Part 2 out of 4
Saviour? We do not say that a return of her old love helped this
deduction, because we do not wish to mix up profane with sacred things.
Enough if we can certify that a very happy conclusion was the result.
The doctor did his duty, and Janet having been declared _compos mentis_,
returned to her old home. Her first duty was to look for "the pose." It
was gone in the manner we have set forth; but Janet could collect
another, and no doubt in due time did; nor did she fail of any of her
old peculiarities, all of which became endeared to Thomas by reason of
their being veritable sacrifices to his domestic comfort.
GLEANINGS OF THE COVENANT.
THE LAST SCRAP.
It is a fact well known to Dr. Lee, and to many besides, that
notwithstanding the extensive researches of Wodrow and others, there
have died away in the silent lapse of time, or are still hovering over
our cleuchs and glens, in the aspect of a dim and misty tradition, many
instances of extreme cruelty and wanton oppression, exercised (during
the reign of Charles II.) over the poor Covenanters, or rather
Nonconformists, of the south and west counties of Scotland. In
particular, although the whole district suffered, it was in the vale of
the Nith, and in the hilly portion of the parish of Closeburn, that the
fury of Grierson, Dalzell, and Johnstone--not to mention an occasional
simoom, felt on the withering approach of Clavers _with his lambs_--was
felt to the full amount of merciless persecution and relentless cruelty.
The following anecdote I had from a sister of my grandmother, who lived
till a great age, and who was lineally descended from one of the
parties. I have never seen any notice whatever taken of the
circumstances; but am as much convinced of its truth, in all its leading
features, as I am of that of any other similar statements which are made
in Wodrow, "Naphtali," or the "Cloud of Witnesses."
The family of Harkness has been upwards of four hundred years tenants on
the farm of Queensberry, occupying the farm-house and steading situated
upon the banks of the Caple, and known by the name of Mitchelslacks. The
district is wild and mountainous, and, at the period to which I refer,
in particular, almost inaccessible through any regularly constructed
road. The hearts, however, of these mountain residents were deeply
attuned to religious and civil liberty, and revolted with loathing from
the cold doctrines and compulsory ministrations of the curate of
Closeburn. They were, therefore, marked birds for the myrmidons of
oppression, led on by Claverhouse, and "Red Rob," the scarlet-cloaked
leader of his band.
It was about five o'clock of the afternoon, in the month of August, that
a troop of horse was seen crossing the Glassrig--a flat and heathy
muir--and bearing down with great speed upon Mitchelslacks. Mrs.
Harkness had been very recently delivered of a child, and still occupied
her bed, in what was denominated the chamber, or cha'mer--an apartment
separated from the rest of the house, and set apart for more particular
occasions. Her husband, the object of pursuit, having had previous
intimation, by the singing or whistling of a bird (as was generally
reported on such occasions), had betaken himself, some hours before, to
the mountain and the cave--his wonted retreat on similar visits. From
this position, on the brow of a precipice, inaccessible by any save a
practised foot, he could see his own dwelling, and mark the movements
which were going on outside. The troop, having immediately surrounded
the houses, and set a guard upon every door and window, as well as an
outpost, or spy, upon an adjoining eminence, immediately proceeded with
the search--a search conducted with the most brutal incivility, and even
indelicacy; subjecting every child and servant to apprehensions of the
most horrid and revolting character. It would be every way improper to
mention even a tithe of the oaths and blasphemy which were not only
permitted, but sanctioned and encouraged, by their impious and
regardless leader. Suffice it to say, that after every other corner and
crevice was searched in vain, the cha'mer was invaded, and the privacy
of a female, in very interesting and delicate circumstances, rudely and
"The old fox is here," said Clavers, passing his sword up to the hilt
betwixt the mother and her infant, sleeping unconsciously on her arm,
and thrusting it home with such violence that the point perforated the
bed, and even penetrated the floor beneath.
