The Project Gutenberg eBook of Wilson's Tales of the Borders and of Scotland, Volume 11

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Title: Wilson's Tales of the Borders and of Scotland, Volume 11

Compiler: John Mackay Wilson

Editor: Alexander Leighton

Release date: March 24, 2010 [eBook #31761]
Most recently updated: January 6, 2021

Language: English

Credits: Produced by David Clarke, Woodie4 and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at


Tales of the Borders











The Dominie's Class(John Mackay Wilson)1
The Contrast of Wives(Alexander Leighton)33
The Professor's Tales
The Social Man(Professor Thomas Gillespie)65
The Two Comrades(Alexander Campbell)90
The Surtout(Alexander Campbell)106
The Surgeon's Tales
The Suicide(Alexander Leighton)121
The Ghost of Howdycraigs(Alexander Bethune)153
The Ghost of Gairyburn(Alexander Bethune)185
The Smuggler(John Mackay Wilson)217
The Schoolfellows(Oliver Richardson)250
The Red Hall; or, Berwick in 1296       (John Mackay Wilson)281

[Pg 1]





"Their ends as various as the roads they take
In journeying through life."

There is no class of men to whom the memory turns with more complacency, or more frequently, than to those who "taught the young idea how to shoot." There may be a few tyrants of the birch, who never inspired a feeling save fear or hatred; yet their number is but few, and I would say that the schoolmaster is abroad in more senses than that in which it is popularly applied. He is abroad in the memory and in the affections of his pupils; and his remembrance is cherished wheresoever they may be. For my own part, I never met with a teacher whom I did not love when a boy, and reverence when a man; from him before whom I used to stand and endeavour to read my task in his eyes, as he held the book before his face, and the page was reflected in his spectacles—and from his spectacles I spelled my qu—to him who, as an elder friend, bestowed on me my last lesson. When a man has been absent from the place of his nativity for years, and when he returns and grasps the hands of his surviving kindred, one of his first questions to them (after family questions are settled) is—"Is Mr ——, [Pg 2]my old schoolmaster, yet alive?" And if the answer be in the affirmative, one of the first on whom he calls is the dominie of his boyhood; and he enters the well-remembered school—and his first glance is to the seat he last occupied—as an urchin opens the door and admits him, as he gently taps at it, and cries to the master (who is engaged with a class), when the stranger enters—

"Sir, here's one wants you."

Then steps forward the man of letters, looking anxiously—gazing as though he had a right to gaze in the stranger's face; and, throwing out his head, and particularly his chin, while he utters the hesitating interrogative—"Sir?" And the stranger replies—"You don't know me, I suppose? I am such-an-one, who was at your school at such a time." The instiller of knowledge starts—

"What!" cries he, shifting his spectacles, "you Johnnie (Thomas, or Peter, as the case may be) So-and-so?—it's not possible! O man, I'm glad to see ye! Ye'll mak me an auld man, whether I will or no. And how hae ye been, and where hae ye been?"—And, as he speaks, he flings his tawse over to the corner where his desk stands. The young stranger still cordially shakes his hand, a few kindly words pass between them, and the teacher, turning to his scholars, says—"You may put by your books and slates, and go for the day;" when an instantaneous movement takes place through the school; there is a closing of books, a clanking of slates, a pocketing of pencils, a clutching for hats, caps, and bonnets, a springing over seats, and a falling off seats, a rushing to the door, and a shouting when at the door a "hurra for play!"—and the stranger seems to have made a hundred happy, while the teacher and he retire, to

"Drink a cup o' kindness,
For auld langsyne."

But to proceed with our story of stories. There was a Dr Montgomery, a native of Annan, who, after he had been for more than twenty years a physician in India, where he[Pg 3] had become rich, visited his early home, which was also the grave of his fathers. There were but few of his relatives in life when he returned (for death makes sad havoc in families in twenty years); but, after he had seen them, he inquired if his old teacher, Mr Grierson, yet lived; and being answered in the affirmative, the doctor proceeded to the residence of his first instructor. He found him occupying the same apartments in which he resided thirty years before, and which were situated on the south side of the main street, near the bridge.

When the first congratulations—the shaking of hands and the expressions of surprise—had been got over, the doctor invited the dominie to dinner; and, after the cloth was withdrawn, and the better part of a bottle of port had vanished between them, the man of medicine thus addressed his ancient preceptor:—

"Can you inform me, sir, what has become of my old class-fellows?—who of them are yet in the land of the living?—who have caught the face of fortune as she smiled, or been rendered the 'sport o' her slippery ba'?' Of the fate of one of them I know something, and to me their history would be more interesting than a romance."

"Do ye remember the names that ye used to gie ane anither?" inquired the man of letters, with a look of importance, which showed that the history of the whole class was forthcoming.

"I remember them well," replied the doctor; "there were seven of us: Solitary Sandy—Glaikit Willie—Venturesome Jamie—Cautious Watty—Leein' Peter—Jock the dunce—and myself."

"And hae ye forgot the lounderings that I used to gie ye, for ca'in ane anither such names?" inquired Mr Grierson, with a smile.

"I remember you were displeased at it," replied the other.[Pg 4]

"Weel, doctor," continued the teacher, "I believe I can gratify your curiosity, and I am not sure but you'll find that the history of your class-fellows is not without interest. The career of some of them has been to me as a recompense for a' the pains I bestowed on them, and that o' others has been a source o' grief. Wi' some I hae been disappointed, wi' ithers, surprised; but you'll allow that I did my utmost to fleech and to thrash your besetting sins out o' ye a'. I will first inform ye what I know respecting the history of Alexander Rutherford, whom all o' ye used to ca' Solitary Sandy, because he wasna a hempy like yoursels. Now, sir, harken to the history of


I remarked that Sandy was an extraordinary callant, and that he would turn out a character that would be heard tell o' in the world; though that he would ever rise in it, as some term it, or become rich in it I did not believe. I dinna think that e'er I had to raise the tawse to Sandy in my life. He had always his task as ready by heart as he could count his fingers. Ye ne'er saw Sandy looking over his book, or nodding wi' it before his face. He and his lessons were like twa acquaintances—fond o' each other's company. I hae observed fra the window, when the rest o' ye would hae been driving at the hand-ba', cleeshin your peerie-taps, or endangerin' your legs wi' the duck-stane, Sandy wad been sitting on his hunkers in the garden, looking as earnestly on a daisy or ony bit flower, as if the twa creatures could hae held a crack wi' ane anither, and the bonny leaves o' the wee silent things whispered to Sandy how they got their colours, how they peeped forth to meet the kiss o' spring, and how the same power that created the lowly daisy called man into existence, and fashioned the bright sun and the glorious firmament. He was ance dux and aye dux. From the first moment he got to the head o'[Pg 5] the class, there he remained as immoveable as a mountain. There was nae trapping him; for his memory was like clockwark. I canna say that he had a great turn for mathematics; but ye will remember, as weel as me, that he was a great Grecian; and he had screeds o' Virgil as ready aff by heart as the twenty-third psalm. Mony a time hae I said concerning him, in the words o' Butler—

"Latin to him's no more difficil,
Than for a blackbird 'tis to whistle."

The classics, indeed, were his particular hobby; and, though I was proud o' Sandy, I often wished that I could direct his bent to studies o' greater practical utility. His exercises showed that he had an evident genius for poetry, and that o' a very high order; but his parents were poor, and I didna see what poetry was to put in his pocket. I therefore by no means encouraged him to follow out what I conceived to be a profitless, though a pleasing, propensity; but, on the contrary, when I had an opportunity o' speakin' to him by himsel, I used to say to him—

"Alexander, ye have a happy turn for versification, and there is both boldness and originality about your ideas—though no doubt they would require a great deal of pruning before they could appear in a respectable shape before the world. But you must not indulge in verse-writing. When you do it, let it only be for an exercise, or for amusement, when you have nothing better to do. It may make rhyme jingle in your ears, but it will never make sterling coin jink in your pockets. Even the immortal Homer had to sing his own verses about the streets; and ye have heard the epigram—

'Seven cities now contend for Homer dead,
Through which the living Homer begg'd his bread.'

Boethius, like Savage in our own days, died in a prison; Terence was a slave, and Plautus did the work of a horse. Cervantes perished for lack of food, on the same day that[Pg 6] our great Shakspere died; but Shakspere had worldly wisdom as well as heavenly genius. Camoens died in an almshouse. The magical Spenser was a supplicant at court for years, for a paltry pension, till hope deferred made his heart sick, and he vented his disappointment in these words—

'I was promised, on a time,
To have reason for my rhyme:
From that time unto this season,
I received not rhyme nor reason.'

Butler asked for bread, and they gave him a stone. Dryden lived between the hand and the mouth. Poor Otway perished through penury; and Chatterton, the inspired boy, terminated his wretchedness with a pennyworth of poison. But there is a more striking example than these, Sandy. It was but the other day that our immortal countryman, Robbie Burns—the glory o' our age—sank, at our very door, neglected and in poverty, wi' a broken heart, into the grave. Sandy,' added I, 'never think o' being a poet. If ye attempt it, ye will embark upon an ocean where, for every one that reaches their desired haven, ninety-and-nine become a wreck.'

On such occasions, Sandy used to listen most attentively, and crack to me very auld-farrantly. Well, sir, it was just after ye went to learn to be a doctor, that I resolved to try and do something to push him forward mysel, as his parents were not in ability; and I had made application to a gentleman on his behalf, to use his influence to procure him a bursary in ane o' the universities, when Sandy's faither died, and, puir man, left hardly as muckle behind him as would pay the expenses o' the funeral. This was a death-blow to Sandy's prospects and my hopes. He wasna seventeen at the time, and his widowed mother had five bairns younger. He was the only ane in the family that she could look up to as a bread-winner. It was about harvest; and, when the[Pg 7] shearing commenced, he went out wi' ithers and took his place on the rig. As it was his first year, and he was but a learner, his wages were but sma'; but, sma' as they were, at the end o' the season he brought them hame, and my puir blighted scholar laddie thought himsel a man, when he placed his earnings, to a farthing, in his mother's hand.

I was sorry for Sandy. It pained me to see one by whom I had had so much credit, and who, I was conscious, would make ane o' the brightest ornaments o' the pu'pit that ever entered it, throwing his learning and his talents awa', and doomed to be a labouring man. I lost mony a night's sleep on his account; but I was determined to serve him if I could, and I at last succeeded in getting him appointed tutor in a gentleman's family o' the name o' Crompton, owre in Cumberland. He was to teach twa bits o' laddies English and arithmetic, Latin and Greek. He wasna out eighteen when he entered upon the duties o' his office; and great cause had I to be proud o' my scholar, and satisfied wi' my recommendation; for, before he had been six months in his situation, I received a letter from the gentleman himsel, intimating his esteem for Sandy, the great progress his sons had made under his tuition, and expressing his gratitude to me for recommending such a tutor. He was, in consequence, kind and generous to my auld scholar, and he doubled his wages, and made him presents beside; so that Sandy was enabled to assist his mother and his brethren.

But we ne'er hae a sunny day, though it be the langest day in summer, but sooner or later, a rainy ane follows it. Now, Mr Crompton had a daughter about a year younger than Sandy. She wasna what people would ca' a pretty girl, for I hae seen her; but she had a sonsy face and intelligent een. She also, forsooth, wrote sonnets to the moon, and hymns to the rising sun. She, of a' women, was the maist likely to bewitch puir Sandy; and she did bewitch him. A strong liking sprang up between them. They[Pg 8] couldna conceal their partiality for ane anither. He was everything that was perfect in her een, and she was an angel in his. Her name was Ann; and he had celebrated it in every measure, from the hop-and-step line of four syllables to that o' fourteen, which rolleth like the echoing o' the trumpet.

Now her faither, though a ceevil and a kind man, was also a shrewd, sharp-sighted, and determined man; and he saw the flutter that had risen up in the breasts o' his daughter and the young tutor. So he sent for Sandy, and without seeming to be angry wi' him, or even hinting at the cause—

"Mr Rutherford," said he, "you are aware that I am highly gratified with the manner in which you have discharged the duties of tutor to my boys; but I have been thinking that it will be more to their advantage that their education, for the future, be a public one, and to-morrow I intend sending them to a boarding-school in Yorkshire."

"To-morrow!" said Sandy, mechanically, scarce knowing what he said, or where he stood.

"To-morrow," added Mr. Crompton; "and I have sent for you, sir, in order to settle with you respecting your salary."

This was bringing the matter home to the business and the bosom o' the scholar somewhat suddenly. Little as he was versed in the ways o' the world, something like the real cause for the hasty removal o' his pupils to Yorkshire began to dawn upon his mind. He was stricken with dismay and with great agony, and he longed to pour out his soul upon the gentle bosom o' Ann. But she had gone on a visit with her mother to a friend in a different part of the country, and Mr Crompton was to set out with his sons for Yorkshire on the following day. Then, also, would Sandy have to return to the humble roof o' his mother. When he retired to pack up his books and his few things, he wrung his hands—yea, there were tears upon his cheeks—and, in the bitterness of the spirit, he said[Pg 9]

"My own sweet Ann! and shall I never see thee again—never hear thee—never hope!" And he laid his hand upon his forehead, and pressed it there, repeating as he did so—"never! oh, never!"

I was surprised beyond measure when Sandy came back to Annan, and, wi' a wobegone countenance, called upon me. I thought that Mr. Crompton was not a man of the discernment and sagacity that I had given him credit to be, and I desired Sandy not to lay it so sair to heart, for that something else would cast up. But, in a day or two, I received a letter from the gentleman himsel, showing me how matters stood, and giving me to understand the why and the wherefore.

"O the gowk!" said I, "what business had he to fa' in love, when he had the bairns and his books to mind?"

So I determined to rally him a wee thought on the subject, in order to bring him back to his senses; for, when a haflins laddie is labouring under the first dizziness o' a bonnie lassie's influence, I dinna consider that he is capable o' either seeing, feeling, hearing, or acting wi' the common-sense discretion o' a reasonable being. It is a pleasant heating and wandering o' the brain. Therefore, the next time I saw him—

"Sandy," says I, "wha was't laid Troy in ashes?"

He at first started and stared at me, rather vexed like, but at last he answered, wi' a sort o' forced laugh, "A woman."

"A woman, was it?" says I; "and wha was the cause o' Sandy Rutherford losing his situation as tutor, and being sent back to Annan?"

"Sir!" said he, and he scowled down his eyebrows, and gied a look at me that wad hae spained a ewe's lamb. I saw that he was too far gone, and that his mind was in a state that it would not be safe to trifle wi'; so I tried him no more upon the subject.[Pg 10]

Weel, as his mother, puir woman, had enough to do, and couldna keep him in idleness, and as there was naething for him in Annan, he went to Edinburgh to see what would cast up, and what his talents and education would do for him there. He had recommendations from several gentlemen, and also from myself. But month after month passed on, and he was like to hear of nothing. His mother was becoming extremely unhappy on his account, and the more so because he had given up writing, which astonished me a great deal, for I could not divine the cause of such conduct as not to write to his own mother, to say that he was well or what he was doing; and I was the more surprised at it, because of the excellent opinion I had entertained of his character and disposition. However, I think it would be about six months after he had left, I received a letter from him; and, as that letter is of importance in giving you an account of his history, I shall just step along to the school for it, where I have it carefully placed in my desk, and shall bring it and any other papers that I think may be necessary in giving you an account of your other schoolfellows.

Thus saying, Dominie Grierson, taking up his three-cornered hat and silver-mounted walking-stick, stalked out of the room. And, as people generally like to have some idea of the sort of person who is telling them a story, I shall here describe to them the appearance of Mr Grierson. He was a fine-looking old man, about five feet nine inches high; his age might be about threescore and fifteen, and he was a bachelor. His hair was as white as the driven snow, yet as fresh and as thick as though he had been but thirty. His face was pale. He could not properly be called corpulent, but his person had an inclination that way. His shoes were fastened with large silver buckles; he wore a pair of the finest black lamb's-wool stockings; breeches of the same colour, fastened at the knees by buckles similar to those in his shoes. His coat and waistcoat were also black,[Pg 11] and both were exceedingly capacious; for the former, with its broad skirts, which descended almost to his heels, would have made a greatcoat now-a-days; and in the kingly flaps of the latter, which defended his loins, was cloth enough and to spare to have made a modern vest. This, with the broad-brimmed, round-crowned, three-cornered hat, already referred to, a pair of spectacles, and the silver-mounted cane, completed the outward appearance of Dominie Grierson, with the exception of his cambric handkerchief, which was whiter than his own locks, and did credit to the cleanliness of his housekeeper, and her skill as a laundress.

In a few moments he returned, with Sandy's letter and other papers in his hand, and, helping himself to another glass of wine, he rubbed the glass of his spectacles with his handkerchief, and said—

"Now, doctor, here is poor Sandy's letter; listen, and ye shall hear it."—

"Edinburgh, June 10, 17—

"Honoured Sir,—I fear that, on account of my not having written to you, you will ere now have accused me of ingratitude; and when I tell you that, until the other day, I have not for months even written to my mother, you may think me undutiful, as well as ungrateful. But my own breast holds me guiltless of both. When I arrived here, I met with nothing but disappointments, and those I found at every hand. For many weeks I walked the streets of this city in despair, hopeless as a fallen angel. I was hungry, and no one gave me to eat; but they knew not that I was in want. Keen misery held me in its grasp—ruin caressed me, and laughed at its plaything. I will not pain you by detailing a catalogue of the privations I endured, and which none but those who have felt and fathomed the depths of misery can imagine. Through your letter of recommendation, I was engaged to give private lessons to two pupils; but the salary was small, and that was only to be paid quarterly. While I was teaching them, I was starving, living on a penny a day. But this was not all. I was frequently without a lodging; and, being expelled from one for lack of the means of paying for it, it was many days before I could venture to inquire for another[Pg 12]. My lodging was on a common-stair, or on the bare sides of the Calton; and my clothes, from exposure to the weather, became unsightly. They were no longer fitting garments for one who gave lessons in a fashionable family. For several days I observed the eyes of the lady of the house where I taught fixed with a most supercilious and scrutinising expression upon my shabby and unfortunate coat. I saw and felt that she was weighing the shabbiness of my garments against my qualifications, and I trembled for the consequence. In a short time my worst fears were realised; for, one day, calling as usual, instead of being shown into a small parlour, where I gave my lessons, the man-servant, who opened the door, permitted me to stand in the lobby, and in two minutes returned with two guineas upon a small silver plate, intimating, as he held them before me, that 'the services of Mr Rutherford were no longer required.' The sight of the two guineas took away the bitterness and mortification of the abrupt dismissal. I pocketed them, and engaged a lodging; and never, until that night, did I know or feel the exquisite luxury of a deep, dreamless sleep. It was bathing in Lethe, and rising refreshed, having no consciousness, save the grateful feeling of the cooling waters of forgetfulness around me. Having some weeks ago translated an old deed, which was written in Latin, for a gentleman who is what is called an in-door advocate, and who has an extensive practice, he has been pleased to take me into his office, and has fixed on me a liberal salary. He advises me to push my way to the bar, and kindly promises his assistance. I shall follow his advice, and I despair not but I may one day solicit the hand of the only woman I ever have loved, or can love, from her father, as his equal. I am, sir, yours, indebtedly,

"Alex. Rutherford."

Now, sir (continued the dominie), about three years after I had received this letter, my old scholar was called to the bar, and a brilliant first appearance he made. Bench, bar, and jury were lost in wonder at the power o' his eloquence. A Demosthenes had risen up amongst them. The half o' Edinburgh spoke o' naething but the young advocate. But it was on the very day that he made his first appearance as a pleader, that I received a letter from Mr. Crompton, begging to know if I could gie him ony information respecting[Pg 13] the old tutor o' his family, and stating, in the language o' a broken-hearted man, that his only daughter was then upon her death-bed, and that, before she died, she begged she might be permitted to see and to speak with Alexander Rutherford. I enclosed the letter, and sent it off to the young advocate. He was sitting at a dinner-party, receiving the homage of beauty and the congratulations of learned men, when the fatal letter was put into his hands. He broke the seal—his hand shook as he read—his cheeks grew pale—and large drops of sweat burst upon his brow. He rose from the table. He scarce knew what he did. But within half-an-hour he was posting on his way to Cumberland. He reached the house, her parents received him with tears, and he was conducted into the room where the dying maiden lay. She knew his voice, as he approached.

"He is come!—he is come! He loves me still!" cried the poor thing, endeavouring to raise herself upon her elbow.

Sandy approached the bedside—he burst into tears—he bent down, and kissed her pale and wasted cheeks, over which death seemed already to have cast its shadow.

"Ann! my beloved Ann!" said he; and he took her hand in his, and pressed it to his lips; "do not leave me—we shall yet be happy!"

Her eyes brightened for a moment—in them joy struggled with death, and the contest was unequal. From the day that he had been sent from her father's house, she had withered away, as a tender flower that is transplanted to an unkindly soil. She desired that they would lift her up, and she placed her hand upon his shoulder, and, gazing anxiously in his face, said—

"And Alexander still loves me—even in death!"

"Yes, dearest—yes!" he replied. But she had scarce heard his answer, and returned it with a smile of happiness,[Pg 14] when her head sank upon his bosom, and a deep sigh escaped from hers. It was her last. Her soul seemed only to have lingered till her eyes might look on him. She was removed a corpse from his breast; but on that breast the weight of death was still left. He became melancholy—his ambition died—she seemed to have been the only object that stimulated him to pursue fame and to seek for fortune. In intense study he sought to forget his grief—or rather he made them companions—till his health broke under them; and in the thirtieth year of his age died one who possessed talents and learning that would have adorned his country, and rendered his name immortal. Such, sir, is the brief history o' yer auld class-fellow, Solitary Sandy.

In the history o'


(continued Mr Grierson), the only thing remarkable is, that he has been as fortunate a man as he was a thochtless laddie. After leaving the school, he flung his Greek and Latin aside, and that was easily done, for it was but little that he ever learned, and less that he remembered, for he paid so little attention to onything he did, that what he got by heart one day, he forgot the next. In spite o' the remonstrances o' his friends, naething would haud Willie but he would be a sailor. Weel, he was put on board o' an American trader, and for several years there was naething heard o' concerning him, but accidents that had happened him, and all through his glaikitness. Sometimes he was fa'ing owre a boat, and was mostly drowned; and at ither times, we heard o' him fa'ing headlong into the ship's hold; ance o' his tumbling overboard in the middle o' the great Atlantic; and at last, o' his fa'ing from the mast upon the deck, and having his legs broken. It was the luckiest thing that ever happened him. It brought him to think, and gied him leisure to do it; he was laid up for twelve weeks, and, during part[Pg 15] o' the time, he applied himself to navigation, in the elements o' which science I had instructed him. Soon after his recovery, he got the command o' a vessel, and was very fortunate, and, for several years, he has been sole owner of a number of vessels, and is reputed to be very rich. He also married weel, as the phrase runs, for the woman had a vast o' money, only she was—a mulatto. That, sir, is a' I ken concerning William Armstrong, or, as ye ca'ed him, Glaikit Willie; for he was a callant that was so thochtless when under my care, that he never interested me a great deal. And noo, sir, I shall gie ye a' the particulars I know concerning the fate o'


Ye will remember him best o' ony o' them, I reckon; for even when ye were baith bits o' callants, there was a sort o' rivalship between ye for the affections o' bonny Katie Alison, the loveliest lassie that ever I had at my school. I hae frequently observed the looks o' jealousy that used to pass between ye when she seemed to show mair kindness to ane than anither; and, when ye little thocht I saw ye, I hae noticed ane o' ye pushing oranges into her hand, and anither sweeties. When she got a bit comb, too, to fasten up her gowden hair, I weel divined whose pennies had purchased it—for they were yours, doctor. I remember, also, hoo ye was aye a greater favourite wi' her than Jamie, and hoo he challenged ye to fecht him for her affections, and o'ercam' ye in the battle, and sent ye to the school next day wi' yer face a' disfigured—and I, as in duty bound, gied each o' ye a heartier thrashin than ye had gien ane anither. Katie hung her head a' the time, and when she looked up, a tear was rowin in her bonny blue een. But ye left the school and the country-side when ye was little mair than seventeen; and the next thing that we heard o' ye was that ye had gane oot to India about three years afterwards. Yer[Pg 16] departure evidently removed a load from Jamie's breast. He followed Katie like her shadow, though with but little success, as far as I could perceive, and as it was generally given out.

But, ye must remember, in his case the name o' Venturesome Jamie was well applied. Never in my born days did I know such a callant. He would have climbed the highest trees as though he had been speeling owre a common yett, and swung himsel by the heels frae their topmost branches. Oh, he was a terrible laddie! When I hae seen ye a' bathing in the river, sometimes I used to tremble for him. He was a perfect amphibious animal. I have seen him dive from a height of twenty or thirty feet, and remain under the water till I almost lost my breath wi' anxiety for his uprising; and then he would have risen at as many yards distant from the place where he had dived. I recollect o' hearing o' his permitting himsel to be suspended owre a precipice aboon a hundred feet high, wi' a rope fastened round his oxters, and three laddies like himsel hauding on by the ither end o't—and this was dune merely to harry the nest o' a waterwagtail. Had the screams o' the callants, who found him owre heavy for them, and that they were unable to draw him up again, not brought some ploughmen to their assistance, he must have been precipitated into eternity. However, as I intended to say, it was shortly after the news arrived o' your having sailed for India, that a fire broke out in the dead o' nicht in a house occupied by Katie Alison's father. Never shall I forget the uproar and consternation o' that terrible nicht. There was not a countenance in the town but was pale wi' terror. The flames roared and raged from every window, and were visible through some parts in the roof. The great black clouds o' smoke seemed rushing from the crater of a volcano. The floors o' the second storey were falling, and crashing, and crackling, and great burning sparks, some o' them as big as a man's hand, were rising in[Pg 17] thousands and tens o' thousands from the flaming ruins, and were driven by the wind, like a shower o' fire, across the heavens. It was the most fearsome sight I had ever beheld. But this was not the worst o't; for, at a window in the third storey, which was the only one in the house from which the flames were not bursting, stood bonny Katie Alison, wringing her hands and screaming for assistance, while her gowden hair fell upon her shouthers, and her cries were heard aboon the raging o' the conflagration. I heard her cry distinctly, "My father!—my father!—will nobody save my father?" for he lay ill of a fever in the room where she was, and was unconscious of his situation. But there was none to render them assistance. At times, the flames and the smoke, issuing from the windows below, concealed her from the eyes of the multitude. Several had attempted her rescue, but all of them had been forced to retreat, and some of them scorched fearfully; for in many places the stairs had given way, and the flames were bursting on every side. They were attempting to throw up a rope to her assistance—for the flames issued so fiercely from the lower window, that, though a ladder had been raised, no man could have ascended it—when at that moment, my old scholar, James Johnstone (Venturesome Jamie, indeed!), arrived. He heard the cries o' Katie—he beheld her hands outstretched for help—"Let me past!—let me past!—ye cowards! ye cowards!" cried he, as he eagerly forced his way through the crowd. He rushed into the door, from which the dense smoke and the sparks were issuing as from a great furnace. There was a thrill o' horror through the crowd, for they kenned his character, and they kenned also his fondness for Katie—and no one expected to see him in life again. But, in less than ten seconds from his rushing in at the door, he was seen to spring forward to the window where Katie stood—he flung his arm round her waist, and, in an instant, both disappeared—but, within a quarter of a minute, he rushed[Pg 18] out at the street-door, through the black smoke and the thick sparks, wi' the bonny creature that he adored in his arms. O doctor, had ye heard the shout that burst frae the multitude!—there was not one amongst them at that moment that couldna have hugged Jamie to his heart. His hands were sore burned, and on several places his clothes were on fire. Katie was but little hurt; but, on finding herself on the street, she cast an anxious and despairing look towards the window from which she had been snatched, and again wringing her hands, exclaimed, in accents of bitterness that go through my heart to this day—

"My father! oh, my father! Is there no help for him?—shall my father perish?"

"The rope!—gie me the rope!" cried Jamie.

He snatched it from the hand of a bystander, and again rushed into the smoking ruins. The consternation of the crowd became greater, and their anxiety more intense than before. Full three minutes passed, and nothing was seen of him. The crowded street became as silent as death; even those who were running backward and forward, carrying water, for a time stood still. The suspense was agonising. At length he appeared at the window, with the sick man wrapped up in the bedclothes, and holding him to his side with his right arm around him. The hope and fear of the people became indescribable. Never did I witness such a scene—never may I witness such again! Having fastened one end of the rope to the bed, he flung the other from the window to the street; and, grasping it with his left hand, he drew himself out of the window, with Katie's father in his arm, and, crossing his feet around the rope, he slid down to the street, bearing his burden with him! Then, sir, the congratulations o' the multitude were unbounded. Every one was anxious to shake him by the hand; but what with the burning his right hand had sustained, and the worse than burning his left had suffered wi'[Pg 19] the sliding down a rope frae a third storey, wi' a man under his arm, I may say that my venturesome and gallant auld scholar hadna a hand to shake.

Ye canna be surprised to hear—and, at the time o' life ye've arrived at, ye'll be no longer jealous; besides, during dinner, I think ye spoke o' having a wife and family—I say, therefore, doctor, that ye'll neither be jealous nor surprised to hear, that from that day Katie's dryness to Jamie melted down. Moreover, as ye had gane out to India, where ye would be mair likely to look after siller than think o' a wife, and as I understand ye had dropped correspondence for some length o' time, ye couldna think yoursel in ony way slighted. Now, folk say that "nineteen nay-says are half a yes." For my part (and my age is approaching the heels o' the patriarchs), I never put it in the power o' woman born to say No to me. But, as I have heard and believe, Katie had said No to Jamie before the fire, not only nineteen times, but thirty-eight times twice told, and he found seventy-six (which is about my age) nae nearer a yea than the first nay. And folk said it was a' on account o' a foolish passion for the doctor laddie that had gane abroad. But Katie was a kind, gratefu lassie. She couldna look wi' cauldness upon the man that had not only saved her life, but her father's also; and I ought to have informed you that, within two minutes from the time of her father's being snatched from the room where he lay, the floor fell in, and the flames burst from the window where Katie had been standing a few minutes before.

Her father recovered from the fever, but he died within six months after the fire, and left her a portionless orphan, or what was next door to it. Jamie urged her to make him happy, and at last she consented, and they were married. But ye remember that his parents were in affluent circumstances; they thought he had demeaned himself by his marriage, and they shut their door upon him, and disowned[Pg 20] him athegither. As he was his father's heir, he was brought up to no calling or business whatsoever; and, when the auld man not only vowed to cut him off wi' a shilling, on account of his marriage, but absolutely got his will altered accordingly, what did the silly lad do, but, in desperation, list into a regiment that was gaun abroad. "The laddie has done it in a fit o' passion," said I, "and what will become o' poor Katie?" Weel, although it was said that the lassie never had ony particular affection for him, but just married him out o' gratitude, and although several genteel families in the neighbourhood offered her respectable and comfortable situations (for she was universally liked), yet the strange creature preferred to follow the hard fortunes o' Jamie, who had been disowned on her account, and she implored the officers of the regiment to be allowed to accompany him. It is possible that they were interested with her appearance, and what they had heard of his connection, and the manner in which he had been treated, for they granted her request; and about a month after he enlisted, the regiment marched from Carlisle, and Katie accompanied her husband. They went abroad somewhere—to the East or West Indies, I believe; but from that day to this I have never heard a word concerning either the one or the other, or whether they be living or not. All I know is, that the auld man died within two years after his son had become a soldier, and, keeping his resentment to his last breath, actually left his property to a brother's son. And that, sir, is all that I know of Venturesome Jamie and your old sweetheart, Katie.

The doctor looked thoughtful, exceedingly thoughtful; and the old dominie, acquiring additional loquacity as he went on, poured out another glass, and added—

"But come, doctor, we will drink a bumper, 'for auld langsyne,' to the lassie wi' the gowden locks, be she dead or living.[Pg 21]"

"With my whole heart and soul," replied the doctor, impassionedly; and, pouring out a glass, he drained it to the dregs.

"The auld feeling is not quenched yet, doctor," said the venerable teacher, "and I am sorry for it; for, had I known, I would have spoken more guardedly. But I will proceed to gie ye an account o' the rest o' your class-fellows, and I will do it briefly. There was Walter Fairbairn, who went amongst ye by the name o'


He was the queerest laddie that ever I had at my school. He had neither talent nor cleverness; but he made up for both, and, I may say, more than made up for both, by method and application. Ye would have said that nature had been in a miserly humour when it made his brains; but, if it had been niggardly in the quantity, it certainly had spared no pains in placing them properly. He was the very reverse o' Solitary Sandy. I never could get Watty to scan a line or construe a sentence richt in my days. He did not seem to understand the nature o' words, or, at least, in so far as applied to sentiment, idea, or fine writing. Figures were Watty's alphabet; and, from his earliest years, pounds, shillings, and pence were the syllables by which he joined them together. The abstruser points of mathematics were beyond his intellect; but he seemed to have a liking for the certainty of the science, and he manifested a wish to master it. My housekeeper that then was has informed me that, when a' the rest o' ye wad hae been selling your copies as waste-paper, for taffy, or what some ca' treacle-candy, Watty would only part wi' his to the paper purchaser for money down; and when ony o' ye took a greenin for the sweet things o' the shopkeeper, without a halfpenny to purchase one, Watty would volun[Pg 22]teer to lend ye the money until a certain day, upon condition that ye would then pay him a penny for the loan o' his halfpenny. But he exhibited a grand trait o' this disposition when he cam to learn the rule o' Compound Interest. Indeed, I need not say he learned, it, for he literally devoured it. He wrought every question in Dilworth's Rule within two days; and, when he had finished it (for he seldom had his slate away from my face, and I was half tired wi' saying to him, "That will do, sir"), he came up to my desk, and, says he, wi' a face as earnest as a judge—

"May I go through this rule again, sir?"

"I think ye understand it, Watty," said I, rather significantly.

"But I would like to be perfect in it, sir," answered he.

"Then go through it again, Watty," said I, "and I have nae doubt but ye will be perfect in it very quickly."

I said this wi' a degree o' irony which I was not then, and which I am not now, in the habit of exhibiting before my scholars; but, from what I had observed and heard o' him, it betrayed to me a trait in human nature that literally disgusted me. But I have no pleasure in dwelling upon his history. Shortly after leaving the school, he was sent up to London to an uncle; and, as his parents had the means o' setting him up in the world, he was there to make choice o' a profession. After looking about the great city for a time, it was the choice and pleasure o' Cautious Watty to be bound as an apprentice to a pawnbroker. He afterwards commenced business for himself, and every day in his life indulging in his favourite study, compound interest, and, as far as he durst, putting it in practice, he in a short time became rich. But, as his substance increased, he did not confine himself to portable articles, or such things as are usually taken in pledge by the members of his profession; but he took estates in pledge, receiving the title-deeds as his security; and in such cases he did exact his compound interest to[Pg 23] the last farthing to which he could stretch it. He neither knew the meaning of generosity nor mercy. Shakspere's beautiful apostrophe to the latter god-like attribute in the "Merchant of Venice," would have been flat nonsense in the estimation of Watty. He had but one answer to every argument and to every case, and which he laid to his conscience in all his transactions (if he had a conscience), and that was—"A bargain's a bargain!" This was his ten times repeated phrase every day. It was the doctrine by which he swore; and Shylock would have died wi' envy to have seen Watty exacting his "pound o' flesh." I have only to tell ye that he has been twice married. The first time was to a widow four years older than his mother, wi' whom he got ten thousand. The second time was to a maiden lady, who had been a coquette and a flirt in her day, but who, when the deep crow-feet upon her brow began to reflect sermons from her looking-glass, became a patroniser of piety and religious institutions. Watty heard o' her fortune, and o' her disposition and habits. He turned an Episcopalian, because she was one. He became a sitter and a regular attender in the same pew in the church. He began his courtship by opening the pew-door to her when he saw her coming, before the sexton reached it. He next sought her out the services for the day in the prayer-book—he had it always open, and ready to put in her hand. He dusted the cushion on which she was to sit with his handkerchief, as she entered the pew. He, in short, showed her a hundred little pious attentions. The sensibility of the converted flirt was affected by them. At length he offered her his arm from the pew to the hackney-coach or sedan-chair which waited for her at the church-door; and, eventually, he led her to the altar in the seventy-third year of her age; when, to use his own words, he married her thirty thousand pounds, and took the old woman before the minister as a witness. Such, sir, is all I know concerning Cautious Watty.[Pg 24]

The next o' your auld class-mates that I have to notice (continued Mr. Grierson) is


Peter Murray was the cause o' mair grief to me than ony scholar that ever was at my school. He could not tell a story the same way in which he heard it, or give you a direct answer to a positive question, had it been to save his life. I sometimes was at a loss whether to attribute his grievous propensity to a defect o' memory, a preponderance o' imagination over baith memory and judgment, or to the natural depravity o' his heart, and the force o' abominable habits early acquired. Certain it is, that, all the thrashing that I could thrash, I couldna get the laddie to speak the truth. His parents were perpetually coming to me to lick him soundly for this lie and the other lie; and I did lick him, until I saw that bodily punishment was of no effect. Moral means were to be tried, and I did try them. I tried to shame him out o't. I reasoned wi' him. I showed him the folly and the enormity o' his offence, and also pointed out its consequences—but I might as weel hae spoken to the stane in the wa'. He was Leein Peter still. After he left me, he was a while wi' a grocer, and a while wi' a haberdasher, and then he went to a painter, and after that he was admitted into a writer's office; but one after another, they had to turn him away, and a' on account o' his unconquerable habit o' uttering falsehoods. His character became so well known, that nobody about the place would take him to be anything. He was a sad heartbreak to his parents, and they were as decent people as ye could meet wi'. But, as they had respectable connections, they got him into some situation about Edinburgh, where his character and his failings were unknown. But it was altogether useless. He was turned out of one situation after another, and a' on account[Pg 25] o' his incurable and dangerous habit, until his friends could do no more for him. Noo, doctor, I daresay ye may have observed, that a confirmed drunkard, rather than want drink, will steal to procure it—and, as sure as that is the case, tak my word for it, that, in nine cases out o' ten, he who begins by being a habitual liar, will end in being a thief. Such was the case wi' Leein Peter. After being disgraced and turned from one situation after anither, he at last was caught in the act of purloining his master's property, and cast into prison. He broke his mother's heart, and covered his father's grey hairs wi' shame; and he sank from one state o' degradation to another, till now, I believe, he is ane o' those prowlers and pests o' society who are to be found in every large town, and who live naebody can tell how, but every one can tell that it cannot be honestly. Such, sir, has been the fate o' Leein Peter.

There is only another o' your book-mates that I have to make mention o', and that is John Mathewson or


Many a score o' times hae I said that Jock's head was as impervious to learning as a nether-millstane. It would hae been as easy to hae driven mensuration into the head o' an ox, as instruction into the brain o' Jock Mathewson. He was born a dunce. I fleeched him, and I coaxed him, and I endeavoured to divert him, to get him to learn, and I kicked him, and I cuffed him; but I might as weel hae kicked my heel upon the floor, or fleeched the fireplace. Jock was knowledge-proof. All my efforts were o' no avail. I could get him to learn nothing, and to comprehend nothing. Often I had half made up my mind to turn him awa from the school, for I saw that I never would have any credit by the blockhead. But what was most annoying was, that here was his mother at me, every hand-awhile, saying[Pg 26]

"Mr Grierson, I'm really surprised at ye. My son John is not coming on ava. I really wush ye wad tak mair pains wi' him. It is an unco thing to be paying you guid money, and the laddie to be getting nae guid for it. I wad hae ye to understand that his faither doesna make his money sae easily—no by sitting on a seat, or walking up and down a room—as ye do. There's such-a-ane's son awa into the Latin, nae less, I understand, and my John no out o' the Testament. But, depend upon it, Mr Grierson, if ye dinna try to do something wi' him, I maun tak him awa frae your school, and that is the short and the lang o't."

"Do sae, ma'am," said I, "and I'll thank ye. Mercy me! it's a bonny thing, indeed—do ye suppose that I had the makin o' your son? If Nature has formed his head out o' a whinstane, can I transform it into marble? Your son would try the patience o' Job—his head is thicker than a door-post. I can mak naething o' him. I would sooner teach a hundred than be troubled wi' him."

"Hundred here, hundred there!" said she, in a tift; "but it's a hard matter, Mr Grierson, for his faither and me to be payin ye money for naething; and if ye dinna try to mak something o' him, I'll tak him frae your school, and that will be baith seen and heard tell o'!"

So saying, away she would drive, tossing her head wi' the airs o' my lady. Ye canna conceive, sir, what a teacher has to put up wi'. Thomson says—

"Delightful task,
To teach the young idea how to shoot!"

I wish to goodness he had tried it, and a month's specimen o' its delights would have surfeited him, and instead o' what he has written, he would have said—

"Degrading thought,
To be each snivelling blockhead's parent's slave!"

Now, ye'll remember that Jock was perpetually sniftering and gaping wi' his mouth, or even sucking his thumb like[Pg 27] an idiot. There was nae keeping the animal cleanly, much less instructing him; and then, if he had the book in his hand, there he sat staring owre it, wi' a look as vacant and stupid as a tortoise. Or, if he had the slate before him, there was he drawing scores on't, or amusing himsel wi' twirling and twisting the pencil in the string through the frame. Never had I such a lump o' stupidity within the walls o' my school.

After his leaving me, he was put as an apprentice to a bookseller. I thought, of all the callings under the sun, that which had been chosen for him was the least suited to a person o' his capacity. But—would ye believe it, sir?—Jock surprised us a'. He fairly turned the corner on a' my calculations. When he began to look after the lassies, he also began to "smart up." He came to my night-school when he would be about eighteen, and I was perfectly astonished at the change that had taken place, even in the appearance o' the callant. His very nose, which had always been so stuffed and thick like, was now an ornament to his face. He had become altogether a lively, fine-looking lad; and, more marvellous still, his whole heart's desire seemed to be to learn; and he did learn with a rapidity that both astonished and delighted me. I actually thought the instructions which I had endeavoured to instil into him for years, and apparently without effect, had been lying dormant, as it were, in the chambers o' his brain, like a cuckoo in winter—that they had been sealed up as fast as I imparted them, by some cause that I did not comprehend, and that now they had got vent, and were issuing out in rapid and vigorous strength, like a person refreshed after a sleep.

After he had been two years at the night-school, so far from considering him a dunce, I regarded him as an amazingly clever lad. From the instance I had had in him, I began to perceive that precocity o' intellect was nae proof o' its power. Well, shortly after the time I am speaking o', he left Annan for Glasgow, and after being a year or twa there,[Pg 28] he commenced business upon his own account. I may safely say, that never man was more fortunate. But, as his means increased, he did not confine himself to the business in which he had been brought up, but he became an extensive shipowner; he also became a partner in a cotton-mill concern. He was elected a member of the town council, and was distinguished as a leading member and orator of the guild. Eventually, he rose to be one of the city magistrates. He is now also an extensive landed proprietor; and I even hear it affirmed, that it is in contemplation to put him in nomination for some place or other at the next election. Such things happen, doctor—and wha would hae thocht it o' Jack the dunse?

Now, sir (added the dominie), so far as I have been able, I have given you the history o' your schoolfellows. Concerning you, doctor, I have known less and heard less than o' ony o' them. You being so far awa, and so long awa, and your immediate relations about here being dead, so that ye have dropped correspondence, I have heard nothing concerning ye; and I have often been sorry on that account; for, believe me, doctor (here the doctor pushed the bottle to him, and the old man, helping himself to another glass, and drinking it, again continued)—I say, believe me, doctor, that I never had twa scholars under my care, o' whose talents I had greater opinion than o' Solitary Sandy and yoursel; and it has often vexed me that I could hear naething concerning ye, or whether ye were dead or living. Now, sir, if ye'll favour me wi' an account o' your history, from the time o' your going out to India, your auld dominie will be obliged to ye; for I like to hear concerning ye a', as though ye had been my ain bairns.

"There is little of interest in my history, sir," said the doctor; "but, as far as there is any, your wish shall be gratified." And he proceeded as is hereafter written.[Pg 29]


"In your history, sir, of Venturesome Jamie, which you are unable to finish, you mentioned the rivalry that existed between him and me, for the affections o' bonny Katie Alison. James was a noble fellow. I am not ashamed that I had such a rival. In our youth I esteemed him while I hated him. But, sir, I do not remember the time when Katie Alison was not as a dream in my heart—when I did not tremble at her touch. Even when we pulled the gowans and cowslips together, though there had been twenty present, it was for Katie that I pulled mine. When we plaited the rushes, I did it for her. She preferred me to Jamie, and I knew it. When I left your school, and when I proceeded to India, I did not forget her. But, as you said, men go there to make money—so did I. My friends laughed at my boyish fancy—they endeavoured to make me ashamed of it. I became smitten with the eastern disease of fortune-making, and, though I did not forget her, I neglected her.

But, sir, to drop this: I was not twenty-one when I arrived in Bombay; nor had I been long there till I was appointed physician to several Parsee families of great wealth. With but little effort, fortune opened before me. I performed a few surgical operations of considerable difficulty, with success. In several desperate cases I effected cures, and my name was spread not only through the city, but throughout the island. The riches I went to seek I found. But even then, sir, my heart would turn to your school, and to the happy hours I had spent by the side of bonny Katie Alison.

However, it would be of no interest to enter into the details of my monotonous life. I shall dwell only upon one incident, which is, of all others, the most remarkable that ever occurred to me, and which took place about six years after my arrival in India. I was in my carriage, and accompanying[Pg 30] the remains of a patient to the burial ground—for you know that doctors cannot cure, when death is determined to have its way. The burial ground lies about three miles from Bombay, across an extensive and beautiful plain, and the road to it is by a sort of avenue, lined and shaded on each side by cocoa-nut-trees, which spread their branches over the path, and distil their cooling juice into the cups which the Hindoos have placed around them to receive it. You can form but a faint conception of the clear azure of an Indian sky, and never had I seen it more beautiful than on the day to which I refer, though some of the weather-prophets about Bombay were predicting a storm.

We were about the middle of the avenue I have described, when we overtook the funeral of an officer who had held a commission in a corps of Sepoys. The coffin was carried upon the shoulders of four soldiers; before it marched the Sepoys, and behind it, seated in a palanquin, borne by four Hindoos, came the widow of the deceased. A large black veil thrown over her head, almost enveloped her person. Her head was bent upon her bosom, and she seemed to weep bitterly. We followed behind them to the burial-place; but, before the service was half concluded, the heavens overcast, and a storm, such as I had never witnessed, burst over our heads, and hurled its fury upon the graves. The rain poured down in a fierce and impetuous torrent—but you know not, in this country, what a torrent of rain is. The thunder seemed tearing heaven in twain. It rolled, reverbed, and pealed, and rattled with its tremendous voice over the graves of the dead, as though it were the outbursting of eternity—the first blast of the archangel's trumpet announcing the coming judgment! The incessant lightnings flashed through the air, like spirits winged with flame, and awakening the dead.

The Sepoys fled in terror, and hastened to the city, to escape the terrible fury of the storm. Even those who had accompanied my friend's body fled with them, before the earth[Pg 31] was covered over the dead that they had followed to the grave. But still, by the side of the officer's grave, and unmindful of the storm, stood his poor widow. She refused to leave the spot till the last sod was placed upon her husband's bosom. My heart bled for her. Within three yards from her stood a veteran English serjeant, who, with the Hindoos that bore her palanquin, were all that remained in the burial-place.

Common humanity prompted me to offer her a place in my carriage back to the city. I inquired of the serjeant who the deceased was. He informed me that he was a young Scotch officer—that his marriage had offended his friends—that they had denounced him in consequence—that he had enlisted—and that the officers of the regiment which he had first joined, had procured him an ensigncy in a corps of Sepoys, but that he had died, leaving the young widow who wept over his grave, a stranger in a strange land. And, added the serjeant, "a braver fellow never set foot upon the ground."

When the last sod had been placed upon the grave, I approached the young widow. I respectfully offered to convey her and the serjeant to the city in my carriage, as the violence of the storm increased.

At my voice she started—she uttered a suppressed scream—she raised her head—she withdrew her handkerchief from her eyes!—I beheld her features!—and, gracious Heaven!—whom, sir!—whom—whom did I see, but my own Katie Alison!

"Doctor!—doctor!" exclaimed the old dominie, starting from his seat, "what do I hear?"

"I cannot describe to you," continued the other, "the tumultuous joy, combined with agony, the indescribable feelings of that moment. We stood—we gasped—we gazed upon each other; neither of us spoke. I took her hand—I led her to the carriage—I conveyed her to the city."[Pg 32]

"And, oh doctor, what then?" inquired the dominie.

"Why, sir," said the doctor, "many days passed—many words were spoken—mutual tears were shed for Jamie Johnstone—and bonny Katie Alison, the lassie of my first love, became my wife, and is the mother of my children. She will be here in a few days, and will see her old dominie."

[Pg 33]


In the absence of that finely-adjusted balance of power which ought to be found in the state of marriage, it becomes a nice question, whether less evil results from an overstretched domination on the part of the husband, or from his due submission or subjugation to an authority exercised by her, and carried farther than is generally deemed consistent with the delicacy of her sex, or the situation in which she is placed. Connected with this question is that which comprises the comparative evil arising from a superabundance or deficiency of the intellectual powers of the wife. We are too well aware of the uselessness, as well as the impracticability, of solving such speculative questions, to say a single word on either side of the vexed argument to which they have given rise; but we will be within our province, and probably not beyond the wishes of our readers, if we lay before them a case of real life, involving a solution of the question in one exemplary instance, where the "grey mare" is not only found to be the "better horse," but where, by her powers of judicious leading, she saves not only herself but her partner from the dangers of a rough road and a precipitous course. In those good days of old Scotland, when the corporation hall formed the theatre wherein was enacted the great play (comedy, if you please) of "Burgh Ambition," the influence of petticoat power extended its secret workings behind the green curtain, and often regulated all the actions of the performers in a manner[Pg 34] which was not only totally concealed from the spectators, but even from the moving puppets themselves. In one instance—that to which we have referred—this secret authority transpired, and in a manner so ludicrous that it deserves to be recorded. The incorporation of Dyers and Scourers of P—— (at the time of which we speak a considerable fraternity) had a deacon and boxmaster; the former named Murdoch Waldie, and the latter Andrew Todd. Their names still figure in the old books of the corporation, if these are not gone astray; and there is, or was, an entry in these same books, connected with the reign of the two worthies, which, illustrative and probative as it is of our story, we shall have occasion to lay before our readers. Well, to proceed in historical order, the worthy boxmaster had been married for a number of years. He might be about fifty years of age, was of small stature, very bland and affable in his manners, of an easy disposition, but, withal, as ambitious of fame as any of the aspirants for office in his corporation. Endowed by nature with very inadequate powers of judgment, he experienced no want of the powers of speech, which was as fluent as a shallow mind could make it; and he had, besides, a species of humour about him, which owed its existence rather to the simplicity and bonhommie of his nature, than to the more ordinary source of a perception of the ludicrous. As almost every want is remedied by some equipollent surrogation which strangely often supplies its place, Andrew Todd was sensible of his want of mental powers; and thus he exhibited that sense of a want of sense, which is often more valuable than sense itself, in so far as the modesty with which it is accompanied leads the individual to seek the assistance of good advisers, by which he sometimes surpasses, in the race of life, conceited wiseacres. We do not say that he married Mrs Jean Todd merely because he saw she was endowed with greater powers than himself; but it is certain that,[Pg 35] after he came to appreciate the extent of her understanding, he had the prudence to take every advantage of her excellent sense and judgment, as well in the private affairs of his business, as in the public concerns of the corporation treasurership, with which he came, by her means, to be invested. This was not only advantageous to his pecuniary interests, but congenial to his feelings, as, getting quit, in this way, of the trouble of thinking—a most laborious operation to him, and generally very ill executed, if not altogether bungled—he was left at liberty to indulge his speech and humour; two powers which had nothing more to do with judgment or even common sense, than with the sublimated spirit of genius itself.

His wife, Mrs Jean, was, as partly hinted, the very opposite of her husband. She was a large, stout, gaucy woman, at least twice as big as her mate. She had been, early in life, considerably pitted with the small-pox, enough of the traces of which were still left to give her that sturdy, hardy aspect they generally impart; while a strong and somewhat rough voice, agreeing well with her other attributes, gave her ideas and sentiments an apparent breadth and weight, which, added to their own sterling qualities, could not fail to produce a considerable effect even on men of strong minds, and to give her a decided advantage over her sex. Her original powers of mind were strengthened by reading—an occupation in which, as it required silence, her husband very seldom engaged; and, what few women are able to accomplish, she never allowed this favourite habit to interfere with the regulation of her domestic economy, or of the actions of her husband. Bold and masculine, however, as she was, she was a kind-hearted woman; and, having no family to her husband, she was a warm friend, a ready adviser to all her female acquaintances, and a charitable giver to those who, after a strict and very stern investigation, she thought worthy of her assistance.[Pg 36]

The deacon of the incorporation again, Murdoch Waldie, was a man of a very different cast from the boxmaster. He was a person of considerable parts; but his conceit, which led him to conceive himself cleverer than nature had made him, produced often all the consequences which result from a deficiency of mental parts. Proud and domineering, he loved to rule his corporation with dignity and authority; while his love of official show and domestic parade rendered him extravagant, and made him poor, notwithstanding of a good trade, which he carried on with great success. In his choice of a wife, there might have been perceived the tendency of his peculiar disposition; for he married a beauty, who qualified his love of authority by an affected softness, gentleness, and meekness, and his self-conceit, by showing herself inferior to him in understanding, as indeed she was, though she excelled him in another quality, which more than supplied its place. What with his business, his deaconship, his chain, his gold-headed cane, and his fair wife, dressed in the gaudy colours of his own dyeing, Deacon Waldie was an important personage in those times, when to be high in a corporation was to be in the enjoyment of the truest elevation to which human nature, in this world, could aspire.

