoining taverns to keep up their spirits. Some escaped by one means and some by another; one in the dress of a sister, and another in the garb of a mason. An Act of Indemnity was at last passed, from which, however, about twenty were exempted, and perhaps nine or ten executed. John Govan seems to have survived these dismal times by some years; for I find him next on Magus Muir, encouraging and supporting his friends who suffered. His concluding sentences are these:—

"I have seen, I have seen—mine eyes have seen thy salvation; Presbytery, my beloved Presbytery, established by law; freedom of conscience secured to all; a Protestant King; a Protestant government; every man dwelling in[Pg 120] peace, under his own vine and his own fig-tree; mine own son delivering the word of God to a Protestant congregation, and protected by law. My old age has been soothed by many comforts; the partner of my fortunes and sharer of all my trials still alive, and capable of uniting with me in the song of thanksgiving—verily, the Lord has been merciful and gracious, and I now await his divine pleasure with perfect resignation. I am old, and have had my day. I trust I have not altogether neglected my duty; and when it shall be His blessed will to call me, I will depart cheerfully home, and appear in his presence. My sins and imperfections are indeed many; but I know in whom I have believed, and to whom I have committed the soul, my immortal part. Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace."

Thus far honest John Govan, who seems to have slept with his fathers a year or two after the Revolution, in the eighty-fourth year of his age. The papers, John Brown informed me, passed into his grandfather's keeping, in consequence of the friendship which continued to exist betwixt the Govans and the Browns; the Govans having long ago emigrated to America, and left the Browns a bequest of books, and these papers besides.


XXI.—"OLD BLUNTIE."

Creehope Linn was a well-known retreat of the old Covenanters in Dumfriesshire. The water, in the course of successive ages, has cut itself a smooth, winding, and extremely deep passage, through an immense bed of sandstone; and so capricious have been its excavations, that, whilst the rock beneath is hollowed out into vast recesses, or natural caves and chambers, the rock above almost meets, and spreads a gloom, approaching to complete darkness, all around the caverns below. In these caverns—as I already,[Pg 121] more than once, have had occasion to mention—the poor persecuted flock found a temporary shelter and safety. There was something in the natural gloom which induced melancholy and even fearful cogitations. One of these caves, immediately over what is still known by the appropriate designation of "Hell's Cauldron," was, long after the Revolution, tenanted by an old man of singular aspect and character, who cobbled shoes for the peasantry around. His residence is still shown, and known as the "Sutor's Seat." You may still see the hollow in the rock where he lay himself, and another which contained his implements. Tradition gives but few notices of his habits, but these few are perhaps worth recording. He was manifestly crazy; but still there was a method in his madness; and nothing would persuade him, after the Revolution, that he might ever safely visit the upper world. He still talked of Clavers, and Johnston, and Douglas, and Lag; and the rocks retain to this day, it is said, the names of some of these worthies, engraved by Sutor Bluntie's awl. Whether this appellation of "Bluntie" was his own original name, or whether it was only a cognomen, I cannot positively aver, though I think the last is more than probable, as I never heard of any person of this name in Dumfriesshire, or, indeed, anywhere else. He would, whilst in the act of mending a shoe or cobbling a boot, suddenly spring to his legs, look fearfully around him, and aver that he was not alone—that the pursuer was present—that a fearfully disfigured, mangled carcase stood in the very centre of Hell's Caldron. "There it stands!" he would say—"there! there! One jaw hanging down, and one eye out; its legs broken; its skull in pieces; its belly ripped up; and yet it looks terribly at me. But the foul fiend will be here by and by—ay will he. He will soon settle your jabbering, Donald Cameron. There—there he comes: he is rushing, like a tempest, among these trees!—he is sweeping like a whirlwind amongst these rocks![Pg 122] Yes—he comes, like a lion, roaring for his prey. But you are gone, Donald Cameron; it was as well. You sank into the Caldron to award the foul fiend, did you?—out of the frying-pan into the fire, lad! But now all's quiet again—I will finish my job in spite of you!" Even at mid-day, he kept a lamp constantly burning; and the rock is still blackened by the smoke. Thus, doubtless, his mind had taken a gloomy tint, which gradually diverged into downright insanity. But there was, after all, a method in his madness. There was a particular reason for the peculiar usages which his imagination conjured up; and it was this:—During the hottest period of the Persecution, Old Bluntie, who was by profession a shoemaker, had taken to this (to him) well-known and familiar recess. There he remained during the day; but at night he stole out, with the beasts of prey, to obtain food. His wife (for he had no children) had been shot, one day, by a dragoon, as she stood in her doorway. The man simply exclaimed—"That's the Covenanting b——!" fired his pistol, and the woman fell. Bluntie became, ever after this, altogether reckless; his only object was, by one means or another, by hook or by crook, to lead or decoy the persecutors into ambushes and danger. It was he mainly who decoyed the party into the Pass of Enterkin, already described in these papers. He pretended to turn informer; but when the cave was searched, the inmate was flown; but a rifle-gun, from behind a hedge, seldom missed its mark. Another plan of his was of a somewhat original character. Creehope Linn divides, as I have already described, a sandstone rock, over which there lies a deep layer of moss, surmounted by close and tall heather—at least this was the case formerly, and may be so still. For a considerable way below the fall known by the name of the "Grey Mare's Tail," the linn almost meets above, and the heather altogether—to an inexperienced stranger, there is no evidence whatever of the dreadful abyss, of sixty feet[Pg 123] depth, which yawns beneath. The ground around is level, and the water moves on at such a distance from the surface, that, unless in floods, it is quite inaudible. Clavers at this time was a stranger in the southern district, to which, in consequence of Turner's rising at Dumfries, he had been recently appointed; and his men were, of course, equally strangers. Old Bluntie caused a report to be conveyed to Clavers, whilst stationed at Croalchapel, in the neighbourhood, that a number of the friends of the Covenant, with old Cargill at their head, were to have a meeting, or conventicle, in a hollow glen, fifty yards south of the Linn. It was, of course, to take place at night, and by favour of a harvest moon. Having been deceived by false intelligence on other occasions, Clavers ordered Red Rob to lead a troop of ten men into an adjoining cleugh, and there to dismiss one of them on foot to reconnoitre the ground. All this was done. But when the soldier came within sight of the place of meeting, he found only one man, whom he immediately hailed. The figure started, and ran swiftly away, whilst a ball went fully more swiftly in pursuit, but missed its mark. The soldier pursued sword in hand, and Bluntie made the best of his way onward towards the mountain pass of Bellybught. But, all at once, the soldier disappeared. He had sunk through the heather, and was not to be seen. The other nine dragoons, who had heard the report, now followed in hot pursuit, and, coming inadvertently on the same concealed danger, horse and man went over at once. The legs of several of the horses were broken; two stuck in the jaws of the ravine, which was not wide enough to allow them to sink; and one rider went plump to the bottom; whilst another had his neck broken, by being pitched on his head to some distance. This person's name was John Campbell; and the spot retains the name of "Jock's Step" to this hour.


[Pg 124]

XXII.—THOMAS HARKNESS OF LOCKERBEN.

I have already given some account of the famous rescue at Enterkin—I am now about to follow out one of the consequences of that rescue:—

Amongst those who were engaged in this affair, was Thomas Harkness of Lockerben, parish of Dalgarno. Immediately after the affray, the various individuals who were principally concerned in it separated. Andrew Clerk, in Leadhills, fled to Annandale; Samuel M'Ewan, in Glencairn, made off towards Cumnock; and Thomas Harkness hovered for some time amongst the Lowther heights, and then took refuge in a widow woman's house in Leadhills. Marion Morrison was the widow of David Douglas, a miner, who had lost his life in one of the shafts. She lived in a small cottage on the heathy muir, and at a considerable distance from the other houses, which, in these times, were not numerous. She had one only daughter—now woman-grown and comely—who, by spinning sale-yarn for the Lanark and Douglas market, supported herself and her mother, if not in comfort, at least in competence and peace. They were both religious persons, and took a deep interest in the persecuted remnant. Many a prayer had Marion put up in behalf of God's own people, to which her daughter May, as she was called, responded with deep sincerity. As the old song says, "It was in and about the Martinmas time," when Marion and her daughter were engaged, the one in carding and the other in spinning wool, the tarry-woo of the mountain land. May was blythe and cheerful, half-singing and half-chanting the now old, but then popular song—

"Oh, tarry woo is ill to spin!
Card it weel ere ye begin—
Card it weel, and draw it sma'—
Tarry woo is the best of a'!"
[Pg 125]

when the cat was observed to make a sudden movement across the hearth, and in stepped a tall figure, wrapped up in a shepherd's plaid. Marion started, and May all but screamed. But the figure soon unfolded itself, exclaiming—

"Be not afeared—be not afeared, honest Christian women. I am a poor, pursued, persecuted bird, flying into your hut from the claws of the kite. I have neither slept nor broken bread for these three days and three nights; but, now that the moon has waned, I have ventured down, in the dark, to beg a morsel of meal and water, a night's shelter, and a few hours' rest. My name is Thomas Harkness of Lockerben, where my forbears have lived for these three hundred years bygane; and it's e'en a richt sair case that, wi' thae grey hairs and wrinkles, I should be compelled to sleep wi' the peaseweep, and to sup wi' the fox on the mountain fell."

"Indeed, and sae it is," responded Marion; "and welcome, thrice welcome, I trow, are ye, or ony o' the name and the lineage o' the Harknesses, to puir Marion Morrison's best; and, oh, that it was better, for your sake! Ye hae forgotten the bit whilking lassie, nae doubt, that drave oot yer worthy faither's stirks to the calf-park and back again, that helpit the mistress wi' the bairns, and whiles scrapit potatoes, and sic like. Weel, that bit young, thoughtless cummer, is now the auld, decrepit body—bonny May, as yer mother used to ca' me, is now auld Marion, wham the folks hereabout deeply suspect o' witchcraft, and I kenna what ither craft, I'm turned sae unwarl and pookit-like. But, May, my bairn, the guid man's sleeping wi' downright fatigue. Get on the pot; there's a wee pickle barley in the auld barrel, and there's a bit o' the meat that I was keeping for our Sabbath meal; but the Lord is a rich provider, and we winna want; sae just put in the bit meat wi' the barley, and get broth and mutton for my auld master's son. The mashlom bannock is amang the meal, in the kist. Bring it[Pg 126] oot, wi' a bit saut butter, in the meantime; for oh, sirs! hunger's ill to bide. But, dear, and be wi' me! if the guidman bena as sound as a tap! It wad be a'maist a pity to waken him, till the broth pot be fairly set a poppling at least."

May executed her mother's orders with alacrity; and, ere an hour had escaped, Thomas Harkness was aroused to a most delicious meal, which he devoured more like a famished wolf than a Christian man; not, however, hungry and ravenous as he was, before doffing his blue bonnet, and asking of his Maker a blessing with the offered mercy. He was soon after conveyed ben the house, and put into possession of the only bed which the cottage contained; the mother and daughter sleeping and watching alternately, the one in a large elbow chair, and the other upon a sack of tarry woo. Day dawned, beautiful and sweet, over the wild mountains of Leadhills, and May Douglas stood without the low and confined door of her little cottage, when she was startled by the firing of muskets on the opposite hill-side. The smoke directed her eye to the spot, and she saw a poor boy, who had been running hard for the old shafts, fall immediately forward amongst the long rank heather. "Let the cursed dog lie there and bleed to death," was uttered aloud, in the most horrid tone of voice. "Where the watch has been set, the enemy must be lurking; we'll search, my lads, the village from corner to corner; and, if we cannot start the game otherwise, we'll put a blazing peat to it, and smoke out the old fox from his den." It was manifest to May Douglas that Thomas Harkness was now placed in the utmost jeopardy; and she flew ben the house, and, with that unconsciousness of impropriety so natural to her age and innocence, immediately roused the guidman of Lockerben, and made him sensible of his situation. What was to be done?—An instant more, and all might be lost. It struck the good girl[Pg 127] that there was an old shaft mouth, within a few yards of the back part of the house, into which the pursued fugitive might pass through a window, or hole, which opened, to let out the smoke and in the light, backwards. No sooner thought of than said—and Thomas, with the greater part of his clothing under his arm, thrust himself through the opening with some difficulty, and found himself in a second or two within the hiding of the old shaft. In an instant after, the house was surrounded, and armed men, with swords and holster pistols, rushed into the house of this poor unprotected woman.

"Turn out the old b—— with her whelp," said Clavers to the band, "and cast her Bible and Psalm-Book after, that she may amuse herself and her beauty, whilst we secure the stray sheep of the house of Israel. So ho! here is trail, here is trail; tally-ho!—a shepherd's plaid, and a pair of good large shoes, well soled and tacketed. The guidman himself is not far off—he will be at his devotions, Rob; see you do not disturb him, you unmannerly rascal."

"Oh no," replied the well-known corporal, Rob Douglas, "I will only join in the psalmody." And then he bawled out, in stentorian whine, mimicking the voice and manner of a Covenanter—

"'In Judah's land God is well-known,
His name in Israel great,
In Salem is his tabernacle,
In Zion is his seat.'

But no, no, my sweet chick of canticles, not so fast, dear, not so fast—neither you nor old grunty must budge a foot-length from the place where you now stand—sit or lie, as you please—till you get permission from this here person with the King's authority on both his shoulders."

In the meantime, everything in the house had been turned topsy-turvy, and the eleventh commandment, as they facetiously denominated the broadsword, had been[Pg 128] passed through all manner of pierceables; when, enraged at being foiled of his prey when so nearly securing it, Clavers ordered the hut to be set on fire, and the old hunks to be thrown into the midst of it. "As to this young chick," said he, giving her chin a rude blow upwards, "why, I do not know that I shall burn her till Halloween, and then she will skip and flame on the hearth-stane amongst the nuts."

No sooner said than done—the house was immediately set fire to at all the four corners, whilst the brutal soldiery stood round watching, and making sport of some mice, whom their instinct led to escape. Marion Morrison was actually in the rude hands of the soldiers, when fear of the consequences, or, it may be, something resembling humanity, led Clavers to give orders to let the b—— live, to plague the whole village for half a century to come.

In the meantime, Mr Robert Ramsay, the manager of the lead-mines, appeared, to remonstrate with Clavers for his very unhandsome treatment of the women, and his destruction of property which belonged to the family of Hopetoun. It being the time, too, when the workmen shifted their labours, the hill-side poured forth, its fifties and hundreds, as if it had actually teemed with life. Clavers and his men were immediately surrounded with a grim and an incensed crowd, headed by their much-esteemed manager—the father, as was afterwards the case, of the celebrated Allan Ramsay, who thus celebrates the place of his birth—

"Of Crawford Moor—born in Leadhill—
Where mineral springs Glengonner fill,
Which joins sweet-flowing Clyde,
Between auld Crawford Lindsay's towers
And where Duneaton rapid pours
His stream to Glotta's tide."

In vain did Ramsay remonstrate with Clavers. He boasted his Orders in Council; defied all remonstrance; ordered his[Pg 129] men to charge; and, firing on the crowd right and left, made his escape to the hills. Providentially no one was even hurt; and it was strongly suspected that, knowing he had already rather exceeded his commission, he had ordered the dragoons to charge without ball-cartridge. After this affair was over, the district was freed, for a time, from the hateful presence of the King's troops, as they were known to be occupied on a similar office in Annandale, and the higher district of Nithsdale.

Thomas Harkness being duly informed of his safety, came forth from his hiding, which was nearly covered over by spret and long heather, and was welcomed (though not without apprehension) to the manager's dwelling, which stood then, where the manager's house still stands, in the midst of the town, and was and still is surrounded by trees—the only ones to be seen for many miles around. The old woman, Marion Morrison, with her bonny May, were likewise taken home to the same hospitable dwelling, till some arrangement could be made, with the generous and noble-minded family of Hopetoun, for their future accommodation. Mr Robert Ramsay was a young, unmarried man of family—as his name implies—and he felt the impropriety of keeping a young, unmarried woman under his roof. Whether it was that he and May understood each other before this time, or that their unexpected juxtaposition, now accelerated the consummation, I know not; but so it was, that, in a few days, preparations were agoing forward of a somewhat demonstrative nature. A fine black-faced sheep was killed; ale barrels were seen travelling up Glengonner; four dozen of good port wine were placed on the sideboard, whilst a cask of strong Nantz brandy slept quietly beneath. On Sabbath, the names of Robert Ramsay and May Douglas, both of this parish, were read aloud by the precentor, schoolmaster, and manager's clerk; and the Friday following was fixed upon for the marriage.[Pg 130]

Any festivity amongst these congregated children of the mountains, is anticipated by them with peculiar relish and excitement. Miles beneath the ground, the voice of joy and jest, and colloquy, penetrated; and, whilst the jumper penetrated the rock, and the hammer fell ponderous and frequent, the tongue was not idle, and the heart was not sad. Every one spoke well of the bride; most of them knew her father and esteemed him. Old Marion, to be sure, was a quisquis character; but then, she was now to be the manager's stepmother, honest man; and it was deemed that, if ever old Marion had dealt with the old gentleman, she would now prefer the young one. The long-looked-for, wished-for day, at last arrived, and the nonconforming minister of the parish of Crawford—the godly Mr Austin—was brought from his retreat, at the town of Douglas, to perform the marriage ceremony. All was gay as a marriage bell; the men had a full holiday, by order of Lord Hopetoun, with full wages, on the occasion. They, with their wives and daughters, were all arranged on the green plot in front of the manager's house; whilst viands, of a most substantial nature, were served out to them in abundance—amongst which, sheep-heads, haggises, and Irish stews, were not forgotten. The tankards circulated; the wine was handed round in queghs and skuties, or timber shells; and brandy followed in abundance. The heart of the poor labourer was gladdened, whilst, glowing as it did with gratitude and kindly feeling, it was made better; and the young and handsome couple walked round amongst the people with pride and honest delight. One mother was sad, because her son lay still in a bed of sickness. He had fallen when wounded (as was before mentioned) on the hill, and having been shot through the knee-joint, his wound was long of healing—still there was a certainty that, though lame for life, he would not die of the injury, and the mother ventured out, though with a[Pg 131] clouded aspect. A Highland bagpiper made his appearance, (probably from a previous arrangement,) and, having taken his seat and his draught—

"He screwed his pipes, and gart them skirl,
Till glen and mountain a' did dirl."

The lads sprung to their feet—

"Wi' wooer babs
At their blue-bonnet lugs."
"The lasses—bonny witches—
Were a' dressed up in aprons clean,
And braw white Sunday mutches."

So to it they went; and round and round the green they reeled it, and country-danced it, and shouted it, and flapped it, and jumped it—and

"Haverel Jean her hanging stocking ties,
And to the dance with maddening fury flies,"

till nature could hold out no longer, and wearied limbs were stretched out full length on the soft greensward. In the meantime, in came two pilgrims from the Holy Land, and they spoke of Eastern lands and Eastern manners; and, being wearied with travel, they behoved to partake of the cheer. Next to them succeeded Auld Glenae, tied all round with straw ropes, and making love to every bonny lassie present, clapping the old women on the back, and kissing the young lassies. Even Thomas Harkness has laid aside, for a season, his nonconformity, and absolutely foots it away with old Marion Morrison. Laughter goes round in peals, and punch in pailfuls; and the jolly god shakes his sides as he contemplates his happy worshippers. Never did Mount Nysa resound to more genuine revelment. But whom have we here? A horseman—a dragoon! Let me look through the trees. Oh, my God! we are surrounded by a troop of horse, and all means of resistance of escape is cut off from us! Clavers advances very coolly[Pg 132] into the midst of the festive circle; and, making his obeisance in the most polite manner, takes up a full tankard, and drinks to the health of the new-married couple—nay, nothing will serve him but he must dance a reel with the bride, who, though reluctant, is forced to comply. Then, turning round, in the most playful manner, to Mr Robert Ramsay—

"I know," said he, "you are an honest man, and a true, and trouble yourself mighty little with conformity or nonconformity; and, therefore, my business is not with you. As to you, Mr Austin, your day is coming; but the pear is not ripe yet. I have my eyes upon you; and the first conventicle which you hold at the old town of Douglas shall seal your fate. At present, you are free. But with you, Mr Thomas Lockerben, I must hold some private communing; and, with the permission of this jolly company, and with all thanks to our hospitable entertainers, we shall now withdraw. Soldiers, see the prisoner secured, and his hands tied firm behind his back. Bundle him up there behind the sergeant. One file on each side, and one behind! All ready! March!"

The next appearance which poor Thomas Harkness made was in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh, where he emitted the testimony to be found in Wodrow—(Burns' edition, vol. iv., p. 68.)


XXIII.—THE SHOES REVERSED.

The banks of the Liddel are green, peaceful, and productive. The stream itself is all which a pastoral stream ever ought to aspire to: it is neither turbid nor calm; neither precipitous nor sluggish. When chafed, indeed, by the flood, it can assert, and boldly, its independence; and sometimes, just by way of showing its strength and general forbearance, you may see a hay-stack, or a stray sheep, floating[Pg 133] on the railway of its current. But, in general, it winds its course along a narrow, indeed, but a sweet pastoral valley, with all becoming moderation, and even modesty—retiring occasionally, like the coquette in Virgil, ad salices, and, like her, too, cupiens ante videri; now passing from behind a steep, and again trotting it off in graceful and visible windings. Yet, peaceful and beautiful as this Scottish Tempe now is, it was for ages the scene of rapine, blood, and battle—of all those Border feuds which, from age to age, concentrated on this point, till the waters of the Liddel ran red, and its green banks were dyed with the blood of vassal and lord, of Scotchman and Englishman, of Douglas, Hume, Howard, Graham, and Percy. During these bold and stirring times, characters were formed which remained long after reiving had ceased. The Elliot, the Armstrong, the Jardine, and the Johnstone, entailed upon their posterity a spirit of fearless independence and wassail hospitality, which remains, though in a greatly diluted state, to this hour. At the time to which this narrative points, it was still in full vigour; and the incidents of the story are illustrative of such a character.

The property of Whithaugh has been in the possession of the ancestors of the venerable and kind-hearted present proprietor for at least four centuries. Its produce has always been sufficient for the necessaries, and even some of the luxuries of life; and, what is somewhat singular, no miser and no spendthrift has ever increased or diminished its extent. What it was in the days of James V. of Scotland, (who once lodged a night in the mansion-house,) it continues to be. The rental may be somewhat about L. 600 per annum; and, with the income free and unincumbered, the present proprietor is just as rich as he wishes to be, and can afford to exercise that immemorial bias towards hospitality for which the Elliots of Whithaugh are, and[Pg 134] have always been, quite celebrated. My tale—which is, indeed, too true in all its general outline—I heard, a few years ago, from old Elliot himself, in the presence of the worthy minister of Castleton, my old and good friend, the Rev. Mr Barton, to whom I can safely appeal for the truth of the facts related.

Sir James Johnstone of Westerhall was a well-known persecutor during the reign of the detestable Second Charles; and, as his mansion was at no great distance from Liddesdale, he treated himself occasionally to a Border chase, as he termed it—riding with a troop of dragoons up and down the dale, levying heavy fines, and shooting occasionally, a stray son of the Covenant, as he fled to the cave or the morass. In one of these excursions Johnstone encountered the Laird of Whithaugh's poor, fatuous brother, who had, by some means, escaped into the mountains from the hands of a stout man, to whose care and protection the inoffensive, but perfectly fatuous creature was committed. Archy Elliot (known in the neighbourhood by the familiar designation, "A but Archy," from his commencing every sentence with the words "A but") had wandered into a mountain dell; and, at last, unable to extricate himself, he had sat down to rest him upon a rock, which overhung a small stream, over which the branches of the rowan tree, or mountain ash, were spread. Johnstone and his party were in quest, at the time, of poor Gilbert Watson, against whom the curate of the parish of Applegirth had lodged an information, on the score of his having got his child baptized by the lately ousted minister of the parish. Gilbert had been compelled to betake him to the mountain passes on this account, and was supposed to have taken up his abode in what was called "Fox Den," on the water of Tarras. Johnstone immediately dismounted from his horse, (upon seeing the figure of a man by the stream-side,) and, with two dragoons to assist him,[Pg 135] proceeded to descend into the hollow where poor Archy Elliot was seated.

"Hollo!" vociferated Johnstone, in a loud and harsh tone of voice—"hollo! brother brush-the-heather, what have we here? A Bible, no doubt, and a psalm-tune, and Covenanting dirge, made up of profanity and high treason in equal proportions. Stir your stumps, old Gibby! Ye're wanted, man, by the guidwife. She can get nae rest without you; and the vile, roaring get which ye sae lately made a Christian o', took a taste o' the caller air this morning at the top o' Sergeant Pagan's sword. Look, man! glour, man!—you, Gibby, wi' or without the girds—there's the blood o' the yelping brat on the sword yet. Pat Pagan tells me it won't come off; so we'll e'en see if the Tarras water winna wash it oot"—pulling the sword out of the hands of the grim sergeant, and swinging it backwards and forwards in the adjoining pool.

In the meantime, Daft Archy had sprung to his feet, and was staring wildly at the company by which he was surrounded.

"A but, man—a but, man—I'm Archy, ye ken—Archy Elliot, ye ken—a but, no kill Archy—a but—a but—a but!" &c.

"None of your Whiggery slang here, ye manting, shamming fool! D'ye think we dinna see that all this foolery is put on, man? D'ye think we dinna ken Gibby Watson o' the Goosedub? Men, do your duty, and secure the traitor!"

Thus saying, the dragoons were proceeding to execute their orders, when one of them interfered, and assured his Honour that he was mistaken in the person—for this was the daft brither o' the Laird o' Whithaugh, "owre by yonder."

"Elliot o' Whithaugh!" exclaimed Johnstone, with a demoniacal grin. "Auld, canting, traitor-hiding Elliot! I have a good mind to set his house in a lunt about his lugs, and toss this lump of idiocy into the fire, just to beet the[Pg 136] flame. Tie the creature with cords to a tree, and let us proceed to Elliot's of Whithaugh. It is a thousand to one that 'Gibby God-be-thanked' is not snugly lodged in the laird's pantry; or, maybe, luggit into the heart o' a peat-stack."

Altogether reckless of the screams and struggles of the poor innocent, away the party scampered, as if on a holiday excursion, towards the old house of Whithaugh. It had rained hard over night, and the Liddel was running dark, smooth, and foam-belled. Instead, however, of going about a mile round by the old stone bridge, the whole party dashed at once fearlessly into the swollen stream, and made furiously forward towards the opposite bank. The bank however was steep; and, as Sergeant Pagan's horse was trying to clear an ascent of some feet, it fairly fell back, with its rider beneath, into the turbid and boiling water. At once rider and man were tumbled over by the flood, and lodged in a deep pool under a steep cliff, some yards lower down. The horse and man, for some time, seemed entangled with each other; but, at last, the horse escaped, and made for the further shore, which was shelvy and hard. The man was never again seen alive. His body was afterwards found some miles lower down. Having ascertained that one of his troop—one of the most tried and trustworthy—in other words, of the most cruel and daring—had paid the forfeit of his own temerity, Johnstone uttered a curse or two in reference to the departed's soul, and swore that he would make old Whithaugh suffer for this. Up, accordingly, the band trotted towards the front door, which faced southward upon a green lawn. But, upon demanding entrance, he was told from a window that none would be permitted. In fact, the party had been seen advancing, and their purpose guessed at; and Whithaugh had resolved, by the assistance of two stout sons, an only daughter of singular beauty, and nearly half-a-dozen ploughmen, to defend Gilbert Watson[Pg 137] and his own premises by force. This altered somewhat the aspect of things; and Johnstone, after bestowing his usual allowance of curses upon the old man, the house, and all its inmates, drew from his pocket what he termed a "Lauderdale," or high commission, by which he was entitled to search out, sack, and if necessary, put to the sword all manner of traitors and conventiclers in these parts. Having read as it were the "riot act," he was proceeding to open the front door by force, when poor Archy was heard fast approaching under the conduct of his keeper.

"A but, a but," said Archy—"a but—no kill, no kill—ah, but tie—ah, but tie—tree! tree! tree!"—pointing to the trees which surrounded the green.

"Give the old cutter a broadside," said Johnstone, retreating from the door to give freedom to the men; and immediately the whole front windows were lying in shining fragments inside and outside of the apartments. Luckily, seeing the preparation that was made, everybody had stood aside from the windows, and no one in the house was injured. His keeper had a strong hold of Archy, and was endeavouring to keep him out of harm's way, by thrusting his back against a tree in the orchard, when, by a sudden effort, he escaped, and, armed with a pitchfork, which he had found in the stack-yard, he rushed instantly upon the assailants, lodging the weapon in the flanks of one of the trooper's horses, ere his rider could turn him round. This so incensed the soldier, that he instantly pulled out his holster pistol, and shot the poor half-witted creature through the head. He fell, repeating his well-known exclamation, "a but," and was dead in an instant.