"Toss out the whelp," vociferated Red Rob--always forward on such
occasions; "and the b--ch will follow." And, suiting the action to the
word, he rolled the sleeping, and happily well-wrapped, infant on the
"The Lord preserve my puir bairn!" was the instantaneous and instinctive
exclamation of the agonized and now demented mother, springing at the
same time from her couch, and catching up her child with a look of the
most despairing alarm. A cloud of darkened feeling seemed to pass over
the face and features of the infant,[*] and a cry of helpless suffering
succeeded, at once to comfort and to madden the mother. "A murderous and
monstrous herd are ye all," said she, again resuming her position, and
pressing the affrighted, rather than injured child to her breast. "Limbs
of Satan and enemies of God, begone! He whom ye seek is not here; nor
will the God _he_ serves and _you_ defy, ever suffer him, I fervently
hope and trust, to fall into your merciless and unhallowed hands."
[note *: "In the light of heaven its face
Grew dark as they were speaking."]
At this instant a boy about twelve years of age was dragged into the
room, and questioned respecting the place of his father's retreat,
sometimes in a coaxing, and at others in a threatening manner. The boy
presented, to every inquiry, the aspect of dogged resistance and
"Have the bear's cub to the croft," said Clavers, "and shoot him on the
The boy was immediately removed; and the distracted mother left, happily
for herself, in a state of complete insensibility. There grew, and there
still grows, a rowan-tree in the corner of the garden or kailyard of
Mitchelslacks; to this tree or bush the poor boy was fastened with
cords, having his eyes bandaged, and being made to understand, that, if
he did not reveal his father's retreat, a ball would immediately pass
through his brain. The boy shivered, attempted to speak, then seemed to
recover strength and resolution, and continued silent.
"Do you wish to smell gunpowder?" ejaculated Rob, firing a pistol
immediately under his nose, whilst the ball perforated the earth a few
The boy uttered a loud and unearthly scream, and his head sunk upon his
breast. At this instant, the aroused and horrified mother was seen on
her bended knees, with clasped hands, and eyes in which distraction
rioted, at the feet of the destroyers. But nature, which had given her
strength for the effort, now deserted her, and she fell lifeless at the
feet of her apparently murdered son. Even the heart of Clavers was
somewhat moved at this scene; and he was in the act of giving orders for
an immediate retreat, when there rushed into the circle, in all the
frantic wildness of a maniac, at once the father and the husband. He had
observed from his retreat the doings of that fearful hour: and, having
every reason to conclude that he was purchasing his own safety at the
expense of the lives of his whole family, he had issued from the cave,
and hurled himself from the steep, and was now in the presence of those
whom he deemed the murderers of his family.
"Fiends--bloody, brutal, heartless fiends--are ye all! And is this your
work, ye sons of the wicked and the accursed one? What! could not _one_
content ye? Was not the boy enough to sacrifice on your accursed temple
to Moloch, but ye must imbrue your hands in the blood of a weak, an
infirm, a helpless woman! Oh, may the God of the Covenant," added he,
bending reverently down upon his knees, and looking towards heaven, "may
the God of Jacob forgive me for cursing ye! And, thou man of blood"
(addressing Clavers personally), "think ye not that the blood of Brown,
and of my darling child, and my beloved wife--think ye not, wot ye not,
that their blood, and the blood of the thousand saints which ye have
shed, will yet be required, ay, fearfully required, even to the last
drop, by an avenging God, at your hands?"
Having uttered these words with great and awful energy, he was on the
point of drawing his sword, concealed under the flap of his coat, and of
selling his life as dearly as possible, when Mrs. Harkness, who had now
recovered her senses, rushed into his arms, exclaiming--
"Oh Thomas, Thomas, what is this ye hae done? Oh, beware, beware!--I am
yet alive and unskaithed. God has shut the mouths of the lions; they
have not been permitted to hurt _me_. And our puir boy, too, moves his
head, and gives token of life. But you, you, my dear, dear, infatuated
husband--oh, into what hands have ye fallen, and to what a death are ye
"Unloose the band," vociferated Clavers; "make fast your prisoner's
hands, and, in the devil's name, let us have done with this drivelling!"