Vain, showy, gaudy, and frivolous, Mrs Deacon Waldie held the same position to Mrs Todd that the boxmaster did to her husband. She had no sense or power to rule her lord, who, indeed, would not have submitted to female authority; but she had what Mrs Todd wanted, and what served her purpose equally well, and that was cunning—the signal quality of small, weak minds, and the very curse of the whole race of man and woman. This insidious power enabled her to detect her husband's failings, as well as to profit by them—and hence her affectation of total subjugation to his high will and authority, and her tame system of according and assenting to everything he said or did, whether right or wrong. But in all this her selfish cunning had a[Pg 37] part; because, while she pretended to love him, and dote on him and prize him beyond all mortals, her adulation, her blandishments, and submission were accompanied or followed always by petitions. She contrived to have hardihood enough to make the most unreasonable requests, and to show that she was too sensitive, too fragile, and too weak, to bear a refusal. If her suit was rejected, she flung herself upon the haughty deacon's bosom, and sobbed; and what deacon could withstand the appeal of beauty in tears? The sight was the very personification of the triumph of his pride and dignity. The chain of his official authority, and the arms of a praying, supplicating, weeping wife, hanging at the same time around his proud neck, were the very counterparts of each other. His love of subjugation bent, as it often does, his own head; and cunning enjoyed its greatest triumph in overcoming one, by turning his own weapons against himself.

The contrast which we have thus exhibited between these two couples, is that of real everyday life. The characters of too many married parties partake, more or less, of the qualities possessed by those we have now mentioned; but how strangely do apparent contrasts often meet in grotesque resemblances? Mrs Todd ruled her husband, and he knew it; but Mrs Waldie ruled her husband, and he was ignorant of it: while the one followed her occupation for her own and her husband's good, the other was bent (unconsciously, it may be) on her own and her husband's ruin.

These two couples were on the most intimate terms—the circumstance of the two husbands being office-bearers of the same corporation having increased an intimacy which had been of considerable duration. But there was little respect felt for her showy friends on the part of the wife of the minor official, who probably saw that their extravagance was fast driving them to ruin. This foresight was soon verified. The demands of Mrs Deacon Waldie were not limited[Pg 38] to her own wants and wishes—they were extended to those of her friends. Her father, trusting to the reputation of her husband's deaconship, had occasion for his security to the extent of £200; and she was fixed upon as the instrument to wring, by her usual artifice, out of her proud lord and master, not only his own name to the bond, but also that of some of his friends, to be procured through his means and intercession. She had, for a considerable time, been occupied zealously in endeavouring to accomplish her object—bringing into contrast her husband's proud domination, and her innocent and interesting weakness and timidity, and showing, as she hung round his neck, her helplessness and insignificance, at the very moment when she was exercising more power than ever was arrogated by the boxmaster's wife in all her female tyranny. She succeeded in her scheme, and Waldie consented—but only as a king grants the prayer of a petition—not only to give his own name to the bill, but to endeavour to get that of Mr Andrew Todd. Tears of thankfulness, and a full acknowledgment of his great power over her, was the reward offered and granted for this great condescension and unparalleled favour. But it was more easy for Mrs Waldie to ask, and give thanks and tears, and for her husband to vouchsafe his own name as cautioner, than for him to get out of the clutches of Mrs Jean Todd the consent of her husband. The deacon knew how his brother-official was ruled by his wife, and lustily despised the white-livered caitiff for his pusillanimity.

"I canna promise, Mrs Deacon Waldie," said he to his wife, according to the fashion of address that suited his dignity—"I canna promise to get the boxmaster to gie his name to yer faither's bond. He's sae completely, puir cratur! under the power and direction o' a woman, that he daurna tak sae muckle liberty wi' his ain. The woman brocht him naething when he married her, but the iron rod[Pg 39] o' authority by which she rules him; and yet, strange to say, he seems to like her the better for a' the stern dominion she exercises owre him."

"That's a fault, I'm sure, ye canna charge me wi'," replied his wife.

"No, Margaret," said the deacon; "you dare not presume to dictate to me; and, to do you justice, you never attempted it; but I began ye fair. I showed you at first the proper conduct o' a husband towards his wife—firm but kind; and the duty o' a wife towards a husband—obedient and loving; and it was weel that you had the sense to understand me, and the good-nature to comply wi' my wishes; for, if I had seen the least glimpse o' an inclination to rule me or force me into yer measures, there wad sune hae been rebellion in the house o' Deacon Waldie. The consequences o' a wife's domination are weel exemplified in the case o' that contemptible man whase assistance we now require. He daurna assist a freend. His wife is cash-keeper, conscience-keeper, housekeeper, and, by and by, she may be box-keeper, to the entire disgrace o' oor trade, wha, though they live by women (for men never employ dyers), wouldna relish to acknowledge the authority o' a female boxmaster. When a man resigns himsel to the authority o' a wife, he is dune for a' guid to himsel as weel as his neebors."

"Ye canna, my dear Murdoch," said the soft wife, "look upon a tame husband, wha submits to the rule o' a wife, wi' mair contemp and ill favour than I do upon the virago wha presumes to reverse the order o' nature, and wrest the authority frae the lord o' the creation."

"You gie a fine turn to the sentiment, Margaret," replied the gratified deacon. "I am anxious (but it is my ain free will) to do yer faither this service; and I will try, for ance, if I canna fecht Mrs Jean Todd wi' her ain weapons. The boxmaster's no dead to shame; and surety, if there's ony power on earth whereby the blush can be brought to the[Pg 40] face o' man, it's the power o' being in a condition to tell him to that very face he is henpecked. The very word has a spur and a neb in't to rouse him to the vindication o' the rights o' man. I was aye afraid o't; and, God be thanked! I hae escaped even the very chance o' its application to me."

"You forgot, my love, that you hae also me to thank for that happiness," said the wife.

"No, it is mysel, it is mysel," cried the proud lord of his own household. "It lies in my native sense o' the rights o' our superior sex, and my firmness o' purpose in keepin the reins ticht upon ye. You hae only the merit o' no rebellin; but even your rebellion I would hae sune laid."

"I fancy, then," said Mrs Waldie, gently, "it will be your intention and pleasure to see the boxmaster immediately."

"No, Mrs Waldie," replied the deacon, a little touched; "not immediately, but by and by."

The deacon, however, did almost immediately wait upon the boxmaster, and got him to adjourn to a tavern in the Lawnmarket, at that time much frequented by the members of the incorporation. They had scarcely seated themselves when the superior official opened his subject.

"I am a frank man, Mr Todd," began he, "and I winna hesitate to tell ye at ance that I want a favour frae ye. Will ye join me in security for my father-in-law to the extent o' twa hunder pounds?"

The boxmaster paused, and thought of the stern chamberlain at home. He was inclined to assist his deacon, who was a person of great importance in his eyes, but he saw the danger which might result from his going out of his province, and acting upon what he conceived to be right. His pause was at once understood by the deacon, whose keenness to make a dash at the supposed obstacle to his suit arose from his contempt of his friend's pusillani[Pg 41]mous conduct, and his desire to attain the object of his request.

"I can read your thoughts, Mr Todd," said he, as the boxmaster still paused, and seemed irresolute and confused. "You wish to serve, but you daurna. Mrs Todd winna let ye follow the counsel o' yer ain heart. This is a delicate subject; but I am your freend, and would wish to redeem ye frae the slavery o' a woman's (and otherwise, I grant, a guid and sensible woman's) domination in matters wherein she has nae legitimate authority."

He waited the effect of this speech, which was a kind of touchstone.

"I see nae delicacy in a subject," replied the boxmaster, "whar there's nae secresy. How does it come to be known that my wife is my counsellor and adviser?—Because I mak nae secret o' what I hae nae reason to be ashamed o'. I dinna ken how you feel, Mr Waldie, but I think it's the pleasantest thing on earth to be, as it were, compelled to alloo yersel to be taen care o', and defended, and nursed, and petted, and ruled, by a guid wife. In my opinion, to be loved by a wife is only the half o' oor right. Ony woman may love a man—it's a woman's trade to love; but when you see a dear cratur takin the pains and trouble o' governin a' yer actions—ay, and as it were, even yer very thoughts—lookin wi' a keen and carefu ee after yer maist minute affairs, regulatin yer conduct, keepin yer siller, directin yer financial, domestic, personal, private, and public operations; and, in short, thinkin for ye—how is it possible for a man to see sae muckle care taen wi' him and his concerns, without bein filled wi' gratitude and affection to her wha labours sae officiously for his guid?"

"Mr Andrew Todd," said the deacon, impatiently, "you are describin ane o' the maist pitifu and contemptible spirits that ever warmed the scaly body o' a reptile that has nae sting. What man wi' a spark o' independence in his breast[Pg 42] would think o' resignin his judgment into the hands o' a woman? They are guid craturs in their ain place, and baith interestin and usefu when they are occupied in conductin the affairs o' their houses, obeyin the commands o' their husbands, and ministerin to his slichtest wishes, as if every look were an act of parliament; but, to stoop to mak a woman a counsellor, to gie her a vote in the great council o' the noble thoughts o' man's divine mind! Unheard o' humiliation! Why, man, a woman is only the twenty-fourth part o' a man, seein we hae, as the doctors say, twenty-four ribs; and we hae the authority o' Scripture for sayin that, at the very best, she is only a help to man. She was, besides, the beginnin o' a' evil. And yet this fractional thing, this help, this unlucky author o' the waes o' mortals, ye dignify and raise up into the very place and power o' yer inheritance frae Adam; reversin the order o' nature, degradin our noble sex and makin laughinstocks o' a' married men."

"I'm no sure if there's muckle practical truth in a' this, deacon," said Andrew, smiling good-naturedly. "Suppose, for an instant, that, besides the satisfaction and pleasure I derive frae nestlin safely in the arms o' my wife's judgment, and courin aneath her protectin wing—whilk gies me, sometimes, a flap I like as weel as her kindest embrace—I hae discovered that her thoughts and reflections are a thousand times better than the boxmaster's—what say ye to that, deacon? I hae seen an oaken tree twenty-four times bigger than its parent, and yet a' it ever had to thank the auld stock for was an acorn. Sae, in place o' only bein a twenty-fourth part, as you say, o' man, I am satisfied I hae scarcely a twenty-fourth part o' my wife's mind; and will onybody tell me that a wise counsellor should be rejected, because she happens to be dressed in petticoats?"

"Yes, Mr Todd, I will tell you that," replied the deacon. "The private sodger has dootless often a mind superior to the general's; but he maun still keep the ranks. Mind is[Pg 43] naething in this affair—station is everything. Look at Mrs Margaret Waldie—a cleverer cratur doesna exist—that is, in her ain way; but did she ever dare to counsel me? Did she ever presume to sway or alter, in the slightest degree, the decrees o' my judgment? Na; she has owre muckle respect for the status and respectability o' her lord and maister. Rouse yersel, Andrew; tak example by me, man; act as your kind heart prompts in this freendly affair; and join me in the bond, whereby you'll incur nae danger."

"I am anxious to oblige ye, deacon," said Andrew; "but I scarcely think it wad be a gratefu part in me to repay a' Mrs Jean Todd's care o' me for twenty years, by actin, in this affair, upon my ain individual and responsible judgment. I micht anger her, and she micht withdraw frae me her countenance and protection: I micht as weel lose the licht o' the sun. Ye dinna understand me, deacon; ye are made to command—I to obey. Pressure brings out the power o' the spring; and a' my happiness in life is produced and brocht out by the weight o' the judgment and authority o' Mrs Jean Todd. Her very mind seems to hae passed into mine; and I feel, when I'm thinking her thoughts, a satisfaction I never feel when my ain are passin, like unbidden ghaists, through my mind. But surely I hae some excuse: is she no a noble cratur? How she maks a body shake wi' the sound o' her voice, and the solidity o' her thoughts! and how beautifully she softens doun the impression o' her authority, by restorin, wi' a half-severe, half-kind sort o' a smile, peculiar to hersel, the confidence she frightened awa by the mere force o' her superior intellect!"

"How beautifully, in short, Andrew," said the deacon, "are you henpecked! That is the very soul and marrow o' a' ye hae uttered."

"Ay; and I glory to be pecked by such a hen!" cried Andrew, with sparkling eyes, and a real and unsophisticated appearance of triumph.[Pg 44]

The deacon, notwithstanding of his anxiety to get the bond signed, laughed outright at this tremendous sally of the boxmaster's enthusiasm of servitude; but it was a laugh of derision, and he forgot that he was himself daily losing more feathers, by a silent process of peculation going on under his wing, than were taken from Andrew by the conservative operation of his wife's billing and cooing.

"Then I suppose you will not refuse my request?" said the deacon, "seein you glory in the henpeckin it may produce. Seriously, will ye comply wi' my request?"

"Seriously, deacon, I am inclined to oblige ye," replied Andrew, "if I could get Mrs Jean to agree to it. I'll try her this very nicht. I can say nae mair."

The deacon could make no more of him. He went home, and reported the result of the negotiation to his wife, who despaired of success, but overpowered her husband with thanks for what he had done. She had a secret wish that he should do more—viz., call upon Mrs Jean Todd herself, and solicit her. The difficulty of accomplishing this was to herself apparent; but she was determined to carry her point in some way or another; so she straightway began to weep bitterly, crying that her father would be ruined; but never hinting any remedy for her distress. This paroxysm of affected grief produced its usual effect upon the proud husband; who, hard as a rock when attempted to be dictated to, was as weak as a child when attacked with tears, and an apparent helpless subjugation to his high will. He took the weeping wife in his arms, and asked her what more he could do to assist her father in this emergency.

"There's only ae way," said she, wiping her eyes; "there's just ae remedy for our case."

"What is it, my love?" said the deacon.

"I canna mention't," said the cunning wife. "It's against a' the high and proud feelins o' yer noble natur."[Pg 45]

"But we are sometimes obliged to sacrifice our feelins," said the gratified deacon. "Speak, my dear Margaret; ye ken wha ye're speakin to. What is your remedy?"

"It's to ca' upon Mrs Jean Todd yersel," said she, holding away her head, while another burst of tears overtook her voluntarily.

The deacon started back in amazement. The request was against all the feelings of his nature. The proud stickler for marital rule was in an extraordinary position: first, his wife was governing him at that moment, unknown to himself; and, secondly, he was requested to sue, at the feet of a woman, for liberty to her husband to act as he chose.

"Margaret," said the deacon, "you, I am sure, dinna ask me to overturn, at ae blow, a' the principles o' my life, conversation, and conduct?"

"Na, Murdoch," said she, throwing her arms round his neck, and weeping again—"na, na; I dinna ask ye."

"But ye maybe wish it, my dear Peggy," replied he, whimpering. "Necessity is a great power: maybe ye feel compelled to wish it."

"Maybe I do," said the wife, with another burst.

"Weel, Peggy, dry up yer tears, my love," said the conquered lord; "I'll awa to Mrs Jean Todd."

And he was as good as his word. Away he went, to recognise that authority in a wife which he so heartily despised, and to which he was himself, at the very moment, bowing his head. He took the bill with him, with the view of taking advantage of a compliance upon the instant, as he feared the effects of a night's reconsideration. He found the couple in a curious position. They were sitting, one on each side of the fire. Mrs Jean Todd had on her spectacles; but her book was lying on the table. Mr Todd was apparently doing nothing; but he was thinking more deeply, and with more difficulty, than was his partner, who was[Pg 46] occupied doubtless in digesting what she had been reading. Mr Todd was, in truth, at that very moment in the very act of endeavouring to call up courage to tell his wife the import of the deacon's request, and to make some attempt at supporting his petition. A few words had passed previous to the entry of the deacon.

"I had a lang sederunt wi' our worthy deacon the day," said Andrew. "He's no an ill body, the deacon. I canna forget the trouble he took on my appointment to the honourable office o' boxmaster."

"It was I that made ye boxmaster, Andrew," said Mrs Jean Todd. "I commanded the suffrages o' the hail corporation. Deacon Waldie couldna hae opposed me. I was at the blind side o' the electors, through their wives; and what man could hae dared to compete wi' the electors' wives, when they were determined to vote for me? The deacon professes to laugh at our authority. Puir man! he forgets, or doesna see, that there's no a man in the hail corporation wha is mair ruled, and mair dangerously ruled, by his wife than he is! She'll ruin him; and that ye'll sune see. Nae tradesman could stand her extravagance; and, I understand, she cunningly contrives to get him to assist her friends, and to despise and disregard his ain. How different is my conduct! Your friends, Andrew, I hae assisted; and the only thing I ever left to your unassisted judgment was the benefiting o' mine."

This sensible speech had, as the sun does the fire, extinguished Andrew's mental cogitations, and put out his courage. A silence had reigned for several minutes, when Mr Deacon Waldie entered. Drawing in a chair, he commenced—

"The boxmaster would doubtless be tellin ye, madam," said he, "that I wanted a sma' favour aff him. My wife's father requires a bill for intromissions the noo to the extent o' twa hunder pounds, and the employers insist upon twa[Pg 47] securities. They micht hae been content wi' mysel; but, seein they hae refused my single name, I hae asked Andrew to gie his, as a mere matter o' form, alang wi' my ain. I dinna doot" (looking into Mrs Jean Todd's face, and attempting to laugh) "that ye may hae some influence wi' the boxmaster. He's quite against it" (looking at Andrew, and winking—a device observed by the quick-eyed dame), "though there's nae danger; and I hae, therefore, come at ance to the fountain-head o' a' authority. Just say to the boxmaster that he ought sae far to oblige a freend, and the bill, which I hae here in my hand, will be signed in an instant."

This speech was understood in a moment by Mrs Jean Todd. The manner of her husband previous to the entry of the deacon—the deacon's visit so soon after the meeting, his speech, his wink, and all together—satisfied her that her husband was inclined to sign the bill, and that they had laid their heads together to accomplish their object by the manœuvre to which they had thus resorted. Her pride and honesty made her despise these underhand and crooked schemes; but her prudence prevented her from showing either her penetration or her feelings. There was one thing, however, which she was determined not to countenance. She knew that Deacon Waldie despised, and, indeed, openly, and at all times, and often in her own presence, denounced the husband who allowed himself to be dictated to by his wife; and now he was in the very act of proving that her husband was worthy of that denouncement, and that she herself was the individual who, by exercising authority over her husband, had degraded him, and rendered him the subject of the deacon's scorn. This hurt her beyond bearing; but she was determined that she should not recognise this imputed authority. At the same time, she could not allow her husband to be ruined; and the question was, how she should act in these trying circumstances? Her quick mind[Pg 48] was soon at work. For some time she contrived to prevent an awkward silence from sitting down upon them and producing embarrassment; and this she accomplished by putting a few insignificant questions to the deacon regarding his father-in-law, while she was deliberating with herself what she was to do, and how she was to escape from the dilemma in which she was situated.

In the first place, she caught her husband's eye, through which the charm of her authority could generally be very easily sent. She endeavoured to retain his glance, and to show that she was decidedly opposed to this scheme, and saw through all its bearings. Without altogether losing this hold of Andrew, she directed a prudent and cautious speech to the ears of the deacon.

"I winna affect, Mr Deacon Waldie," said she, "notwithstanding I hae often heard yer sentiments on the subject o' the authority o' wives—I winna affect either to be ignorant o' my husband's affairs, or to be careless o' what concerns baith him and me. I will say further, that I dinna hesitate to gie him a guid advice when I think he requires it; for out o' many counsellors comes wisdom; and, as Solomon says, 'every purpose is established by counsel.' Though 'a good wife,' says the same wise man, 'layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands holdeth the distaff,' her business doesna finish there; for he adds, that 'the heart o' her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no fear o' spoil.' But there's a limit to a wife's interference. You say my husband has already declared his opinion" (looking at Andrew)—"why then should I be asked to overturn the resolution o' his ain mind and judgment? If my advice had been asked in time, it would hae been given; but I canna think o' endeavourin to overrule my master, when ance his mind is made up and his resolution fixed."

She rose as she finished this judicious speech, and left the room, kindly bidding the deacon good-night. Both the men[Pg 49] were surprised. The deacon was chagrined. The boxmaster was left in great doubt and perplexity. Both had great cause; for the first was caught in his own snare, and the latter had had thrown upon him a superabundance of power and authority in forming his own judgments that he never got awarded to him before. The deacon was determined not to lose his ground. The dame had left the matter in the hands of the boxmaster. That was a great point gained; and he set about to convince Andrew that he was left at liberty to do as he chose. But the worthy boxmaster had very great doubts and scruples upon the subject, and wished to follow Mrs Jean, to consult her in private. To this again the deacon could not give his consent; but continued to pour into the ears of the irresolute boxmaster all the arguments he could muster, to satisfy him that the construction he had put upon Mrs Jean Todd's speech was favourable to the exercise of his liberty, at least in this case. The position was scarcely denied by Andrew; but he could not get out of his mind the expression of his wife's eye. He had read in it a denial and a reproof. At the same time, he could not reconcile it with her speech, which was entirely different from anything of the kind he had ever witnessed. Her opinions were always ready and decided; and he never saw her shrink from declaring a difference of sentiment, when she entertained an opinion different from his. Why, then, did she in this instance depart from her ordinary course? The question was difficult to answer. It seemed that she did actually in a manner leave it to himself. The deacon seemed to be right in his construction; and his arguments were almost unanswerable.

"If," said he, "Mrs Jean Todd had been hostile to this measure, would she not have declared it manfully, as is her uniform practice in similar cases?"

The boxmaster could not answer the question satisfactorily; and the deacon, continuing his arguments, persuasions,[Pg 50] promises, and flatteries, at last got the victim to put his name to the bill. Upon the instant the door opened, and Mrs Jean Todd appeared before them. She went forward to the table, and laid her hand upon the document.

"Is that your signature, sir?" said she, looking calmly at her husband.

"Ou ay—I believe, yes—I did put my name to that paper," replied Andrew, in great agitation; "but I thocht ye left me to do as I chose when ye gaed oot. If ye didna want me to sign it, ye shouldna hae left the room."

"A bill is no a bindin document," continued she, without seeming to attend to what the boxmaster said, "until it be delivered. It's no delivered sae lang as it is in my hands; and never will be delivered by me sae lang as I recollect the words o' the wise man o' the east, wha said—'If thou be surety for thy friend, thou art snared with the words o' thy mouth.' Yet this paper is no my property. The stamp is yours, though my husband's name is still his." Turning to the boxmaster, who was shaking and retaining his breath with pure fear—"Do you stand by this, sir," said she, in a commanding voice, which increased his fear, "or do ye repent o't?"

"I repent o't," replied Andrew, with dry lips, and a gurgling of the throat, as if he had been on the eve of choking.

"Then, I fancy," continued Mrs Jean Todd, "ye would like yer name back again?"

"Ou ay—surely," replied Andrew.

"Well, then," said she, as she with the greatest coolness took up her scissors that hung by her side, and with affected precision cut away his name; "there it is"—handing it to him. And turning to the deacon—"The rest is yours, sir—I hae nae richt to meddle wi' your name—there's yer paper"—returning to him the mutilated bill.

At this operation the deacon stared with a stupified look of wonder and contempt. He had never before seen so cool an example of female rule and marital weakness; and his[Pg 51] pride, his selfishness, and his spite were all roused and interested by the extraordinary sight. He was too much affected for indulging in a vulgar expression of feelings which could not adequately be expressed by mere language. Taking up his hat, and casting upon the boxmaster a look of sovereign contempt, and upon Mrs Jean Todd one of anger, he bowed as low as a deacon ought to do, and left the room. The circumstance produced no very unpleasant consequences to either the boxmaster or his wife. She, no doubt, reproved him for his stupidity; but the point of her wrath was turned away by the repentance and soft words of her husband, who promised never to do the like again. He had, besides, some defence, arising out of her dubious conduct, which, though quite easily understood, he could not well comprehend. The naïvete of his statement, that "she shouldna hae left him unprotected," was quite enough to have mollified a much sterner woman than Mrs Jean Todd, and during that same night they were a far happier couple than Deacon Waldie and his fair spouse.

When the deacon went home, and reported the extraordinary proceeding to his obedient wife, the grief it occasioned was in some degree overcome, on the part of the husband, by the favourable contrast it enabled him to form between the boxmaster and his wife, and him and his obedient spouse. Mrs Waldie did all in her power to aid the operation; but she did not forget the bill, which her father was pressing hard to procure.

"Surely every man's no under the rule o' his wife," said she, with the view to leading to another cautioner.

"No, God be thanked!" said the deacon, "there are some independent men i' the world besides mysel. Every husband's no henpecked. Every man that has a wife doesna 'glory' in being 'pecked by such a hen.'"

"There's William M'Gillavry," said the sly wife, in a soft and unassuming tone; "he is independent o' his wife."[Pg 52]

"Do ye mean, Peggy, that I should get him to sign the bill?"

"Na," replied she, "I dinna say that; I merely meant that he was an independent man like you, wha, if ye asked him to do it, wouldna refuse on such a ground as the want o' consent o' his wife. Oh, what will my puir faither do? I canna live if he is in sorrow and perplexity." (Weeping.) "I saw William M'Gillavry yesterday. He asked kindly for ye. Ye haena visited him for a lang time. Twa husbands sae like each other might meet oftener, and twa wives, wha agree in the ae grand point o' submittin to the authority o' their lords and masters, might, wi' advantage, be greater gossips than we hae been."

"Might I try William, think ye, Margaret?" said he.

"My puir advice canna be o' muckle avail to ye," said she; "ye ken best yersel; but I think, if he were asked, he wadna refuse the sma' favour."

"I see you wish me to try him, Peggy," said he; "and I will try him."

Away hastened the deacon to William M'Gillavry. He found him at home; and, as a deacon, was well received. Having opened the subject to him, he found that M'Gillavry was not inclined to become cautioner, unless he got put into his hands some security, that, in the event of his being called upon to pay the money, he might, in the end, be safe. This proposition was not expected by the deacon, who did not possess any portable security that he could give. He endeavoured to get his friend to be satisfied with his own obligation, to keep him scatheless against all the effects of his obligation; but the other would not agree to this, and, pretending to be called away by some one, left the room for a little, promising to be back instantly. In the meantime, the deacon heard a conflict of words in an adjoining apartment, in the course of which several half-sentences met his ear. The wordy war was between William[Pg 53] M'Gillavry and his wife. Her notes were shrill and high, and repeatedly she said—"Get my brither John's bill frae him"—"that will do"—"he, puir fallow! canna pay't, at ony rate, and I want to save him frae the hands o' the law." The deacon did not understand this broken conversation; but he could easily perceive that his friend was taking the advice of his wife. The words of old Fleming's ballad of evil wives came into his mind:—

"An evil wyfe is the werst aught
That ony man can haif,
For he may never sit in saught
Onless he be her sklaif."

As he muttered the last words, forgetful of his own case, his friend entered.

"My wife's brither," said he, "has a bill in your corporation's box for £250. You can impledge that in my hands, and I'll sign yer father-in-law's security."

"The corporation's property's no mine," answered the deacon; "I hae, besides, nae power owre't; the bill's i' the box, and Mr Andrew Todd has the key."

"I ken that," replied the other (who was a dishonest man), with a knowing wink; "but ye can easily get haud o' the paper, and I'll gie ye a back letter that I winna use't unless I'm obliged to pay yer father-in-law's debt. Naebody will ever hear o't."

The proposition did not altogether please the deacon, who, though very far from being an upright man, did not care about his frailty being known to another. He said he would think of what had passed between them, and came away. His wife, when he came home, was waiting in the greatest anxiety. Her father had called in the meantime, and told her, that, if he did not get the bill immediately, with two good names upon it, he would be put in jail. This alarmed his daughter, who, if she could save her father, cared little for the ruin of her husband. She heard with[Pg 54] deep anguish the announcement of another disappointment. Having been weeping before he came in, her eyes were red and swollen, and the bad intelligence again struck the fountain of her tears, and made her weep and moan bitterly. The deacon was moved at the picture of distress. He had not told her William M'Gillavry's proposition, but only simply that he had refused, unless adequate security were put into his hands. His wife's grief wrung from him every satisfaction he could bestow; for he could not stand and witness the sorrow of his tender and obedient partner, while there remained any chance of ameliorating her anguish.

"There is ae way, Peggy, o' gettin this affair managed," said he, at last.

"What is that?" said she, looking up, and throwing back her curls, which, amidst all her grief, were never forgot.

"William M'Gillavry's wife's brother," said he, "is awin our corporation £250; and his bill for that sum is in our corporation box. He says he would sign the bill to your father, if I gave him his brother-in-law's bill to hauld in security; but I'm no quite sure if that wad be honest."

"Thae things lie far out o' a weak woman's way," said she. "We haena the power o' mind possessed by you men; but, if I were entitled to speak a word on the subject, I would say there was nae dishonesty whar there was nae wrang. Ye ken the signin o' my faither's bill's a mere form; and, if William M'Gillavry's brither-in-law's bill were taen out the box, it would just be put back again. Correct me, my dear Murdoch, if ye think me wrang."

"I dinna think ye're far wrang, Peggy," said the deacon; "but how is William M'Gillavry's brither-in-law's bill to be got out o' our corporation box? There's the difficulty—and I needna ask a woman how that's to be got owre."

"Na, Murdoch—ye needna ask me that question," replied the wife. "It's far beyond the reach o' my puir brain; but, if it's in the power o' ony mortal man to say how a difficulty[Pg 55] o' that kind's to be mastered, it is in that o' Murdoch Waldie. Maybe ye may gie't a cast through yer powerfu mind. Oh! if ye saw my distractit faither! He left me just as you cam in, wi' the tears o' sorrow rinnin doun his auld cheeks. Will ye think o't, my dear Murdoch?" (embracing him) "What's weel intended canna be wrang; and what's planned by a mind like yours canna fail."

"I couldna get the key frae Andrew Todd," said the gratified deacon, "unless I told him an untruth."

"A lee for guid has been justified," said the wife. "Rahab was approved for hiding the spies, and denyin their presence; but I couldna ask ye to imitate Rahab. I hae nae richt to dictate to my husband."

"But wouldna ye wish me, my dear Peggy, to stretch a point to get yer faither's tears dried up, and yer ain stopped? Dinna hesitate, Peggy—speak yer mind bauldly—I'll forgie ye."

"Ou ay," whimpered the gentle dame. "If Rahab was justified, sae will Murdoch Waldie be forgiven."

"Weel—I'll try the boxmaster again," said the deacon.

Next day, accordingly, he threw himself in the way of Mr Andrew Todd. The boxmaster had been in the corporation hall, and was returning home to deposit the key of the box in the place where he kept it. The deacon got him inveigled into a public-house, where, when they had seated themselves, he saw that Mr Todd was blushing scarlet, doubtless at the recollection of the scene that had taken place the day before.

"Ye needna be ashamed, Andrew," said the deacon, "at the conduct of Mrs Jean Todd. Ye werena to blame—I assoilzie ye. Think nae mair o't. You can just sign a fresh bill. I'll buy the stamp round the corner at Dickson's, and we can draw it out here."

"I beg yer pardon," replied Andrew; "I maunna get into that scrape again. I'll never resist the authority o' Mrs[Pg 56] Jean Todd mair on earth. To her I owe my boxmastership—my trade—my status—my health—my happiness—and a' that's worth livin for in this evil warld; and she will never hae it to say again, that I'm no gratefu for the care she taks o' me, and the love she bears to me. Let the warld say, if they like, that I am henpecked—I dinna care."

"Weel, weel," replied the deacon; "we were speakin o' bills. Are ye quite sure that ye haena allowed the days o' grace in Templeton's bill to expire? There's indorsers there; and if it is as I suspect, ye've lost recourse, and may be liable for the debt."

"Mercy on us!" cried the terrified Andrew. "It's impossible. Dinna say't. Let me count." (Using his fingers). "Count, deacon—count, man."

"I think we had better see the bill itsel," cried the deacon. "Where's the key?"

"Here it is," replied the simple boxmaster, taking it out.

"Give it to me," said the deacon, taking it out of Andrew's hand; "we'll sune see if the bill's past due."

Waldie hurried out of the room, telling Andrew, as he went out, that he would come back, and inform him how the fact stood. The mind of the boxmaster was now too much occupied about the danger of having allowed the days of grace to pass without intimation to the indorsers on the bill, to have any space left for doubting the honesty of the deacon. The suspicion of having been cajoled never approached him; he sat and sipped the liquor that lay before him, occupied all the time in a brown study, with the thought continually rising—"What will Mrs Jean Todd say to my stupidity, in making myself responsible for the amount of Templeton's bill? It will ruin me; and a' her care and prudence will in an instant be scattered to the winds." He still sat, expecting the deacon to return with the required information. Half-an-hour passed, and no deacon came; but a messenger came with a note, stating[Pg 57] that all was quite safe, and that, as something had occurred to prevent the writer from returning to the tavern, he had sent that intelligence, to ease his mind, and that he would return the key in the course of the day. Andrew's mind was relieved by this statement; he paid the tavern-keeper for the liquor, and went away, to resume his ordinary occupations.

At dinner-time he went home; and, during the meal, he began talking again about Deacon Waldie.

"After a'," said he, "he is a guid cratur, the deacon. After the usage he got here last nicht, wha could hae thocht he wad hae taen ony interest in my affairs?"

"Ye dinna require an assistant," replied Mrs Jean Todd, "sae lang as I live."

"That's true," replied Andrew; "but the deacon has dune for me what ye couldna hae dune."

"What is that?" inquired the wife.

"He apprised me o' the danger I stood in," replied the boxmaster, "anent Templeton's bill, that's in the corporation box. I had forgotten the date o' its becomin due, and he brocht it to my mind. A's safe yet."

The very word "bill" made Mrs Todd prick up her ears.

"I hae lang thocht," replied she, "that yer corporation papers, at least yer bills, which require greater care than the rest, should be placed here, under my protection. The circumstance that has occurred this day proves that I am richt. Let us awa to the hall this instant, and bring hame a' the papers that are valuable, and for which you may be responsible. Is the key on the hook?"

"No; but I'm on the hook," muttered Andrew to himself, as he began for the first time to suspect he had been duped. "No," said he aloud.

"Give it to me, then," said she. "It will be in yer pocket, dootless."

Andrew began to exhibit symptoms of fear, which were[Pg 58] in an instant perceived and understood by the quick-eyed dame, who was accustomed to look for indications of that kind. She saw that something was wrong. He remained silent, and his agitation increased as she fixed upon him her piercing, relentless eye.

"Give me the key, man," said she, in an angry tone.

He still remained silent; his agitation increased, and he trembled in every limb.

"There's something wrang, Andrew," said she. "Tell me what it is. I'm no angry. By tryin to conceal it, ye may ruin us baith; by tellin me, we may hae a chance o' bein saved. Come, now, has Deacon Waldie the key?"

"Ay," said Andrew, in a low tone. "He asked me for't, to see if the bill was past due, and said he would come back wi't; but he never made his appearance."

The good dame said not a word. She saw the necessity for promptitude, and, running to her bedroom, hurriedly dressed herself. In a few minutes she was on her way to the corporation hall. In a few minutes more she arrived; and, having got admittance, placed herself in a recess, where the incorporation box was deposited, and so disposed herself as that she might see whether any person interfered with the treasury. In a short time Deacon Waldie entered the hall, and, with secret furtive steps, approached the box. He looked about him, but did not perceive the dame, who, as she saw him approach, retired back farther into the recess. He took out the key, and applied it to the lock. It was now time for Mrs Todd to save her husband. Starting quickly out of the recess, she walked solemnly and dignifiedly up to the official, before whom she presented herself with a low curtsey.

"How are you, Mr Deacon Waldie?" said she, repeating her curtsey, and looking at him with an eye that pierced him to the heart.

The deacon, who was a great stickler for etiquette, felt[Pg 59] himself, as he saw the dame curtseying before him, compelled to return the compliment; but the consciousness of guilt, the cutting satire of the dame's courteous demeanour, the surprise at seeing her there, and his fear of being exposed, all operated so strongly, that his bow was checked, and transformed into a low cringe, making him appear only half his natural size; while the consciousness of rectitude, and the superiority of virtue, swelled out the breast of his silent accuser, and added apparently to her physical proportions. Recovering himself in some degree—

"I was just about to examine our corporation papers," said he, irresolutely. "I like to assist Mr Todd in his official capacity, while you keep him right in his private affairs."

"Between the twa," replied the dame, without changing her countenance, "he maun be weel taen care o'."

As she said this, she quietly and deliberately took the key out of the lock; and into a large red cloth pocket, which hung alongside of a pair of scissors, with which the deacon was already well acquainted (having tested their sharpness), she deposited the important instrument. She then made another low curtsey.

"Guid-day to ye, Mr Deacon Waldie!" she said, as she departed; "mak my best respects to Mrs Deacon Waldie, and to her worthy father."

The deacon stood stiff with amazement, looking after the erect, dignified figure of Mrs Jean Todd, as she walked slowly along the hall of the incorporation to the door.

He skulked off in the best way he could; but she, with erect body and noble carriage, directed her steps homeward, where she found her husband in a state of intense fear and anxiety, both on account of the danger he was exposed to, and of the meeting that was about to take place with his wife. On the latter account, there might apparently have been little reason for apprehension; for their meetings were very unlike those mentioned in the old song[Pg 60]

"Then up scho gate ane mekle rung,
And the gudeman he made to the door;
Quoth he, 'Dame, I sall hald my tung,
For an we fecht, I'll get the woir.'"

Her mode of conducting her rule was different toto cælo. She walked into the house with the same erect carriage she usually exhibited, especially when upon duty, and closing the door after her, without using any such jealous precaution as turning the key in the lock—a mode of enforcing the conjugal authority she despised—she went up to the table where her husband sat, with his hand upon his brow. That flag of distress she paid little attention to; for she had often before seen Andrew endeavour to make her own pity plead the cause of his imprudence.

"Here is the key of the treasury-box, Mr Todd," said she.

Andrew was greatly relieved; but wonder took the place of his fear, for he could not conceive how his wife could so soon have got the key out of the hands of the deacon—and yet for certain the key was before his eyes.

"See you that ring?" continued the dame, holding out a steel key-hoop, on which were hung a score of keys, shining as bright as silver, from the eternal motion to which they were exposed in the red pocket of their mistress.

"Ay, weel do I see it," replied Andrew, "and weel do I ken't. It is by that magic ring that a' my guids and gear are girded and prevented frae fa'in into the staves o' that bankruptcy and ruin I threatened this day to bring upon them."

The dame replied nothing to the remark of her husband, though she was inwardly well pleased to see him penitent; but, opening the spring-clasp, she deliberately placed the treasury-box key upon the ring, along with the score of others that had hung there for a score of years. She did not deign to accompany this act by a single word of objur[Pg 61]gation. Her faith rested altogether upon the ring, and to have tried to add to the security it afforded her, by impressing her husband with a deeper sense of his imprudence, appeared to her to be sheer supererogation. Opening the entrance to her red "pouch," she consigned, with a suitable admonitory jingle, the whole bunch to the keeping of that huge conservatory of the virtues of "hussyskep." She then resumed her ordinary duties, and Andrew was delighted to have "got off," as he inwardly termed his relief, with so easily-borne a reproof of his weakness and imprudence.

The circumstances we have here narrated became, some time after, known to the public, through what channel it would be difficult to say, although it is not improbable that the boxmaster, vain of the protecting care of his wife, had given some hint of it, which, having been taken advantage of by Deacon Waldie's enemies, gave rise to reports, and latterly to a true exposition of the whole affair. The effect of such a transaction upon the credit of any man could not fail to be ruinous. In a very short time Deacon Waldie became suspected and shunned—no one would trust him, few would deal with him; and, before the termination of the period of his deaconship, he failed—falling thus a victim to that female domination he so much dreaded, and for submitting to which he so much despised his friend the boxmaster.

The fate of Mr Todd was signally different. At the end of the period of his office, there was a special meeting called of the trade, for the purpose of making a vote of thanks to their official, for saving the incorporation-box from spoliation, and presenting him with a small piece of plate, in commemoration of his services. This was a delicate matter. The members knew well to whom they owed the obligation; but they could not, in a public hall, declare that their boxmaster was assisted in his official capacity by his wife,[Pg 62] and, therefore, they resolved upon taking no notice of the real boxmaster; who, however, like all good wives, would be gratified by the notice that was taken of her husband. The vote of thanks was accordingly moved by the chairman, and supported by a very good speech. Mr Todd rose to reply:—

"Gentlemen," he said, "ye maunna think that I am sae blind as no to see what is yer true meanin, concealed though it be under this thick veil o' courtesy and delicate regard to my feelins. Ye want to try to conceal frae me that ye ken how muckle baith you and I are obliged to a sensible and discreet woman; and ye hae twa reasons for this: first, ye dinna like to acknowledge that ye are indebted to a woman for savin frae the hands o' the spoiler the incorporation-box; and, secondly, ye dinna like to say that yer boxmaster is under the kindly care and protection o' his guidwife. Now, as to the first, I leave it in yer ain hands; but as to the second, I will free ye frae a' delicacy and difficulty, for I here acknowledge and declare, wi' pride and pleasure, that Mrs Jean Todd is my counsellor and adviser in a' my affairs, baith public and private; and mony a time she has kept me frae that ruin whilk my ain wit and wisdom never could hae saved me frae. I dinna need to say that it was that admirable woman wha saved the incorporation-box: the thing is already owre the town, and dootless kenned to ye a', and, I warrant ye, also to yer wives. Why, then, should I accept o' honour I never wrocht for, and couldna hae merited by a' the power and skill o' my puir abilities? 'The labourer is worthy o' his hire.' 'Honour to him to whom honour is due.' I therefore move that the thanks ye intended for me should be offered to Mrs Jean Todd—to whom also, wi' your permission, I would suggest that the piece o' silver-plate should be presented."

This speech produced much laughter throughout the hall.[Pg 63] Some humorous member relished the idea, and, standing up, seconded the boxmaster's motion.

"A' our difficulty has vanished," he began; "and glad am I to see that the honour we intended for the real conservator o' our corporation-box may be, through the noble spirit o' our nominal boxmaster, communicated without the intervention o' a deputy. I second Mr Todd's motion, because I admire his spirit, and because I rejoice in an opportunity of doing justice to thae great conservators o' our sex—the strong-minded, gaucy, thrifty, and loving wives o' Scotland, to whom our very nation (if it were kenned) awes the character it has acquired owre the face o' the earth, for its prudence, its honesty, and its trustworthiness. Weel do I ken that the dear craturs hae suffered for their exertions in the cause o' our sex, and their authority has been attempted to be put an end to by drunken caitiffs, wha, wantin the nobility o' mind to admire and serve wham they canna equal, blaw up their pot-companions against petticoat authority, by dubbin them henpecked, forgettin, the wretched craturs, that that very hen supplies often the egg, at least clocks to preserve it for future increase. The very men the dear craturs feed, and clothe, and protect, and cherish, sing in the pot-houses that they want their liberty—

'Becaus their wifis hes maistery,
That they dar nawayis cheip;
Bot gif it be in privity,
Quhan thair wifis are in sleip.'

And, while the sang is birrin through the fumes o' the ale, thae very wives are busy toilin to hae the singers weel fed, cled, and cared for, in a' their concerns. What a noble example, on the other side o' the question, has Mr Todd this day exhibited! Wives are generally honoured through their husbands. He shall be honoured through his wife. What I hae said, I believe will meet wi' the approbation[Pg 64] o' this meetin; but I'm no sae sure o' the success o' what comes—because I propose to tak a sma' liberty wi' the English language, and, by a kind o' a trope or figure o' speech, to keep the name, while we boldly change the thing. I'm weel aware that our minutes bear that Mr Todd is our boxmaster; but we ken better than that, and we, whase trade it is to change colours, can hae nae difficulty in reconcilin the tints. I therefore move, as an amendment, that the piece o' plate be presented at once to Mrs Jean Todd, our boxmaster."

The suggestion took; the humour was relished; the minutes were altered; the name of Mrs Jean Todd was substituted for Mr Andrew Todd; and the books of the incorporation bore, and bear to this day, that the plate had been presented to Mrs Jean Todd, "their boxmaster," as a memorial of the gratitude of the trade for her exertions in saving the incorporation's treasury.

[Pg 65]



As we look upon the title of our tale, now that we have written it, we cannot suppress a shudder of horror. Like the handwriting on the wall, it seems typical of misery, revolution, and death. Revolution and death, do we say? What revolution, in the common sense of the word—we mean in a political one—was ever productive of such deplorable effects, as that moral revolution to which the bottle bears the social man?—what death, viewed merely as a physical evil, can be compared to that moral and intellectual destruction to which the good fellow so often subjects himself? It is no palliation of the evil to say that the social man is led by the best qualities of his heart, by the noblest faculties of his intellect, into the path which leads to utter wretchedness—to remorse, disease, and premature death in this world; and, if the combined testimony of reason and revelation be sufficient to establish any fact—to punishment in the next. Our faculties are good or bad only according as they are cultivated or controlled; and we cannot see that the unregulated social feelings which lead a man to plunge into dissipation, and to drag his friends along with him into the gulf of vice, are a whit less dangerous or fearful than the universally execrated disposition which impels him to plunge a dagger into his own heart, or to bury it in the bosom of his fellow-creature. On the contrary, they seem calculated to produce even greater mischief, and, therefore, are more worthy of general deprecation, in the same degree that a secret enemy is more deserving of universal abhorrence than an avowed one: the one stands forth with an[Pg 66] open defiance, and a weapon drawn before the eyes of his victim, who may save himself by flight or conflict—the other "smiles, and smiles, and murders while he smiles."

How many noble beings have we known, destroyed utterly by the disposition to what is vulgarly called good-fellowship!—in how many instances have we known splendid talents, high love of moral rectitude, nay, even strong religious principles, strangled by the social feelings! At first, doubtless, there was but a slight dereliction of duty, mourned for sincerely, and punished by severe remorse; but, gradually, and with insidious motion, the victim revolved in a wider sphere, and more remote from the orbit of virtue, until, at length, escaping entirely from the attraction which had held him in the just path, he fell, with headlong and irresistible velocity, into the shapeless void of vice—the dark chaos of crime.

Our heart sickens as we pass in review before us the numbers of our early friends who have run this terrific career, who now fill timeless graves, or are yet in the land of existence, bearing about in their bosoms a living hell—whose hearts are already sepulchres. And, but that we thought the relation we are about to deliver may be of service to some who, already standing on the brink, are not fully aware of their danger—but that we conceived the tale of talent, generosity, and worth, miserably destroyed by the unregulated social feelings, may arrest some kindred spirit in its path to unanticipated misery—we should yield to the impulse which urges us to fling down our pen, and give ourselves up to sorrow for the departed.

William Riddell was the only son of a shepherd, who dwelt upon the moorlands that overhang one of the tributaries of the Tweed. The old man was one of those characters which have been so often and so well described—a stern, grave, intelligent, religious Scottish shepherd. The broad Lowland bonnet did not cover a shrewder head than[Pg 67] old David Riddell's; nor did the hodden grey coat, throughout wide Scotland, wrap a warmer or more honest heart.

His honesty was manifest to all—the warmth of his feelings was latent, and required to be struck by strong emotion, ere it was developed externally. The solitary influences of nature, when habitually contemplated in her more wild and solemn aspects, seem calculated to mould minds of good natural capabilities, but which are shut out from the social acquisition of knowledge, into forms like that of David Riddell's. If they all, like the nature which has breathed its spirit into them, seem somewhat rugged and stern, they all, like her also, bear the sterling stamp of sincerity. The elements, which "are not flatterers, but counsellors that feelingly persuade him what he is," are his familiar companions—among the remote valleys, and along the precipitous mountain-sides, and upon the wide moorlands, their irresistible power leads him to look with awe up to their Creator and Controller, and humility also is impressed upon him; but with these a confident reliance on the mercy and benevolence of the Being who regulates them is naturally produced: and thus it is, that, with this awe and humility, a slavish fear is no portion of his character; for he has been in the heart of a thousand mists, and has yet returned safely to his cottage ingle—he has braved the storms of many winters, and still looks, with a prophetic eye, upon the fresh green of approaching springs, and the purple heath-blooms of coming summers. In a mind thus constituted, duplicity can never dwell. There are millions who, shut up in cities, and shrinking from the inclemency of the seasons, look on the shepherd of the mountains as one worthy only of commiseration—who paint him as a wretch whose soul is as barren as his moorlands, and think of him as a slave, wandering, with vacant mind and wearied frame, over gloomy solitudes, earning with misery to-day the food which enables his body to bear the toil of to-morrow.[Pg 68]

How wide is this of the truth!—The sweet and tranquil joys of home are his, enhanced a thousand-fold by previous privation—the delights of connubial and filial love are more keenly felt by him, in the simplicity of nature, than by the luxurious citizen or the ermined noble; and though he has never heard the chant of the cathedral choir, or listened to the consecrated melody of an organ peal, the sublime transports of religion have thrilled his bosom beneath the solitary sky, amid the wild, or by the margin of the cataract that rolls its unvisited torrent over nameless cliffs. It is a mistaken belief that poverty and toil shut the shepherd's eyes from the loveliness of nature—nor is it true, that, because he is rude in speech, and possessed of little book-learning, he does not feel keenly, and translate faithfully, the beautiful language which she utters to the heart of man. Wordsworth has so exquisitely described what we are wishing to express, that we shall, without apology for the length of the quotation, repeat his words:—

"Grossly that man errs, who should suppose
That the green valleys, and the streams and rocks,
Are things indifferent to the shepherd's thoughts:
Fields, where with cheerful spirits he has breathed
The common air—the hills, which he so oft
Has climb'd with vigorous steps—which have impress'd
So many incidents upon his mind,
Of hardship, skill or courage, joy or fear,
Which, like a book, preserves the memory
Of the dumb animals whom he has saved,
Has fed or shelter'd; linking to such acts,
So grateful in themselves, the certainty
Of honourable gain;—these fields, these hills,
Which are his living being, even more
Than his own blood—what could they less?—have laid
Strong hold on his affections, are to him
A pleasurable feeling of blind love—
The pleasure which there is in life itself."

It was with this well-spring of quiet happiness in his[Pg 69] breast, that David Riddell had gone from day to day among his flock, and returned to his cottage fireside. His wife Rachel was one of those women of whom, notwithstanding the habitual discontent and sneers of men, there are thousands in this world, in this kingdom—nay, among our own Border hills—who, like the stars of heaven during the daylight, hold on their course noiselessly and unseen, but are, nevertheless, shining with a sweet and steady radiance, every one in its place, in the firmament. Placid, pious, and cheerful, with a quiet but kind heart, that ever and anon displayed its workings in the sweet light of her eyes, or in the "heartsome" smile that arranged her still lovely features into the symmetry of benevolence; in adversity—for she had lost children, and had known sickness—in adversity, patient and resigned; in prosperity—for their flocks had flourished, and many of their harvests had been abundant—in prosperity, not too much elated, but happy with a calm and grateful joy; finally, possessed of a gentle and forbearing nature, which rendered innocuous the occasional sternness or irritability of her husband, and turned insensibly aside the shafts which might have otherwise struck deadly at their domestic peace:—such was the partner of the joys and the sharer of the sorrows of David Riddell for above a quarter-of-a-century. Thus situated, it could not be but that he had been a happy man. For, though care and trouble had not unfrequently entered his dwelling, they had never long remained; nor do they ever continue to haunt a house in which good-nature and true piety are inmates. Four sweet children had been taken from them, each at an age which seemed more interesting than the other, and sorrow had, for a time, darkened their dwelling; but the tears of those griefs were now dried, and, save an occasional sigh from the bereaved parents, as some casual circumstance recalled their lost little ones to their recollections, the only traces of their former afflictions were to be found in the[Pg 70] prodigality of affection which they lavished on their only remaining child. David Riddell was verging towards threescore, when William, the subject of the following narrative, was born. The old man's heart was entirely bound up in this child of his age. Frequently, not from necessity, but impelled by love, had he performed the ministrations of a mother to him; often, on a sunny day, had he carried him, like a lamb, in the corner of his plaid, up to the hills; and often, laying the unconscious infant on the purple heath upon the mountain-side, had he knelt down before him, beneath the solitary sky, and poured out his heart in gratitude to the God who had bestowed on him this precious gift. When little William was able to follow his father among the flocks, they became inseparable; and it was beautiful to behold the old man laying aside the gravity and sternness of his nature, and renewing, with his little boy, the sports which the lapse of half-a-century had well-nigh swept from his memory. They sought out together the nest of the lapwing and the moorfowl; they chased the humble-bee over the heath in company; or, loitering down the mountain streams, assisted each other in the pursuit of the speckled trout. The old man taught his boy, amid the secluded glens, or upon the naked hill-tops, to modulate his voice to the hymns consecrated to religion throughout Scotland; the rich melody of the "Old Hundred," or the "Martyrs," rose in concert from their lips; or, perhaps the aged shepherd played on the simple Scottish flageolet, on which he had been, in his youth, a skilful performer, some of the touching airs of his mother-land, and then, placing the pipe in William's hands, assisted him, by kind encouragement or skilful rebuke, to follow out the beautiful strain. Thus they lived together—

"A pair of friends, though one was young,
And Matthew seventy-two."

Linked closer and closer together by these sweet natural[Pg 71] ties, they were happy, and their affection was the grateful theme of all the inhabitants of the valley.