Seeing how matters were going on without, old Whithaugh, who had hitherto acted merely upon the defensive, discharged a fowling-piece, which he had ready loaded, at the captain of the band. The ball grazed his bridle hand, and blood followed the slight injury. This so incensed the[Pg 138] leader that he immediately ordered the stack-yard and out-houses to be set fire to, vowing that if the traitor were not given up, he would burn down the Ha' house likewise, and not leave a combustible unconsumed about the steading. Already had the poor cattle begun to roar at the stake, and the hens and turkeys to escape from the flaming stack-yard, when out Whithaugh issued, surrounded by his resolute supporters, armed with grapes, pitchforks, and such other lethal weapons as the place and the occasion admitted of. Seeing matters come to this pass, poor Gilbert, who had actually been built up into a hay-stack, the farther extremity of which was now on fire, immediately sprung forth, and, throwing himself betwixt the combatants, called aloud for an armistice, and at once offered to surrender. Meanwhile, the fair but distracted Helen Elliot rushed likewise betwixt the parties, and prayed, on her knees, that her father's grey hairs might be spared. This somewhat altered the state of matters. The cattle were got extricated from the burning—in some cases the flames were extinguished—and, Johnstone having gained his object, though at the expense of life and much valuable property, gave orders for a retreat. Placing poor Gilbert Watson, upon a dragoon's saddle, in a very inconvenient position, whilst the rider sat comfortably in the saddle behind him, and bestowing some extravagant, but unwelcome praises upon the personal charms of fair Helen—the whole party, with the exception of the wounded horse, which was speared to death, and the man who had lost his life in the water, marched up the dale, being resolved that, now at least, they should not risk their lives in the swollen flood. There stood at this time, and probably there stands still, a little public-house at the bridge, and about half a mile from the manse of Castleton. Into this public-house the party betook themselves to refresh, whilst the curate of Castleton was sent for, to have an interview with Johnstone, to[Pg 139] whom he was intimately known, and to whom he had often given private information respecting the poor HIDING people, who fled to the mountain and glen, and the moss and the cave, for life and for conscience-sake. This curate of Castleton was a somewhat singular personage in appearance. He gave one a pretty correct idea of Æsop. He was a little bandy-legged body, with a large aquiline nose, a hunched back, and a most sinister squint. His church, indeed, was deserted, unless by the family in the small change-house, and one or two farmers, who, for fear of suspicion and consequent spoliation, were in the habit of occasionally attending. He, like his neighbours of the curacy, had been imported, ready made, from Aberdeen, with all its strange dialect, and all its stranger leanings to oppression and Episcopacy. Just at the moment when Johnstone's messenger arrived at the manse, then situated high up the hill, upon the brink of a precipice, the curate was in private converse with a person who was giving him the important information, that a conventicle was this very evening to be held at the Dead-Water—a large mountain-moss, situated on the Borders, and giving rise to the river Tyne on the one side, and the Liddel on the other. This information having been obtained, the curate, commonly designated Clatterwallet, hastened away, in company with Johnstone's messenger, for the Brig change-house. An interview with Johnstone was immediately obtained; and, in a few minutes, orders were given to his men to hold themselves in readiness to march. Meanwhile, the prisoner, Watson, was put under the guardianship of a dragoon, and lodged in a small byre attached to the gavel of the dwelling-house. Several attempts were made by seeming travellers, to get the soldier withdrawn from his station, but they proved ineffectual. Meantime, the night began to darken in, with a soft-falling snow shower, which rendered the ground all white around. Poor Gilbert Watson had[Pg 140] said his prayers, sung the 121st Psalm, and was preparing to rest himself, with a cow and her calf for his companions, when he thought he heard a voice whispering to him from the roof of the thatched byre. It was indeed a voice, and a friendly one; for it said, "Here! Here!" A staff was thrust through a small aperture in the thatch. Gilbert moved towards the place, and heard, in whispers exceedingly low, that an opening in the roof was about to be made for his escape. Meanwhile, Gilbert kept constantly moving about, so that the watch at the door might be assured that he was still in his keeping. All at once, when a hole large enough had been made, Gilbert was pulled up by the arms and shoulders, and carried on the back of a strong man, with amazing velocity down the glen. The soldier had heard the noise which this occasioned, and immediately hailed his prisoner. No answer being returned, he entered, and discovered at once the trick which had been played upon him. He immediately rounded the byre; but, in doing so, felt his feet entangled in a strong rope, which, when he had put down his hands to disentangle, he was caught by the waist in a strong fox-trap. This made him roar aloud for help; but ere the innkeeper could give him the desired assistance, the prisoner had considerable time to escape. In fact, in noiseless speed, the strong man had borne Gilbert to a considerable distance, and then setting him down, he untied his shoes, and putting the heels foremost, fastened them, thus reversed, by strings to his feet. "Now," said the voice, in parting—"now for Castle-Hermitage and its dungeon! till to-morrow morning, when assistance will be rendered." And, saying thus, the strong man took his immediate departure, and disappeared amongst the woods. Poor Gilbert did as he was instructed, and, in about an hour, reached the dismal solitude of Castle-Hermitage. There, on some straw which still remained from the time when poor Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie had been[Pg 141] starved to death by Sir William Douglas, did this poor persecuted man remain till the following morning. In the meantime, Johnstone having discovered that he had been sent on a fool's errand, and that no such meeting was about to take place, as the curate had been advertised of, at the Dead-Water-Moss, returned in no very good humour—first, to the manse of Castleton, from which he proposed ejecting the curate over the precipice, which lay underneath his window, and then, about midnight, to the inn at the Brig-end of Liddel Water. Here his rage was converted into fury at the trick which had now manifestly been played upon him; and he stamped, and swore, and blasphemed during the remainder of the night; drinking, however, and eating mutton ham, by turns, and warning his man that, so soon as day broke, they should give chase to the old fox. Day broke, and chase was given. Some were dismissed in one direction, and some in another; and, as the snow had been undisturbed from the time of the escape till morning, it was naturally guessed that the footsteps of the pursued might still be traced. Accordingly, Johnstone, with three of his men, set out in the track from the back of the byre, and made sure work of it till they came to the bottom of the glen—their footsteps were confused, and the party seemed to have made off towards Whithaugh. Having, however, despatched a strong body to trace those footsteps, Johnstone and his men rode immediately over the rising ground, and came down at once on the old towers of Castle-Hermitage. Here the truth appeared to be manifest. There were double footsteps—those of one approaching and one departing—and the inference was immediately drawn, that the pursued had betaken himself to the castle keep, but had again effected his escape. In fact, the strong man of last evening had advanced, towards morning, with provisions and refreshment to the dungeon; and his shoes being nailed and formed very much like those of Gilbert, they[Pg 142] very naturally took the two foot-prints, the one advancing and the other retreating, for one—and off they set at full gallop—whilst Gilbert and one of Whithaugh's ploughmen made the best of their way in the opposite direction, and ultimately separated within sight of Hawick—the honest ploughman returning, not a little satisfied with his dexterity to the broad and fertile acres of Whithaugh; whilst Gilbert Watson ultimately reached some friends who lived in the Cowgate of Edinburgh—by which means he escaped.

The shoes which contributed so greatly to the escape of Gilbert Watson, were presented as a memorial to the family of Elliot, and are still shown to the curious in such matters, by the present hospitable and worthy proprietor of Whithaugh. It was remarked, that, after this unfortunate raid, Johnstone became morose and peevish, beyond his usual; seemed to suffer great mental agony; and was one morning found dead in his bed. Helen Elliot, the fair maid of Whithaugh, was wooed and won by a Charteris of Empsfield; and from her are the present honourable family of that title descended. So ends my Hysteron Proteron or, "the Shoes Reversed."


[Pg 143]

THE LOST HEIR OF THE HOUSE OF ELPHINSTONE.[2]

"There are few men," says a peculiar moralist, "however much they may have been loved and esteemed in their day, whose return to life, after any considerable interval, would not be regarded with feelings of regret." In this observation there is some truth. The places once occupied by the departed have been supplied by others; their return to life would be regretted by those whom they would "push from their stools;" and it may be very well believed that, if the rightful heir of a great estate were to make his appearance in life, after having been long lost and regarded as dead, the feelings of the person whom he would supplant, whose possessions, prerogatives, and ostensibility, he would take away, would not be particularly pleasant. But, when no personal interests are at stake, and no feelings of malign selfishness are awakened, there are few things from which a person well constituted in heart and mind, will derive a more vivid delight, or a more exquisite excitement, than the return, and an unexpected meeting with, a long lost and long absent friend. Mark, in proof, the stare of astonishment, the eyes eagerly looking into each other, while the mind gradually opens into recognition, and such[Pg 144] exclamations as, "Guide me! it's no possible! can this be really you?—eh, it's lang since I hae seen ye!—hoo hae ye been a' this time?" In no place are such feelings more vivid, or such exclamations more rife, than on the Scottish Borders, whose good-humoured natives have always been distinguished for enterprising energy, as well as warmth of heart, producing a disposition both to rove and to return.

On the east coast—somewhere between Berwick and St Abb's Head—a village is situated at the mouth of a small stream, which gives it an immediate access to, and egress from the open sea. Its harbour does not admit vessels of any considerable burthen; but there is good anchorage ground in the offing, and its situation being favourable for the irregular discharge of a cargo, it is said to have been, in former times, notorious for the contraband trade. It continued to enjoy an honourable prosperity, however, after this infamous and most pernicious traffic had been put down by the vigilance of government, owing to its permanent local advantages. The chief employment of its inhabitants is fishing; and its coasting trade is considerable, affording to the tenantry of the adjoining country a ready market for farm produce of all kinds—grazing, pastoral, and agricultural. In this village, long before the formation of those regularly constituted clubs which now exist in every considerable market town, a number of persons, whom business had brought together, used to hold regular meetings in the evening of the market day. These meetings, of which, when a young man, I was a constant attender, were generally composed of nearly the same persons, who, by tacit agreement, used to assemble at the same time and in the same place; one particular apartment of the principal inn being always reserved for their use. On these occasions, there was much innocent enjoyment and little variety. In allusion to the chief avocations of the persons present, and[Pg 145] the commodities which formed the staple of the market, it was customary to give, as the toast of the evening—

"The life of man, the death of fish,
The boat, the crook, the plough;
Horn, corn, lint, and yarn,
Flax, and tarry woo."

The chief transactions of the day having been talked over, and the party having gradually diminished as the evening advanced, to a few intimates who dwelt in the immediate neighbourhood, many a tale, anecdote, and legend used to be told, while the glass circled round. The appetite for legendary lore, orally delivered, had not begun to abate in the days of my youth.

I remember well a particular evening in which many stories were told, of "hair-breadth 'scapes," strange coincidences, and remarkable incidents of various kinds; but gene rally connected with the departure and return of Scottish adventurers. Mr Plainworth, and the patient butt of his playful humour, Mr Wonderlove, two respectable Septuagenarians, and the venerable fathers of the club, occupied, as usual, the two arm chairs which stood one on each side of the fire. At length, after having been long a silent listener, Mr Plainworth stated that an incident as remarkable as any that had yet been told, had occurred in the very apartment in which we were sitting, and when he himself was present. "Did any of you," said he, "know the late William Elphinstone, Esq.?"

"I for one knew him well, for a most excellent and worthy man," said Wonderlove; "and his family is said to be the first of their line that ever did well. I have heard of a dule (doom) which was formerly laid upon that house, by a mother cursing, in the anguish of her heart, and on her bare knees, the bearing of which was, that the sword would never be off the race, till their pride had been humbled—till their head had wedded a maiden of low degree."[Pg 146]

"That," said Plainworth, "I regarded as a mere folly of the olden time. Some aggravated case of seduction, in which family pride was exhibited, and innocence ruined and forsaken, had suggested the idea of a suitable doom, which was supposed to hang over the house; or a curse may have been pronounced under such awful circumstances; and as there would be no black and white upon the matter, its import and bearing might easily be made to correspond with subsequent events. An obliquity of disposition—a transmitted depravity of character—will sometimes be hereditary for two or three generations in a particular race; on the removal of which, the evils to which, by natural consequence, it had led, and which might seem to flow from a hereditary fatality or doom, will also pass away. The fortunes of the house of Elphinstone seem to have improved with the improved character of the race."

"You are a deep thinker, Mr Plainworth," said the other; "but it is well-known that, for a long period of time, the sword never was off that house. Deeply involved in the troubles that preceded and followed the civil wars, they always came off with the worst. Some fell in battle; some bled on the scaffold; and when others ceased to kill them, they began to put an end to themselves."

"You allude," said Plainworth, "to the death of Edward Elphinstone, the brother of the laird. Poor unhappy young man! I knew him well."

"Sir," said Wonderlove, "I could tell you of a strange thing, which I cannot help thinking is somehow connected with his death. I was acquainted with the son of the parish minister. He and his father had occasion to go down to the churchyard, on account of something which had gone wrong with the cattle. A loud scream was heard at the west-end of the church, in a little while followed by another. The son, who hurried forward to see what was the matter, beheld a light streaming from the window of the Elphinstone[Pg 147] aisle; and, on looking in, he could perceive a human figure, lying on the central grave-stone, under a white sheet. He stood and gazed till, from below the white sheet, another scream came pealing exactly like the two he had heard before; and then he ran back in terror to his father, and both made the best of their way home. Next morning, Edward Elphinstone was found dead in the neighbouring woods. He had fired his own gun through his head, by means of a string attached to the trigger, and passed round the butt end. Now, sir, what is your opinion as to that?"

"I would say," replied Plainworth, "that it must have been the poor youth stretching himself in life, in the place where he was shortly to lie dead—put down, alas! by his own hand—one of the strange fancies of a mind meditating suicide, and therefore labouring under a degree of frenzied excitement. Had he been conveyed home, the catastrophe might have been prevented."

"An admirable explanation," said the other, "and a true."

"What!" cried Plainworth, "and is Wonderlove so ready to give up such a likely and well-authenticated tale of diablerie? Well, in return for your candour, I assure you that William Elphinstone, the first of the line who seems to have been freed from the dread hereditary doom, really did marry 'a maiden of low degree.' I was his friend, and the confidant of his innocent and honourable love."

"And the thing you mean to tell us of—does it concern him?" asked Wonderlove.

"It does, as you shall hear," replied Plainworth. "After the death of Edward, the second son," continued Plainworth, "there remained of the family of Elphinstone, only the Laird, and William, the youngest son, my particular friend. The health of the laird had been irreparably injured, both by early excesses, and by a fall which he got from his horse while hunting. After this accident, his life was despaired of; and, although he partially recovered, his[Pg 148] constitution, owing to an injury in the head, was ruined for ever. A cousin, who would have succeeded to the estates, failing him and his brother, made various abortive attempts to sow dissension between them; which, being ascribed to their true motive, caused the laird to hate him most cordially. To defeat the crooked policy of this bad man, he was anxious to keep William at home; and he endeavoured to effect a marriage between him and an heiress of good family, great fortune, and greater expectations. The lady was favourable—her friends not less so. But William had placed his affections in a lower sphere. He had long loved the only daughter of a Mr Constant, the humble proprietor of about fifty acres of poor land, called Sanditofts. Mary Constant was a young woman who had everything to recommend her, except fortune. William had succeeded in gaining her heart; but, with a noble disinterestedness, she persisted in discouraging his addresses to herself, and did her utmost to prevail on him to gratify his elder brother, by preferring the more advantageous match.

"Of this ground of difference, the first which had existed between the brothers, the wicked cousin endeavoured to make the most. He contrived to have unworthy suspicions of the innocent object of William's love, insinuated into the mind of the laird; and that there might be some foundation for these suspicions, the fiend had insidiously pointed her out to the notice of a Sir Charles Ranger—a man of fashion and profligate manners, who happened at the time to be resident in this part of the country. Observing something peculiar in William's manner one day, I wrung from him the secret cause, which was, that he had been given to understand that Mary was in the habit of receiving, and with encouragement, the attentions of Sir Charles. 'If that should be true,' said he, with a sigh, 'how inconsistent in a creature who, in mind as well as in person, seems to be all perfection!' On my demanding his authority, he stated that his[Pg 149] brother had been his first informer, who had got his information from one lady, who had got it from another, and so on; but that he thought he had been able, very nearly, to run up the slander to his cousin, with whom it must have originated."

"'What can be the villain's motive?' cried I, indignantly.

"'Evidently,' said he, 'to give my brother an unfavourable opinion of Mary, that he may be induced to set his face, like flint, against my being united to her in marriage; in which case he may anticipate that such a quarrel might arise between him and me as would admit of no reconciliation; and that, as I might then have to lead the precarious unsettled life of an adventurer, the extinction of the elder branch of the family would become more likely. That may be his policy, for, in my brother's infirm state, I am certainly the chief obstruction to his hope of eventually succeeding to the family inheritance; but why speculate about the motives of such a man? I beat him soundly on the occasion you know of, when he attempted to do me ill offices with my brother.'

"'Beat him, did you?' cried I.

"'That I did,' said he, 'and with right good will. I began with mild expostulation, which was all I intended at first; but his shameless attempts at justification, and at maintaining the character of a mutual friend, made him appear so vile in my eyes, that I threw him on the ground, told him that I would make an impression on his body, if not on his mind, and beat him with a sapling, till I had tired my arm, rather than exhausted my wrath."

"'He well deserved all he got,' said I; 'but a mind like his will never forgive a blow—far less a long succession of blows, most energetically laid on—although he may not have the spirit to show his resentment openly.'

"'He hates me from his soul,' said he, 'while he fawns upon me; and he well knows that to let fly an envenomed[Pg 150] shaft at poor Mary, is the likeliest way to give me a deadly wound.'

"'You have acted most rashly towards him,' said I; 'for he is a dark, deep, dangerous man; the deadly enmity of such as he ought never to be unnecessarily provoked; under the sting of a reptile will a lion die.'

"'He is indeed a reptile,' replied he, 'whom I pity and despise, and whom you will have some difficulty in persuading me to fear. I am not free,' he added with perceptible agitation, 'I am not free from the hereditary imperfection of our ill-fated race; but I endeavour to restrain my mind by those means by which the mind can best be restrained. As for the inheritance of our house, which seems to excite my wretched cousin's cupidity, I could almost wish he had it, with the hereditary curse along with it; so that I had only a moderate competence, with God's blessing, a peaceful mind, and Mary's love.'

"A few days after the above conversation took place, as William Elphinstone and I were sauntering about, without any particular object, who should we see coming over the hill but Mary herself, along with Sir Charles Ranger? 'Now, Elphinstone,' said I, on observing them, 'keep your temper, and don't allow yourself to be flung off your guard—that is indeed Sir Charles; but the meeting has been unintentional on Mary's part. The poor girl could not drive such an intruder away, as easily as the wind would a piece of thistle-down.'

"'They are walking wide apart, on opposite sides of the road,' said he, with considerable emotion.

"As we moved towards them, keeping on the inside of a hedge, which afforded us concealment, we lost sight of them for a little while; but, on turning a corner, they again came in view. She was evidently walking too fast for her gallant attendant; and William seemed to be amused with his efforts to maintain his fashionable swagger at the unusual pace.[Pg 151] As we continued to follow them unobserved, we could see him in several instances come over to her side of the road; but she always crossed to the other, and quickened her pace. At length having come to a turn of the road, where Sir Charles perhaps thought that he behoved either to desist, or to make a bold effort, he sprung forward, and placed himself before her, so as to obstruct her passage, and began to pour forth all manner of professions, protestations, and unmeaning extravagances. Mary, with indignation and disdain in her every look, peremptorily demanded to be permitted to pass on unmolested. At length he went so far as to catch her in his arms, earnestly imploring that she would give him for one moment a hearing. Upon which she screamed in terror; and young Elphinstone springing over the hedge, seized the unprincipled libertine by the collar, and dashed him to the ground. On my coming forward, he delivered the trembling girl into my care; and then turning to Sir Charles, as he was attempting to rise, he quietly begged to know who it was that had pointed out that young woman to him, as a fit person for such as he to accost.'

"'Well thought of, Elphinstone,' cried I; 'wring an answer to that question out of him, one way or other.'

"Mary did her utmost to put a stop to further violence, but I prevented her from interfering, and encouraged William to proceed. Upon which, fixing on his prostrate foe, a look, in which was expressed all the fire of his race, he repeated his question. Sir Charles refused to answer—William threatened! the one hesitated—the other kept holding him down. At length, finding himself compelled to speak, Sir Charles pronounced the name of William Elphinstone's cousin.

"'All's well,' cried the latter, assisting him to rise. 'You may now go away, sir; and if you should think that the punishment inflicted has been in this case greater than the evil you have been able to do, you will perhaps remember[Pg 152] passages in your life, in which the balance was the other way.'

"As the baffled profligate withdrew, he tried to put on a menacing look, and hinted that, as Elphinstone's conduct was dissonant to the usages of society, he was determined to demand the satisfaction of a gentleman, and that he should hear from him shortly. This threat, however, was never put into effect; for, although bold enough toward an unprotected female, he was not over-fond of confronting an antagonist such as Elphinstone.

"In excuse for our having continued violent measures ill-suited to her presence, after protection had been afforded, I shewed to Mary, as we were escorting her home, the importance of the disclosure which had been wrung from Sir Charles, which would enable us to ascribe not merely the insults to which she had been exposed, but also the slanders by which her good name had been secretly assailed, to the malice of William's cousin, whose name Sir Charles had been compelled to give up. I spoke, also, of the distress which we had both had on her account for some time past. Whenever she became aware of the painful fact, that she had been an object of suspicion, she stopped, her features became agitated, and she burst into tears. Nothing that we could say would pacify her—stung to the heart with the anguish of offended female pride. When she had somewhat recovered from this agitation, young Elphinstone began to press his suit with impassioned earnestness; while Mary, on her part, persisted in giving him no encouragement, but pointed out the great advantages of the other match intended for him by his brother; and extolled the lady as being far superior to herself in every respect. She spoke firmly, but yet with the air of one who is rather acting on high principle than from inclination. William had evidently a powerful advocate in her heart. Long did she hesitate, nevertheless; and much did she say about the[Pg 153] impropriety of her allowing him to sacrifice to his passion for her, the favour of his elder brother, and such great expectations. But at last the lover's importunities were successful. Mary—her countenance becoming pale and then crimson—faintly, yet distinctly pronounced the words—'Speak to my father.'

"Soon after this, we heard the sound of a horseman, who was coming up behind us at a rapid trot. This was none other than Mr Elphinstone, the brother of William, who began with accusing him of having acted in a most ruffian-like manner toward Sir Charles Ranger, whom he had met, and by whose representations a most unfavourable impression had been made upon his mind. William attempted to explain; the former, however, would not hear; but harshly added, with a look of cruel meaning, directed to the most interesting person present—'I find you, sir, in most improper society.'

"William, forgetting himself for an instant, made a grasp at his brother's rein, and also at his collar, saying—'Not one disrespectful word, sir, of that young woman; a more innocent and a nobler the world does not hold.'

"'Unloose your hand from my rein and collar,' vociferated the elder Elphinstone, fiercely; 'after this insolence, we can never meet more.' With that he immediately rode off.

"'The laird will soon be informed of the true state of matters,' said I, soothingly; 'and he is not a man to retain his anger long.'

"'This is the first time,' replied William, 'that a harsh word ever passed between my brother and me; and I can only regret that our feud should have originated in such a cause.'

"The humble habitation of Mary now came in sight—a low cottage-looking building, with agricultural appurtenances behind it—neat and comfortable, though plain in its[Pg 154] appearance, and betokening the residence of a person in easy circumstances, who was not disposed to live above his sphere. On our approaching the house, Mary's father came out to welcome us; and, perceiving, from our appearance, that something more than ordinary had happened, he looked inquiringly. Mary and her lover entered the house, each, with a look, devolving the task of explanation upon me; and, between Mr Constant and myself, a long conversation followed, in which everything was told. Entering then the house where he was anxiously waited for, he bent over the chair which William Elphinstone occupied, and exclaimed—'My dear young man, accept a father's thanks for the protection which ye have this day afforded to his only child. As for what ye further intend, there are difficulties, but none shall arise from me. Had ye been of our own sphere of life, there is none in the country on whom I would have been more willing to have bestowed my daughter.'

"We spent the evening there; and I never saw William appear to such advantage. If he could not raise his wife to the sphere in which he had been bred and born, he was to go down contentedly into hers; to constitute her happiness was to be the delight of his life. Mr Constant—who had long esteemed him highly, but had never before seen him open, throwing forth in rich profusion, the treasures of his noble heart and vigorous understanding—was in amazement. As for Mary, her heart seemed to be overflowing with happiness, while she contemplated, with a woman's pride, the high qualities of the man who had chosen her for his own. Every doubt as to the propriety of the momentous step which she had taken, having been removed by her father's knowledge, concurrence, and approbation—

"'——she, pleased, resigned
To tender feelings all her lovely mind.'

"Next day, William sent to his brother a plain unvarnished statement of all that had happened, expressed in a[Pg 155] fair manly style—asking for nothing, apologizing for nothing, and conceding nothing; and, after having discharged this act of fraternal duty, he came and met me early in the afternoon in the town here, for the purpose of bringing me back with him to Sanditofts. It was the market day, and, wherever he went, his old friends gathered in congratulating groups around him; for he was a universal favourite. On our proposing to leave them, they absolutely laid violent hands on us; and so having sent off a card to apologize, and bring Mr Constant to meet us, we sat down along with them to their usual dinner in this same room. I could easily see that poor William would rather have been at Sanditofts, where his heart was; but, making a virtue of necessity, he exerted himself to please, and was successful. His affair with Sir Charles was brought on, or rather it insensibly stole upon the carpet. One person accidentally made a very distant allusion to it; a second reproved him for so doing; a third, a fourth, a fifth made observations, pointing, though from afar, to what had happened. Pleased and amused at the delicacy which was so visibly restraining the general feeling, William threw open the subject at once, by giving a modest statement of the whole affair. He added—'I would have done as much for any other young woman under the like circumstances; and what could I have done less for her who has been for long the object of my fondest love—a love now sanctioned by her father!'

"The importance of this disclosure, and the deep pathos of his voice, produced an instant silence, which was first broken by Mr Macquil, the lawyer, who gave his opinion as to the legal bearings of the case. He assured us that Sir Charles had no ground for an action whatsoever, having been guilty of accosting rudely, and with evil intent, a lone woman—the most sacred of all objects in the eye of the law.

"'I remember a case,' said he, 'in which a rude person[Pg 156] having merely used, in female society, some expressions not suitable for a female ear, a young officer of the army present, seized upon and twisted his nose. Upon which an action was raised against the officer; and, the case having come before the fifteen, sixpence of damages only was awarded, with no expenses at all.'

"Thus did the evening pass on, none of us apprehending that it was to have such a woful termination. As the party separated, each, as he retired, came and grasped William by the hand, testifying the highest approbation of the part which he had acted, in simple warm-hearted language. In these feelings, all the great proprietors around participated. They are strictly moral, the real gentry, and they have noble hearts. They detested Sir Charles for his dissolute life; and they suspected him of being, what he afterwards really proved to be, a ruined profligate, flying from English creditors to this side of the Border.

"All those members of the company whose homes were at any distance had now retired; and the party had become such a one as we have at present. The fine spirits which William had maintained throughout the evening, had vanished; his attitude, and the expression of his countenance, had become thoughtful and strangely sad; and I thought he looked fearfully like his brother Edward. At length he started up from his reverie; and I, approaching him, looked anxiously into his countenance, and asked him how he did. He assured me that he had never been better in his life—that he had never enjoyed so much of the best happiness which can irradiate the heart. 'But,' said he, 'my quarrel with my brother hurts me. I never loved him so much in my life as when that spark of his old fire, which my rude grasp struck out of him, made him look so like what he was in other days. And, Mary—to think of her having at length given up her opposition to my wishes, in such a manner! Altogether, it is too much for me; and I[Pg 157] have been silly enough to allow shadowy imaginations of evils, which may affect my relations with her and my poor brother, and mar the happiness of us all, to disturb my ruminations. That is the fact; and I apprehend that you, regarding my foolish features with friendly anxiety, have been speculating thereon.'

"This explanation, which agreed well with what I knew of the character of his mind, in which there was not a little of an undue ascendency of the imagination, seemed to me quite satisfactory; and I said to him—'Everything is to go right; you and your brother will soon be reconciled.'

"'I am not entirely dependent on my brother,' said he; 'as I shall show you all to-night, when we talk seriously over certain arrangements.'

"'Where are you going just now?' said I to him, as he was moving toward the door.

"'Merely to have a look at the evening,' said he—'I will be back to you in five seconds.'

"Thus did he retire; and I, relieved from apprehensions which, in the issue, seemed to be very like 'coming events casting their shadows before,' fell fast asleep on resuming my chair. Meanwhile, Mr. Constant came in and awoke me, to inquire after William. He told me that he had received his card, but had been prevented from being with us earlier, by a visit which he had received from Mr Elphinstone, the laird, who had spent the day with them, and was with them still; and he gave me the gratifying information that the letter which William had that day sent to his brother had removed every bad impression from his mind, that, instead of opposing his inclinations, he was anxious that his marriage with Mary might take place as soon as possible; and that he was impatient to see himself personally, that everything might be satisfactorily arranged for it, and that they might be reconciled after the unpleasant affair[Pg 158] of yesterday, which, he said, was the only serious difference they had ever had.

"'I have just come down,' continued he, 'to bring you both to Sanditofts, for that purpose.'

"'In that case,' said I, 'every obstacle to my friend's happiness is completely removed;' and I assured him that William had just gone out, but that he would return immediately. He did not return, however, although, as one of the company observed, he must have intended to do so, his hat having been left behind him. After waiting for some minutes longer, I became very uneasy; a feeling of apprehension began to steal over my mind, and I hurried out to make inquiries, followed by Mr Constant. On reaching the foot of the stairs, we were informed that William had gone out by a back passage which led down to the sea-beach, and we turned our steps thither.

"The evening was pleasant. A gentle breeze was blowing off the land, and a yellow radiance faintly tinging the east, and sharply cutting far the black water in the offing, showed that the darkness was on the point of being lightened by the rising of an unclouded moon. We proceeded onward, my anxious friend and I, for a great way along the rocky margin of the sea, until we gained a commanding station, and the moon more than half-risen threw a clearer light upon our view. But no traces did we discover of the object of our search. As a last resource, raising our voices together, we shouted aloud the name of William. As we stood long and anxiously listening, we became aware of a sound which came booming over the water, and which after having been once heard, we could again distinguish as it ever and anon recurred, at irregular intervals. While looking toward the point from which these sounds seemed to come, we beheld for an instant the upper spars of a two-masted lugger distinctly pourtrayed on the face of the moon. She was so diminished by distance, as not to do more than[Pg 159] fill the moon's disk, and she seemed to be crowding all sail. Shortly after the single mast of a fore-and-aft rigged vessel, also under a press of canvass, was beheld in the same way; and the smoke, curling in wreaths among her rigging, seemed to indicate that it was from the latter vessel that the sounds which we heard proceeded.

"'I wonder,' said my companion, 'if that can have any connection with the disappearance of Mr. William.'

"'It's merely a revenue cutter,' replied I, 'in chase of some smuggling vessel.'

"Having returned to the apartment in the inn, we found the company still assembled, and reported to them our want of success, my poor friend casting a long and wistful look at the hat of William, which was hanging, and which long continued to hang, on that very pin. On its being suggested that there was a chance that he might be found in some house in the town, all with one accord separated to make inquiries. The whole place was soon in commotion, and so was the whole country side. Every place in which it was possible for William to be, dead or alive, was searched in vain.

"'They sought him that night, and they sought him next day,
Oh! vainly they sought him, till a week past away:—
And years flew by, and their sorrow at last,
Was told as a mournful tale that is past.'

"If among the friends of him who had so strangely disappeared, his intended bride felt the most acutely, it was on his brother that the blow fell most heavily. Mary long refused to be comforted; and was only sustained by young health, and by hopes which we all laboured to infuse into her dejected heart; but the sickly frame of William's brother never recovered from the shook it received. He always reflected on himself for having parted from his brother in anger; the fate of Edward, which was ever before his eyes, seemed to afford too natural an explanation of the mystery[Pg 160] of William's disappearance; and his exhausted frame yielded at last to death, after an interval of about three years, during which his chief solace was the society and the kind attentions of the amiable family of Sanditofts. His last words were—

"'Whither is he gone?—what accident
Hath rapt him from us?'

"The title of his wicked cousin was contested by another claimant, which kept matters in abeyance, else he never could have been prevented by us, the executors, from entering into possession. At last, after a long litigation, the case went in his favour, of which I was first informed while engaged in the market here; and, although I had long anticipated such a result, the impression which the intelligence made upon my mind was most painful. At the weekly dinner, whither I repaired as usual, from long habitude rather than inclination, I felt feverish and uncomfortable; an insatiable thirst made me drink rather more than my wont, and in the course of the evening I sank into a heavy bilious slumber. How long I remained in that state I know not. But I remember well, that, feeling a hand laid on my arm, which kept tightening its grasp till it awoke me, I turned to my next neighbour, who was staring as if at some object of terror; and that, following his affrighted look, I beheld William sitting before me, with features wasted, care-worn, and wofully sad, and in the well-remembered attitude in which I had seen him, a little before his strange disappearance. Confounded, incapable of speech and action, did I remain for some time. At length, having caught his eye, we both started up together.