There was a small public-house at this time at Closeburn mill, and into
this Clavers and his party went for refreshment; whilst an adjoining
barn, upon which a guard was set, served to secure the prisoner. No
sooner was Mr. Harkness left alone, and in the dark--for it was now
nightfall--than he began to think of some means or other of effecting
his escape. The barn was happily known to him; and he recollected that,
though the greater proportion of the gable was built of stone and lime,
yet that a small part towards the top, as was sometimes the case in
these days, was constructed of turf, and that, should he effect an
opening through the soft material, he might drop with safety upon the
top of a peat-stack, and thus effect his escape to Creechope Linn, with
every pass and cave of which he was intimately acquainted. In a word,
his escape was effected in this manner; and though the alarm was
immediately given, and large stones rolled over the precipices of the
adjoining linn, he was safely ensconced in darkness, and under the
covert of a projecting rock; and ultimately (for, in the course of a few
days, King William and liberty were the order of the day) he returned to
his wife and his family, there to enjoy for many years that happiness
which the possession of a conscience void of offence towards God and
towards man is sure to impart. The brother, however, of this more
favoured individual was not so fortunate, as may be gathered from
Wodrow, and the "Cloud of Witnesses;" for he was executed ere the day of
deliverance, at the Gallowlee, and his most pathetic and eloquent
address is still extant.
Let us rejoice with trembling that we live in an age and under a
government so widely different from those now referred to; and whilst on
our knees we pour forth the tribute of thankfulness to God, let us teach
our children to prize the precious inheritance so dearly purchased by
* * * * *
THE STORY OF MARY BROWN.
If the reader of what I am going to relate for his or her edification,
or for perhaps a greater luxury, viz. wonder, should be so unreasonable
as to ask for my authority, I shall be tempted, because a little piqued,
to say that no one should be too particular about the source of
pleasure, inasmuch as, if you will enjoy nothing but what you can prove
to be a reality, you will, under good philosophical leadership, have no
great faith in the sun--a thing which you never saw, the existence of
which you are only assured of by a round figure of light on the back of
your eye, and which may be likened to tradition; so all you have to do
is to believe like a good Catholic, and be contented, even though I
begin so poorly as to try to interest you in two very humble beings who
have been dead for many years, and whose lives were like a steeple
without a bell in it, the intention of which you cannot understand till
your eye reaches the weathercock upon the top, and then you wonder at so
great an erection for so small an object. The one bore the name of
William Halket, a young man, who, eight or nine years before he became
of much interest either to himself or any other body, was what in our
day is called an Arab of the City--a poor street boy, who didn't know
who his father was, though, as for his mother, he knew her by a pretty
sharp experience, insomuch as she took from him every penny he made by
holding horses, and gave him more cuffs than cakes in return. But Bill
got out of this bondage by the mere chance of having been taken a fancy
to by Mr. Peter Ramsay, innkeeper and stabler, in St. Mary's Wynd (an
ancestor, we suspect, of the Ramsays of Barnton), who thought he saw in
the City Arab that love of horse-flesh which belongs to the Bedouin, and
who accordingly elevated him to the position of a stable-boy, with board
and as many shillings a week as there are days in that subdivision of
Nor did William Halket--to whom for his merits we accord the full
Christian name--do any discredit to the perspicacity of his master, if
it was not that he rather exceeded the hopes of his benefactor, for he
was attentive to the horses, civil to the farmers, and handy at anything
that came in his way. Then, to render the connection reciprocal, William
was gratefully alive to the conviction that if he had not been, as it
were, taken from the street, the street might have been taken from him,
by his being locked up some day in the Heart of Midlothian. So things
went on in St. Mary's Wynd for five or six years, and might have gone on
for twice that period, had it not been that at a certain hour of a
certain day William fell in love with a certain Mary Brown, who had come
on that very day to be an under-housemaid in the inn; and strange
enough, it was a case of "love at first sight," the more by token that
it took effect the moment that Mary entered the stable with a glass of
whisky in her hand sent to him by Mrs. Ramsay. No doubt it is seldom
that a fine blooming young girl, with very pretty brown hair and very
blue eyes, appears to a young man with such a recommendation in her
hand; but we are free to say that the whisky had nothing to do with an
effect which is well known to be the pure result of the physical
attributes of the individual. Nay, our statement might have been proved
by the counterpart effect produced upon Mary herself, for she was struck
by William at the same moment when she handed him the glass; and we are
not to assume that the giving of a pleasant boon is always attended with
the same effect as the receiving of it.