A little incident which occurred in William's childhood had determined his father to rear him for the ministry. While yet only five years of age, he was found one day by his father, with an old family Bible upon his knee, some of the leaves of which he had torn out, and was arranging after a fashion of his own. On being asked by his father what he was doing, he replied, "That he thought the evangelists differed in some portions of their history, and that he was trying to discover wherein the difference lay." [C] The old man retired with streaming eyes; and from that moment William Riddell was, like Samuel of old, vowed to the service of God.

As he grew in years, he displayed proofs of talent which astonished the shepherd, and filled old David's heart with exultation. Before he was fifteen, there was not a stream nor a legend that belonged to his native hills which he had not celebrated in song. His pen was always ready to assist the shepherd lads in their rustic loves; and the crabbed and grasping little tyrants of the valley had, more than once, winced under his satire or his ridicule. The old man, as we have said, rejoiced in the genius of his son, and had always, in his ample pockets, good store of the young poet's productions, wherewith to regale such of his companions as chose to listen. Rachel, however, with a more prophetic eye, saw, in the vivacity of her boy's nature, the germs of as much grief as joy to himself, and used commonly to shake her head and sigh, while her husband and his friends were convulsed with laughter at some of William's sallies.

At length the period arrived when he was to be sent to college.[Pg 72]

I need not attempt to describe the feelings of the family when this little revolution in their domestic life occurred; the quiet but deep anxiety of Rachel—the restless and troubled looks and actions of the old shepherd—and the exulting anticipation of the bright world into which he was about to enter, which William displayed, tempered or repressed, every now and then, by natural sorrow, at leaving the hills and streams where his boyhood had been spent pleasantly, and the dear parents to whom he owed so deep a debt of love. The last words of David to his son, as he stood grasping his hand, at the foot of the glen where the path turns off to the next market town—while big tears stood heavily on his eyelashes, visitants unknown for twenty years—were almost those of Michael to Luke, in Wordsworth's exquisite poem—

"Amid all fear
And all temptation, Luke, I pray that thou
Mayest bear in mind the life thy fathers lived,
Who, being innocent, did for that cause
Bestir them in good deeds."

The old shepherd and his son had never been separated for a single night—now they parted knowing that many months must elapse before they could behold one another again. It was a bitter moment, though full of the germs of joyful anticipation.

William had taken his farewell embrace, and, with convulsive sobs, had walked hastily away to a little distance; he turned, and beheld his aged father still standing on the spot, with clasped hands uplifted, and eyes fixed intently on his own receding form. He was unable to withstand the sight—he rushed back again, and threw himself, in an agony of affection, upon the old man's neck, weeping—though a manlier heart throbbed not—weeping like a child. But at length they parted; a sadder heart never entered into the solitudes of nature than old David Riddell[Pg 73] bore into the mountains on that evening—a purer never left the innocence of the country for the crowded city, than his son carried with him to the metropolis of Scotland.

For four years William attended college during the winter, and remained with his father during the summer months.

It was not that his labour was required by the old man: for he had now amassed a sufficient sum, with his moderate habits, to make him independent; but the sight of William was pleasant to the aged shepherd, among the hills where they had played together, and which were consecrated to their affections. The young student had distinguished himself highly at college, and had gained the esteem, both publicly and privately expressed, of many of his preceptors. His heart was still uncontaminated, his morals pure, and his habits simple, as when he was a boy. It was at this time that Rachel died. As her life had been peaceful, and, upon the whole, happy, so her death-bed was tranquil and resigned. She had rejoiced, with her husband, in the promising career of their son, and, as her dim eyes descried his manly form bent over her in an attitude of deepest grief, she could scarcely but feel her natural sorrow at leaving him quenched in the glad anticipations of his future prospects in life. Yet the misery which his ardent and imaginative nature might inflict upon him was still not shut out from her mind, and almost her last words were to warn him against indulging it too far. She died, and the old shepherd and his son were left to attempt to comfort each other. William was again about to depart to college, and he would fain have had his father to give up his duties, and accompany him to Edinburgh. He dwelt upon his increasing feebleness, his age, already beyond the common lot of man, the solitude to which he would be left, the comfort they would be to each other, if together. To all this the old man replied[Pg 74]

"Comfort, my boy, there is none for me in this world, except in thee. Gradually the circle of my love has been narrowed: first, my own parents, then my children, last, my beloved Rachel, have been swept away; and now thou only art left for my earthly affections to embrace. Gladly for thy sake would I go to the city; but I think these hills could not bear to look on another while I lived—this cottage to shelter another shepherd while I am able to fling my plaid around me. It is a foolish fancy for an old man to cherish, yet I cannot bid it depart. Go, then, alone, my dearest lad, and leave me in these scenes, which have become part of my being, to perform the duties in which my life has been spent. And still remember, William, when temptations assail thee, or bad men would lead thee by the cords of vanity or friendship into vice, that there is a grey-haired man among these hills, whom the tale would send in sorrow to the grave—a heart that for twenty years has been fed by its love for thee, which would break to know thou hadst become unworthy of that love. Farewell! and may that good Being who has brought me in safety out of the heart of a thousand storms preserve thee from the deadlier tempests of the world of vice!"

William returned to college, with a heart softened both by grief and love. Strange, that out of this wholesome state of mind should have sprung the elements of wretchedness and vice! Yet so it was. He had written a poem on the subject of his late affliction, and had breathed into it the very soul of sorrow. The wild and beautiful scenery amid which he dwelt, and which he loved and knew so well, had also given its hues to the language and the thoughts of his muse: his rich and now cultivated taste imparted elegance and harmony to his numbers; the poem was at once original, chaste, and imaginative; it gained him the esteem of the highest literary circles in Edinburgh, and he became a cherished guest in the houses of many distinguished men for[Pg 75] whom he had never hoped to indulge any feelings save those of distant and respectful admiration. He emerged into a new world, too beautiful and dazzling for him at first to see his way clearly through its mazes. His undoubted genius commanded the respect of the men—his manly feeling, and the ingenious eloquence of his address, presently made him a distinguished favourite with the female portion of his acquaintance. The tone of his thoughts and feelings underwent a perfect revolution. Once introduced into the society of the polite and the learned, the bashfulness and awkwardness of the shepherd-lad seemed to fall off from him, without effort of his own, but naturally, like the crustaceous envelope in the metamorphosis of insects. He felt as if he were a denizen of the clime in which he now luxuriated, and as if, till now, he had been living in a foreign land. He discovered, to his amazement, that those great men, whose very names he had been wont to utter with reverence, and before whose glance his eye had been accustomed to fall abashed, were the most easy, familiar, and communicative companions possible—that scarcely one of them was so severe in their morality as his old father—that they listened to his opinions with attention, and replied to them with respect. Then, again, among the satellites of these literary luminaries—those whom, till now, in the reflected light of their primaries, he had been wont to behold with respect, and almost with envy—he presently perceived weakness, dimness, and aberration; and he perceived, also, how capable he was of outshining them all; or, to speak in less metaphorical phrase, he found among the less distinguished literary persons who haunted the tables of the great, a degree of ignorance on subjects of general science, a slavishness of demeanour, and a petty jealousy, which he could not but despise, and which it required very little penetration to perceive that the great man despised also. He soon acquired, therefore, a confidence in his own powers, and a conscious respect for, I had[Pg 76] almost said pride in, the rectitude of his feelings, to which, till now, he had been an entire stranger. And if such was his success with the men, his conquest over his own timidity, in the presence of women, struck him with yet greater surprise. He who had been accustomed to blush and look down before a peasant girl, presently found himself able to gaze steadily into the eyes of a noble matron or maiden, undazzled by the jewelled coronet upon her head, or yet more brilliant charms in which nature and art had arrayed her brow, and neck, and bosom. The witchery of woman in all her loveliness, instead of, as he had often imagined, causing his heart to sink, and his cheek to burn, and his tongue to be dumb in his mouth, awoke the latent powers of his nature—it thrilled his heart with exulting admiration, and filled his eyes with a bold, steady radiance, and poured from his lips the eloquence which female loveliness can alone call forth. His nature was changed—that is, the external development of his nature, for his heart remained the same; and often, amid crowded assemblies and rich peals of concerted music, it called on his imagination to portray the old solitary shepherd, amid the hills of his boyhood, or to recall the simple strains which his father had taught him to play upon the rude Scottish pipe.

At the period to which we refer, the literary society of Edinburgh was by no means distinguished for its abstemiousness. A "good" fellow, and a clever one, were almost synonymous terms. Sir Walter Scott, in his novel of "Guy Mannering," has matchlessly described the convivial habits of the Scottish advocates: the habits of the whole literary society of Edinburgh were pretty similar. Why should I detail the circumstances of William's seduction from sobriety? The example of those whom he had been accustomed to admire, respect, and love; the gay sallies of his younger associates; the witchery of the society of genius; the flowing feeling which followed the circulation of the[Pg 77] bowl; the song, the speech, the story, the flash of wit, the jocose roll of humour, and, above all, the forgiving approval (for how else should we designate it?) of the ladies—all assailed him at once, and, beneath their attacks, his reason and resolve,

"That column of true majesty in man,"

fell. Age, wisdom, youth, wit, humour, friendship, love, and beauty—what could a raw shepherd lad oppose to all these? "The request of his aged father, the injunction of the moral law, the direct command of God!" some stern, perhaps good man may reply. William tried to control his career by means of these; but the attacks were unceasing, various, distracting—the defence was in the hands of one, and he, alas! too often disposed to admit the enemy. We will pass rapidly over this part of our departed friend's career. He mingled, at first sparingly, at length more freely, in the convivial habits of his new friends; he felt the thrill of friendship; he was keenly alive to the social glow which the bowl awakens; his heart also was elated by the love of men of genius, and his vanity gratified by their loudly-expressed admiration. Unfortunately, he engaged to write for a new periodical which some of his friends were then attempting to establish. Amid the solitude of his native hills he had experienced the grateful and rapid awakening of noble ideas; he was surprised to find that, in the city, amid the distractions of ambition, music, love, and wine, he could only now and then call up his natural powers to his aid. He had pledged himself to support the new periodical to a certain extent; and, in order to fulfil his promise, at the instigation of an acquaintance, he stimulated himself to its accomplishment by means of brandy. This was the first time he had ever drank ardent spirits for the sake of the effects which they produce. The paper which he had written was universally admired, the sale of the periodical was very[Pg 78] much increased by its influence, and he was plied by the proprietors with new and lucrative engagements.

On the very morning on which he had received these proposals, he also received a letter from his aged father, informing him, that the brother of the old man, who was engaged in commerce, and for whom he had some time ago become surety, had failed, and that the whole of the little earnings of his past life would be required to liquidate the debt.

William closed with the proposal of the proprietors of the magazine, and wrote to the old man a letter, partly of condolence, but more of triumph. He was almost glad that the resources of his father were destroyed, now that he himself had the means of supporting him; and it was with a joyous heart that he sat down to write his paper for the new periodical. But alas! he felt what all who have so occupied themselves have felt, how the mind becomes weak, and the fancy flags, when compelled to action. He rushed into society, to escape from the dreadful depression which follows high mental excitement; the warmth of friendship with which he was met fell gratefully on his spirit; the glee and glory of social intercourse first relieved his wearied faculties, and then pleasantly excited them; the titillation of gratified vanity, and the exercise of intellectual power, combined to make the scene fascinating; he went more and more into society; it became more and more necessary to him—he was a social man. His father was a strange, I had almost said a stubborn man in some respects, and he might in some measure be blamed for this gradual sliding from sobriety of his son. To the affectionate letter of William, which beseeched him, now that his little hoard had been carried away, and now that his years were above fourscore, to come to Edinburgh, and dwell with his son, the old man answered, that God had yet left him vigour to mount the hills, and thread the valleys; and that, so long as this was the case, he would consider it unjust to become a burden to others.[Pg 79] There was a stern independence and lofty resolve in the determination of the aged shepherd which harmonised well with his character; but it fell like lead upon the bright dreams of William—it strangled many of his best resolutions of future virtue and industry. He did not know that his father had already heard of his relaxed habits, and had even had reported to him, in exaggerated phrase, the detail of some of his midnight carousals. William went on, gaining fame, but losing virtue. In the popular use of the word, it was impossible for him to resist the importunities of those who pressed him to partake of their bottle or their bowl. They grasped his hand cordially; they sang the songs which he loved, or perhaps had written; they drank his health with cheers of enthusiasm. It was impossible for him to resist the entreaties of those persons—it was impossible for him not to believe them sincere. Nor were they otherwise; but the value of the sincerity of the intemperate and the immoral, what is it?

"Ashes within beautiful fruit."

William Riddell passed the whole of his examinations, and was, as the students say, "ready for a church." Nor was he long in procuring one. Among the friends to whom his genius and character had recommended him was a nobleman, who had the gift of the very kirk to which William and his father had been accustomed to resort. The incumbent died; the nobleman presented the living to William. With the new duties which now devolved upon him, came a crowd of new feelings and springs of action. He gave up his engagement with the literary periodical, he retired from his social companions, and he devoted himself to grave and worthy study and contemplation. The struggle was severe; but he bore up against it under the excitement of the new responsibility which had fallen upon him. He went down to the country with some of the most distinguished members[Pg 80] of the Scottish Church, who officiated at his ordination. A proud, a tumultuously happy day was it for old David Riddell, who, with wonder and awe, felt his horny hand grasped by the great men whose very names he had considered subservient to his happiness of old time, and beheld his son, little William, the boy whom he had taught the alphabet upon Scaurhope Hill, with the pebbles that lie there—beheld him holding high discourse with these same dignitaries, saw that his opinions were listened to with respect, and that his thoughts, according as they were solemn or ludicrous, were responded to by these great men with gravity or broad grins. A delightful day was it to the old shepherd, as he beheld the first man in the General Assembly—the greatest man in the Scottish Kirk—lay his hand upon the youthful head of his beloved son, and consecrate him to the care of the souls who dwelt in the very valley where he had been born and reared, in which his genius was known, and his family, though humble, respected.

There was another, and an equally strong reason, for William's giving up his convivial habits and boisterous companions. He was in love.

It was at that least romantic of all places for a lover, a ball in Edinburgh, that William Riddell, the new pastor of Mosskirk, had first met Ellen Ogilvie, the daughter of the principal heritor of his parish, the owner of the hills on which his father had watched the sheep for above threescore years. Ellen had beheld him moving, a gay and welcome visitant, in noble halls; her hand had met his in the dance, in exchange with those of countesses and duchesses; she had heard his praise echoed from house to house, and from mouth to mouth; she was now alone in the country, with nothing but ignorant or coarse men around her: let it not seem wonderful that she, though the only daughter of a wealthy landholder, should bestow her love on the poor, handsome, manly, eloquent pastor of Mosskirk. And if[Pg 81] this does not seem wonderful, it will surely not appear singular that the proud, haughty, bigoted, and ignorant father of Ellen should forbid the match, and should threaten with his vengeance the usurper of his daughter's love.

His vengeance! How weak a word to such a being as William! Not that he would not have rejoiced, for Ellen's sake, and for the sake of decorum, to have had the old gentleman's approval; not that he would not have used every possible means, consistent with honour and the dignity of his own character, to have gained the good opinion of the father of his beloved; but the laird was a man of the world, of acres, and of hundreds; his litany lay in pounds, shillings, and pence; his affections were wrapped up in rents and lordships; and that a poor parson, however God had chosen to ennoble him by genius and generous sentiments—that a poor parson should have dared to look upon a child of his with the eyes of affection, upon the child who was the natural heir of all those riches which he had laboured for half-a-century to amass, smote him as a personal insult, as an indignity which nothing but blood could wipe out. The mother of Ellen had all along thought differently; and from the first moment in which she had perceived the affection that existed between them (and oh, how much quicker women are than men in discovering these things!) she had encouraged their intimacy.

William Riddell, the minister of Mosskirk, was out of the canons of the duello, and the laird, therefore, instead of calling him out, was compelled to be satisfied with disinheriting Ellen, who, under circumstances which fully exonerated her from her father's tyrannical wishes, became William's wife.

My friend William had always been one of those persons who abhorred the usual terms on which wives are sought and husbands achieved. "Keeping a wife," was a phrase of blasphemy to him, or at least it seemed desecrating wo[Pg 82]men to the level of a dog, a horse, or a cow—the "keeping" of which appeared, according to their phraseology, a matter of the same general import as the cherishing a beloved partner of all in which the human heart takes an interest. Nor, although he was a shepherd's son, could he perceive much inequality in a minister who earned four hundred pounds a-year, by looking after the spiritual interests of some hundreds of individuals, and who was to become the confidant of their griefs, and the sharer of their joys, their supporter in sickness, and their guide in the common path of life—he could not perceive much presumption in such a man matching himself with the daughter of an ignorant and coarse person, whose worth lay only in his wealth, whose character was not esteemed by his neighbours, and whose sympathy for suffering human nature only developed itself now and then in his bestowal of a basin of hot soup upon a starving beggar at Christmas.

On the contrary, if William thought about the matter in this relation at all, he considered, and justly, that he was rather conferring an honour than receiving one from the father of Ellen. But the old gentleman thought, as the world thinks, differently; and accordingly, in his wrath, he disinherited her.

It was unfortunate for the full gratification of his malice, that William was impassible to this mode of punishment, and that he beheld the whole of the old gentleman's possessions conveyed over to a charitable institution, with as much pleasure as if he had signed them away of his own accord.

In the parish of Mosskirk, as in most of the country parishes in Scotland, there were a number of intelligent men who associated frequently together for the sake of cultivating scientific knowledge, and conversing on various subjects of interest in literature and philosophy. At the time when William was inducted into Mosskirk, all the ministers of[Pg 83] the neighbouring parishes were members of this society, and it was generally held on a convivial footing. Some of the members came from a distance, others were jolly fellows naturally; and thus it happened that their discussions frequently dipped deep into the night, and sometimes were not settled until cock-crow.

Into this society William Riddell was welcomed with enthusiastic honours, and was at once made perpetual president. His fame as a poet had gone before him, and his genial warmth as a man followed up with general applause the sensation which he had created. He had natural powers capable of supporting him in the sphere to which his reputation had raised him. He had wit, humour, pathos, and fluency; and, eager to earn the opinion of his parishioners, he exerted himself to gain it, and he succeeded. Throughout the whole of his parish, he was admired as a man of genius and eloquence, he was respected as a man of irreproachable moral worth, and beloved as a friend, who shared sincerely in the gladness, and sympathised in the sorrows, of his flock. Unfortunately, the habits of many of his parishioners, as well as of those of the literary club to which I have alluded, were the very reverse of temperate. For a time the attraction of his young wife, and presently that of his infant son, kept him from indulging in nocturnal potations. But afterwards these attractions lost their force; the glory and the glee of the musical and literary conclave overcame all his resolves; and, night after night, it happened that he returned to his manse at unseasonable hours, and greeted his wife with the leer of intoxication, instead of the steady glance of affection. We should have said that, before this, old David Riddell, moved by his son's entreaties, had given up his duties among the hills, and had come to live with him at Mosskirk Manse. A weekly delight was it to the old man to behold his son arrayed in his black gown, and with the smooth white bands drooping decently[Pg 84] upon his bosom, delivering from the pulpit of his native parish the words of eternal truth; and pleasant was it to the old shepherd ever and anon to recognise, in the elegant but simple language of the pastor, some of those sentiments which he himself had instilled into his mind, while he was yet a shepherd lad upon the moorlands.

But it could not long be concealed from him that William was irregular in his habits. When the fact first struck him, he almost swooned away; for the forebodings of Rachel rushed into his mind, and he saw, as it seemed, for the first time, that his son's destruction was sealed.

It was long, however, before he could bring himself to speak on the subject to William; he felt the shame which his son appeared to have abandoned; and his own temperate blood sent a blush into his withered cheek at the idea of addressing the child of his heart, the minister of God, on the subject of his intemperance. The miserable struggles of the old man before he gave utterance to his sentiments to William, we are utterly unable to describe—we leave them to our reader's imagination. At length, however, on a morning after the minister of Mosskirk had shamefully been supported home by two of his parishioners, in a state of deplorable intoxication, the old shepherd gathered up resolution to speak to his son. He did not denounce, insult, or even upbraid him; but, with tears in his eyes, delicately alluding to his misconduct, assured him that such another occurrence would cause him to leave the manse for ever; for that, though he might not be able to prevent, he was resolved never to sanction, the fearful immorality which drunkenness carries in its train, more hideous still when attached to a minister of the Gospel.

William, already disgusted with himself, and humbled before his own heart, was crushed to the earth by his old father's appeal. He threw himself upon his aged parent's neck, and entreated his forgiveness. "My forgiveness, my[Pg 85] boy!" replied the shepherd; "you cannot offend me, and therefore it is vain to ask for my forgiveness. My heart is so utterly bound up in thee, that, though it may deplore, it cannot denounce any conduct of thine. It is as it were but a servant of thine, and in good or in evil report, will follow in its train. But, if my sufferings, and the sneers of men, have no influence over thee, think, oh, my dear boy! think on death, the judgment, eternity!"

Will it be believed, that, after this appeal, the remorse which he suffered, and the resolutions of reformation which he made, a single week saw the minister of Mosskirk reel into his manse, assisted by the pastor of the Methodist Chapel, at two o'clock in the morning? Such was the distressing reality; and the next morning, without speaking to his son, but giving, amid heart-broken sobs and sighs, his blessing to his daughter-in-law and her children, old David Riddell removed from his son's roof: nor could all his entreaties induce him to return.

Let me hasten to conclude. The conduct of William became presently so notoriously shameful, that it could no longer be overlooked by his parishioners, and he was more than once called upon by some of them with remonstrances, which increased gradually in severity. Still the infatuated man proceeded, until at length his behaviour became a public slander to his own parishioners and to the whole church. He was yet, however, so much beloved for his generous warmth of heart, and admired for his talents, that a last effort was made to prevent the sentence of expulsion, which had been passed against him, from being carried into effect; and his punishment was commuted, if so it could be called, into making a public apology, from his own pulpit, to his people, for his shameful irregularities. On the day of this heartrending exhibition, not more than one-fourth of the congregation were present; the remainder being absent that they might not behold the spectacle of their pastor's humiliation.[Pg 86] But old David Riddell was there, supported, for the first, and alas! for the last time, into church by a friend. Until now, the aged man had always walked unsupported, and with a firm, nay, with something of an elastic step, up to his pew; but during the past week, since he had heard the news of his son's public disgrace, and the public penance which he was to perform, his vital powers had sunk with fearful rapidity. To those even who had seen him, on the preceding Sabbath, move decently into his accustomed spot, and depositing the broad-brimmed hat, which, on the Lord's-day, he exchanged for the broad Lowland bonnet, smooth backwards his thin light-grey locks, he appeared scarcely like the same man. His form was now bent nearly double; he shuffled his feet painfully over the ground; his head shook from weakness, not from age; his eyes were red and dim; he looked like a man who was only three or four steps from the open grave. When, after the service was concluded, William began to read the humiliating apology which he had written, the aged shepherd crept painfully down upon his knees, and, burying his face in his clasped hands, remained absorbed in prayer. The last words had fallen from the minister's lips; there was a dead stillness throughout the church, for all were penetrated with sorrow and shame at their pastor's disgrace, when a deep groan broke from the old shepherd, and startled the congregation from the silence in which they were indulging. All eyes, and those of the minister among the rest, were instantly directed towards the old man; his frame remained for a moment in the attitude which we have described, and the next instant it fell heavily upon the floor—a corpse!

We shall not give pain to our readers, nor harrow up our own feelings, by attempting to describe the misery which this event caused William Riddell. It seemed to be one of those griefs which cannot, and ought not to be outlived—a punishment greater than man is able to bear. So thought William[Pg 87]—if the flash of this conviction across the settled gloom of his spirit could be called thought. Yet days, weeks, months, passed away, and he lived on, nay, performed his duties; and, at length, by the caresses of his wife and child, became even, as it were, sullenly reconciled to life. He found, however, that it was impossible for him ever to regain his former station in society. His brother ministers avoided him; and one or two of them, more harsh or orthodox than the rest, took occasion to allude to his misconduct in a public manner. The most respectable portion of his parishioners pitied, but, in general, kept aloof from him. Degraded and sunk as he was, William had a nature formed to feel, in all their most exquisite torture, these indignities and slights. The persons who came to comfort and sympathise with him, were unhappily those whose sympathy was more dangerous than their contempt. How shall we go on? William again, after severe struggles, gave way to the entreaties of some of those mistaken friends, and to the treacherous wishes of his own heart. He became a confirmed drunkard! He seemed to have at length cast behind him every thought of reverence for God and his holy vocation—every particle of respect for himself or his fellow-men. He had two or three attacks of brain fever, brought on by his excesses; and he no sooner recovered from them than he went on as before. His poor young wife exhausted every argument which reason could afford—every blandishment with which affection and beauty could supply her, to reclaim him, but in vain. He retained, or seemed to retain, even, all the warmth of his first love for her; and, in his hours of intoxication, he seemed most strongly to acknowledge her worth and loveliness; but the necessity for the violent excitement of ardent spirits had overcome all other considerations; she wept long and bitterly: then, as despair began to close in upon her, she (dreadful that we should have it to relate!) sought, in the[Pg 88] example of her husband to escape from her sorrow! Ellen Ogilvie, the young, the graceful, the beautiful, the accomplished, the gentle, feminine creature, whose very frame seemed to shrink from the slightest coarseness in speech or action, became a drunkard!

Many years had passed away between the time when the old shepherd had perished in the church and the time to which we now refer, and William had a family of two sons and three daughters. If Ellen's father was unfavourable to her marriage at first, it will be easily imagined that he never now acknowledged them. His young family, therefore, had nothing to depend upon except their father's exertions, and they were about to be closed for ever.

The time arrived when it was impossible for William to be suffered any longer to remain in his charge. He was thrust out of his church, and expelled from the ministry. The messenger who delivered this message to him, delivered it to one more dead than alive. His excesses had at length brought on a fit of apoplexy; he was but partially recovered from it, and could only, in a dim manner, comprehend the purport of the message, when, with his wife and children, he was removed from the manse. A friend sheltered him for a time—afterwards he was conveyed over to Edinburgh. Within a twelvemonth he died, having been chained down to bed by his disease, one-half of his frame being dead, with mind enough to see poverty and inevitable misery ready to crush his helpless family, but without the power to use the slightest exertion in order to avert the impending calamity. It was in a garret in the High Street, upon rotten straw, the spectacle of an emaciated and shattered wife before his eyes, and the cries of his starving children sounding in his ears, that William Riddell breathed his last! What availed it then that he had been good and pure, full of generous sentiments, endowed with a graceful person, a noble genius, and a manly eloquence? These otherwise invaluable qua[Pg 89]lities had been all sunk or scattered by the spendthrift extravagances of the Social Man.

It is now about five years ago, since, as we were hurrying past Cassels Place, at the foot of Leith Walk, we were attracted by a crowd who had gathered round a poor intoxicated woman. She had fallen beneath the wheel of a waggon, and both her legs were crushed in a terrible manner. As two or three assistants carried her past a gas-light towards the nearest house, we were struck by the resemblance—hideous, indeed, and bloated—which her features wore to some one whom we had known. We inquired her history, and, to our horror, discovered that this was indeed Ellen Ogilvie—the widow of our poor friend, William Riddell. It was useless attempting to save her; her vital energies were sinking rapidly beneath the injuries which she had received. She revived a little from the effect of some wine which we gave her, and began incoherently to speak of her past life. "You see me here, sir," said she, "a poor, wretched, degraded creature:—I was not always thus. There was not a happier heart in wide Scotland than mine was, ten years ago. But my husband, sir, was a Social Man!" A convulsive sob checked her words—her head sank back on the pillow—her lower jaw fell—the death-rattle sounded in her throat—and in a few moments the unfortunate woman expired.

[Pg 90]


Still and calm lay the sleeping waters of Loch Ard, as they reposed in their beauty on the morning of the 17th of August, 17—. The hour was early, and the rays of the rising sun had not yet dispersed the thick mists that hung on the bosoms of the surrounding hills. The scenery around, although of the most romantic character, and composed of the choicest materials for the picturesque, had an air of gloominess and rawness about it, that did but little justice to the thousand beauties which its simple elements of wood and water, rock and hill, were capable, by their various combinations, of producing. That scene yet wanted the life and soul, the cheering, spirit-stirring influence of the blessed sunlight, to bring out its loveliness, and to exhibit its details in all their fairy brightness. This want was not long of being supplied. The sun rose in all his splendour; the mist rolled away from the face of the hill; the calm, placid surface of the lake, like a mighty mirror, embedded in its rude and gigantic, but gorgeous framework of wooded mountains, shone with dazzling effulgence; and the hills and forests displayed themselves in their robes of brightest green.

As every one who has visited these romantic regions knows, the road that conducts to Aberfoyle from the west end of Loch Ard runs, for a considerable space, close by the margin of the lake on its northern side—and a most beautiful locality this is. The road is low and level; on one hand is the bright, smooth, sandy shore of the loch, with its clear, shallow water; and, on the other, steep mountains, shaggy with primeval woods. We have directed[Pg 91] the attention of the reader to this particular point of the landscape, for the purpose of saying, that, at the moment at which our story opens (namely, on the morning of the 17th of August, 17—), two persons were seen, at the early hour which our description would indicate, trudging silently along by the margin of the lake. They were two young men, and evidently prosecuting a journey of some length. Over the shoulder of each projected a stout oak stick, on whose extremity a small bundle was suspended; probably, small as they were, containing all the earthly possessions of their bearers. Yet, however poor the lads might be in world's wealth—for they were, as was sufficiently evident from their dress, of the humblest class—they were rich in the gifts of nature; for a couple of handsomer-looking young men than they were the Highlands of Scotland could not have produced. Strongly built, and exhibiting in their erect and springy gait the peculiar muscular energy of their mountain education, they appeared men capable of any fatigue, and, to judge by the air of calm determination and mild resolution expressed in their bold and manly countenances, of any deed of honourable daring. Such was the personal appearance—for, although differing in individual features, they resembled each other in their general characteristics—of James M'Intyre and Roderick M'Leod, which were the names of the two young men whom we have just introduced to the reader. The ages of the two seemed to be about equal—somewhere about five or six-and-twenty; in stature they were also nearly the same; but, if there was any difference between them in this particular, it was in favour of M'Intyre, who stood nearly six feet in height. M'Leod might be an inch shorter. They had been brought up together from their infancy; had a thousand times together climbed the heights of Cruagh Moran, and as often swam across the deep, dark waters of Loch Uisk, which lay just before their doors. Their parents were next[Pg 92] door neighbours in the little village of Ardvortan, situated in one of the most beautiful straths in the West of Scotland. James and Roderick had not only been companions from their earliest years, but earned their scanty subsistence; and they were now, together, about to try their fortunes in a world to which they had hitherto been strangers. Stories of the warlike renown of their ancestors, with more recent tales of the achievements of their countrymen who had enlisted in the 42nd and other Highland regiments, had roused the martial spirit which they inherited from their fathers, and determined them to leave their peaceful glen and native hills, to seek, in "the ranks of death," for that which they had been taught to believe was the proudest gift of fortune—a soldier's fame.

It was a sad, and yet a proud day, for the mothers of the young men, that on which they left their native village. Natural affection deplored their departure, while maternal pride gloried in visions of the honours that awaited them on the fields of war. The plumed bonnet, the belted plaid, and all the other gallant array of the Highland soldier, presented themselves to the fond mothers; and they thought, as they gazed on the stately forms of their sons for the last time, how well they would look in the martial garb which they were about to assume. The young men, then, whom we have represented as wending their way by the margin of Loch Ard, and prosecuting a southward journey, were proceeding to Glasgow, one of the recruiting stations of the —th Highland regiment, to enrol themselves in that gallant corps, which was already filled with their friends and countrymen.

On arriving at Glasgow, which, although a distance of nearly forty miles from the spot where we first introduced them to the reader, they made out with perfect ease on the evening of the same day on which they left their native village, the young men repaired to a well-known resort of[Pg 93] the privates of Highland regiments which were from time to time quartered in Glasgow. This was a low, dark public-house in the High Street of that city, kept by a Serjeant M'Nab, an old veteran, who had seen service in his day; and who, although he had now retired into private life, continued to maintain all his military connections with as much zeal as if he was still in the discharge of his military duties; and, indeed, this he was to some extent, having still an authority to enlist. The house of M'Nab was thus filled from morning to night with soldiers of various grades of rank—serjeants, corporals, and privates—and of various degrees of standing, from the raw, newly-enrolled recruit, with his stiff black stock—the only article of his military equipment with which he had been yet provided—to the veteran serjeant, who had literally fought his way to his present rank. In every corner of every room in this favourite resort of the Celtic warriors, lay heaps of muskets resting against the wall; and on every table lay piles of Highland bonnets—their owners being engaged in discussing the contents of the oft-replenished half-mutchkin stoup. Occasionally, too, the scream of a bagpipe might be suddenly heard in some apartment, where the party by which it was occupied had attained the point of musical excitement, while, over all, except the sounds of the aforenamed instrument, prevailed the din of noisy, but good-humoured colloquy, in sonorous Gaelic; for no other language was ever heard in the warlike domicile of Serjeant M'Nab.

Such, then, was the house—further distinguished, we forgot to say, by the sign of the Ram's Head—to which James M'Intyre and Roderick M'Leod now repaired. They were met at the door by M'Nab, then in the act of bidding good-by to a batch of serjeants, who, adjusting their bonnets as they stepped, one after the other, from beneath the low doorway of the Ram's Head, were about to form a re[Pg 94]cruiting party to beat up through the streets for young aspirants after military glory—a single drummer and fifer being in attendance for this purpose.

"Ah, Shames! Ou Rory!" exclaimed M'Nab, taking each of the young men, who were both well known to him (he being from the same part of the country), by the hand; "what has brought you" (we translate, for this was spoken in Gaelic) "to this quarter of the world?"

The lads smiled, and said they would inform him of that presently. Accustomed to such visits, for such a purpose as M'Intyre and M'Leod now made, M'Nab at once guessed their object, and, without any further remark, conducted them into his own private apartment, where, the tact of the recruiting serjeant and the natural hospitality of the man combining, he entertained them liberally with the best his house afforded. During this refection, the young men made known the object of their visit. The serjeant highly approved of their spirit, descanted on the glories of a soldier's life, stirred up their ambition of military fame by recounting various exploits performed by relations and acquaintances of their own with whom he had served, and concluded by tendering them the ominous shilling. It was accepted, and James M'Intyre and Roderick M'Leod became soldiers in His Majesty's —th regiment of foot.

Desirous, however, as the young men were of enlisting, there was a condition which they insisted on being conceded them, before they finally committed themselves. This was, that they should continue comrades after they became soldiers; that is, as is well known to every one in the least conversant with these matters, that they should occupy the same bed, and be placed in a position to render each other the little services of domestic intercourse in quarters.

M'Nab at once promised that their wishes in this respect should be complied with; and the promise was faithfully kept. The two lads were allowed to continue as comrades[Pg 95] after they had joined the regiment; and in this situation maintained that feeling of tender friendship for each other, which had distinguished the previous part of their lives.

Two handsomer or finer-looking soldiers than James M'Intyre and Roderick M'Leod, after they had donned the full costume of the corps to which they belonged, and had acquired the military air of their new profession, could not have been found, not only in their own regiment, but perhaps in the whole British army. Modest in their manners, quiet and civil in their deportment, cleanly, sober and attentive to their duties, they were beloved by their equals, and looked upon with especial favour by their superiors; they were, in short, the pride and boast of the regiment—no small honour in a corps where there was an unusual proportion of stout and steady men.

For some years, the military life of M'Intyre and M'Leod was unmarked by any striking vicissitude. The usual movements of the corps from place to place occurred; but hitherto they had not been called on to take any share in active service. Their turn, however, was to come—and it did come. They were ordered to America, shortly after the commencement of the first war with that country and Great Britain. Previous to their embarking for the seat of war, the two comrades obtained three days' leave of absence—it was all that could be allowed them—to visit their friends in the Highlands. The time was short—too short for the distance they had to travel; but, as the point of embarkation was Greenock, they thought they could make it out; and, by travelling night and day, they did so. They presented themselves in their native glen in the full costume of their corps, and gratified their mothers' hearts by this display of their military appointments. A few short hours of enjoyment succeeded; another bitter parting followed; and the two comrades were again on their way to rejoin their regiment. On the second day after, they were cross[Pg 96]ing the ocean with their regiment, to the seat of war in the new world.

In this new scene of experience, the two friends distinguished themselves as much by their bravery as they had before by their exemplary and soldierly conduct. In all the actions in which they were engaged, they made themselves conspicuous by their gallantry, and by several instances of individual heroism. But they rendered themselves still more remarkable by the tenderness of their friendship, made manifest in a thousand little acts of brotherly love. They stood together foremost in the fight, and attended each other with unremitting kindness and assiduity, when wounds and sickness had alternately stretched them on the couch of suffering. Their affection for each other soon became, in short, a subject of general remark, exciting a singular degree of interest, from the romantic character with which the bravery of the two friends had invested it.

About this time—that is, about the middle of the war—the regiment to which M'Intyre and M'Leod belonged had the misfortune to lose their commanding officer, who was killed in action. To the regiment this was a misfortune, and one of the most serious kind; for the gallant soldier who had fallen was the friend as well as the commander of his men. He studied and adapted himself to their peculiarities; knew and appreciated their character; and was beloved by them in return, for the kind consideration which he always evinced for their best interests. He was, moreover, their countryman—a circumstance which formed an additional tie between him and the brave men whom he commanded.

But the death of Colonel Campbell was a double mischance to the regiment; inasmuch as to his loss was added the misfortune of his place being supplied by a man of totally opposite character. His successor, stern, and un[Pg 97]forgiving, endeavoured to procure that efficiency in his corps through fear, which his predecessor had commanded through love. He was an Englishman; and was a perfect stranger to the feelings and national peculiarities of the men over whom he was thus so suddenly placed; neither was he at any pains to acquire so necessary a piece of information, nor in any way to conform his system of discipline to the peculiar spirit of the mountain band which was now under his harsh and undiscriminating control.

Unfortunate, however, as was the circumstance of this officer's being put in command of the —th regiment to every soldier in that gallant corps generally, there were two individuals to whom it was indeed a misfortune of the most melancholy and deplorable kind, and these two the most meritorious and deserving men in the regiment. Need we say that these were James M'Intyre and Roderick M'Leod? But we must detail the circumstances as they occurred.

To do this, then, let us mention that, after a weary night-march of many miles over a mountainous road covered with snow, the —th regiment, with several others, found itself within cannon-shot of one of the enemy's positions. The ground destined for the British troops having been gained, the whole were ordered silently to bivouac, till the morning light should enable them to advance to the attack, which was the particular object of the movement. It was yet, however, some hours till morning; and it was thus necessary, in case of sudden surprisal, to establish a chain of outposts around the position occupied by the troops. Amongst those selected for this duty was Roderick M'Leod, who was placed alone in a solitary post at one of the most remote points of the circle formed by the British sentinels. It was a perilous and important position; and for these reasons was it that M'Leod was chosen to occupy it—every reliance being placed on his courage, vigilance, and well-known steadiness.

Aware of the importance of his trust, Roderick, with his[Pg 98] shouldered firelock, commenced pacing smartly—for the night was intensely cold—in the limits of his appointed place, and keeping a sharp look-out in the direction of the enemy. This position he had occupied about half-an-hour, when he thought he heard footsteps approaching. Roderick brought down and cocked his piece, and stood ready to fire. The sounds became more audible. He raised his musket to his shoulder, and placed his finger on the trigger. He saw some persons approaching, apparently with confident step. He challenged, and was answered. It was a picket of his own regiment, commanded by a serjeant, a particular acquaintance and friend, the son of one of his father's neighbours. He was making a round of the outposts, to see that all were on the alert, and to inquire if anything had been stirring.

"All quiet, Roderick?" said Serjeant More M'Alister, on approaching the former.

"All quiet, serjeant," replied M'Leod.

"Cold work this, Rory," rejoined the serjeant, at the same time drawing a flask from his bosom, and handing it to the former; "here, take a mouthful of that, to keep the frost out."

M'Leod, perishing of cold, gratefully acknowledged the very timous kindness, placed the flask to his mouth, and unguardedly took a hearty pull of the brandy it contained. Shortly after, the visiting party moved off on their rounds, and, for a little time subsequently, M'Leod felt himself renovated by the spirits he had taken. The excitement, however, was but temporary; reaction took place; a degree of lassitude came over him, which, aided as it was by the fatigue of his previous march and the severity of the cold, he found himself unable to shake off. In this state of feeling, he leaned against a tree which stood close by his post, and, ere he was aware, fell into a profound sleep. At this unfortunate moment, his commanding officer, accompanied by a small party, rode up to M'Leod. He was found asleep; and, still more heinous offence, when awakened, he was found to[Pg 99] be the worse of drink—a momentary incoherence, and the smell of his breath, which betrayed the presence of ardent spirits, being held as conclusive proof by his superior that he was drunk.

"I am not drunk, sir," replied M'Leod, calmly, on being harshly charged with that offence by Colonel Maberly.

"You are, sir," was the peremptory rejoinder. "Besides, you have been asleep at your post. Men, disarm that fellow, and make him your prisoner."

The order was instantly obeyed. M'Leod's musket and bayonet were taken from him; another man was placed on his post; and he was marched away, to abide the consequence of his dereliction of military duty. As the intended attack on the enemy took place on the following morning, no proceedings were instituted in M'Leod's case for some days after; but all dreaded the most fatal result from these, when they should occur, from the ferocious and unforgiving nature of Colonel Maberly.

We fear we would but weaken the effect of the reader's more impressive conceptions, were we to attempt to describe the feelings of M'Intyre during the days of agonising suspense between the period of his comrade's arrestment and the judgment which followed. He refused all sustenance; and, from being one of the most active and cheerful men in the regiment, became careless in his duties and morose in his temper, and seemed as if he courted, or would willingly have done something calculated to expose him to the same fate which he had no doubt awaited his unhappy comrade. The two unfortunate men—for the one was scarcely less an object of compassion than the other—had frequent interviews previous to M'Leod's receiving the sentence which was thought due to his offence; and these were of the most heartrending description. These men, of stout frame and lion heart, who side by side had often marched unappalled up to the cannon's mouth, wept in[Pg 100] each other's arms like women. Words they had none, or they were but few.

At length the fatal judgment was passed. M'Leod was condemned to be shot; and the sentence was ordered to be carried into execution on the afternoon of the same day on which it was awarded. The unhappy victim of military law shrunk not at the contemplation of the miserable fate that awaited him. He heard it announced with unmoved countenance and unshrinking nerve; his only remark, simply expressed in his native language, being, "that, as to being shot, he minded it not; but he could have wished that it had been on the field of battle." Although prepared for the dreadful intelligence which was to inform him of the doom of his comrade—for he had no doubt from the first that it would be so—M'Intyre knew not yet the one-half of the misery that awaited him in connection with the impending death of his friend. It was possible to aggravate to him the horrors of that event tenfold, and to increase inconceivably the torture of his already agonised mind—and poor M'Intyre found it was so.

We leave it to the reader to conceive what were his feelings, when he was informed that he was to be one of the firing-party—one of his comrade's executioners! This was a refinement in cruelty which had been reserved for Colonel Maberly. It was unparalleled. But his order had gone forth. He had willed it so, and it was known that he never yielded a point on which he had once determined. It was believed also, that his usual obstinacy and hard-heartedness would be increased in this case, from an idea that he was adding to the terror of the example, by the savage proceeding just alluded to. The idea, however, of compelling one comrade to assist in putting another to death, was so revolting to every feeling of humanity, so wantonly cruel, that the men of the regiment determined on sending a deputation to the colonel, to entreat of him to rescind his[Pg 101] order, and to relieve M'Intyre of the horrible duty to which he had appointed him. This deputation accordingly waited on the commanding officer, and, in the most respectful language, preferred their petition. They did not seek a remission of the unfortunate man's sentence; for they felt and acknowledged that, however stern and cruelly severe it was, it was yet according to military law; but they implored that his comrade might not be compelled to share in its execution. The petition was preferred in vain. Colonel Maberly was inexorable. "He had given his orders," he said, briefly and impatiently, "and they must be obeyed."

Finding it in vain to urge their request farther, the deputation sadly withdrew, to communicate to M'Intyre, who was awaiting their return in a state of mind bordering on distraction, the result of their mission. When it was told him, he said nothing, made no reply, but seemed lost in thought for some moments. At length—

"I will go to the colonel myself," he said; "and, if there be any portion of our common nature in him, he will not refuse to hear me. If he does not——"

Here he clenched his teeth fiercely together, but left the sentence unfinished. Acting on the resolution which he had thus formed, M'Intyre sought out Colonel Maberly. When he found him—

"Colonel," he said, touching his bonnet with a military salute, "you have ordered me to be of the party who are to shoot"—here his voice faltered, and it was some seconds before he could add—"my comrade, M'Leod."

"I have, sir—and what of that?" replied the colonel, fiercely; but he quailed when he marked the deadly scowl that now gleamed in the eye of M'Intyre.

"It was cruel, sir," replied the latter, with a desperate calmness and determination of manner; "and I implore you, as you hope for mercy from the God that made you, to release me from this horrible duty."[Pg 102]

"Sir," exclaimed Colonel Maberly, furiously, "do you mean to mutiny?—do you mean to disobey orders?"

"No, sir, I do not. I merely ask you to relieve me from the dreadful task of being my comrade's executioner."

"Then I'll be d—d if I do!" said the military tyrant.

"You had better, sir, for your own sake," replied M'Intyre.

"What, sir! Do you threaten me?" exclaimed Colonel Maberly, in an outrageous passion.

"Oh no, sir," replied M'Intyre, with an air of affected respect; but it was one in which some deep mysterious meaning might have been discovered. "Will you absolve me from this duty?"

"No, sir; I will not," replied Colonel Maberly, turning on his heel, and cutting the conference short by walking away.

"Your blood be upon your own head, you cruel, merciless man!" muttered M'Intyre, as he looked after Colonel Maberly, himself continuing to stand the while in the spot where the latter had left him.

M'Intyre soon after returned to his quarters, and was seen calmly and silently preparing his arms for the dreadful duty which they were about to be called on to perform. In making these preparations, he was observed to be particularly careful that everything should be in the most serviceable condition. He fitted several flints to his piece, snapping each repeatedly, before being satisfied with its efficiency, and was even at the pains to dry and pulverise a small quantity of powder for priming, to insure a more certain explosion than could be counted on in its original state of grittiness.

In the meantime, the hour of execution approached, and at length arrived. The entire regiment was drawn out to witness the example which was about to be made of the consequences that attended such departures from duty as[Pg 103] M'Leod's misconduct involved. Being formed in military order, and the prisoner placed in a conspicuous yet secure position, the whole were marched off, to the music of fife and muffled drum, to a level piece of ground at the distance of about a quarter of a mile from the quarters occupied by the regiment. M'Leod's conduct on this trying occasion was in perfect keeping with his general character. It was calm, firm, and manly. His step was steady and dignified; and his whole bearing bespoke at once a resigned and undaunted spirit. Yet it might not, nay, it certainly would not, have been so, had he known that the comrade of his bosom was to be one of his executioners. This, however, had been mercifully concealed from him. It was all his fellow-soldiers could do for him; but, to a man, had they all anxiously and carefully kept from him the appalling secret; for they knew it would have unnerved him in the hour of trial—in the hour of death.

All unconscious, therefore, of the additional misery with which the cruel order of his commanding officer was yet to visit him, M'Leod marched undauntedly on to his doom. His mien was erect, his eye calm and composed, and a slight paleness of countenance alone bore testimony to his consciousness of the awful situation in which he was placed. On reaching the locality intended for the scene of execution, the corps was formed into three sides of a square. In the centre of that which was vacant, the prisoner was placed; and, at the distance of about twenty yards further in the square, stood the firing party. On the left of these, and between them and the prisoner, stood Colonel Maberly, who, in consequence of having seen some very marked symptoms of disgust with his severity in the corps, had determined on presiding at the execution in person.

It was now, for the first time, that M'Leod became aware that his comrade was to be of the number of his executioners. He saw him amongst the firing-party. Un[Pg 104]knowing the fact, and never dreaming of the possibility of such an atrocity as that which M'Intyre's position involved, M'Leod calmly asked a serjeant who stood near him—"What does James do there?" The serjeant evaded a reply, or rather affected not to hear him. At this moment the chaplain of the regiment came up to the unfortunate man, to administer the comfort and consolation of religious aid to the doomed soldier. But, ere he could enter on his sacred duties, M'Leod, on whose mind some approximation to the horrid truth as regarded the part assigned his comrade had now flashed, put the same question to the chaplain as he had done to the serjeant.

"Mr Fraser," he said, "I guess the truth; but I would fain be assured of it. Why is my comrade, James M'Intyre, amongst the firing-party?"

The chaplain, as the serjeant had done, endeavoured to evade a reply, by directing the unhappy man to matters of spiritual concernment; but he would not be evaded, and again repeated the question. Thus pressed, the chaplain could no longer avoid the explanation he sought. He told him M'Intyre was one of the firing-party by order of the commanding officer.

"I guessed as much," said M'Leod, calmly. "It is a piece of dreadful cruelty; but may God forgive him, as I freely do!"

He then, without making any further remark, entered solemnly and composedly into the devotional exercises prescribed by his spiritual comforter. These concluded, and everything being ready for the last fatal act of the tragedy, the firing-party were ordered to advance nearer, when M'Intyre, stepping out from his place amongst them, advanced towards the colonel, and again implored him to release him from the dreadful duty imposed on him. The colonel's reply was as determined and peremptory as before.

"Do your duty, sir!" he said, waving his hand impatiently[Pg 105] as a signal to M'Intyre to return to his place, and stepping a pace or two away from him as he spoke. "Do your duty, sir, or I'll compel you; I'll have you in the same situation with your friend."

M'Intyre obeyed the ruthless order without saying another word. He returned to his place. The prisoner's eyes were now bandaged. The firing-party had levelled their muskets, and were waiting the fatal sign. It was made. Colonel Maberly himself made it. The volley was discharged, and M'Leod fell; but he fell not alone. In the same instant, the commanding officer of the —th regiment was also stretched lifeless on the plain. The well-aimed musket of M'Intyre had sent its ball through the heart of the ruthless tyrant. On perpetrating the deed, the former threw his piece on the ground, exclaiming, "Roderick is avenged, and the mercy the tyrant showed to others has been meted out to himself!" and offered himself up, an unresisting prisoner, to whoever might choose to execute that duty.

It was some minutes—so sudden and unexpected had been the catastrophe—before any one made the slightest movement; all looking on in silent and fixed amazement, but we cannot add with much regret; till at length a serjeant stepped out of the ranks, and seized M'Intyre by the breast.

"Right, Serjeant Thompson, right," said the latter, calmly; "you are doing your duty. I know what awaits me, and I am prepared for it. I did not do what I have done without making up my mind to the consequences."

These were indeed inevitable. On the third day thereafter, the roll of the muffled drum announced that M'Intyre's hour was come; and he fell, but not unpitied, beneath the bullets of a party of his fellow-soldiers, on the identical spot where, three days before, his unfortunate comrade had met a similar doom.

[Pg 106]


"The decreet's oot the morn, Mr Fairly, against that man Simmins," quoth an equivocal-looking gentleman, with a stick under his arm, a marvellously shabby hat, a rusty black coat, waistcoat pinned up to the throat, and followed out by a battered stock, glazed and greasy, with its edges worn to the bone; and thus making an unseemly exhibition of the internal composition of said article of wearing apparel. No shirt, or at least none visible; countenance bearing strong marks of dissipation; voice loud and ferocious; look equivocal. Such was the personage who conveyed the information above recorded to Mr Fairly; and, considering the very particular nature of that information, together with certain other little circumstances thereafter following, the reader will be at no great loss, we should suppose, to guess both the nature of his profession and the purpose of his call. In case, however, he should not, we beg to inform him that the speaker was one of those meritorious enforcers of the law, called, in Scotland, messengers—in England, bailiffs.

Mr Fairly, again—the person spoken to—was a fashionable tailor in a certain city not a hundred miles from Arthur's Seat. He was a little, active man, sharp and keen as a razor; and altogether a dangerous-looking customer to those who found it inconvenient to settle his demands in due time; he was, in short, the dread and terror of dilatory payers. In such cases, he hung out the black flag, and gave no quarter. He was, in truth, just as merciless a tailor as ever cut cloth, and well were his savage propensities known to, and much were they respected by, a[Pg 107] certain class of his customers—meaning those who stuck too long on the left-hand side of his ledger—the fatal ledger. Such, then, was our other interlocutor, Mr Fairly. We have only to add, that the scene which we have opened was in a certain parlour in that gentleman's house, and then to proceed with the conference which this necessary digression has interrupted.

"The decreet's oot the morn, Mr Fairly, against that man Simmins," said his visiter, Mr John Howison; "what do ye mean to do? Are we to incarcerate?"

It was a needless question; for Fairly incarcerated everybody, right and left, in such circumstances, sparing neither sex nor age.

"Incarcerate!" he repeated, with a ferocious emphasis. "Surely, surely. Nab the scoundrel. Don't give him a minute beyond his time. Let me see what were the articles again." And he proceeded to turn over the leaves of his ominous ledger. "Ay, a surtout, extra superfine Saxony blue, richly braided, &c. &c., £4:15s., due 21st December, and this is the 19th January. A month past date! Nab him, Howison. Nab the villain, and we'll give him six months of the cage, at any rate, and that'll be some satisfaction."

Howison grinned a grin, partly of satisfaction at the prospect of a job, and partly of approval of his employer's wit. "But I don't know the chap exactly," said the former. "I only saw him once."