"'William,' cried I, 'can this be really you?—O man! where hae ye been a' this time?'

"'Mary! Mary!' cried he; 'tell me about her!'

"I told him that she was alive and well.

"'But, but!' said he.[Pg 161]

"'She is still unmarried,' said I, 'and as devoted to you as ever, which is more than you were entitled to expect, after having left her in the manner you did.'

"'I have been a prisoner,' said he, in a mournful tone, 'in a land of which till lately I knew not the name, and I was carried away by force.'

"Amid exclamations of wrath, which came from all parts of the room, and the tumultuous flocking of his old friends around him, his voice was again heard.

"'And my brother?' said he; 'tell me also about him.'

"'He has been dead,' said I, 'for about two years. In the arms of your beloved did he breathe his last sigh.'

"Upon this his tears began to flow; but he checked them immediately, adding—'Enough for the present. In a little while, my kind friends, I will tell you all. But my heart is now heavy, and the crisis is urgent. Will you, for old friendship's sake, have the goodness either to go or to send down the coast, a little to the northward of this. A party of poor fellows will be found in the same plight as I am. Bring them all hither, and provide for them, in my name, dry clothing, a good supper, plenty of drink, and comfortable bedding.' All with one accord readily undertook the charge. 'And now, then,' said he, 'this old hat shall be again fitted to my head; for the billows are sporting with the one I lately wore.' Perceiving his clothes to be wet, we adverted to the circumstance. 'Pooh,' said he, 'I have just been shipwrecked, that's all.' With that he hurried me out of this house, and entering that of a mutual friend, where comfortable dry clothing was provided for him, and a chaise having been procured, we flung ourselves into it, and drove off to Sanditofts.

"As we drew near the house, painful feelings began to arise in his mind, as to the reception he would meet with, and the construction which might have been put upon his[Pg 162] involuntary absence. Dismissing the carriage, therefore, I hurried on before him, at his earnest request, and finding, on entering the house, the father and daughter by themselves, my first words were—'William has been a prisoner in a strange land—he was carried away by force, poor fellow. Amazement, mingled with many other feelings, was visibly depicted in each countenance. Poor Mary began to weep profusely. Diffidently, and with her eyes earnestly fixed on mine, she was just inquiring when they might expect to see him or to hear from him, when her ear was caught by the sound of an approaching foot; and, immediately, the door opening, William stood before her. With a cry of joy, she and her father flew to welcome him. For long did she remain clasped in his arms; and what a scene was exhibited in the outpourings of their innocent and faithful love—a love which had withstood the most perilous of all trials—a long separation, which had been connected with so many doubts and anxious fears, and over which so thick a veil of mystery had hung! The father and I stood silently regarding them, as they wept in sadness and were rapturously joyful by turns.

"'Weel,' said the father, rubbing his hands together, with a look of inexpressible satisfaction, 'that's really a sight guid for sair een. Poor things!—lang hae they loved each other, and sair has their love been tried.'

"When our excited feelings had a little subsided, curiosity became the prevailing sentiment. Mr. Constant and I began by detailing the particulars of our ineffectual search along the coast. William, on his part, declared that, when he left me on going out, it really was his intention to have come back immediately, and to have returned to Sanditofts, where he had been invited and had promised to pass the night; but he stated that, having felt somewhat oppressed by the heat of the crowded apartment, he had been unhappily induced, by the refreshing coolness of the evening, to walk[Pg 163] a little way by the sea-side, where he had apprehended no evil.


"To all appearance," said he, "there was nothing but solitude around me; only, I heard carts at a distance which seemed to be driven inland; and my curiosity was excited by a low rumbling sound which came from the other side of a small projecting promontory. I ran hastily in the direction of the latter sound. After having proceeded a little way, I heard footsteps coming up behind me; but I continued to move on, without slackening my pace, until there came a shrill whistle, followed by the sound as of a number of men rushing towards me. I then attempted to fly, but was prevented by two stout fellows, who placed themselves right in my way, and a numerous party of men quickly surrounded me, one of whom, eyeing me attentively, exclaimed—'The very man we want. We shall be able to do our friend's work with very little trouble.' On my attempting to expostulate and resist, I was overpowered and forced into a boat. The boat rowed off to a smuggling vessel which was lying to in the offing; and which, soon after I was put on board, stood out to sea under a press of canvass—chased, as it soon appeared, by a revenue cutter, which continued for long to fire at her."

Here he was interrupted by our mentioning the two vessels which we had seen passing over the moon.

"I was in the first of these vessels," said he; "the two-masted lugger, which, unfortunately, was able to escape, by superior sailing, from the second vessel (a revenue cutter, fore-and-aft rigged, with one mast) by which she was pursued.

"My captors continued, for two or three weeks, to land goods on different parts of the eastern coasts, sustaining so many losses that I could not help saying that, if their trade was a paying one, the goods which they could afford to lose in such quantities could not be honestly come by—an[Pg 164] observation at which great offence was taken. After having parted with her original cargo, and shipped another, which was chiefly composed of provisions of all sorts, the vessel left the German Ocean, going north about; and she then pursued a south-westerly course across the Atlantic for many weeks, until she was accosted by a notorious pirate, Gonsalvo by name, the terror of the West Indian seas; for whom, as I could observe, a careful look-out had long been kept. This ferocious ruffian, having come on board our vessel, had a long interview with our captain—the two worthies being, to all appearance, on terms of most courteous and familiar intimacy—and our cargo of provisions was put on board the pirate's vessel; while hogsheads of sugar, puncheons of rum, and other articles of West Indian produce, were received in exchange. This transaction clearly explained the mystery of the contraband trade. The smugglers of the present day are connected with the Buccaneers, who, not daring to bring their ill-gotten goods to a regular market, willingly barter the bulky part of them on any terms, for the necessaries of life. These goods having been taken originally for nothing, and subsequently sold for little or nothing, if one cargo out of three escapes seizure, the concern will pay. Hence it is, that the contraband trade is maintained in spite of every effort to put it down.

"After another long interview which our captain had with this Gonsalvo, some of my shipmates came to me with joyful countenances, looking like men from whose minds some heavy burden had just been removed; and they told me, that 'my life was to be safe; only,' said they, 'take care of your tongue.'

"'My life!' cried I, in astonishment. Hitherto I had been under no apprehensions about my life; although I had discovered, in course of conversation with the men, that my villanous cousin, to whose secret stores the carts I had heard were no doubt proceeding, had been long and deeply[Pg 165] engaged with the smugglers—that he had been of immense service to them—and that it was to gratify him, and, at his request, that I had been carried away." Gently checking, with his upraised hand, the exclamations which this disclosure drew from his hearers, he thus proceeded:—"You may guess what my feelings were, when I was put on board the vessel of the odious Gonsalvo. All my former shipmates regarded me with compassion; and a poor fellow, from this part of the country, called James Stray, who, in an evil hour, had been tempted to engage in the illegal traffic, told me at parting, with tears in his eyes, that he would regret what had happened to the last day of his life; for that I was 'the best o' the twa.'

"After cruising about for some time, Gonsalvo made for a numerous group of small rocky islands, which were scattered over a great extent of sea; and, entering them by a labyrinth of intricate passages, he moored hard by one larger than the rest, and pleasantly wooded, which had a good roadstead, where the hulks of several captured vessels were observable, seemingly in the act of being broken up for firewood. Here I was put ashore. Before leaving the pirate vessel, I made bold to enter—and it was for the first time—the principal cabin, where I collected a number of books in the Spanish language; loaded with which, and moved by restrained indignation to do something ludicrous, I presented myself before Gonsalvo on the quarter-deck, with the easy confident air of a gentleman gifted with considerable assurance, who has been presuming somewhat too far upon the good nature of another. Never shall I forget the look of cold, cruel, malign contemptuousness, with which the ruffian regarded me. That look said, as plainly as any look could do—'Wretched creature, I see you have been making very free with my property; but it matters not.'

"In this unknown spot, and within the power of this ruffian, did I remain for about four years, more or less. My[Pg 166] chief employment was fishing. I became an expert boat-man—I made occasional visits to another piratical station to the south of us; thus did I endeavour to pass my lonely hours. I sometimes found a kind of pleasure in exploring the intricate navigation of the islands; and, in time, became acquainted with many a place where a boat could pass in certain states of the tide, through rocks which had the appearance of being continuous. The sheet of water at the back of our island, was bounded, on the north-west, by a long and seemingly unbroken chain of high precipitous rocks, through a cleft in which I discovered a winding passage of this nature, leading to a small secluded island, not distinguishable from numberless others which lay scattered, like black sea fowl, over the surface of the water. With all my thoughts bent on escape, I endeavoured to attach to me a lad of sixteen, residing on the island, along with his widowed mother; having, with the aid of Gonsalvo's books, mastered the Spanish language. He was a stupid cub; manageable when we went out together a-fishing; but without any character of his own. I therefore trusted him in nothing. I once carried him far west into the open sea beyond the islands; but, when we found the formidable high-heaving swell below our frail bark, he began to cry; and, my own nerves being somewhat shaken, I returned with a heavy heart, while on the point of attempting something great—of running off with the boat and boy altogether.

"This incident made me anxious to have a vessel of larger dimensions; and a barge of peculiar construction, high raised, and with a deck at bow and stern, occurred to me, which I had seen at the other station. Proceeding thither by myself, and saying that we had need of such a thing, I offered to purchase it with part of a sum of gold, which I had on me when carried away, and had carefully preserved. The men regarded me with a stare, but seemed quite willing to sell a thing which was not their own, and[Pg 167] for which they had no use. The bargain being struck, they assisted me in navigating it, by a long circuitous course of many weeks, by which I brought them to the small secluded island, which was my favourite place of refuge. While carrying them back in my boat by the same road, we became very friendly; and, at their suggestion, I purchased, with the rest of my gold, a large cargo of such things as were of use for repairing the barge, and perfecting her equipment. On returning to Gonsalvo's station after this perilous transaction, I found the mother of the boy on whom I had formed designs, in tears. He had been taken on board Gonsalvo's ship, who had effected a return and a departure in my absence. During the period of my stay, the pirate had kept ever and anon returning at irregular intervals; but his arrival was the signal for my flight; and, that flight might at all times be in my power, for the boat which I had been allowed to appropriate on account of my fishing services, always lay at the back of the island, over against the secret opening through the north-western line of rocks. Gonsalvo, on his part, never, so far as I could learn, inquired after me; and, as years had slipped away, during which I had never seen him, nor he me, I had insensibly become less cautious, concluding that he had forgotten me altogether. Narrow was the escape which I in consequence made.

"Motives of humanity had led me to pay some attention to the widowed mother, after the loss of her son, for which she seemed to be very grateful. On one occasion, when I had secured my boat in its usual place at the back of the island, I was not deterred by the sight of the pirate's pendant glancing above the trees, which showed that his ship was in the roadstead, from paying her visit, and making inquiries after her son. There was much embarrassment in her manner when she saw me; she seemed to be agitated by conflicting feelings; and, at length, she hesitatingly stated that Gonsalvo had been inquiring after me, and, as she[Pg 168] believed, for no good. 'Your son,' said I, 'would he befriend me?'

"'He is now become as bad as the rest of them,' said she; 'much I said to him on your account; and oh, what usage he gave his mother!'

"The information of the poor woman made me anticipate the worst. Leaving her some fish, I hastily ran to the highest point of the island, and threw myself on the ground under cover of the hill, where I had immediate access to my boat, and could observe every movement of the enemy. I was in a state of desperation; gall and wormwood were in my heart. Had I then stood by Gonsalvo's magazine, with a lighted match in my hand, I would have blown them all up, that they might have perished along with me. While in this state of feeling, the thought flashed like lightning upon my mind, that I might go to the other station; that I might join the other piratical crew, to whose leader I was unknown; that, having gained their confidence, I might betray and hang them all, and return home. The new idea giving a new excitement to hope, I was presently meditating upon the result, rather than upon the means; and, in a little while, sinking into slumber, I was dreaming of my distant home and betrothed love. Meanwhile, the sound of British voices had so softly entered my dreaming ear, that it was some time before the reality awoke me. Awaking at last, I was startled to find myself surrounded by a number of the pirate's men, when I gave myself up for lost. But there was a compassion in their looks, and tears in their eyes. 'My good friends,' said I, in confusion.

"'O sir,' said they, 'you have small reasons to call friends, the persons by whom you were so villanously carried away. We thought we knew you as you lay asleep; now that you have spoken, we are certain.'

"'My dear fellows,' said I, recognising them for part of the crew of the smuggling vessel. I only remember now[Pg 169] your former kindness, and your anxiety that my life should be safe.'

"'God bless you!' said one of them, by name Jack Fid, 'could you bring your noble heart to taste with us?'

"Willing to gratify him, I received his offered flask, and drank from it a mouthful of rum.

"In the course of the long conversation which followed this act of courtesy, I learned that the captain of the smuggling vessel in which I had been carried away, had fallen in an affray with the revenue officers; that his crew, having been so ill advised as to aid the illegal traffic by firearms, and thus to become guilty of a capital crime, had been induced to betake themselves in their perplexity, to Gonsalvo; and that he, making very light of what had happened, had received part of them on board his own vessel, and put the rest of them on board another smaller armed vessel, which he had fitted out.

"'Poor James Stray,' said I, 'what has become of him?'

"'Hanged, sir, at New York. The other small vessel in which he sailed was taken, and he suffered along with all the rest.'

"They stated farther, that their late captain, a little before his death, had got a letter from my cousin to Gonsalvo, which they had been careful to deliver, supposing that it might respect my return. Having explained the motives by which my cousin had been actuated in having me carried away, and mentioned the ominous words of the poor widow, from which it appeared that Gonsalvo was seeking my life, I made them sensible that my cousin's letter must have had a very different object in view from what they had supposed; and then they growled deep execrations against my unnatural kinsman. I soon found that they had not yet received on board a sufficiency of depravity for the kind of service in which they were engaged; that they were all most anxious to return to an honest course of life; and that they[Pg 170] could not bear to live with the abominable wretches among whom they were. With unfeigned horror, they spoke of the miserable end of a poor young woman, who had lately fallen into the hands of the monsters, and whose body—after she had died under their outrages—they had carelessly flung into the sea, like a soiled garment. They gave a most woful account, also, of two captives of superior rank, whom the pirates at that moment had in their power—a father and his daughter; and they said that the daughter, if not speedily rescued, would meet the same fate as the other woman; for that Gonsalvo restrained neither himself nor his crew. One of them, whose name was Tom Clewgarnet, and who had a singularly soft expression in the rough outlines of his weather-beaten features, declared that he would willingly peril his life at any time, to deliver the innocent young creature out of their hands. Regarding the poor fellows, first with compassion, then with love, and then with confidence, I told them of all my plans for escaping; of my boat; of the secret passage through the rocks to the secluded island; and of the bark which I had there. 'Like the Yorkshireman,' said I, 'who is in possession of saddle, bridle, whip, and spurs, and wants nought but a horse, I have long had a vessel, and everything necessary for her equipment. It remains with you to determine whether I am still in want of a gallant crew.' Upon this they joyfully declared, one and all, that they would faithfully follow me to the death; and immediate flight was resolved on.

"'If we could but carry that poor young woman along with us,' said Tom Clewgarnet, 'what a blessed deed it would be!'

"He spoke with great earnestness of manner; and my observation was, 'Could we not try?'

"While commenting upon the fearful danger and the utter madness of such an undertaking, we observed a boat leaving the pirate vessel, and moving toward the shore. A pocket telescope having been directed to it, we discovered[Pg 171] Gonsalvo and the identical girl who had excited our commiseration, seated in the stern. 'My life on't,' cried I, 'she will be removed to some secluded spot in these woods below.' And I was right. We saw Gonsalvo land with a small party, and move inland from the shore. Marking well the road he took, we then ranged ourselves in a long line across the woods, so as to communicate with each other; and, having received intelligence which enabled me, well acquainted as I was with the locality, to guess at the exact spot where Gonsalvo and his party would halt, I stationed myself near by, along with Tom Clewgarnet, so as to see without being seen. Onward, in a little while, came the darkly-scowling villain with the poor trembling girl dragged along by two armed attendants. My heart burned within me. The attendants were dismissed; she remained struggling in his arms; and then, laying my hand on Tom's cutlass, giving him at the same time a sidelong look, I softly drew out the weapon, and, bounding forward toward Gonsalvo, I plunged it into his side. He uttered a stifled groan, which brought back his two attendants; when Tom, having taken up the sword of the fallen miscreant, he and I furiously set upon them, and in a moment they also lay dead at our feet. Turning now compassionately to the girl, while our weapons were red and reeking with blood, I addressed her in French, which she seemed to understand, assuring her that she was now in honest hands, where she would find honourable protection. Our companions having rejoined us, with the gratifying intelligence that our fell deed had escaped observation, we were on the point of proceeding toward my boat, which was lying ready to receive us, when a most vexatious difficulty occurred. Nothing that we could say would persuade the girl to move without her father, whom she long and earnestly implored us to save. I mentioned to her the horrid end of the other poor woman, and somewhat angrily showed to her how ungenerous it was to urge[Pg 172] her deliverers on to certain death, in vainly attempting to deal with more than two hundred armed ruffians; upon which she sunk to the ground sobbing piteously. She was an uncommonly interesting-looking creature, delicately formed, wofully wasted with suffering, and very young. My heart was melted. A scheme occurred to me by which it was at least possible that her father might be saved; and, having spoken soothingly to the girl, and applauded the heroism of her devoted filial love, I declared that we really would make the fearful attempt to which she urged us, if, in return, she would promise to follow and be obedient to Tom, in whose care I meant to leave her for a time. Having obtained from her assurances to that effect, I unfolded my plan, first to her in French, and then to the men in English;—which was, that, having rowed off to the pirate vessel in the very boat from which Gonsalvo had just landed, and which then lay awaiting his return, I would endeavour to pass myself off for a French officer, belonging to the pirate ship known to be at the other station, who, being on a visit to Gonsalvo, had been deputed by him to bring the father of the girl ashore, for the purpose of extorting an exorbitant ransom; and, that on our return, we would double the south-eastern point of the island, where there was an intricate passage well known to me, through which we could find our way into the sheet of water on the north-west side of it, where Tom and the girl might wait for us in my boat.

"To this perilous scheme the men agreed, although with visible reluctance; and it was immediately put in execution. The body of Gonsalvo was stript of its gay vestments, which I shudderingly drew on, while wet and warm with his blood; and from which every distinctive ornament was carefully removed. It was a fearful venture; but the squalid rags which I previously wore, would have worse accorded with the character I had to sustain. Tom was then sent[Pg 173] off, along with the girl, toward my boat, while I and the rest of the men ran down to the opposite shore, sprang into the boat of Gonsalvo, rudely tumbled out three men who had been left in charge of her, and rowed off to the pirate vessel, leaving the men standing on the beach and looking after us in stupid amazement. While on our way, we were deeply meditating upon, and carefully arranging all that was to be said and done, feeling how perilous it would be in a matter which required such extreme delicacy, to be compelled 'capere consilium ex improviso.' A boat cloak, thrown negligently around me, aided in concealing my borrowed and bloody garments; several of the men who seemed to have the firmest nerves were instructed to go on board and remain carelessly sauntering about; while one of them brought off the father of the girl, and I endeavoured to keep the chief officer in play. On approaching, I gallantly hailed; begged to see the chief officer; gave up my assumed name; spoke of my pretended visit to, and of the pretended errand on which I had been sent by Gonsalvo; and mightily wondered how he, Gonsalvo, should have thought such a poor squalling wretch of a creature good for anything, but to extort an exorbitant ransom from her father, whom for that purpose I was forthwith to bring ashore. I began with speaking in French, in which the foreign accent would be less perceptible to a Spaniard, and then in such imperfect Spanish as a French officer might be expected to use. My masquerade escaped detection, and the bait took. The father of the girl, with his wobegone, yet noble-looking features, was received into the boat; all my companions leisurely followed one after another and resumed their oars. Jack Fid came last of all, carrying in his hand a huge greybeard of liquor, and having in his features a peculiar twist, which seemed to say—'How we are doing the scoundrels!' and at which we afterwards laughed very heartily. It was no time for laughter then.[Pg 174]

"'I see a boat putting off yonder,' cried the chief officer, applying a telescope to his eye, 'with a dead body lying in her stern.'

"A deadly terror struck through my heart; but, with assumed indifference, I replied—'Ay, Gonsalvo has got that fellow at last;' making it seem that the dead body seen from afar was my own.

"'It is fortunate that he has been caught,' said the other, laying down his telescope; 'Gonsalvo has made the widow and her son answerable for him with their lives.'

"The last words were scarcely audible, by reason of the distance which we interposed between us and the vessel. With the strokes of our oars gradually increased both in frequency and in length, we flew rapidly through the water. As we receded from, the other boat with Gonsalvo's blood-boltered carcase, which the chief officer had seen from afar, drew near the vessel. When far beyond the reach of small arms and of grape, although still within the longest range of the cannon, we could see her come alongside of the vessel; and then multitudes of faces were stretched over, or thrust out of bulwark and port-hole; a great commotion was observable on board; the vessel, making a yaw round, turned her broadside towards us; twelve columns of smoke darted from her side, and as many thunders opened their voices, while through the air a shower of iron came hurling towards us. Every bullet fell beyond, or short, or wide of us; and in a little while the projecting south-eastern point of the island screened us from the fire and from the view of the enemy.

"After having doubled this point, two passages opened before us—one wide and inviting, which led eastward into the Atlantic—the other narrow, and not distinguishable from numberless other similar openings in the rocks, which led to nothing. Into the former, we threw our hats, that our pursuers might be led to suppose that our boat, injured[Pg 175] by a random shot had foundered; through the intricacies of the latter, to me well known, we wound our way north-westward, until we had gained the sheet of water on the other side of the island, where we found Tom and the girl in my boat awaiting our approach in the deepest anxiety, their ears having been startled by the thunder of the broadside, while they knew not the result. At the sight of the lonely, desolate girl, sitting in terror, by the side of her rough-looking, but kind-hearted conductor, my heart was thrilled with compassion; and, when we drew near, I pointed, delightedly, to her father, on whom she continued to fix an eager, wistful look, until Tom, lightly lifting her up, and leaping on board of us, as we brushed by, had placed her in his arms. Tom, at my instance, came and seated himself by me in the stern, where he kept gazing for some time at the outporings of the purest of all affections—filial and parental love; and then turning to me, and speaking with deep emotion, he told me that it was by him that James Stray had been first led away; that, since his miserable end he had made frequent attempts at prayer, but that then an awful pang had always shot through his head and heart. 'If,' continued he, 'we shall be able to save that father and daughter, will that pass away?' Anxious to give the poor fellow useful and innocent advice, I told him that what he spoke of arose from conscience, which, slumbering at other times, always awoke during prayer; and there was nothing pacified the conscience like a good deed, humbly offered to God in the Redeemer's name; that, after having returned to an honest course of life, he would obtain what good people called peace of conscience; and that then his devotions would be as soft and sweet as they had ever been when a child at his mother's knee. He seemed very grateful for these words of instruction, declaring that he was ready to shed for me the last drop of his blood. Bending forward now toward the father, and addressing him for the first time, I[Pg 176] assured him that his daughter had been restored to him unsullied, that we were ourselves in the act of escaping from the pirates, and that we would either save him or perish along with him.

"A little before sunset we came under the north-western line of rocks, whose long shadows concealed us from distant observation; and, entering the passage through them, which I had so often traversed, we soon arrived at the place where my bark was lying snug in the secluded island. At the sight of her, the seamen were delighted. They all leaped on board simultaneously, and began tumultuously to examine her in every part. 'To work, lads,' cried I, 'that she may be made ready for sea as soon as possible.' To work accordingly we fell. Fires were kindled, pitch melted, oakum, and all things necessary, were found in my stores. The work was continued during the night—when the ebbing tide left her high and dry—by the light of torches of pinewood, smeared with tar, which were stuck around, or borne in the hands of the father and daughter; and, after seven or eight hours of unremitted labour, the outer planking of the vessel was carefully cauked, and her hull, thoroughly repaired in every part. Leaving the carpenter and two other hands to keep watch and repair the water casks, the rest of us turned in to enjoy a few hours of sleep. The light of day beheld us again at work; and several hours behoved still to elapse before the masts could be hoisted, the sails bent, and the running rigging rove. Meanwhile, an anchor was carried out to sea, and the cable laid over the windlass; my long hoarded stores of biscuit, junk, and dried fish, were put on board, with a few culinary utensils, a sufficiency of loose timber for fuel, and of ballast for trimming the vessel; and the water casks, filled at a neighbouring fountain by the father and daughter, were rolled down to the beach, one by one. The work being nearly over in every department, we continued, some on board, and some on[Pg 177] shore, patiently to await the rising of the tide, now nearly at the full; and the father had very judiciously thought of climbing a neighbouring height to reconnoitre. On gaining the summit, he was observed to return in all haste, and seemingly in great terror. The daughter was running off to meet him, but arrested by me, she was given in charge to her old protector; while I cried out—'To the water casks, one and all.' So, while they were in the act of being swung on board, she continued to struggle and to scream in Tom's arms. The poor girl's agitation proceeded from an interesting cause; but it was very provoking to be unnecessarily deprived, at such a time, of a valuable hand. However, the last water cask was safely stowed, when the father arrived with the alarming intelligence, that a number of boats, full of men, were on the east coast of the island; and that a party, landed from one of them, were in the act of ascending the opposite acclivity. The daughter was on the point of springing into his arms; but I had her very unceremoniously swung on board, calling her an unmanageable vixen. The father, and all the rest of us immediately followed; and then, having thrust our handspikes into the windlass—just as the party of which we had received information were seen on the top of the neighbouring height—we made, with our united strength, one desperate heave. A grinding sound, heard at the bottom of the vessel, shewed she had been dislodged; but the cable had snapped, and I threw myself down in despair, giving up all for lost. The dexterity of the seamen saved us. The cable, while on the point of escaping, was caught, jammed, and held fast, until it was spliced in such a manner as to be capable of enduring as great a strain as ever. Laying our strength on more cautiously, the grinding sound was again heard, and we affected a quarter turn of the windlass. Coil after coil of the cable now passed over the revolving beam, without farther incident; and at length the vessel, floating smoothly in deep[Pg 178] water, was hauled out to the offing, just as a hundred armed ruffians, having surmounted the neighbouring heights, were rushing down, with infuriated yells, towards us. The ample folds of our pointed lateen sails were then spread to the winds; and we joyfully proceeded on our way, while the baffled scoundrels stood looking at us from afar; and we sat in safety looking at them, with the prey that we had rescued out of their merciless hands.

"When our feelings had a little subsided after this excitement, and while the most skilful seamen were superintending the adjustment of the ballast, and studying the properties of the vessel, I went and sat down by the father and daughter. I begged of the daughter that she would excuse the hasty words which I had been led to use, in my anxiety to leave such a dangerous shore. Her father assured me that he could easily see the kindness of my heart amid the prompt decided manner which the hour of danger required; and I assured him that there was not a man on board who did not regard the saving of him and of his daughter as the best part of the enterprise. He began to pour forth the warmest expressions of gratitude, when my attention was called to the pilotage of the vessel, and nothing more passed between us at that time. To conduct the vessel through such intricate and precarious passages, required the utmost care and unremitted attention; but at length, just as the sun was gilding the watery waste with its setting radiance, we reached the open sea, at the very place where I had been some years before with the Spanish boy. I now asked the father where he would wish to be carried.

"'To Havannah,' said he, with tears gushing down his cheeks.

"Upon this we directed our course, at a venture, a good way southward from the point at which the sun was setting; and, as we had no compass, we resolved to steer by the wind which was blowing steadily from one point. We then[Pg 179] made all snug for the night, keeping as much sail up as the little vessel could safely carry; and, a proper watch having been set, the remainder of the weary crew were sent to rest.

"The father and daughter were led by me into a small cabin under the stern deck; and they, aware of the scantiness of our accommodation, insisted that I should stay with them, when I was on the point of withdrawing that they might be left by themselves. The father was placed in the middle, the daughter on one side of him, and I stretched my weary limbs on the other. I remained for long supine, motionless, and unable to sleep; and thus I came to overhear the following dialogue, which was carried on in the purest Spanish, between the father and his daughter:—

"'Papa,' said she, 'are the French all so much better than the Spanish?'

"'My dear Carolina, why that question?'

"'He spoke to me first in French.'

"'He speaks French well, but with a strong English accent. His companions are all British sailors; certainly the most extraordinary people in the world. A party of these men, lately landing in a drunken frolic, took one of the strongest fortresses in Spain, which the Spanish King would give half the wealth of his dominions to recover.'

"She then gave him a detailed account of all that had befallen her—greatly exaggerating my prowess and that of Tom—and dwelling much on our kindness, in having, at her instance, made such a perilous attempt to save him.

"'Well,' said he, 'the British are truly a noble people; I feel easy now that I am in their hands, although there is a mystery in our deliverance, and in that extraordinary young man to whom his companions seem so devoted, which I cannot fathom.' Having joined in their discourse with an apology, I fully explained the mystery he spoke of, telling him who I was, and under what unhappy circumstances I had been carried away from my native land, while on the[Pg 180] very eve of marriage. I told him also of his daughter's devoted filial love; how she had refused to escape, unless he could be saved along with her; and how she had absolutely forced us on to do what we did, when we were all shrinking from the risk, and unwilling to incur further danger. While straining to his heart his dutiful child, he made me acquainted with his own history. It appeared that he, Don Pedro by name, was a Spanish gentleman well known in Havannah, who, notwithstanding the war between our countries, could easily procure for me a speedy return home; that an attachment having arisen between his daughter Carolina, and Alonzo, the eldest son of a noble family, at whose haughty bearing he had taken offence, he had sent her away to a sister of his, resident in one of the Windward Islands; that Alonzo's father and he, having afterwards come to a better understanding, he had gone, in person, to bring back his daughter, with a view to her immediate marriage, and that, while on their way home, they had the misfortune to be taken by the pirates. 'What became of the vessel in which we sailed,' added he, 'and her crew, I know not; but I apprehend the worst.'

"After this exchange of confidence, gratitude on their parts, and the inexpressible satisfaction of having achieved such a deliverance on mine, united our hearts together; and in the society of the noble Spaniard and his amiable daughter, I, after my long years of lonely wretchedness, felt for a time the hours pass rapidly away. There was I know not what of romantic interest in our peculiar situation. A hurricane would soon have drowned us all; but the wind blew fair and steady. The prospect around us was unvarying, but one of which the eye could not soon grow weary. At noon, when the sun, vertical in that latitude, poured down his irradiation from the zenith, he appeared like a glorious ornament in the centre of the canopy of the heavens, from which they descended in a uniform arch of unclouded[Pg 181] blue until they rested on the farthest edge of the waste of water, over whose billows our little bark was gallantly bounding, and which, wherever the eye was turned, seemed to stretch

'Far into silent regions, blue and pale.'