But, as our story requires, it is the love itself between these two
young persons, whose fates were so remarkable, we have to do with--not
the causes, which are a mystery in all cases. Sure it is, humble in
position as they were, they could love as strongly, as fervently,
perhaps as ecstatically, as great people--nay, probably more so, for
education has a greater chance of moderating the passion than increasing
it; and so, notwithstanding of what Plutarch says of the awfully
consuming love between Phrygius and Picrea, and also what Shakespeare
has sung or said about a certain Romeo and a lady called Juliet, we are
certain that the affection between these grand personages was not _more_
genuine, tender, and true, than that which bound the simple and
unsophisticated hearts of Will Halket and Mary Brown. But at best we
merely play on the surface of a deep subject when we try with a pen to
describe feelings, and especially the feelings of love. We doubt, if
even the said pen were plucked from Cupid's wing, whether it would help
us much. We are at best only left to a choice of expressions, and
perhaps the strongest we could use are those which have already been
used a thousand times--the two were all the world to each other, the
world outside nothing at all to them; so that they could have been as
happy on the top of Mount Ararat, or on the island of Juan Fernandez,
provided they should be always in each other's company, as they were in
St. Mary's Wynd. And as for whispered protestations and chaste kisses--
for really their love had a touch of romance about it you could hardly
have expected, but which yet kept it pure, if not in some degree
elevated above the loves of common people--these were repeated so often
about the quiet parts of Arthur's Seat and the King's Park, and the
fields about the Dumbiedykes and Duddingstone Loch, that they were the
very moral aliments on which they lived. In short, to Mary Brown the
great Duke of Buccleuch was as nothing compared to Willie Halket, and to
Willie Halket the beautiful Duchess of Grammont would have been as
nothing compared to simple Mary Brown. All which is very amiable and
very necessary; for if it had been so ordained that people should feel
the exquisite sensations of love in proportion as they were beautiful,
or rich, or endowed with talent (according to a standard), our world
would have been even more queer than that kingdom described by Gulliver,
where the ugliest individual is made king or queen.
Things continued in this very comfortable state at the old inn in St.
Mary's Wynd for about a year, and it had come to enter into the
contemplation of Will that upon getting an increase of his wages he
would marry Mary, and send her to live with her mother, a poor,
hard-working washerwoman, in Big Lochend Close; whereunto Mary was so
much inclined, that she looked forward to the day as the one that
promised to be the happiest that she had yet seen, or would ever see.
But, as an ancient saying runs, the good hour is in no man's choice; and
about this time it so happened that Mr. Peter Ramsay, having had a
commission from an old city man, a Mr. Dreghorn, located as a planter in
Virginia, to send him out a number of Scottish horses, suggested to
William that he would do well to act as supercargo and groom. Mr.
Dreghorn had offered to pay a good sum to the man who should bring them
out safe, besides paying his passage over and home. And Mr. Ramsay would
be ready to receive Will into his old place again on his return. As for
Mary, with regard to whom the master knew his man's intentions, she
would remain where she was, safe from all temptation, and true to the
choice of her heart. This offer pleased William, because he saw that he
could make some money out of the adventure, whereby he would be the
better able to marry, and make a home for the object of his affections;
but he was by no means sure that Mary would consent; for women, by some
natural divining of the heart, look upon delays in affairs of love as
ominous and dangerous. And so it turned out that one Sabbath evening,
when they were seated beneath a tree in the King's Park, and William had
cautiously introduced the subject to her, she was like other women.