"Oh, that's easily sorted," replied Fairly. "Although you don't know him, you may know my surtout, which he constantly wears—having no other coat, I verily believe, to his back. Here, see, here is the neighbour of it." And he ran into a back apartment, whence he shortly returned with a very flashy article of the description he referred to, and, expanding it before Howison, bade him mark its peculiarities. "Sir," he said, "it's one of a thousand.[Pg 108] The only one of the same cut and fashion in the whole city. That I know. I would pick it out, blind, from amongst a million."

Howison having carefully scanned the garment, declared that he was ready to take his chance of recognising his man—other circumstances corroborating—by its particular cut and adornments; and, in truth, he needed have little hesitation about the matter; for, indeed, the surtout was, as Fairly had said, one of a thousand. It was altogether a very marked sort of article, especially in the department of braiding, that being singularly rich and voluminous; and if, as its maker had also said, it had not its fellow in the town (barring, of course, the duplicate which he was now exhibiting), there could be no difficulty whatever in identifying the devoted debtor.

Matters being thus arranged, the messenger, after having obtained Simmins' address, took leave of his employer, with full authority to visit the unhappy owner of the surtout with the utmost vengeance of the law, and with a promise on his own part that he would duly inform the latter of his subsequent proceedings in the case—meaning thereby, that, so soon as the bird was caged, he would give due intimation thereof.

Leaving the process just detailed at the point to which we have brought it, we beg to introduce the reader to another personage who figures in our little drama: this is Mr Jacob Merrilees, a student of medicine, a gentlemanly young man, of limited means, but fair prospects, and, withal, talented and promising. He was at this moment pursuing his studies at the college of ——, and was making a progress in professional learning that augured well for his future success in the world. But, with this part of his history we have little or nothing to do—our interest in him being on a totally different account.

Talented, however, as our young friend was, he had, like[Pg 109] other men, his little weaknesses; one in particular—but it was a natural and a harmless one—this was a rather excessive fastidiousness on the score of dress. He loved, of all things, to be smartly attired; and was thus, upon the whole, something of a dandy in his way. Unfortunately for poor Jacob, however, this was a taste which he was not always able to indulge in to the extent he could have wished. His circumstances, or rather his father's penuriousness, prevented it; and the consequence was, that he frequently found himself considerably below his own standard of perfection in the article toggery. It is true, that one less particular in this matter would hardly have agreed with him; but such were his own feelings on the subject, and that was enough.

Having mentioned the little weakness above alluded to—if, indeed, it can be called a weakness—it becomes our duty to show cause for having called the reader's attention to it. This duty, then, we will forthwith discharge; but we must be allowed to do so in our own way. We have said that our friend Merrilees was making rapid progress in his professional education; he was so, but he was advancing with no less celerity in another and fully more congenial study—namely, the study of love. What fair maiden, in the eyes of Jacob Merrilees, could compete with Miss Julia Willoughby? None. She was peerless! She was the fairest of the fair! Miss Julia Willoughby, then, was the chosen of Jacob's heart; but he had yet no assurance that his tender feelings towards her were reciprocated. Little else than the ordinary courtesies of society had yet passed between them, although these were certainly rapidly melting into more familiar intercourse. Still, as we said before, Jacob could not positively fix on the precise position which he held in the affections of Miss Julia Willoughby. He was still in a state of uncertainty; for no particular mark of favour had yet been bestowed upon him by the[Pg 110] coy fair one. Judge, then, good reader, of the joyous feelings of the enamoured Jacob Merrilees, when he received the following note, written on glazed pink paper, sealed with the impression of a heart pierced by an arrow—said heart being supported by two pigeons—and folded into something of the fashion of a love-knot. Judge, then, good reader, we say, of his feelings on receiving this precious billet, the first palpable hint of his acceptability with which he had ever been favoured by his fair inamorato:—

"Dear Mr Merrilees,—Would you make one of a party to visit the wax-work to-morrow? I should be happy if you could. There will be several young ladies of my acquaintance with us, and one or two gentlemen. We propose meeting at our house. Hour, twelve of the clock precisely. It will particularly gratify me, if you can make it convenient to be one of the party," &c. &c.

"Julia Willoughby."

"Dear, delightful creature!" exclaimed Jacob, in an ecstasy of rapture, and kissing the delicious document with the fervour and enthusiasm of a rapt and devoted love. "Make it convenient?" he exclaimed, with expressive energy. "Ay, that I will, adored and beloved Julia! although ten thousand difficulties were in my way. All engagements, all considerations, all duties, light of my life, idol of my adoration, must give way to thy slightest wish. It will particularly gratify thee!" he exclaimed, with a laugh of wild ecstasy. "Will it, will it?—oh! will it? Then am I a happy man indeed!" and he began to pace the room with the light rapid step of sudden and excessive joy.

In this process Jacob had indulged for several minutes, without adverting, as he usually did, in similar circumstances, to the representation of his own handsome person in a large mirror, which hung on one side of the apart[Pg 111]ment. As his fervour, however, began to abate, he threw glances at the glass en passant, and, with every turn, these glances became more earnest, and of longer duration, until he at length fairly planted himself before the faithful reflector, in order to submit his person to a thorough and deliberate inspection. The survey was perfectly satisfactory to Jacob; and he was turning away, highly gratified by its results, when his eye fell on the sleeve of his coat. "Ha," said Jacob, "getting scuffy, by all that's annoying. Had no idea. Won't do, won't do—that's clear. Can never go through the streets with Julia and her fair bevy of acquaintances in such a coat as this—never, never, never."

And, in great perplexity at the discovery he had made, Jacob flung himself down in a chair, and, with his hand placed on his forehead, began to think profoundly on the means of remedying the evil of a shabby coat. The time was too short to admit of his providing a new one; and, indeed, although it had been longer, this was an experiment on his tailor on which he could hardly have ventured, that gentleman having lately shown symptoms of restiveness which were by no means encouraging. What was to be done then?

"I have it!" said Jacob, starting up: "I will borrow a coat for the nonce from my friend, Bob Simmins. He will supply me with the desiderated garment."

No sooner conceived than executed. Down Jacob immediately sat, and forthwith indited the following billet to his friend Bob:—

"Dear Bob,—Being invited for to-morrow to a party, at which there is to be a large infusion of the fair sex, and finding after a careful inspection, that my coat is not in the most healthy condition, might I request the favour of your lending me a corresponding piece of toggery for the occasion, if you have such an article to spare, and said article be of a kind creditable to the wearer.[Pg 112]

"We are about a size, I think, and can therefore calculate on a fit. Yours truly,

Jacob Merrilees."

Having written this note, Jacob forthwith sealed it, and put it into the hands of the maid-servant, with a request that she would see to its immediate delivery. The request was complied with. In ten minutes after, the girl was in the presence of the redoubted Bob Simmins; for redoubted he was, Bob being one of the most dashing fellows of his time, nevertheless of a rigid adherence to the praiseworthy rule of never paying a copper to anybody for anything.

Having opened his friend's note, and scanned it over—

"Ah yes, let me see"—and he stroked his chin, threw himself back in the chair, gazed on the roof, and thought for a moment. At length—"My compliments to Mr Merrilees," he said; "I will send him what he wants to-morrow morning."

In due course of time, to-morrow morning made its appearance, and with it came to Jacob's lodgings the promised article of dress. A bundle neatly put up, and whose outward covering was a yellow silk handkerchief, was handed in to Mr Merrilees, as he sat at breakfast. At once guessing at the contents of the package, Jacob started up, undid the knots by which it was secured, with an eager and impatient hand, took up the article it contained, shook out its folds, and gazed with ecstasy on a splendid surtout. It was Simmins'. Jacob knew it again. He had seen it a thousand times on his friend, and as often had praised and admired it. The cut, the braiding, the elegant fur neck—all had been marked, and cordially approved of. How good of Simmins, poor fellow! to send him his best coat! It was an obligation he would never forget.

Having unfolded the surtout, Jacob's next proceeding was to try it on. It was a beautiful fit. Not the hundredth part of an inch too short, too long, or too wide. It was, in fact, just the thing. Couldn't have been better,[Pg 113] although it had been cut for him by Stultz's foreman. Convinced of this pleasing truth, Jacob stood before the glass for fully a quarter-of-an-hour, throwing himself into various attitudes, in order to bring out all the beauties of the much-admired garment; and every change of position increasing the favourable opinion which he entertained of his own appearance. Satisfied with the contemplation of himself in the mirror, Jacob now commenced a series of turns up and down the apartment; sometimes throwing his arms akimbo, sometimes folding them across his breast, and anon glancing down with a smile of ineffable admiration on the flowing skirts of his surtout. This new test of the merits of the borrowed garment having also been found satisfactory, and every other ordeal to which it could be subjected having also been had recourse to, and it having stood them all, Jacob put the last finishing touch to his person, gave a last look at the glass, and, with mincing step, went forth to conquer and to captivate. And never did man or woman either take the field for such a purpose with greater confidence in their own powers, or with greater certainty of success.

Before proceeding, however, to the place of meeting, Jacob bethought him of making a run the length of his friend Bob's, just to thank him for his kindness, and to show him how the surtout fitted. Obeying this impulse, he was, in a few minutes after, in the presence of the obliging Simmins. A lively chat ensued between the two friends, and continued with unabated energy, until Jacob, suddenly pulling out his watch, found that his appointed hour had passed. On making this discovery, he started from his chair, seized his hat, rushed out of the house, and, at the top of his speed, made for the residence of his beloved Julia Willoughby. Notwithstanding his speed, however, he was a little late. The party were already assembled. This was a trifle awkward; but it had its advantages, as we shall[Pg 114] presently show. The approach to Miss Willoughby's residence was through a garden of considerable length, and thus all visiters might be fully, fairly, and minutely scanned as they advanced. Now, Jacob being a little late, as we have already said, the party, particularly the ladies, in their impatience for his arrival, had clustered around the windows, and were anxiously looking for his advent; so that the moment he opened the gate, both himself and his surtout were in full view of some half-dozen or more admiring spinsters. It was a complete triumph to Jacob, and he felt it to be so. He saw that all eyes were bent on him as he approached the house; that his surtout had attracted particular notice, and had become a subject of general remark and general approbation. He felt, in short, conscious that he had excited a sensation amongst the fair spectators of his approach. He saw the flutter of agitation. He marked the blush, the averted eye. He was delighted, elated. His surtout was triumphant. It had produced all the effects, so far as others are concerned, for which a surtout can be coveted. Conscious of the impression he had made, through the medium of his surtout, Jacob's step became more buoyant, his head more erect, and his whole mien more elevated and dignified.

Thus he entered the parlour, where the waiting party were assembled; and here, again, he had the satisfaction of finding his surtout an object of general observation. But let us ask, while Jacob is thus enjoying the favouring smiles of the fair, and thus revelling in his own delightful feelings, who and what are they, these two fellows who are skulking about Mr Willoughby's garden gate, as if waiting the egress of some one? Why, it is Howison—no other; and another professional gentleman, a concurrent. They are upon business. They have got scent of prey, and are following it out, with noses as keen and purpose as fell as those of a sleuth-hound. There can be no doubt of it. Hear[Pg 115] them; listen to the gentle small talk that is passing between them.

Howison loquitur, and wiping his perspiring forehead with his handkerchief: "Feth, Davy, that was a rin; and no to mak him oot after a'. But we'll nail him yet."

Concurrent respondent: "But are ye sure it was him after a'?"

"Oh, perfectly! I canna be mistaen. It's the surtout, beyond a' manner o' doubt; and of course it's the man, too, seein he cam oot o' the house we were directed to."

The reasoning being quite satisfactory to the concurrent, he ventured no further remark on the subject of identity; and we avail ourselves of the temporary pause which now took place between the speakers, to explain, that they had seen Jacob emerging from Simmins'. They were just approaching at the moment; but the rapid rate at which the former was going prevented the closer intimacy which they intended, and hence the chase.

"Will we pin him in this house, then?" inquired Davy, again resuming the conversation.

"No; they might deny him. We'll wait whar we are a bit, till he comes oot. Dog him, if he taks the direction o' the jail, and nab him at a convenient opportunity."

"He may bilk us."

"We'll tak care o' that. We'll gie him heels for't, Davy, if that's his gemm."

A pause in the conversation, which was not for some time interrupted, here ensued. After a short while, however, it was again broken in upon.

"Whisht! whisht! Back, Davy, back!" (The two professional gentlemen were ensconced in a close or entry directly opposite Mr Willoughby's garden-gate.) "Back, Davy, back!" said Howison. "There's somebody comin. I hear folk speakin and lauchin in the garden."

Davy listened an instant, then acknowledged there were[Pg 116] good grounds for the assertion, and immediately drew himself farther into his hiding-place, like an alarmed snail into its shell.

Howison, as the principal, now placed himself in front of his assistant, squeezed himself as close as he could to the wall, until he stuck as close to, and as flat on it, as a bat. He then, by a dexterous movement, thrust his head in a lateral direction, till his nose just cleared the corner of the close, when, closing his left eye, and concentrating his whole powers of vision in his right, he planted the solitary optic with eager vigilance on the garden gate, to watch the coming forth of those who were on its opposite side. For this he had not long to wait. In a few moments the gate flew open, and out sallied, with frequent bursts of merriment, one of the gayest and most joyous parties that a bright summer day ever brought forth; and gayest and most joyous of the whole was Jacob Merrilees. Of the whole squad his laugh was the loudest, his motions the liveliest, his looks the most cheerful. Jacob was in his element. He was in the midst of a bevy of ladies. One hung on each arm; while others, to whom fortune had not been so propitious in allowing them to get nearer his person, contented themselves with taking the arms again of their more favoured sisters—of those two enviable spinsters who had secured the posts of honour, the immediate vicinity of the admired Jacob Merrilees. Jacob was thus in the very centre of the gay band of fair spinsters; and a proud man was he of his enviable position. He talked!—ye gods, how he talked!—and chattered away in a manner most delightful to hear; at least so it seemed, from the frequent bursts of laughter which he elicited from his lively protegées. He smirked, and he smiled, and he bowed, first to one side and then to another, after his most captivating manner, and, in short, did all that a man who was pleased with himself, and desired to please others, could possibly do to maintain these[Pg 117] agreeable feelings. He was the king of the roost—that was evident; the very centre of attraction; the delight, the glory, the leading star in the galaxy of beauty of which he formed a part.

The party having cleared the gate, took the road with a circular sweep round, and a burst of merriment that sufficiently betokened the lightness of heart and of heel of those of whom it was composed.

"Deek yon, Davy," exclaimed Howison, at this interesting moment, and now addressing the worthy just named, who had by this time come up alongside of him, and was also indulging himself in a bird's-eye view of the party round the corner of the close. "Deek yon, Davy. He's aff like a paitrik: but we'll bring him up wi' a short turn, I'm thinkin. We'll pit a slug through his wing. Little does he ken wha's watchin him."

"Wull we gie chase?" said the concurrent, who stood at this instant like a dog in the slip, with his neck on the stretch, and every nerve braced for the run.

"No, no; gie him the start a bit till he gathers confidence, and then we'll pounce on him. Wary, Davy, wary! keep in a bit. Dinna shute oot your head so far. If he gets a glisk o' ye, he'll tak to his trotters in a minnit, and gie us an infernal rin for't. See what lang legs the sinner has."

"I think I could rin him ony day," replied Howison's concurrent, "and gie him a start o' a hunner yards to the bargain."

"I'm no sure o' that," rejoined Howison, shaking his head doubtingly; "ye dinna ken hoo a man can rin wi' a caption at his heels. It maks them go at a deevil o' a rate. I've seen great, fat, auld chaps, that ye wadna hae thocht could rin a yard an't were to save their lives, flee like the win before a 'Whereas.'"

"Noo, noo, Davy," continued Howison, and now recalling his neighbour's attention to business, "let us be jog[Pg 118]gin. He's takin the richt road, so we'll just pin him at our leisure."

Saying this, the pair started, and in a short time were hovering on the skirts of the heedless party, and their heedless and unwary leader, the devoted Jacob Merrilees.

Wholly unconscious, as the reader will readily believe, of the plot that was thickening over his head, or, rather, at his heels, Jacob was continuing the career of banter, and lively small talk, and smart repartee, which distinguished his first appearance at the garden gate, when he suddenly felt himself gently touched from behind on the left shoulder. He turned round, but without quitting the arms of the fair ladies who hung upon him, and looked frowningly on Howison.

"What do you mean, sir?" inquired Jacob, indignantly, and now glancing also at Howison's companion, who stood close by, with his stick tucked under his arm.

To this query the only reply was a knowing wink, and a significant wag of the forefinger, which, when translated, meant—"Come here, friend, and I'll tell you."

"Get along with you, sir!" said Jacob, contemptuously.

"Thank you, but I won't," replied Howison, saucily.

"No! Then what the devil do you want?"

"You," said the former, emphatically. "But you had better conduct yourself quietly, for your own sake."

"Now, my good fellow," replied Jacob, in a satirically calm tone, "do tell me what you mean?"

"Do ye ken such a man as Fairly the tailor?" inquired Howison, who always affected a degree of playfulness in the execution of this department of his duties. "Do ye ken Fairly the tailor?" he said, with an intelligent smile.

"I know no such man, sir; never heard his name before," replied Jacob, angrily, and now urging his fair protegées onwards—the whole party having been stopped by the incident just detailed.[Pg 119]

"Not so fast, friend," exclaimed Howison, making after his prey, and again slapping him on the shoulder, but now less ceremoniously. "You are my prisoner, and here's my authority," he added, pulling out a crumpled piece of paper. It was the decreet against Simmins. "Although you don't know Fairly, I happen to know Fairly's surtout. The short and the long of the matter is, sir," continued Howison, "that I arrest you at the instance of John Fairly, tailor and clothier, for a debt of £4:15s., with interest and expenses, said debt being the price of the identical surtout which you have just now on your back. So come along quietly, or it may be worse for you."

We do not suppose it is necessary that we should describe the amazement of the unhappy wearer of the surtout in question, on so very extraordinary and incomprehensible a statement being made to him, nor that of his party, from the same cause. The reader will at once conceive what it was, without any such proceeding on our part.

Confounded, however, and amazed as he was, Jacob's presence of mind instantly showed him that he was in a dilemma, a regular scrape. That he must either acknowledge—and, in the presence of all his fair friends, there was death in the idea—that the surtout he wore, and which had procured for him so much admiration, was a borrowed one, or quietly submit to be dragged to jail as the true debtor. Jacob further saw exactly how the case stood. He saw that his friend Simmins had never paid for the very flashy article in which he was now arrayed (a discovery this, however, which did not in the least surprise him), and that he was the person for whom the honours of Howison were intended.

Having, however, no fancy for incarceration, Jacob finally determined on avowing the distressing fact, that his surtout was a borrowed one, and that, not being its true owner, he was, of course, free of the attentions of Mr[Pg 120] Howison. With a face, then, red as scarlet, and a voice expressive of great tribulation, Jacob made a public acknowledement of this humiliating truth, and was about to avail himself of the advantage which he calculated on deriving from it—namely, that of proceeding on his way—when, to his great horror and further confusion, he found that Howison determined on still sticking to him. In great agitation, Jacob again repeated that he was not Simmins, and that he had merely borrowed the surtout from that gentleman. To these earnest asseverations, Howison at first merely replied by an incredulous smile, then added—"It may be sae, sir; but that's a matter that maun be cleared up afterwards. In the meantime ye'll go wi' me, if you please; and, if no o' your ain accord, as I wad advise ye, by force, as I'll compel ye." Saying this, he plunged his hand into one of his pockets, and produced a pair of handcuffs, like a rat-trap. The exhibition of these ornaments, and the dread of getting up a scene on the public street, at once decided the unfortunate surtout-borrower to submit to his fate, and to walk quietly off with his new friends, Mr Howison and concurrent.

In ten minutes after, Jacob found himself snugly quartered in an airy chamber, with grated windows, commanding a pleasant view of a tread-mill in full operation; and here he remained, until the following morning brought such evidence of his identity as procured his liberation. On once more snuffing the fresh air, Jacob swore he would take care again whose coat he borrowed, when he should have occasion to ask such a favour from a friend; and we would advise the reader to exercise the like caution, should he ever find himself in similar circumstances.

[Pg 121]



It is a vain question, that which has been often stirred among men of our profession and metaphysicians, whether insanity—including under that word all the modes of derangement of the mental powers—is strictly a disease, the definition of which, according to the best authorities, is "an alternation from a perfect state of bodily health." Both parties may, to a certain extent, be right; for the one, including chiefly the metaphysicians, can successfully exhibit a gradation in the scale of derangement: beginning at the slightest peculiarity; passing on to an eccentricity; from that to idiosyncrasy; from that to a decay or an extraordinary increase of strength in a particular faculty—say memory; from that to a decay or an increase in the intensity of a feeling, an emotion, or a passion; from that to false perception—such as monomania, progressing to derangement as to one point or subject, often called madness, quoad hoc; and so on, through many other changes, almost imperceptible in their differences, to perfect madness—all without the slightest indication of a pathological nature being to be discovered or detected by the finest dissecting-knife. On the other hand, again, it is indisputable—for we medical men have demonstrated the fact—that a certain degree of madness is almost always accompanied with derangement in the cerebral organs—the most ordinary appearance being the existence of a fluid of a certain kind in the chambers of the brain.

The best and the cleverest of us must let these questions alone; for, so long as we remain—and that may be, as it[Pg 122] likely will be, for ever—ignorant of the subtle principle of organic life—the nature of the mysterious union of mind and matter—we will never be able to tell (notwithstanding all our mental achievements) whether madness has its primary beginning in the body or in the mind. We must remain contented with a knowledge of exciting causes, and with that melancholy lore which treasures up—alas! for how little good!—the dreadful symptoms which distinguish this miserable state of proud man from all other conditions of his earthly sorrow; exhibiting him conscious of being still a human creature impressed with the image of God, yet incapable of using the proudest gift of Heaven—his reason; susceptible of and suffering the most excruciating of all pains—imaginary evils, torments, agonies—yet placed beyond the pale of human sympathy; bent upon—following with cunning and assiduity the cruellest modes of self-immolation; and sometimes calmly reasoning on the nature of the mysterious power that impels to a horrible and revolting suicide.

I have been led into this train of thought by the circumstances of the case I am now about to relate. It is one of a calm, reasoning, determined self-destroyer, in whom, with the single exception of wishing to die by violent and bloody means, I could discover no mental derangement. The case occurs every day; but there are circumstances in this of a peculiar nature, which set it apart from others I have witnessed, and seen described; and, as it bears the invaluable stamp of truth, my description of it may be held to be a chapter, and a melancholy one, in the wonderful history of human life, wherein, perhaps, the succeeding capital division may consist of an account of our own tragic fate, not less lamentable or less awful. Such creatures are we lords of the creation!—so completely veiled are the destinies of man!

It was, I think, in the month of December in the winter of 18—, that a man in the garb of a farmer called upon me,[Pg 123] and requested me to visit George B——, a person, he said, of his own craft, who held a small sheep-farm back among the hills about three miles distant. I asked the messenger if the man was in danger, and if he wished me to proceed instantly to his residence, or if a call the first time that I passed that way, which might be next day, would suffice. He replied that his friend was not in immediate danger, and did not wish me to travel three miles for the special purpose of seeing him, but would be contented with, and grateful for, a visit from me on any early day that suited my convenience.

On the following day, I happened to be in that quarter of the country, and called at the house to which I had been directed. The day was cloudy, raw, and cold, and a stern north wind whistled among the brackens of the hills. I was struck with the situation and appearance of the house. It had formerly been a mansion-house, and was much larger than the ordinary residences of small sheep-farmers among the hills. The situation was peculiarly bleak, sequestered, and even dismal: no trees could be discovered in any direction; there was no outhouses attached to the dwelling; and no neighbouring residence was to be seen. The house stood alone, big, gaunt, cold, and comfortless, in the midst of bare hills, exposed to the bitter wind that careered through the valleys and ravines. Nor, as I approached, did I discover any signs of domestic stir or comfort. Several of the windows were closed up—the under part of the house apparently being only inhabited by the inmates, who showed no anxiety to ascertain by looking out who it was that had accomplished the task of getting to this barren and sequestered place.

On knocking at the door, it was opened by a young woman about eighteen years of age. She appeared to be delicate—being thin in her person, pale in her complexion, and of an irritable temperament, for she started when she saw me.[Pg 124] An expression of melancholy pervaded features not unhandsome, and attracted particularly my attention, by almost instantly exciting my sympathy. I asked her if George B—— was in the house. She answered that her father, for such he was, had just gone to bed, having been for some time ailing. I told her that it was upon that account I had come to see him. She seemed then to know who I was, and thanked me for my attention. I stepped in; and, as I followed the young woman through a long passage to the room occupied by her father, she told me that her mother had died about a year before, and that there was no other individual living in the house but her and her remaining parent. A gloomy, unhappy pair! thought I, as I looked on her sombre face, and heard the wind moaning through the big, open house.

On entering the room, which was cold and poorly furnished, I observed George B—— sitting up in his bed reading a book, which I discovered to be a large Bible. He had a napkin bound round his temples. His face exhibited the true melancholic hue, being of a swarthy yellow; his eyes wore the heaviness generally found in people of that temperament; the muscles were firmly bound down by the rigid, severe, and desponding expression of dejection, generally found associated with these other characteristics; and throughout his face and manner there was exhibited an indifference to surrounding objects, which was only very partially relaxed by his recognition of me as I entered. There was, however, nothing of the look of a diseased man about him; for his face was full and fleshy, his nerves firm and well strung, his eye steady and unclouded, and his voice, as he welcomed me in, strong, and even rough and burly. His face resembled very much the ideal of that of the old Covenanters; and the large Bible he held in his hands aided the conception, and increased the picturesque effect of the whole aspect of the man.[Pg 125]

He knew, or took it for granted, that I was the surgeon he had sent for, pointed to a chair, that I might sit down, and beckoned to his daughter Margaret, as he called her, to leave the room. The young woman retired slowly, and I observed, as she proceeded towards the door, she threw back two or three nervous looks, which I thought indicated a strong feeling of apprehension, mixed with her filial sympathy. As the door shut, it sounded as if it had lost the catch; the father caught the sound, appeared angry, and requested me to rise and shut it effectually, and, as he added, carefully. I complied, and he seemed to listen for some time, as if to try to ascertain whether his daughter had proceeded along the passage to the kitchen. He was uncertain, and listened again, but was still unresolved; at last, he said he was sorry to give me so much trouble, but he felt he could not enter upon the subject about which he wished to consult me until he was satisfied, beyond the possibility of doubt, that Margaret was not listening. I rose and went to the door. On opening it, I saw the young woman standing behind it. On perceiving me, she retreated precipitately and fearfully along the dark passage. I shut the door; and, being unwilling, in my ignorance of the cause of all this mysterious secrecy and suspicion, to betray the poor girl, who had perhaps some good legitimate object in solicitude, I said simply that there was now nobody there. He was satisfied; and I again sat down.

I then asked him what was the particular complaint about which he wished to consult me.

"That is precisely what I wish to know," he replied. "I hae nae complaint aboot my body, which, God be thanked! is just as strong as it used to be. But there is a change in my mind, different frae the healthy griefs, and sorrows, and pains o' mortals. My wife, the best o' women, died a year ago. In a short time after, I lost the greater number o' my sheep in a storm, which prevented me frae[Pg 126] payin my Candlemas rent. But mony a man loses his wife, and mony a shepherd his sheep, without tellin a doctor o' their loss. I laid my account wi' sufferin grief as heavy as mortal ever suffered; and in this house, in this bed, on these hills, in the kirk, and at our cattle trysts, I hae struggled wi' my sorrow. But, sir," leaning his head towards me, and speaking low, "it winna a' do."

He paused, and, as he fixed his eye upon me, drew a deep sigh, as if he had already, as it were, broached a subject that was fearful to himself.

"What mean you?" said I.

"I mean, that I canna live!" he replied, energetically, seizing the Bible with a spasmodic grasp—closing it—throwing it to the back of the bed—then falling in an instant into a state of real dejection, with his arms folded over his breast, and his eyes cast down.

"Grief often produces these gloomy thoughts," said I; "but they are the mere fancies of a sick mind—generated in sorrow, and dying with the time-subdued cause that produces them. There is not a bereaved husband, wife, parent, or child in the land, that does not, in the first struggle with a new grief, entertain and cherish, for passing moments of agony, such sick fancies of rebelling nature. You have not yet given time and your energies a fair trial. You must have patience."

"There is some consolation in that," he replied. "I am glad when I think that the thought that haunts and alarms me is no sae dangerous as it sometimes appears to me. This book (sweet comforter!) tells me that Tobit prayed to be dissolved, and become earth, because o' his sorrow. It tells me, also, that Job, in his agonies, cried, 'My soul chooseth strangling and death rather than life.' My experience o' the ills o' life (and a man o' sixty-five must have some portion o' that) informs me o' the truth o' what you have told me, that an extraordinary burden o' grief often[Pg 127] wrings frae the sick soul a wish to dee and be at rest. But oh! I fear my situation is different. I hae mair than a wish to be dissolved; for sure none o' my brethren in sorrow"—here his voice fell almost to a whisper, and tears rolled down his cheek—"ever lay wi' the like o' that"—holding up a razor—"under his sick pillow."

I was alarmed, being utterly unprepared for this exhibition.

"You need be under nae alarm," he continued, wiping the tears from his eyes. "My courage is not yet strong enough. God be praised for it! Moments o' fearfu fortitude sometimes come owre me, and I have held that instrument in my clenched hand—ay, within an inch o' my bared throat; but the resolution passes as quickly as it comes, and terror, cowardice, and a shiverin cauld—dreadfu to suffer—come in their place. Lay it past, sir—lay it past."

I obeyed; and, as I proceeded to place the instrument on the top of a chest of drawers, I heard the noise of some one in the passage, with suppressed ejaculations of—"O God! O God!"

"I wadna hae shown you that," he continued, as I sat down, "but that it is my wish to tell you the warst; for nae man can expect assistance, if he is ashamed or afraid to show his necessities and his danger. I didna send for you to cure my body, but to examine my mind, and tell me if it is sound and healthy, or weak and diseased, and therefore I will conceal naething frae ye that may show you its state and condition."

I was pleased to find I had so tractable a patient. I paused for a moment, to consider in what way I should draw him out, and on what side I should attack him—whether I should argue calmly with him, and endeavour to stimulate his feelings of duty to his Maker, to himself and his poor daughter; or shake him roughly as a vain and sinful dreamer who had voluntarily swallowed a pernicious[Pg 128] soporific, and try to awaken him, and keep him awake, after the manner of our remedial endeavours to save those who have attempted to poison themselves by laudanum. I saw, in an instant, that he was by far too strong-minded a man to be operated upon effectually by the mere charm of the imputed reach and strength of our cabalistic lore—an agent, if well employed, of great good in our profession—and too determined (for such resolutions are always, in some degree, a false result of reasoning powers) to be put from his purpose either by a firm pressure of logical authority, or the subtle and more dangerous means of good-humoured or severe satire. My course was clearly to endeavour to affect the form of his own reasoning, and, if possible, to invest it with a character which might be recognised as true by the peculiar, and, no doubt, morbid perceptions he possessed of moral truth. I began by securing his eye, which I saw was, at times, inclined to wander, or take on that unmeaning, dull, glazed aspect which people in the act of brooding over intense sorrows—as if the optic nerves were thereby paralysed—so often exhibit.

"What train of mind are you in generally," said I, "when the wish to die, accompanied with the fortitude you have mentioned, comes upon you in its strongest form?"

"I first fall into a state of low spirits," said he, "and then nae effort I can use will tak my mind aff my dead wife. I think for whole hours—sometimes on the hills, sometimes in the house, and sometimes in my bed—of our courtship, our marriage, our happy life, and her miserable, painful, untimely death. This feeds my sorrow, which grows stronger, and descends deeper and deeper, till it reaches my brain, and I am sunk in the darkness o' despair. To escape frae thoughts o' past sorrows that are owre strong to be borne, I try to look forward to the future; but, alas! I see naething there but the pain o' livin for a number o' comfortless years o' auld age, draggin after me, a[Pg 129] memory clogged wi' past ills, and naething afore me but a jail, and want, and lingerin death."

"These are false views of life," said I—"overstrained and morbid. I must teach you to think better. You have a daughter who will comfort you, and whom you are bound to support and protect."

"True, true," he cried; "I hae a dochter, and a better never sacrificed her ain thochts and feelins to the comforts o' a faither. The idea o' leavin her, young, faitherless, poor, and full o' sorrow, in the midst o' a bad world, has before this" (lowering his voice) "brought down that rebellious hand from this throat. But, alas for the inconsistency and mutability o' man's fancies!—dearly as I love that creature, and she is now my only comfort, my very affection for her sometimes sinks me deeper into that sorrow which produces the dreadfu purpose o' takin awa my ain life; for I think—oh! how weak is man's proud reason, when the heart is broken wi' grief!—that an auld parent under the ban o' poverty is a burden to a child. His death (so in these unhappy moments do I think) relieves the unhappy bairn o' twa evils—that o' toilin maybe in vain to support him, and that o' witnessin age, decrepitude, pain, misery, and want, wringin frae his shrivelled and diseased body groans o' agony, strikin the heart o' his child wi' mair pain than would be caused by the knell o' his death."

He now sank his face in the bedclothes, which he grasped with a spasmodic hand, and groaned so deep and loud that the sounds might have reached the passage. I again heard a noise from that quarter, as if of stifled sighs and hysterical sobs. I was placed between the groans of a father bent against his own judgment on self-destruction, and the terrors and griefs of a daughter listening to the horrible recital of her parent's designs against his life. The loneliness of the house, and the solitude of the unhappy pair—with no one to aid the young woman, in the event of[Pg 130] any appalling extremity to which the unnatural purpose of her father might drive him—struck me forcibly. I had no recollection of ever experiencing a scene of grief so peculiar, with such fearful and uncertain issues, so irremediable and heart-stirring. The groans of the one and the sobs of the other seemed to vie with each other in the effect they produced upon me; but, great as the pain of the father was, the sufferings of the daughter, perhaps as peculiar and touching as any that could be conceived, engaged to the greatest extent my sympathy. It was my duty and wish to try to remove the fundamental cause of all this suffering; and I waited the end of the paroxysm of the father's sorrow in order to resume the conversation.

"These views," said I, as he calmed, "which you take of life, and its duties and affections, are all false and distorted. It is our duty to try to regulate our thoughts as well as our actions by some steady supporting principle, which mankind have agreed in considering as true, whether it be derived from the direct Word of God or from the written tablets of the heart. The taking away of our life—originally given to us as a trust, or imposed on us by the Author of all good, for certain ends and purposes which are veiled from our view—is undoubtedly in many respects, as regards God himself, ourselves, our children, and our neighbours, a great, flagrant, horrible crime. It is against the law of God, the law of our country, the organic law of our physical constitution, and the moral law of our minds. It is indeed the only act that can be mentioned that is against all these. It does not require me to tell you that suicide, with other murders, was denounced by God himself, speaking in words that all mankind have heard, from the 'thick cloud' that hung over Mount Sinai. You are, I presume, a Christian, and the Sacred Book containing that denunciation lies at your side; and yet you have made the dreadful confession to me, that you have dared to meditate on the[Pg 131] breaking, the despising, the contemning of the command of Him who by less than a command—ay, than even a word, by the lifting up of his finger—may consign you to an eternity of agony, in comparison of which all the sorrow you now suffer is less than a grain of sand to the sandbanks of the sea."

"It is true, it is true!" replied the unhappy man. "I know, I feel that every word you have uttered is true, maist true and undeniable as are the sentiments o' this holy book," grasping again the Bible; "but can ye—wha, by the command o' books and education, can dive farther into the nature o' the mind than ane like me—explain this mystery, that, when my soul is filled wi' the darkness o' sorrow, and my rebellious purpose o' self-murder whispers in my mind treachery and war against God, thae truths ye hae uttered, for they hae occurred to me before, tak flight like guid angels, and leave me to warsle wi' a power that subdues me? It is then that I am in danger, and the hand that has held up to my throat that fatal instrument I had under my pillow, has the moment before been lifted up vainly in prayer to God, to throw owre my mind the light o' thae grand truths. What avails it, then, that there are times when I love them, and am guided by them, and thank Heaven for the precious gift o' knowin, feelin, and appreciatin them, if there are other moments when they flee frae me, and I am left powerless in the grasp o' my enemy?" Pausing, and falling again into a fit of dejection. "I fear, I fear the best o' us are only the slaves o' some mysterious power. But"—starting up, as if recollecting himself—"I put a question to you—answer me in the name o' Heaven; for if I gie mysel up to the belief o' an all-powerful necessity, I am a lost man and a self-murderer."

He was now clearly approaching a rock whereon many a gallant bark has been shivered to atoms. Even healthy-minded men cannot look at the question of the necessity of[Pg 132] the will without staggering and reeling; and hypochondriacs love to get drunk by inhaling the vapours of mysticism that rise from it, destroying as they do all moral responsibility, and concealing the vengeance of heaven and the terrors of hell. It was necessary to lead him from this dangerous subject, which it was clear he had been studying and dreaming about, with all that love of subtlety and mysticism which melancholy generates.

"No sensible man," said I, "believes in the absolute necessity of the will. After the will is fixed, the liberty is already exercised, and there is indeed no will in the mind at all, until it takes the form of an active, moving, propelling principle. But these are abstruse fancies, which you must fly, if you wish to possess a healthy mind. Sorrow, or any other feeling of pain, will extinguish while it lasts the burning lights of principle or sentiment. The pain of the amputation of a limb prevents, while it lasts, the natural working of the mind; but grief may be averted, and the great healing secret of that is, that the mind must be occupied. Renounce all abstruse thinking, all day-dreaming, all sorrowful remembering, all sentimental musing—look upon application, exercise, work, as a duty and a medicine, and I will answer for your expelling from your mind that dreadful purpose that entails upon you misery, and disgraces the nature of man."

"Your advice is excellent," replied he, somewhat roused; "but, unfortunately, I hae got the same frae my ain mind; and, what is mair, I hae tried it—I hae tried it again and again;—the medicine is worth nae mair to me than a bread pill. My efforts to exercise my mind, when a fit o' sorrow presses upon it, only mak the sorrow the heavier, by makin the mind less able to bear it. My soul is for ever bent on that question o' the necessity o' the will which you despise and avoid. I will, God is my witness, argue it with you, calmly and reasonably."[Pg 133]

"Unless you agree to renounce that question," said I, "I can do you no good."

"Then," replied he, with a groan, "I am left to Heaven and my unavoidable fate. May God have mercy on my soul!"

And he again relapsed into a fit of dejection, his head leaning on his breast, and his eyes fixed on the bed.

I could, I found, make no more of him that day, and my other avocations required my departure. I told him I would call again, and bring or send him some medicine.

"It is an unnecessary waste o' your valuable time," he said, lifting up his head, "to call again upon a wretch like me. I am much obliged to you for advice; but the only medicine for me is—death."

He pronounced the fearful word with an emphatic guttural tone, which gave it a terrific effect. I opened the door to depart, and was surprised to find that it would not go back sufficiently to allow me to pass freely. The probable cause of the interruption flashed upon my mind in an instant. Without speaking a word, I edged myself through, and saw, lying at the back of the door, the body of the unfortunate young woman, in a state of insensibility. I had presence of mind enough not to carry her into the room where her father lay; but, seeing the light of the kitchen at the further end of the long gloomy passage, I snatched her up in my arms, and hastened with her thither. Having laid her on a small truckle bed, whereon, I presume, she usually slept, I found she was in a deep swoon; and, notwithstanding that it was getting dark, and my time was expired, I waited her recovery. As she lay before me, pale as a corpse, and as I thought of the cause of her illness, and looked round in vain for any one to give her assistance or consolation (the groans of her father, which I indistinctly heard, being the only answer that would have been given to a call for aid in a house more like a haunt for[Pg 134] ghosts and spectres than a residence for human beings), I felt the impression of her peculiar misery pass over me, making me shudder as if I had been seized with a fit of the ague. The frail, brittle creature lying there, a victim of hysterics, fit only to be cherished and guarded by a doting mother—placed in a large, empty, gousty mansion—doomed to guard alone a suicide and a father, and, perhaps, to wrestle with him through blood—her parent's blood!—for the preservation of a remaining spark of a self-taken life! She at length recovered, exhibiting the ordinary precursors of returning consciousness—convulsive shiverings, rolling of the eyes, and beating about with the hands. On perceiving me indistinctly, she articulated—

"Death! death!—that was the word he spoke sae wildly.—Ah! I know it now!—James H—— has lang tried to conceal it frae me; but I hae discovered it at last. Can you save him, sir?—can you save the faither o' her wha has scarcely anither freend on earth?"

A flood of tears followed this ejaculation. She tore her hair like a maniac. I tried everything in my power to pacify her; but terror had completely mastered her weak nerves, and she shook as the successive frightful images suggested by her situation passed through her excited and still confused mind.

"Is there no one in those parts," said I, "that can attend your father, and assist you? Who is the James H—— you just now mentioned?"

"He is my cousin," replied she. "He lived with us for some time; but my father and he quarrelled about a razor, which he said James wanted to steal from him. But I see it now. There was nae theft. James, poor James, was innocent, and wanted to save him; but they concealed it frae me, and my cousin was turned away."

The mention of the word razor made me start. I had left the instrument on the head of the drawers, and I had[Pg 135] even now heard the wretched man's groans. I hurried to the room, and entered softly. He was in a fit of dejection, groaning, at intervals, deeply, like a man in bodily pain. I took up the instrument without being noticed, and returned to the kitchen. It was now almost dark. I had three miles to ride through wild hill paths, and I heard some threatening indications of a night-storm. The young woman was still lying on the couch, with her terrors undiminished; but I could do nothing more for her, and to have impressed her with the necessity of watching her parent would have created additional alarm, without increasing her zeal in a cause that concerned too nearly her own heart. I told her, therefore, that I required to depart, and was in the act of leaving to go to the door, when, in a paroxysm of terror, she started up, and seized me, clutching me firmly, and crying loudly—

"Will you leave me alone wi' him in this house, and throughout the dark night! He will do it when you are gone. Heaven preserve me frae the sight o' a father's blood!"

I tried to calm her, and to reason with her; but it was in vain. She still clung to me; and I found myself necessitated either to use some gentle force to detach myself from her grasp, or remain all night. I adopted the former expedient, and rushing out, shut the door after me, mounted my horse, and proceeded home. She had come out after me; for I heard her cries for some time as I rode forward in the dark.

Though soon out of sight of the house, I felt myself unconsciously turning my head once or twice in the direction of the deserted mansion. With all my efforts to think of some other subject—and my own safety among these wild hills might have been sufficient to occupy my attention—I could not, for some time, take my mind off the scene I had witnessed, and the prospective misery that, in such different[Pg 136] forms, waited these two individuals. When I had gone about a mile and a-half on my journey, I was accosted by a man, who asked me familiarly how George B—— was. I recognised in him at once the individual who had asked me to call for him. I told him that he was well enough in his body, but had taken some wild and distorted views of life, which might place him in danger of his own hands, while there was nobody in the house to watch him but his daughter, who did not seem to me to be well fitted for the task, seeing she was weakly, hysterical, and timid. He told me he knew all I had stated; that his name was James H——; that he was a cousin of the young woman's, George B—— having been married on his mother's sister; that he had resided in the house, and had discovered the tendency of his uncle's mind; and that, on one occasion, he had snatched out of his hands a razor with which he intended to destroy himself—an act for which he was expelled the house, though he was the acknowledged suitor of the young woman, whom he intended to wed. I told him he should marry her, protect her, and save the father; but he replied that the old man would neither allow him to live in the house, nor take his daughter from him; so that she was compelled to remain in the dreadful condition in which I had found her. I told him to call upon me next day, and proceeded homewards.

Before James H—— called, which he did about two o'clock, I revolved in my mind what should be done for the unfortunate man. I recollected that, in a conversation I had with Dr D—— of Edinburgh, he told me of a case of melancholy, and accompanying determination to commit self-murder, which he had successfully treated by presenting to the mind of the patient such horrific stories and narratives of men who had taken their own lives, and suffered in their death inexpressible agonies, and such shocking pictures of murders where the wretched victims were brought[Pg 137] back, by the hand of their offended Maker, from the gates of death, with their consciences seared by the burning iron of his vengeance, that the man got alarmed, was cured of his thirst for his own blood, and never again spoke of self-destruction. I resolved upon trying this expedient, and could not think of a better book for my purpose than that extraordinary record of human vice and suffering, the "Newgate Calendar." I fortunately possessed a copy, with those fearfully graphic pictures, that suit so well, in their coarse, half-caricatured, grotesque delineations, with the dreadful narratives they are intended to illustrate. I picked out the most fearful volume, that contained, at the same time, the greatest number of attempted self-murders, where the victims were snatched from their own chosen death, and, after their wounds were healed, devoted to that pointed out by the law as due to their crimes. When James H—— called in the afternoon, I gave him the volume, and requested him to hand it to the patient's daughter, with directions to put it into the hands of her father, as having been sent to him by me. He said he would take the first opportunity of complying with my request.

I had no visits to make that required my presence in that part of the country for two or three days. On the second day after I had sent the book, I had another call from James H——, who said that he had been requested by the patient's daughter to return the volume, and to request another one, which the patient desired, above all things, to be sent to him that day. I accordingly sent him another volume, although I did not know whether to augur well or ill from this anxiety; but I was inclined to be of opinion that the symptom was an auspicious one. Two days afterwards, the messenger called again, with a repetition of his former request for another volume as soon as it could be sent. I complied with it instantly; sending, however, on this occasion, two—for I thought my medicine was operat[Pg 138]ing beneficially, and it was of that kind that could be of no use unless administered in large doses, so, as it were, to surfeit and sicken the disease, and force it, by paralysing its energies, to relinquish its grasp of the patient's mind and body.

Two days more having elapsed, I felt anxious to ascertain the effect of my moral emetocathartics, and set out on the special errand of visiting my patient. The house, as I approached, exhibited the same still, dead-like aspect it possessed on my first visit. On knocking at the door, it was opened timidly and slowly by the daughter, who appeared to be paler, more sorrow-stricken, more weak and irritable, than on the occasion of my former visit. Her eye exhibited that terrorstruck look which nervous people, kept on the rack of a fearful apprehension, so often exhibit. Her voice was low, monotonous, and weak, as if she had been exhausted by mental anxiety, watching, and care. There was still no one in the house but her and her father; the same stillness reigned everywhere—the same air of dejection—the same goustiness in the large empty dwelling. On asking her how her father was, she replied, mournfully, that he had scarcely ever been out of his bed since my last visit; that he lay, night and day, reading the books I had sent him; that he had eaten very little meat, and had fallen several times into dreadful fits of groaning, and talking to himself. She added that he felt, at times, disinclined to see her; but at others, his affection for her rose to such a height, that he flung his arms about her neck, and wept like a child on her bosom. She had proposed to him, she said, to bring some person into the house; but he got into a violent rage when she mentioned it, and said he would expel the first intruder, whether man or woman. She had therefore been compelled to remain alone. She had lain at the back of his room-door every night, watching his motions, whereby, in addition to her grief, she had caught a[Pg 139] violent rheumatism, which had stricken into her bones. When, for a short time, she had gone to sleep, she was awakened by terrific dreams and nightmares, which made her cry aloud for help, and exposed the situation she had taken, for the purpose of watching her parent, and defeating his purpose of self-murder.

I proceeded to the patient's room. When I entered, which I did softly, I found him lying in bed, with his head, as formerly, bound up in a handkerchief; a volume of the "Newgate Calendar" lying on his breast. So occupied was he with his enjoyment of this morceau of horrors, that he did not notice my entry or approach to his bedside. I stood and gazed at him. He had finished the page that was open before him—exhibiting John Torrance, the blacksmith of Hockley. His eye rested at least five minutes on this horrific picture; and, as he continued his rapt gaze, he drew deep sighs—his breast heaving with great force, as if to throw off an unbearable load. He turned the page, and noticed me.

"You are very intent upon that book," said I. "I hope it interests you."

"Yes," replied he. "My mind has been dead or entranced for a year. This is the only thing in the world I have met wi' during my sorrow capable o' putting life into my soul. It seems as if all the energies that have been lying useless for that period had risen at the magic power o' this wonderfu book, to pour their collected strength upon its pages."

"Then it has served its end," said I, doubting greatly the truth of my own statement. "I sent it for the purpose of entertaining you—that is—interesting you."

"Entertaining me!" he ejaculated. "You mean, binding my soul wi' iron bands: my heart now loves the misery it formerly loathed. But, sir, I am not fed with this food. I devour it wi' a false and ravenous appetite; and were[Pg 140] there a thousand volumes, I think I could read them a' before I broke bread or closed an ee."

He rolled out these words with a volubility and an enthusiasm that surprised me. It was clear that I had poisoned the mind of this poor man. I had stimulated and partly fed his appetite for horrors. Familiarity with fearful objects kills the terror, and sometimes raises in its place a morbid affection—a fact established in France at the end of the last century by an empirical test of a horrific character, but which no knowledge of man's mind could have dreamed of à priori. Why had I forgotten this matter of history, and allowed myself to be led astray by vain theories and partial experiments? What was I now to do? The man's appetite for the bloody narratives was so strong, that, even while I was thus cogitating, his greedy eye had again sought the page. It was necessary that I should conceal from him my apprehensions, and take up his words on a feigned construction.

"This kind of reading," said I, "interests you, I presume, because it fills your mind with a salutary disgust and terror—makes you loathe the act of the suicide—and mans your soul against the hateful purpose you entertained against your own life."

He looked to the door, and beckoned to me to see if it was shut. I went and satisfied him that it was, while I was myself assured that she whom he was so anxious to deceive was again at her post behind it.

"You ask me," he continued, "if this book has disgusted or terrified me against my purpose o' deein. Are we disgusted and terrified at what we love? I hae seen the day when thae stories had sma' attraction for me. But, alas! alas! I am a changed—a fearfully changed man. My soul now gloats owre tales o' crime and scenes o' blood. To me there is an interest, an indescribable, mysterious interest in this book, beyond the charm o' the miser's wealth, or the[Pg 141] bridegroom's bride—ay, sir, or what I ance thocht was in life to the deein sinner. It is a medicine; but"—pausing, and eyeing me sorrowfully—"do you mean it to kill or cure?"

"To save you from self-destruction," said I—"the most fearful and the most cowardly of all the terminations of human life."

"If you could keep me readin this for ever," he said, "yer object would be served."

"I can give you no more of it," said I, conscious that, by indulging his morbid appetite for blood, I had been leading him to his ruin.

"Then I must read thae volumes owre, and owre, and owre again," said he; "and when I hae dune, I hae naething mair to interest me in this dark, bleak warld."

He fell now into one of his fits of dejection, assuming his accustomed attitude of folding his hands over his breast, and fixing his eyes on the bed, while deep sighs and groans were thrown from his heaving breast. It was necessary, I now saw, to take from him the book which had produced an effect the very opposite of what I had intended and expected. I took it up and placed it beside the other volume that was lying on a side-table, with a view to take them away with me—blaming myself sorely and deservedly for the injury I had done by experimenting so rashly on the life and eternal interests of a human being. As I moved away the volume, he observed me, and followed it wistfully and sorrowfully with his eye.

"Ye hae dune weel," he said—"ye hae whetted my appetite for my ain life; and it matters naething that the whetter and the whet-stane are taen awa when they're nae mair needed!"

I felt keenly the reproach, for it was just. I might have taken credit for a good intention; but my sympathy for the wretched being restrained any wish I had to defend myself[Pg 142] I endeavoured to change the subject of our conversation, and turn his mind to a subject which I knew engaged his interests and feelings more than anything else on earth.

"Your daughter," said I, "is unwell. She seems to be miserable. I know a change upon her both in mind and body, since I called here only a few days ago. Her body is thin and emaciated, her cheek is blanched, and her eye dimmed. These signs do not visit the young frame for nothing. I fear she has heard of the deadly intention you still persist in entertaining—to take away your own life. It is clear to me that her sickly constitution cannot long stand against a terror and an apprehension which even the aged and the strong cannot endure without grievous injury to all the faculties of the body and mind. Sir, take heed"—pausing and looking at him seriously and impressively—"you may become a daughter's murderer before your cowardly courage enables you to become your own!"

"Hold, sir!—hold!" cried the roused man. "You now speak daggers to me! I could hae borne this when you were here last; but ye hae unmanned me—ye hae made me familiar wi' him, the king o' terrors, wha waits for me. I know him in his worst shapes. He is nae langer hideous to me; and, being his friend, I canna be my dochter's faither and guardian! Why cam you here to revive a struggle that was past? My mind was made up. Owre the pages o' that book, my resolution was fixed; now you wad re-resolve me back to my doubt, my pain, my insufferable agony, by bringin up into my mind the tender image o' a sufferin, sorrowin, starvin dochter. My Margaret—my Margaret!—her mother's image—the pledge o' a love dearer than life——"

The door opened, and the young woman, who had been listening at the back of it, rushed in and flung herself on the bosom of the agonised man.

"O father!" she cried, "I ken everything. Yer dreadfu purpose has been revealed to me. Ye intend to tak awa[Pg 143] yer ain life, which my mother, yer beloved Agnes, on her death-bed, bade ye preserve for my sake. But ye canna do that without takin also mine. Yer death will be my death. I hae already seen yer bleedin body in my dreams—the image haunts me like a spirit, and leaves me nae rest. The doctor says true—ye will kill me before yer dreadfu purpose is fulfilled; but if, in God's will, I should be left when ye are awa, wha is to guard me, wha is to comfort me—without freends, without means, and without health?"