One cloud there was which rested on my mind. All seemed to regard me with confidence—to look on me for direction; but I had no confidence in myself. Unaided by compass or nautical science, we were steering almost at random, vaguely guessing at a south-westerly course, from the position of the rising and setting sun.

"In this manner, week after week passed away, until one morning, when I was awakened by the hand of Don Pedro laid on my shoulder. He seemed to be in great agitation; and I hastily arose and followed him forward. When we reached the open part of the vessel, he raised his arm and pointed to where, over a little aft the weather-bow, we could observe, hung high in air, the inverted images of a number of ships, with a large vessel in the centre, and a line of coast stretching hard by.

"'Sir,' said he, 'I know that to be the coast and shipping of Havannah.'

"'All's well,' cried I; 'who is at the helm?'

"'Bill Bowline, your honour.'

"'Bill, lay your bows right upon the main-mast of that large vessel which you see looming in the distance.' 'Ay, ay, sir.' 'Steer directly towards her, and try to keep your course exactly, guided, as usual, by the position of your sails, relatively to the wind.' 'Ay, ay, sir.' Turning now to Don Pedro, I said—'Admirably has he done his work; he seems a perfect sailing made easy, or every mariner his own compass.' Without noticing my pleasantry, my poor friend said, with a very serious look—'You see the care with which the mother of God watches over the children of the true church.' Carolina having asked me the day before, what I would do[Pg 182] to my wicked cousin; and I having said that I would merely give him a long forgiving look, she farther asked if I belonged to the true church; and on my saying that I belonged to a very humble church, which, however, was faithful in teaching all her children to look up to God, in the Redeemer's name, with the desire of being good, that they might obtain good, Don Pedro seemed to wish that such a delicate subject should be dropped. Now, however, he conceived himself to stand on high vantage ground, and appealed to the aerial reflection as a splendid miracle wrought for his behoof. I told him that what he saw was a common natural phenomenon, with which our able seamen were all quite familiar; but he shook his head, doubting or disbelieving. 'Noble sir,' said I, 'you understand English, listen;—Bill Bowline, at what distance may these ships be, on which you are now steering?'

"'Sure to raise them, sir, in the course of the day.'

"'Mark that,' said I, assuring Don Pedro that in all likelihood he would be at home and in the bosom of his family before night. If the blush of shame which the children of the true church are wont to exhibit when their supposed or pretended miracles are most satisfactorily accounted for on natural principles, did for a moment pass over the features of Don Pedro, it was soon chased away by excessive joy. During the day, he suffered much from impatience; hope and fear had by turns the possession of his mind. But, at length, after many a long tedious hour of watching, he beheld a line of blue land rising above the edge of the horizon, which gradually unfolded itself into the town, coast, and shipping of Havannah.

"At the request of her father, no information as to what we had seen and were led to expect was given to Carolina. He was afraid that our hopes might not be realized, and that she might have to endure the pangs of disappointment. Accordingly, she was in the very act of speaking of her[Pg 183] home, of her family, and of her lover, as dear objects that she might never again see, when her father entered the cabin in an ecstasy of joy, crying—'Here they are all now, just as we saw them in the morning; only, their masts point upward, and not down. Not a moment longer,' cried he, 'shall my dear daughter be kept in ignorance.' So catching her in his arms, he led her forward to the bows, and pointed out to her the distinct outlines of her native shore. She silently gazed on it for an instant; then tears of joy flowed down her cheek. To me, to Tom, to all our companions, severally, she testified her gratitude in broken accents, calling us her dear deliverers, and invoking the blessings of Heaven upon our heads. The men were in raptures with her; and, wishing to improve the opportunity afforded for drawing vividly forth their best affections, I said to them—'Only to think, now, that there should be hearts, either in earth or hell, capable of misusing a fine creature like that!' A low murmuring sound, as if of profound deliberation, followed these words; after which Bill Bowline arose as the orator of the party, and, having given his trousers a hitch, he said that it was the contraband trade that had thrown them among such abominable wretches as the Buccaneers; and that they were resolved never to break the laws of Old England any more, for that they now saw, that when once people began to do evil, there was no saying where they might end; which resolution gave to Don Pedro great satisfaction. The greybeard of Jack Fid was now handed round as long as it contained a drop of liquor; after which it was broken, its fragments, along with a variety of other moveables, were thrown into the sea, and three hearty cheers were given.

"In a little while, the bark lay alongside of the quay of Havannah. Don Pedro and his daughter, having been safely handed out, sunk down on their knees, and the men went and sat down at a little distance, as if anxious to avoid the[Pg 184] appearance of wishing to intrude. Feeling sympathy for the brave fellows, and admiring their motives, I went and seated myself in the midst of them, saying—'From me, at least, you shall not be parted;' while an unpleasant suspicion arose in my mind, lest we should, after all, be left in a land of strangers, lonely and unowned. In this I did our kind friends wrong. Having devoutly rendered their thanks to Heaven, they came and begged us to follow them. By way of giving effect to the feelings of my companions, I said that we would be sorry to distress their hospitality; upon which Carolina looked first amazed, then angry, and then burst into tears—'This from you!' said she—'from my preserver—from my second father!' Forthwith she and her natural father drove us all before them, like a flock of reluctant geese, to their residence—a splendid one it was, in which we met as warm a reception as grateful hearts could give, or the unfriended desire.

"Next day several high officers of the Spanish army and navy waited upon me, and made particular inquiries respecting the pirate islands, with whose locality my long residence had made me well acquainted. Our nations were at war, but my heart took fire at the idea of terminating my exile by a noble stroke—by contributing to the fall of the Buccaneer, the common enemy of the civilized world. I, therefore, offered my own services, and those of my companions, on the express condition that, having left our large armed vessels so soon as we had arrived off the islands, we should venture among their intricacies in boats, with a sufficient force, and endeavour to take the enemy by surprise, and to carry him by boarding. This plan having, after some hesitation, been agreed to, off we set immediately; and, in three weeks, we returned in triumph, having captured both the pirate vessels, which were found lying, in supposed security, at their two stations, and completely destroyed that nest of odious ruffians, to the great joy of all the West[Pg 185] Indian islands. My companions fought like lions; two of them fell, and several were wounded. On our return, we were loaded with honours; a great sum of money was given to me, for the purpose, as was said, of buying a sword; handsome sums were also given to each of my companions, which they put into my hands, and which, with what I shall add to them out of mine, will enable me to settle them all comfortably in life. During our absence, Don Pedro and his daughter had suffered much from anxiety on our account; they received us with the liveliest joy on our return—they mourned for the slain—they nursed the wounded with the tenderest care, and their house became, for a time, our home. Their kindness led us to prolong our stay far beyond the time necessary for the recovery of the wounded; and I had the satisfaction of assisting at the marriage and of being assured of the happiness of Alonzo and Carolina. At length, we parted from our grateful and warm-hearted friends; and a government packet conveyed us all safely across the Atlantic to Cadiz.

"At Cadiz, I found that the letters which Don Pedro had given to me, and procured for me, would enable us all, notwithstanding the war with France and Spain, to pass unmolested through both countries; and so, having converted our wealth into bills, payable in Antwerp, I travelled over land to this neutral port, along with my companions, as the readiest way to obtain a safe and a speedy passage to Britain. At Antwerp, I again converted my foreign bills into others which were payable in England; while my companions went down to the quay at my request, to look out for an immediate passage thither. On finding that no immediate passage could be procured, I purchased, at their suggestion, a small sloop, which was lying in one of the docks for sale; on board of which, confident in my lately acquired nautical science, and in the long-tried seamanship of my companions, I proceeded straight across the German[Pg 186] Ocean; steering direct, not for the latitude of any of England's great seaports, but for that of the home of my fathers, and the mouth of my native river. Having a good wind, we drove our little vessel, at a gallant rate, through the water. Our hearts being gay, our spirits high, and our stores supplied with abundance of everything, our voyage became one continued scene of fun, festivity, and folly, in which I largely participated, until an event occurred which brought us to our senses. On the sixth morning of our passage, it was found that the vessel had sprung a leak—that there were four feet of water in the hold. The pumps enabled us to sink it a little; but it afterwards gained upon us to such an alarming degree that the carpenter was in doubt whether the vessel could be kept afloat for twenty-four hours longer. The wind also began to die away, and so thick a fog settled around us that we could see nothing but our foundering vessel, and the water into which she was ready to sink, looking black and dismal below. While matters were in this state, a thickening of the darkness came to be observable right a-head at the lower part of the fog; which, while every eye was fixed upon it, rose higher, and showed an irregular outline. It was declared to be land; and we were not long kept in suspense. In a little while, a grinding sound was heard at the bottom of the vessel, followed by a slight concussion; and, in about fifteen minutes, during which the vessel, stripped of every inch of canvass, continued to grind and to strike, she settled down and remained fast. I immediately secured my valuable papers on my person, and the men set about making preparations for leaving the vessel. We had neglected to provide ourselves with a boat; but two or three of the men swam to the shore, which proved to be at no great distance, carrying the end of a rope along with them; by the aid of which all the rest of us were enabled to reach the land in safety.

"Thus did my seven companions and I terminate our[Pg 187] adventures. Once in safety, I began to laugh heartily at our mishap. 'O passi graviora mecum,' cried I, gaily, as they seemed to stand down-hearted in their dripping garments; 'it is on no desolate or inhospitable shore that we are now cast. Stay there for a little, till I see where we are, and look out for shelter.' With that I went a little way inland, until, having observed the appearance of distant lights on my left, I ran in all haste in that direction, scarcely feeling the ground under my feet. In about half an hour, I came to a number of buildings which I seemed to know; I found a narrow lane, at the end of it a door, and within the door a stair, which I seemed to know. My heart began to beat violently. Having mounted the stair, and gone along a dark passage at the head of it, I came to a door, on opening which, the forms of the very friends, after leaving whom I was carried away, seemed to appear before me, as at their usual meeting. All gazed on me; but none of them spoke except old Adam Muzzy, who was in his usual state of inebriety, which so strangely brightens one part of his faculties, and darkens another. Recognising me, and having some very indistinct perception of circumstances, he exclaimed, in the usual style of his address to a retired and returned bottle-companion—'Guide me! ye hae been lang away; but we hae thocht that ye would be back, for ye left yer hat ahint ye. Sit doon, man, and tak aff yer glass.'

"The sight of my hat hanging where I left it, and the daized dreamy look of the creature, with his half-shut eye, so affected me, that I sunk unconsciously down into the chair to which he had pointed, painfully impressed with the idea that I had only been dreaming of home, as I had often done, in the lonely isles of the West Indian seas. It was my name loudly pronounced by the friendly voice of Plainworth which first awoke me from my stupor.

"'My dear Mary,' said he, as he concluded, 'he will tell you what were the first questions which I asked.'[Pg 188]

"'Indeed,' said I, addressing her, 'his two first questions were both about you; and the second of them was, whether you were still unmarried?'"


"Amid the deep silence which followed this narrative; the effect of which was heightened by the near interest which each had in the principal actor, a soft diffident tap was heard at the outer door; which, having been opened, the whole party of old friends, whom William had so startled by his unlooked-for appearance among them that evening, came pouring in tumultuously, with the trampling of many feet, and the sound of many voices mingled together. We could have seen them far enough off, being in that quiet kind of heart-absorbing felicity, to which boisterous intrusion is most irksome. But it presently appeared, that, in their coming, there was no want of consideration. Besides attending to the wants of the shipwrecked mariners, as they had undertaken, they had employed a number of the resident fishermen, with their boats, to look after the wreck now lying dry upon a ledge of rocks, with her bottom staved in, by whom every article of value on board had been saved. They described William's companions as the strangest set of fellows whom they had ever met with. 'They were close enough at first,' said they. 'Many significant looks having been exchanged between them when the glass began to circle round; but when they did open, what strange stories they told of the scenes which they had passed through! And, oh, how they spoke of you, Mr. William! They said that you were the best and bravest of landsmen—one whom no dangers could daunt, whom no difficulties could subdue, and who had so kind a heart withal, that you were always more attentive to their wants than your own. One of them, whom they called Tom Clewgarnet, declared it to be his firm belief that you were just a kind of an angel, who had been sent down to save them all from the pit.' It appeared,[Pg 189] in short, that our kind friends had been most attentive to the poor fellows; and that, with the powerful aid of the fishermen whom they had employed, and who had joined them after having finished their work, they had succeeded in sending them all to bed in a very comfortable state of inebriety; they themselves, also, as their appearance strongly testified, having suffered somewhat in the cause.

"After this gratifying intelligence had been given, which was received with the warmest acknowledgments, the whole party earnestly entreated William to consent to act his part in a notable ploy of Mr Macquils; which was, that, as his cousin was taking steps for entering into possession, and was to visit Elphinstone House the next day, he should make his first public appearance in the very heart of his proceedings.

"'The people of the house where you threw off your wet garments,' said they, 'enter heartily into the plan; and, as we have been careful in keeping the secret, there is no person, either in town or country, who has any knowledge of your return.'

"William gratified them by a ready acquiescence; indeed, the proposal coincided exactly with his own previous intentions; the mortification which his cousin would receive being all the punishment which he intended for him. The necessary arrangements having been agreed on, and committed to Mr Macquil, the first projector of the plan, the whole party were permitted to withdraw, on condition that they would favour us with their company to dinner next day, when William promised to make a full disclosure of all that had befallen him. When we were again by ourselves, William said to me, in a whisper—'You must aid me, my friend, in making immediate arrangements for facilitating the escape of my cousin. The testimony of those people whom I have with me, would be sure to convict him; and, as they hate him most cordially on my account, that testimony, though it would implicate themselves, would be[Pg 190] given with great good-will. Heaven knows, that I have no wish that, on the scaffold, kindred blood should flow!'

"Mary expressed an extreme desire to see the men who had passed through such strange scenes; and she begged of William, that he would take her with him for that purpose; adding, diffidently—'I believe that, after this, I will always be afraid when you are out of my sight.'

"Early next morning, the long disused wardrobe of William was procured from the mansion of the Elphinstones. While William was still sleeping profoundly, exhausted with the toils of the preceding day, Mr Macquil and I made a careful selection of such articles of dress as we judged most suitable for him to appear in, on the approaching great occasion. We made choice of a suit which nearly resembled his ordinary forenoon attire—clothed in which, it was impossible for any one who knew him to mistake his identity. His features were thinner than before; but he was immensely improved in his general appearance. His person was more firmly set—his carriage more staid and dignified; and, while he retained the same winning mildness of manner, there was in his eye that manly, resolute look, indicating energy, intrepidity, and force of character—which familiarity with toils and dangers, gallently borne and nobly triumphed over, alone can give. Of the feelings of Mary, when she beheld her lover arrayed once more in his former vestments, looking so noble, so kind, and so like what he was before, it is impossible to speak. Their happiness, when they met next morning, was more tranquil than the evening before, but not less profound. At breakfast, Mr Macquil was the principal speaker—full of the all-engrossing project which he had in view. Immediately after breakfast, we were to have set out; but, hour after hour passed away, while the lovers remained together, 'all the world forgot;' and while poor Mr Macquil and I and the horses were waiting impatiently at the door. The impatience of Mr[Pg 191] Macquil began to exceed all bounds; and a scout having brought intelligence that the chariots and horsemen of the enemy had been beheld approaching at a distance, he became very angry. He broke in abruptly upon the lovers—he took William by the arm, and led him off—promising, however, by way of comfort, that that separation should not be of longer duration than half an hour.

"Once in the saddle, off we set at full gallop, through by-roads, which brought us to a thicket in the rear of Elphinstone House, where some old domestics of the family, with delight vividly expressed in their countenances, were ready to receive our horses. Entering the house by a back door, and ascending the stairs, we heard, as we were passing the main entrance hall, the party without loudly thundering for admittance at the front door, while a little urchin of a boy, evidently in the secret, was pertly screaming to them through the key-hole—'The key—the key! Can ye no stop a wee? What signifies a bit minute or twa?' Proceeding forthwith into a spacious apartment, which directly opened into the entrance hall, and which had been fixed upon as the most proper place for the scene which was to be enacted, Mr Macquil conveyed William into a small by-room, where he was to remain in concealment until the proper time for his appearance: and shutting the door with a triumphant bang, locked it, and put the key in his pocket.

"Events now rapidly followed each other. The preconcerted signal that all was prepared was given—the impatient party at the front door were admitted—and presently the cousin stalked into the room, followed by the sheriff, his officers, and our friends, with many other spectators whom they had brought along with them. I was standing at the window; Mr Macquil was pacing up and down the room with a huge white handkerchief applied to his eyes, and uttering uncouth sounds of wo, which, however, sometimes had a greater resemblance to laughter than to lamentation.[Pg 192]

"'Sir,' said the cousin, 'we come here for business, and have no time for nonsense.'

"'I assure you,' said the other, 'that it is far from being my wish that the proper heir of this house should be longer kept out of his goodly heritage. You will find the only obstacle to your being put into immediate possession in that closet; and there is the key.'

"'Hold,' cries the sheriff; 'too fast, sir, by one half.'

"A look of peculiar meaning from Mr Macquil arrested for an instant the sheriff's attention.

"Meanwhile the cousin having received the key, hurried to the closet, opened wide the door, and William walked forward into the room. He was recognised in an instant, as was evident from the acclamations which followed his appearance.

"'Ha! ha! ha!' quoth the sheriff, 'who could have expected this from you, Mr Macquil? You are positively become as arch as a romping, roguish young boarding-school girl of fifteen. Mr Elphinstone, give me leave to say that I never was more delighted—never more happy.' Briefly returning the compliments of the worthy sheriff, William fixed his eyes upon his cousin with a look in which there was reproach but no malignity.

"'Cousin,' said he—'one with me in lineage, in kindred, and in blood—I have been indebted to you for a long and involuntary excursion abroad, which has been attended with most woful results. Sir, while I abhor, I forgive—I pity; in proof of which, I give you timeous warning that there is intelligence from the other side of the Atlantic, which concerns you more nearly than any farther interest which you can possibly have in my inheritance.' With that, the bad man grew deadly pale—he trembled from head to foot—he looked fearfully at the sheriff—and he hurried out, followed by me. After a long pause, during which he seemed to be thinking profoundly, the sheriff[Pg 193] said—'There is really a strange meaning in your words, Mr Elphinstone!'—

"'Which,' replied William, 'I will fully explain in a few days.'

"Whenever the facts of the case came to be known, the officers of justice were sent in full cry after the criminal; but, with the aid of the generous kinsman whom he had so foully wronged, he effected his escape, and was never heard of more.

"In a short time Elphinstone House again became the residence of its rightful proprietor; and, within less than a fortnight from the date of his return, William and Mary were united in the holy bands of wedlock, to be separated no more. I was the best-man; and a happier pair never was seen. They were happy in themselves and in their family."

"Yes," said Wonderlove, "from that family the dule passed away."

"And you observe," replied the other with a smile, "that the head of that house really did marry a maiden of low degree!"

"Well, now, is not that a strange—a strange—a very strange!"—

"It is a strange coincidence," said Plainworth, "but nothing more. What more natural than that such a woman should engage the affections of such a man? and as for the subsequent prosperity of their numerous and bonny family, it is an old saying and a true—'That being good, naturally leads to the obtaining of good.'"


[Pg 194]

TRIALS AND TRIUMPHS.

It was in the autumn of 1825, that a stranger was wandering by the side of the silver lakes and over the majestic mountains of romantic Cumberland. He was near the side of blue Keswick, and the light wind was scattering, in showers, the death-touched leaves upon the bright waters. Suddenly, the face of the lake became troubled, and dark ripples rose upon its bosom, as if the chained spirit of a storm struggled thereon to be free, and moved them. A louder rustling and a sound of agitation was heard among the trees, as though it were there also. Thick clouds gathered before the face of the sun, and darkness, like an angel's wrath, rolled along the brow of the mighty Skiddaw. In a few moments the thunder was heard bursting from the mountain sides, and its echoes reverbed, as the groaning of the great hills, through the glens. Thunder, lightning, and tempest, gathered round, and burst over the stranger. The cattle crowded together upon the hills, and the birds of heaven sought shelter in the woods. The stranger, also, looked around for a place of refuge.

Before him, at the distance of about a quarter of a mile, lay a sequestered and beautiful villa—round which mountain, wood, and water, and craggy cliff, were gathered—with a sloping lawn before it. It was a spot which the genius of romance might have made its habitation. The mansion was in keeping with the scenery, and towards it the stranger repaired for shelter.

He was requesting permission of a servant of the household, to be sheltered until the storm passed over, when the occupier of the mansion came himself to the door, and, with the frankness of an old friend, held out his hand,[Pg 195] saying—"Come in—thou art welcome. At such a time the birds of heaven seek shelter, and find it in the thick branches of the woods; and surely man has a right to expect refuge in the habitations of his fellow-men. Follow me, friend, and rest here until the storm be past."

The stranger bowed, thanked him, and followed him; but, ere they had sat down, the owner of the mansion again addressed his visitant, saying—"The inhabitants of the East ask no questions of strangers until they have given them water to wash their feet, and a change of garments, if required. I know no excuse which the people of the West can offer, why they should be less hospitable. I perceive that thy apparel is already drenched; therefore, my servant will provide thee with a change of raiment. Go, do as I request, that no harm overtake thee; and, in the meantime, I will order refreshment, after which, thou and I shall converse together."

There was a kindness in the manner, and an expression of benevolence in the aspect of his entertainer, which at once gratified and interested the stranger. The latter appeared to be about forty; but his hospitable entertainer was at least threescore. Care had engraven some wrinkles upon his brow, and the "silverings" of age were beginning to mingle thickly with his once brown hair; but his ruddy and open countenance spoke of the generosity of his disposition and the health of his constitution.

When the stranger had put on dry raiment and partaken of food, his host ordered liquors to be brought; and when they were placed upon the table, he again addressed his guest, and said—"Here, sir, thou hast claret, port, and sherry—my cellar affords no other wines. Therefore, take thy choice. Be merry and wise; but, above all—be at home. The wayfaring man, and the man whom a storm drives into our house among the mountains, should need no second invitation. With me he is welcome to whatsoever is[Pg 196] set before him. Therefore, use no ceremony, but consult thine own taste. For myself I am no wine-drinker. Its coldness agrees not with my stomach, and I prefer the distillation of our northern hills to the juice of the grapes of the sunny south. Therefore, friend, while I brew my punch, help thyself to whatsoever best pleaseth thee."

The stranger again thanked him, and having something of nationality about him, preferred joining him in a bowl prepared from the "mountain dew." They quickly discovered that they were what the world calls "kindred spirits," and, before an hour had passed, the stranger told whence he came, what he had been, and what his intentions, in visiting that part of the country, were; but his name, he said, he did not intend to divulge to any one for a time. He might make it known in a few days, should he remain in the neighbourhood, and, perhaps, he never would.

"Well," said his host, "thou hast told me a considerable part of thy history, but thou hast withheld thy name: I will tell thee all mine; but, to be even with thee, thou shalt not know my name either, (provided thou dost not know it already,) beyond that my Christian name is Robert.

"I am (continued he) the first-born of a numerous family, and am twenty-four years older than the youngest of my parents' children. My father was what is called a statesman in this part of the country; by which you are not to understand that he was in any way connected with politics, or had any part in governing the affairs of the nation, but, simply, that he was the possessor of an estate containing some eighty acres, and which had descended to him from his ancestors, unimpaired and unencumbered. He was a kind husband and an indulgent father; but he was provident as neither. A better-hearted man never breathed. He was generous even to the committing of a crime against his own family; and the misfortune, the error—I might say the curse of his life—was, that he never knew the value of a[Pg 197] shilling. It has been said that I possess my father's failing in this respect; but, through his example at all times as a warning before me, I have been enabled to regulate it, and to keep it within controllable limits. You have often heard it said, 'Take care of the shillings, and the pounds will take care of themselves;' but this will not hold good in every instance—as was the case with my father. He appeared to be one of those who did not stop to consider the value between a pound and a shilling. He was naturally a man of a strong intellect and a sound judgment; but his impulses were stronger still. He was a being of impulses. They hurried him away, and he stopped not to consult with calmer reason. With him to feel was to act. He generally saw and repented his error, before another had an opportunity of telling him of it, but not before it was too late; and these self-made discoveries never prevented him from falling into the same errors again. In the kindliness of his own heart he took all mankind to be good; he believed them to be better than they really were; or rather he believed no man to be a bad man until he had found him to be so. Now, sir, when I say that in this respect my father exercised too much both of faith and charity, thou must not think that I am shut up here like a cynic in this mountain solitude, to inflict upon every passenger my railings against his race. On the contrary, I have seen much of the world, and experienced much of its buffetings, of its storms, its calms, and its sunshine; I have also seen much of men; and I have seldom, I would almost say, I have never, met with one who had no redeeming quality. But, sir, I have seen and felt enough, to trust no man far until I have proved him. Yet my father was many times deceived, and he trusted again; and, if not the same parties, others under the same circumstances. He could not pass a beggar on the highway without relieving him; and, where he saw or heard that distress or misery existed, it was enough for him—he never inquired into the cause[Pg 198] He was bringing up his family, not certainly in affluence, but in respectability; but his unthinking generosity, his open hand, and his open-heartedness, were frequently bringing him into trouble. One instance I will relate; it took place when I was a lad of eighteen. There resided in our neighbourhood an extensive manufacturer, who employed many people, and who was reputed to be very rich. He was also a man of ostentatious piety; and, young as I then was, his dragging forward religion in every conversation, and upon all occasions, led me to doubt whether he really had anything of religion in his heart. There were many, also, who disputed his wealth. But my father and he were as brothers. We perceived that he had gained an ascendancy over him in all things; and often did my mother remonstrate with him, for being, as she said, led by a stranger, and caution him against what might be the consequences. For I ought to inform you, that the manufacturer had been but a few years in Cumberland, and no one knew his previous history. But my father would not hear the whisper of suspicion breathed against him.

"My mother was a native of Dumfriesshire; her ancestors had taken a distinguished part in the wars of the Covenant; and, one evening, I was reading to her from her favourite volume, "The Lives of the Scots Worthies," when my father entered, and sat down in a corner of the room in silence, and evidently in deep sorrow. He leaned his brow upon his hand, and his spirit seemed troubled."

"William," said my mother, addressing him, "why do ye sit there? What has happened? There is something putting ye about."

He returned no answer to her inquiries; and approaching him, and taking his hand in hers, she added—"Oh! there is something the matter, or ye would never sit in that way, and have such a look. Are ye weel enough, William—or what is it?"[Pg 199]

"Nothing! nothing!" said he. But the very manner in which he said it, and the trembling and quavering of his voice, were equivalent to saying—"Something! something!"

"Oh, dinna say to me, nothing!" said she; "for there is a something, and that is evident, or ye would never sit as ye are doing."

He struck his clenched hands upon his brow, and exclaimed—"Do not torment me!—do not add to my misery!"

"William! William!" cried my mother, "there is something wrong, and why will ye hide it from me? Have I been your wife for twenty years, and ye say I torment ye now, by my anxiety for your weelfare? O William! I am certain I didna deserve this treatment from you, neither did I think that ye were capable of acting in such a manner. What is it that is troubling ye?"

"Nancy," he cried, in the vehemence of despair, "I have ruined you!—I have ruined my family! I have ruined my earthly comfort, my peace of mind, and my own soul!"

"Oh, dinna talk in that way, William!" she cried; "I ken now that something serious has happened; but, oh! whatever it be, let us bear it like Christians, and remember that we are Christians. What is it, William? Ye may confide in your wife now?"

"Nancy," said he, "I never was worthy of such a wife. But neither look on me, nor speak to me with kindness. I have brought you to beggary—I have brought my family to beggary—and I have brought myself to everlasting misery and despair!"

"O my dear!" said she, "dinna talk in such a heathen-like manner. If it be the case that we have lost all that we had, there is no help for it now; but I trust, and am assured, that ye will not have lost it in such a way as to make your family hang their head among folk, in remembrance of their faither's transaction. I am certain, already,[Pg 200] that it is your foolish disposition to be everybody's friend, that has brought this upon ye. A thousand times have I warned ye of what, some day or other, would be the upshot; but ye would take no admonition from me."

"Oh!" added he, "I have misery enough, and more than enough, without your aggravating it by your dagger-drawing reflections."

He sat groaning, throughout the night, with his hand upon his brow; but the real cause of his misery he would not explain, farther than that he had brought himself and his family to ruin. But, with sunrise, the tale of our undoing was on every tongue; and all its particulars, and more than all, were not long in being conveyed to us. For a tale of distress hath the power of taking unto itself wings, and every wind of heaven will echo it, let it come whence it may, and let it go where it may. I beheld, and I heard my mother doomed to receive the doleful congratulations of her friends—the prompt expression of their sympathy for her calamities. It was the first time, and it was the last, that many of them ever felt for human wo. But there are people in this world, who delight to go abroad with the tidings of tribulation on their tongue, and whose chief pleasure is to act the part of Job's comforters, or, I might say, of his messengers.

We learned that my father's bosom friend, the professedly wealthy and pious manufacturer, had been declared a bankrupt, and that my father had become liable on his account to the amount of two thousand pounds. His unguided generosity had previously compelled him to mortgage his property, and this calamity swallowed it up. Never will I forget the calmness, I might call it the philosophy, with which my mother received the tidings.

"I am glad," said she to the individual who first communicated to her the tidings, "that my children will have no cause to blush for their father's misfortunes; and I would[Pg 201] rather endure the privations which those misfortunes may bring upon us, than feel the pangs of his conscience who has brought them upon his friend."

My father sank into a state of despondency, from which it required all our efforts to arouse him; and his despondency increased, when it was necessary that the money for which he had become liable, should be paid. The estate, which had been in the possession of his ancestors for a hundred and fifty years, it became necessary to sell; and when it was sold, not only to the last acre, but even to our household furniture, it did not bring a sum sufficient to discharge the liabilities which he had incurred. Well do I remember the soul-harrowing day on which that sale took place. My father went out into the fields, and, in a small plantation, which before sunset was no longer to be his, sat down and wept. Even my mother, who hitherto had borne our trials with more than mere fortitude, sat down in a corner of the house, upon the humblest chair that was in it, and which she perhaps thought they would not sell, or that it would not be worth their selling, and there, with an infant child at her bosom, she rocked her head in misery, and her secret tears bedewed the cheeks of her babe.

That night, my father, my mother, and their children, sought refuge in a miserable garret in Carlisle. I, as I have already said, was the eldest, and perhaps the change in their circumstances affected me most deeply, and by me was most keenly felt.

Through yielding to the influence of feelings that were too susceptible, my father beheld his family suddenly plunged into destitution. It was a sad sight to behold my brothers and my sisters, who had ever been used to plenty, crying around him and around my mother, for bread to eat, when they were without credit, and their last coin was expended. My father did not shew the extreme agony of his spirit before his children, but he could not conceal[Pg 202] that it lay like a cankerworm in his breast, preying upon his vitals. His strength withered away like a leaf in autumn; and what went most deeply to my mother's heart was, that he seemed as if ashamed to look his family in the face; and he appeared even as one who had committed a crime which he was anxious to conceal.