"The bird that gets into the bush," she said, as the tears fell upon her
cheeks, "sometimes forgets to come back to the cage again. I would
rather hae the lean lintie in the hand, than the fat finch on the wand."
"But you forget, Mary, love," was the answer of Will, "that you can feed
the lean bird, but you can't feed me. It is I who must support you. It
is to enable me to do that which induces me to go. I will come with
guineas in my pocket where there are now only pennies and placks; and
you know, Mary, the Scotch saying, 'A heavy purse makes a light heart.'"
"And an unsteady one," rejoined Mary. "And you may bring something else
wi' you besides the guineas; maybe a wife."
"One of Mr. Dreghorn's black beauties," said Will, laughing. "No, no,
Mary, I am too fond of the flaxen ringlets, the rosy cheeks, and the
blue eyes; and you know, Mary, you have all these, so you have me in
your power. But to calm your fears, and stop your tears, I'll tell you
what I'll do."
"Stay at hame, Will, and we'll live and dee thegither."
"No," replied Will; "but, like the genteel lover I have read of, I will
swear on your Bible that I will return to you within the year, and marry
you at the Tron Kirk, and throw my guineas into the lap of your
marriage-gown, and live with you until I die."
For all which and some more we may draw upon our fancy; but certain it
is, as the strange story goes, that Will did actually then and
there--for Mary had been at the Tron Kirk, and had her Bible in her
pocket (an article, the want of which is not well supplied by the
scent-bottle of our modern Maries)--swear to do all he had said,
whereupon Mary was so far satisfied that she gave up murmuring--perhaps
no more than that. Certain also it is, that before the month was done,
Will, with his living, kicking charges, and after more of these said
tears from Mary than either of them had arithmetic enough to enable them
to count, embarked at Leith for Richmond, at which place the
sugar-planter had undertaken to meet him.
We need say nothing of the voyage across the Atlantic, somewhat arduous
at that period, nor need we pick up Will again till we find him in
Richmond, with his horses all safe, and as fat and sleek as if they had
been fed by Neptune's wife, and had drawn her across in place of her own
steeds. There he found directions waiting from Mr. Dreghorn, to the
effect that he was to proceed with the horses to Peach Grove, his
plantation, a place far into the heart of the country. But Will was
content; for had he not time and to spare within the year, and he would
see some more of the new world, which, so far as his experience yet
went, seemed to him to be a good place for a freeman to live in? So off
he went, putting up at inns by the way, as well supplied with food and
fodder as Mr. Peter Ramsay's, in St. Mary's Wynd, and showing off his
nags to the planters, who wondered at their bone and muscle, the more by
reason they had never seen Scotch horses before. As he progressed, the
country seemed to Will more and more beautiful, and by the time he
reached Peach Grove he had come to the unpatriotic conclusion that all
it needed was Mary Brown, with her roses, and ringlets, and eyes,
passing like an angel--lovers will be poets--among these ebon beauties,
to make it the finest country in the world.
Nor when the Scotsman reached Peach Grove did the rosy side of matters
recede into the shady; for he was received in a great house by Mr.
Dreghorn with so much kindness, that, if the horses rejoiced in maize
and oats, Will found himself, as the saying goes, in five-bladed clover.
But more awaited him, even thus much more, that the planter, and his
fine lady of a wife as well, urged him to remain on the plantation,
where he would be well paid and well fed; and when Will pleaded his
engagement to return to Scotland within the year, the answer was ready,
that he might spend eight months in Virginia at least, which would
enable him to take home more money,--an answer that seemed so very
reasonable, if not prudent, that "Sawny" saw the advantage thereof and
agreed. But we need hardly say that this was conceded upon the condition
made with himself, that he would write to Mary all the particulars, and
also upon the condition, acceded to by Mr. Dreghorn, that he would take
the charge of getting the letter sent to Scotland.