The scene now presented to me transcended anything I had ever seen during my long intercourse with suffering humanity. The excited girl clung with a firm grasp to the neck of her parent, and sobbed intensely; while he, struggling to be liberated, and holding away his face to the back of the bed, groaned and appealed for relief in broken, guttural, half-choked aspirations to Heaven. I saw his eyes turned to the throne of mercy, and big tears rolled down his rugged cheeks. In my anxiety to aid this struggle, and assist him to the return to his natural love of life and duty to his God, I was afraid to interfere with the sacred service of a bursting heart, turned in its agony to the only source of consolation and healing virtue; while, if I allowed this opportunity to escape, I might not have another for adding a mortal's means and energies (sometimes God's instruments) to the workings of nature, and the silent but powerful voice of religion speaking from the innermost recesses of his moral constitution.

"This is nature and truth," said I, after a pause—"powers a thousand times stronger than the brain-sick fancies of a diseased mind. It is the voice of God himself, sounding through the heart, and, like the electric energy, heaving it with convulsive throes, as if to cast forth from it the impious daring and unnatural purpose you have cherished in it so long that no lesser power will expel it. I rejoice in these throes; cherish them and aid them, for they are the expul[Pg 144]sers of poison that, having got into your blood, and reached the heart, the seat of life, madly stimulates it to self-destruction. This is the time—here is the vantage-ground of a return to all that is right, true, and good, from cowardice, cruelty, irreligion, and even rebellion against God!"

"Listen to him—listen to him!" cried the young woman, still sobbing. "Hear thae words o' truth, for they are sent from Heaven. Receive them into your heart, and it will be changed, and I will live to see my father enjoy life and be happy."

"When?" groaned the miserable man, satirically, as if roused by the sound of the distasteful word "happy." "When I am sittin at the window o' a prison, thinkin o' my dead Agnes, and lookin at the red settin o' my sixty-fifth sun?"

These words showed that the struggle had been ineffectual. Released from the grasp of his daughter, who sat at the side of the bed, he doggedly and sternly folded his arms, and relapsed into a silent fit of dejection. No effort would make him open his lips. There seemed to be no principle of reaction in his moral economy; all was penetrated by a fatal lethargy, which closed up every issue, broke every spring of living thought, feeling, or motion. My professional knowledge was entirely useless, my personal services unavailing. I called to him loudly to answer me, and got no reply but deep groans. I even shook him roughly, and tried to bend his head to his weeping daughter. My efforts were quickened by a sense that bore in upon me with fearful strength and importunity, that I had, by experimenting on his mind, and filling it with images of horror, increased the disease I intended to cure. Pained beyond measure, I was anxious to redeem my fault and correct my error by getting him again engaged in conversation, whereby I might have a last opportunity of drawing him into a train of thought which might lead to a sense of his awful condition,[Pg 145] and a prospect of escaping from its present misery, and its horrible consequences. But my medicine had operated too powerfully. There he sat, unmoved, immoveable—a sad and melancholy victim of the worst species of hypochondria—that which exhibits as one of its pathognomonic symptoms, the desire, the determination, persevered in through all difficulties, all oppositions, all wiles and schemes, to commit self-murder.

I waited for a considerable period, standing at the side of his bed, to see if he would exhibit any signs of returning moral vitality: but in vain. My other pressing avocations demanded imperiously my presence in quarters where I could be of more service. The daughter was herself buried in despondency, her face being hid in her hands, and broken ejaculations escaping from her lips. I took up the book which had produced so much harm, and whispered lowly in her ear, to request James H—— to call for me next day. At the sound of this name she started, and looked up wildly. I was afraid I might have to encounter another scene like that I had witnessed on the occasion of my last departure. I therefore hurried away, giving her no time to reply, where conversation was apparently useless. My intention was to try and devise some means of introducing a person into the house—though against the determined will of the father—to guard him and assist the daughter; but that could only be done through the medium of the messenger who went between me and the young woman.

When I had got some distance from the house, I could not resist the feeling that on the occasion of my prior visit compelled me to look back upon this miserable dwelling. I had seen diseases of all kinds grinding the feelings of unhappy man; but in the worst of them there is some principle, either of resistance or resignation, that comes to the aid of the sufferer, and enables him to pass the ordeal, whether for life or death. The duty he is called upon to per[Pg 146]form is to bear; for no man I ever yet saw on a sick-bed can get quit of the thought—however much he may try to philosophise about physical causes, or to conceal his sense of a divine influence—that he is placed there by a superior Hand for the very purpose of suffering, with a view to some end that is veiled from his eye. Every pang, therefore, that is borne carries with it, or leaves after it, some feeling of necessity to bear, and a satisfaction of having endured, and to a certain extent obeyed, the behest of Him that sent it. In many, this feeling is strong and decided, yielding comfort and consolation when no other power could have any effect; and though in others it may be less discernible—being often denied by the patients themselves, and attempted to be laughed at and scorned—it is, I assert, still there, silently working its progress in the heart, and spreading its balm even against the sufferer's own rebellious will. But the case of the suicide is left purposely by Him against whose law and authority the unholy purpose is directed, in a solitary condition of unmitigated horror; for the desire to get quit of pain—the inheritance of mortals—is itself the very exclusion of that resignation which is its legitimate antidote, while the devoted victim, obeying a necessity that forces him to eschew a misery he is not noble-minded enough to bear, not only has no good in view, but is conscious that he is flying from evil, through evil, to evil; so that from behind, around him, within him, before him—wherever he casts his eye—there is nothing but darkness, pain, and utter desolation. To complete the scene—there is, perhaps, no living natural evil more peculiar and acute, and less capable of generating resistance or resignation, than the rack of apprehension and terror of an only daughter watching, alone and unaided, the issues of a purpose that is, in all likelihood, to force her through the energies of the strongest instinct—filial affection—to stop, with her trembling hands, the flow of a father's life-blood. Yet all this evil, this misery, was[Pg 147] to be found in that house, standing alone in the midst of these bleak hills, like a temple dedicated to sorrow.

Next day James H—— called upon me, having seen the young woman, unknown to the father, on the previous night, and received from her the instructions I left for him. He saw himself the necessity of something being done towards the amelioration of the condition of the two unhappy individuals; but he acknowledged the difficulty of effecting it. He perceived (what was true) that, if any watch were set over his uncle, it might only make certain that which at present was doubtful; that the watchman could only proceed on the principle that he was mad, and bind him, or confine him, or otherwise treat him as insane; and that, besides, he knew no one who, without pay (and there was no money), would undertake so unpleasant a duty, which might last for weeks, or months, or even years. No concealed surveillance could be kept over him; for he suspected in an instant the object of any one visiting him, and had ordered one or two individuals, who had come from a distance to call for him, out of the house, suspecting (such is the way of all his unhappy tribe) that they came for the purpose of observing his motions. The difficulty was greatly owing to the lonely position of the house: the cloak of friendly intercourse might have covered the frequent visits of near neighbours; but there were none such—for the nearest house was two miles off; and as for relations, they were in another part of the country, distant in locality as well as blood.

The case was hedged with difficulties. Violent diseases require strong remedies. I recollected that James H—— said, on a former occasion, that he was the suitor of the young woman, and wished to wed her. I came to a resolution on the instant—firm, decided, and sound. I told him that, if he wished to save the father and the daughter, he must accelerate his intended marriage with the latter, even in the midst of the unfortunate circumstances in which she[Pg 148] was placed, and under the unfavourable auspices of an event of joy being shadowed with a cloud of sorrow. This would give him a claim on the daughter; and if the old man would not permit his son-in-law to remain in the house, and assist him as formerly with the labours of his land, he could threaten to take her from him altogether—a threat that would not, in all likelihood, fail to make him consent to his becoming an inmate in the house. The young man was pleased with an advice that quadrated with his wishes, and left me, to consult with some other friends on the propriety of instantly following it.

I heard the banns proclaimed next Sunday in the parish church, and was somewhat surprised at the rapidity with which my advice had been adopted, and the plan put into execution. The intelligence was promptly communicated to me by the bridegroom himself, who informed me also that the fact of the proclamation of the banns had been communicated to his uncle, who had expressed himself strongly against the match. He had, in fact, taken up a strong prejudice against his nephew, in consequence of the latter's interference with his purpose of self-immolation. He had never allowed the young man to come near him since the day on which he had taken the razor out of his hands by force; and the intelligence that he was to marry his daughter, and deprive him of her society, roused him to fury. He denounced the union, and said that it added another drop of bitterness to the cup of his misery, which was already overflowing. I told the young man that the anger into which his uncle had been thrown would, in all likelihood, do him more good than harm: it might stimulate a mind, dead or dormant, from the effects of brooding over imaginary evils, which produced ten times more self-murders than the real misfortunes of life. He told me the marriage would not, on account of his uncle's anger, be put off; that it was fixed for the 15th of the month, and would[Pg 149] be celebrated in private. I informed him that I required to go to a distant part of the country, and could not, for some time, see his uncle, and that he must endeavour, by all means, to support and comfort the unhappy bride in her watchful care over her unfortunate father, who, according to his account, was still under the cloud from which he threatened every instant to draw down the lightning that was to strike him to death.

When I returned from my journey, I called again upon the unfortunate man, in the hope of finding some amelioration in his condition, as well as that of his daughter. I found him still in bed, though he had been up and out on several occasions since I visited him. I saw no signs of improvement. I endeavoured to get him engaged in a conversation about his own condition; but I saw that, in place of being fond of dwelling on the state of his mind, talking of his sorrows, and contemplating the purpose he entertained against his existence, he showed an utter repugnance to the subject, having become perfectly taciturn, sullen, and morose, giving me monosyllables for answers, and sometimes not deigning even to show that he attended to me, or understood me. The only thing that seemed to interest him was his daughter's marriage—looking dark and gloomy when the subject was broached, and muttering indistinct words of reproach and anger. The condition of his daughter was changed; but it was only a new form of anguish. Some days previous, she had observed him with another razor in his hand; but he had secreted it somewhere, and all her efforts had as yet been ineffectual to get it. Her watch had therefore been more unremitting—her apprehensions were increased, while her strength was greatly diminished. She was reduced to a shadow; the pale skin that covered her face seemed to be in contact with the bones; while her eyes burned with fever and excitement. Yet her marriage was fixed to take place two or three days after! She could[Pg 150] not avoid it; she had pledged her word, and her father's safety depended in a great degree upon it. She could bear her condition no longer—all her powers of suffering were worn out; and if her father would not permit her husband to remain in the house, she would, she said, allow the latter to exercise what authority he pleased, in endeavouring, by force, to save his father-in-law and his wife from the ruin that seemed to await them. The gloom that enveloped her mind was deepened by the contrast of the light of a happiness she had long sighed for, now changed into a refinement of peculiar pain. She shuddered when she thought of her marriage with the man she loved, and feared that the power of Heaven would fall on her, for presuming to bring joy into the chamber of mourning, if not death. As she spoke, tears moistened her burning eye, and ran down her thin, pallid cheeks. She wished the ceremony over, as an evil to be endured, and then fate must take its course, though she feared the termination would be miserable, as well for her father as for her. His life was hanging by a thread; hers was worn out by watching, fainting, and suffering, till it was on the very eve of leaving the body, which was no longer able to support or contain it. These were the misfortunes in the inside of the house; but there were others without-doors. The landlord had sequestrated the stock belonging to her father—a circumstance that had plunged him deeper in his despondency and misery, and explained the very altered state in which I had found him. The attorney, a hard man, laughed at the device of threatened self-murder, resorted to for the purpose of exciting his sympathy, and robbing his client's pocket.

"Yes," she concluded, "he laughed"—and she repeated the word "laughed" with a hysterical action of the throat, as if it choked her, and next moment burst into tears.

Two days afterwards, a man on horseback arrived at my door, and rapped with great violence; his horse was heated,[Pg 151] and foaming at the mouth, as if it had been hard pressed, and he himself was flushed and excited. He told me, in a hurried manner, that I was wanted instantly at George B——'s; he had been sent to me by another man, and could tell me nothing beyond the fact that something very alarming had taken place, and that, if I did not hasten thither on the instant, and with my very greatest speed, I could be of no use. I took with me what I conceived might be wanted, for my suspicions were more communicative than the messenger, and proceeded, with all the expedition in my power, to the house where I had lately seen so much suffering.

On my entering the house, a most extraordinary spectacle presented itself. On the small truckle-bed that stood opposite the door in the kitchen lay a female figure, dressed in white, with both her hands wrapped up in cloth, from which issues of blood rolled on the bed; and her face, not less pale than her dress, was spotted and besmeared with the same element. It was Margaret B—— in her marriage dress. A young woman, her bridesmaid, was beside her, looking in her face as if to see whether life was still in her body. A young man, also dressed as if for the marriage, hurried me to the apartment of George B——, where a scene not less awful was presented to me. The unhappy man was lying in the middle of the floor, on his back, with his throat cut, and James H——, in his bridegroom clothes, was bending over him, with his hands busily occupied in stanching a wound that would have let out ten lives, if he had had as many to destroy; the floor was literally swimming in blood, and on a chair in the corner of the room lay the fatal instrument, still open. My services were useless: the man was dead; his attendants were engaged in stopping blood already curdled with death. I hurried to the patient that was still living. She had lost almost the whole blood of her body, and it was difficult to detect in her any symptoms of life.[Pg 152] I unloosed the cloths from her hands; they were cut in a fearful manner—the blade of the razor, which she had, in her struggles with her parent, endeavoured to wrest from him, having been whisked through them when hard clenched. No one had been in the house; her marriage-dress was still incomplete—her bosom bare, and her head uncovered; a proof that she had been called from the mirror wherein she saw a half-dressed bride, to see a father kill himself by his own hand against her efforts to save him. Her screams were heard by the bridesmaid and bridegroom, as they approached the house; but, before they entered, the struggle was nearly over; they found her bending over the body of her father, which lay on the floor, grasping the open wound with her hands. So spoke the attendants as I dressed the wounds. I took up several arteries; but there was one in the left wrist which, for a long period, defied my efforts, unassisted as I was with professional aid, to stem its torrent. I succeeded at last—so, at least, I thought—in my endeavours to stop all the issues. Vain thought! Death had stopped them!

This was the first time I had seen a dead bride.

[Pg 153]


"They gather round, and wonder at the tale
Of horrid apparition, tall and ghastly."—Blair.

After all that has been written, printed, and circulated, in the way of "Statistical Accounts," "Topographical Descriptions," "Guides to Picturesque Scenery," &c., there are still large tracts of country in Scotland of which comparatively little is known. While certain districts have risen, all at once, into notoriety, and occupied for a time the efforts of the press and the attention of the public, there are others, perhaps little inferior to them in point of scenery, through which no traveller has passed, no writer drawn his pen, and upon which no printer has inked his types. Among other neglected regions, the Ochil Hills may be mentioned—at least the eastern part of them. These, so far as we know, have not been fruitful of battles, and consequently the historian has had nothing to say concerning them. They are traversed by few roads; the few that do exist are nearly impassable, except to pedestrians of a daring disposition; and the novelist, never having seen them, has not thought of making them the home of his imaginary heroes. They have given birth to no poet of eminence—none such has condescended to celebrate them in his songs; and, except to the few scattered inhabitants who nestle in their hollows, they are nearly unknown.

This, however, is not the fault of the hills themselves, but of the circumstances just alluded to; for here heroes might have found a field on which to spill whole seas of blood; novelists might have found all the variation of hill, valley, rock, and stream, with which they usually ornament their pages; and Ossian himself, had it been his fortune to[Pg 154] travel in the district, might have found "grey mist" and "brown heath" to his heart's content, and, in the proper season, as much snow as would have served to deck out at least half-a-dozen "Morvens" in their winter coat. These hills, on the east and south, rise from the adjoining country by a gradual slope, surmounted, in some instances, by thriving plantations, while, in others, the plough and harrow have reached what appears to be their summit. On the north, they are terminated by a rocky front, which runs nearly parallel to the river Tay, and afterwards to the Earn, thus forming the southern boundary of Strathearn, which is perhaps one of the most fertile districts in Scotland. The elevation on this side is partly composed of the rocky front just mentioned; partly of a cultivated slope at its base; and partly of a green acclivity above, which, when seen from the plain below, seems to crown the whole, while it conceals from the eye those barren altitudes and dreary regions which lie behind. But, after having surmounted this barrier, the prospect which then opens may be regarded as a miniature picture of those more lofty mountain-ranges which are to be found in other parts of the island. Here the ground again declines a little, forming a sort of shoulder upon the ascent, as if the Great Architect of nature had intended thereby to secure the foundation of the superstructure which he was about to rear above. It then rises into frowning eminences, on which nothing seems to vegetate except coarse heath, a few stunted whin-bushes, and, here and there, an astrogalus, a lotus carniculatus; or a white orchus. Those, however, with the exception of the first, are too scanty to produce any effect upon the colouring of the landscape; and the whole looks withered, brown, and, in some instances, even black, in the distance. But, on passing these barren altitudes, or on penetrating one of the gorges by which the central district communicates with the country around, and of which there are several, the eye is[Pg 155] saluted with extensive tracts of plantation—some composed of the light-green larch, others of the sombre-looking Scottish pine; and, where the soil is more favourable to the growth of corn, portions of cultivated land, interspersed with streams, giving a fresher green to their banks, clumps of trees standing in sheltered positions, and the isolated habitations of men.

The last of these may be said to constitute a sort of little world, enclosed by a mountain rampart of its own—holding little or no communication with the great world without; and consequently escaping all the contamination which such intercourse is supposed to imply. But, if its inhabitants had escaped the contamination, it were reasonable to infer that they had missed that stimulus which mind derives from mind, when brought into close contact; and also many of those improvements and more correct modes of thinking which almost every passing year brings forth. In such a region, children must travel far for education; and men, not unfrequently, live and die in the prejudices in which they were nursed. To conclude this imperfect sketch, it may be observed that the scenery of these hills is bleak, rather than bold; barren, rather than wild; and though some parts of them possess a sort of dreary interest, in general they can lay no claim to that quality which has been denominated the sublime.

The particular district of Fifeshire in which the following incidents occurred lies between the villages of Strathmiglo and Auchtermuchty on the south, and those of Newburgh and Abernethy on the north. From the last of these places, which is still known as the metropolis of the ancient Pictish empire, a deep and narrow gorge, called Abernethy Glen, stretches southward amongst the Ochils for more than a mile. On leaving the open fertile country below, and getting into this pass, the contrast is striking. In some places the footpath winds along the face of a bank so[Pg 156] steep, that, but for the circumstance of its being composed of earth, it might have almost been termed a precipice; and here, if the passenger should miss his footing, it would be nearly impossible for him to stop himself till he reached the bottom, in which a turbulent stream brawls and foams over rocks and stones, disturbing the silence and the solitude of the place with sounds which have a tendency to inspire feelings of superstitious fears. The scene, from its nature and situation, appears to be well suited for those transactions which, according to popular brief, "surpass Nature's law;" and it has been regarded as the favourite haunt of witches, fairies, ghosts, and other mysterious beings, from time immemorial. Numbers of the inhabitants of the village below had been scared, in their nocturnal rambles, by the orgies of these uncouth neighbours; many a belated traveller had seen strange sights, and heard stranger sounds, in this haunted dell; many a luckless lad, in journeying through it, to see the mistress of his heart, had met such adventures as to drive love nearly out of his head for whole weeks to come; and even maids, upon whom the sun went down in the dangerous pass, had seen things at the mention of which they shook their heads, and seemed unable to speak. Nor were there awanting instances of individuals who, in returning at the "witching time of night" from a delightful interview, in the course of which the marriage-day was settled, had been so terrified that they forgot every word of what had been said; and, when the minister and the marriage-guests arrived, behold they were found in the barn or in the field, or, what was worse, they had gone upon a journey, and were not to be found at all. Those of the villagers who had not seen and heard of these unearthly doings for themselves, had been told of them by their mothers and grandmothers; and thus one generation after another went forth into the world completely armed against sceptics and unbelievers of all sorts.[Pg 157] If any one ventured to doubt the veracity of these statements, or to call in question the cogency of the arguments by which they supported them, they had only to appeal to the testimony of their fathers and grandfathers, their mothers and grandmothers, and the most sceptical were convinced at once. No man durst venture to cast the shadow of a doubt upon such incontrovertible evidence, because to have done so would have been to implicate their relations in the charge of speaking beside the truth, and these, they said, "were decent, respectable folk, and never kenned for lee'rs in their lives."

In this metropolis, and near the scene of these memorable events, Nelly Kilgour was born—the exact date of her birth we do not pretend to determine, though it must have been some time in the eighteenth century—and had lived, running about, going to school, and serving sundry of the lieges who were indwellers thereof, till she had arrived at years of discretion—in other words, till she had seen three-and-thirty "summers," as a poet would say, and nearly the same number of winters, as our reader may guess. It has been said that there are three distinct questions which a woman naturally puts to herself at three different periods of her life. The first is—"Who will I take?"—a most important question, no doubt; and we may reasonably suppose that it occurs about the time when the attentions of the other sex first awaken her to a sense of her own charms, and she is thus ready to look upon every one who smiles on her as a lover, and every young fellow who contemplates her face while talking to her as anxious to become her husband. The second question, which is scarcely less important, is—"Who will I get?" and this, we may again suppose, begins to be repeated seriously, after she has seen the same individual smile upon half-a-dozen damsels on the same day, and after she has learned that it is possible for an unmarried man to contem[Pg 158]plate her own fair face with the deepest interest, and converse with her on the most interesting subjects on Monday morning, and then go and do the same to another on Tuesday evening. But the last, and perhaps the most important, as it certainly is the most perplexing of these questions, is—"Will I get onybody ava?" and this, there can be little doubt, begins to force itself upon her attention, after the smiles of her admirers have become so faint that they are no longer able to climb over the nose; when, instead of talking of love, they begin to yawn, and speak about the weather; in short, after she becomes conscious that her charms are at a discount, and that those who are coming up behind her are every day stealing away her sweethearts.

Through the whole of the previous stages Nelly Kilgour had passed; and she had now arrived at this important question, which, as has been just said, is the last a woman can put to herself. She had seen her admirers, one after another, come and look in her face, and continue their visits, their smiles, and their conversation for a season, and then go away and leave her, as if they had got nothing else to do. She had spent a considerable portion of her life, as has been already observed, in serving the lieges in and about the place of her nativity—to no purpose, as it appeared; at least, in so far as the getting of the husband was concerned, nothing had been effected. The proper season for securing this desideratum of the female world was fast wearing away; something, she saw, must of necessity be done; and, thinking that women, like some other commodities, might sell better at a distance than at home, she engaged herself as a servant on the little farm of Howdycraigs—a place situated among that portion of the Ochils already noticed.

When she entered upon this engagement, which was to last for a year, she was spoken of as "a weel reikit lass"—the meaning of which phrase is, that she had already pro[Pg 159]vided what was considered a woman's part of the furnishing of a house; and some of the sober matrons "wondered what had come owre a' the lads noo," and said, "they were sure Nelly Kilgour wad mak a better wife than ony o' thae young glaikit hizzies wha carried a' their reikin to the kirk on their back ilka Sabbath." But, of Nelly's being made a wife, there was no prospect; she was three-and-thirty; so far as was known, no lover had ever ventured to throw himself upon his knees before her, begging to be permitted to kiss her foot, and threatening, at the same time, to hang himself, if she did not consent to be his better half; still there was no appearance of any one doing so; and those who delighted in tracing effects back to their proper causes, began to recollect that her mother, "when she was a thoughtless lassie," had once given some offence to one of the witches, who were accused of holding nightly revels in the glen; and the witch, by way of retaliation, had said, that "the bairn unborn would maybe hae cause to rue its mother's impudence." Nelly had been born after this oracular saying was uttered; and the aged dames who remembered it doubted not that this was the true cause of her celibacy. And when they heard that she was engaged to go to Howdycraigs at Martinmas, and that Jock Jervis was engaged to go there also, they said that, "if it hadna been for the witch's ill wisses, they were sure Nelly would mak baith a better sweetheart and a better wife to Jock, than that licht-headed limmer, Lizzy Gimmerton."

From this the reader will perceive that Jock and Nelly were to be fellow-servants; he was the only man, and she was the only woman—the master and mistress excepted—about the place; and much of their time was necessarily spent together. During the stormy days of winter, when he was thrashing in the barn, she was employed in shakin the strae and riddlin the corn, which he had separated from the husks; and in the long evenings, while she was wash[Pg 160]ing the dishes, or engaged in spinning, he sat by the fire telling stories about lads and lasses, markets and tent-preachings, and sometimes he even sung a verse or two of a song, to keep her from wearying. On these occasions, she would tuck up the sleeves of her short-gown an inch or two beyond the ordinary extent, or allow her neckerchief to sink a little lower than usual, for the purpose, as is supposed, of showing him that she was not destitute of charms, and that her arms and neck, where not exposed to the weather, were as white as those of any lady in the land. In such circumstances, Jock, who was really a lad of some spirit, could not refrain from throwing his arms about her waist, and toozling her for a kiss. This was, no doubt, the very reverse of what she had anticipated; and to these unmannerly efforts on the part of the youth, she never failed to offer a becoming resistance, by turning away her head, to have the place threatened as far from the danger as possible—raising her hand, and holding it between their faces, so as to retard the progress of the enemy, at least for a time; and, lest these defensive operations should be misunderstood, uttering some such deprecatory sentence as the following:—"Hoot! haud awa, Jock! If ye want a kiss, gang and kiss Lizzy Gimmerton, and let me mind my wark." But it has been ascertained by the ablest engineers that the most skilfully-constructed and most bravely-defended fortifications must ultimately fall into the hands of a besieging army, if it be only properly provided, and persevere in the attack. This theory is no longer disputed, and the present case is one among a number of instances in which its truth has been experimentally proved. Jock was provided with a certain degree of strength, and a most laudable portion of perseverance in these matters, and, in spite of all the resistance which Nelly could offer, he was in general triumphant; after which she could only sigh and look down, as she threatened him with some ter[Pg 161]rible vengeance, such as—"makin his parritch without saut," or "giving him sour milk to his sowans at supper-time," or doing something else which would seriously annoy him. At these threatenings the victor only laughed, and not unfrequently, too, he renewed the battle and repeated the offence, by robbing her of another kiss. To reclaim him from these wicked ways, she could only repeat her former threatenings—adding, perhaps, to their number anything new which happened to come into her head; but then, like those mothers who think threatening is enough, and who, by sparing the rod, sometimes spoil the child, she always forgot to inflict the punishment when the opportunity for doing so occurred; and Jock, as a natural consequence of this remissness on the part of the executive, became hardened in his transgressions.

But, when not engaged in these battles, Jock was rather kind to Nelly than otherwise; sometimes he assisted her with such parts of her work as a man could perform; and sometimes, too, when the evening was wet or stormy, to save her from going out, he would take her pitchers of his own accord, and "bring in a raik o' water." This kindness Nelly was careful to repay by mending his coat, darning his stockings, and performing various other little services for him. When the faculty of observation has few objects upon which to exercise itself, little things become interesting; this interchange of good offices was soon noticed by the wise women of the neighbourhood, and, as they knew of only one cause from which such things could proceed, to that cause they attributed them, making certain in their own minds that the whole secret would, some day or other, be brought before the parish by the session-clerk. Such was the general belief; and whether it was "the birds of the air," as Solomon saith, or whether it was the beggars and chapmen, occasionally quartered at Howdycraigs, who "carried the matter," is of little importance;[Pg 162] but in time the whole of the facts, with the inferences drawn therefrom, reached Nelly's former acquaintances, and then, for some reason which has never been satisfactorily explained, they saw occasion entirely to alter their previous opinion. Instead of saying, as they had done before, that "Nelly wud mak a guid wife to Jock—'at she wud," they now said, that "Jock, wha was scarcely outgane nineteen, was owre young ever to think o' marryin an auld hizzie o' three-and-thirty like her;" that "the carryin o' the water, and the darnin o' the stockins, wud a' end in naething;" that "Jock wud be far better without her;" and when they recollected the implied malediction of the witch, they considered that it was as impossible for her to be his wife, as it is for potatoes to grow above ground; and concluded the discussion with a pious wish "that she micht aye be keepit in the richt road."

In the course of the winter, Jock had been absent for several nights, during which he was understood to have braved the terrors of witch, ghost, and fairy, in going to see Lizzie Gimmerton; but Nelly took no further notice of the circumstance than by asking "if he had seen naething about the glen." On these occasions he promptly denied having been "near the glen;" and Nelly, whether she believed him or not, was obliged to be satisfied. But this gave her an opportunity, of which she never failed to avail herself, to give him a friendly caution to "tak care o' himsel when he gaed that airt after it was dark;" nor did she forget to assign a proper reason for her care over him, by reminding him of as many of the supernatural sights which had been seen in this region as she could remember. These hints were not without their effect; for, as the spring, which was said to be a particularly dangerous season, advanced, Jock's nocturnal wanderings were nearly discontinued. But Abernethy Market, which, time out of mind, had been held between the 20th and the 30th of May, was now approaching,[Pg 163] and to this important period the parties in question looked forward with very different feelings. Markets have frequently changed the destinies of lads and lasses in the same manner as revolutions have sometimes changed the dynasties of kings—the latter always aiming at subverting an established government; the former is often the means of overthrowing an empire in the heart; and, for these reasons, both should be avoided by all who would wish to live at peace. Jock looked forward to the pleasure which he should have in spending a whole day with the peerless Lizzie Gimmerton—stuffing her pockets with sweeties and gingerbread, and paying innumerable compliments to her beauty the while; and poor Nelly apprehended nothing less than the loss of every particle of that influence which she had some reason for supposing she now possessed over him. In this dilemma, she resolved to accompany him to the scene of action, and there to watch the revolutions of the wheel of fortune, if peradventure anything in her favour might turn up.

"Jock," said she, on the evening previous to the important day, "I'm gaun wi' ye to the market, and ye maun gie me my market-fare."

At this announcement Jock scratched his head, looked demure for a little, and appeared as though he would have preferred solitude to society in the proposed expedition. But he could find no excuse for declining the honour thus intended him. He recollected, moreover, that, as he had been the better for Nelly's care in time past, so her future favour was essential to his future comfort, and that it would be prejudicial in the last degree to his interest to offend her. After having thought of these things, in a time infinitely shorter than that in which they can be spoken of, Jock sagely determined to yield to "necessity," which, according to the common proverb, "has no law." He also determined to watch the revolutions of the wheel of for[Pg 164]tune, in the hope that his own case might come uppermost. But, for the present putting on as good a grace as he could, "Aweel, aweel, Nelly," said he, "I'll be unco glad o' your company; for to say, the truth, I dinna like very weel to gang through the glen my lane. If it hadna been for you, the feint a fit would have been at my stockings langsyne; and as ye aye darned them, and mendit the knees o' my breeks, and the elbows o' my coat forby, it would be ill o' my pairt no to gie you your market-fare. Sae we can e'en gang thegither; and if we dinna lose ither i' the thrang, I'll maybe get you to come owre the hill wi' at nicht."

"Mind noo ye've promised," said Nelly, highly pleased with the reception her proposal had met;—"mind ye've promised to come hame wi' me; and there's no ane in a' the warld I would like sae weel to come hame wi' as our ain Jock."

"I'll mind that," said Jock. But, notwithstanding what he said, he had no intention of coming home with Nelly; his thoughts ran in another direction; he had merely spoken of the thing because he fancied it would please; the idea of her presence, as matters now stood, was anything but agreeable to him; and he trusted to the chapter of accidents for "losing her i' the thrang," as himself would have said, and thus regaining his freedom.

On the following day they journeyed together to the scene of popular confusion—whiling away the time with such conversation as their knowledge of courtships, marriages, births, baptisms, and burials, could supply. Nelly frequently looked in Jock's face, to try if she could read his thoughts; but somehow, in the present instance, his eyes were either turned upon the ground, or seized with an unwonted wandering. At one time he kept carefully examining the road, as though he had lost a shilling; at another he surveyed the tops of the distant hills with as much care as if he had been speculating upon their heights and dis[Pg 165]tances. And while these intelligencers were thus employed, she could read but little; yet, nevertheless, his manner was courteous; and in their conduct and conversation they exhibited a fine specimen of that harmony which, in most instances, results from a wish to please and to be pleased on the part of the female.

On arriving at the market, Jock soon discovered the mistress of his affections in the person of Lizzie Gimmerton. But, in the plenitude of her power, and the extent of her dominion, she had become capricious, as despotic sovereigns are very apt to do; and nettled, as it appeared, at the long intervals which had lately occurred between the times of his making obeisance at her throne, she had chosen another sweetheart, whom she now dignified with the honour of leading her from place to place, and showing her off to the admiring multitude. Supported by this new minister, she seemed to pay no attention to the smiles and sly winks with which Jock greeted her; but still he did not despair of being the successful candidate, if he were only left at liberty to offer the full amount of his devotion; and to this object he now began to direct his thoughts.

A certain chapman had displayed a number of necklaces, and other showy trinkets of little value, upon his stand, which was thus the most brilliantly-decorated of any in the market. This had drawn together a crowd of purchasers, and other people, who were anxious to see the sparkling wares. Men civilly pushed aside men, and maidens pushed aside maidens, while each appeared eager to have a peep at some particular article, or to learn the price thereof; and to this place Jock drew Nelly, under pretence of giving her her market-fare from among the gewgaws which it afforded. But, while she was looking about for something which "she might wear for his sake," as she said, and which, at the same time, would be an easy purchase, he contrived to jostle rather rudely the people on both sides of him, making them[Pg 166] jostle those who stood next them, and those again perform the same operation on others at a greater distance. This, as he had anticipated, soon produced a universal hubbub; every one, to be avenged for the insult or injury he had sustained, thrust his elbows into the sides of such as he supposed were the aggressors. These were not slow to retaliate. In a short time the innocent and the guilty were involved in the same confusion; and, while the precious wares of the packman, and the persons of his customers, were both in imminent danger, Jock started off, leaving Nelly to make the best of her way out of a bad bargain. He had now obtained his freedom; and in a twinkling he was by the side of Lizzie Gimmerton, whom he found at another stand, receiving the benediction of her new jo in the form of a "pennyworth of peppermint-drops."

"How are ye the day, Lizzie?" said he, in tones so tender, that he had supposed they would melt any heart which was less hard than Clatchert Craig.

"No that ill, Jock," was the reply; "how are ye yersel? and how's Nelly?"

And therewith the damsel put her arm in that of her companion, whom she now permitted, or rather urged, to lead her away; and, as he did so, she turned on Jock a side-long look, accompanied by a sort of smile, which told him, in terms not to be mistaken, that he was not her only sweetheart, and that, at present, he was not likely to be a successful one.

If we could form such a thing as a proper conception of one who, in attempting to ascend a throne, stumbled, fell below it, and, in looking up from thence, saw another seated in his place, perhaps we should have some idea of Jock's feelings on this occasion. Like a true hero, he, no doubt, thought of thrashing his rival's skin for him; but then this was by no means doing the whole of the work, for it was Lizzie Gimmerton who had led away the man,[Pg 167] and not the man who had led away Lizzie Gimmerton; and, though the man were thrashed into chaff, Lizzie Gimmerton might very probably find as many more as she pleased, willing to be led away in the same manner, which, in the end, might entail upon Jock the labour of thrashing half the people in the market, not to mention the risk which he would run of being thrashed himself. Finding that this plan would not do, it were difficult to say if he did not entertain serious thoughts of making a pilgrimage to the River Earn, for the purpose of drowning himself, or of taking signal vengeance upon the hard-hearted maiden in some other way; but, as farther speculations upon the subject, in the existing state of our information, must be purely conjectural, it were absurd to follow them. In the beginning of his despair, he looked down, as men very naturally do; but, in the middle of it, he looked up, to see what was to be done, and there he saw Nelly, who was not so easily "lost i' the thrang" as he had imagined, standing close beside him, and regarding him with a look of real compassion, which contrasted strongly with the malicious smile of the other damsel.

"Dinna vex yersel owre sair, Jock," said she, "though Lizzie's awa wi' anither lad; when he leaves her, I'll warrant she'll be glad to see ye again."

"The deil confound her and her lads baith!" said Jock, his despair beginning to pass off in a passion. "If ever I gae near her again, may I fa' and brak my leg i' the first burn I cross! Ye're worth at least five dozen o' her yersel, Nelly; and, if ye can let byganes be byganes, and gang wi' me through the market, I'll let her see, afore lang, that I can get anither sweetheart, though she should gang and hang hersel!"

This sudden change in Jock's sentiments must have been produced by what is commonly called a reaction. But Nelly, who had no inclination for being thus shown off,[Pg 168] tried to persuade him to desist from his present purpose.

"Na, na, Jock," said she, "we'll no gang trailin through the market like twa pointers tethered thegither wi' a string, for fear the youngest ane should rin aff. But, if ye like, Ise try to keep sicht o' ye; and, if ye like too, we'll gang hame afore it's late, for it wad vex me sair to see you spendin your siller unwordily, and still sairer to hear tell o' ye gettin ony fricht about the glen. Sae, if ye think me worth your while, we can gang hame thegither, and I'll tak your arm after we're on the road. If a lad hae ony wark wi' a lass, or a lass ony wark wi' a lad, it's no the best way to be lettin a' the warld ken about it."

With her care, and the wisdom of her counsel upon this occasion, Jock felt sensibly touched.

"Aweel, Nelly," said he, "I'll e'en tak your advice; ye never counselled me to do a wrang thing in your life, and I'll gang hame wi' ye ony time ye like. But come away," he continued, "and look out some grand thing for your market-fare. I've ten shillings i' my pouch—no ae bawbee o't spent yet; and, be what it like, if that'll buy't, yese no want it."

In compliance with his wishes, they began to look about for the article in question; but Nelly, who had lived long enough to know the value of money, would suffer him to purchase nothing of an expensive nature; and, after some friendly expostulation, a pair of scissors was agreed upon, for which he paid sixpence, and she put them in her pocket, observing, at the same time, that "they would be o' mair use to her than twenty ells o' riband, or a hale pouchfu o' sweeties."

"I've often wondered," said she, "if a lass could hae ony real likin for a lad, when she was temptin him to fling awa his siller, buyin whigmaleeries, to gar her look like an antic amang ither folk, or how she thought a lad wha[Pg 169] would let his siller gang that gate, could ever provide for the wants o' a house, if they should come to hae ane o' their ain."

Jock readily acknowledged the good sense of all this; he also acknowledged to himself that young women with such sentiments were not over and above being rife; and, though Nelly was not very young, he thought her a more discerning lass than he had ever done before. They therefore kept together during what remained of their stay; and, as Jock's greatest fault was a propensity to spend his money on trifles, Nelly easily persuaded him to accompany her home before the afternoon was far advanced.

They accordingly journeyed up the glen together; and, without encountering either ghost, witch, or fairy, they had reached a part of the road from which a house, a barn, and a byre, were to be seen. The husband and wife were already home from the market, whither they had gone to buy a cow, and standing at the end of the house with their three children, the oldest of whom appeared to be a stout girl, beside them. Such scenes seem to have a peculiar charm for women, and Nelly was the first to notice it.

"Look, Jock," said she, "yonder's Andrew Braikens and his wife hame frae the market already. Dinna ye see them standing at the end o' their house there, and their three bairns beside them, and baith lookin as happy as the day's lang? Noo, Jock," she continued, looking in his face as she spoke, "tak an example by them, and when ye get a wife, if she's a guid ane, aye tak her advice afore ony ither body's, and ye'll never hae cause to rue it. Afore Andrew was married, he ran to a' the markets i' the round; he could never win hame that day he gaed awa; his pouches were aye toom, and his duds were aften like to bid him guid-day. Folk ca'd him a weirdless cratur and a ne'er-do-weel; and when he fell in wi' Tibby Crawford, some o' them said, if they were her, they wouldna tak him, and ithers leugh at[Pg 170] him for drawin up wi' an auld hizzie like her; but Tibby took Andrew, and Andrew took Tibby's advice; and noo they've a haudin o' their ain, wi' plenty o' baith meat and claes, and three bonny bairns into the bargain."

Jock seemed to listen more attentively to this harangue than he had ever done to a sermon in his life. During the latter part of it he appeared thoughtful; and, when it was concluded—"I've been thinkin," said he, "that, as Andrew and Tibby hae come sae weel on——" Here he seemed to have forgotten what he was about to say, and was silent.

"Weel, Jock," said the other, "as I was gaun to say, there's Betsy Braikens, a stout lassie already; she's Sandy Crawford's cousin, as ye ken brawly, and troth I wouldna wonder muckle at seein her——"

"Ou ay, Nelly," interrupted Jock; "but, as I was gaun to tell ye, I've been thinkin——" Here, however, he again halted, and seemed to have nothing farther to say.

"I dinna ken what ye've been thinkin," said Nelly, after a considerable pause; "but I think they would need to hae a hantle patience that listen to your thoughts, for ye're unco lang o' coming out wi' them. But, whatever they are, ye needna hesitate sae muckle in tellin them to me, for I never telled a tale o' yours owre again in my life."

"It's no for that either," said Jock, laughing; "but I just thought shame to speak about it, and yet there's nae ill in't, after a'. I've been thinkin, aye since ye wouldna let me gie half-a-crown for yon strowl o' lace i' the market, that you and me micht do waur than make a bargain oorsels. I wad just need somebody like you to look after me; and noo, Nelly, if you would promise to be my wife, I would never seek anither."

Nelly's countenance brightened up with a glow of satisfaction, such as it had not exhibited for years, at hearing these words. But, striving to suppress those unwonted[Pg 171] feelings which were rising in her bosom, and endeavouring to appear as unconcerned as before—"Hoot, Jock," was her reply, "what need I promise?—though I were to mak twenty promises, ye ken brawly that ye would just rin awa and leave me, to follow the first bonny lass ye saw, at the next market or the next tent-preachin; and then, guid-day to ye, Nelly."

These words, though apparently intended to discourage Jock in his suit, were spoken in such a manner as to produce a quite contrary effect. We need not, however, repeat his vows and promises, and the solemn oaths with which he confirmed them: they were such as have been a thousand times made, and, sad to say, nearly as often broken, upon similar occasions. But when they were concluded, though Nelly did not speak, she looked a promise which, to Jock, was satisfactory! She also allowed him to have a kiss without the customary battle, or, at least, without a battle of the customary length; and for what remained of that and the two following days, though she was three-and-thirty, she looked almost as young as if she had been only two-and-twenty.

But "pleasures," which everybody now likens to "poppies spread," are, in most instances, short-lived. On the third day from Abernethy Market, Betsy Braikens, in returning from Auchtermuchty, whither she had been on some errand, called at Howdycraigs, "to speer for her cousin, Sandy Crawford, who was the herd laddie, and to tell Nelly Kilgour, of whom she had also some acquaintance, that Grizzy Glaiket had haen a bairn to Geordy Gowkshanks. No ane kenned a single thing about it afore it cam hame," continued the girl; "and, as he has naething to enable him to pay for it, and her father is determined no to let him gang, the folk say that he'll just hae to marry her."

Geordy Gowkshanks was no other than the beau who[Pg 172] had been seen gallanting Lizzie Gimmerton through the market; and Nelly felt a strange misgiving when she heard his name mentioned in the present affair, for she doubted not, when matters stood thus, that some attempt would be forthwith made to recall Jock to his former allegiance. Nor was she long left in suspense; for Jock himself soon came in for his dinner, and the girl exclaimed—"Losh, Jock, I'm glad I've seen ye, for, if ye hadna come in, I would forgotten to tell ye that I saw Lizzie last nicht, and when I telled her that I was comin owre here on the morn, and that I would maybe see you, she bade me be sure to speer if ye had gotten ony fricht wi' the witches about the glen, or if ye was feared for the croupie craws fleein awa wi' ye after it was dark, that ye never cam owre to see your auld acquaintances about Abernethy noo!"

These questions, and the new light which they threw upon an old subject, made both Jock and Nelly look thoughtful, though it is reasonable to suppose their thoughts ran in very different channels. The effects of reaction have been already noticed; but, after reaction has acted, there are such things as the actions themselves beginning to react. Jock was now under the influence of the last-mentioned principle. Its exact operations need not be particularised; but, from that hour, his kindness to Nelly began to abate, and she began to feel less comfortable under the change than might have been expected from a discreet damsel of her years. On the following night she slept but little; and next morning she rose earlier than was her usual, and was just beginning to kindle up the fire, when she heard Jock engaged in a low but earnest conversation with the herd laddie. She was separated from them only by a thin partition, or clay hallan, as it was called in those days, so that she could easily hear what was passing; and, reprehensible as her conduct in this respect may seem, she could not refrain from listening.[Pg 173]

"I need a new bannet," said Jock; "and I'm gaun owre to Abernethy for ane the morn's nicht—but mind, Sandy, ye maunna tell Nell whar I am; and, if she happens to speer, ye can just say that I'm awa down to Auchtermuchty for a pickle snuff."

"Aweel, aweel," said the other, "I can haud my tongue. But what need can there be for makin lees aboot it? I'll warrant Nell winna care how aften ye gang to Abernethy."

"I hae nae time to tell ye aboot it enow," said Jock; "but I'll maybe tell ye afterhend—and mind, as your name's Sandy Crawford, dinna ye speak aboot it; and I'll gie ye as muckle market-fare as ye can devour, gin mid-simmer."

As this conversation concluded, Nelly contrived to get into her bed again without noise; and, covering herself up with the bedclothes, and pretending to sleep, Jock passed through the kitchen without in the least suspecting that she had become a party to his supposed secret. From what she had heard, however, she saw plainly what was brewing, and whither fate was tending. She saw that Lizzy Gimmerton's scheme for once more attaching Jock to her interest had already succeeded; and that, if he should "break both his leg and his neck in the first burn he crossed," he had determined to go again and see her. But what could she do to prevent things from taking their course? Like other disconsolate maidens, she might lament in secret, and shed tears of disappointment and sorrow without number—but this would by no means mend the matter. Jock, she thought, would make a good husband, if he had only a wife who knew how to manage him; but, unless something extraordinary interposed, he was likely to get one who was a still greater fool than himself; and, at this distance of time, it were difficult to say how far benevolence, and a wish to prevent him from making himself a mis-sworn man, might[Pg 174] have a place in her cogitations. She thought, also, that she would make a good wife, if it were only her good fortune to get a husband; but, then, something or other had always come to thwart her wishes in this respect; and even now, when the prize seemed almost won, without a miracle, or something, at least, out of the ordinary course of events, she stood a fair chance for being again left in the lurch. She felt that it was a sore matter to have hope from time to time deferred in this manner; but what to do she could not exactly determine. She, however, determined to leave nothing undone; and, after her, let none despair!

Whether upon that morning the cows had given an extraordinary quantity of milk, or whether Nelly had forgotten to empty the milking-pail of water before she began to milk them, is not known; but, on coming in from the byre, she could not, by any means, get the cogs to hold the milk. Her mistress was called; and, after some consultation, Nelly recollected that "Margaret Crawford"—who was the herd laddie's mother—"had plenty o' milk-dishes; and she would maybe lend them a cog or twa."

"The drap milk that the cogs winna haud may stand i' the water-pitcher afore supper-time," she continued; "and Sandy may rin owre to Gairyburn, after he comes in, and stay a' nicht wi' his mither, and get the cog, and be back next morning in time to tak oot the kye."

This plan seemed at least feasible; and the farther prosecution of it was left to Nelly.

"What's the matter wi' the milk the nicht?" inquired Sandy, as Nelly was hastening him with his supper.

"I ken o' naething that can be the matter," was her reply—"but what's the matter wi't, say ye?"

"I dinna ken either," said the boy; "but it's turned terrible blue-like, isn't it? I can compare it to naething but the syndins o' my mither's sye-dish."[Pg 175]

"Hoot! never mind the milk," rejoined Nelly; "but sup ye up yer supper as fast as ye're able, and rin owre to yer mither, and tell her the mistress sent ye to see if she could gie ye a len o' ane o' her milk-cogs, for a fortnicht or sae, till the first flush gang aff Hawky. Ye can stay a' nicht at Gairyburn," she added; "and ye'll be back in braw time next morning to gang out."

The boy seemed glad of an opportunity to spend a night in his paternal home. His supper was soon despatched, and away he went.

The shortsightedness of mortals has been a theme for the moralists of all ages to descant upon; and Nelly, had her history been sooner known, might have afforded them as good a subject as any which they have hitherto discussed. Attached as she evidently was to Jock, had her foresight extended so far as to show her what was to follow, she would certainly have strained every nerve to prevent him from being left alone on that momentous night. Alone, however, he was left; and—as he lay dreaming of Lizzy Gimmerton, and the happiness he should experience from finding himself again reinstated in her favour—exactly at the solitary hour of midnight a most terrible apparition entered his apartment. How it entered was never known; for the outer door was securely locked; and the good people of the house being, one and all, fast asleep, saw it not; but, as doors, windows, walls, and roofs, afford no obstruction to an immaterial essence, its entrance need not be matter of surprise. It was, in all respects save one, a most legitimate ghost. A winding-sheet was wrapped round what appeared to be its body; its head was tied up in a white handkerchief; and its face and hands, where they were visible, were as white as the drapery in which it was attired; but, then, in its right hand it carried a candle—a thing which ghosts are not accustomed to do. But, as there are exigencies among mortals which sometimes oblige[Pg 176] them to deviate from the common rules of conduct, the same things may, perhaps, occur among ghosts. In the present instance, indeed, something of the kind seemed to be indispensable; for, without such aid, more than half its terrors would have been invisible. The candle, moreover, was evidently the candle of a ghost; for it showed only a small point of white flame in the middle, while around the edges it burned as blue as brimstone itself. In short, the light which it gave must have been a thousand times more appalling than that of those flames which Milton emphatically calls "darkness visible."

Jock, however, still continued to sleep, till it uttered a hollow groan, which awakened him; and then, rubbing his eyes, to make certain that he was not still dreaming, he stared at it in inexpressible terror. It returned his stare with a steady look of defiance and a horrible grin, which seemed to make the blood curdle at the remotest extremity of his body. It, however, appeared willing to abide by the law of ghosts, and to wait in silence till it should be spoken to. But Jock had already lost the power of speech. His erected hair had nearly thrown off his nightcap; his tongue seemed to have fallen back into his throat; not even a scream of terror could he utter, far less an articulate sound; and it might have waited till morning, or till the end of time, before an accent of his had set it at liberty to deliver its message. But here it showed itself possessed of something like "business habits," or at least of ten times more sense than the majority of those ghosts who, "at the crowing of the cock," have been obliged to run off without having effected anything except perhaps frightening some rustic nearly out of his wits. When it saw no prospect of being spoken to, it spoke; and in this its example should be imitated by all future ghosts.

"Jock Jervis," it said, in tones so hollow and so sepulchral, that no further doubts could be entertained of its[Pg 177] authority—"Jock Jervis, ye ken the promises and the solemn oaths ye've made already to Nelly Kilgour; and if ye dinna fulfil thae promises, and mak her yer married wife afore a fortnicht is at an end, ye maun gang to hell-fire, to be burned for a mis-sworn loon. And mair than a' that, if ye prove fause-hearted, I'll choke ye wi' this windin-sheet, and fling ye owre my shouther, and carry ye to Arangask kirkyard, and gie ye to the witches, to pick your banes ahint the aisle, afore ye get leave to gang aff the earth."

Having uttered this terrible malediction, it shook its winding-sheet, and then waved the candle round its head. The white part of the flame immediately disappeared; the blue parted into a thousand fragments, and flew through the apartment in as many directions, like infernal meteors.

While these appalling phenomena were passing before the eyes of the terrified spectator, the ghost had disappeared, he could scarcely tell how, and in a moment more all was dark—awfully dark. But of those terrific sparkles which the candle had emitted in going out, one had fallen on Jock's hand, which happened to be lying out of the bedclothes, and there it continued to sputter and to burn most distressingly blue, till the pain, which, in this case, amounted to torment, and the absence of the ghost, restored his speech; or, at least, restored him the use of his tongue. He roared out most lustily for comfort in his distress, and for assistance against his spiritual enemies, in case they should reappear; and the noise which he thus made soon alarmed Nelly, who, with her under-petticoat hastily thrown on, and wanting the whole of her upper garments, came into the apartment, holding a half-trimmed lamp in her hand, rubbing her eyes, and alternately speaking to herself and him.

"Sic a noise I never heard i' my life; and yet I dinna like to gae near him afore I get my claes on; but that's awfu—Jock, man, what's the matter wi' ye? Na, no ae word will he speak, but roar and cry as if somebody were stickin[Pg 178] him. Jock, man, it's me—it's your auld acquaintance, Nelly, but tell me, Jock, hae ye gane clean out o' yer judgment?"

"O Nelly, Nelly!" said Jock, "is't you—is't you?—gie's a haud o' yer hand, woman—oh, gie's a haud o' yer hand, for I canna speak."

"Atweel no," said Nelly; "if ye had on yer claes, and were butt at the kitchen fire, I micht maybe gie ye my hand, if it were to do ye guid; but, as lang as ye lie there, and roar and squall that gate, ye needna look for a hand o' mine."

"Aweel, Nelly, I canna help it," said the other. "I'll never be at the kitchen fire again, I fear; and if ye dinna gie me your hand, ye'll maybe repent it when it's owre late; for I canna stand this lang, and I'll no be lang to the fore. My hand's burnin as if it were in a smiddy fire; but that's naething. Oh, if I could only touch somebody, to let me ken it's flesh and blood that I'm speakin till."