My mother, however, was a woman amongst ten thousand. Never did the slightest murmur escape her lips, to upbraid my father for what he had brought upon us; but, on the contrary, she daily, hourly, strove to cheer him, and to render him happy—to make him forget the past. But it was a vain task; misery haunted him by night and by day; there was despair in his very smile, and the teeth of self-reproach entered his soul. He was a man who had received more than what is called a common education; and a gentleman who had been his schoolfellow, and known him from his childhood, and who resided much abroad, appointed him to be his land steward. The emoluments of the office were not great, but they were sufficient to keep his family from want.

Under the circumstances in which they were now placed, I was too old to remain longer as a burden upon my parents. I therefore bade them a fond, a heart-rending farewell; and with less than four pounds in my pocket, took my passage from Whitehaven to Liverpool, from whence I was to proceed by land to London. Liverpool was then only beginning to emerge into its present commercial magnitude; and I carried with me letters to two merchants there, the one residing in Poole Lane, the other in Dale Street. Both received me civilly, and both asked me what I could do? It was a question which I believe had never occurred to me before, nor even to my father, up to the period of my shaking hands with him and bidding him farewell. I hesitated for a few seconds, and I believe that upon both occasions I stammered out the word—"anything."[Pg 203]

"You can do anything, can you?" said the first merchant, sarcastically; "then you are a great deal too clever for me; and I suspect the situation of a servant of all work will suit you better than that of a clerk in a counting-house. Pray, are you acquainted with keeping books?"

I replied that I was not.

"Then," added he, "though you can do everything, that is one thing which I find you cannot do; and as it is the only thing that would be of any service to me, I shall not be able to avail myself of your otherwise universal attainments."

The cold, the sarcastic manner of this gentleman, made my very blood to freeze within my veins; a cold shivering (I might call it the mantle of despair) came over me, and my heart failed within me. I, however, proceeded to Dale Street, and delivered my letter to the other gentleman. He, as I have already intimated to you, inquired at me what I could do. And to him, also, my unfortunate answer was "anything." He smiled, but there was a kindness in his smile, and he good-humouredly asked me what I meant by anything. I was as much at a loss to answer him, as I had been to answer the merchant I had left.

"Have you ever been in a merchant's office?" he inquired, "or had any practice as an accountant?"

"No," I replied.

"Then," added he, "I fear it will be difficult to find anything in Liverpool to answer your expectations, and I would not recommend you to waste time in it. If I could have promoted your views, I would have done so most cheerfully; but, as I cannot, here are three guineas—(for from the manner in which my friend speaks of you in his letter I believe you to be a deserving youth)—they will help you onward in your journey, and in London you will meet with many chances of obtaining a situation, that you cannot find in Liverpool."[Pg 204]

I burst into tears as he spoke, and put the money in my hands. The kindness of the one merchant had affected me more than the chilling irony of the other. The one roused my indignation, the other melted my heart. But I was indebted to both; for both had given me a lesson of what the world was, and both had rendered me more sensible of the dependence and hopelessness of my situation.

In order to husband my resources, I proceeded to London on foot, and when I arrived there, I found myself to be like a bird in a wilderness, or a helmless vessel on a dark sea. The magnitude of the city, its busy thousands, its groaning warehouses, where the treasures and luxuries of every corner of the globe are piled together, the splendour of its shops, the magnificence of its squares, and the lordly equipages which glittered in the midst of them, moved me not. They scarcely excited my observation. My soul was filled with thoughts of my own prospects; and I wandered, dreaming, from street to street, moving at a pace as though I had been sauntering by the side of one of my native lakes, and I appeared as the only individual in the great city who had no aim, and no urgent business which required me to move rapidly, as others did. I delivered all the letters that I brought with me, and I was again asked, as I had been in Liverpool—what I could do? But I did not, as I did there, reply, anything. I, however, was puzzled how to answer the question. The truth was, I was utterly ignorant of business. I had been brought up amongst those mountains, with merely a knowledge that there was such a thing. In fact, my ideas of it hardly extended beyond giving out goods with one hand, and receiving money for them in the other. The word commerce was to me as a phrase in a dead language. I had fancied to myself that the sea was a great lake, over the whole expanse of which I should be able to gaze at once, and see the four quarters of the globe around it: and my ideas of what ships were, were gathered from[Pg 205] the boats which I had seen upon Keswick. On the day on which I left my parents' roof, I heard my old schoolmaster console them with the assurance, that "there was no fear of me, for I was fit for anything." While such testimony, from his lips, comforted them, it cheered me also, and it caused me to look upon myself as a youth of high promise, and of yet higher expectations. But now, when I was left to myself, with all my talents and acquirements ready to be disposed of in any market, I found that my general qualifications, my fitness for anything, amounted to being qualified for nothing, when reduced to particulars. Days, weeks, months passed away, and I was still a wanderer upon the streets of the modern Babylon.

At length, when ready to lie down and die from hunger and from hopelessness, I obtained a situation as copying-clerk to a solicitor, at a salary of ten shillings a-week. In such a city as London, and where it was necessary to keep up a respectable appearance, this sum might be considered as inadequate to my wants. But it was not so. During the first ten weeks, I transmitted two pounds to my parents, to assist them. I always kept the proverb before my memory, that "a penny hained is a penny gained;" and I never took one from my pocket, until I had considered whether or not it was absolutely necessary to spend it. My food was of the simplest kind; and finding that I could not afford the expense of an eating-house, it consisted of a half-quartern loaf in the twenty-four hours, the one half of which was eaten in the morning; the other in the evening. I "kitchened" my loaf, as they say in Scotland, with a pennyworth of butter, and occasionally with lettuce or a few radishes in their season; and the beverage with which I regaled myself, after my meals, was a glass of water from the nearest pump.

Upon this diet I became stouter, and was more healthy for the time, than ever I had been before; though I believe[Pg 206] I have suffered for it since. It was my duty to lock up the office (or chambers, as they were called) at night, and to open them in the morning. I had not been many days in my situation, when the thought struck me, that, by locking myself within the chambers at night, instead of locking myself out, I might save the expense of a lodging. Again I said to myself that "a penny hained was a penny gained," and four chairs in the chambers became my couch, while the money which I would have given for a lodging was transmitted to my parents.

I had not been many months in this situation, when it was my fortune to render what he considered a service to a rich merchant in the city, who was a client of my employers. He made inquiry at me respecting the amount of my salary, and concerning my home and relatives. I found that he was from Westmoreland, and he offered me a situation in his counting-house, with a salary of eighty pounds a-year. My heart sprang in joy and in gratitude to my throat at his proposal. I seized his hand as though he had been my brother. I pressed it to my breast. A tear ran down my cheek and fell upon it. Even while I held his hand, I fancied to myself, that I beheld my parents and their children again sitting beneath the sunshine of independence, and blessing their first-born, who was "fit for anything."

I entered upon my new situation, and upon my income of eighty pounds a-year, in a few days, and received a quarter's salary in advance. I well knew that my father was still oppressed by liabilities, which he was endeavouring to discharge out of forty pounds a-year, which he received for his stewardship. I knew, and I felt also, that let a son do for a parent what he will, he can never repay a parent's love and a parent's cares. Who could repay a mother for her unceasing and anxious watchings over us in the helplessness of infancy, or a father, in providing for all our wants, in teaching us to know good from evil? I fancied[Pg 207] that thirty pounds a-year was enough and more than enough for all my wants, and I dwelt with fondness on the thought of remitting them fifty pounds out of my annual salary. Previous to entering the counting-house of the merchant, my delight at the pleasing anticipations before me robbed me of sleep, and for the first time caused me to feel the hardness of my bed upon the chairs of the solicitor's chambers.

However, with a heart overflowing with joy, I entered upon my mercantile avocations. Then, as I bustled along the streets, I felt within my heart as though in all London there was none greater than I; I was independent as the Lord Mayor—as happy as his Majesty. But there was one thing, a small matter, which I forgot—it was the proverb which I have twice quoted already, that "a penny hained is a penny gained." On leaving my occupation as a copying-clerk, I almost unconsciously left also my cheap and humble diet. My fellow-clerks in the merchant's counting-house dined every day at a chop-house in Milk Street, and they requested me to join them. I had no longer an opportunity of eating my half-loaf in secret, and I accompanied them. Each of us had generally a chop, for which we paid eight-pence; a fried sole, for which we were charged a shilling; with a glass of porter during dinner, and a "go" of gin, as it was called, and sometimes two, afterwards. I did not wish to be singular, neither did I see how I could avoid doing as others did; and, moreover, I reasoned that, with eighty pounds a-year, I was justified in living comfortably. But this was not all. My associates were in the habit of having their crust and cheese, and their glass of porter, in the forenoons; and I had to join them in this also. And this, too, ran away with pence which might have been saved. But I had not been long amongst them, when I found that they had also evening clubs, where they met to enjoy a pipe and a glass, and hear the news of the day. Unless I joined one[Pg 208] of these clubs, I found that I would be considered as—nobody. I accompanied a comrade to one of them, and as the glass, the song, and the merry jest went round, I was as a person ushered into a new world, delighted with all I saw. I became a nightly attender of the club; and although I never indulged to excess, I had completely forgotten the proverb which enabled me to assist my parents when I had but ten shillings a-week; and therefore it forgot me.

My landlady also informed me, that it was the rule of her establishment for her lodgers to breakfast in the house, and with this proposal, also, I deemed it necessary to comply. I had begun to yield to circumstances, and when, in such a case, the head is once bent, the whole body imperceptibly becomes prostrate.

But twelve months passed away, and instead of fifty pounds being sent to my parents, I found my entire eighty not only expended, but that I was ten pounds in debt. I called myself a fool, a madman, and many other names; for conscience burned within my bosom, and the glow of shame upon my cheek. But it was fruitless; a habit had been formed, and that habit was my master. I had involuntarily become its slave, and wanted resolution to become its master.

On entering upon my second year, my employer, who still retained a favourable opinion of me, increased my salary to a hundred a-year. But even when it had expired, instead of having assisted my parents, I still found myself in debt. I had left my twenty pounds of additional salary to take care of themselves, and at the same time I had forgotten to take care not only of the shillings which composed them, but of the pence which made up my whole income. I forgot that a hundred pounds quickly disappears in a free hand, and leaves its owner wondering whither it has gone. At this period, the letters which I received from my parents sometimes indirectly hinted at the privations which they[Pg 209] were enduring; but they never requested, or seemed to expect assistance from me. The consciousness of their circumstances, however, stung me to the soul; but it did not reclaim me, or turn me from the dark sea of thoughtless expenditure on which I had embarked. I experienced that a slight thread is sufficient to lead a man to temptation, but it requireth a strong cord and a strong hand to drag him again to repentance.

I seldom laid my head upon my pillow but I resolved that, on the following day, I would reform my course of life, and again practise economy. But, alas! I "resolved and re-resolved," and lived the same. At this period, however, my own conscience was my only accuser and tormentor. For although in a country town my habit of spending every evening with a club, at a tavern, might have been registered against me as a vice, in London it did not so militate, and was neither noted nor regarded. I was punctual in my attendance at the counting-house—always clean, and rather particular in my person; (and I must say, that I do not know a town on the face of the habitable globe, where the certificate of dandyism, or of something approaching to it, will be of greater service to a young man than in London. It has struck me a hundred times, that the two chief recommendations for obtaining a situation there, are dress and address.) I was not exactly what could be called a good-natured person, but there was a free and easy something about my disposition, which rendered me a favourite with my fellow-clerks. I also was pleased with their society, and it was seldom that I could resist the temptation of accompanying them wheresoever they went when solicited, and which was in general to all their parties of pleasure. When I said to myself, in the language of Burns—"Come, go to, I will be wise," and began to practise retrenchment in one item of my expenditure, I heedlessly plunged into other sources equally extravagant. For my old maxim, which had[Pg 210] proved a friend to me on my first coming to London, was completely forgotten; and I neither thought of saving a penny nor taking care of a shilling. Indeed, so far had I forgotten these maxims, that on many occasions I reasoned with myself, saying—"Oh, it is only a shilling or two—there is nothing in that. I will go, or I will do it." But I forgot the sum to which that only, repeated three hundred and odd times in the year, amounted. In short, I had fallen into a habit which would have prevented me, had my salary been a thousand a-year, from being either richer or happier than I was when I had but ten shillings a-week.

I, however, retained the good opinion of my employer; and in the third year of my engagement with him, I was sent as supercargo with a vessel to South America. It was to be a trading voyage, and the appointment conferred upon me was an honour which caused me to be envied by the other clerks in the counting-house. Some of my seniors sneered at my inexperience, and said I would bring home a "precious cargo, and a profitable account of my transactions." Those who were nearer my own age saw nothing in me that I should have been chosen by our employer, and they agreed that he had preferred me, merely because I was a Border man like himself. In truth, I wondered at his choice myself; for I was conscious of but few qualifications for the task imposed on me, although, three years before, I was thought, and considered myself—"fit for anything."

It was understood that our voyage would occupy between two and three years; and in order that I might provide myself with everything necessary for my lengthened travels on the sea, and my dealings on shore, my employer placed in my hands two hundred and fifty pounds, independent of letters of credit to foreign merchants, in various ports, in which I was to transact business.

But, on the very day on which I received the two hundred[Pg 211] and fifty pounds, and about five days before I was to leave England, I received a letter from my father, to the following import:—

"My dear Son,—It pains me to be the bearer to you of evil tidings, and the more so, as I know that they can only grieve you, and that it is not in your power to remove their cause. Yet it is meet that you should know of them. You knew, and felt the the effects of the misfortunes which, a few years ago, overwhelmed me; but you knew not their extent. They still weigh me to the earth—they blast my prospects, and render powerless my energies. Yet there is no one whom I can accuse for my misfortunes; they, and the distresses of my family, are the work of my own hands. To-morrow I will be the inmate of a prison, for a debt of two hundred pounds, which still hangs over me. Your poor mother, and your brothers and sisters, will be left with no one to provide for them. Think of them, my dear son, and, if it be in your power, assist them."

Such was my father's letter, and every word in it went to my bosom as a sharp instrument. I took two hundred pounds from the two hundred and fifty that had been given to me to provide for my voyage, and transmitted them to my father, to relieve him from his distress. I perhaps acted unthinkingly, and sent more than I ought to have sent—but what will not a son do for a parent when his heart is touched?—and at all events I acted as he to whom the money was sent would have acted—from the impulse of the moment; in obedience to the first, the natural dictates of the heart.

I found that I had deprived myself of the power of obtaining many things which were necessary for the voyage; but I rejoiced in the thought of having given liberty to a parent, and happiness to his family; and my spirit enjoyed a secret triumph, which more than counterbalanced any trials I might have to endure.[Pg 212]

But the day on which I was to leave Old England arrived, and within four days I saw its white cliffs sink and die away in the distance as a far-off cloud. We had been seven weeks at sea, when a strange vessel hove in sight, and made alongside of us. She had a suspicious appearance, and our captain pronounced her to be a pirate. As she drew nearer, we could perceive that her crew crowded her deck; and as she continued to bear down upon us, there could be little doubt of her intentions. Our deck was cleared, and our few guns put in readiness for action. We were the heavier vessel of the two, but she carried three guns for our one, and it was evident that her crew were almost as ten to one. When the captain had seen everything made ready for action, he requested me to follow him to the cabin for a few moments, and when there he said—"Robert," for my Christian name I will communicate to you, "the pirate which is now bearing down upon us, is making three knots for our two. Within a quarter of an hour you will hear her shot whiz over us. I don't care so much for both our lives being endangered, for I know that already both our lives are sold; but I regret the issue of this venture for your sake and for my own, and also for that of our owner, for I am certain it would have proved a good one to us all. However, we must all heave-to in deep water or in shallow water some time or other, and the tide has overtaken you and me to-day. Therefore, my lad, don't let us look miserable about the matter. Only I have to tell you, (lest I should be one of the first to be swept off the deck when the business of the day begins,) that our old owner who, Heaven bless him! is a regular trump, said to me, just as I had got my papers from the Custom House, and he was shaking hands with me—'Tom,' said he, (for the old fellow always called me Tom,) 'look after that supercargo of mine that you've got on board. He is a countryman of my own. He does not know it, but his father and I used to paddle on Keswick lake together. I[Pg 213] have liked him on that account since the first day I clapped my eyes on him, and therefore I took him into my employ. But, though he didn't think that I saw it, I saw that the chaps of London were too much for him. Therefore, I say, Tom,' said he, 'if you see him like to go too far, for the love I bear the boy, bring him up with a short cable.' Such, you see, my lad, is the love which our old owner has for you; and though you may have found him a little gruff now and then, (as I have done myself,) depend upon it he is a regular trump at the bottom. Therefore, I say, let us fight for him now, as better is not to be, until we go to the bottom."

I felt a glow about my heart on account of the kindness of my master, and especially when I found that he was aware of more than I thought he had discovered of my conduct while in London; but it was no time to indulge in a reverie of gratitude, when every moment I expected to hear a twenty-four pounder boom over our deck, and that, too, from the deck of a pirate, who did not chalk up mercy as one of his attributes.

I went upon deck with our captain, and I had not been there for five minutes, when a shot from the pirate damaged our rigging. At the same time she hoisted the black flag.

"It is all up, Bob," said our commander, addressing me; "let us die manfully. If I die first, sink the vessel before she fall into their hands."

"Trust to me, captain," cried I; "I will see that all is right. We shall win the day, or go to the bottom."

"Bravo! my hearty!" he exclaimed; "I wish you had been a sailor!"

The action now began in good earnest, and was kept up on either side with unyielding determination. But they fired three guns for our one, and ever and anon they made an attempt to board us. Our crew consisted of but fourteen men and three boys—the commander, the mate, and myself[Pg 214] included. The mate fell at the first broadside which our enemy poured into us. We maintained the unequal fight for near an hour, when our captain also fell, calling out to me—"Stand out, Bob!—sink her, or beat them!"

"I will, captain!" cried I; but I don't believe that he lived to hear what I said to him. Our ship's company was reduced to five able men, and I lay amongst the wounded upon deck. We were boarded, overpowered in a moment, and our vessel became the prize of the pirates. The dead, and some of the wounded amongst our crew, were thrown overboard upon the instant. My appearance pleaded for me with the murderers, (even as I have said, appearance pleads with a prevailing intercession on most occasions in London,) and in a state of unconsciousness I was borne on board their vessel. When I raised my eyes and became conscious of my situation, the pirate captain stood over me. My wounds had been bound up, and I aroused myself, and rose up in pain as one awoke from a dream.

"Your name!—your name!" said he, addressing me.

"Ha! we are captured, then!" replied I; "my name is of small consequence—I am your victim."

"Speak!" he cried vehemently—"you wrong me. You are our captives, but I wish to know your name. You are an Englishman—are you from Cumberland?—Were you not at the school of old Dominie Lindores?"

"I am—I was!" I gasped in agony.

"And do you," he continued, "do you remember the boy, who, before he was eighteen, and while he was a boarder at the school, ran to Gretna with an heiress from a neighbouring seminary."

"I do!—I do remember it!" I cried.

"And what," he exclaimed—"what was his name?"

"Belford!" said I.

"Belford!" he cried—"it was indeed Belford. I am not deceived! You are, indeed, my countryman. You are[Pg 215] younger than I, but I remember you; I am the Belford of whom you have spoken. For auld lang syne, and for the sake of bonny Cumberland, no harm shall happen unto you, nor to any of your comrades. I have but one thing to say to you—be obedient."

Pained and wounded as I was, I remembered him. I recollected him as having been a boy, some six years older than myself, at the same school, and in a senior class. But when I would have questioned him, he placed his fingers upon his lips, and said—"Speak no more to me at present. Do as I have said—be obedient."

I thought it a strange thing to be placed a prisoner under the hatches of an old schoolfellow; but the assurance that he and I had trembled under the same birch, and played on the same hill-side together, gave me, with his promise of safety, some consolation. My hands were permitted to be at liberty, but my feet were ordered to be kept in irons; and when I went upon the deck I could not step more than six inches at a time. I knew not how my fellow-prisoners fared, for I never saw them.

One day I was requested, or rather I ought to say, ordered, to dine with the pirate-captain.

"Your name is Robert," said he to me; and I answered that it was.

"Well," he continued, "I wish to save your life, and if it were possible I would spare also your comrades. But there would be danger in doing so, and my fellows, whom I must sometimes humour, are to a man against it. I will try however, either to place you on board a vessel that is not worth shot, or on some island where you are certain of being picked up. In the meantime, here is a purse for you, which, you will find will do you more good on shore than any services of mine. A father and a mother's care," he added, "I have never known, and from rumour only do I suppose who my parents were. I owe mankind nothing for the kindness[Pg 216] they have shewn me; and the same love and mercy which I have received from them, I have measured out to them again. Farewell!" he said, and left me.

I knew that he was the reputed son of a gentleman who had held extensive possessions in Cumberland, but that something of mystery hung over his birth, and that it was reported cruel and unjust means had been resorted to, to deprive him of his lawful inheritance.

His words produced no pleasant feeling in my mind. I found myself in the situation of a person who was pinioned to a certain spot, with a sword suspended over his head by a single hair. But while he spoke I fancied that I heard the sighs of a female in distress. When he left me they were repeated more audibly. I went towards a door in the cabin, which led to an apartment from whence the sound seemed to proceed. I attempted to open the door of the chamber, which was unlocked, and I entered it. Before me sat a lady whose age appeared to be below twenty. She raised her eyes towards me as I entered, and tears ran down her cheeks. Till then I had never seen a face so beautiful, and, I will add, or felt beauty's power—I felt as if suddenly ushered into the presence of a being who was more than mortal.

Our interview I will not describe. We spoke little; and the words which we did speak were in low and hurried whispers. For we heard the sound of our tyrant's feet pacing over our head, and to have found us in conversation together might have been death to both. Almost without knowing what I said, or for lack of other words, I spoke of the possibility of our escape. A faint smile broke through her tears, and she twice waved her hand silently, as if to say, "It is hopeless!—it is hopeless!"

From that moment she was present in all my thoughts, when awake she became the one idea of my mind, and in sleep she was the object of my dreams. As I was indulged[Pg 217] with some degree of liberty, we met frequently, and although our interviews were short, they were as "stolen water," or as "bread eaten in secret." Their existence was brief, but their memory long. I had informed her of my early acquaintance with the pirate commander, and of all that passed between us from the time of my becoming his prisoner. And when she had heard all, even she indulged in the dream that our escape might be possible.

It was about a week after my discovery of the fair captive, that I ascertained that two of those who had become prisoners with myself had joined the pirates, and the others had been cast into the sea. My fate their captain still left undecided. My anxiety to escape increased tenfold; but how it was to be accomplished, was a question which for ever haunted me, but which I could never answer.

One day we came in contact with a Dutch lugger, laden with Hollands. The pirates boarded her, but they only bled the vessel, as they termed it; they did not take the whole cargo. With what they did take, however, they made a merry carousal; they first became uproarious in their mirth, and eventually they sobered down into a state in which a child might have bound them. I observed the change that was wrought upon them—I saw the advantage I had gained. My thoughts became fixed upon how to profit by it.

It was midnight—the moon of an eastern sky flashed upon the sea—the very waters of the mighty deep moved in silence. The few stars that were in the heavens were reflected back from its bosom. On board the vessel not a living creature stirred; the very man at the helm had fallen down as if dead. With the fetters upon my feet, I stood alone, the master of a dead crew. I seized an instrument that lay upon the deck, and endeavoured to unfasten the irons that fettered me. I succeeded in the attempt. It was[Pg 218] with difficulty that I restrained from bursting into a shout of joy. But I recollected my situation. I stole on tiptoe to the cabin—I opened the door of the apartment where the fair captive was confined.

"Our hour is come," I whispered in her ear; "we must escape—follow me."

She started, and would have spoken aloud, but I placed my fingers on her lips, and whispered—"Be silent."

"I come, I come," she said. She followed me, and we ascended to the deck, and stood alone in the midst of the wild ocean, without knowing whither to direct our course. I unfastened the stern-boat, and lowered it into the sea. I descended into it with her beneath my arm, and cutting asunder the rope with which I had fastened it, I pulled away from the vessel, which was unto us both a prison-house. My arm was nerved with the strength of despair, and within a few hours I had lost sight of the pirate-ship. At daybreak on the following day, we were alone in the midst of the vast and solitary sea; and desperate as our situation then was, I felt a glow of happiness at the thought that I should be enabled either to save her life, or to risk mine to save her in whom, from the time that I had first seen her, my whole soul had become involved. I now felt and knew that it was in my power to serve her, that our fates were united; and, when I beheld her alone with me upon the wide ocean, I felt as though her life had been given into my hands, and we both were secure. The thought in which I indulged was realized. We had scarce been twelve hours upon the sea, when a vessel passed us at the distance of scarce a mile. I made signals, that she might discover us, and they were observed. She was bound for London, and we were taken on board. I may say that it was now that my acquaintance with the fair being whom I had rescued from the hands of those who would have destroyed her began. Her beauty grew upon my sight as a summer sun[Pg 219] increaseth in glory; and the more that I beheld it, the more did I become enchained by its power. It was now, for the first time, that I ventured to make inquiry concerning her name and birth; when I ascertained that her name was Charlotte Hastings; and, upon further inquiry, discovered that she was the niece, and the supposed heiress, of the merchant in whose employment I was. On making this discovery, my tongue became dumb. I felt that I loved her because I had delivered her from death, or from what would have been worse than death. But when I knew that she was my superior in circumstances—the heiress of him in whose employment I was—I stood before her and was dumb. But there was a language in my eyes, while my tongue was silent; and though I spoke not, I had reason to know that she understood its meaning—for often I found her dark eyes anxiously fastened upon me; and while she gazed, the tears stole down her cheeks.

We arrived in London. On the day of our arrival, I went towards her, and said—"Madam, we must part."

"Part!" she exclaimed, "wherefore?—tell me wherefore?"

"There is a gulf between our stations," I answered, "which I cannot pass." She then knew nothing of my being but a clerk in her uncle's office, and I was resolved that she never should know. "Charlotte," I said, on first addressing her after landing, "fate has cast us together—in some degree it has mingled our destiny; yet we must part. Fate has gamboled with us—it has mocked us with a child's game. We must part now, not to meet again. Farewell! I could have dreamed in your eyes—yea, I could have lived in the light that fell from them; but, Charlotte, it was not to be my lot—that happiness was reserved for others. We came to this country together; the wind and the waves spared us, and wed us. The troubled sea did not divide us. We escaped from the hands of our destroyers,[Pg 220] and fate recorded us as one. But it may be necessary that we should part—for I know the difference between our stations; and, if it be so, despise not him that saved you."

Her uncle heard of our captivity and escape with the coldest indifference. Not a muscle of his face moved. The variation of a fraction in the price of the funds would have interested him more.

"I thank you," said he, "for having restored my kinswoman to freedom. Hereafter, it may be in my power to reward you for the act. In the meantime, you must undertake another voyage to the Brazils, which I trust will prove more fortunate than your last."

I had only been fourteen days in London, when, another vessel being fitted out, I was ordered again to embark. During that period, and from the day that I conducted her to her uncle's house, had not been permitted to see the fair being whom I had rescued; nor did my employer, though I saw him daily, once mention her name to me, or in any way allude to her. Yet, during that period, by day and by night, her image had been ever present to my thoughts. There was a singularity in the conduct of the merchant, with regard to her, which surprised me. I resolved, before my departure, to ask his permission to bid her farewell. I did so.

"Young man," replied he, "romantic thoughts do not accord with the success of a merchant, and with romantic adventures he has but little to do. You imagine that you love my niece, and she perhaps entertains the same foolish thoughts concerning you. It is a delusion arising from the circumstances under which you became acquainted; but it will pass away as a reflection from the face of a mirror, and leave no trace of existence. When you return you may see her again, but not now."

Lovers are proverbial for their lack of patience, and this[Pg 221] assuredly was putting mine to trial. But I knew the temper of the man with whom I had to deal, and, yielding to necessity, I sailed without seeing her.

I had been absent for more than two years, and prospered exceedingly in all my dealings. On my return homeward, I had to visit Genoa. On the day of my arrival there, a person accosted me on the street by name. Without seeing the speaker when he accosted me, I started at his voice, for I remembered it well. It was Belford the pirate.

"Well," said he, in a sort of whisper, "I give you credit for the manner in which you effected your escape. But you robbed me of a prize which should not have been ransomed for less than a thousand pounds. And, before we part," added he gravely, "you shall give me your hand and seal to pay me that sum on the day that she becomes your wife."

I could not forbear a smile at the strange demand, and said that it should be readily complied with, if ever the event of which he spoke took place; but of that, I assured him, there was but small hope.

"Fool!" said he, "know you not that the old merchant, her father, intends that you shall be wed on your arrival in England? And think you that I know not that you are to succeed him in business?"

"Her father!" I exclaimed—"of whom do you speak? I know him not. Or do you speak only to mock me?"

"By my right hand," said he, "I speak seriously, and the truth. She believes, and you believe that she is the niece of old Hastings, your master. She is his daughter—the only daughter of a fair but frail wife, who eloped from him while his child was yet an infant, leaving it to his care. In order to forget the shame which his frail partner had brought upon him, he, from that day, refused to see his child, lest her features should remind him of her mother. The girl was sent to Boulogne, where she remained till[Pg 222] within two months of the time when you saw her on board of my good privateer. You look astonished," added he—"does my narrative surprise you?"

"It does indeed surprise me," I replied; "but how come you to know these things?"

"Oh," replied he, "I know them, and require but small help from divination. Nine years ago, I was commander of one of old Hasting's vessels; and because I was a native of the Borders, forsooth, I, like you, was a favourite with him. He entrusted me with the secret of his having a daughter. Frequently, when I had occasion to put into Boulogne, I carried her presents from him. He also ordered me to bring him over her portrait, and when the old boy took it in his hands, and held it before his face, he wept as though he had been a child. He used me crookedly at last, however; for he accused me of dishonesty, and attempted to bring me to punishment. I was then as honest as noonday, and on land I am honest still, although I have done some bold business upon the high seas. I made a vow that I would be revenged upon him, and, but that you thwarted me, I would have been revenged. I ran my brig into Boulogne. I pretended that I had a message to Miss Hastings from her father, or, as I termed him, her uncle, and that she was to accompany me to England. As I had frequently been the bearer of communications from him before, my tale was believed. She accompanied me on board the brig; and we sailed, not for England, but on a roving cruise, as a king of the open sea. I was resolved that no harm should befal her; but I had also determined that she should not again set her foot upon land, until her father came down with a thousand pounds as a ransom. Of that thousand pounds you deprived me. But on your marriage day—at the very altar—payment will be demanded. It is not for myself that I desire it," said he, seriously, "for I am a careless fellow, and am content with what the sea[Pg 223] gives to me; but I have a son in Cumberland, who will now be about seven years of age. His mother is dead, for my forsaking her broke the poor thing's heart, and hurried her to the grave. My son, I believe, is now the inmate of a workhouse. It is better that he should remain there, than be trained to the gallows by his father. Yet I should wish to see him provided for, and your wife's ransom shall be his inheritance. Give me your bond, and when you again see this dagger, be ready to fulfil it."