All which having been arranged, Mr. Halket--for we cannot now continue
to take the liberty of calling him Will--was forthwith elevated to the
position of driving negroes in place of horses, an occupation which he
did not much relish, insomuch that he was expected to use the lash, an
instrument of which he had been very chary in his treatment of
four-legged chattels, and which he could not bring himself to apply with
anything but a sham force in reference to the two-legged species. But
this objection he thought to get over by using the sharp crack of his
Jehu-voice as a substitute for that of the whip; and in this he
persevered, in spite of the jeers of the other drivers, who told him the
thing had been tried often, but that the self-conceit of the negro met
the stimulant and choked it at the very entrance to the ear; and this he
soon found to be true. So he began to do as others did; and he was the
sooner reconciled to the strange life into which he had been
precipitated by the happy condition of the slaves themselves, who, when
their work was over, and at all holiday hours, dressed themselves in the
brightest colours of red and blue and white, danced, sang, ate
corn-cakes and bacon, and drank coffee with a zest which would have done
a Scotch mechanic, with his liberty to produce a lock-out, much good to
see. True, indeed, the white element of the population was at a discount
at Peach Grove. But in addition to the above source of reconciliation,
Halket became day by day more captivated by the beauty of the country,
with its undulating surface, its wooded clumps, its magnolias,
tulip-trees, camellias, laurels, passion-flowers, and palms, its
bright-coloured birds, and all the rest of the beauties for which it is
famous all over the world. But nature might charm as it might--Mary
Brown was three thousand miles away.
Meanwhile the time passed pleasantly, for he was accumulating money;
Mary's letter would be on the way, and the hope of seeing her within the
appointed time was dominant over all the fascinations which charmed the
senses. But when the month came in which he ought to have received a
letter, no letter came--not much this to be thought of, though Mr.
Dreghorn tried to impress him with the idea that there must be some
change of sentiment in the person from whom he expected the much-desired
answer. So Halket wrote again, giving the letter, as before, to his
master, who assured him it was sent carefully away; and while it was
crossing the Atlantic he was busy in improving his penmanship and
arithmetic, under the hope held out to him by his master that he would,
if he remained, be raised to a book-keeper's desk; for the planter had
seen early that he had got hold of a long-headed, honest, sagacious
"Sawny," who would be of use to him. On with still lighter wing the
intermediate time sped again, but with no better result in the shape of
an answer from her who was still the object of his day fancies and his
midnight dreams. Nor did all this kill his hope. A third letter was
despatched, but the returning period was equally a blank. We have been
counting by months, which, as they sped, soon brought round the
termination of his year, and with growing changes too in himself; for as
the notion began to worm itself into his mind that his beloved Mary was
either dead or faithless, another power was quietly assailing him from
within,--no other than ambition in the most captivating of all
shapes--Mammon. We all know the manner in which the golden deity
acquires his authority; nor do we need to have recourse to the conceit
of the old writer who tells us that the reason why gold has such an
influence upon man, lies in the fact that it is of the colour of the
sun, which is the fountain of light, and life, and joy. Certain it is,
at least, that Halket having been taken into the counting-house on a
raised salary, began "to lay by," as the Scotch call it; and by-and-by,
with the help of a little money lent to him by his master, he began by
purchasing produce from the neighbouring plantations, and selling it
where he might,--all which he did with advantage, yet with the ordinary
result to a Scotsman, that while he turned to so good account the king's
head, the king's head began to turn his own.