On hearing that he was really in pain, Nelly could no longer stand back. "Dear me," said she, "what can be the matter wi' ye?" and, as she spoke, she took his hand in hers to examine it with the lamp. "It's burned, I declare!" she continued, in a tone of sympathy, which appeared somewhat to comfort him; "how did that happen? But I maun rin for some sour 'ream to rub it wi'."

"No, no, Nelly," said Jock, grasping her hand firmly in his, to detain her, and now considerably relieved by the consciousness that he was in the presence of one who had hands and arms, and a body of flesh and blood like his own; "dinna leave me," he continued, "and I'll tell ye a' about it. It's no five minutes yet since I saw a ghaist—oh dear, oh dear! it gars my very blood rin cauld o' thinkin on't—and it said, if I dinna marry you in less than a fortnicht, I maun gang to hell-fire to be burned, for the promises I made i' the glen. O Nelly, Nelly, tak pity on me, and let the marriage be on Monanday, or Tysday at farrest."[Pg 179]

"You're surely wrang, Jock," was the reply; "if the ghaist kenned onything ava, it would ken brawly that ye had nae wark wi' me. It had been Lizzie Gimmerton it bade ye tak, and ye had just taen up the tale wrang."

"Na, na," rejoined the other; "it was you—it was Nelly Kilgour. Oh, I'll never forget its words!—and if ye winna tak pity on me, what am I to do?"

"Ye needna speer what ye're to do at me," said Nelly; "but it seems the ghaist and you maun think that ye can get me to marry ony time ye like, just as ye would get a pickle strae to gather up ahint your horse on a mornin. But I daresay, after a', the ghaist would ken brawly that it needna sent you to Lizzie upon sic an errand, for the first lad that would gang awa wi' her, she would gang awa wi' him, and leave you to whistle on your thumb or your forefinger, if it answered you better; and yet ye micht gang owre the morn's nicht, and gie her a trial."

The awful words, "hell-fire," and "pick your banes at the back o' the aisle," were still ringing in Jock's ears. Nelly's observation seemed to preclude all hope of escape from the terrible doom which they plainly denounced, and he groaned deeply, but did not speak: this was what the other could not endure, and she now tried to comfort him in the best manner she could.

"I'm no sayin," she resumed, "but I would tak ye, rather than see ony ill come owre ye, if ye would only promise to gie up your glaikit gates, and to do your best to keep yoursel and me comfortable." Here she was interrupted by the guidman, who, like herself, had been awakened by the first alarm; but, in coming into the kitchen, and hearing only Jock and her conversing together, he had thought it best to dress himself before he entered upon an investigation of the matter. He was now at the bedside, however, and anxious to learn what had occasioned such an uproar. And Jock, who had been partly recovered from his terror by Nelly's presence,[Pg 180] and partly by her assurance that she would become his wife rather than see him carried away by his spiritual foe, began to give them a most sublime account of the ghost.

"I canna tell ye hoo it cam in," said he, "for it was i' the middle o' the floor afore I was waukin. But when I first opened my een, there it stood wi' three or four windin-sheets about it, and its head rowed up in a white clout, and its face and its hands a hantle whiter than either the windin-sheet or the clout—only I thought I saw some earth stickin on that side o' its nose that was farrest frae the licht. But what was a thousand times waur than a' that, it had a cannel in its hand that micht weel hae terrified a hale army o' sodgers; and I aye think yet, it had been the deevil himsel, and nae ghaist, for the cannel had just a wee peek o' white low i' the middle, and a' round the edges it burned as blue as a blawort, and bizzed and spitted, and threw out sparks like blue starns. And after it had telled me what I've telled you, it gae the cannel a wave round its head, and then the hale hoose, wa's, roof, and riggin, gaed a' in a blue low; and I saw the ghaist flee up through the couple bauks as clear as ever I saw the owsen afore me when the sun was shinin! But I could stand nae mair, for I steekit my een, and I'm sure I lay dead for near an hour. But when I cam to life again, the hale house was filled wi' a smell o' brimstane that would putten down a' the bees'-skeps i' the yard; and my richt hand was burning just as if ye had dippit it in a tar-kettle, and then set a lunt till't; but it was ten times waur than tar, for it had the smell o' brimstane, and it would scarcely gang out. The pain garred me roar as I never roared in a' my life afore; and I'm sure I'll never forget the relief I felt when Nelly cam to see what had happened."

As an evidence of the truth of this account, Jock showed them his hand, upon which a portion of the skin was really burned as black as a cinder. The goodman and the good[Pg 181]wife, both of whom were now present, stood astonished at this circumstance; but Nelly, who had evinced a considerable degree of composure in this trying scene, now appeared less dismayed.

"Hoot, man!" said she, addressing Jock, "dinna gang out o' your wits though ye've gotten a fear; mony a ane has seen a ghaist, and lived to see their bairns' bairns after a'—sae may ye, if ye would only tak heart again."

"O Nelly, Nelly," said Jock, "I micht maybe tak heart, if ye would only promise faithfully, afore witnesses, to let yoursel be married next week."

"What need I promise," rejoined Nelly, "when, for onything I ken, ye may be gaun to see Lizzie Gimmerton the morn's nicht?"

"Oh dear! oh dear!" ejaculated Jock. Again the terrible denunciation of the ghost rang in his ears, and again he groaned in an agony of despair. But here the master and mistress interposed in his behalf, and, by their mediation, Nelly was at last brought to consent to that important change in her condition which alone would save him from perdition. She still insisted, however, on making conditions; and these were, first, that he should not go to a market except when he had some business to transact; second, that, upon these occasions, he should always take her along with him, if she was willing to go; third, that he should never enter upon any important concern without first apprising her of it; and, fourth, that he should always come home to his own fireside when his day's work was done.

These conditions were readily subscribed by Jock, or, which is the same thing, they were agreed to before witnesses, after which Nelly frankly consented to be his wife. When this had been settled, she would have made out another set of conditions, specifying what her own conduct was to be, and what he might expect of her in certain situations; but Jock had determined on making an unconditional[Pg 182] surrender of himself and his effects into her hands; and all she was permitted to say was, that "she would do her best to mak a guid wife to him."

Matters were thus far satisfactorily adjusted; but still Jock could not rest till his promised bride was contracket, as he phrased it; and, to free his mind from those remains of terror under which he still laboured, the master of the house went in quest of the dominie as soon as daylight began to appear. Dominies are seldom slow in these matters; a contract of marriage was forthwith drawn up in the usual form; due proclamation of their intentions was made in the church next Sabbath; and, as the case was an urgent one, they were cried out in the same day. On Monday the marriage was solemnised in a becoming manner; and, when the parties were put to bed, Jock, who had up to that moment been rather feverish on the subject of the ghost, declared that "he wasna feared noo."

Had this marriage been brought about by ordinary means, it might have staggered some of the lieges in their faith—at least it must have taxed their ingenuity to reconcile the event, happening as it had done, in the face of a plain prediction, with the unlimited power which the witches certainly possessed; but, as it was, the matter needed no comment. The decision of the witch had evidently been reversed in the court of the ghosts, who, from being a superior order, had power to do such things; and thus Nelly Kilgour had got a husband, even after she had been predestined, by the former of these authorities, to a life of single blessedness.

Jock had also good reason to congratulate himself on the intervention of his spiritual friend—the ghost being no longer regarded as an enemy; for, in less than six months from the date of his marriage, Lizzie Gimmerton was discovered to be in a condition which would have been rather derogatory to his fame, had she been his yoke-fellow. It[Pg 183] was acknowledged upon all hands, however, that he had got a better bargain. In a few weeks after the marriage, his appearance was so much improved, that people, of their own accord, began to call him John; and, in another month, his wife was the only individual who still persisted in calling him Jock. But this, in her case, was, as it appeared, "habit and repute," and could not be easily altered. Whoever had an empty snuff-box, Jock's was always full; whoever might be seen at church with coarse or ill-washed linen, Jock was not among the number; whoever went to the public-house, or to the houses of their neighbours, for amusement, Jock came always home "to his ain fireside;" and, when others were heard to complain of the thriftlessness of their wives, he only said that "he had aye been a hantle better since he got Nelly than ever he was afore."

In conclusion, it may be remarked, that, though Nelly was evidently the managing partner, she gave herself no airs of superiority. She seldom did anything without taking her husband's advice; but, while she sought, she tried to direct his opinion into the proper channel, by pointing out what was likely to be results of the affair, if it were conducted in such a manner; and thus his advice was, in general, only an echo of her own sentiments. If Jock, in the presence of others, directed her to do anything, she, in general, did it, without questioning its propriety; but, if she thought it was wrong, she represented the case to him when they were by themselves—telling him, at the same time, that "she just did it to please him, though she thought it was wrang." Upon these occasions, his common reply was—

"Deed ay, Nelly, I daresay ye're richt. I dinna aye see sae far afore me as ye do; but I'm sure, wi' a' my fauts, ye canna say but I like ye as weel yet as ever I did."

"Deed do ye," was frequently Nelly's rejoinder; "and proud am I to think that my ain Jock aye likes his ain wife better than ither folk."[Pg 184]

Within a year after their marriage, Nelly made her husband the father of a female child, who was christened Jenny Jervis. In a few years, their united industry enabled them to stock the little farm of Rummledykes—of which they were so fortunate as to obtain a tack. The place consisted, for the most part, of pasture ground; but Jock laboured assiduously to improve and cultivate it. Nelly, by her management of the dairy, contributed materially to increase their possessions; and here we must leave them, contented and happy, for the present—promising, however, to give the reader some glimpses of their subsequent history—and perhaps some hints, too, which may enable him to form his own conjectures as to those supernatural appearances which brought about their union—in a future story.

[Pg 185]


In the fulfilment of our promise of "a future story," which we made at the termination of "The Ghost of Howdycraigs," we may premise thus:—

It would be both trite and bombastic to say, as some orators have done, that "time rolls on;" and yet it is wholly owing to their having been so often repeated, that such sayings excite no interest, and the subjects to which they refer pass unnoticed; for, however we may forget the truth, or however the regular recurrence of evening and morning, summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, may make us callous to the result which these revolutions are destined to produce, nothing can be more certain than that Time never pauses in his career. His progress may be observed, not only in those great events which give birth to new eras in the history of the world—in the overthrow of ancient empires, the extinction of ancient dynasties, and the discovery of new countries: it may be traced in the occurrences of every year, every month, and almost of every day. The connections of families, the numbers of which they are composed, their relative position in society, and their prospects in life, are undergoing perpetual changes. Changeable as are the fortunes, so are the minds and the emotions of men: one hour they laugh, another they weep; and, perhaps, the very next hour they laugh again; while events the most important and the most trifling, the most solemn and the most ludicrous, mingle together, and follow each other by a law which fools our powers of investigation, and baffles our understanding.

Eighteen years had nearly elapsed since the period at[Pg 186] which the former part of this history concludes; and the Ghost of Howdycraigs was nearly forgotten. Betsy Braikens, who was then only a girl, was now a full-grown woman, who, for the last eight or nine of the above-mentioned years, would not have been irreconcilably offended with a well-looking sweetheart for proposing to make her his wife. Her brother James, who, in the same interval, had arrived at man's estate, had been endeavouring, not very successfully, for some time past to establish himself as a merchant in Perth; and his cousin, Sandy Crawford, whom the reader will recollect as the herd laddie at Howdycraigs, had, by the death of his father, been promoted to be tacksman of Gairyburn; upon which place he resided with his mother. Jenny Jervis, too, with whose birth the preceding story concludes, was by this time a lass upon whom those who were neither too young nor too old might have looked with as much interest at least as it is common to bestow on a maiden in her eighteenth year. It is also probable that she herself had begun to steal an occasional glance at the young men of the district, as she saw them passing on the road, or assembled at their rustic sports; and to recollect, when her mind was otherwise unoccupied, that one was tall, that another had dark eyes, that a third had a smiling countenance; and, perhaps, that a fourth united all these charms in his proper person.

It was the middle of winter, or what is commonly called "the daft days," which has long been a season of festivity to the rich, and, in so far as circumstances will permit, to the poor also. The cottagers were invited to each other's houses, to spend an evening in forgetfulness of care. Cakes, cheese, and ale, supplied them with a cheap, and, at the same time, a cheery repast. The old people talked of bygone times, and the feats of dexterity or strength which they had performed in their youth, with all the enthusiasm of heroes when "fighting their battles over again;" while[Pg 187] the young ones looked in each other's faces, and laughed heartily at little jests. Unpremeditated compliments were paid in off-handed profusion; old and incredible stories were revived; and, in the words of Goldsmith, "news much older than their ale went round;" but, whatever might be their age, at such seasons they were certain to produce as much merriment as upon the occasion when they were first produced. To conclude the picture—

"The nappy reek'd wi' mantling 'ream,
And shed a heart-inspiring stream;
And luntin pipe and sneeshin mill
Were handed round wi' richt guid-will."

Sandy Crawford and his mother had been invited to "get their cakes," and spend the evening with John Jervis and his wife. They came, according to custom; and, after the cheese, the oaten bread, and the ale had been sent round in the usual manner—

"Troth, Nelly," said Margaret Crawford, addressing her hostess, "your Jenny's turned a perfect woman, I declare. Sic an odds there's on her within the last twalmonth! Mony a time I look at her when she's gaun past; and, to say the truth, ye may weel be proud o' yer dochter, for I dinna see a bonnier lassie i' the hale country-side than she is."

"Beauty is only skin-deep," said Nelly, with a smile of satisfaction, which showed how highly she appreciated the quality in her daughter which she pretended to undervalue. "But the lassie's weel aneugh, though she were nae freend o' mine. And noo, Sandy," she continued, in a jesting tone, and turning from the mother to the son as she spoke, "what think ye o' her for a wife? Yer mither seems to be unco weel pleased wi' her; I'm sure I would like weel to see ye gang thegither, and I dinna think our Jock would say onything against sic a marriage."

"Hoot, woman," interrupted her husband, "were I to[Pg 188] haver like you, I would say that, if I thought she would only turn out half as guid a wife to him as you've dune to me, I would maist advise him to tak her; but she's our ain bairn, and we should haud our tongues."

"That's as true as ye hae said it," rejoined Nelly; "fathers and mithers should say little on sic a subject; but as this is a nicht on which a'body haver, ye maun just allow me to haver too: when folk only haver for diversion, it can do little ill. And sae, as I was gaun to say," she continued, again addressing Sandy, "yer mither seems to be pleased; I'm weel pleased; Jock's no that sair set against the match, and noo there's naebody's consent awantin but your ain."

"Ay," said Sandy, "there's anither yet, though you've forgotten about it; ye maun get her consent too afore it can be a bargain. Jenny has a heart as weel as her neebors, I'll warrant her," he continued, stealing a look at the object of whom he spoke, "and I'm maybe no amang the folk she likes best."

"Weel, Jenny, it's a' at your door noo, I declare," said her mother, laughing outright. "What say ye to this affair?"

"Oh, if ye would only haud your tongue!" said Jenny, blushing, and still keeping her eyes fixed upon a rather profitless occupation in which she had been engaged for some time past—namely, that of folding and unfolding the corners of her apron with great assiduity; but the rest of the company, if we except Sandy, perhaps, were so deeply engaged in their own nonsensical conversation, that they took no notice of this circumstance.

"That's just the way wi' a' young folk," said Nelly, still laughing; "the lad thinks the lass has some ither body that she likes better than him, and the lass thinks the lad pays mair attention to anither than he does to her; she daurna say a word unless she maybe tak the dorts and misca him; he hesitates to speak for fear he should be refused; and be[Pg 189]tween them they aften contrive to torment ane anither for years, when twa words micht settle the matter, and mak them baith happy. But I'm sure, Margaret, if they would only leave the thing to you and me, we could mak a bargain for them the nicht yet."

"It's likely, at least, that we would mak a bargain sooner than they would do," said the other. But the sigh with which she concluded bespoke some emotion which accorded ill with the lightness of the previous conversation. There was a something, too, in her manner, which seemed to say that, while she was not averse to the proposed match, she did not altogether relish the jest in which its immediate consummation had been spoken of.

Mothers have frequently thrown serious obstacles in the path of young people when they supposed themselves travelling on the highway to happiness; but sometimes, too, they seem inclined to give them an opportunity of forming that liking for each other, without which, according to the popular creed, no happiness can exist. Nelly now proposed that, while the guidman was suppering the horse, Margaret should go with her to the byre and see the cow, the yearling, and the calf, which, she said, "were in wonderfu guid order, considerin how little they had to gie them." Sandy and Jenny were thus left to themselves; but upon this occasion they seemed to have the greatest difficulty in keeping up a sort of intermitting conversation upon the weather, the state of the roads, and some other subjects of the same kind. Each wished to appear witty and amiable in the eyes of the other; but somehow their wits seemed to have forsaken them, and they appeared to be perfectly ignorant of the means by which their wishes could be accomplished. Perhaps the former conversation had awakened, or rather called into a state of activity, some feelings which they knew not how to express; and it might be that, while these feelings predominated, they could not think of anything[Pg 190] else in such a manner as to talk of it to the purpose; or perhaps it was only the mere awkwardness of finding themselves, for the first time since they were children, thus left to each other, which in a great measure locked up their conversational powers. Be the matter as it may, with the "eldern dames" it was otherwise.

When they got to the byre, Margaret appeared more willing to resume the former subject than to look at her neighbour's chattels. "Ye would maybe think," said she, "that I didna seem sae frank as I micht hae done when ye spoke about Jenny and Sandy; but, for a' that, I've aften thought, if ever it were the laddie's luck to get a wife, Jenny would mak a better ane than ony ither young woman I ken. But after him that's now awa began to tak death till himsel," she continued, lowering her voice to a confidential whisper, "when he made owre the tack to Sandy, he left me as a burden upon Gairyburn. Noo, the place is but sma, as ye ken, and there's but ae house on't, and, if he were to marry, I dinna ken how a'thing would answer."

"Hoot, woman," rejoined the other, "ye've a butt and a ben; the house would haud ye a' brawly. And, though our lassie's owre young to be a wife to onybody, and I was only passin a joke about her and Sandy, if she were a year or twa aulder, and if a'thing were agreeable, I canna say but I would like weel to see them gang thegither. For it's just the gate o' a' mithers—they would aye like to see their ain bairns gettin guid bargains. No that I would care a snuff for the lassie gettin a man wi' a hantle riches; but I would like to see her get ane that would ken how to guide her, and how to guide the warld too. Noo, Sandy is baith a canny and a carefu chield; and, if they dinna thrive, I'm sure it wouldna be his faut."

"It's a' true ye say," responded Margaret; "and weel it pleases me to hear your guid opinion o' my son. He has a wark wi' the lassie already, if I'm no far deceived; for ony[Pg 191] time when she comes owre to our house, I've remarkit that he's aye kinder to her than to ony ither body. But there's a proverb that says, 'young wives seldom like auld guidmithers'—and that's what troubles me."

"But that needna trouble ye owre muckle either," was the reply; "for—what's this I was gaun to say, again?—ou ay—wi' respect to Jenny, puir thing, if it were her guid fortune to draw his affection, I'm sure she would strive, as far as lay in her power, to mak ye comfortable."

"I dinna doubt a single word o' what ye say," rejoined the other. "Jenny is a dutiful and a kind-hearted lassie; I ken that weel. But, as the auld sayin is, ilka body kens their ain sair best; and, though it's nae doubt a weakness, I maun e'en tell ye a'. When I was married—I mind as weel as yesterday—baith David and me thought we could live happy wi' his mither; and we did live happy, for aught days or sae; but, after that, I could do naethin to please her. If I tried to 'earn the milk, it was either owre het or owre cauld when I put in the 'earning; if I began to wash the dishes, she aye milkit the kye first, and then she wondered how some folk had sae little sense. I could neither mak the parritch, nor wash, nor spin, nor mak up a hasp o' yarn—no, nor soop in the very house, to please her; and, though I tried, as far as was in my power, to do a'thing her way, it gae me mony a sleepless nicht, and cost him that's awa nae little vexation. And weel do I mind mony a time I wondered what pleasure she could tak in distressin me; but I think noo it was just a frailty o' our nature—a something that auld folk canna help. And I think, too, I've discovered the cause o' her grumlin since I began to see the prospect o' Sandy takin a wife. Now, ye'll nae doubt think it strange," she continued, in a hesitating tone—"ye'll nae doubt think it strange, Nelly; but, dearly as I like my ain son—and weel as I would like[Pg 192] to see him happy wi' a woman wha loved him better than a' the warld beside—still there's a something in the idea o' anither comin in to be the mistress o' the hoose whaur I've had the management sae lang, that aye distresses me when I think on't."

"I dinna wonder ava at what ye say," responded Nelly. "If I were in your place, a' that troubles you would trouble me. But there's naebody without something to distress them; and we maun just look upon things o' that kind as a crook in our lot, a something that maun be borne. But, after a', woman, if the twa were to gang thegither, could ye no come owre here? Ye have only him, and we have only her; the little gear we hae maun a' gang to him at last; and, if the young folk could live thegither in ane o' the places, the auld folk micht surely do the same in the tither."

"Thank ye, Nelly—thank ye!" said Margaret; "ye're aye the same guid-hearted creature yet. But a body's ain hame's aye kindly. And yet, if sic a thing were to happen, I would rather come here, than gang to ony freend I hae." As she uttered these words, she made an involuntary motion forward, and would have fallen, had she not supported herself by the wall.

"Dear me, Margaret, what's the matter wi' ye?" said Nelly, in a tone of evident alarm.

"It's a dizziness i' my head, woman," was the reply. "I've never been mysel since that illness I had afore the term. Thae curious turns come owre me aye, noo and then," she continued, her voice sinking and saddening as she spoke; "and, for the last six weeks, it's been borne in upon me, that I'm no to be lang to the fore. Now, if I was taen awa, Sandy would be sair to mean wi' naebody about the house but a servant; and that gars me sometimes think I would maist like to see him married to some carefu lass like your Jenny afore my head be laid down."[Pg 193]

"Wheesht, Margaret!" said the other; "never let thae thoughts come owre ye, for there's an auld proverb that says, thought can kill and thought can cure. And I doubt I've driven the joke owre far already. But, though it's natural aneugh for young lasses to like to get husbands, and natural aneugh, too, for their mithers to like to see them weel married, I would ten times owre see our Jenny live and dee without a man a'thegither, rather than see her married to the best man on earth, if her marriage were to gie you real vexation, or be the means o' shortenin your days."

"It's no that," said Margaret, in the same low solemn tone in which she had before spoken—"it's no onything ye have said that has hurt me, for I've thought about a' thae things afore. When I had that ill turn afore Martinmas, when folk thought I was deein, I began to consider wha would be maist likely to keep a comfortable hame to my ain bairn; and then, I confess, my thoughts turned upon your Jenny. This made me look mair attentively at baith him and her than I had ever done before; and twa or three times, when she cam owre to see how I was, I thought I saw something like the first symptoms of affection in his manner as weel as hers; and I felt glad at the sicht. But, as I began to get a little better, and to be able to gang about again, the things that had happened wi' my ain guidmither came fresh to my memory, and I thought I would like to manage the house mysel, and do for the best as lang as I was able. But I fear," she added, with a deep sigh, "this complaint, whatever it is, will weather me afore it's lang."

"Na, Margaret; I hope better things," said the other; "and ye maun strive to hope for better things too. Though ye mayna be sae stout through the winter, when the warm weather comes in ye'll gather strength again; and, if ance ye had yer fit on a May gowan, ye'll be as hale and hearty as the best o' us."[Pg 194]

"It's lang to the month o' May," said Margaret, in a voice unwontedly solemn; "and, afore that time come round, hundreds that are laughin and makin muckle sport the nicht may be cauld in their graves. But promise, if I'm taen awa, that ye'll do yer best to supply my place, and to bring the twa thegither if ye can."

Nelly was really distressed to think that this gloomy presentiment had taken such firm hold of her neighbour's mind; but, fancying that it had been in some measure suggested by their former conversation, and hoping that it would soon pass off, she promised to comply with her wishes, and then urged her to rejoin the company within.

They accordingly went into the house, where they found the little party—which, in their absence, consisted of only three—engaged in a cheerful conversation. Freed at length from that embarrassment which they had experienced while alone, the others soon recovered their spirits and their freedom of speech. Margaret, however, could not so easily recover her former cheerfulness. She strove, indeed, to appear as merry as the rest; but her late indisposition, though only of a momentary nature, seemed to have left an effect upon her spirits which did not immediately pass away. There was also a something in the fitfulness of her manner, and the expression of deep solemnity into which her countenance frequently relapsed after a laugh, which told too plainly that her merriment came not from the heart. These symptoms were soon observed, and by degrees her sadness appeared to communicate itself to the rest of the company.

In this state of things, they seemed to feel as if an early separation would have been a relief, and almost the only relief of which the case would admit. When the propriety of a measure is felt by a whole company, some one or other of their number in general stammers upon the wishes of the rest; and here, shortly after the above-mentioned feeling had begun to prevail, Margaret Crawford said that—"As[Pg 195] the nicht was dark and micht end in rain, she thought it would be best for her and Sandy to gang hame afore it was late." To this proposal Nelly and her husband made a friendly show of resistance such as is common on these occasions, and urged, as reasons for delaying their guests, that "it was not late yet," and that "they would be hame in braw time, though they staid anither hour." But this resistance, though reiterated, was so faint, that it was at once felt to be formal; and Margaret, who had no very great temptation to do otherwise, seemed inclined to adhere to her first intention. She therefore repeated her reasons for going home; and, at the same time expressed a hope, "if naething extrordinar cam i' the way, that she would see John and Nelly, and Jenny too, at Gairyburn, some nicht neist week, to spend the e'enin wi' her"—after which, the little company broke up.

The night was far advanced before Jenny could close her eyes; and when at last she did sink into the arms of the "leaden god," it was only to dream of having lost her way, along with Sandy Crawford, in some wide and wildering desert which she had never seen before. At first the scene seemed solitary, shaded with lofty yews, and tangled with trailing shrubs; dark clouds spread a gloom over it; mists rested on the top of every rock; and the night-dews hung heavily from every branch and every blade of grass. Then the prospect appeared to brighten: the landscape assumed a variety of charms; every hour disclosed some new beauty, or opened up some glowing vista which she had not before seen. The sun gradually dissipated the clouds which hitherto had concealed him, and, bursting through, dried up the superfluous moisture from the earth; the air became pure, and the day delightfully warm; and, though as yet she had discovered no road by which she could return, she did not feel greatly perplexed. But the pleasing prospect was soon overcast: clouds appeared to gather round them; anon she was separated from her companion by rocks and unfathomable gulfs,[Pg 196] the nature and extent of which she could not distinctly see. At times she fancied he was lost, and felt inclined to weep at the thought that she should never see him more; then she obtained a glimpse of him, as if he still waited for her, and then her heart panted to come up with him; then he disappeared, and she knew not which way to turn. At last she thought Betsy Braikens came up to her, and offered to conduct her to where he was; but at that moment the sky grew dark, and the storm raged so terribly, that she could not stir a step to follow her. It soon ceased, however; the day again cleared; she seemed to see him advancing to meet her, with a smile of welcome upon his countenance; and, just as he was about to throw his arms around her waist, she started aside to avoid his embrace, struck her arm upon the post of the bed, and the pain which the circumstance occasioned, aided by an importunate knocking at the door, awakened her. On being thus made aware that some one wanted admittance, she started up, threw on a part of her clothes, snatched up the poker, broke the gathering-coal, and stirred the fire, which instantly burst forth in a blaze; and then she hastened to open the door.

The present visiter was Sandy Crawford, in most respects the very same as she had seen him in her dream; but the smile with which that illusion had presented her was wanting, and in its stead she thought she could discover, by the light of the fire, marks of anxiety, perturbation, and fear, upon his countenance. The contrast was so striking, that she almost forgot one part of it was only a dream. At the very first glance, she felt certain that something was wrong; and she would have inquired what it was, but, before she could speak, he told her, in terms which betrayed his own agitation, that his mother, without having previously complained of being worse than her ordinary, had been struck with what appeared to be palsy in the course of the night, that she was now wholly deprived of speech, and nearly de[Pg 197]prived of motion in one side, and that he had hastened thither as soon as she could be left, to beg either her or her mother to come over and watch her till he could procure further assistance. He would have said something more—he would have hinted the probability of the fatal termination of his mother's disease, and the further probability that this termination might occur in a few hours, both of which were painfully impressed upon his heart; but he shrank from the idea of speaking on such a subject, as though he apprehended some mysterious connection between his own words and the fate of his mother, and that what he was about to say might hurry on the crisis which he wished to avert. He was therefore silent; while Jenny, between the effects of her dream, and the alarming intelligence which she had just heard, knew not what to answer, or what she should do. In general, she possessed activity, and all that was necessary to enable her to render assistance in any case with which she was acquainted; but she was susceptible of strong impressions—those who are so seldom act with ease in an untried situation—and she was now placed in one which was perfectly new to her. In her agitation, she would have stood where she was, like a statue, or she would have accompanied him without taking time to put on what remained of her clothes, had he repeated his request; but her mother, who had been awakened by the opening of the door, on overhearing the conversation which followed, had dressed herself with characteristic despatch, now came to her daughter's relief.

"Dinna forget to milk the cow, lassie," said she, "nor to mak yer father's parritch about eight o'clock, and I'll rin owre mysel, and see what's the matter wi' puir Margaret Crawford. But, if I'm no back afore dinner-time, mind ye to come and see how she is." With these brief orders, Nelly wrapped herself up in her cloak, and hastened to carry her services where they were most wanted.

On reaching Gairyburn, they found Margaret, as she had[Pg 198] been represented, very ill. The shock, however, did not, as there was at first some reason to fear, prove immediately mortal; and about noon, when Jenny arrived, her mother proposed that she herself should go home, leaving her in constant attendance, and promising, at the same time, to return as often as possible, and give them all the assistance in her power. This arrangement appeared satisfactory to all parties; but, at the end of three weeks, a second shock brought rest to the sufferer, and mourning to the house of Gairyburn.

This mournful event, as is common in such cases, brought together the whole of the friends and relations of the deceased; and among the rest came Betsy Braikens and her brother. Betsy had been for some time past residing with that brother in Perth; but, as soon as it was known that she had arrived, those who pretended to take an interest in the affairs of her cousin hastened to represent to her in the strongest terms the necessity of her coming "to keep his house;" and, yielding to their representations, she did offer her services. These were declined, however, from the consideration that it would be inconvenient for her brother to want her assistance. But, as soon as it was understood that she had made such an offer, the very individuals who had advised her to make it began to search for other motives than their own advice, and they soon discovered what they considered a sufficient reason for her doing so, in the embarrassed circumstances of her brother. It was generally believed that his trade had never been very flourishing, and some surmises had lately reached them of the failure of a merchant in Glasgow, with whom he was understood to be connected, which would involve him in very considerable pecuniary difficulties. Putting these things together, they deemed them a sufficient warrant for supposing that Betsy had her cousin's hand as well as his house in view, and that, if she did not succeed in securing[Pg 199] one of them at least, she might soon have no house to keep.

This supposition was not altogether without a foundation; for all his endeavours had been so unsuccessful of late, that her brother had now come to the determination of dropping business, as soon as he could sell off his stock, and wind up his affairs; but, as it would be several months before this could be done with any prospect of advantage, he still continued to keep his intentions a perfect secret. And this being the case, it was agreed on the evening of the funeral that he and his sister should set off, early next morning, for Perth.

The weather, however, did not appear to favour their intentions. For the last eight days it had been fair, and uncommonly mild, with slight frosts during the night, so that, in the estimation of the country people, "the earth was prepared for a storm." But, on the day alluded to, the atmosphere had become loaded with stagnant vapours; a continuous mass of dark, leaden-coloured cloud, which seemed to rest upon the nearest hills, arched the concave; not a single speck of blue sky had been visible since morning; and in the evening, one of those dense and wildering falls of snow, which have frequently misled the traveller, came on.

The night was one which, in most respects, seemed to accord with the sorrowful feelings of the little party at Gairyburn. It was gloomy and silent; while the snow continued to accumulate around the house, as if to exclude everything which might have a tendency to disturb their recollections of the solemn scene in which they had been so lately engaged. At times, a sort of conversation, carried on in subdued tones, prevailed for a season; and then it was followed by considerable intervals of silence, broken only by an occasional sigh, a casual observation on the stillness of the night, or an injunction to stir the fire. Anon, the colloquial powers of the party seemed to gather strength from the re[Pg 200]pose which they had been permitted to enjoy; and the discourse was again renewed, to continue for a season, and then to flag, as it had done before. In most respects, this conversation bore a striking resemblance to the evening fire of the poor widow, which is only kept alive by an occasional handful of brushwood thrown upon the expiring embers; after which it emits a flickering flame for a short while, and then gradually decays, till the last spark is scarcely perceptible, and it is only prevented from utter extinction by a repetition of the same process.

In one of these intervals of silence, Betsy Braikens had gone to the door—partly to pass the time which hung so heavily, and partly to see if there was any prospect of being able to travel in the morning. While thus reconnoitring, her attention was attracted by a whistle, followed by a faint cry for assistance, which, though evidently at a distance, was, owing to the stillness of the night, distinctly heard. This made her listen more attentively. The whistle and the cry were repeated, which satisfied her that they proceeded from some one in distress; and she now thought it time to give notice of what she had heard to those within. On hearing the circumstance, her brother and cousin immediately set off in the direction which she had pointed out; and in a short time they returned, bringing along with them a stranger, who had lost his way when it grew dark; and, after having wandered for several hours among the hills, without knowing where he was going, had at last stumbled over a bank into a miry slough, where, as he was unable to extricate himself from the mud, he would in all probability have perished, but for the assistance which he had received.

The care of ministering to the new guest devolved principally upon Betsy Braikens, who had been the first to give notice of his previous distress; and for such an office she was better qualified than any other female who, at the[Pg 201] time, could have been found, within several miles—both from that knowledge of the conventionalities of society which she had acquired during her residence in Perth, and from a disposition which was naturally kind. With that alacrity which is common to her sex, she made the necessary preparations for enabling him to shift such parts of his clothes as were wet. A repast calculated to refresh him, after the fatigues of his journey, was next provided; and, as there was no inn or other place of accommodation within reach, and the night was one in which no stranger could find his way, she represented the necessity of his remaining where he was till morning; and then he might travel with her and her brother, if he chanced to be journeying in that direction; and, if his road was different, he would at least have the advantage of daylight to direct his steps.

To this proposal the stranger did not seem to be averse. In such circumstances, men are often more grateful for a mere trifle than, in others, they would be for the greatest favours. He seemed highly sensible of the kindness with which he was treated, and soon began to regard his entertainers with a feeling of respect. Upon further conversation, it was discovered that his name was Robert Walker—that he was the son of the Glasgow merchant whoso failure has been already noticed as having been prejudicial to the interests of James Braikens; and, on learning that he was in the society of one who had been in the habit of dealing with his father, he proceeded to give them a brief sketch of his story.

After his prospects had been obscured by the bankruptcy of his father, he had succeeded in procuring for himself a situation in Aberdeen; and, as he was a good pedestrian—and had, moreover, a liking for rural scenery, rural manners, and unfrequented roads—these considerations, backed by motives of economy, had induced him to undertake the journey on foot. He had accordingly proceeded by Kinross,[Pg 202] intending to make his line as straight as possible, without paying much attention to the highways; and, on reaching the village of Strathmiglo, he had been directed across a part of the Ochils as the nearest road to Newburgh—at which part he intended to cross the Tay. He had taken these directions, and pushed forward, in the expectation that he would reach the last-mentioned place before it was late; but the snow coming on, he soon lost all traces of the road, and, what was worse, he soon after lost everything like an idea of what direction he was travelling in. He had, however, no alternative but to proceed. Exertion was indispensable to prevent his limbs from being benumbed with cold; but the dense fall of snow prevented him from seeing any distant object upon which he might direct his course, and thus arrive at some place of shelter. In this state of uncertainty, he had wandered he neither knew where nor how long, when—stumbling over the bank, as already noticed, and being unable to extricate himself—he was beginning to fear that he had reached the end of his journey before his deliverers reached him.

On the following morning, which was fair, though the clouds still appeared to be far from having discharged the whole of their contents, the stranger was easily induced to accompany Betsy Braikens and her brother to Perth—alleging, as his reason for doing so, a wish to see the town, and the possibility of his being there able to procure some mode of conveying himself to Aberdeen less laborious than travelling had now become. They accordingly set forward together; but before they had reached the head of Abernethy Glen, the snow again began to fall, accompanied by gusts of wind, which whirled whole wreaths into the air at once, and drove the dazzling particles before them with such violence, that suffocation seemed to be the inevitable consequence of being long exposed to the fury of the storm. In a short time the snow had accumulated to such a depth in[Pg 203] the hollows as to render travelling a most laborious operation; and it was with some difficulty that the party reached the domicile of Andrew Braikens, where they thought it best to take shelter for the present, and postpone their further journey till the weather should be more favourable. The storm continued for nearly forty-eight hours without intermission, so that, dating from the time at which they set out, it was not till the evening of the third day that they reached Perth.

Whatever loss in the way of business this delay might have occasioned, the merchant found, on his arrival, that it was only his absence which had saved him from being declared bankrupt, and, in all probability, imprisoned for debt at the same time. But, on the previous day, one of his most clamorous creditors had been suddenly taken ill. A temporary respite was thus obtained; and, with the assistance of Robert Walker, who exerted all his oratorical powers in his behalf, matters were again patched up, and he was allowed to go on with the concerns of his shop as before. These things being settled, this new friend strenuously advised him to retain his business if possible, assuring him, at the same time, that there was nothing like perseverance, and then went on his way, whither we follow him not.

At Gairyburn things went on much in the same way as they had done before, except that the management of the house was now committed to the care of a servant-girl. But some circumstances soon transpired which led the people around to suppose that the girl might, in due time, be promoted to be mistress of what at present she only managed for another. Sandy Crawford had bought rather a better suit of mournings for Jenny Jervis than it was common to give to a servant; and this, along with a number of other incidents and occurrences, too minute to be enumerated here, but not so minute as to escape the notice of a country population, was made the subject of discussion at the fire[Pg 204]sides of the neighbouring cottages. But as neither men nor women, since the world began, were ever known to agree about either religion or politics, or any other important matter whatever, so here there was a difference of opinion; and many were the conferences and disputes which ensued. With one party, the buying of the gown, and the other corroborating circumstances, were deemed incontestable evidence; and they affirmed that Sandy and Jenny only waited till the proper season for laying aside their mournings, to be married. In this marriage they saw, or at least fancied they could see, such a number of advantages as would render it most desirable. "Jenny," they said, "was a thrifty lassie, and wad mak a guid wife. She kenned a' about the management o' the kye, and she wad aye hae her mither at hand to apply to in ony strait." Another party differed from them entirely, both as to the conclusiveness of the evidence, and the advantages to be derived from the marriage. "The buyin o' the gown," they maintained, "was naething. Jenny Jervis was a young, thoughtless lassie, wha wad be soon aneugh married four or five years hence; and they were sure Sandy wad be far better wi' his cousin Betsy, wha was baith a weel-faured and a weel-conditioned cummer, and had some experience in the management o' a house." They said, further, that "Betsy, they were sure, wad be the woman; for Sandy was a thoughtfu callant; and though he might be led awa, for a time, wi' twa blue een, a slender waist, and the red and white on a lassie's face, he wad soon come to see that ither things were needfu to a man fechtin for his bread, and strugglin for the rent o' a farm." A third party presumed to differ from both of these in every particular save one. They admitted, indeed, that Sandy "was a thoughtfu callant;" but from that very admission they drew a quite contrary conclusion. "Baith Betsy and Jenny," they averred, "might remain single lang aneugh for him; and if he ever took a wife ava, they were[Pg 205] sure it wadna be in ony hurry." They also pointed out several advantages which were likely to accrue to him from adopting this theory, and several disadvantages which would infallibly result from his adoption of any other. "The place," they said, "was but sma', and the rent high; and as lang as he had only a servant, he had naething but her bit year's wage to pay at the term. But, were he to tak a wife, he wad hae to get new beds, and new chairs, and a hantle whigmaleeries forby, that wad cost him nae little siller; he wad hae to buy fykes to her in ilka market, and in ilka shop he cam past—not to mention bairns' meat and bairns' claes—mair o' baith, maybe, than the place wad afford." Thus, as the great political world is at present divided into Tories, Whigs, and Radicals, this little sequestered district was divided into parties, which, for the sake of distinction, we shall denominate Jervisines, Braikenites, and Malthusians.

Though Betsy Braikens had not been at Gairyburn for several years before the death of her aunt, after that occurrence she continued to pay occasional visits there; and it was observed, by those who knew and could interpret the signs of the times, that her cousin always looked more thoughtful for a day or two after she went away, than was his usual. This seemed to favour the theory of the Jervisines, who said that he was pestered with her visits, and did not know how to get quit of her. The Braikenites, on the other hand, maintained, that, if he did not give her some encouragement, she would not return so often; and that his thoughtful looks were occasioned by regret at her absence.

Several months after the death of Margaret Crawford, and just as the first party were beginning to be certain that their theory was the correct one, and that they would, ere long, obtain a notable victory over their opponents, both Betsy and her brother paid a visit to Gairyburn. They stayed a night and a day with their cousin; and, after they[Pg 206] had taken their departure, it was observed that he looked more thoughtful than he had done on any former occasion, with the additional aggravation of his thoughtfulness not passing away in a day or two, as it had done before. At the end of a fortnight, the neighbours said to each other—"Preserve us a'! saw ye ever sic an alteration as has come owre Sandy Crawford! He's surely seen something that's no canny, and daurna speak aboot it." At the end of a month, they might have made the same observation; but by that time they had become accustomed to the change, and they only said—"Puir fellow! he's as sair altered as though that cummer frae Perth had ta'en awa his last penny."

He was indeed changed, though not to the extent which they seemed to suppose. He managed the whole of his concerns as he had done before; in company or conversation there was little perceptible difference; but, when silent or alone, there was frequently an expression of resignation on his countenance, as if some misfortune were impending which he could not avert, and which, if it should fall, he had determined to endure with patience. Strict observations were now made on his conduct towards Jenny; and here, too, an alteration was discovered, though that alteration did not seem to admit of being explicitly expressed in words. It was agreed, however, by the wise women who had made the observations, that he appeared like one who had determined never again to urge his suit, and that he had certainly made up his mind to see her give her hand to another. This conclusion was favourable to the Malthusians: they repeated their assertion, that "he was a thoughtfu callant, and that he had determined not to marry at all;" while the others, if they did not "hide their diminished heads," were at least compelled to hold their peace.

But of all who were puzzled by the mysterious change in[Pg 207] the manners of the should-be bridegroom, none were more so than poor Jenny herself, who really loved him, and who had been led to suppose that he loved her in return, though hitherto he had never directly declared his intention of marrying her. Her mother was equally puzzled to assign a satisfactory reason for the change; but she was not equally affected by it. In her younger years, she had learned, from experience, that there is nothing more mutable than the heart of a lover; and she fancied, even in ordinary cases, that it was only by practising a great deal of art and finesse that a husband could be secured. This, in her estimation, being the case, she determined that—if the experience which she had acquired in these matters could be rendered available—her daughter should not remain so long unmarried as she had done herself; and she immediately set her head to work to contrive the means of bringing about a marriage as speedily as possible. Nelly recollected some years ago having had a young pig, which could not be prevailed upon to take its victuals. She had tried to feed it, or, in other words, to thrust meat into its mouth, in the hope that it would then swallow it; but this only served to make it more obdurate in its resistance. It seemed determined to starve itself to death, and she knew not what to make of it. Her husband, however, bethought him of a scheme which proved successful: on the following day, he brought home another, which was put in beside its refractory kinsman, and afterwards, when she came with the victuals, they immediately commenced fighting about their respective shares. It was then who should get most; and each would have eaten up the whole, if its skin would have contained as much. The bee is said to gather honey from every flower; and there are some people who will learn something from every incident. Nelly instantly discovered a strong analogy between the case of the single pig and its victuals, and the case of a young woman with a single sweetheart;[Pg 208] and, having discovered an analogy in the cases, she felt certain that there must also be an analogy in the cures. The present emergency seemed to be a most favourable opportunity for trying the correctness of this theory by that best of all possible tests—an experiment; and she forthwith resolved, were the thing practicable, that Jenny should have a new sweetheart, if peradventure his presence would produce a favourable revolution in the sentiments of the old one.

Measures were accordingly adopted, and the most feasible schemes were laid—schemes which, with proper management, could hardly have failed of success. Jenny also received such hints and instructions as were deemed necessary to enable her to act her part. But Jenny was, as her mother phrased it, "an even-forrit, silly, simple lassie;" and in her hands nothing succeeded. It was with the utmost difficulty that she could be brought to give the slightest encouragement to a new lover, and if at any time she did muster sufficient resolution to smile upon a rival in the presence of Sandy Crawford, her eye immediately turned upon the latter, to see if he approved of what she had done; and when, in his guarded look, she could read neither approbation nor disapprobation, a deep sigh commonly revealed her apprehensions for having done wrong. The preposterousness of such conduct needs no remark; its evident tendency was, to keep him free from the slightest suspicions of having a competitor for her hand, and the most distant idea that he was in any danger of losing her—and all this in the midst of schemes intended to produce a contrary effect!

It is probable that other schemes might have been devised, or the same ones might have been prosecuted to a still greater extent; but what had been already done, aided by his own observation, had opened his eyes to some things of which he was not before fully aware. Hitherto, he[Pg 209] seemed to have supposed that he was himself the only sufferer; but he now discovered that there was another whom he was making unhappy, and her unhappiness evidently pained him, adding, at the same time, to his other causes of anxiety, whatever they were, and consequently to the thoughtfulness of his looks. But still he seemed to fear coming to an explanation, as much as if he had been certain that such a step would destroy his last remains of hope. He could not, however, long endure such an idea; and adopting what had become the least painful alternative, he seemed to have made up his mind to the unfolding of that secret which, hitherto, he had kept to himself.

"Jenny," said he, one day, after a long and thoughtful silence, "for some months I have scarcely known what it was to be happy for a single hour; and, strange as ye may think it, love has been one of the principal causes of my misery. Had it not been for that, I could have thought lightly of poverty and everything else. I have acted foolishly, perhaps, and made myself altogether unworthy of the woman whom I love; but, yet, I would fain hope that she will not despise me, and I am now resolved——"

At hearing these words, Jenny's heart had begun to palpitate violently. But, just as he uttered the word "resolved," a rap was heard at the door; and, on its being opened, Betsy Braikens came in, and saluted her cousin with a profusion of smiles; while poor Jenny, to conceal her own agitation, was glad to make an excuse for leaving the house.

As soon as Betsy's coming was known, people were on the alert. On Sabbath she accompanied her cousin to the church, and, on the road thither, it was observed that the thoughtful expression of his countenance had passed away—that, after making the proper allowance for the solemnity of the day, he was to all appearance as cheerful as ever he had been in his life; and that he behaved[Pg 210] to his relation with the greatest kindness, accompanied by an easiness of manner for which the wise women could only account by supposing that a still nearer relationship was in contemplation, or, in other words, that the marriage-day was already set. The star of the Braikenites was now in the ascendant; they began to feel certain that their opinions had all along been correct; and they upbraided their opponents for their slowness of belief, and their backwardness to place implicit confidence in the understanding of those who were evidently wiser than themselves.

The Tuesday following was that on which Auchtermuchty Market occurred. Betsy remained until that important day; went to the market with her cousin like a betrothed damsel; while Jenny, who had also been invited to accompany him, preferred staying at home; and, to place the matter beyond further dispute, he bought and presented the former with a gown, so fine and so costly, that those who had seen it declared "there wasna anither like it selled that day i' the town." No man, it was affirmed, would thus throw away money in buying gowns, unless he expected to be benefited by the wearer—and the triumph of the Braikenites was now almost complete.

While these important events were passing, it was not to be expected that Jenny should remain an unconcerned spectator. She had been the first to notice that remarkable change for the better which his cousin's presence had produced in the looks and manners of Sandy Crawford. She saw his cheerfulness restored—she saw his kindness to Betsy; and, for the first time in her life, she believed that he really loved her.

On the day after the market, Betsy Braikens was to go home, and her cousin gallantly offered to accompany her as far as her father's. Shortly after they were gone, Jenny hastened to tell her mother what she had seen and heard.[Pg 211] Nelly now considered that her own character for prudence and management was at stake; and Jenny was prevailed upon to adopt her views, and to promise to be directed by her advice.

In the evening, when Sandy Crawford returned from escorting his cousin, he was in high spirits; it was also evident that he had drunk a glass or two more than was his usual, though not so much as to injure his understanding; and he now appeared most anxious to obtain a private conference with Jenny. Between her and the herd laddie a sort of tacit understanding appeared now to exist, for he did not leave the house to follow his pastime, as was his wont; and, when his master bade him "gang and clean out his byre," the boy told him that he had done so already. He next desired him to "bring some water from the well for a drink, as he was thirsty." But Jenny, who answered for him, said that, "as the cow had been tigging in the afternoon, he would be tired with chasing her;" and she took the pitcher and went to obey the order herself. The individual who had given it followed her out; but she was at the well, and had filled her pitcher, before he could come near enough to speak. When he had almost come up with her, he repeated her name, in that low, earnest tone, which people sometimes use when they wish to draw the attention of a listener; but she either did not hear, or did not wish to hear him. He made certain of meeting her, however, as she returned; but here also he was deceived, for she went round by the other side of the kailyard, for the purpose, as it appeared, of taking with her a handful of sticks, with which to kindle up the fire next morning. On seeing this manœuvre, he jumped over the dike, repeating her name as he had done before; but, on the present, as on the former occasion, she either heard him not, or pretended not to hear him; and, by hastening her pace, she had reached the house-door before he could intercept her. As a dernier resource,[Pg 212] the last-mentioned personage was now ordered to "gang and water the horse." And he rose to obey; but here again Jenny seemed to sympathise with him in his labours. "As the cow had tiggit i' the afternoon," she said, "it was like aneugh the horse micht rin awa i' the e'enin; and, as the laddie, puir thing, had chased the cow till he was ready to fa' down, it couldna be expeckit that he would be able to chase the horse, and sae she would gang and help him."

If ever Jenny Jervis had been puzzled to account for the conduct of Sandy Crawford, he was now as much puzzled to account for the change which had come over her. He thought of the subject without being able to come to any conclusion, and then thought of it again to as little purpose as he had done before, till at last, wearied out with vain conjectures, he flung himself upon his bed in a state of mind not easy to be described; and when Jenny, who was in no great haste to return, came in, his heavy breathing told that he was already asleep. On stealing a glance into the apartment where he was, she saw that he was still lying with his clothes on, and that his sleep was of that profound sort which commonly lasts for the night.

Sandy Crawford had fallen asleep, little dreaming of either alarm or danger; but, about midnight, he was disturbed by an indistinct and inarticulate sound, which, though it conveyed no meaning to his ear, was loud enough to awake him. Slowly and heavily he opened his eyes; but it was not dark, as he expected it to be. On the contrary, a strange light glimmered around him, and, on turning his head to see whence it proceeded, he saw in the middle of the floor a spectre, which might have well appalled the heart of a hero. The ghost of Howdycraigs, to which his present visiter bore a striking resemblance, rushed back upon his memory, and he would have trembled, but that he did not recollect any bad consequences which followed that memo[Pg 213]rable event. Thus, in time, even ghosts might fail to terrify, were they to repeat their visits too often. In the present instance, it were difficult to say if Sandy was not strengthened for the sight by some faint hope that this might be a second marriage-making expedition of the same benevolent spirit, and that it might eventually help him to a wife, the getting of which thing he had begun to regard as no easy matter.

The ghost of Gairyburn, however, at first bade fair for being as famous in its day and generation as the ghost of Howdycraigs had been; and doubtless it had succeeded in a less hazardous enterprise. Like the other, its head was tied up in a white handkerchief, its body was carefully wrapped in the folds of an ample winding-sheet. On its feet it wore white stockings, but no shoes—the absence of which exhibited a finely-turned ankle to such advantage, that any male onlooker might have been excused for wishing it a substantial woman. But then its face and hands were as white as the finest flour or the whitest chalk could have made them—thus setting every earthly feeling, except fear, at defiance. In one hand it carried a candle, which burned as blue as any spiritual light ever burned, while with the other it managed its apparel, which was scrupulously clean—thus making it appear that it had been washed since it left its subterranean abode, from which circumstance it were reasonable to infer that it was either a female ghost, or had got a wife to do these things for it.

Though we have thus detained the reader, by describing it, it detained not its auditor; for, as soon as he appeared to be fully awake—"Sandy Crawford," it said. But it was evidently an apprentice in the task it had undertaken, and knew but little of the manner in which a message should be delivered; for here its voice faltered, and its hands trembled in a most curious manner—thus making it evident that ghosts have feelings as well as mortals, and that they may[Pg 214] sometimes be sent upon errands they dislike. The shaking of its hands caused the blue flame to fall from the candle, which immediately burned out with a clear and natural light; while that which had fallen hissed and sputtered on the floor. In attempting to remedy this mistake, by restoring the blue flame to its proper place, it seemed to burn its fingers—at least it drew back its hand with the appearance of pain, drawing in its breath, and starting up rather hurriedly at the same time. While performing the last mentioned of these operations, it unfortunately struck its head against the back of a chair, which chanced to be standing near, and ruffled its head-dress, from under which a most enchanting ringlet of fair hair escaped, and began to play about its white temples. One mistake followed another: in attempting to replace the hair, it passed a portion of the winding-sheet, in which it was muffled up, over its face; and when it was removed, its lips were no longer pale, but provokingly red—one cheek was of the same hue, and the deep blush of the other was now beginning to shine through its treacherous covering. As a further proof of its inexperience, it heaved a deep sigh, and was about to retire in apparent confusion, when Sandy, who had overcome his fear so far as to look at it steadily for the last minute or two, started up, with a heroism which has seldom been equalled, and, endeavouring to catch it in his arms, he exclaimed—

"Jenny, ye daft limmer, what set ye to playin thae mad pranks at this time o' nicht?"