As he spoke, he exhibited a small poniard, which he carried concealed beneath his coat. I conceived that his brain was affected, and merely to humour him I agreed to his strange demand.

His words gave birth to wild thoughts, and with an anxious heart I hastened to return to England. My employer received me as though I had not been absent for a week.

"You have done well," he said; "I am satisfied with your undertaking. You did not this time meet with pirates, nor captive damsels to rescue." I hesitated to reply, and I mentioned that I had met and spoken with the pirate commander at Genoa.

He glanced at me sharply for a moment, and added—"Merchants should not converse with robbers."

He sat thoughtful for the space of half an hour, and then requested me to accompany him into his private office. When there, he said—

"You inform me that you have again seen Belford, the pirate, and that you have spoken with him. What said he to you? Tell me all—conceal nothing."

I again hesitated, and sought to evade the subject. But he added, more decisively—"Speak on—hide nothing—fear nothing."

I did tell him all, and he sat and heard me unmoved.

When I concluded, he took my hand and said—"It[Pg 224] well you have spoken honestly. Listen to me. Charlotte is indeed my daughter. Time has not diminished your affection for each other, which I was afraid was too romantic in its origin to endure. I have put your attachment to each other to severe trials; let it now triumph. Follow me," he added, "and I will conduct you to her."

I was blind with happiness, and almost believed that what I heard was but a dream—the fond whispering of an excited brain. I will not describe to you my interview with my Charlotte; I could not—words could not. It was an hour of breathless, of measureless joy. She was more beautiful than ever, and love and joy beamed from her eyes.

Our wedding-day came—her father placed her hands in mine, and blessed us. We were leaving the church, when a person in the porch, whose figure was rapt up in a cloak, approached me, and revealing the point of a dagger, whispered—"Remember your bond!"

It was Belford, the daring pirate. I kept faith with him, and he received the money.

I will not detain you longer with my history, with my Trials and Triumphs. One of the first acts of my Charlotte was to purchase the estate which had been torn from my father, and she presented it to him as his daughter's gift. On retiring from business, I came to reside on it, and built on it this house, which has sheltered you from the storm.

"And your name," said the listener, "is Mr Melvin?"

"It is," replied the host.

"Then startle not," continued the stranger, "when you hear that mine is Belford! I am the son of the pirate. My father died not as he had lived. When upon his deathbed he sent for me, and on leaving me his treasure, which was considerable, he commanded me to repay you the thousand pounds which he so strangely exacted from you. From the day on which he received it, he abandoned his desperate[Pg 225] course, and through honest dealings became rich. I have brought you your money, with interest up to the present time."

So saying, the stranger placed a pocketbook in the hands of his entertainer, and hastily exclaiming "Farewell!" hurried from the house, and was no more heard of.


[Pg 226]

THE MISER OF NEWABBEY.

In the pretty little village of Newabbey, in the south of Scotland, there lived one of those individuals which society sometimes casts up, as the sea does its secret monsters, formed apparently for no other purpose than to show how curiously operose nature can be in her productions, though mankind, ever in search for final causes, may attempt to wrest out of such eccentricities some moral to suit their self-love, and, by producing a contrast, elevate themselves in the scale of moral or physical being. That strange person, Cuthbert Grandison—or, as he was generally termed, Cubby Grindstane, by the corruptive ingenuity of his neighbours—occupied a small mud cottage near the centre of the village we have mentioned. He was considerably advanced in age, and, having come to Newabbey at a late period of his life, the people in that part of the country knew little of his history—a circumstance they regretted in proportion to the interest excited by the strange habits of the individual. He was in person a little man; extremely spare; with a sharp keen, hungry look; a grey hawk's eye, which, like the cat's, seemed to enjoy the best vision collaterally, for the pupil was almost always at the junction of the eyelids. On his back there was a large hump, which being the only rotundity which his spare body presented, gave him the appearance of a skeleton carrying a lump of beef; and, as his mode of walking was quick and hurried, a quaint fancy could not resist the additional suggestion, that he was running home with it in order to satisfy the hunger that shone through his fleshless form. The extraordinary appearance of such a wild and grotesque-looking individual, in so small a village, could not fail to produce the usual speculation[Pg 227] among the high-mutched gossips, who, having in vain made inquiries and exerted their wits as to his origin, directed their attention to his habits, and especially to the mode in which he earned his livelihood—for no one could say he was ever seen to beg. But they were not much more successful in these secondary inquiries and investigations; because, (although it was certain that he had a signboard, exhibiting the characters, "Cuthbert Grandison, Cobbler"—an unusual and somewhat affected and gratuitous depreciation of the votary of St Crispin—and sometimes sat at his small window, perforating soles with his awl, and filling up the holes with "tackets,") no one in the village employed him, and he never condescended to ask any one for work. If his operations thus afforded no proper clue to his means of life, his conversation was, if possible, still more sterile; for, in place of associating with the other "snabs" of the village, or joining the quidnunes who assembled in Widow Cruickshanks', to drink beer and "twine political arguments"—a much harder labour than their day's work, though they thought it a recreation—he locked himself, and another individual now to be mentioned, into the house at an early hour of the evening, and refused to open it again to however urgent a visiter.

The other individual who lived in Cuthbert's house, was no other than a daughter, about eighteen years of age, called Jean, as unlike her grotesque and mysterious parent as any of God's creatures could be; though every effort was exerted, on his part, to make her as silent and incommunicative as himself. She appeared to have received no education; her dress was of the most wretched kind; and it was even alleged by the neighbours, whose espionage extended even to the calculation of the quantity of meal and milk purchased for the support of the father and the daughter, that she did not get sufficient food. These circumstances regarding the girl were the more readily[Pg 228] remarked, that, as all admitted, Jean, or, as she was familiarly called, Jeanie Grandison, would, if she had been treated like other individuals of her age, have excelled the greater number of young women of the village, not only in personal appearance, but in the qualities of her mind and heart. She apparently stood in great awe of her strange parent, and uniformly rejected all solicitations, on the part of the villagers, to join them in their sports, or partake of their little entertainments. The story of the mysterious treatment to which she was subjected, excited the sympathies of the neighbours; and her own amiable manners and meek deportment, exhibiting the indications of a crushed spirit, riveted the regard which had been first elicited by her apparent misfortunes.

The studied seclusion which Grindstane observed, and seemed determined to vindicate against all attempts on the part of the neighbours to "draw him out," rendered it difficult to obtain any insight into the domestic economy of his strange domicile; but accident, at last, brought about what might otherwise not have been easily accomplished. It was observed that, for a considerable time, his daughter had been ailing. She made no complaints to any one; but the quick eye of sympathy soon discovered what was apparently attempted to be concealed. The wife of John Monilaws, a grocer and meal-dealer, from whom Jeanie bought the small portion of provisions her father required, observed and noticed the change that had taken place upon her, and urged her to reveal her complaint, and apply to the surgeon of the village for relief. She smiled sorrowfully at the exhibition of a sympathy to which she was so much a stranger, and which she was not permitted to avail herself of; thanked Mrs Monilaws for her kind intentions; and assured her she was not much out of her usual condition of health. Two days afterwards, the good dame was astonished by the grotesque appearance of the mysterious Cubby himself,[Pg 229] standing by the side of her counter. It was seldom he was to be seen, far less spoken to; and, as she looked on the man whom report had invested with attributes of an unusual kind, a shiver came over her, which the presence of her husband, who, having seen Cubby enter the shop, followed him from mere curiosity, was required to counteract.

"I want to buy some bread," said he, slowly.

"What kind?" said Mrs Monilaws.

"A kind I hae aften asked Jeanie to get," replied he; "but my een are never blessed wi' the sight o't."

"Te may hae't, if we hae't, Cuthbert Grindstane," said John.

"Hae ye ony auld, weathered bread," said he, "that has seen the sun for a week, and fules winna buy frae ye?"

"Ay hae we," replied the mistress—"owre muckle o that. There's some our John is to boil up for the pigs. It's moulded as green as turf-sod. But ye hae nae pigs, Cuthbert?"

"Pigs anew—pigs anew," replied he. "What's the price o' that?"

"It's scarce worth onything," replied the honest woman.

"It's seldom I sell whinstanes covered wi' green moss. Ye may hae't a'thegither for a penny."

"That's owre muckle, guid woman," said Cubby. "A bawbee, eke a farthin, is the hail value o't. I'll gie nae mair."

"I dinna deal in farthins," replied she.

"Dinna deal in farthins!" ejaculated Cubby with surprise. "Is a farthin no the fourth part o' yer ain price o' a' that bread, sufficient to keep a moderate man for a week?"

"He would be a very moderate man that wad eat it," said John. "I was even dootin if I wad hurt the stamach o' my pigs wi't, though boiled in whey."[Pg 230]

"Whey!" ejaculated Cubby again—"do ye gie yer pigs whey? They maun hae a routhy stye. Will ye hae my bode?"

"Ye may tak it for naething," said the mistress. "Hoo is Jeanie?—she was complainin last time I saw her."

"Complainin!" said he, as he with the greatest avidity seized the bread, and stuffed it into his pockets. "Did the lassie complain? What did she complain o'? No surely that she didna get her meat." And he looked fearfully and inquiringly into the face of Mrs Monilaws.

"She looked in an ailing way," said the mistress; "an' I thought she was ill."

"She's owre fat—an ill complaint," replied he, apparently wishing to get away.

"I dinna see that," said Mrs Monilaws.

"But I baith see't an' feel't," replied he with a grin. "Guid nicht."

"I pity the puir lassie," said Mrs Monilaws, after Cubby went away, "wha's doomed to live wi' that man. That's a puir supper for the stamach o' an unweel cratur; an' I've a' my doots if she's no at this moment confined to her strae bed. Is there nae way o' getting her out o' his hands? The Laird o' Cubbertscroft wants a servant, an' I promised to get ane to him. Jeanie wad answer better than ony other lass in Newabbey, but I canna see her to speak to her; for, though she comes here, naebody can gae to her."

"There seemed to be something strange," replied John, "in Cubby's manner, when ye asked him about Jeanie. If he gaes lang his ain errands, an' she doesna make her appearance, I'll conclude, frae what I hae seen and heard, that there's something wrang. That man has the heart to starve ane o' God's creatures—ay, his ain dochter—to death. What mortal could live on that meat he has taen hame wi' him this nicht? Keep an ee on them, Marion; an', if[Pg 231] Jeanie doesna sune shew hersel, I'll mak sma' scruple in visitin the lion's den."

Some days afterwards, Cubby again made his appearance at the counter of John Monilaws; and there being no more old bread for him, he struck a long-contested bargain about some "fuisted" meal that had been long in the shop, and for which he offered far beneath its real value; but Mrs Monilaws, thinking him poor and miserable, accepted his offer, though she had scarcely done so when she repented of her generosity, for she immediately concluded that her kindness was a species of cruelty, in so far as she was accessory to sending, in all likelihood to an invalid, food that was not suited even to a robust beggar. As he greedily grasped, and carried away like a thief, the article he had purchased, she asked again for his daughter; but she got less satisfaction on this occasion than even on the last, for his only answer was—"What's the use o' speerin for weel foik?" The suspicions of Mrs Monilaws were roused, rather than allayed, by this answer, and the manner in which it was delivered, and she lost no time in telling her husband, that he might get some of the neighbours to accompany him, and go and inquire for the young girl, who, if ill, ought to be taken from the house; or, if well, might be feed—whether old Grindstane was agreeable or not—for the service at Cubbertscroft.

At the moment that Mrs Monilaws and her husband were engaged talking about this strange individual and his daughter, Carey Cuthbert—the third son of William Cuthbert of Cuthbert's, or, as it was called, Cubbertscroft, a fine property in the neighbourhood—entered the shop, with a message from Mrs Cuthbert, for articles for the use of the family, and a request to know if any suitable servant had yet been procured by Mrs Monilaws. This young man, who was about eighteen years of age, was reputed by his parents as unfit for sustaining, even so far as a third son[Pg 232] might sustain, the honour and respectability of the Cuthberts of Cubbertscroft. He was represented as being so dull that he would learn nothing; and, at the same time, so fond of associating with inferior people, that he could scarcely have been recognised, either from his conversation or manners, as the son of a gentleman. His bluntness, kindness, and humility, however, pleased all those with whom his father did not wish him to associate. With many of the humble inhabitants of Newabbey he was on the most familiar footing; and nothing pleased him better than to get into the village, where, on every side, he could find companions of the grade that suited his (as his father termed it) depraved taste. In these humbler societies, however, Carey learned what perhaps he would not have done from the Greek and Latin books which, at school, were eternally in his hands, and never in his head. Like most other individuals, whether fools or wits, he had a genius of his own; and, as the worms on which the mole feeds are larger and fatter than the flying insects that form the food of the swallow, humility, and a taste for the common sense that, like water, is best and purest the farther down you go, may be vindicated on the grand principle of utility and interest. We do not give a young man of eighteen credit for an a priori knowledge that his interests lay in searching among the humble for that "lear" that could not be got among the sons of the great; but we may safely assert that nature had placed in him an instinctive liking for the simple and the natural, and he might soon perceive, without any spirit of divination, that, by following nature as his guide, he might arrive at a more satisfactory termination of his journey, than his horse-racing brothers, William and George, who were fast flying through their father's estate. He had nearly already, however, been given up as untractable; his speech, as his mother said, had been Scotch from the first lisp; his ideas had been of the earth, from the first moment he crawled[Pg 233] upon it; and the servants his companions, from the time he was able to escape, by the aid of his own feet, from the nursery.

As soon as Carey had delivered his message, he conceived he had thrown off the servitude imposed upon him by his mother, who considered him of no other use than to carry a verbal communication to the village. Entertaining a very different opinion of Carey's powers, John Monilaws told him of the strange conduct of Cubby Grindstane, (whom he also well knew, as indeed every person in the neighbourhood,) in endeavouring to conceal the illness of his daughter, who was the individual to be recommended to his mother as a servant. Carey confessed he thought the conduct of Cubby very suspicious, and, with a knowing look, hinted that it had been long his intention to endeavour to ascertain something more of the old cobbler than the people of Newabbey yet knew.

"It is just you callants," said John, "wha are best at thae things. When I was like ye, there wasna a house-tap in a' Newabbey I didna ken as weel as the sparrows that biggit their nests in them. There are queerer sights seen i' the warld, by lookin down than by lookin up, for a that astronomers may say on the subject. It was I that discovered Marion Muschet killin her new-born bairn wi' a pack-thread. I saw her through her ain skylicht; an', though I had nae power to speak, I had plenty o' pith i' my legs; but, fule that I was, I forgot that, lang afore I could get assistance, the pack-thread wad hae dune its wark. Sae it was—the face o' the bairn was as blue as my bannet, when, by my means, it was discovered."

"An' muckle ye got for yer sky-larkin," said Mrs Monilaws. "Ye hanged the puir woman, an' got the name o' Skylicht Johnnie, whilk ye hae carried about wi' ye ever since, and will do till the day ye dee."

"Ay, Marion," answered the good-natured husband, "I[Pg 234] hae taen nane o' thae flights sin' I married ye. Ye keep me weel down. I suffered weel i' my young days for lookin down; but I fear I wad suffer mair noo for lookin up. But the deil's no buried i' Kirkaldy, if I wadna hae a blink through Cubby Grindstane's skylicht, were my legs as soople as Mr Carey Cuthbert's there, an' I had nae wife on my back."

Carey looked and smiled, and said nothing; but his mind was not so inactive as his tongue.

"Ye wad be nearer yer purpose, John," said Marion, "if ye wad tak wi' ye our neebor, John Willison, a godly elder o' the kirk, and gae bauldly in at the door. John will tak wi' him prayers, an' ye some o' my jellies. I never kenned ony guid come by a skylicht—except, maybe, Widow Gairdner's; wha was sittin ae nicht, thinkin whar she wad get her supper; an', as she thought, an' thought, an' was nae better or fu'er for thinkin, a man fell frae the roof at her feet, an', throwing frae him sixteen gowd guineas wi' pure fear, flew out at the door as if Beelzebub an' a' his angels had been after him. Widow Gairdner got her supper that nicht. Naebody ever asked for the guineas; but it was weel kenned frae whase hoose they were stown."

"Ah, Marion, Marion," said John, laughing; "an' sae ye forget yer ain mither's skylicht, through whilk I used to gae to court ye."

"An' I do nae sic things, John," replied Mrs Monilaws, jocularly; "ye never brocht sixteen gowd guineas wi' ye when ye cam doon through my mither's skylicht, to court her dochter."

This conversation was not lost upon Carey Cuthbert, although he said nothing. He laughed heartily at the dry humour of the honest, happy couple, and went to visit his other friends in the village. In the afternoon, he was seen studying like a painter the form and appearance of old Grindstane's house, and did not leave the village till the[Pg 235] evening. As soon as it was sufficiently dark, he repaired again to the old black domicile; and having during daylight taken his eye-draughts, he tried if he could observe what was going on in the inside of the house from the small window in the side-wall, or from a small round hole in the gable. Both apertures were, however, completely closed, the greatest care having apparently been taken, not only to shut the crazy shutters, but to stuff up the holes with pieces of rags, and to cover up all with a cloth hung from the inside so as to cover all the interior part of the windows. Carey saw, however, enough to satisfy him that the inmates had not retired to rest; for there was light in the cottage, and he thought he observed that it moved as if some one were carrying a lamp from one part of the interior to another. He heard no sounds; for the individual who moved the light walked softly, as if he wished to avoid making any disturbance.

"We hae nae hope upon earth," said Carey to himself, quaintly; "I maun tak for ance my mither's counsel, an' soar—though, I fear, crawlin on thatched roofs is no the kind o' ambition she wants me to flee at."

With these words, and a smile on his face, Carey went along, and, by the aid of a tree, mounted to the top of the house adjacent to Cubby's. Resisting a strong temptation to peep into the interior of this house, which presented a very clear, open, and convenient skylight, through which many secrets might have been discovered, he slipped softly along, and laid himself on the thatch of Cubby's house, with his feet in the spout, and his head on the small aperture, covered with one pane of yelked glass, through which, if any light had been in the interior, he could very easily have seen all that went on in the inside of the cottage. All, however, was dark as pitch—a circumstance which appeared to him somewhat strange, as he was certain he had seen light in the house before he mounted; but to be[Pg 236] accounted for sufficiently easily, by supposing that the light had been extinguished during the time he had been occupied in getting up. He had no hopes now of seeing anything that night; but, as he was there at any rate, (so he argued,) he might as well rest himself a little, after the fatigues of a day spent running about in various directions, and he might perhaps hear something, if he could see nothing; a mode of acquiring knowledge he had less objection to than to the ocular exercises on printed paper, so much recommended by his parents and Dominie Blackletter—a creature he hated.

Having lain quietly for some time, he heard, very distinctly, hollow moans, coming from the lower part of the house. They were of the most unearthly kind he had ever heard, suggesting, as they struck the pained ear, the idea of some one suffering the last pangs of mortal agony. These were mixed, or alternated, with, occasional harsh objurgatory notes, coming from another person, apparently a man, and supposed, by Carey, to be Cubby Grandison himself. These were followed by a scream, which appeared to be stifled towards its conclusion, as if some one had applied a cloth or other obstruction to the mouth of the individual giving vent to the unbearable agony. The scream marked the individual as a female, and Carey set her down as the unfortunate daughter of whom he had heard John Monilaws and his wife talking in the fore-part of the day. These sounds continued for a considerable time. The groans, the objurgations, the scream stifled as before, succeeded each other; and, then, for a time, a deep silence reigned throughout the interior, only to be interrupted again, by a repetition of the same sounds. At last, a louder scream than any he had yet heard, burst from the mouth of the sufferer, and, in an instant, a noise, as of some one falling over chairs, was heard, and then a sudden stifling of the scream, accompanied by the objurgatory and[Pg 237] menacing voice of a man, whose anger seemed to increase with the necessity of an increase of his efforts to stop the complaint of the sufferer. This scream was the last that Carey heard. A deep silence again reigned, and a full quarter of an hour passed without any indications being perceived of the presence of a living person in the cottage.

Having waited for a considerable time without hearing anything further, Carey concluded that the suffering individual had been suffocated, and was on the eve of getting down to give an alarm. His attention was again arrested by a new phenomenon. A light was now observable through the chinks of an apparent partition between the skylight and the under or main part of the house, an unusual occurrence in Scotch cottages, which have generally no garret, or any other apartment than what extends from roof to ceiling. A noise was now heard, as of some one trying to open a locked door. Success attended his efforts, and, in a little time, a small door, sufficient to let in the body of a man in a crawling posture, opened, and discovered the face and upper part of the body of Cuthbert Grandison, holding in his hands a small cruisie, which sent forth a doubtful, glimmering light, scarcely sufficient to do more than show the high bones and grey eye of the strange individual who held it. The door being opened he placed the cruisie into the small apartment into which it led; whereby Carey was enabled to see the nature of the place, and its extraordinary contents. As he surveyed them, he shook with terror, and was once afraid that his perturbation would discover him. The apartment was a place in the form of a small garret, extending to about half the size of the under apartment of the cottage; and seemed to have been formed after the house was built, for the purpose to which it was devoted. Casting his eye around and round, what struck the fearful observer first, was a skeleton of a human being, lying extended along the floor, and half[Pg 238] enveloped in the darkness, which the glimmering taper only partially illuminated. It had been the first human skeleton Carey had ever seen; and the circumstances under which he now beheld it, shining principally by the borrowed light of its bleached bones, and suggesting some mysterious connection between the being whose physical system it once supported, and the extraordinary individual who held this strange piece of household furniture, rendered the sight appalling and horripalant. On a chest at the other side of the apartment lay another skeleton, apparently that of a new-born child, whose tiny shanks, worm-like finger bones, and small head, formed a striking and painful contrast to its full-grown companion—suggesting the probability of some kindred blood having once warmed the sapless bones, and some kindred fate having dried it up, leaving these dry tokens as the only monument of their sorrows and misfortunes. Around, on all sides were large packages cased with iron, and sitting on a small hook attached to the wall near the ceiling was another inhabitant of this living cemetery, which, from the singularity of its aspect, its silence, and its locality, excited as much terror in Carey as even the skeleton. This was no other than a large grey owl, sitting as demure as grimalkin, with its goggle eyes at their utmost stretch, glaring in the light of the taper like fiery balls, and rolling as if in anger at being interrupted by the intruder in its enjoyment of eating a mouse, which, dead and mangled, was firmly clenched in its claws. The few minutes that served Carey to examine these extraordinary appearances, whose reality he doubted against all the clearness of his rubbed eyes, enabled Cuthbert Grandison to crawl into the place, through the limited aperture opening in its side. The moment he got in, he shut the door carefully, and threw his eyes up to the pane of glass through which Carey was looking, without, however, observing him, as he instantly drew back his head. When[Pg 239] Carey again directed his eyes to the object of his curiosity and awe, he was lying prostrate by the side of the bones of the larger skeleton. He then rose up, threw a look of recognition to the owl, who went on with his repast, heedless of the ceremony with which he had been honoured. The necromantic appearance, attitude, and acts of the hunchbacked living skeleton, who thus stood, as it were, in the midst of the dead, communing with them by a secret and mysterious power, realized in the mind of the neophite all the stories he had heard and read of the wonderful and the terrific. The subsequent conduct of the performer was not less extraordinary. His ceremonies and operations occupied a full hour. Everything was noticed by Carey; and if what we have attempted to describe produced wonder, what we have at present abstained from narrating, from a regard to what is due to the importance of other circumstances waiting for detail, was not calculated to lessen that feeling.

Carey having got down again from the roof top, hurried away home at the top of his speed; for he had staid too long, and was certain of a scold from his parents, for having been seduced into low practices, by the vulgar inhabitants of the village. A confusion in the house, produced by a poinding having been that day executed, but removed by payment of the debt which had been incurred by the eldest son, William, and corroborated by the indulgent father, saved him from the abuse which awaited him. Though young, he had sense enough to see the folly of the proceedings of his father and brothers, and sighed as he retired to his couch, in the anticipation of a greater evil impending over the house of Cuthbert, than the humble-mindedness of its third son. The anticipated misfortunes of his father, and the recollection of the extraordinary sights he had witnessed from the roof top of Cubby Grandison, kept him awake during the greater part of the night. His meditations took various[Pg 240] turns. The abuse to which he was daily exposed at the hands of his parents and brothers, produced an ambition of shewing himself worthy of their regard, and even of saving them from the ruin that seemed to await them; but the schemes whereby that was to be accomplished, formed in a youthful mind, fell far short of the wishes which produced them. In the morning, he was duly catechised as to the cause of his being so late in coming home; but he chose rather to be subjected to the suspicion of having been in the company of Sandy Ferrier the smith, or Geordie Mactubbie the cooper, or any other humble, but witty denizen of Newabbey, whose laugh caught his ready sympathies, than divulge the secrets of his evening's adventures, on the house top of Cubby Grindstane the cobbler.

Next day it was absolutely necessary—so at least thought Carey Cuthbert—that he should again see John Monilaws, about his mother's servant, though he had no new commission from her to execute, connected with that affair; and giving Gideon Blackletter and his Greek and Latin books the slip, he hastened again to Newabbey, now become a much more interesting place than Cubbertscroft.

"Ye've got nae intelligence yet, I fancy, Mrs Monilaws, aboot my mither's servant?" he said, as he entered the shop of the gaucy dealer in many wares.

"No yet, Mr Carey," replied she. "There's been a consultation atween Elder Willison an' John, as to the time o' their visit to Cubby's den, as they ca' it. They're speakin o' four o'clock. They want a stout young chiel wi' them, for fear o' accidents. As you're a little interested i' the affair, and fond o' sichts, maybe ye may condescend to accompany them?"

"I've nae objections," answered Carey. "Is there ony other livin creature supposed to be i' the house, but Cubby an' his dochter?"

"No," answered the mistress, "if indeed ane o' thae two[Pg 241] even be livin; but few folk can tell muckle aboot the inside o' Cubby Grindstane's house, for he has a way o' meetin visitors at the door, an', stanin richt i' the gap, speaks them fair, an' gets them awa as sune as he can."

"Was he ever married, ken ye?" said Carey, "or did ye ever hear o' ony ither body that lived wi' him?"

"I dinna ken," replied she. "He hasna had a wife sin' he cam to Newabbey."

"Is his dochter Jeanie, wham ye intend for my mither's servant, like her father?" said Carey.

"As unlike as ony twa creatures can be," replied Mrs Monilaws. "He's a hunchbacked scarecraw, an' she's a bonny young lassie, whase beauty, a' the ill usage and starvation she has suffered, hasna been able to tak the blume frae; but, I fear, that bonny blume winna stand muckle langer, if indeed death hasna already blawn the witherin gouch o' his breath on't. But this day will expose a' the secrets o' the inside o' that house."

"I see nae great reason," replied Carey, "for supposin there's ony great secret aboot it."

"What maks him keep a'body oot, then, Mr Carey, man?" said the mistress. "What gies him that side-look, that fearfu girn, an' his slouchin walk! What maintains him?—for he works nane; and why winna Jeanie speak abune her breath when she sees him, or answer, when he's awa, ony question aboot him or his hoose?"

"A' prejudice, Mrs Monilaws," replied Carey; "auld wive's wind eggs, hatched, nae doot, by a covey o' them, as they sit thegither till they clock. The puir man doesna want to be fashed wi' a set o' meddlin neebors."

At four o'clock, Elder Willison, John Monilaws, and Carey, went to the house of Cubby Grindstane. The door was locked. They knocked, and asked admittance.

"What want ye?" said a rough voice from within.

"We hae some shoes to get mended," said John Monilaws.[Pg 242]

"I'm ill, an' no in a mendin way the day," replied Cubby, "Gang awa to Jamie Goodawls."

"Jamie has owre muckle to do, and tauld us to gang to Cubby Grindstane," said the godly elder.

"My awl's my ain," said Cubby, in worse humour; "an' sae lang as it's no thirled to the soles o' men, I'm free frae the power o' their bodies. Awa wi' ye!"

"You're in my district, Cubby," said the elder, "an' I hae the command o' Mr Singer, oor minister, to ca' upon ye, and inquire for the state o' yer soul, whilk, to reverse yer puir pun, is, we fear, owre closely thirled to yer all. Yer dochter has also a soul to be saved; and Mr Singer says he never saw you or her i' the kirk."

"Weel, if I dinna trouble him, he has nae richt to trouble me," replied Cubby. "I say again, awa wi' ye! The law says a man's hoose is his castle, an' it says true."

"That's an unfortunate allusion," whispered Carey to John Monilaws. "Castles are made to be attacked."

"An' to be defended," answered Cubby, who had overheard the remark.

Carey applied his powerful back to the crazy door, and, in an instant, threw it open, overturning at the back of it a number of pieces of old furniture, placed as props or defences, to prevent its being opened. The party entered, and, in an instant, were in the middle of the cottage, which was in two divisions—one end being occupied by a small truckle bed, on which a human body lay extended; and the other which Carey remarked was under the small garret where he had observed the nocturnal rites, presented nothing but a few broken stools; some straw in one corner, over which a dirty sheet and a blanket were spread; a fire, with about as much live coal in it as a hand might hold, as well for quantity as activity of heat; a small cupboard, with a padlock on it of twice the value of the articles it guarded, presenting some bones that had once, and while another's property,[Pg 243] been covered with roasted meat, and seemed by their whiteness to have been four or five times boiled, with the remnant of the fuisted meal purchased from Mrs Monilaws.

"This is a strange way," said Cubby, as he went to what might have been called the butt end of the cottage—"this is a strange fashion o' bringin the word o' God to folk that dinna want it."

"We are tauld," replied the elder, "to strive for the repentance o' sinners."

"Ay, but ye're no tauld to brak open folk's doors, to force them to repent," replied Cubby. "Besides, Mr Willison, whar's the shoon Jamie Goodawl said he couldna mend, and sent ye to me wi'? Amang sins to be repented o', a lee is a very guid ane to begin wi'."

"Hoo's Jeanie, yer dochter?" said the elder, who was fairly caught by Cubby.

"What should ail her?" said Cubby, looking suspiciously, and moving between them and the other apartment.

"That's just what we want to ken," said John Monilaws, pushing Cubby a little to the side, and moving slowly into the other division, followed by the elder and Carey.

The sight that here presented itself to them, as they approached the small truckle bed, and folded down the top of the only blanket that covered the body of a female, was of the most wretched and pitiful character. It was with the greatest difficulty that John Monilaws could recognise the features of Jeannie Grandison, (for such the invalid was,) reduced, by the ill-matched pair, famine and disease, to the last stage of existence. The bloom which Mrs Monilaws feared for was indeed withered, and the stalk which supported the flower attenuated to a fibre. Pale as a corpse, and emaciated beyond the lowest state of body that keeps burning the lamp of life, it appeared doubtful, in the absence of motion, whether she should be classed among living mortals. The approach of strangers seemed to produce no effect upon[Pg 244] her; for her eyelids, which about half covered the glazed orbs, remained stationary, and no symptoms of breathing could be discovered. At the side of the bed, stood a three-footed stool, on which was placed a tin tankard, containing some cold water, and a small bowl, with about an ounce of cold porridge (made, no doubt, of part of the meal seen in the press) in the bottom of it, no part of which seemed marked by the rusty iron spoon that lay alongside of the dish.