And now in place of months we must begin to count by lustrums; and the
first five years, even with all the thoughts of his dead, or, at least,
lost Mary, proved in Halket's case the truth of the book written by a
Frenchman, to prove that man is a plant; for he had already thrown out
from his head or heart so many roots in the Virginian soil that he was
bidding fair to be as firmly fixed in his new sphere as a magnolia, and
if that bore golden blossoms, so did he; yet, true to his first love,
there was not among all these flowers one so fair as the fair-haired
Mary. Nay, with all hope not yet extinguished, he had even at the end of
the period resolved upon a visit to Scotland, when, strangely enough,
and sadly too, he was told by Mr. Dreghorn, that having had occasion to
hear from Mr. Peter Ramsay on the subject of some more horse-dealings,
that person had reported to him that Mary Brown, the lover of his old
stable-boy, was dead. A communication this which, if it had been made at
an earlier period, would have prostrated Halket altogether, but it was
softened by his long foreign anticipations, and he was thereby the more
easily inclined to resign his saddened soul to the further dominion of
the said god, Mammon; for, as to the notion of putting any of those
beautiful half-castes he sometimes saw about the planter's house at
Peach Grove, in the place of her of the golden ringlets, it was nothing
better than the desecration of a holy temple. Then the power of the god
increased with the offerings, one of which was his large salary as
manager, a station to which he was elevated shortly after he had
received the doleful tidings of Mary's death. Another lustrum is added,
and we arrive at ten years; and yet another, and we come to fifteen; at
the end of which time Mr. Dreghorn died, leaving Halket as one of his
trustees, for behoof of his wife, in whom the great plantation vested.
If we add yet another lustrum, we find the Scot--fortunate, save for one
misfortune that made him a joyless worshipper of gold--purchasing from
the widow, who wished to return to England, the entire plantation under
the condition of an annuity.
And Halket was now rich, even beyond what he had ever wished; but the
chariot-wheels of Time would not go any slower--nay, they moved faster,
and every year more silently, as if the old Father had intended to cheat
the votary of Mammon into a belief that he would live for ever. The
lustrums still passed: another five, another, and another, till there
was scope for all the world being changed, and a new generation taking
the place of that with which William Halket and Mary Brown began. And he
was changed too, for he began to take on those signs of age which make
the old man a painted character; but in one thing he was not changed,
and that was the worshipful stedfastness, the sacred fidelity, with
which he still treasured in his mind the form and face, the words and
the smiles, the nice and refined peculiarities that feed love as with
nectared sweets, which once belonged to Mary Brown, the first creature
that had moved his affections, and the last to hold them, as the object
of a cherished memory for ever. Nor with time, so deceptive, need we be
so sparing in dealing out those periods of five years, but say at once
that at last William Halket could count twelve of them since first he
set his foot on Virginian soil; yea, he had been there for sixty
summers, and he had now been a denizen of the world for seventy-eight
years. In all which our narrative has been strange, but we have still
the stranger fact to set forth, that at this late period he was seized
with that moral disease (becoming physical in time) which the French
call _mal du pays_, the love of the country where one was born, and
first enjoyed the fresh springs that gush from the young heart. Nor was
it the mere love of country, as such, for he was seized with a
particular wish to be where Mary lay in the churchyard of the Canongate,
to erect a tombstone over her, to seek out her relations and enrich
them, to make a worship out of a disappointed love, to dedicate the last
of his thoughts to the small souvenirs of her humble life. Within a
month this old man was on his way to Scotland, having sold the
plantation, and taken bills with him to an amount of little less than a
hundred thousand pounds.