In this emergency the ghost, confused as it was, contrived to make its escape; but not before it had thrown the winding-sheet which it wore around the very woman for whom he had mistaken it. By some "cantrip slight," it had no doubt brought her there to be ready in case of accidents, and it now left her to be caught in its stead. Jenny, not being a ghost, could not escape so easily; and, though she[Pg 215] struggled a little when she found herself in the arms of a man, she did not appear extremely anxious to get away, while Sandy was so much pleased at having got her by herself at last, that he soon forgot the terrors of the ghost.

"Jenny," he continued, still mistaking her for his spiritual visiter, "if I hadna liket ye better than every ither living cratur, since ye was a lassie, I declare I would never kenned ye dressed up as ye are in a' that trumpery. But now that I've gotten ye, I maun keep ye, for I've been wishing to tell ye something this lang time; but ye aye ran frae me as if I had been a ghost, though ye see I've catched you when ye was tryin to act ane."

The candle which the ghost had left was now placed in a candlestick; and as Jenny appeared perfectly willing to listen to whatever he might have to say, he proceeded to give her such information as served in a great measure to clear up the whole of the mystery.

Though he had been long attached to her, and had felt a growing inclination to call her his wife, his mother's death had prevented him from speaking of the subject for a time. During this interval, Betsy Braikens had come oftener than once, soliciting assistance for her brother; upon these occasions, he had always given her what ready-money he could command, and, at last, to save him from bankruptcy, he had become security for a hundred pounds, which was considerably more than his whole effects were worth. No sooner had he done this than he began to doubt the possibility of his cousin ever being able to redeem his debts; in which case his own prospects were ruined. The idea that it would be criminal to involve an unsuspecting female in misery and poverty made him resolve to say nothing of his affections, till he should see what was to be the issue; and for a time he had kept his resolution. But he had determined to make a candid confession of his circumstances, and run any risk which she might be willing to share, when[Pg 216] he was interrupted by Betsy Braikens, who had come expressly for the purpose of telling him that her brother had redeemed the whole of his debts, and was now in prosperous circumstances. In a few days thereafter Jenny went to reside with her mother for a short time; and one evening, as Sandy bade her good-night, he gave her a clap on the shoulder, and called her his "spectre bride." On the following week they went to Perth; and Jenny Jervis and Betsy Braikens were married on the same day—the former to Sandy Crawford, and the latter to Robert Walker, who had kept up a regular correspondence with her ever since the night on which he lost his way among the snow.

[Pg 217]


The golden days of the smuggler are gone by; his hiding-places are empty; and, like Othello, he finds his "occupation gone." Our neighbours on the other side of the herring-pond now bring us dry bones, according to the law, instead of spirits, contrary to the law. Cutters, preventive-boats, and border-rangers, have destroyed the trade—it is becoming as a tale that was told. From Spittal to Blyth—yea, from the Firth of Forth to the Tyne—brandy is no longer to be purchased for a trifle; the kilderkin of Holland gin is no longer placed at the door in the dead of night; nor is a yard of tobacco to be purchased for a penny. The smuggler's phrase, that the "cow has calved," [D] is becoming obsolete. Now, smuggling is almost confined to crossing "the river," here and there, the "ideal line by fancy drawn;" to Scotland saying unto England, "Will you taste?" and to England replying, "Cheerfully, sister." There was a time, however, when the clincher-built lugger plied her trade as boldly, and almost as regularly, as the regular coaster; and that period is within the memory of those who are yet young. It was an evil and a dangerous trade; and it gave a character to the villagers on the sea-coasts which, even unto this day, is not wholly effaced. But in the character of the smuggler there was much that was interesting—there were many bold and redeeming points. I have known many; but I prefer, at present, giving a few passages from the history of one who lived before my time, and who was noted in his day as an extraordinary character.[Pg 218]

Harry Teasdale was a native of Embleton, near Bamborough. He was the sole owner of a herring-boat and a fishing-cobble; he was also the proprietor of the house in which he lived, and was reputed to be worth money—nor was it any secret that he had obtained his property by other means than those of the haddock hand-line and the herring-net. Harry, at the period we take up his history, was between forty and fifty years of age. He was a tall thin man, with long sandy hair falling over his shoulders, and the colour of his countenance was nearly as rosy as the brandy in which he dealt. But, if there was the secrecy of midnight in his calling, his heart and his hand were open as mid-day. It is too true that money always begets the outward show of respect for him who possesses it, though in conduct he may be a tyrant, and in capacity a fool; but Harry Teasdale was respected, not because he was reputed to be rich, but because of the boldness and warmness of his heart, the readiness of his hand, and the clearness of his head. He was the king of fishermen, and the prince of smugglers, from Holy Island to Hartlepool. Nevertheless, there was nothing unusual in his appearance. Harry looked like his occupation. His dress (save where disguise was necessary) consisted in a rudely-glazed sou'-wester, the flap of which came over his shoulders, half covering his long sandy hair. Around him was a coarse and open monkey or pea-jacket, with a Guernsey frock beneath, and a sort of canvas kilt descending below the knee; and his feet were cased in a pair of sea-boots. When not dressing his hand-lines or sorting his nets, he might generally be seen upon the beach, with a long telescope under his arm. As Harry was possessed of more of this world's substance than his brother fishermen, so also was there a character of greater comfort and neatness about his house. It consisted of three rooms; but it also bore the distinguishing marks of a smuggler's habitation. At the door hung the hand-line, the[Pg 219] hooks, and the creel; and in a corner of Harry's sleeping-room a "keg" was occasionally visible; while over the chimneypiece hung a cutlass and four horse-pistols; and in a cupboard there were more packages of powder and pistol-bullets than it became a man of peace to have in his possession. But the third room, which he called his daughter's, contained emblems of peace and happiness. Around the walls were specimens of curious needlework, the basket of fruit and of flowers, and the landscape—the "sampler," setting forth the genealogy of the family for three generations, and the age of her whose fair hands wrought it. Around the window, also, carefully trained, were varieties of the geranium, and the rose, the bigonia, and cressula, the aloe, and the ice-plant, with others of strange leaf and lovely covering. This Harry called his daughter's room—and he was proud of her: she was his sole thought, his only boast. His weatherbeaten countenance always glowed, and there was something like a tear in his eyes, when he spoke of "my Fanny." She had little in common with the daughter of a fisherman; for his neighbours said that her mother had made her unfit for anything, and that Harry was worse than her mother had been. But that mother was no more, and she had left their only child to her widowed husband's care; and, rough as he appeared, never was there a more tender or a more anxious parent—never had there been a more affectionate husband. But I may here briefly notice the wife of Harry Teasdale, and his first acquaintance with her.

When Harry was a youth of one-and-twenty, and as he and others of his comrades were one day preparing their nets upon the sea-banks for the north herring-fishing, a bitter hurricane came suddenly away, and they observed that the mast of a Scotch smack, which was then near the Ferne Isles, was carried overboard. The sea was breaking over her, and the vessel was unmanageable; but the wind[Pg 220] being from the north-east, she was driving towards the shore. Harry and his friends ran to get their boats in readiness, to render assistance if possible. The smack struck the ground between Embleton and North Sunderland, and being driven side-on by the force of the billows, which were dashing over her, formed a sort of break-water, which rendered it less dangerous for a boat to put off to the assistance of the passengers and crew, who were seen clinging in despair to the flapping ropes and sides of the vessel. Harry's cobble was launched along the beach to where the vessel was stranded, and he and six others attempted to reach her. After many ineffectual efforts, and much danger, they gained her side, and a rope was thrown on board. Amongst the smack's passengers was a Scottish gentleman, with his family, and their governess. She was a beautiful creature, apparently not exceeding nineteen; and as she stood upon the deck, with one hand clinging to a rope, and in the other clasping a child to her side, her countenance alone, of all on board, did not betoken terror. In the midst of the storm, and through the raging of the sea, Harry was struck with her appearance. She was one of the last to leave the vessel; and when she had handed the child into the arms of a fisherman, and was herself in the act of stepping into the boat, it lurched, the vessel rocked, a sea broke over it, she missed her footing, and was carried away upon the wave. Assistance appeared impossible. The spectators on the shore and the people in the boat uttered a scream. Harry dropped the helm, he sprung from the boat, he buffeted the boiling surge, and, after a hopeless struggle, he clutched the hand of the sinking girl. He bore her to the boat; they were lifted into it.

"Keep the helm, Ned," said he, addressing one of his comrades who had taken his place; "I must look after this poor girl—one of the seamen will take your oar." And she lay insensible, with her head upon his bosom, and his arm around her waist.[Pg 221]

Consciousness returned before they reached the shore, and Harry had her conveyed to his mother's house. It is difficult for a sensitive girl of nineteen to look with indifference upon a man who has saved her life, and who risked his in doing so; and Eleanor Macdonald (for such was the name of the young governess) did not look with indifference upon Harry Teasdale. I might tell you how the shipwrecked party remained for five days at Embleton, and how, during that period, love rose in the heart of the young fisherman, and gratitude warmed into affection in the breast of Eleanor—how he discovered that she was an orphan, with no friend, save the education which her parents had conferred on her, and how he loved her the more, when he heard that she was friendless and alone in the world—how the tear was on his hardy cheek when they parted—how more than once he went many miles to visit her—and how Eleanor Macdonald, forsaking the refinements of the society of which she was a dependant, became the wife of the Northumbrian fisherman. But it is not of Harry's younger days that I am now about to write. Throughout sixteen happy years they lived together; and though, when the tempests blew and the storms raged, while his skiff was on the waves, she often shed tears for his sake, yet, though her education was superior to his, his conduct and conversation never raised a blush to her cheeks. Harry was also proud of his wife, and he showed his pride, by spending every moment he could command at her side, by listening to her words, and gazing on her face with delight. But she died, leaving him an only daughter as the remembrancer of their loves; and to that daughter she had imparted all that she herself knew.

Besides his calling as a fisherman, and his adventures as a smuggler on sea, Harry also made frequent inland excursions. These were generally performed by night, across the wild muir, and by the most unfrequented paths. A strong black horse, remarkable for its swiftness of foot, was the[Pg 222] constant companion of his midnight journeys. A canvas bag, fastened at both ends, and resembling a wallet, was invariably placed across the back of the animal, and at each end of the bag was a keg of brandy or Hollands, while the rider sat over these; and behind him was a large and rude portmanteau, containing packages of tea and tobacco. In his hand he carried a strong riding-whip, and in the breast-pocket of his greatcoat two horse-pistols, always loaded and ready for extremities. These journeys frequently required several days, or rather nights, for their performance; for he carried his contraband goods to towns fifty miles distant, and on both sides of the Border. The darker the night was, and the more tempestuous, the more welcome it was to Harry. He saw none of the beauties in the moon on which poets dwell with admiration. Its light may have charms for the lover, but it has none for the smuggler. For twenty years he had carried on this mode of traffic with uninterrupted success. He had been frequently pursued; but his good steed, aided by his knowledge of localities, had ever carried him beyond the reach of danger; and his stow-holes had been so secretly and so cunningly designed, that no one but himself was able to discover them, and informations against him always fell to the ground.

Emboldened by long success, he had ceased to be a mere purchaser of contraband goods upon the sea, and the story became current that he had bought a share of a lugger, in conjunction with an Englishman then resident at Cuxhaven. His brother-fishermen were not all men of honour; for you will find black sheep in every society, and amongst all ranks of life. Some of them had looked with an envious eye upon Harry's run of good fortune, and they bore it with impatience; but now, when he fairly, boldly, and proudly stepped out of their walk, and seemed to rise head and shoulders above them, it was more than they could stand. It was the lugger's first trip, and they, having[Pg 223] managed to obtain intelligence of the day on which she was to sail with a rich cargo, gave information of the fact to the commander of a revenue-cutter then cruising upon the coast.

I have mentioned that Harry was in the habit of wandering along the coast with a telescope under his arm. From the period of his wife's death, he had not gone regularly to sea, but let others have a share of his boats for a stipulated portion of the fish they caught. Now, it was about daybreak, on a morning in the middle of September, that he was on the beach as I have described him, and perceiving the figure of the cutter on the water, he raised his glass to his eye, to examine it more minutely. He expected the lugger on the following night, and the cutter was an object of interest to Harry. As day began to brighten, he knelt down behind a sand-bank, in order that he might take his observations, without the chance of being discovered; and while he yet knelt, he perceived a boat pulled from the side of the cutter towards the shore. At the first glance, he descried it to be an Embleton cobble, and before it proceeded far, he discovered to whom it belonged. He knew that the owner was his enemy, though he had not the courage openly to acknowledge it, and in a moment the nature of his errand to the cutter flashed through Harry's brain.

"I see it! I see it all!" said the smuggler, dashing the telescope back into its case; "the low, the skulking coward, to go blab upon a neighbour! But Ise have the weather-gauge o' both o' them, or my name's not Harry Teasdale."

So saying, he hastened home to his house—he examined his cutlass, his pistols, the bullets, and the powder. "All's right," said the smuggler, and he entered the room where his daughter slept. He laid his rough hand gently upon hers.[Pg 224]

"Fanny, love," said he, "thou knowest that I expect the lugger to-night, and I don't think I shall be at home, and I mayn't be all to-morrow; but you won't fret, like a good girl, I know you won't. Keep all right, love, till I be back; and say nothing."

"Dear father," returned Fanny, who was now a lovely girl of eighteen, "I tremble for this life which we lead—as my poor mother said, it adds the punishment of the law to the dangers of the sea."

"Oh, don't mention thy mother, dearest!" said the smuggler, "or thou wilt make a child of thy father, when he should be thinking of other things. Ah, Fanny! when I lost thy mother, I lost everything that gave delight to my heart. Since then, the fairest fields are to me no better than a bare muir, and I have only thee, my love—only my Fanny, to comfort me. So, thou wilt not cry now—thou wilt not distress thy father, wilt thou? No, no! I know thou wilt not. I shall be back to thee to-morrow, love."

More passed between the smuggler and his daughter—words of remonstrance, of tenderness, and assurance; and when he had left her, he again went to the beach, to where his boat had just landed from the night's fishing. None of the other boats had yet arrived. As he approached, the crew said they "saw by his face there was something unpleasant in the wind," and others added—

"Something's vexed Skipper Harry this morning, and that's a shame, for a better soul never lived."

"Well, mates," said he, as he approached them, "have you seen a shark cruising off the coast this morning?"

"No," was the reply.

"But I have," said Harry, "though she is making off to keep out of sight now; and, more than that, I have seen a cut-throat lubber that I would not set my foot upon—I mean the old Beelzebub imp, with the white and yellow stripe on his yawl, pull from her side. And what was he[Pg 225] doing there? Was it not telling them to look out for the lugger?"

Some of the boat's crew uttered sudden and bitter imprecations.

"Let us go and sink the old rascal before he reach the shore," said one.

"With all my heart," cried another; for they were all interested in the landing of the lugger, and in the excitement of the moment they wist not what they said.

"Softly, softly, my lads," returned Harry; "we must think now what we can do for the cargo and ourselves, and not of him."

"Right, master," replied another; "that is what I am thinking."

"Now, look ye," continued Harry, "I believe we shall have a squall before night, and a pretty sharp one, too; but we mustn't mind that when our fortunes are at stake. Hang all black-hearted knaves that would peach on a neighbour, say I; but it is done in our case, and we must only do our best to make the rascal's story stick in his throat, or be the same as if it had; and I think it may be done yet. I know, but the peachers can't, that the lugger is to deliver a few score kegs at Blyth before she run down here. We must off and meet her, and give warning."

"Ay, ay, Master Teasdale, thou'rt right; but, now that the thing has got wind, the sharks will keep a hawk's eye on us, and how we are to do it, I can't see."

"Why, because thou'rt blind," said Harry.

"No, hang it, and if I be, master," replied the other; "I can see as far as most o' folks, as ye can testify; and I dow see plain enough, that if we put to sea now, we shall hae the cutter after us; and that would be what I call only leading the shark to where the salmon lay."

"Man, I wonder to hear thee," said Harry; "folk wad say thou hadst nae mair gumption than a born fool. Do ye[Pg 226] think I wad be such an ass as to send out spies in the face o' the enemy? Hae I had a run o' gud luck for twenty years, and yet ye think me nae better general than that comes to? I said, nae doubt, that we should gang to sea to meet the lugger, though there will be a squall, and a heavy one, too, before night, as sure as I'm telling ye; but I didna say that we should dow sae under the bows o' the cutter, in our awn boat, or out o' Embleton."

"Right, right, master," said another, "no more you did. Ned isn't half awake."

The name of the fisherman alluded to was Ned Thomson.

"Well, Ned, my lad," continued Harry, "I tell thee what must be done: I shall go saddle my old nag, get thou a horse from thy wife's father—he has two, and can spare one—and let us jog on as fast as we can for Blyth; but we mustn't keep by the coast, lest the king's folk get their eyes upon us. So away, get ready, lad, set out as quick as thee can—few are astir yet. I won't wait on thee, and thou won't wait on me; but whoever comes first to Felton Brig shall just place two bits o' stones about the middle—on the parapet I think they ca' it; but it is the dyke on each side o' the brig I mean, ye knaw. Put them on the left-hand side in gaun alang, down the water; or if they're there when ye come up, ye'll ken that I'm afore ye. So get ready, lad—quick as ever ye can. Tell the awd man naething about what ye want wi' the horse—the fewer that knaw onything about thir things the better. And ye, lads, will be upon the look-out; and, if we can get the lugger run in here, have a'thing in readiness."

"No fear o' that, master," said they.

"Well, sir," said Ned, "I'll be ready in a trap-stick, but I knaw the awd chap will kick up a sang about lendin his horse."

"Tell him I'll pay for it, if ye break its legs," said Harry.[Pg 227]

The crew of the boat laughed, and some of them said—"Nobody will doubt that, master—you are able enough to do it."

It must be observed that, since Harry had ceased to go regularly to sea, and when he was really considered to be a rich man, the crew of his boat began to call him master, notwithstanding his sou'-wester and canvas kilt. And now that it was known to them, and currently rumoured in Embleton, that he was part proprietor of a lugger, many of the villagers began to call Fanny Miss Teasdale; and it must be said, that in her dress and conversation she much nearer approximated to one that might be styled Miss, than to a fisherman's daughter. But, when the character and education of her mother are taken into account, this will not be wondered at.

It would be uninteresting to the reader to describe the journey of Harry and Ned Thomson to Blyth; before they arrived at Felton, Harry had overtaken Ned, and they rode on together.

On arriving at Blyth, they stopped at the door of an individual who was to receive forty kilderkins of Hollands from the lugger, and a quantity of tobacco. It is well known to be the first duty of an equestrian traveller to look after his horse, and to see that it is fed; but, in this instance, Harry forgot the established rule—the horses were given in charge of a girl to take them to a stable, to see them fed, or otherwise, and Harry hastened into the house, and breathlessly inquired of its owner—"I hope to heaven, sir, ye have heard nothing of the Swallow?"

[The lugger was called the "Swallow," from the carpenter in Cuxhaven, who built her, having warranted that she "would fly through the water."]

"Why, nothing," replied Harry's brother smuggler; "but we shall be on the look-out for her to-night."

"So far well," said Harry; "but I hope you have no fear[Pg 228] of any king's lobsters being upon the coast, or rats ashore?"

"I don't think we have anything to fear from the cutters," said the other; "but I won't answer for the spies on shore; there are folk wi' us here, as weel as wi' ye, that canna see their neighbours thrive and haud their tongue; and I think some o' them hae been gaun owre aften about wi' the spy-glass this day or two."

"Then," said Harry, "the lugger doesna break bulk here, nor at Embleton outher—that's flat. Get ye a boat ready, neighbour, and we maun off and meet her, or ye may drink sma' yill to your venture and mine."

"It is growing too stormy for a boat to venture out," answered the other.

"Smash, man!" rejoined Harry; "wad you sit here on your hunkers, while your capital is in danger o' being robbed frae ye as simply as ye would snuff out a candle, and a' to escape a night's doukin! Get up, man—get a boat—we maun to sea—we maun meet the lugger, or you and I are done men—clean ruined a'thegither. I hae risked the better part o' my bit Fanny's fortune upon this venture, and, Heaven! I'll suffer death ten thousand-fold afore I see her brought to poverty; sae get a boat—get it—and if ye daurna gang out, and if nane o' your folk daur gang, Ned and me will gang our tow sels."

"Surely ye wad be mad, Harry, to attempt such a thing in an open boat to-night," said the Blyth merchant.

"Mad or no mad," answered Harry, "I hae said it, and I am determined. There is nae danger yet wi' a man that knaws how to manage a boat. If ye gang pullin through thick and thin, through main strength and for bare life, as many of the folk upon our coast dee, then there is danger—but there is nae use for the like o' that. It isna enough to manage an oar; you must knaw how to humour the sea, and to manage a wave. Dinna think I've been at sea mair than[Pg 229] thirty years without knawing something about the matter. But I tell you what it is, friend—ye knaw what the Bible says—'The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong;' now, the way to face breakers, or a storm at sea, is not to pull through desperation, as if your life depended on the pulling; but when you see a wave coming, ye must backwater and backwater, and not pull again until ye see an opportunity of gauin forward. It is the trusting to mere pulling, sir, that makes our life-boats useless. The rowers in a life-boat should study the sea as well as their oars. They should consider that they save life by watching the wave that breaks over the vessel, as well as by straining every nerve to reach her. Now, this is a stormy night, nae doubt, but we maun just consider ourselves gaun off to the lugger in the situation o' folk gaun off in a life-boat. We maun work cannily and warily, and I'll tak the management o' the boat mysel."

"If ye dow that, master," said Ned Thomson, "then I gang wi' ye to a dead certainty."

"Well, Harry," replied the merchant, "if it maun be sae, it just maun be sae; but I think it a rash and a dangerous undertaking. I wad sooner risk a' that I have on board."

"Why, man, I really wonder to hear ye," said Harry; "folk wad say that ye had been swaddled in lambs' wool a' your life, and nursed on your mother's knee. Get a boat, and let us off to the lugger, and nae mair about it."

His orders were obeyed; and, about an hour after sunset, himself, with Ned Thomson, the merchant, and four others, put off to sea. They had indeed embarked upon a perilous voyage—before they were a mile from the shore, the wind blew a perfect hurricane, and the waves chased each other in circles, like monsters at play. Still Harry guided the boat with unerring skill. He ordered them to draw back from the bursting wave—they rose over it—he rendered it subservient to his purpose. Within two hours he descried[Pg 230] the lights of the lugger. He knew them, for he had given directions for their use, and similar lights were hoisted from the cobble which he steered.

"All's well!" said Harry, and in his momentary joy he forgot the tempestuous sea in which they laboured. They reached the lugger—they gained the deck.

"Put back, friend—put back," was the first salutation of Harry to the skipper; "the camp is blown, and there are sharks along shore."

"The devil!" replied the captain, who was an Englishman; "and what shall we do?"

"Back, back," answered Harry; "that is all in the meantime."

But the storm now raged with more fierceness—it was impossible for the boat to return to the shore, and Harry and his comrades were compelled to put to sea with the lugger. Even she became in danger, and it required the exertions of all hands to manage her.

The storm continued until near daybreak, and the vessel had plied many miles from the shore; but as day began to dawn, and the storm abated, an enemy that they feared more appeared within a quarter-of-a-mile from them, in the shape of a cutter-brig. A gun was fired from the latter, as a signal for the lugger to lie to. Consternation seized the crew, and they hurried to and fro upon the deck in confusion.

"Clear the decks!" cried the skipper; "they shan't get all without paying for it. Look to the guns, my hearties."

"Avast! Master Skipper," said Harry; "though my property be in danger, I see no cause why I should put my neck in danger too. It will be time enough to fight when we canna better dow; and if we can keep them in play a' day there will be sma' danger in wur gi'en them the slip at night."

"As you like, Mr Teasdale," said the skipper; "all's one to me. Helm about, my lad," added he, addressing the steersman, and away went the lugger, as an arrow, scudding before the wind[Pg 231].

The cutter made all sail, and gave chase, firing shot after shot. She was considered one of the fastest vessels in the service; and though, on the part of Harry and his friends, every nerve was strained, every sail hoisted, and every manœuvre used, they could not keep the lugger out of harm's way. Every half-hour he looked at his watch, and wished for night, and his friend, the skipper, followed his example. There was a hot chase for several hours; and, though tubs of brandy were thrown overboard by the dozen, still the whizzing bullets from the cutter passed over the heads of the smugglers. It ought to be mentioned, also, that the rigging of the lugger had early sustained damage, and her speed was checked. About sunset a shot injured her rudder, and she became for a time, as Harry described her, "as helpless as a child." The cutter instantly bore down upon her.

"Now for it, my lads!" cried the skipper; "there is nothing for it but fighting now—I suppose that is what you mean, Master Teasdale?"

Harry nodded his head, and quietly drew his pistols from the breast-pocket of his greatcoat; and then added—

"Now, lads, this is a bad job, but we must try to make the best on't, and, as we hae gone thus far" (and he discharged a pistol at the cutter as he spoke), "ye knaw it is o' nae use to think o' yielding—it is better to be shot than hanged."

In a few minutes the firing of the cutter was returned by the lugger, from two large guns and a number of small-arms. Harry, in the midst of the smoke and flame of the action, and the havoc of the bullets, was as cool and collected as if smoking his pipe upon the beach at Embleton.

"See to get the helm repaired, lad, as fast as ye can," said he to the carpenter, while in the act of reloading his pistols. "Let us fight away, but mind ye your awn wark."[Pg 232]

Harry's was the philosophy of courage, mingled with the calculations of worldly wisdom.

The firing had been kept up on both sides for the space of half-an-hour, and the decks of both were stained with the blood of the wounded, when a party from the brig, headed by her first mate, succeeded in boarding the lugger. Harry seized a cutlass which lay unsheathed by the side of the companion, and was the first who rushed forward to repel them.

"Out o' my ship, ye thieves!" cried he, while, with his long arm, he brandished the deadly weapon, and for a moment forgot his habitual discretion.

Others of the crew instantly sprang to the assistance of Harry; and, after a short but desperate encounter, the invaders were driven from the deck, leaving their chief mate, insensible from wounds, behind them.

The rudder being repaired so as to render her manageable, the lugger kept up a sort of retreating fight until night set in, when, as Harry said, "she gave the cutter the slip like a knotless thread."

But now a disagreeable question arose amongst them, and that was, what they should do with the wounded officer, who had been left as a prize in their hands—though a prize that they would much rather have been without. Some wished that he might die of his wounds, and so they would get rid of him; for they were puzzled how to dispose of him in such a way as not to lead to their detection, and place their lives in jeopardy. Harry was on his knees by the side of the officer, washing his wounds with Riga balsam, of which they had a store on board, and binding them up, when one desperate fellow cut short the perplexity and discussion of the crew, by proposing to fling their prize overboard.

On hearing the brutal proposal, Harry sprang to his feet, and hurling out his long bony arm, he exclaimed, "Ye[Pg 233] savage!" and, dashing his fist in the face of the ruffian, felled him to the deck.

The man (if we may call one who could entertain so inhuman an idea by the name of man) rose, bleeding, growling, and muttering threats of revenge.

"Ye'll blab, will ye?" said Harry, eyeing him fiercely; "threaten to dow it again, and there's the portion that's waiting for yur neck!" and, as he spoke, he pointed with his finger to the cross-tree of the lugger, and added, "and ye knaw that the same reward awaits ye if ye set yur weel-faur'd face ashore! Out o' my sight, ye 'scape-the-gallows!"

For three days and nights, after her encounter with the brig, the lugger kept out to sea; and on the fourth night, which was thick, dark, and starless, Harry resolved to risk all; and, desiring the skipper to stand for the shore, all but run her aground on Embleton beach. No light was hoisted, no signal given. Harry held up his finger, and every soul in the lugger was mute as death. A boat was lowered in silence, and four of the crew being placed under the command of Ned Thomson, pulled ashore. The boat flew quickly, but the oars seemed only to kiss the water, and no sound audible at the distance of five yards proceeded from their stroke.

"Now, pull back quietly, mates," said Ned, "and I'll be aboard wi' some o' wur awn folks in a twinkling."

It was between one and two in the morning, and there was no outward sign amongst the fishermen of Embleton that they were on the alert for the arrival of a smuggler. The party who gave information to the cutter having missed Harry for a few days, justly imagined that he had obtained notice of what they had done; and also believed that he had ordered the cargo to be delivered on some other part of the coast, and they therefore were off their guard. Ned, therefore, proceeded to the village; and, at the houses of certain[Pg 234] friends, merely gave three distinct and peculiar taps with his fingers upon their shutterless windows, from none of which, if I may use the expression, proceeded even the shadow of light; but no sooner was the last tap given upon each, than it was responded to by a low cough from within. No words passed; and at one window only was Ned detained for a space exceeding ten seconds, and that was at the house of his master, Harry Teasdale. Fanny had slept but little since her father left; when she sought rest for an hour, it was during the day, and she now sat anxiously watching every sound. On hearing the understood signal, she sprang to the door. "Edward!" she whispered, eagerly, "is it you?—where is my father?—what has detained him?"

"Don't be asking questions now, Miss Fanny—sure it is very foolish," replied Ned, in the same tone; "Master will be here by and by; but ye knaw we have bonny wark to dow afore daylight yet. Gud-nicht, hinny."

So saying, Ned stole softly along the village; and, within half-an-hour, half-a-dozen boats were alongside the lugger; and, an hour before daybreak, every tub and every bale on board was safely landed and stowed away.

Yet, after she was a clean ship, there was one awkward business that still remained to be settled, and that was how they were to dispose of the wounded officer of the cutter-brig. A consultation was held—many opinions were given.

"At ony rate we must act like Christians," said Harry.

Some proposed that he should be taken over to Holland and landed there; but this the skipper positively refused to do, swearing that the sooner he could get rid of such a customer the better.

"Why, I canna tell," said Ned Thomson; "but what dow ye say, if we just take him ashore, and lay him at the door o' the awd rascal that gied information on us?"

"Capital!" cried two or three of the conclave; "that's just the ticket, Ned!"[Pg 235]

"Nonsense!" interrupted Harry, "it's nae such thing. Man, Ned, I wonder that sic a clever chap as ye aye talks like a fool. Why, ye might as weel go and ask them to tak you and me off to Morpeth before dinner-time, as to lay him at their door this morning."

"Well, Master Teasdale," said the skipper, who was becoming impatient, "what would you have us to do with him?"

"Why, I see there's naething for it," answered Harry, "but I maun tak the burden o' him upon my awn shouthers. Get the boat ready." So saying, and while it was yet dark, he entered the cabin where the wounded officer lay, but who was now conscious of his situation.

"I say, my canny lad," said Harry, approaching his bedside, and addressing him, "ye maun allow me to tie a bit handkerchur owre yur een for a quarter-of-an-hour or sae.—Ye needna be feared, for there's naething shall happen ye—but only, in looking after yur gud, I maunna lose sight o' my awn. You shall be ta'en ashore as gently as we can."

The wounded man was too feeble to offer any resistance, and Harry, binding up his eyes, wrapped the clothes on the bed around him, and carried him in his arms upon deck. In the same manner he placed him in the boat, supporting him with his arm, and, on reaching the shore, he bore him on his shoulders to his house.

"Now, sir," said he, as he set him down from his shoulders on an arm-chair, "ye needna be under the smallest apprehension, for every attention shall be paid ye here; and, as soon as ye are better, ye shall be at liberty to return, safe and sound, to your friends, your ship, or wherever ye like." Harry then turned to his daughter, and continued—"Now, my bird, come awa in by wi' me, and I will let ye knaw what ye have to dow."

Fanny wondered at the unusual burden which her father[Pg 236] had brought upon his shoulders into the house; and at his request she anxiously accompanied him into her own apartment. When they had entered, and he had shut the door behind them, he took her hand affectionately, and, addressing her in a sort of whisper, said—

"Now, Fanny, love, ye maun be very cautious—as I knaw ye will be—and mind what I am telling ye to dow." He then made her acquainted with the rank of their inmate, and the manner in which he had fallen into their hands, and added—"Now, darling, ye see we maun be very circumspect, and keep his being here a secret frae everybody: he maun remain ignorant o' his awn situation, nowther knawing where he is, nor in whose hands he is; for if it were found out, it wad be as much as your father's life is worth. Now he maun stop in this room, as it looks into the garden, and he can see naething frae it, nor will onybody be able to see him. Ye maun sleep wi' the lass in the kitchen, and yur 'sampler,' and every book, or onything that has a name on't, maun be taken out o' the room. It winna dow for onybody but you and me ever to see him, or to wait on him; and, when we dow, he maunna be allowed to see either yur face or mine; but I will put my awd mask on, that I used to wear at night sometimes when there was onything particular to dow, and I thought there wad be danger in the way; and," continued he, as the doating parent rose in his bosom, "it wadna be chancy for him to see my Fanny's face at ony rate; and when ye dow see him, ye maun have your features so concealed, that, if he met you again, he wadna knaw ye. Now, hinny, ye'll attend to a' that I've said—for ye remember your father's life depends on it—and we maun be as kind to the lad as we can, and try to bring him about as soon as possible, to get clear on him."

Fanny promised to obey her father's injunctions; but fears for his safety, and the danger in which he was placed,[Pg 237] banished every other thought. The books, the "sampler," everything that could lead the stranger to a knowledge of the name of his keepers, or of the place where he was, was taken out of the room.

Harry, muffling up his face, returned to the apartment where the wounded man was, and, supporting him on his arm, he led him to that which he was to occupy. He then took the bandage from his eyes, and, placing him on the bed, again desired him to keep himself easy, and wished him "good-morning," for day was now beginning to dawn.

The name of our smuggler's wounded prisoner was Augustus Hartley. He was about twenty-four years of age, and the son of a gentleman of considerable property in Devonshire; and, at the period we speak of, he was in expectation of being removed from his situation as second officer of the brig, and promoted to the command of a revenue-cutter. The wounds which he had received on the deck of the lugger were severe, and had reduced him to a state of extreme feebleness; but they were not dangerous. He knew not where he was, and he marvelled at the treatment he experienced; for it was kind, yea, even roughly courteous, and unlike what he might have expected from the hands of such men as those into whose power he had fallen. Anxiety banished sleep; and when the risen sun lighted up the chamber where he lay, he stretched forth his hand and drew aside the curtains, to ascertain whether the appearance of the apartment would in any way reveal the mystery which surrounded his situation. But it rather increased it. In the window were the flowers—around the walls the curious needlework; the furniture was neatly arranged—there was an elegance over all; and, to increase his wonder, in a corner by the window was a small harp, and a few pages of music lay on a table near him.

"Surely," thought Augustus, "this cannot be the habi[Pg 238]tation of a half-uncivilised smuggler; and yet the man who brought me here seemed such."

He drew back his head upon his pillow, to seek the explanation in conjectures which he could not otherwise obtain; and while he lay conjuring up strange fancies, Harry, with the mask upon his face, his hair tied up and concealed, and his body wrapped in a greatcoat, entered the room.

"Well, how art thou now, lad?" said the smuggler, approaching the bed; "dost think ye could take breakfast yet?"

Augustus thanked him; but the appearance of Harry in his strange disguise increased his curiosity and anxiety.

Harry withdrew, and again returned with the breakfast; and though an awkward waiter, he was an attentive one. Few words passed between them, for the questions which Augustus felt desirous to ask were checked by the smuggler saying—"Now, my canny lad, while ye are here I maun lay an embargo on your asking ony questions, either at me or onybody else. Ye shall be taken gud care on—if ye want onything, just tak that bit stick at your bedside, and gie a rap on the floor, and I'll come to ye. Ye shall want for naething; and, as soon as ye are better, ye shall be at liberty to gang where ye like. But I maun caution ye again, that ye are to ask nae questions."

Augustus again thanked him, and was silent.

At the end of eight days, he was able to rise from his bed, and to sit up for a few hours. Harry now said to him—

"As thou wilt be dull, belike thou wilt have nae objections to a little music to cheer thee."

Thus saying, he left the room, and, in a few minutes, returned with Fanny. He was disguised as before, and her features were concealed by several folds of black crape, which covered her head and face, after the fashion of a nun.[Pg 239] She curtsied with a modest grace to the stranger as she entered.

"That cannot be the daughter of a rude and ignorant smuggler," thought Augustus; "and how should such a creature be connected with them?" He noted the elegance of her form, and his imagination again began to dream. The mystery of his situation deepened around him, and he gazed anxiously on the thick and folded veil that concealed her features.

"Wilt thou amuse the poor gentleman with a song, love," said Harry, "for I fear he has but a dull time on't?"

Fanny took the harp which stood in the corner—she touched the trembling cords—she commenced a Scottish melody; and, as Augustus listened to the music of her clear and silvery voice, blending with the tones of the instrument, it

"Came o'er the ear like the sweet south
Breathing upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour."

It seemed the sweetest strain to which he had ever listened; and romance and mystery lent it their magic. His eyes kindled at the sounds; and when Harry saw the change that was produced on him, he was well pleased to observe it, and he was proud also of his daughter's performance, and in the simplicity and fulness of his heart he said—

"Thou mayest amuse the gentleman with thy music every day, child, or thou mayest read to him, to mak him as comfortable as we can; only he must ask thee no questions, and thou must answer him none. But I can trust to thee."

From that moment Augustus no longer wearied for the days of his captivity to pass away; and he retired to rest, or rather to dream of the veiled songstress, and to conjure up a thousand faces of youth and beauty which might be like her face—for he doubted not but her countenance was[Pg 240] lovely as her form was handsome; and he pictured dark eyes where the soul beamed, and the raven hair waved on the snowy temples, with the soft blue eyes where affection smiled, and the flaxen tresses were parted on the brow; but he knew not which might be like hers on whom his imagination dwelt.

Many days passed; and, during a part of each, Fanny sat beside him to beguile his solitude. She read to him; they conversed together; and the words which fell from her lips surprised and delighted him. She also taught him the use of the harp, and he was enabled to play a few tunes. He regarded her as a veiled angel, and his desire to look upon her features each day became more difficult to control. He argued that it was impossible to love one whose face he had never seen—yet, when she was absent from his side, he was unhappy until her return; she had become the one idea of his thoughts—the spirit of his fancies; he watched her fair fingers as they glided on the harp—his hand shook when he touched them, and more than once he half raised it to untie the thick veil which hid her features from him.

But, while such feelings passed through his mind, others of a kindred character had crept into the bosom of Fanny, and she sighed when she thought that, in a few weeks, she would see him no more, that even her face he might not see, and that her name he must never know; and fears for her father's safety mingled with the feelings which the stranger had awakened in her bosom. She had beheld the anxiety that glowed in his dark eyes—she had listened to his impassioned words—she felt their influence: but duty forbade her to acknowledge that she felt it.

Eight weeks had passed; the wounds of Augustus were nearly healed; his health was restored, and his strength returned, and Harry said that in another week he might depart; but the announcement gave no joy to him to whom it was addressed. His confinement had been robbed of its[Pg 241] solitariness, it had become as a dream in which he delighted, and he could have asked but permission to gaze upon the face of his companion, to endure it for ever. About an hour after he received this intelligence, Fanny entered the apartment. He rose to meet her—he took her hand, and they sat down together. But her harp lay untouched—she spoke little—he thought she sighed, and he, too, was silent.

"Lady," said he, anxiously, still holding her hand in his, "I know not where I am, nor by whom I am surrounded—this only I know, that you, with an angel's care, have watched over me, that you have restored me to health, and rendered confinement more grateful than liberty; but, in a few days, we must part—part, perhaps, for ever; then, before I go, grant me but one request—let me look upon the face of her whose remembrance will dwell in my heart as its dearest thought, while the pulse of life throbs within it."

"I must not, I dare not," said Fanny, and she paused and sighed; "'tis not worth looking on," she added.

"Nay, dearest," continued he, "deny me not—it is a small request. Fear nothing—never shall danger fall upon any connected with you through me. I will swear to you——"

"Swear not!" interrupted Fanny—"I dare not!—no!—no!" and she again sighed.

He pressed her hand more closely within his. A breathless silence followed, and a tear glistened in his eyes. Her bosom heaved—her countenance bespoke the struggle that warred in her breast.

"Do I look as one who would betray your friends—if they be your friends?" said he, with emotion.

"No," she faltered, and her head fell on her bosom.

He placed his hand across her shoulders—it touched the riband by which the deep folds of the veil were fastened over her head—it was the impulse of a moment—he unloosed it, the veil fell upon the floor, and the flaxen locks[Pg 242] and the lovely features of Fanny Teasdale were revealed. Augustus started in admiration; for weeks he had conjured up phantoms of ideal beauty, but the fair face before him exceeded them all. She blushed—her countenance bespoke anxiety rather than anger—tears fell down her cheeks, and he kissed them away. He sat, silently gazing on her features, drawing happiness from her eyes.

Again ten days had passed, and, during each of them, Fanny, in the absence of her father, sat unveiled by his side. Still he knew not her name, and, when he entreated her to pronounce it, she wept, and replied, "I dare not."

He had told her his. "Call me your Augustus," said he, "and tell me by what name I shall call you, my own. Come, dearest, do you doubt me still? Do you still think me capable of the part of an informer?"

But she wept the more, for she knew that to tell her name was to make known her father's also—to betray him, and to place his life in jeopardy. He urged her yet more earnestly, and he had sunk upon his knee, and was pressing her hand to his lips, when Harry, in the disguise in which he had always seen him, entered the room. The smuggler started back.

"What!" cried he, sternly, "what hast thou done, girl?—shown thy face and betrayed me?—and told thy name, and mine, too, I suppose?"

"Oh no! no! dear father!" she exclaimed, flinging her arms around him; "I have not—indeed I have not. Do not be angry with your Fanny."

"Fanny!" hastily exclaimed Augustus—"Fanny! Bless thee for that word!"

"That thou mayest make it the clue to destroy her father!" returned the smuggler.

"No, sir," answered Augustus, proudly, "but that I may treasure it up in my heart, as the name of one who is dearer to me than the life which thou hast preserved[Pg 243]."

"Ay! ay!" replied Harry, "thou talkest like every hot-headed youth; but it was an ungrateful return in thee, for preserving thy life, to destroy my peace. Get thee ben to the other room, Fanny, for thou'st been a silly girl."

She rose weeping, and withdrew.

"Now, sir," continued Harry, "thou must remain nae langer under this roof. This very hour will I get a horse ready, and conduct thee to where ye can go to your friends, or wherever ye like; and as ye were brought blindfolded here, ye maun consent to be taken blindfolded away."

"Nay, trust to my honour, sir," said Augustus—"I am incapable of betraying you."

"I'm no sae sure about that," returned the smuggler, "and it's best to be sure. I trusted to your honour that ye wad ask no questions while here—and how have you kept your honour? Na, lad, na!—what ye dinna see ye winna be able to swear to. So make ready." Thus saying, Harry left the apartment, locking the door behind him.

It was about an hour after nightfall, and within ten minutes the smuggler again entered the room. He carried a pistol in one hand, and a silk handkerchief in the other. He placed the pistol upon the table, and said, "I have no time to argue—allow me to tie thy eyes up, lest worse follow."

Augustus requested that he might see Fanny but for a few minutes, and he would comply without a murmur.

"No," said Harry, sternly; "wouldst tamper with my child's heart, when her trusting in thee would place my life in thy power? Say no more—I won't hear thee," he continued, again raising the pistol in his hand.

Augustus, finding expostulation vain, submitted to have his eyes bound up; and as the smuggler was leading him from the house, the bitter sobs of Fanny reached his ear: he was almost tempted to burst from the grasp of his conductor, and rush towards her; but, endeavouring to suppress the tumult of his feelings, he exclaimed aloud[Pg 244]

"Forget me not, dear Fanny!—we shall meet again."

"Never!" whispered Harry in his ear.

The smuggler's horse stood ready at the door. In a moment he sprang upon the saddle (if saddle it could be called), and, taking Augustus by the hand, placed him behind him; and at a word spoken the well-trained animal started off, as though spurs had been dashed into its sides. For several hours they galloped on, but in what direction Augustus knew not, nor wist he from whence he had been brought. At length the smuggler suddenly drew up his horse, and exclaimed, "Dismount!"

Augustus obeyed, but scarce had his feet touched the ground, when Harry, crying "Farewell!" dashed away as an arrow shot from a bow; and before the other could unfasten the handkerchief with which his eyes were bound up, the horse and its rider were invisible.

It was drawing towards grey dawn, and he knew neither where he was nor in what direction to proceed. He remembered, also, that he was without money; but there was something heavy tied in a corner of the handkerchief, which he yet held in his hand. He examined it, and found ten guineas, wrapped in a scrap of paper, on which some words seemed to be written. He longed for day, that he might be enabled to read them, and, as the light increased, he deciphered, written with a trembling hand—

"You may need money.—Think sometimes of me!"

"Heaven bless thee, my unknown Fanny!" cried he, "whoever thou art; never will I think of any but thee."

I need not tell about his discovering in what part of the country the smuggler had left him; of his journey to his father's house in Devonshire, or his relation of what had befallen him; nor how he dwelt upon the remembrance of Fanny, and vainly endeavoured to trace where her residence was, or to discover what was her name beyond Fanny.

He was appointed to the command of a cutter, and four[Pg 245] years passed from the period of the scenes that had been described, when, following in pursuit of a smuggling vessel, he again arrived upon the coast of Northumberland. Some of his crew, who had been on shore, brought him information that the vessel was delivering her cargo near Embleton; and, ordering two boats to be manned, he instantly proceeded to the land. They came upon the smuggler; a scuffle ensued, and one of Captain Hartley's men was stabbed by his side with a clasp-knife, and fell dead at his feet; and he wrenched the knife from the hand of the murderer, who with his companions, effected his escape without being discovered.

But day had not yet broken when two constables knocked at the door of Harry Teasdale, and demanded admission. The servant-girl opened the door—they rushed into the house, and to the side of the bed where he slept. They grasped him by the shoulder, and exclaimed—

"You are our prisoner."

"Your prisoner!" replied Harry; "for what, neighbours?"

"Weel dow ye knaw for what," was the answer.

Harry sprang upon the floor, and, in the excitement of the moment, he raised his hand to strike the officers of the law.

"You are only making things worse," said one of them; and he submitted to have handcuffs placed upon his wrists.

Fanny sprang into the room, exclaiming—

"My father—my father!" and flinging her arms around his neck; "oh, what is it?—what is it?" she continued, breathless, and her voice choked with sobbing—"what do they say that you have done?"

"Nothing, love—nothing," said he endeavouring to be calm; "it is some mistake, but some one shall answer for it."

His daughter's arms were forcibly torn from around his neck; and he was taken before a neighbouring magistrate,[Pg 246] by whom the deposition of Captain Hartley had been received. Harry was that morning committed to the county prison on a charge of murder. I shall neither attempt to describe his feelings, nor will I dwell upon the agony which was worse than death to his poor daughter. She knew her father innocent; but she knew not his accusers, nor the nature of the evidence which they would bring forward to prove him guilty of the crime which they imputed to him.

But the fearful day of trial came. Harry Teasdale was placed at the bar. The principal witness against him was Captain Hartley. The colour came and went upon the prisoner's cheeks, as his eye fell upon the face of his accuser. He seemed struggling with sudden emotion; and many who observed it took it as a testimony of guilt. In his evidence Captain Hartley deposed, that he and a part of his crew came upon the smugglers on the beach, while in the act of concealing their goods; that he, and the seaman who was murdered by his side, having attacked three of the smugglers, the tallest of the three, whom he believed to be the prisoner, with a knife gave the mortal stab to the deceased; that he raised the weapon also against him, and that he only escaped the fate of his companion by striking down the arm of the smuggler, and wrenching the knife from his hands, who then escaped. He also stated that, on examining the knife, which was of great length, he read the words, "Harry Teasdale," which were deeply burned into its bone handle, and which led to the apprehension of the prisoner. The knife was then produced in court, and a murmur of horror ran through the multitude.

Other witnesses were examined, who proved that, on the day of the murder, they had seen the knife in the hands of the prisoner; and the counsel for the prosecution, in remarking on the evidence, pronounced it to be

"Confirmation strong as holy writ."
[Pg 247]

The judge inquired of the prisoner if he had anything to say, or aught to bring forward in his defence.

"I have only this to say, my lord," said Harry, firmly, "that I am as innocent o' the crime laid to my charge as the child unborn. My poor daughter and my servant can prove that, on the night when the deed was committed, I never was across my own door. And," added he, firmly, and in a louder tone, and pointing to Captain Hartley as he spoke, "I can only say that he whose life I saved at the peril o' my own has, through some mistake, endeavoured to take away mine; and his conscience will carry its punishment when he discovers his error."

Captain Hartley started to his feet, his cheeks became pale; he inquired, in an eager tone, "Have you seen me before?" The prisoner returned no answer; and at that moment the officer of the court called the name of

"Fanny Teasdale!"

"Ha!" exclaimed the captain, convulsively, and suddenly striking his hand upon his breast—"is it so?"

The prisoner bowed his head and wept. The court were stricken with astonishment.

Fanny was led towards the witness-box; there was a buzz of admiration and of pity as she passed along. Captain Hartley beheld her—he clasped his hands together. "Gracious heavens! my own Fanny!" he exclaimed aloud.

He sprang forward—he stood by her side—her head fell on his bosom. "My lord!—O my lord!" he cried, wildly, addressing the judge, "I doubt—I disbelieve, my own evidence. There must be some mistake. I cannot be the murderer of the man who saved me—of my Fanny's father!"

The most anxious excitement prevailed through the court: every individual was moved, and, on the bench, faces were turned aside to conceal a tear.

The judge endeavoured to restore order.

The shock of meeting with Augustus, in such a place and[Pg 248] in such an hour, though she knew not that he was her father's accuser, added to her agony, was too much for Fanny, and, in a state of insensibility, she was carried out of the court.

Harry's servant-girl was examined; and, although she swore that, on the night on which the murder was committed, he had not been out of his own house, yet, in her cross-examination, she admitted that he frequently was out during the night without her knowledge, and that he might have been so on the night in question. Other witnesses were called, who spoke to the excellent character of the prisoner, and to his often-proved courage and humanity; but they could not prove that he had not been engaged in the affray in which the murder had been committed.

Captain Hartley strove anxiously to undo the impression which his evidence had already produced; but it was too late.

The judge addressed the jury, and began to sum up the evidence. He remarked upon the knife with which the deed was perpetrated, being proved and acknowledged to be the property of the prisoner—of its being seen in his hand on the same day, and of his admitting the fact—on the resemblance of the figure to that of the individual who was seen to strike the blow, and on his inability to prove that he was not that individual. He was proceeding to notice the singular scene that had occurred, with regard to the principal witness and the prisoner, when a shout was heard from the court-door, and a gentleman, dressed as a clergyman, pressed through the crowd, and reaching the side of the prisoner, he exclaimed, "My lord, and gentlemen of the jury, the prisoner, Harry Teasdale, is innocent!"

"Thank Heaven!" exclaimed Captain Hartley.

The spectators burst into a shout, which the judge instantly suppressed, and desired the clergyman to be sworn, and to produce his evidence. "We are here to give it," said two others, who had followed behind them.[Pg 249]

The clergyman briefly stated that he had been sent for on the previous evening to attend the death-bed of an individual whom he named, and who had been wounded in the affray with Captain Hartley's crew, and that, in his presence, and in the presence of the other witnesses who then stood by his side, a deposition had been taken down from his lips an hour before his death. The deposition, or confession, was handed into court; and it set forth that his hand struck the fatal blow, and with Harry Teasdale's knife, which he had found lying upon the stern of his boat on the afternoon of the day on which the deed was committed—and, farther, that Harry was not upon the beach that night.

The jury looked for a moment at each other—they instantly rose, and their foreman pronounced the prisoner "Not Guilty!" A loud and spontaneous shout burst from the multitude. Captain Hartley sprang forward—he grasped his hand.

"I forgive thee, lad," said Harry.

Hartley led him from the dock—he conducted him to Fanny, whom he had taken to an adjoining inn.

"Here is your father!—he is safe!—he is safe, my love!" cried Augustus, as he entered the room where she was.

Fanny wept on her father's bosom, and he kissed her brow, and said, "Bless thee."

"And canst thou bless me, too," said Augustus, "after all that I have done?"

"Well, well, I see how it is to be," said Harry; and he took their hands and placed them in each other. I need only add, that Fanny Teasdale became the happy wife of Augustus Hartley; and Harry, having acquired a competency, gave up the trade of a smuggler.

[Pg 250]


A few years ago, I happened to pass through the main street of Carlisle, just as the south mail had "pulled up" at the door of "The Bush." The night was very cold; the horses were tossing their heads, and pawing the ground, impatient to escape from the restraint of their harness; and the steam, which rose in clouds from their bodies, gave evidence that they had just "come off" a rapid and fatiguing stage. At the coach-door stood a middle-aged, gentlemanly-looking man, whose blue nose, muffled throat, and frozen body, pointed him out as one of the new arrivals. As I loitered slowly past, the stranger, who had just settled the claims of the guard, turned round, and observed me. His keen eye rested for a moment on my features—he started, looked again, and then said—

"No; I cannot be mistaken. I surely ought to know that face. Is not your name Lorrimer?"

"It is," replied I, surprised at being thus accosted by a perfect stranger. "You seem to be better acquainted with my name, sir, than I am with yours; for I am not conscious of ever having seen you before."