"Why did ye say to my wife, Cubby, that that lassie was weel, when it's scarcely possible to observe in her a spark o' life?"

"And what guid wad it hae dune to hae said she was ill?" replied Cubby. "I canna pay for possets an' puddins recommended by auld wives; an' a doctor is far ayont my degree or ability."

"Ye micht hae begged assistance, then," said John. "Naebody wad hae refused a bite or a sup to ane o' God's creatures, lyin at the point o' death."

"The folk hereabout," replied Cubby, "are owre proud o' their bites and sups, no to come an' enjoy the luxury o' seem their charity applied, and gettin their lugs lined wi' the return o' gratitude. A house fu' o' folk, an' a pouch wi' three farthins i' the corner o't, dinna sort weel thegither. Besides, what mair can ony sick body get than meat and drink?"

"An' do ye ca' that meat and drink?" said John, pointing to the porridge and water.

"What wad you ca' it?" replied Cubby, grinnin. "I wish I may get nae waur to comfort me when I come to dee."

"If the fear of expense," said Carey, "has prevented ye frae lettin the neebors ken o' yer daughter's illness, wadna the same cause hae prevented ye frae tellin o' her death? A funeral costs siller—what wad ye hae dune wi' the body?"[Pg 245]

Cubby seemed moved by this question, and eyed the speaker suspiciously and fearfully.

"What's that to ye, callant?" he said at last. "A man's nae great mechanic wha canna ca' thegither four white deals; and they that carry to the grave dinna trouble are by coming back to ask for their fare, as other carriers do."

"She'll no be ill to carry, puir thing," said John Monilaws. "The only weight aboot her will be that o' death, whilk they say is great even in a bird. Whar does her mither lie?"

"Whar should she lie?" replied Cubby, again put into a state of agitation, remarked particularly by Carey. "Think ye she's no in her grave?"

"I hae little doot o' that, Cubby," said the other; "but I hope puir Jeanie hears naething o' a' this."

On looking at the invalid, all parties were surprised to see her looking up in their faces, apparently comprehending every word they said.

"Ye're better, I think, Jeanie," said John.

"I dinna ken," replied the poor maiden. "Ask my faither. I can say naething about mysel. He'll answer for me."

"Hae ye been gettin ony meat except this crowdy an Adam's wine?" again said the other.

"My faither kens best what kind o' wine I hae been gettin," replied she.

"Wine!" ejaculated Cubby—"God keep me an' my house frae sic extravagance! Mair souls an' siller hae been drooned in that liquor than in the Dead Sea, whilk hauds Sodom and Gomorrah."

"An' some bodies hae been saved wi't," said John, taking out a small bottle and a glass, and emptying some wine, which, by holding up the poor invalid, he endeavoured to prevail upon her to taste.

Cubby turned up his eyes and his hands to heaven.[Pg 246] Jeannie looked fearfully at her father, and refused to taste the wine, though her lips were as withered leaves.

"The taste o't will never leave her mouth," ejaculated Cubby. "Awa wi' you an' your wine! Is my bairn to be corrupted, an' her father lookin on? What can be expected o' ane wha has swallowed three hail pennies at ae gulp? God hae mercy on us!"

"You seem to want yer dochter dead," said the elder. "The Lord has sent us thae things to be used, and no abused. Paul says, 'Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake, and thine often infirmities.'"

"I'll no tak that," replied Cubby, "on the faith o' are wha said he cam here wi' shune to mend, when his true errand was to corrupt the stamach o' my dochter. Paul had mair sense than learn folk thae evil habits."

"Shew me a Bible, an' I'll point ye out the passage," said the elder.

"I may thank the Bible," replied Cubby; "for the auld ane I ance had, an' whilk I sauld for half-a-crown to Geordie Bookless o' Dumfries, kept me and Jeannie livin for five weeks—sae I hae naething to say against that guid buik; but I haena been able to buy a second. Ye may noo gang yer ways. Ye see that neither yer wine nor yer text is o' ony use in this house."

"Will you alloo her to tak onything else, then, Cubby, if my wife sends it to ye?" said John Monilaws.

"It's no often ye hear o' a puir penniless cratur like me refusin onything that wad save his stock o' three guid farthins. I wad tak ony gift but luxuries, provided the giver didna want entrance to my house; but that's impossible. A' that gie think they hae a richt to enter yer house as they like. Sae I dispense wi' yer gifts. Awa wi' you and them baith!"

"Its in vain to fecht wi' him," whispered Carey into the ear of John Monilaws. "It's clear the lassie will dee if[Pg 247] she's no removed. I'll hand Cubby, if you an' the elder will lift the truckle-bed bodily, an' carry the lassie an' it thegither into yer ain house."

This communication was approved of, and conveyed to the elder. A sign was given by Carey, who instantly seized Cubby by the shoulders; while, the door being opened, the two others lifted with the greatest ease the small couch, and, to the great surprise of the neighbours, who rejoiced in the proceeding, carried it with the poor victim into John's house, where the humane mistress, who had a liking for Jeanie, received her with pleasure, and proceeded to contribute to her ease and recovery. The greatest terror was evinced by Cubby on being let free from the powerful grasp of Carey. He flew out of the cottage like one distracted, (yet locking, even in his hurry, the door,) forced himself through the crowd into John Monilaws' house, and, by threats, imprecations, supplications, and even bribes, endeavoured to get possession of his daughter. His conduct appeared to the people inexplicable. The starvation of his daughter, and the affection (for what else could have produced his anxiety?) that suggested such means of regaining possession of her, appeared inconsistent; and if the sanity of the individual had not, by his conversation, been well established, he would have been considered a madman. His violence arose to such a pitch that it was found necessary to guard the door; and it was only after some feigned attempt to break into his own house, which seemed to terrify him even more than the detention of his daughter, that he was forced home, and the poor girl was left unmolested under the charge of Mrs Monilaws.

Meanwhile, Jeanie, being kindly treated and attended by a surgeon, recovered with a quickness proportioned to the powers of reaction of a youthful constitution, acting on a system once more restored to the enjoyment of what Dr Leechman called the non-naturals. Her natural beauty[Pg 248] which had never yet got fair play, began to shew itself; and her simple and timid manners, produced by the dreadful tyranny under which she had lived, excited a deep interest in her protectors and preservers. She never, however, could be prevailed upon to speak of her father, or of anything connected with the house. A shudder passed over her when his name was mentioned; and she expressed an anxiety either to be put beyond his power or again restored to him, an alternative which was not well understood by her protectors, but sufficiently explained by the dangers to which she would be exposed if she were made accessible to him when he was under the influence of the fits of terror, excitement, and anxiety, he had exhibited already on more than one occasion, and, perhaps, partly to be accounted for by some secret cause which she could not be prevailed upon to divulge. She was quite agreeable to go to Cubbertscroft as a servant; and it was arranged that she should accordingly proceed there as soon as she had totally recovered. Grieved for her want of education, Mrs Monilaws procured, for her instruction in reading and writing, the services of the village schoolmaster, who attended her daily after she was able for the exercise, and was much gratified by the rapid progress she made (for she was of quick parts) under his zealous tuition.

During all this period, Jeanie Grandison was regularly visited by Carey Cuthbert, whose interest in her, though he had not then seen her, commenced from the eventful evening when he made the awful discoveries we have partly detailed, through her father's skylight; and had increased from the moment he saw the first tint of the bloom of returning health on her pallid cheek, and heard the sounds of her clear melodious voice, though exercised only in the expressions of the sentiments of a half-broken, timid, yet grateful heart. When properly restored to health, Jeanie was sent out under the protection of John Monilaws and Carey,[Pg 249] (who, however, left them before he approached the house,) to Cubbertscroft, where she entered upon her service. Nothing was said to any one of her parentage; all that was told to Mrs Cuthbert or the other servants, being, that she had, after having come to Mrs Monilaws to be engaged, been seized with a fever, which prevented her sooner from entering upon her service. This caution had been observed in accordance with Jeanie's own wish; but her curious history reached the ears of one of the servants, and very soon became known to the family, who did not treat her any better, because she was reputed to be the daughter of one already notorious in that part of the country for squalid beggary and extraordinary and mysterious conduct. Mrs Cuthbert, an unfeeling woman, whose contempt was measured by the humbleness of the birth, circumstances, and education of every one around her, treated her harshly—not hesitating, in her moods of spleen and passion, to taunt her with her father's abject poverty, and her own origin. The protection and kindness she received from Carey, were limited by his want of opportunity and power; but the early interest he felt in her soon assumed a new character, and an affection, pure and honourable as the heart that entertained it, took possession of him, with all the energy of a youthful passion. The opportunities he had of conversing with her, were stolen from the watchful surveillance of his parents; who, acquainted with his habits of humble companionship, had threatened to turn him from the house if he did not renounce them; but, as the mountains, piled by the daring hand of Titan, are not able to stop the mountain stream, many devices were fallen upon by Carey, to give vent to a passion whose course, though proverbially crooked, is also proverbially irresistible. When Jeanie was supposed to be visiting her friends in Newabbey—a place she dared not enter—she was along with Carey, in the Wolf's Brake, a very retired place in the neighbourhood,[Pg 250] where they conceived they were perfectly safe from the disturbance of their enemies; but they were discovered by Carey's parents, who cruelly dismissed them both from the house. Carey was true to his love; and they proceeded together to the village, where they were received by John Monilaws and his wife, to whom they related their strange story, with kindness. Some time afterwards, they were married, and Carey paid little attention to the remarks of the neighbours, who could not see "hoo the young gentleman, without a trade in his hand," was to support himself and a wife. Even John Monilaws thought the match, in the meantime, imprudent, and recommended that it should be postponed until Carey had learned some trade or profession. Carey smiled in reply, and thought of what he had seen from the skylight of his father-in-law's cottage.

In a short time it was currently reported, that the laird of Cubbertscroft was over head and ears in debt, and that the property was to be brought to the hammer. This news was soon but too well corroborated by large printed bills, posted in various parts of the county, advertising the sale of the property of Cubbertscroft, in the town-hall of Dumfries, on a day and hour set forth. One of these fell into the hands of Carey. He sallied out of the house; and it being at the time dark, he sought, and forcibly entered the dark and dismal habitation of Cubby Grindstane, now his father-in-law.

"Ken ye the law against hamesucken, sir?" said Cubby, recognising him.

"I do," said Carey; "but it is a subtle point wi' the lawyers hoo strong a rap (intended to let folk hear ye, but haein the by effect o' openin the door) amounts to forcible entry. I cam to ask hoo ye are, Cubby Grindstane."

"A' sort o' impudence," said Cubby, "is comprehended by that cant. If folk want to borrow frae ye, (whilk, God be praised! I'm far ayont,) if they want to steal yer time,[Pg 251] if they want to see what's i' yer hoose, or what's intended to be in yer stamach, they aye cloak their intentions wi' askin hoo ye are—the maist unmeaning o' a' questions. Gang yer ways the way ye cam sir; an' I'll send ye a weekly bulletin o' my health."

"Bulletins hae been issued about the health o' folk o' less consequence," said Carey, pointing his finger to the small garret.

"What mean ye, sir?" said Cubby, staring at him with his eyes at their full stretch, and shewing signs of great agitation.

"Sit down, Cubby," said Carey—"I want to speak to ye, for a short time, rationally an' quietly. I hae nae ill intentions towards ye; an', if ye're discreet, ye'll find me a mair sicker freen than a safe fae."

Cubby hesitated to sit down. He had never been seen in that position when any one was in his house; for he found he got any people who had been lucky enough to get in, out again, more readily by keeping on his legs.

"I'm no used sittin wi' strangers," said he.

Carey again lifted his finger to the roof of the house, and Cubby's agitation increased. Trembling from head to foot, he at last sat down on a three-footed stool, opposite to Carey.

"Hae ye heard ony news o' late?" began Carey.

"I'm no i' the way o' hearin news," replied Cubby, "an' care little for the warld's clavers besides."

"But when things concern oorsels," said Carey, "we maun care aboot them."

"What mean ye?" said Cubby.

"It's said," replied Carey, looking at him attentively, "that in a hoose no a hunder miles frae the sma' village o' Newabbey, there lie the banes o' a woman an' a bairn, whase coffins never saw the mortclaith o' ony parish, or filled the graves o' ony buryin place. When deaths are[Pg 252] concealed, suspicions o' murder are aye rife; and I hae heard it even said that simple concealment itsel, at least in ae case, is a guid, if no the only proof o' wilfu' slaughter."

"What hae I to do wi' that, sir?" said Cubby, whose agitation still increased.

"Silence!" said Carey, holding up his hand to the roof—"ye may at least hear the gossip o' the village. The banes are in the hoose o' an auld cobbler; and it's also said, that, in the place whar they lie, there is an extraordinary collection o' a miser's treasure, filling nae fewer than five big kists, strongly clasped wi' bands o' iron, to protect the gowd guineas, nae less in amount than fifteen thousand pounds. To mak the story mair wonderfu', the gossips hae added to the inhabitants o' the strange hoose, a grey owl—nae doot, an invention o' their ain brains."

"It's a' an invention thegither," ejaculated Cubby, rising from his seat, and trying to walk through the apartment, which, however, his trembling and agitation prevented him from doing, otherwise than by a zig-zag motion, from one side to another.

"I think sae mysel," said Carey; "but we'll see." And he rose and seized, in an instant, a ladder used by Cubby, for the purpose of mounting to his Golgotha.

"Hauld, sir!" cried the frantic Cubby, as he flew and seized Carey by the legs, falling at the same time on his knees, and turning up his grey eyes, now, like his own owl's, darting forth fire. "What is this ye're aboot? Wha are ye? What ken ye o' thae dark things?—I mean there is naething there. Hauld, sir! or ye'll kill an auld man wha micht be yer faither." And he fell on the floor, groaning and rolling about, like one in a convulsion.

"I will lay down this ladder," said Carey, "if you will rise, an' sit down, an' speak to me on certain subjects that concern me an' you."

"I will, I will," replied Cubby, recovering slightly;[Pg 253] "I'll sit quietly an' hear ye speak o' onything but thae village gossips. Nae lamb will be mair peaceable; an'—an' ye'll hae something, too—to tak wi' ye when ye gae awa."

"Ye mean ane o' yer three guid farthins, I suppose?" said Carey, with a smile.

"Ay, I'll mak it a gowd guinea," said the other, with an effort like to choke him.

"Weel, let that alane," said Carey; "we'll maybe mak it mair. Ye now see that I ken a' the secret that lies i' that garret. I hae seen it wi' my ain een, an heard it frae yer dochter, wha is noo my lawfu married wife—a guid match to her, seein I am the third son o' William Cuthbert o' Cubbertscroft."

"My dochter married to ane o' the Cubberts o' Cubbertscroft!" ejaculated Cubby. "Then hae the twa stocks at last joined? Heaven be praised!"

"It is clear, then," continued Carey, "that you are completely in my power. On going to Gilbert Sleuthie, the fiscal o' the county, an' layin my statement afore him, his first step will be to seize the banes an' the gowd. Ye will be tried for the murder o' the unhappy beings whase bodies they ance supported; an', whether ye be guilty or innocent, ye'll hae some difficulty o' gettin oot o' the hands o' the law the fifteen thousand guineas I saw ye count wi' my ain een; an', even were ye to get it back, it will spread throughout the country that Cubby Grindstane has £15,000, an' a' the stouthrievers o' the country will be on ye like bluidhounds, to ease ye o' the burden o' keepin't."

"But ye'll no gang to Gilbert Sleuthie, the fiscal?" cried Cubby, rising again into one of his paroxysms of terror, and seizing Carey by the knees. "It's no in the heart o' ane wi' that face o' yours to ruin a puir auld man wha you say is your faither-in-law. I ken ye winna do't. The guinea I'll mak twa, an' maybe a half mair. Say ye winua gang an' I'll mak it three. Mercy! mercy!"[Pg 254]

With the greatest difficulty, Carey got him to let go the firm grasp he had of his legs; and which he seemed inclined to hold till he got his request granted.

"It isna by ony sic bribes as thae, Cuthbert Grandison, that I will be diverted from my purpose."

"What will please ye then?" cried Cubby, earnestly.

"A condition for yer ain benefit," replied Carey. "Have ye no sense enough to see that the money ye hoard in thae kists yields ye nae interest, and, besides, rins the risk o' bein taen frae ye the very moment it's kenned (an' its already suspected) ye hae't."

A groan was all the answer Cubby could give; for denying the money was now out of the question.

"Now I am to put you on a plan," continued Carey, "wharby ye may get a guid return for yer money, an' nae man can tak it frae ye."

Another groan evinced the agony of the sufferer.

"Hear," continued Carey, taking from his pocket the advertisement of Cubbertscroft. "Here is my father's property for sale on Wednesday next. It will, in all likelihood, be thrown awa. Tak yer siller to the bank o' Dumfries, an' lodge it there, then gang to the Hall, an' buy Cubbertscroft; an' wha will venture to rin awa wi' that frae ye?"

"But ye are wrang aboot the siller," cried Cubby—"there's no sae muckle o't as ye say."

"I will count it mysel," cried Carey, pointing to the ladder. "I heard ye count it before."

"Weel, weel," replied Cubby, "I'll think o' what ye've said."

"I'll wait yer answer the morn," said Carey. "If ye dinna agree, I write instantly to Sleuthie."

Carey then left him; but, with the determination of watching the house during the night, to prevent any attempt at removing the chests.[Pg 255]

"Mercy on me!" said Cubby to himself, when Carey went out, "what am I to do? I canna remove thae kists, an' whar can I tak them. My secret's oot; an', whether that callant tells Sleuthie or no, it's clear I canna keep langer this siller in a thatched cottage. Let me see—buy Cubbertscroft, the property o' the freens o' my mither, whase name I bear? Aften hae I heard her say, puir cratur! that she couldna live an' see Cubbertscroft sauld and gien awa to strangers; and noo that is aboot to be—at a time, too, when, strange to say! my dochter is married to a Cubbert—the callant's no far wrang. The banes o' my wife an' bairn, wham I couldna find in my heart to bury, hae kept my gowd lang safe frae the ee o' my dochter; but they may noo lead Sleuthie to my coffers. What's to be done? My gowd! my gowd! I canna part wi' ye; for ye are dearer to me than my heart's blude! But, if it wad pain me to gie ye awa for land whilk has nae king's face on't, what wad I feel to hae ye taen frae me by force! I canna bear that thought. Buy Cubbertscroft! Cubby Grindstane gie awa his gowd for Cubbertscroft!—awfu thought! But it was my mither's wish—an' better land than naething. I maun think mair on't."

Carey called next day, and again laid before the old man the danger of not complying with his request. Cubby himself had been shaken fearfully during the night with the terror of losing altogether his wealth; and the arguments of Carey almost decided him. He said he would consider again of it, and if he came to the conclusion of buying Cubbertscroft, he would be at the place of sale on the day and hour appointed. Carey left him, and continued his watch at night. About twelve o'clock he observed a cart and a horse standing at the door of the cottage; and when all the inhabitants of the village were at rest, he observed the miser carrying out his coffers and placing them on the cart. He allowed him to proceed. The cart was loaded; and, in a short time, he[Pg 256] saw it take the road to Dumfries. He followed close behind, and was surprised to find that Cubby drove straight up to the house of the cashier of the principal bank of the town. By knocking hard, he roused the servants; in a little time the banker came out, the cart was unloaded, and a transaction finished.

The day arrived on which the sale of Cubbertscroft was to take place. A great number of people was collected. Carey was there, and he was surprised to find his father; who, however, had attended with the hope of getting some friend to buy in the property on his account. The two looked at each other without speaking. John Monilaws was also present, as well as some others of the inhabitants of Newabbey. The auctioneer mounted into his desk; and £12,000 had been offered for the property by a neighbouring laird, who wished to incorporate it with his own land. Some other individuals bade, and the bodes had arrived at £14,000—no one being inclined to go beyond it. At this moment the door of the room opened, with a harsh noise, and the people looked around, to observe the cause of the interruption. Cubby Grindstane entered. A feeling of surprise ran through the crowd. John Monilaws stared, and Carey smiled. Stepping forward, Cubby watched the voice of the auctioneer. The latter called out £14,000.

"Five shillings mair!" cried Cubby.

"You must make it five pounds, sir," said the auctioneer.

"Aweel, aweel, then," said Cubby—"let it be five pounds."

The surprise of the people increased to wonder. Every one whispered to his neighbour—"Is he mad? Why does the auctioneer take his bode?" No one bade higher, and the hammer fell.

"Are you able to find caution, sir?" said the auctioneer.

"No," replied Cubby.

"Why did you bid for the land, then?" rejoined the other.[Pg 257]

"Because I wanted it," replied Cubby. "Will ye no tak' the siller in place o' caution."

"Assuredly," replied the auctioneer, smiling—"where is it?"

"There," said Cubby, "is the banker's check for £14,000. The moment I get a complete right to the land, ye may hae the siller."

The bargain was, accordingly, soon arranged; and, to the surprise of all that part of the country, Cuthbert Grandison became the laird of Cubbertscroft. His feelings subsequently underwent some change for the better, and he took home his daughter Jeanie and her husband, to live with him in the mansion-house, where, however, he still exhibited a great portion of his original avarice. He soon died, and the property was left to Jeanie. Carey Cuthbert had, by the right of courtesy, all the power of the property. He received with welcome his father and mother, and maintained them during their lives in the mansion-house from which they had formerly expelled him, and from which their own extravagance had driven themselves.


[Pg 258]

THE SEA SKIRMISH.

"The boatswain, piping, loudly thunders—
To your quarters fore and aft!
The great guns sponge, prepare for wonders,
While, my lads, the wind's abaft.
With grape we can nine-pounders rattle—
Naval heroes, fight and sing—
He that bravely falls in battle,
Nobly serves his prince or king."
Sea Song.

The days of war are now gone by, and the events consequent upon them have now become but as "the tales of other years;" while those who were then the principal agents in carrying on hostile operations, have either gone the way of all the earth, or remain as the connecting links between the last race and the present. But the time will never come when the naval history of Great Britain shall not be that on which Britons look with the greatest interest; and certainly if there is one page in our history more than another calculated to afford pleasure, and, we may add, profit to the reader, it is that which records the matchless achievements of our daring tars during the last French war. How many are the accounts of storms and battles, of hardships and perils undergone, which, in the days of our boyhood, we were accustomed to hear from the mouths of old tars, now no more, and whose memories are preserved only in the recollections of a few of their old associates! There still stands on the east side of the village of T——, a whitewashed house, at the door of which hangs a huge ship, indicating that this is the village ale-house. This house, in our early days, was the resort of some half-dozen old sailors, who had retired, after their best years had been spent in[Pg 259] their country's service, to spend their days in their native village. At the door of "The Ship," as the ale-house was called, stood an immense ash-tree, the wide-spreading branches of which, covered with foliage, afforded, in summer, an agreeable shade from the heat of the sun. Under this tree, a long seat was placed, in front of which stood a white fir-table, upon which rested the jugs of foaming ale with which those who chose were wont to regale themselves. That seat is still there, and we hope it will remain for ages. It was the constant resort of the old tars already mentioned; and there, with their jug of ale, and their never-failing pipe, were they wont to fight all their battles o'er again. Many of the yarns which we then heard, we have since forgotten; some of them, however, still survive in our recollection. One of these we shall communicate, if not in the very words in which it was delivered, yet in substance, to the reader.

If a spectator were to stand on almost any part of the seacoast of Great Britain, and cast his eyes over the sea, he would behold numerous white specks upon the ocean, passing in every direction; these specks he knows to be vessels, freighted with stores of various descriptions, and destined to various ports, to supply the deficiency in certain articles existing in one place, from the superabundance of another. These vessels, in our day, creep along their respective ways, without fear of molestation. The case was different, however, at the time in which our story begins. Then it was necessary for several vessels bound for the same port, to be armed for defence, and to sail in company, for the sake of mutual protection from the assaults of French privateers, who frequently attacked and captured merchantmen, consigning their crews to the horrors of a French prison.

It was on a beautiful morning in June, that three of the smacks which ply between London and Berwick, were lying in the Thames, with the signal for sailing at their topmast[Pg 260] heads. The sails were all loosed from the lashings which had bound them down whilst in harbour, whilst the sailors were all busily employed in preparations for hoisting them to the breeze. At the command of the masters, the mainsails rose slowly from the large folds into which they had been compressed; the gaffs were alternately elevated and depressed, as the strength of the seamen was applied to the peak or main haulyards, whilst the tars, employed in such operations, bellowed out, in guttural sounds, their favourite song of "O cheerily." At length, the command to "belay" was given, and the mainsails were stretched to their full dimensions; whilst the cry of "Clear away the gaff topsail there!" was responded to by the cheerful "Ay, ay, sir!" of the sailors. A couple of younkers flew up the rigging of each smack, with the agility of monkeys, to execute the order.

"All clear!" shouted out a voice from the crosstrees.

"Then, hoist away, my lads!" cried the master. And the long, tapering sails rose up to their places.

"Sheet them home! and belay all!" bawled out the captain. And the topsailsheet was fastened to the belaying pins.

"Clap on the jib-out-haul!" was the next order, which was as speedily obeyed. And the ample jib was also extended to the breeze, whilst some of the sailors were, at the same time, employed in bousing down the bobstay, which secured the bowsprit from yielding too far to the influence of the jib.

All now seemed ready for starting; the ropes were coiled up out of the way, and the smacks held to the wharf by a single rope; the pilot was also on board; and the sailors were wondering what could be the reason why the word was not given to cast off. Minute after minute, however, rolled on, and still no order, whilst the sailors, leaning against the bulwarks, were whiling away the time in trying[Pg 261] to divine the cause of delay. At last, voices were heard from the two sternmost smacks, hailing the one a-head—"Tweed, ahoy!"

"Hillo!" sung out the master of the Tweed, a fine, hard-a-weather looking old seaman, who was pacing up and down his deck, and ever and anon casting an impatient glance at the corner of the wharf.

"Aren't your passengers coming yet, Mr Jones? We are losing this fine air of wind down the river."

"They promised to be down at half-past three," responded the old tar; "and you see it is scarcely that yet; but we must wait no longer. Tom," continued he, addressing his son, a fine young man of five-and-twenty, "run up, my boy, and see if they aren't coming yet."

Tom, obeying his father, sprung over the ship's side; and, in a few minutes, returned, accompanied by an old gentleman dressed in black, on whose arm leaned a young lady, closely wrapped up in a cloak, which defended her from the morning air. The old man seemed worn down by years and infirmities; but, though over his head more than seventy winters had shed their snows, yet in his eye, at times, there shone a slight spark of animation, shewing the fire which had lightened up his face in other days. His daughter seemed to lean on his arm for support; but she, in reality, afforded him assistance. Under the guidance of old Jones, they proceeded to the cabin of the Tweed, which was fitted up in a style of neatness, and what, in those days, might be reckoned splendour. After seeing them seated, old Jones mounted the companion, and proceeded on deck, to get his vessel under way. On reaching the deck, he overheard two of the seamen and his son Tom, who was also his mate, in close conversation.

"I tell you what it is, Tom," said one of them, hitching up his trowsers—"I tell you what it is, the leddy may be as bonny as Molly Jackson, but the old[Pg 262] man is a priest; and there is never luck when a priest is on board."

"I have sailed the salt sea," said the other sailor—a fine-looking, upright figure—"for thirty years now, man and boy, and never yet sailed with a priest without some misfortune or other happening—I suppose, 'cause the ould fellow's so spiteful at sight of them holy men, that he tries to do all the mischief he can; but we, poor devils! are sure to bear it all."

"That's all in my eye and Betty Martin," replied Tom. "There was no later than the voyage before last, we took up half-a-dozen priests; and the only thing which happened was, that, when they came on board, a fresh hand was sent to the bellows, to blow more wind; but it was fair; so, instead of doing us ill, the ould fellow only cheated himself, as we made our passage in forty-eight hours. But what significates talking? Didn't you see his pretty little daughter?"

"I couldn't get a right look at her," replied Bill Mossman, the seaman who spoke last; "but as she was stepping over the hauser, I got a squint at a prettty little foot—that was all I could see."

"Oh, Bill," interrupted Tom, "had you seen her as I did, last night, when I went, with old dad, to call at their lodgings. My eye, what a beautiful run!—a pair of cheeks fit for the bow of a frigate—a waist as fine and tapering as the royal of a gun brig—and a quarter fit for a man-of-war. But her eyes"——

"Have burned a hole in your heart," interrupted Mossman.

"Well, it's of no use denying it," replied Tom. "I will defy any one, to see her and not fall in love with her; but what struck me more than her beauty, was her kindness and attention to her old father, who, poor man, seems to need it all. The tears trickled down the old man's face as he[Pg 263] related all his sufferings and trials, and his daughter's affection; and, shiver my timbers, if I could help piping my eye to keep him company!"

"That's always the way with you," replied Jem Ward, the other sailor; "you're always taken in tow by some girl or other; but you can never be true to one. I had never but one sweetheart—Peggy Dawson, the prettiest girl in Berwick."

"Your Peggy Dawson," replied Tom, "is no more to be compared to Miss Keveley, than a keelman's barge is fit to be compared with the Royal George."

"Well, well," said Bill Mossman, "the girl is well enough; but I wish, as the priest is aboard, that the voyage were well over. But, let me see—this is Friday too—worse and worse!"

"Keep yourself easy," replied Tom. "As long as Miss Keveley's on board, you needn't fear. Such a kind creature as she is, will be in the place of 'the sweet little cherub which,' as the song says, 'sits up aloft, and takes care of the life of poor Jack.'"

"But," asked Bill Mossman, "do you know anything of their history?"

"Very little," answered Tom, "except what the old gentleman himself told us last night: That he has been a missionary abroad for many years, and that his wife has died in a foreign country, leaving him and his only daughter, who accompanies him; and that, worn out with the fatigues which he has undergone, and his constitution broken down by an unhealthy climate, he is returning to his native village, to lay his bones, as he expressed it, beside the ashes of his fathers."