"Look at me again, Frank; try if you cannot recollect me," said he, as we entered the travellers' room, and the gas-light shone full on his face.

I looked; but in vain.

"I am ashamed to say, I do not know who you can be, though I have a kind of consciousness that your features are those of an old friend."

"Do you remember Richard Musgrave?"

"What! Dick Muzzy? To be sure I do—the kindest[Pg 251]-hearted fellow that ever dog's-eared a Latin grammar. What news of my old schoolmate?"

"He is speaking to you now."

"Is it possible? You Richard Musgrave? Why, Richard was younger, I rather think, than myself; and you, begging your pardon, look almost old enough to be my father."

"So it is, notwithstanding. I am Richard Musgrave. Time and climate must have altered me even more sadly than I conceived, since Frank Lorrimer fails to recognise me."

He was indeed changed. Some alteration might have been expected, for several years had elapsed since we had met; but time alone could not have thus metamorphosed him. We had been schoolfellows and intimate friends; and, when he left home, ten years before, he was a handsome, vigorous young fellow, with hair dark as a raven's wing, and a brow clear as alabaster. Now, his hair was iron-grey, his features were dark and sunburned, and the scar, of a sabre-wound apparently, disfigured his forehead. Even with my knowledge of his identity, some minutes elapsed ere I could persuade myself that the friend of my early years stood before me; but my recollection slowly revived as I gazed upon him, and I wondered at my own stupidity in not having sooner recognised him.

"Musgrave, my dear fellow," said I, shaking him cordially by the hand, "I rejoice to see you. Time has altered us both outwardly; but, I trust, it has left our hearts unchanged. The recollection of youthful joys and sorrows is the last to leave us. Amid all the changes and chances of life, our thoughts fondly dwell upon the days of our innocent and happy childhood; and all the friendships we form in after years can never efface the remembrance of those who were dear to us in early youth. I have often thought of you, Musgrave, and often, though in vain, I have made[Pg 252] anxious inquiries after the fate of my old friend and schoolfellow; and, now that you have returned, I should have passed you by as a common stranger, had your memory been as treacherous as my own."

"You forget, my dear fellow," replied he, "that you are but little changed; your florid cheek, and smooth, unwrinkled brow, prove that time has been flowing on in a smooth, unruffled current with you; that you have been leading a life of ease and comfort. But look at me; on my sunburned features you may read a tale of hardship and exposure. Look at my brow! these premature wrinkles are mementos of care and anxiety. But, come, I have much to ask and to tell you; if you have leisure, let us retire to a private room, and talk over the past. I cannot, I find, proceed on my journey till the morning, and I could not employ my time more agreeably than in conversation with an old friend."

I willingly complied with his request, and we were soon seated beside a comfortable fire, with "all appliances and means to boot," for making the evening pass with spirit.

"Now, Frank," said Musgrave, "before we commence, set my mind at rest about my family. Do you know anything of them?"

"It is some time since I saw them; but I heard a few days ago that they were all well."

"Thank you, thank you, my dear fellow; you have removed a load of anxiety from my mind. Fill your glass to 'auld langsyne,' and then we will talk over old scenes and old friends."

Long and confidential was our conversation, and varied were the feelings which it excited. There can be few more interesting events in a man's life than the unexpected meeting with a long-absent friend. There is a mournful pleasure in recalling the past, in contrasting the sad experience of maturer years with the sanguine and glowing anticipa[Pg 253]tions of our youth. For a few passing moments we forget the march of time, we look back through the long vista of years, and once more the warm, and joyous, and fresh feelings of youth seem to gush forth, and to soften and revive our world-seared and hardened hearts. So it was with us.

The present was for awhile forgotten by us; we were living in the past; and loud and joyful were our bursts of merriment when we talked of old jokes and adventures; and then again the thought came over us, like a chilling blight, suffusing our eyes with tears, that the curtain of death had fallen over most of our young and cheerful fellow-actors on the early stage of life. It was with saddened and subdued hearts we dwelt upon the brief career of some of our early companions; and we sat for some minutes in silence, musing upon the vicissitudes of human life. At last, with a forced attempt at merriment, Musgrave exclaimed, in the words of an old sea ditty—

"'Come, grieving's a folly;
So let us be jolly:
If we've troubles at sea, boys, we've pleasures on shore.'"

"Replenish your tumbler, Frank," continued he; "we'll talk no more of the past; that's gone beyond recall; but let us make the most of the present. We have not many hours before us; and I have heard nothing of your adventures since we parted, nor you of mine. Set a good example, and begin."

"My story is soon told," replied I; "for, as you remarked before, time has been flowing on, for me, quiet and undisturbed. I have no adventures to relate—no stirring accidents by field or flood; mine has been a humdrum, peaceful life, unmarked by variety, except those common ones which would be uninteresting to a man of travel and adventure like yourself."

"Nothing connected with my old friend can prove un[Pg 254]interesting," said Musgrave; "so pray commence your tale."

Thus urged, I began as follows:—I continued at school two years after you so suddenly left it, and was then bound apprentice to a lawyer in this town. I did not much like the profession which had been chosen for me; but there was no help for it. I knew that my father had no interest, and that I must trust entirely to my own exertions for a provision for my future life. I therefore applied myself diligently to my duties, and soon had the good fortune to gain the confidence of my employer. I had been with him about three years, when he sent me to a neighbouring village to wait upon a client of his. This gentleman was a retired post-captain, a man who had seen much service, and had been often and severely wounded.

He was, as I had been before informed, as smart an officer as ever trod a ship's deck; his whole heart was in his profession; and his long residence on shore had not broken him of his habit of interlarding his conversation with sea-phrases; and he delighted in talking over the adventures of his past life to all who would listen to him. Notwithstanding his little peculiarities, he was universally loved and respected. He was a hospitable, kind-hearted man, and a "gentleman of Nature's own making;" for, though he was a little wanting in external polish, his actions proved him worthy of the title. I had often heard of him before, but had never chanced to meet him. I was much pleased with him at first sight: there was so much warmth and frankness in his reception of me; and I felt at home with him in a minute. He was a man of short stature, upright as a dart, with iron-grey hair, and a keen, quick eye; and had on, when I met him in the avenue to his house, an old rusty hat, pinched up in the rims, and placed transversely on his head, so as to look like a "fore and after," as he called it, or, as we would say, a cocked hat.[Pg 255]

"Oh," interrupted Musgrave, "you need not take the trouble of explaining sea terms to me; they are as natural to me as my native tongue almost."

"I forgot," replied I, "that you are a chip of the same block; so I will continue my yarn—you see I have picked up a little sea-lingo too. After I had transacted my business with Captain Trimmer, he pressed me to stay and partake of family fare."

"We pipe to dinner at six-bells," said he; "three o'clock, I mean. You will have plain fare and a sailor's welcome; which, you know, is a warm one either to friend or foe."

I accepted his frank invitation with pleasure; and, as it still wanted an hour to dinner-time, he proposed that we should "take a cruise" through the grounds till "the grub" was ready. During the walk, he amused me greatly with his tales of the sea; but I was often obliged to request him to interpret terms which were as unintelligible to me as Hebrew or Sanscrit. He laughed heartily at my ignorance, but did all in his power to enlighten me.

"You have not had the benefit of a sea education, so what can we expect from you? I'll tell you what, my young friend—I would as soon come athwart the hawse of a shark as a lawyer (no offence to you), but, somehow or other, I like the cut of your jib, and think we shall be good friends nevertheless."

"Oh," said I, laughing, alluding to my professional visit, "I am not the lawyer, but the lawyer's avant courier—the pilot-fish, not the shark."

He laughed heartily, and kept bantering me on the sharking propensities of my tribe in such an amusing manner that I could not restrain my mirth. At last, the dinner-bell rang.

"Ah! there's pipe to dinner at last! Come along, youngster; let's see if you can take your grub as well as you can take a joke."[Pg 256]

We dined alone; for his only daughter, he told me, had gone to visit a neighbour, and would not return till evening. The dinner was substantial and good; the wines excellent; but, though the old gentleman pressed me much to drink, he was very moderate himself. When the cloth was removed, he said—

"Now I will pipe to grog; if you like to join my mess, do so, unless you prefer your wine."

"Why, if you have no objection," said I, "I will not desert this capital claret; you may have all the grog to yourself."

"Well, tastes differ; of course, as a landsman you prefer wine; but you know the old song says—

'A sailor's sheet-anchor is grog.'"

He told me a number of his old adventures; and hours passed away like minutes in listening to them; but I am free to admit that none of his yarns were half so pleasant to me as some of the silken thread-ends he let fall about his daughter Emmeline. There was something in the rough manner in which he gave vent to the feelings of a father, that possessed a tenderness which never could have been expressed by the soft vocables of sentimentality. It is thus (excuse my poetry) that we often admire the fragrance of a flower the more for the rough petals from which it emanates. I was captivated, and twitched the old gentleman on the string which yielded me the best music, till I thought he suspected some love-larking in my sly attempts to get him to praise the absent fair one.

"Come, come," he said, "mind your grog; although I say it, who shouldn't say it, she's as pretty a little craft as ever sailed the ocean of life; but we're not to take her in tow throughout all our voyages—so we'll drop her."

"Not till I drink to her, with your leave, sir," said I.

"Oh, as to that, there's no harm," said he. "All I say[Pg 257] is, it's a pity you belong to the land sharks. If you'd been a seaman, I might have fancied you for a son-in-law."

The words startled me; and, if he had had the keen perception of a refined man of the world, he might have augured something from the sound of my voice, though my words belied my thoughts.

"Well, here's to her!" said I; "and may her fortune yield her a better cast up than a limb of the——" Law I would have said, but he roared out devil, with a laugh, and I joined him.

But, as I had a long walk before me, I was obliged to take my leave of the old gentleman rather early in the night. His daughter had not yet returned; but he was not uneasy on her account, as it was a fine moonlight night, and she was well acquainted with the road.

"Let me see you often, my young friend," said the captain; "I should like to become better acquainted with you. We always pipe to breakfast at nine o'clock, and to dinner at three. I hate your late shore hours. Come whenever you are inclined to do so. I shall be happy to see you."

We shook hands, and parted; and I was really quite sorry to leave my new and agreeable friend.

I was walking quietly along the road homewards; the moon was shining brightly, and the shadow of the high hedge darkened half the road, when I thought I heard the sound of suppressed voices some short distance ahead of me. I stopped and listened, and, almost immediately afterwards, I saw two men creep out from the light side of the road, and, looking cautiously around, dart over into the shade. The stealthy motions of the men, and their evident wish for concealment, impressed me with a conviction that mischief of some kind was intended, and I was determined to watch their movements. I got through the hedge, and crept silently along the back of it, till I came to a kind of recess for holding stones, where I paused and listened. I[Pg 258] again heard the murmur of voices near me, and, crawling quietly on, I came close behind the speakers, so near to them that I could distinctly hear every word they said, though I could not see them.

"She'll be here soon, Jem," said one of them; "we couldn't have had a better night for such a job."

"Too much light, for my taste," replied the other; "however, we must make the best on't. Our own mothers wouldn't know us in this disguise, and, without it, she would be too frightened to take particular notice of us. But are you sure she has the swag?"

"Certain, Smooth-faced Jess told me that her mistress was going to receive the rent for her father this evening."

"Oh, that's all right; we'll save her the trouble of carrying it all the way home. It will be rather awkward, though, if she has any one with her."

"No fear of that. I was in the shrubbery when she was leaving the house; and I heard her refuse to have a servant with her. I took the short cut across the fields to join you; and I'm surprised she has not come up yet. She can't be long, however."

This was a pleasant conversation for me to overhear; it was evident that robbery, if not murder, was about to be perpetrated, and I was as evidently destined to be a witness of the act. I might, to be sure, have sneaked out of the scrape, as the men were quite unconscious of my vicinity; but I could not bear the thought of deserting a fellow-creature in the hour of danger, without some attempt for her rescue—and yet what could I do? I was unarmed, except with a small walking cane, which would be of little avail against two ruffians, who were, of course, well provided with the means of offence. I was just meditating to crawl onwards, and endeavour to warn the expected female of her danger, when I was arrested by hearing one of the rascals murmur—"Here she is at last, Jem." A light step[Pg 259] was now heard; and, peeping through a gap in the hedge close beside me, I saw a female form fast approaching. The lady—for such she seemed by her dress—was walking along the illuminated part of the road, apparently unconscious of danger or fear; for she was humming a tune, and every now and then glancing up at the moon. The critical moment had arrived. I could almost hear the throbbing of my heart, I felt such a feverish impatience to put an end to my suspense; my nerves were strung to a pitch of desperation. I felt as if the strength of a dozen men were in my arm. I seized a large stone, and, crouching in the gap of the hedge, I waited with breathless impatience for the expected attack. The lady was nearly opposite me, when the ruffians rushed out upon her. There was a faint scream, a momentary struggle, and she lay on the ground at their feet. Their backs were turned towards me. During the noise of the scuffle, my footsteps were unheard, and I was close to them before they were aware.

"Silence! or I'll settle you!" said one of the robbers to his almost unconscious victim; whom, with all the coolness of fancied security, he was beginning to plunder. I dashed the stone I held in my hand into his face, and he fell senseless to the ground, with a heavy groan, while I shouted at the same time, as if addressing some one behind me, "Now, Harry, blow the other rascal's brains out. The other rascal, however, did not wait to see the result. He was over the hedge in a moment, and running for bare life. I pretended to follow him, shouting aloud till he disappeared into the next enclosure. I then returned to the road, where I found the man still lying senseless, though breathing heavily. I took the handkerchief from his neck and bound his hands together; and tearing the crape from his face, I took a long and steady look at his features, that I might be able to swear to his identity, if necessary. The lady, who was fortunately unhurt, and had by this time recovered[Pg 260] from her alarm, overwhelmed me with acknowledgments, which I parried as well as I was able; and I endeavoured to turn her thoughts into another channel, by requesting her to look at the face of the senseless man. After a little hesitation, she did so, and immediately recognised him as an old servant of her father's—a worthless vagabond, who had been discharged for theft, and had vowed revenge. Hitherto I had had little time to take any particular notice of the appearance of the lady I had been so fortunate as to rescue. I had merely remarked the grace of her form, and the soft, sweet tone of her voice; but now that I had leisure to look at her features, as the moonbeam rested brightly upon them, I was struck with their beauty: I felt, as Byron has it,

"My sinking heart confess
The might, the majesty of loveliness."

I gladly offered to escort her to her home, which, she said, was only about half-a-mile distant, and where we could procure assistance to remove the still insensible footpad. Before we set off, however, I took the liberty of securing his pistols, which could be of no service to him in his present state, but might materially benefit us. After a sharp walk of ten minutes, the lady stopped at a gate, which I immediately knew to be the one I had so lately left.

"Now, sir, I am at home. Allow me to welcome to it my brave deliverer, and to introduce him to my father."

"I require no introduction," replied I, "if you are, as I surmise, the daughter of Captain Trimmer."

"Do you know him?—he is my father."

"I only left him about an hour ago; and fortunate it was that I did not yield to his urgent wish for me to remain longer."

Captain Trimmer listened in breathless anxiety as his daughter told the tale of her danger and deliverance; and drawing a long breath when it was ended, he muttered[Pg 261] "Heaven be praised!" He then rang the bell violently, and gave the servants orders, and directions where to find the wounded footpad.

"And now, my dear young friend," said he, "what can I say to you? I can't say anything just now, my heart is too full! but there's my hand, and you shall find me, as long as I live, a firm and warm friend."

I could only press his affectionately in reply. He insisted upon my remaining where I was for the night, and despatched a man on horseback to explain to my friends the reason of my absence. From this time my intercourse with the worthy captain became daily more intimate—almost every spare hour of my time was devoted to his society. As his character opened out upon me, I saw in his conduct so many proofs of genuine goodness of heart and rectitude of principle, that I felt as much affection and respect for him as for a dear and honoured parent. His daughter Emmeline, too, was one of those gentle, retiring characters, who may require to be known to be admired, and whose virtues, like those of the sweet and modest violet, require to be sought after to be properly appreciated. I was always fond of music. We all know its influence over the feelings—its power to awaken the hidden sympathies of the heart—to recall the joys and sorrows of the past, and to stir up glowing anticipations and high resolves for the future. Her voice was clear and sweet as a bird's; and when she warbled over the melodies of her native land, I felt so much absorbed in the beauty of the strain, as almost to forget the singer. You smile, and anticipate the result. How could it be otherwise? How could I live in close and constant communion with one so fascinating, and escape the fascination? It is not amid the factitious glare and excitement of society that such characters as hers can be appreciated: there the tinsel too often glitters more brightly than the pure gold; but in the calm and peaceful intercourse of domestic life,[Pg 262] their pure and gentle influence is felt and valued. I was becoming daily more and more an admirer of the gentle Emmeline, when the sudden death of my father awakened me from my dream of love, and startled me into serious consideration. He died as he had lived—poor; for it was found, on examining his affairs, that, though maintaining an appearance of wealth and comfort, his life must have been a constant struggle with difficulties; and there was barely sufficient left behind to satisfy the claims of his creditors. Deeply as I was grieved by his loss, I must say that feeling was not a little heightened by the disappointment of finding myself unprovided for. I had always been led to hope, that, though my father, from a wish to give me a spirit of independence, had left me, during my early life, to the exertions of my own energies for support, yet that at his death, he would leave me a handsome competency. But this hope was now disappointed, and with it vanished my bright dreams of Emmeline and happiness. I could not bear the thoughts of exposing the woman of my heart to the risk of poverty and privation. She knew not of my love, and now she must remain for ever in ignorance of it; for what had I to offer her?—a heart, and nothing more; and you know, Musgrave, that though loving hearts are very pretty things in poetry, smoking ones would better furnish forth a poor man's table. I gradually withdrew myself from the society of my good old friend, though it cost me many a severe pang to do so; and whenever I did meet him, I had always some faltering excuse to make about press of business, ill health, or bad weather. I was talking to him one day, when Emmeline, whom I had not seen for some time, unexpectedly joined us. The conscious blood rushed to my face immediately, and I stammered out some incoherent apology in reply to her expression of surprise at my long absence. The old man noticed my embarrassment, and became silent and thoughtful. At last, turning to his[Pg 263] daughter, he said, "Emmeline, my love, see what we are to have for dinner; Mr. Lorimer will take family fare with us. Not a word, youngster" (to me, as I was beginning to remonstrate), "I am commanding officer here." We walked on together for some time in silence; at last he stopped, and taking my hand, while he looked full in my face he said—-

"I am not so blind, Mr. Lorimer, but I can see which way the land lies. I like to be fair and above-board with every one; and you are not the man I shall break through the rule with. I like you, Frank Lorimer; and I would do much to serve you. Emmeline—(ah, there go the red colours again!)—you love her Frank!—win her and wear her if you can; you have my free and full consent. I have heard of your father's death, and its results; and I understand and honour the motives that have induced you to absent yourself from us. I am not a rich man, but I have enough to make two young people happy; and I know no one to whom I would more joyfully confide my daughter's happiness than to yourself."

Kind, generous old man! I had not a word to say. I merely pressed his hand in silence and tears. Yes, tears; for joy can weep as well as grief. I was soon again a constant visiter at Oak Lodge; and in a few months I had the happiness of calling Emmeline my own. I have been now married three years, and have every day greater cause to bless the happy chance which first led me to Oak Lodge. My excellent father-in-law lives with us, and delights in spending his day in nursing his little grandchildren. Long may he be spared to us!

"What! married and a father! O Frank, what a fortunate fellow you have been! Here have I been buffeting about the world for years, the shuttlecock of fate, hunting fortune in every corner of the world, and I return home, poor and penniless as the day I left it. I, whose early dreams were all of the happiness of a married life, shall[Pg 264] sink into my grave a solitary bachelor, without one loved hand to tend my pillow, and to smooth my passage to the tomb."

"Oh, nonsense. Cheer up, Musgrave," said I; "I shall dance at your wedding yet. But why need you care now about the scurvy tricks of fortune abroad, since you have returned to enjoy her favours at home?"

"Favours! What do you mean, Frank?"

"Have you not heard of the death of your poor brother George, and that the lawsuit in which your father was so long engaged has terminated favourably for him. He is now in possession of a rental of three thousand per annum, to which, of course, you will be heir?"

"Heavens! you don't say so!" exclaimed Musgrave; "but I am sure you would not deceive me. I have not heard from home for upwards of a twelvemonth. Frank, you are a fine fellow; shake hands with me."

"Ay, that I will," said I; "and I congratulate you with all my heart. I am glad I have been the first to communicate such pleasing intelligence; and now, the least you can do in return is to give me an account of yourself since we parted."

"Why, I'm not in the best mood in the world for storytelling," replied Musgrave; "this unexpected good fortune has rather destroyed my equilibrium; however, I will brush up my memory for your gratification, though the retrospect will be anything but agreeable to myself. You remember, I daresay, the day when I left school; on my memory, at least, the recollection of it is as vivid as if it were yesterday. When I drove away in my uncle's carriage, I thought I was going home on a temporary visit, and little imagined I was never to return. When I arrived at home, I found in the drawing-room with my father a little, active, dark-looking man, with a stern, prompt manner, who was introduced to me as Captain Fleetwood."[Pg 265]

"Richard, my boy," said my father, "you have often expressed a wish to go to sea, and I have now an opportunity of gratifying you. My friend Captain Fleetwood has volunteered to take you out with him as midshipman; and, as I know I could not intrust you to better hands, I am glad to avail myself of his offer. The warning is rather a short one, as you must be on board your ship within a fortnight; you have no time to lose; and I will accompany you to town to prepare your equipment. We will leave this to-morrow morning at nine o'clock."

I was rather staggered by this sudden announcement; for, though it had always been the dearest wish of my heart to go to sea, yet there was something so unexpected in the accomplishment of it, that I repented of my choice. My heart sank at the thought of such a sudden parting from home and all that was dear to me; besides, as I had just left school, I would have preferred having a few days' holiday, and an opportunity of strutting in my sailor's dress before the eyes of my admiring schoolfellows. However, there was no help for it now—my lot was cast for life; and, in a fortnight's time, I was fairly shipped on board the Anne, a snug free-trader, bound to the East Indies. I pass over the various details of my early career; you may find an accurate description of my first feelings and impressions, and those of five hundred others, on first joining a ship, in any circulating library in the kingdom. I encountered the usual hardships, and was exposed to the usual privations, incidental to the life of a sailor; but, as there was nothing particularly worthy of notice in the first seven or eight years of my sailor's life, I shall pass at once to the most interesting event in a career of no trifling variety. It is now upwards of two years since I went out chief mate of my old ship, under the command of my first friend, Captain Fleetwood, who was a clever, active seaman himself, and well qualified to make those under him the same. We had a[Pg 266] crew of twenty-five young and able fellows, with, as usual, a sprinkling of black sheep among them. Our passengers were four in number—a gentleman and his wife, and two young ladies, going out to Bombay under their protection; all agreeable and well-informed people, and the young ladies blessed with a tolerable share of beauty. Time passed very pleasantly with us, for we were uncommonly favoured in wind and weather; and our captain, who was as kind and benevolent as a man, as he was strict and unflinching as an officer, delighted in promoting to the utmost every plan for the comfort and amusement of the crew.

"Och, isn't he a broth of a boy, now, that captain of ours?" I heard one of our men say to another, on one of the quiet tropical evenings, when the crew were enjoying themselves in the "waist," and the captain was whirling one of the ladies round in a waltz on the quarterdeck. "He's as full of fun as a monkey."

"Take care you don't shave the monkey too close, though, Mike, or perhaps the cat will shave you."

"Is it the cat you mane?" replied Mike; "then, by the powers, it's myself that's not afeered for the 'cat,' for she never wags her tail here but when a man's either an ass or a skulk, and no man can say black's the white of the eye of Mike Delaney. But I say, Tom, hasn't this been an out-and-out passage? Why, we've never had nothing to do but to spin yarns and knot them; we might have stowed away the reef-points in the hold, we've never had no 'casion for them, and as for salt water, we haven't had a breeze to wash our faces for us since we left home. Blowed if we shan't get too fine for our work by and by—reg'lar gentlemen afloat. I think I'll sport a pair of them overalls that the long-shore beggars call gloves, to keep my flippers white," said Mike—at the same time spreading out a pair as dirty as the back of a chimney and as broad as the back of a skate.[Pg 267]

"Gloves and delicate flippers like that!" answered his companion; "no, no, Mike—'twould be a sin and a shame to hide it; that's a regular dare-devil hand—it cares neither for soap nor water. But, Mike, the voyage is not half over yet. We've had a fair weather passage so far; but I'm always afeerd of those unkimmon fine beginnings; ev'rything goes by contraries in this here world, and a good beginning often brings in its wake a bad ending. It's not in the coorse of nature to see such a long spell of fine weather; it's quite unnatural; it'll break out, by and by, in a fresh place—see if it don't. That 'ere butcher, the sea, lies there a-smiling at us as if we were so many hinnocent lambs; but he'll maybe have his hand on our throats yet."

"Well, Tom, it's never no use smelling mischief afore it comes; time enough when it does show its ugly mug, to grin in its face. I'm not the man to turn my back on it—nor you neither, for that matter, I'll be bound."

We had run nearly thirty-four degrees to the south of the equator, when the weather became very variable, and the wind at last settled into a strong breeze from the northward. One evening, we were spanking along with the wind in that quarter, with a heavy confused sea, when a thick gloom gradually overspread the sky, and the mercury, falling in the barometer, gave warning of approaching bad weather. All our small sails were taken in, and every necessary precaution adopted to prepare for a change. Our topsails were reefed, and the mainsail was hauled up and handled. About 6 P.M. Captain Fleetwood came on deck, and asked what I thought of the weather.

"Bad enough, sir; it does not seem to have made up its mind what to do; however, we are tolerably well prepared for a change, whichever way it may be."

"You must keep a sharp look-out, Musgrave; if it should begin to rain, depend upon it, the wind will chop suddenly round to southward. You must not let it take you unawares."[Pg 268]

"I'll look for it in time, sir."

He had scarcely left the deck, when a light, drizzling rain came on, a partial lull succeeded, and the wind veered suddenly round to the south-westward. We were prepared for it, however, and our yards were soon trimmed to the wind; but our troubles were only beginning. The breeze freshened up so rapidly, that we had barely time to take in sail fast enough; no sooner was one reef in, than it became necessary to take in another. The sea was running, as landsmen say, mountains high; the winds howled through our rigging; and the giant albatrosses hovered round us, seen indistinctly for a moment through the gloom, and then soaring away on the gale, as if they were floating down a stream—their enormous wings extended, but motionless.

But men were aloft, close-reefing, and preparing to furl the foretopsail, when a heavy sea struck the ship, and a sudden squall laid her over on her beam-ends almost. The sudden jerk carried away the topmast backstays. There was no rolling tackle on the topsailyard, which jerked violently as the ship fell over, and the mast snapped just above the parrell. Five of the poor fellows were thrown off the topsailyard to leeward; we heard their cries dying away on the breeze; we could not see them, the weather was so thick, and darkness was coming on; and as for saving them, the attempt to do so would have been madness, although several men sprung forward to volunteer. It was with heavy hearts the men set to work to clear away the wreck; the cries of their poor shipmates were still ringing in their ears, and an hour or two elapsed before it was accomplished. All night long we were hard at work, furling sails, and sending down yards and masts; and when the morning appeared, the ship was hove to, with her head to the south-eastward, under a storm staysail. The decks were lumbered with wet sails, the main and mizen-topgallantmast and yards, and the remnants of canvas and rigging saved[Pg 269] from the wreck of the topmast. We spliced the mainbrace, or, as you would say, served out drams; and the helm being lashed a-lee, the ship's company were sent below, to obtain the rest they stood so much in need of. Poor fellows! they were not allowed to enjoy it long.

"Where is the captain?" said the carpenter, rushing up the quarter-hatch with a face like a ghost—"where is the captain?"

"Well, Soundings," said Captain Fleetwood, "what do you want with me?"

"It's just about the soundings, sir, I want to speak to you." Then, drawing close to his side, he muttered, "There are four feet water in the well, sir."

The captain started, but recovered himself immediately.

"Very well. Rig the pumps directly. Mr. Musgrave, call the hands out; the ship has taken a little too much water in, over all. Heaven grant it's nothing worse!" murmured he.

The scene around us was now dreary and desolate in the extreme: the sky was dark, gloomy, and threatening; light, angry-looking, discoloured clouds flitted over it, like spirits disturbed, while overhead the scud careered with lightning-like rapidity; the sea was covered, as far as the eye could reach, with white foam, and the spray was blown over the ship in a constant heavy shower; the little "Mother Carey's chickens" were dipping their tiny wings in the waves under our stern, and the stormy petrel and albatross swept in wide circles round our storm-tossed vessel. The gale howled mournfully through our rigging, and every now and then a giant sea dashed against our side, and threw torrents of water over our decks. The hatches were battened down fore and aft, and the monotonous clanking of the pumps was heard, mingled with the loud cheers of the men, as they spirited each other up to renewed exertions, and the loud "spell oh!" when the different gangs relieved[Pg 270] each other at the pump brakes. The whole of that day was one of incessant labour; for, when, after some hours of hard work, we had gained considerably upon the water, and relaxed a little from our exertions, we found that renewed efforts were required to keep the enemy at bay. Next morning the wind had greatly decreased, and was gradually dying away; but a high sea was still running, and the ship laboured tremendously. More sail was made to steady her; but, in spite of all our efforts, the leak increased; and at last it became evident, after everything had been done which seamanship could propose, or perseverance carry into effect, that the ship was in a foundering state. The captain, who had shewn himself active and energetic during the excitement of the storm, now proved that he possessed that true courage which can face unflinchingly the slow but sure approach of danger and of death. Calm and collected, nay, even cheerful, at least in appearance, his example encouraged and animated the crew, now almost exhausted with their constant exertions. He ordered one watch below to their hammocks, while the other was busied in fitting out the boats, and preparing provisions to put into them, and in keeping the pumps steadily but slowly at work. At last the hands were called out—"Out boats!" and when they were all assembled, Captain Fleetwood addressed them as follows:—

"My lads, the ship is sinking under us, and we must take to the boats. You have been active, patient, and obedient hitherto—be so still, and you may yet all be saved. Remember, that, as long as one of your officers is above the water with you, to that officer you owe obedience. For my part, I am determined—and you know I am no flincher—to maintain my authority with my life; but I hope you will not put me to the proof. My intention is to steer for the Island of Tristan d'Acunha, which, if Providence favours us, we may reach in a week or ten days; but much depends[Pg 271] upon your own exertions. Now, go below, and take the last meal you will ever eat on board your old ship. Heaven grant that we may all meet once more on shore!"

The men listened in silence, and uncovered while he spoke; and when he ended, they burst into a loud cheer, and one of them shouted out—

"We will stand by you to the last, sir!"

"Ay, that we will," was responded by all.

The captain took off his hat, and bowed, evidently much affected, and dismissed them.

In about twenty minutes they were again called up, and the boats were hoisted out. We had two quarter-boats, a launch, and a jolly-boat, which were amply sufficient to hold our whole number, reduced as it was by the loss of the five poor fellows in the gale; one of the quarter-boats, however, proved to be so leaky when lowered into the water, that we were obliged to abandon her. The other boats were furnished with masts, sails, a fortnight's short provision and water, arms—everything, in fact, that could be thought of as likely to be necessary. The captain took charge of the launch, and the second mate and I cast lots for the cutter; the chance was against me, and I took command of the jolly-boat. We were eight-and-twenty in number: twelve men, the captain, and two of the passengers, in the launch; myself, one of the ladies, and four men, in the jolly-boat; and the remainder in the cutter. When we had shoved off from the ship, we lay on our oars at some little distance, as if by mutual consent, to see the last of her; but the captain shouted out—

"Come, my lads, we have no time to spare; give the old craft one parting cheer, and let us make the best of our way."

The men stood up, and, taking off their hats, gave three loud and lengthened cheers. The deserted ship seemed as if she heard and wished to acknowledge the compliment;[Pg 272] her head turned gradually towards us; she rose slowly and heavily before the swell, then dipped her bows deep into the water, gave a heavy roll, and sank to rise no more. A stifled groan broke from the men at this sad sight, which cast an evident damp over their spirits.

"Come, cheer up, my lads," said the captain; "we've seen the last of as good a craft as ever floated; but it's of no use being downhearted. Let us have a cheer for good success!"

The men caught his tone immediately, and their spirits rose when they saw how cheerfully he bore his loss. Tristan d'Acunha bore about S. 10° W., about 200 miles distant; and, as the wind had again drawn to the northward, we had every prospect of reaching it in the course of five or six days. For the first two days we went along merrily enough with a fine steady breeze, and tolerably smooth water, but, on the afternoon of the third, the sky again became overcast, and there was every appearance of another "round turn" in the wind. As night closed in around us, the captain hailed us from the launch, and desired us to keep as near together as possible, for fear of separation. This order was obeyed as long as we were able; but, in the darkness, we soon lost sight of each other, and the sound of our voices was drowned in the increasing noise of wind and sea. About ten o'clock, the wind suddenly shifted in a sharp squall; the sail was taken aback, and the little boat lay over for a moment as if never to rise again. Fortunately the haulyards gave way, and the sail went overboard, or she must have been capsized; as it was, she was nearly half-full of water. I immediately jumped forward to drag the sail in again, when, to my horror, I heard the sound of voices crying for help, to leeward: the sail had knocked two of the men overboard, and it was their dying cry we heard. We pulled round the boat, and shouted out to them; there was no answer—they were gone; they must[Pg 273] have been half-drowned before they could get clear of the sail, which had fallen on the top of them. Our grief for their loss was soon absorbed by our fears for our own safety. There were now only three of us remaining—for the lady could be of no assistance—in a small boat, half-full of water; the wind and sea rising, darkness all around, and the nearest land upwards of one hundred miles distant; our prospects were dismal indeed. Fortunately for us, however, we had no time to brood over our misfortunes; the necessity for active exertion drove all thoughts but those of present danger from our minds. We baled the boat out as fast as possible, got the broken mast in-board, and made all as snug as we could. The wind had shifted, as I said before, to the southward, and came on to blow fresh; and the sea was again rapidly rising. We had nothing for it but to keep the boat right before the wind, although it carried us almost in a contrary direction to the course we wished to steer.

At daylight, we looked anxiously around for the other boats; but in vain did we strain our eyes—nothing was visible. Sad were our forebodings as to the fate of our shipmates, and gloomy our anticipations of the future for ourselves. The wind had moderated considerably, but we were still obliged to run before it; and it was not till late in the afternoon that we considered it safe to turn the boat's head again to the southward. By this time it was almost calm, but our two oars could do little against the head sea; and after tugging away at them for some time, we were obliged to lay them in from sheer exhaustion, merely keeping the boat's head to the sea. A light breeze springing up at last from the northward, we got the stump of the mast up, and set the reefed sail upon it, and began slowly to make headway in the wished-for direction.

During the whole of our perilous voyage, the young lady, who had been committed to my charge, behaved with the[Pg 274] greatest courage and resignation; not a complaint escaped her lips, though she was drenched to the skin by the spray and rain; not a scream did she utter when the dark sea rose under our stern, threatening to engulf our little bark. We did all we could to make her as comfortable as circumstances would allow; for rough indeed must be the nature that does not feel kindly towards youth and beauty in distress. She received all our attentions with such heartfelt expressions of gratitude, and bore her discomforts with such cheerful resignation, that the men could not help audibly expressing their admiration, and vowing to spend their life's-blood in her service.

The sun was again smiling over our heads, and the water rippled under the bows of the boat, as she danced before the breeze; and our spirits were revived by the change. On examining our stock of provisions, we found that most of our biscuit was completely saturated with salt water, and that, with the most sparing economy, we had barely sufficient rum and meat left to last us for a week longer. We immediately spread the wet bread on the boat's thwarts to dry, and cut the meat into small equal portions.

"Now, Miss Neville," said I, laughing—though, Heaven knows, there was little joy in my heart—"I, as commander of this vessel, constitute you acting-purser; you shall serve out our rations to us equally and fairly, and, if any one of my ship's company shall dare to question the justness of your division, or to attempt to help himself without your permission, he shall feel the weight of my anger."

There was faint laugh at this faint attempt at pleasantry on my part; and Miss Neville replied—

"I think, Captain Musgrave, you might have appointed a more sufficient purser than myself; however, I will do my best to justify your choice."

Another day, and another, we kept crawling slowly on; there was little or no wind, and our two oars made but little[Pg 275] way. I said before that the boat's crew was reduced to two men and myself. One of these men, a Scotchman, named M'Farlane, had only lately recovered from a severe attack of illness, before we left the ship. The fatigue incurred during the gale, and the danger and excitement of our situation since, had a fatal effect upon the poor fellow's already shattered constitution; he suffered in silence, never uttering a word of complaint; but it was evident to us all that he was sinking fast. On this day he had been taking his turn at the oar, in spite of my remonstrances.

"You will kill yourself, M'Farlane," said I. "You are not strong enough to pull; take the helm, and give Riley the oar again."

"No, sir," replied he; "Riley has had his spell, and I will take mine, though I die for it. I feel that I am going; but let me die in harness. No man shall have it to say that Tom M'Farlane was not game to the last."

Miss Neville joined her entreaties to mine, that he would give over rowing; but in vain.

"Heaven bless you, ma'am," said he—"and it will bless you, and bring you in safety out of your dangers. You are just beginning the voyage of life—and a rough beginning it has been; but never fear. You'll make a happy port at last. As for me, my voyage is just over. I have had both rough and smooth in my time. I've had no cause to complain; and I shall die happy, if I die doing my duty."

The words were scarcely uttered, when he ceased rowing. I turned round, and saw him, with his face deadly pale, bending over the oar, which he was in vain endeavouring to dip in the water. He made two or three convulsive movements, as if in the act of rowing, muttered "Hurrah, my lads!" and, with a heavy groan, fell backward. Riley and I raised him immediately, blood was gushing from his nose and mouth, which we in vain attempted to staunch. He opened his eyes once, shuddered, and expired. I will not[Pg 276] attempt to describe the feelings with which we gazed upon the body of our unfortunate shipmate, and thought how soon a still more dreadful doom might be ours. Death, with all its horrid accompaniments of starvation, drowning, &c., came before us. All the horrible stories we had heard of deaths at sea, of misery, hunger, and cannibalism, came crowding upon our memories. At last the silence was broken by Riley, who growled out—

"Well, there's one more going to feed the fishes! It'll be our turn soon. However, its some comfort he has left his share of the grub behind: there'll be more for those who remain."

I could hardly restrain my anger at this cold-blooded speech; but a look from Emily Neville checked me. Riley, however, observed the impression his words had made upon me, and, with a diabolical sneer, said—

"You need not look so black about it. I don't care a button about your looks or your anger either. One man's as good as another now, and I won't obey you any longer."

"Riley," said I, starting forward, and seizing him by the collar, while my voice trembled with suppressed passion, "mark my words! As long as one plank of this boat hangs to another, I am your officer; and while I have life in my body, you shall obey me."

The scoundrel was staggered by my firmness, and sat gloomily down upon the "thwart." Riley had been one of our black sheep on board the Anne. I never liked the fellow. He was always a skulking, discontented, vagabond; ever foremost in mischief, and striving to make his shipmates as mutinous as himself. I saw, by his louring looks, and his sullen, dogged manner, that we must, before long, come into collision again, and I determined to prepare for the worst. I threw all the fire-arms overboard, except a single musket and a brace of pistols, the latter of which I loaded deliberately before his eyes.[Pg 277]

"Come," said I, "the sun is long past the meridian, we must pipe to dinner. Miss Neville, serve out our allowance, if you please."

While Riley received his modicum of spirits, he growled out, "Here's a pretty allowance for a hard-working man. Not a stroke more will I put till I get more rum."

"Not a drop more shall you have till the regular time; you must be contented with just enough to keep soul and body together, like your neighbours; we must not all be sacrificed to gratify your greediness."

"Better die at once," said he, "than starve by inches; a short life and a merry one for me!—so hand out the stuff at once, for have it I will." And he made a rush to snatch the spirits from Miss Neville.

"Back, scoundrel!" said I, cocking one of my pistols, "or I'll blow your brains out."

The words were scarcely out of my mouth, when the rascal stooped, and snatching up a cutlass which he had concealed in the bottom of the boat, made a cut at me with it, which, but for the tough rim of my leather hat, would have laid my skull open. As it was, I shall carry the scar to my grave. One touch of my trigger, and Miss Neville and I were left in the boat alone. The ball went through his head; he staggered against the gunwale, toppled overboard, and sank at once, tinging the water with his blood. Miss Neville was now obliged to act as doctor as well as purser. She washed my wound, and bound it up as well as she was able. We neither of us spoke; but fearful were the thoughts that passed through my mind. The boat lay becalmed upon the water; my strength, wounded as it was, could do little towards forcing her onwards. Unless a breeze sprung up, we must lie in utter helplessness, and die a lingering death by starvation! Miss Neville read my thoughts, and, stifling her own fears, exerted herself to inspire me with confidence.

"Fear not, Mr. Musgrave," said she; "the merciful Pro[Pg 278]vidence which has watched over us hitherto, will protect us till the end. Utterly helpless and hopeless as our situation appears at present, He can save us, and He will."

Her words inspired me with renewed energy; and, with a good deal of difficulty, I stepped the mast, which we had unshipped for greater convenience in rowing. Next day we made the land, and, before evening, after a little danger in passing the surf, I landed my precious charge in safety.

But I must hurry to the conclusion of my tale, for I see Lorrimer, you are beginning to yawn, and I am tired of it myself.

My first care was to seek a snug shelter among the rocks where I quickly lighted a fire, and shared with my fair fellow prisoner the last remains of our slender sea stock. For the next day's subsistence we were obliged to rely upon my skill as a fowler. I spread the remainder of the powder to dry, and contrived to make up a rude bed for Miss Neville, on which, worn out with fatigue and excitement, she soon enjoyed that rest which she so much required. I retired to a little distance to watch her slumbers; but very soon followed her example. In the morning, invigorated and refreshed, I sallied out with my gun, and soon succeeded in procuring some birds for our morning meal; I then climbed the highest part of the island, and set up the boat's mast with a handkerchief flying from it, in hopes of attracting the attention of some passing South Sea whaler. Weeks passed in dreary monotony; we wanted for none of the absolute necessaries of life; but we were prisoners, and that consciousness alone was enough to make me discontented and restless. My fair companion bore all her inconveniences unrepiningly, and did all in her power to soothe and comfort me; her sweet disposition, and gentle, silent attentions, insensibly withdrew my thoughts from the discomforts of the present, and hope pictured a bright future of happiness with her whom fate had thrown upon my protection. One morning[Pg 279] at daybreak, I climbed as usual to my signal-post, and there, about three miles to windward of the island, a ship was standing under easy sail to the westward. The ship was hove to, and a boat lowered. I rushed down to apprise Miss Neville of the joyful event, and we both hurried to the beach, to receive our welcome visiters. After considerable difficulty, on account of the surf, they effected a landing, and were greeted by us with the warmest gratitude. The vessel, we were told, was the Medusa, South Seaman, and had been out from England nearly two years; they had observed my flag some time before they hove to, and at first thought it had been left there by some former ship, as there were no settlers on the island at the time; but they fortunately saw me through their glasses, and determined upon landing.

The evening was closing in cloudy and threatening, the surf was beginning to run high, and everything indicated bad weather.

"Come, be quick!" said the captain of the Medusa, who was in the boat; "jump in, we've no time to lose; there's a gale coming on, and I wouldn't wait two minutes longer for the world."

As we were struggling through the heavy surf, a sudden roll of the boat threw me overboard, and in a moment I was swept some distance towards the beach. I swam for the shore immediately, as I knew it was in vain to attempt reaching the boat again, or to hope that they would risk their own lives, or the safety of the ship, by longer delay. I was an excellent swimmer, and reached shore in safety, where I had the mortification of seeing the Medusa make sail, and haul off the land. I comforted myself, however, with the reflection, that Emily Neville was in safety, and that, if the captain of the Medusa was a Christian, he would return to take me off the island. That night a heavy gale of wind came on from the north-west and a constant[Pg 280] succession of stormy changes of wind and calm followed for some time. In about a month, a sail hove in sight; it was the Medusa! Oh, how delighted I was, once more to feel a solid plank under my foot! I felt myself at home once more when I touched her deck, and asked for Emily Neville. She was gone! The Medusa had fallen in with a Cape trader, and Miss Neville had taken a passage on board of her to the Cape, from whence she meant to proceed to England. Imagine my disappointment! For two months longer we beat about in these latitudes in the Medusa, and then, our cargo being completed, we shaped our course homewards. On my arrival in England, I went to my old friend, Darcy, who provided me with the needful, and I am now so far on my way home. You tell me I have gained a fortune; but I have lost the only girl I ever loved, and without her fortune is valueless.

I did what I could to comfort Musgrave, but he would not be comforted.

Next morning he proceeded on his journey. A short time afterwards, there appeared in the papers the following announcement—"Arrival in the river, the Proserpine, from the Cape. The vessel has on board one of the survivors of the wreck of the ship Anne, which foundered at sea some months since, the lady was saved in one of the ship's boat, and taken off the island of Tristan d'Acunha by the Medusa whaler."

I immediately wrote to Musgrave, congratulating him on this happy event; and received an answer in the course of a few weeks, telling me that he was now amply repaid for his past dangers and disappointment; for Emily Neville had consented to become his wife, and to share with him the bounties, as she had before partaken with him of the harsher dispensations, of Providence.

[Pg 281]


Somewhat more than five hundred years ago, and Berwick-upon-Tweed was the most wealthy and flourishing city in Great Britain. Its commerce was the most extensive, its merchants the most enterprising and successful. London in some measure strove to be its rival, but it possessed not a tenth of the natural advantages, and Berwick continued to bear the palm alone—being styled the Alexandria of the nations, the emporium of commerce, and one of the first commercial cities of the world. This state of prosperity it owed almost solely to Alexander III., who did more for Berwick than any sovereign that has since claimed its allegiance. He brought over a colony of wealthy Flemings, for whom he erected an immense building, called the Red Hall (situated where the wool market now stands), and which at once served as dwelling-houses, factories, and a fortress. The terms upon which he granted a charter to this company of merchants were, that they should defend, even unto death, their Red Hall against every attack of an enemy, and of the English in particular. Wool was the staple commodity of their commerce, but they also traded extensively in silks and in foreign manufactures. The people of Berwick understood Free Trade in those days. In this state of peace and enviable prosperity it continued till the spring of 1296. The bold, the crafty, and revengeful Edward I. meditated an invasion of Scotland; and Berwick, from its wealth, situation, and importance, was naturally anticipated to be the first object of his attack. To defeat this, Baliol—whom we can sometimes almost admire, though generally we despise and pity him—sent the[Pg 282] chief men of Fife and their retainers to the assistance of the town. Easter week arrived, but no tidings were heard of Edward's movements, and business went on with its wonted bustle. Amongst the merchants of the Red Hall was one known by the appellation of William the Fleming, and he had a daughter, an heiress and an only child, whose beauty was the theme of Berwick's minstrels, when rhyme was beginning to begin. Many a knee was bent to the rich and beautiful Isabella; but she preferred the humble and half-told passion of Francis Scott, who was one of the clerks in the Red Hall, to all the chivalrous declarations of prouder lovers. Francis possessed industry and perseverance; and these, in the eyes of her father, were qualifications precious as rubies. These, with love for his daughter, overcome other mercenary objections, and the day for their marriage had arrived. Francis and Isabella were kneeling before the altar, and the priest was pronouncing the service, the merchant was gazing fondly over his child, when a sudden and hurried peal from the Bell Tower broke upon the ceremony, and cries of "The English! to arms!" were heard from the street. The voice of the priest faltered—he stopped; William the Fleming placed his hand upon his sword; the bridegroom started to his feet, and the fair Isabella clung to his side. "Come, children," said the merchant, "let us to the Hall—a happier hour may bless your nuptials—this is no moment for bridal ceremony." And in silence, each man grasping his sword, they departed from the chapel, where the performance of the marriage rites was broken by the sounds of invasion. The ramparts were crowded with armed citizens, and a large English fleet was seen bearing round Lindisfarne. In a few hours the hostile vessels entered the river, and commenced a furious attack upon the town. Their assault was returned by the inhabitants as men who were resolved to die for liberty. For hours the battle raged, and the Tweed became as a[Pg 283] sheet of blood. But while the conflict rose fiercest, again the Bell Tower sent forth its sounds of death. Edward, at the head of thirty-five thousand chosen troops, had crossed the river at Coldstream, and was now seen encamping at the foot of Halidon Hill. Part of his army immediately descended upon the town, to the assistance of his fleet. They commenced a resolute attack from the north, while the greater part of the garrison held bloody combat with the ships in the river. Though thus attacked upon both sides, the besieged fought with the courage of surrounded lions, and the proud fleet was defeated and driven from the river. The attacks of the army were desperate, but without success, for desperate were the men who opposed them. Treachery, however, that to this day remains undiscovered, existed in the town; and, at an hour when the garrison thought not, the gates were deceitfully opened, and the English army rushed like a torrent upon the streets. Wildly the work of slaughter began. With the sword and with the knife, the inhabitants defended every house, every foot of ground. Mild mothers and gentle maidens fought for their thresholds with the fury of hungry wolves—and delicate hands did deeds of carnage. The war of blood raged from street to street, while the English army poured on like a ceaseless stream. Shouts, groans, the clang of swords, and the shrieks of women mingled together. Fiercer grew the close and the deadly warfare; but the numbers of the besieged became few. Heaps of dead men lay at every door, each with his sword glued to his hands by the blood of an enemy. Of the warriors from Fife, every man perished; but their price was a costly sacrifice of the boldest lives in England. The streets ran deep with blood; and, independent of slaughtered enemies, the mangled and lifeless bodies of seventeen thousand of the inhabitants paved the streets. The war of death ceased only from lack of lives to prey upon. With the exception of the Red Hall, the town was an awful and a silent[Pg 284] charnel-house. Within it were the thirty brave Flemings, pouring their arrows upon the triumphant besiegers, and resolved to defend it to death. Amongst them was the father of Isabella, and by his side his intended son-in-law, his hands, which lately held a bride's dripping with blood. The entire strength of the English army pressed around the Hall; and fearful were the doings which the band of devoted merchants, like death's own marksmen, made in the midst of them. What the besiegers, however, failed to effect by force, they effected by fire; and the Red Hall became enveloped in flames—its wool, its silk, and rich merchandise blazing together, and causing the fierce element to ascend like a pyramid. Still the brave men stood in the midst of the conflagration, unquailed, hurling death upon their enemies; and, as the fire raged from room to room, they rushed to the roof of their hall, discharging their last arrow on their besiegers, and waving their swords around their heads, with a shout of triumph. There also stood the father, his daughter, and her lover, smiling and embracing each other in death. Crash succeeded crash—the flames ascended higher and higher—and the proud building was falling to pieces. A louder crash followed, the fierce element surrounded the brave victims—the gentle Isabella, leaning on her bridegroom, was seen waving her slender hand in triumph round her head—the hardy band waved their swords, and shouted, "Liberty!" and in one moment more the building fell to the earth; and the heroes, the bridegroom, and his bride, were buried in the ruins of their fortress and their factory.

Thus fell the Red Hall, and with it the commercial glory of Berwick.



[A] This tale was written by Mr Wilson from the circumstance of "The Tales of the Borders" having been adopted as a lesson-book in several schools—Ed.

[B] The contrast here shown may be extended by a reference to "The Henpecked Man," and thus three specimens of the uxori emancipatus will be brought into comparison.—Ed.

[C] The same anecdote is related of Dr Thomas Brown, the philosopher.

[D] A phrase signifying that a smuggling vessel had delivered her cargo.

Transcriber's Note

Obvious punctuation errors were corrected.

The following printers errors were addressed.

Page 13 'new' to 'knew'
(He scarce knew what he did)

Page 13 'is' to 'his'
(took her hand in his)

Page 16 'fund' to 'found'
(who found him owre heavy for them)

Page 20 'mannner' to 'manner'
(and the manner in which)

Page 21 'certainly' to certainty'
(a liking for the certainty of the science)

Page 21 ''ve' to 'ye'
(the rest of ye wad hae been selling)

Page 24 'duplicate 'as' removed.
(people as ye could, meet)

Page 38 'uparalleled' to 'unparalleled'
(condescension and unparalleled favour)

Page 120 'indentity' to 'identity'
(evidence of his identity)

Page 125 'secresy' to 'secrecy'
(this mysterious secrecy and suspicion)

Page 129 'father' to 'faither'
(to the comforts o' a faither)
Changed to maintain consistency of dialect.

Page 151 'bridemaid' to 'bridesmaid'
(her bridesmaid was beside her)

Page 152 'succeded' to 'succeeded'
(I succeeded at last)

Page 171 'she' to She'
(She also allowed him)

Page 177 'pike' to 'pick'
(to pick your banes ahint)

Page 210 'thse' to 'these'
(While these important events)

Page 217 'Frith' to 'Firth'
(the Firth of Forth to the Tyne)

Page 218 'secresy' to 'secrecy'
(there was the secrecy of midnight)

Page 257 'though' to 'thought'
(when I thought I heard)

Page 266 'uncomonly' to 'uncommonly'
(we were uncommonly favoured)

Page 280 'of' to 'off'
(and taken off the island)

Page 282 'buisness' to 'business'
(and business went on)

Page 282 'Lindisferne' to 'Lindisfarne'
(was seen bearing round Lindisfarne)

These words are spelt thus throughout the book with
the exception of two places which have been standardised with the