Their conversation was here interrupted by old Jones, who gave the word to cast off the warp which held them to the quay—an order which was speedily obeyed by the seamen; and the vessel soon paid off, under the influence[Pg 264] of the jib. The same orders were given on board of the Princess Charlotte and the Olive, the other two smacks; and, in a few minutes more, all the three vessels were holding their course, smoothly and peaceably, down the river. It was a beautiful morning. A slight breath of wind was stirring, just sufficient to fill the sails of the vessels: light, however, as it was, it was fresh and invigorating. The sun was just rising; and his upper limb only was as yet visible, peering above the cloud with which his body was enveloped, as if to take a peep at the ocean and the land before rising from his couch. Gradually, however, the king of day emerged from the cloud, and again his upper limb was concealed in another cloud higher up in the heavens, leaving a broad band of light alone visible. These alternations of light and shade continued for a short time, till the sun ascended higher in the sky, and then the middle of his body was covered by a dark vapour, which was passed round him like a ribbon. This also passed off; and the "father of ten thousand days" burst forth in a flood of glory—of bright, effulgent light—making the gentle undulations of the waves to glitter as if studded with millions of gems; whilst the dewdrops of the morning, hanging from the sails and cordage of the vessels, glistening in the sun, assumed various fantastic forms, as the head of the vessel dipped and rose at intervals, upon the gentle waves. Miss Keveley had left her father reclining upon a sofa in the cabin of the Tweed, and had come upon deck to enjoy the beauty of the scene; and, as she gazed upon the rising luminary and the silent waters of the Thames, the queen of rivers, she felt that elevation of spirits, and that devotion, which such a scene is calculated to inspire. Catherine Keveley had been peculiarly the child of misfortune. Her mother was of a noble family, and her alliance had been sought by many rich and noble youths. Preferring, however, the hand of a man, who, though much her inferior in birth, yet in high and lofty[Pg 265] feeling was, at least, her equal, she chose Mr Keveley as her companion for life—a licensed minister of the Church of Scotland, and at that time appointed as superintendent of a missionary station in a distant country. Happy in each other's love, they lived in a foreign land till the birth of Catherine; which event was succeeded by her mother's death.

Catherine, though from childhood a delicate flower, and though deprived of the fostering care of a mother's love, yet, under the tender management of her doting father, rose up to be the prop and staff of his declining years. Her form was of the slightest kind; her eyes, of that light, heavenly blue, which is the sure index of deep feeling, were protected by high, arched eyebrows; her forehead was broad rather than lofty, but of an alabaster whiteness; her clear brown hair was parted over her brow in graceful curls, whilst her long tresses hung in flowing ringlets down her shoulders. Her air was usually of that pensive cast which never fails to interest the beholder; but, of late, a shade of deeper melancholy had been seated on her features, called up by anxiety for her father's declining health, and the sad prospect which then lay before her, an unprotected orphan.

It was impossible to look upon that lovely creature without emotion, as she stood leaning against the bulwark of the vessel, and beholding the glories of the rising sun, and the places upon the river, as the vessel passed them, one after another, in its course. Nor was she unobserved; for Tom Jones, seated upon the windlass, with his hands crossed upon his breast, was silently beholding her. She was here joined by her father, who had come upon deck, and without speaking, took her hand. Catherine silently pointed to the sun.—"This, indeed," said her father, breaking silence, "is a glorious spectacle. I have travelled in many lands, and beheld many splendid sights—I have seen the[Pg 266] most gorgeous spectacles of eastern magnificence, where everything was combined that could please the eye or captivate the fancy—but all of these fall short, very far short, of this display. How many people," continued the old gentleman, "travel into other countries, for the sake of seeing fine sights, who are ignorant that they might behold, at home, a sight grander than the finest of these!"

"I don't wonder," said Catherine, "that the Persians, and many other Eastern nations, worship the sun—contributing, as he does, so much to our comfort and happiness; in so doing, they are thankful for the blessings conferred, and only mistake the secondary, for the first cause of their enjoyment."

They continued thus talking to each other for some time, while Tom Jones was devouring every word which was uttered. After enjoying the coolness of the morning breeze, they again descended to the cabin, where they continued till breakfast-time, when they were joined by the old captain and his son Tom. The old tar was full of spirits—told them some of his best yarns—and, by his kindness, endeavoured to make his guests as comfortable as possible. Tom was engaged in the same labour of love; and, by several little acts of attention to the old gentleman, he gained what, to him, was the sweetest reward on earth—an approving smile from Catherine.

"Are we your only passengers?" asked Mr Keveley.

"Yes," replied Tom. "People now-a-days prefer going by land, to running the risk of being taken by the French privateers, which swarm along the coast."

"I hope there is no danger of being attacked?" asked Catherine, turning pale with alarm.

"Why, as to that," replied old Bill, "one can't say for sartin—I have seed such sights as that before now; but never fear, my bonny Miss—if they were to attack three[Pg 267] smacks armed as we are, they might mayhap catch a Tar-tar—that's all."

"I am not afraid for myself," said Catherine, casting an affectionate look at her father—"but my father"——

"Is now under that protecting Power which has preserved his life in the midst of so many perils by land."

When they again ascended to the deck, the vessels were going with a fine breeze, which was taking them quickly down the river. After passing the Nore, they stood out to the open sea; and, the wind continuing fair, they proceeded speedily on their voyage, which promised to be pleasant and expeditious. On the second morning after sailing, the Tweed was passing Yarmouth Roads. In the roadstead was lying a large vessel, whose taunt, raking masts, and square, lightly-rigged yards, proved her to be a man-of-war. The seamen of the Tweed were pointing out to each other the various fair properties of the vessel as they passed; and Tom, thinking that Miss Keveley would be pleased with the sight, went below, to ask her if she wished to see a man-of-war.

Catherine thanked him for his attention, and followed him upon deck.

"What a beautiful vessel!" exclaimed Catherine, unable to contain her delight—"what exquisite symmetry!—what neatness in the arrangements of the various ropes, which appear as complicated as the gossamer's web, and, at this distance, almost as fine! What an intricate maze do all these appear to an ignorant spectator!—and yet, I dare say," continued she, addressing Tom, "there is not one amongst the number which has not its use."

"Not one," said Tom; "and, however confused they may appear to your eye, yet there is not one which, at a moment's notice, may not be laid hold of by the seamen."

During this conversation, Tom asked the name of the village in which Miss Keveley was going to reside. She[Pg 268] informed him that they proposed settling, for some time at least, in Norham.

"That's lucky," replied Tom; "my old aunt, Mrs Burton, lives there, who may be of service to you in settling, and who will be the most pleasant companion in the world. Her husband was the curate of the village, but he has been dead this many a day; she is, however, in most comfortable circumstances, and can afford you accommodation for a short time, till you get settled."

"You are very kind, indeed," said Catherine, with emotion, "and I trust that my father and I will both feel grateful for the offer. However, we shall be guided by circumstances."

Tom lost no time in informing his father of the destination of his passengers, and of the offer which he had made them.

"That's right, my boy," said the old tar—"it's our duty to assist our fellow-men as much as is in our power—and never have I seed two persons whom I would be inclined to assist so much as that old man and his daughter."

The wind, which had been favourable for them hitherto, now chopped about, by degrees, till at last it blew in a direction exactly opposite to their course.

"This is unfortunate," said old Bill, as he gave his reluctant orders to alter the vessel's course, and to take in the studding-sails, which were hanging flapping in wild disorder, as the wind headed them. These, however, were speedily taken in, and the other evolutions performed, so as to enable the vessel to ply to windward. On the morning of the third day, the Tweed was abreast of Boston Deeps, with the wind still at north-east. To leeward of her, about five miles, were the Olive and the Princess Charlotte, the other two smacks. Tom had the watch on deck, and was steering the vessel—whilst the sailors were sitting forward on the windlass, with their hands across their breasts, and[Pg 269] uttering, at intervals, a few words to each other. One man alone stood apart from the rest, upon the starboard quarter, who seemed, by his intense gaze, to be trying to make out some vessel at a distance. After gazing for a few moments, he took two or three hasty steps along the deck, and again came back to his place, and gave another look. At length, apparently not able to satisfy himself as to the object of his scrutiny, he came up to the companion, and took from thence the glass, which, having adjusted, he made a sweep across the horizon, till it bore upon the object of his search.

"What do you see there?" asked Tom, of the sailor.

"Something that I doesn't like," replied Bill Mossman; "I am much mistaken if there isn't a ship shaping a course to cut us off from the other smacks."

The other sailors, hearing the conversation, now came aft, and took part in it.

"Here," said Tom, "take the helm a moment, and give me the glass."

Tom accordingly, seizing the glass, took a look at the vessel, and continued, for a few moments, silently scanning her, in spite of the interrogatories which were poured in upon him by the sailors, as to the appearance of the stranger.

"Call up my father," were the first words of Tom; "I don't like the look of that vessel. Although she is at a great distance, yet I can make her out not to be a merchantman; and, besides, what does she mean by steering direct for us? Her movements are, at all events, suspicious."

At this moment, old Bill came upon deck, and, after a scrutinizing glance through the glass, he ascended the rigging. There he had not continued long, when he bawled down to the deck, in a voice of thunder—"That he might be blowed if he didn't think that she was one of the rascally French privateers."

This announcement threw the whole of the seamen into[Pg 270] the utmost dismay, and then ensued a scene of confusion which would baffle all description. Half-a-dozen voices were heard at once, recommending different things, whilst each appeared too fond of delivering his own opinion, to listen to that of his neighbour. The voice of old Bill, however, who had again descended, soon restored order.

"This is most unlucky," said he. "This blackguard means to cut us off from our comrades; he has got the weather gage of them, and for us to run down to them would be to run ourselves into the lion's mouth. But never fear, my lads," continued the old tar, in a more cheerful tone; "we may contrive to give the Frenchman the slip, for all that."

"Had we not better make the signal for the other smacks to join as fast as possible?" asked Tom.

"That's right," said his father. "Bend the signal haulyards, and send up the ensign, with the union down."

"Ay, ay, sir," responded the men, in whose minds the assured tone of their captain had inspired confidence; and, in a minute, the British ensign was unfurled to the breeze; but, as the captain had ordered, with the union downwards, which had been the preconcerted signal for joining. The signal was immediately answered by the smacks; but they were too far astern to afford any reasonable hope of immediate assistance. Nevertheless, old Bill proceeded, with his accustomed coolness, to give his order for clearing his ship for action.

The Tweed was a large, powerful smack; and although, of course, not fitted out for war, yet, on her deck were displayed half-a-dozen twelve-pound carronades, which, however unfitted for an engagement at a great distance, yet, in a running fight, and at a short stretch, were capable of doing, what brother Jonathan would call, "pretty considerable execution." They were also well provided with ammunition of all sorts; and, although not a match in the number of[Pg 271] men for the Frenchmen—which would, if a privateer, in all probability be crowded—yet old Bill, as he glanced his eye over his thirteen hardy fellows, who were looking to him for orders, felt assured that, if not victory, at least escape might be possible.

"Get the ship clear, my lads," shouted he; "take in the jibtopsail—it will do more harm than good—slue round the guns, and get the lashings off them."

These orders were speedily executed; and everything which was not absolutely necessary was removed off the deck. The ropes were all coiled out of the way, and the men took off their upper jackets, and remained in their trowsers and shirts. The ammunition was now handed upon deck, and the guns were soon loaded with a full dose of grape and canister.

"Now, my lads, keep the ports closed, till I give you the word. I want to make the privateer think we are not armed, or that we have not made him out."

Two of the sailors, at this moment, came from below, bringing, each of them, a couple of muskets, which old Bill immediately ordered again to be taken below, adding, that they could only be useful in case of close quarters, in which they could never hope to cope with the Frenchman, so that they would only be an encumbrance. Every arrangement seemed now made, which prudence could suggest. Two men were ordered forward, to work the head-sails, and one to stand aft by the main sheet, to assist the vessel in stays; the rest he stationed at the guns; the steering he took upon himself. The excitement attendant upon the clearing of the vessel for action, had driven the remembrance of his passengers from old Bill's mind. The case, however, was different with Tom; for his anxiety for the safety of the sweet pensive girl who had been committed to their care, had completely banished from his mind all thoughts of himself. As soon as the arrangements for[Pg 272] engaging had been made, Tom entered the cabin, and acquainted Mr Keveley and his daughter, as delicately as possible, how matters went. Catherine stood for some moments like one stupified; at last her grief found utterance in a flood of tears, and she sobbed convulsively on the bosom of her father.

"Oh, my father!" she exclaimed, "was it for this that you left the swamps of the Ganges? Better that you had died there in peace, than be made the captive of lawless and abandoned men, and be subjected to all the horrors of a French prison!"

Mr Keveley strove to comfort her.

"Be patient, my daughter!" he exclaimed; "the same Being who has protected as in times that are past, is still watching over us."

Tom also strove to comfort her with the hopes of escape.

"But are you sure it is a French vessel?" asked Mr Keveley.

"I am sorry to say," replied Tom, "there is not the least doubt of that, as she is approaching us rapidly, and we can plainly discern her colours."

"I will go upon deck," said Mr Keveley; "and do you, Catherine, remain here." But Catherine resolved to accompany him; and, in spite of Tom's solicitations to the contrary, they both ascended.

"I had completely forgot them," exclaimed old Bill to himself, when he saw them ascend. "Poor things! I wish they were well on shore." Mr Keveley cast his eyes on the hostile vessel. Her hull was fast rising, for the breeze was fresh, and the French tri-coloured flag was plainly distinguishable at her fore-royal mast-head. Tom endeavoured to persuade them to go again below, and he was joined in his entreaty by old Bill, who told him that they were only exposing themselves to needless danger—"Besides," added[Pg 273] the tar in his rough way, "you are only live lumber here. So you had better go below, and get the Bible under way as fast as possible." They allowed themselves to be prevailed upon—and Tom again took leave of them.

"Good-by!" said Catherine, stretching out her hand. "We may never meet again. May God bless you, for all your kindness to us! Take care and don't expose yourself, to unnecessary danger."—Tom took her proffered hand; and, as he looked upon her mild, beautiful eyes, suffused with tears, he vowed that the last drop of his blood should be spilt before harm should come upon that lovely creature.

When Tom again came upon deck, the Frenchman was within half a mile's distance. She appeared to be a long, black brig; and her guns were pointing onward on each side, shewing, as the sailors term it, two beautiful rows of teeth. The seamen of the Tweed, as they stood looking at her, counted seven guns on each side; and, from their size, they appeared twelve-pounders.

"If we can only keep her off," said Bill to his son Tom, "we shall do capitally; but, if she once gets alongside of us, it's all up."

"Hadn't we better, sir," said Bill Mossman, coming aft, "cut away the boat from the davits? The vessel is too much by the stern already."

"That's a good idea," said old Bill; and the order was executed accordingly.

"Now, my lads," shouted the old tar, "be ready with your ports; and, when I give you the word, burst them open, and fire away; but keep out of sight, in the meantime, except one or two of you."

The deck of the Frenchman was now plainly visible to those an board the Tweed—a dense mass of men were seen—but they seemed clustered thickest near the fore-chains; from which place old Bill thought they intended to board.[Pg 274]

"I'll cut you out of that, anyhow," exclaimed he, with glee. "I'll show you that a smack can be fought as well as a cursed French privateer, any day." So saying, he gave orders to ease off the sheets; and, keeping the vessel away, he made it appear to the Frenchman as if he had discovered him for the first time to be an enemy, and was endeavouring to escape. The Frenchman took the bait, and, making more sail, pursued him, under a press of canvass; and, as old Bill expected, came rapidly up with him, and was now within pistol-shot, when Bill suddenly shifted his helm, and hauled his wind right across the privateer's bows.

"Now, my boys," shouted the old tar, "blaze away!" when the men, who were eager for the order, burst open the ports, and poured a rattling broadside into her. The smoke which ensued hid everything from the sight; but the horrid shriek which arose on board the Frenchman, and the crashing of wood splintered by the shot, gave indications how fearfully the "twelves" had told. The sailors on board the Tweed, were themselves, for a moment, awed by the sight of the work of destruction which they had made; but the voice of their old commander quickly recalled them to their duty; and they again, without a moment's delay, proceeded to load their instruments of death. The smoke had cleared away; but the distance was too great to allow them to perceive the extent of the Frenchman's loss. Escape now appeared possible; but old Bill's blood was up; and though, by carrying on a press of sail, he might have got off, he resolved to give the Frenchman another smell of his powder.

"Cheerily, my lads!" sung out the old man; "keep steady, and we'll give Mr Monseer a hearty breakfast, different from what he expected." So saying, he sung out a few lines of a forecastle ditty, at the top of his voice:—

"They sailed from the Bay of St Peter,
Five hundred and fifty on board;[Pg 275]
And we were all ready to meet her—
Conquer or die was the word."

The spirit of their captain seemed contagious; and the crew, one and all, took up the two last lines, and bellowed it out a second time, in full chorus.

"All ready, 'bout ship there?" sung out Bill.

"All ready, sir," shouted the men.

"'Bout there, then!" And, in one moment, the helm was put hard a starboard, and the vessel's head came round to the wind in fine style.

"All's about, there, my boys!—let go the fore-bowline!"

And this order being executed, the Tweed was bowling along on the other tack, standing towards the Frenchman, who, having now recovered from his confusion, was again coming up rapidly. The privateer again attempted to board, but was again defeated, by the skill and dexterity of old Bill in working his vessel. Again they passed each other, and the Frenchman's broadside of seven guns told heavily on the Tweed's sides and rigging; but the men had so well obeyed Bill's orders of keeping out of sight till the fire of the Frenchman was received, that none of them was hurt, save old Bill himself, who was severely wounded. The old tar, nothing daunted at the accident, again gave his orders to fire. A dense mass of smoke immediately rose up in huge columns to the sky as the order was obeyed, and the deadly instruments again belched forth their contents into the hull of the Frenchman. When the smoke cleared away, the crew of the Tweed were dismayed to behold their gallant old commander standing at the helm, pale and bleeding, but still keeping his post. Tom rushed aft to support him, and asked him if he was much hurt.

"I fear," replied the old tar, "that your poor old father has received a shot between wind and water; but never mind, my boy; while I can stand I'll never flinch; it shall[Pg 276] never be said that ould Bill Jones flinched from his post in the hour of danger; and mind, my boy, Tom, if I fall, never surrender to a rascally Frenchman, but fight it out; be sure to keep him off, and there is no fear. Never yield, Tom!"

The old tar, quite exhausted by his exertions and by loss of blood, dropped down upon the deck; but, notwithstanding the solicitations of his son and the crew, he persisted in not being carried below. They, therefore, wrapped a boat cloak around him, and laid him along the deck, with his head supported against a coil of rope.

Tom now took the command, and it required all his exertions and skill to save him from the privateer; for the crew of the Tweed, regardless of everything else, had been looking at their commander like persons stupified, allowing the vessel to go as she pleased. The Frenchman had perceived their confusion, and was pressing on to take advantage of it; and the crew of the Tweed could perceive the men clustering along the yards as thick as bees. Tom, however, again passed him without allowing the Frenchman to board; but, unfortunately, the broadside which was poured into the Tweed shot away the jib-hal-yards, and the large sail came down into the water. Three cheers from the Frenchmen followed this accident, which promised them a certain victory; for not only was the smack deprived of the assistance of the jib in sailing, but the dragging of the sail through the water impeded materially her progress.

All now seemed lost, when Tom, resigning the helm to one of the men, sprung forward; and, seizing hold of the end of the halyards, mounted the rigging, and, in spite of the showers of shot fired at him from the Frenchman's tops, succeeded in again reeving it through the block; and, by the assistance of the wynch, the jib again rose to its former place.

The Frenchman, thus baffled in all his attempts, resolved to make a last effort; and, crowding all sail, came rapidly[Pg 277] upon the weather or starboard quarter. "Ready about!" sung out Tom; and, as the smack shot up head to the wind, he gave the order to fire—which order was no sooner obeyed than a dreadful shriek rose from the privateer; and the first sight which greeted the eyes of the Tweed's crew after the smoke had cleared, was their enemy, standing away before the wind under a press of sail. Simultaneous cheers burst from the lips of the men, as they beheld this not less pleasing than unexpected sight, and they were joined by old Bill, who, weak and faint as he was, raised his hand, and cheered with his crew.

"We've given him a parting salute," said Bill Mossman, grinning with delight, through a face all begrimed with powder and smoke. "My eye, only look there!—he seems to be in as great a hurry as a dog with a kettle at his tail."

"Ay, we have peppered his cannister for him," said Jem Ward—"the lousy rascal that he is! I am only sorry that we did not take him."

The crew being now free from danger, crowded round old Bill, who was still lying on the deck, with Tom at his side; and, in their own, hearty, honest, though blunt manner, inquired how he felt.

"Better than ever I did in my life," answered the old sailor. "No doubt, I have got a shot which may compel me to lay up in ordinary a sheer hulk for the rest of my life, if it don't make me kick the bucket altogether; but haven't we beat a French privateer nearly three times our size, and with ten times our men? I tell you, my brave fellows, that this is the proudest and happiest day of my life. And you, Tom," said he, addressing his son, "have behaved like your father's son—and that's saying something."

The sailors now proceeded to remove Bill below; and Tom, whose eagerness to inform Catherine and her father of their success, had only been restrained by his filial affection, rushed down to the cabin to tell them the joyful[Pg 278] news. When he entered, he found Mr Keveley and his daughter seated, with their hands locked together; and, as he entered, they clung closer to each other, as if preparing for the worst.

It would be impossible to describe the joy which animated Catherine's face when Tom told them the happy tidings—joy danced in her blue eyes, which were alternately fixed upon him or her father. Surprise, at first, prevented her speech, till her emotion found vent in a flood of tears. Mr Keveley bore the news more composedly than his daughter. He first embraced her, then came and shook Tom heartily by the hand.

"And has the Frenchman really run off?" asked Catherine, when she had recovered her speech. "You must have had warm work of it, if we may judge from your appearance," added she, with a playful smile. Tom turned his head for an instant to a mirror, which was hanging up on one side of the cabin, and in it beheld his countenance, so soiled with powder and perspiration, that he scarcely recognised his own features.

After wiping away the drops of sweat, which were coursing each other down his cheeks, and ploughing up large furrows on the indented soot, Tom took his departure to attend his father, whom he found pretty well, though much exhausted from loss of blood. After the old man's wound had been dressed, as well as circumstances would admit, a warm soothing potion, administered by Mr Keveley, who understood something of medicine, was given, which, having drunk, he fell into a comfortable sleep.

A consultation was now held upon deck, as to the course to be pursued. Some advised that they should proceed on their voyage, whilst some were for running back to Yarmouth Roads, to see if the frigate, which they had passed on the previous morning, still remained, in order that they might give intelligence as to the route of the Frenchman.[Pg 279]

The last plan was adopted, and the vessel was put before the wind—only stopping, as she passed, to inform each of her consorts of the particulars of the engagement. The crews of the vessels cheered the Tweed, as she passed with her flag at her gaff, and with the union now upwards, instead of being inverted as formerly. The wind being fair, they soon reached the Roads, and to their great joy beheld the frigate still lying in the same situation as when they had passed her. Tom immediately bore down upon her; and the watch on board the frigate hailed—"What ship, ahoy?"—"The Tweed, from London to Leith and Berwick—have been engaged for two hours with a large French privateer, and have beaten him off."

"What direction did he steer?" was the next question asked.

"Direct S.E.," was the answer, "and, if you look sharp, you may still catch her—she is a large black brig, low in the water, with her main-mast raking over her stern." The boatswain's whistle was now heard on board the frigate, calling all hands to weigh anchor; in an instant, the ship was all life and animation; and such is the effect of strict discipline, that, in a few minutes, the frigate was under way, with every inch of canvass set which could be crowded upon her spars, in pursuit of the privateer.

Tom, seeing that everything had been done as he wished, again made sail to the northward. After a short time, he arrived at Leith, where his consorts had already conveyed the news of the engagement. As the Tweed entered the harbour, crowds of people, attracted by the news of the victory, lined the shore; whilst the crews of every vessel cheered her as she passed. Old Bill, whose wound was not at all dangerous, was able to come upon deck; and the old man's gratification was complete, on observing the joy which their arrival diffused amongst all classes.

After the Tweed had been moored alongside of the wharf,[Pg 280] a coach was provided, into which old Bill, with Mr Keveley and his daughter, entered, and proceeded to the old man's house; but the populace, who observed what was going forward, took out the horses, and drew the coach along the streets, with the loudest acclamations.

During the whole time that the Tweed lay at Leith, her decks were never free from people, who, most of them, brought brandy and whisky to regale the sailors. In such abundance were these articles supplied, that they not only were sufficient for the Tweed's own crew, but served for a jollification to every sailor in the harbour; and such a scene of feasting, dancing, and merriment went on, as was never witnessed by Leith either before or since. The same reception awaited the Tweed on her arrival at London, where they found the privateer with whom they had been engaged, lying alongside of the frigate, who had taken her, after a long chase. On making inquiries, they learned that the Frenchman had lost twenty-five men, with nine wounded—their last broadside having killed the lieutenant.

Old Bill rapidly recovered from his wound, which was not dangerous; and he was soon enabled to take command of his vessel, which had made two or three voyages to London under the command of Tom.

Mr and Miss Keveley had retired to the village of Norham, beautifully situated on the banks of the Tweed, where they continued for some time with Tom's aunt, Mrs Burton. The old gentleman, finding that his native air was beneficial to his wasted constitution, resolved to settle there for the remainder of his days; and he accordingly rented a neat cottage at the extremity of the village.

Here Tom had frequent opportunities of becoming better acquainted with Catherine; and every time he beheld her, she improved in his regard. It was on the second voyage, after old Bill had again taken possession of his vessel,[Pg 281] that he and his son Tom were conversing together on deck. After a few preliminary hems, the old man began:—

"Tom, my boy, I have been thinking that it is now time you had a wife—a sailor is never comfortable till he gets married."

Tom replied, that he thought it time enough.

"What would you think of Miss Keveley for a wife?" asked Bill, without attending to his son's reply.

"The only fault I could find with her is, that she is too good for me. Do you think," continued he, "that Miss Keveley would ever marry a sailor?"

"As unlikely ships as that have come to land before now," replied Bill; "and wherefore should Miss Keveley not marry you? Haven't you seventy pounds a-year left you by your grandmother? and an't you my only son? And you know I've several shares in the company's vessels, besides something else that you know of; and when the old woman and myself are brought up in the next world, sha'nt you have it all?"

Tom assented to all this, but shook his head.

"Try her, my boy," said Bill—"faint heart never won fair lady, as they say at the fairs, when they wish you to try your luck at the 'rouly-pouly.' I was talking about it myself to the old gentleman not long ago; he highly approves of the match, provided you and his daughter could agree; and Mr Keveley added, that he believed you would not meet a refusal, as his daughter seemed never tired of talking about your exploits, or of hearing of them; so that you see it all depends upon yourself."

Tom, encouraged by these words, resolved, when the vessel should reach Berwick, to set out for Norham; which design he put in execution, a few days after, setting out from Berwick about six in the evening.

After reaching the village, he quickly passed through it[Pg 282] to where Mr Keveley's cottage stood. It was a sweet summer evening; and when Tom approached the house, the setting sun was illuminating the windows with his departing rays. A little garden fronted the cottage; and the honeysuckle and jessamine, which had crept up its front, were spreading their fragrance all around. The window of the little parlour looked to the west; it was opened, and Tom heard the sound of a musical instrument, accompanied by a low female voice. He listened for a moment to catch if possible the air, but it seemed a foreign song which the musician was playing. At last, he went up to the door and knocked, whilst his heart went pit-a-pat with emotion. Mr Keveley had gone out, and he found Catherine alone in the parlour. She received him with her usual sweet smile of welcome, and bade him be seated. Tom strove to appear at ease, but his anxiety prevented him, and his confusion was such as to attract the notice of Catherine, who asked him if he was unwell.

"Not exactly that," said Tom; "but"——Here he made a full pause.

"But what?" asked Catherine, unable to divine the cause of his uneasiness.

"Well," said Tom, at length taking courage, "I may as well out with it at once. The truth is, Miss Keveley, I love you dearly; but could never have had the courage to make this declaration, had your father not approved of it."

It was now Catherine's turn to blush, and be silent; at length, regaining the use of her tongue, she replied—"It would not only be affectation, but ingratitude in me, to affect indifference, where my heart is really interested; and, as you say my father sanctions your addresses, there is my hand;—if you think it worth your acceptance, it is at your service."

Tom, unable to contain himself, took her hand, and pressed it to his lips. "I leave you to yourself," said he[Pg 283] "for a few minutes, to recover from your confusion"—so saying, he went out for a little; and met Mr Keveley, just returning from a visit to a friend at a little distance, to whom he communicated the pleasing intelligence of his happiness. Mr Keveley took Tom by the hand, and, having embraced him—

"I shall now leave this world," said he, "without a wish unsatisfied. It was the only desire of my heart, before bidding a final adieu to all sublunary things, to see my daughter with a protector for life; and I am glad she has made choice of an honest man, and one every way so deserving of her." So saying, he led Tom back to the parlour, where Catherine still remained seated. After joining their hands, the old gentleman uttered a benediction over them, and embraced them both with much tenderness.

After a short time, Tom took his leave, but not before Catherine had promised that their marriage should take place on an early day.

About a fortnight after, on a fine forenoon, the village grocer at Norham was standing at his door, and gazing after a crowd which had passed; as he stood looking, a man dressed like a grazier came up, and, after the accustomed salutation of "How's a' wi' ye the day?" asked him what he was "glowrin" at.

"I have just been lookin at the weddin which has passed," answered the grocer; "an' sic a braw sicht hasna been seen in the village for mony a day."

"Wha's weddin is it?" asked the grazier.

"It's the daughter of ane Mr Keveley, who has settled in this place for some time—and a bonny lassie she is; and they say, she's as guid as she's bonny. She's married to ane Jones, son o' auld Bill Jones, maister o' the smack which beat the Frenchman no very lang syne yet. Every one o' the smack's crew are at the weddin; an' sic a set o' merry jovial blades were never thegither in this place afore. The[Pg 284] folks are like to stifle them wi' kindness. But what's the queerest thing of a' is, that they a' cam oot here, this mornin, in a boat."

"In a boat!" exclaimed the grazier, in amazement—"on dry land?"

"Ay, in a boat," replied the grocer—"a lang boat, mounted upon a lang cart; an' there were they a' seated in it, wi' ribbons fleein; an' wi' the Union, as they ca' the flag which hung at the ship's mast when they beat the Frenchman; an' the folks a' shoutin, an' the bairns skirling. I declare, thae sailors are a wheen born deevils for fun and frolic; but they are sic canty chiels, that ane canna help likin them the better for a' their nonsense. They ca' the lang boat the Whim; an', faith, she's weel named—for it's a whimsical idea."

The grocer and the grazier stood talking thus to each other, till the cavalcade returned from the church—Tom and his bride in an open, four-wheeled carriage, whilst the rest all followed in the boat already mentioned.

Little of our story now remains to be told. After his marriage, Tom went to sea for a few years, in command of the Tweed; but, on the death of Mr Keveley, he retired to Norham, where he took the cottage which the old gentleman had inhabited.

Passing lately through the churchyard of T——, we went up to the grave of old Bill Jones. A neat, marble tombstone had been raised to his memory, by his son and daughter. At the bottom was the following epitaph:—

"Though Neptune's waves and Boreas' storms
Have tossed me to and fro,
In spite of all, by God's decree,
I anchor here below."

[1] Edinburgh Castle

[2] This tale is the production of the Rev. George Thomson, "the happy Dominie Thomson of the happy days of Abbotsford," as Lockhart designates him in the last volume of his "Life of Scott," when alluding to the sad inroads of death into the family circle where Thomson had been Tutor for many years. He was a son of the late minister of Melrose, and much respected for his sterling worth, amiability, and sound learning—particularly noted, also, for the eccentricity of his wit, and the humour of his sayings and doings. The above, and another tale, are, so far as I can learn, the only contributions to literature by the amanuensis of Scott.—Ed.






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