In the course of five weeks William Halket put his foot on the old pier
of Leith, on which some very old men were standing, who had been urchins
when he went away. The look of the old harbour revived the image which
had been imprinted on his mind when he sailed, and the running of the
one image into the other produced the ordinary illusion of all that long
interval appearing as a day; but there was no illusion in the change,
that Mary Brown was there when he departed, and there was no Mary Brown
there now. Having called a coach, he told the driver to proceed up Leith
Walk, and take him to Peter Ramsay's inn, in St. Mary's Wynd; but the
man told him there was no inn there, nor had been in his memory. The man
added that he would take him to the White Horse in the Canongate, and
thither accordingly he drove him. On arriving at the inn, he required
the assistance of the waiter to enable him to get out of the coach; nor
probably did the latter think this any marvel, after looking into a face
so furrowed with years, so pale with the weakness of a languid
circulation, so saddened with care. The rich man had only an inn for a
home, nor in all his native country was there one friend whom he hoped
to find alive. Neither would a search help him, as he found on the
succeeding day, when, by the help of his staff, he essayed an infirm
walk in the great thoroughfare of the old city. The houses were not much
altered, but the signboards had got new names and figures; and as for
the faces, they were to him even as those in Crete to the Cretan, after
he awoke from a sleep of forty-seven years--a similitude only true in
this change, for Epimenidas was still as young when he awoke as when he
went to sleep, but William Halket was old among the young and the grown,
who were unknown to him, as he was indeed strange to them. True, too, as
the coachman said, Peter Ramsay's inn, where he had heard Mary singing
at her work, and the stable where he had whistled blithely among his
favourite horses, were no longer to be seen--_etiam cineres
perierunt_--their very sites were occupied by modern dwellings. What of
that small half-sunk lodging in Big Lochend Close, where Mary's mother
lived, and where Mary had been brought up, where perhaps Mary had died?
Would it not be a kind of pilgrimage to hobble down the Canongate to
that little lodging, and might there not be for him a sad pleasure even
to enter and sit down by the same fireplace where he had seen the
dearly-beloved face, and listened to her voice, to him more musical than
the melody of angels?
And so, after he had walked about till he was wearied, and his steps
became more unsteady and slow, and as yet without having seen a face
which he knew, he proceeded in the direction of the Big Close. There
was, as regards stone and lime, little change here; he soon recognised
the half-sunk window where, on the Sunday evenings, he had sometimes
tapped as a humorous sign that he was about to enter, which had often
been responded to by Mary's finger on the glass, as a token that he
would be welcome. It was sixty years since then. A small corb would now
hold all that remained of both mother and daughter. He turned away his
head as if sick, and was about to retrace his steps. Yet the wish to
enter that house rose again like a yearning; and what more in the world
than some souvenir of the only being on earth he ever loved was there
for him to yearn for? All his hundred thousand pounds were now, dear as
money had been to him, nothing in comparison of the gratification of
seeing the room where she was born--yea, where probably she had died. In
as short a time as his trembling limbs would carry him down the stair,
which in the ardour of his young blood he had often taken at a bound, he
was at the foot of it. There was there the old familiar dark passage,
with doors on either side, but it was the farthest door that was of any
interest to him. Arrived at it, he stood in doubt. He would knock, and
he would not; the mystery of an undefined fear was over him; and yet,
what had he to fear? For half a century the inmates had been changed, no
doubt, over and over again, and he would be as unknowing as unknown. At
length the trembling finger achieves the furtive tap, and the door was
opened by a woman, whose figure could only be seen by him in coming
between him and the obscure light that came in by the half-sunk window
in front; nor could she, even if she had had the power of vision, see
more of him, for the lobby was still darker.
"Who may live here?" said he, in the expectation of hearing some name
unknown to him.
The answer, in a broken, cracked voice, was not slow--
"Mary Brown; and what may you want of her?"
"Mary Brown!" but not a word more could he say, and he stood as still as
a post; not a movement of any kind did he show for so long a time that
the woman might have been justified in her fear of a very spirit.
"And can ye say nae mair, sir?" rejoined she. "Is my name a bogle to
terrify human beings?"
But still he was silent, for the reason that he could not think, far
less speak, nor even for some minutes could he achieve more than the
repetition of the words, "Mary Brown."
"But hadna ye better come in, good sir?" said she. "Ye may ken our auld
saying, 'They that speak in the dark may miss their mark;' for words
carry nae light in their een ony mair than me, for, to say the truth, I
am old and blind."
And, moving more as an automaton than as one under a will, Halket was
seated on a chair, with this said old and blind woman by his side, who
sat silent and with blank eyes waiting for the stranger to explain what
he wanted. Nor was the opportunity lost by Halket, who, unable to
understand how she should have called herself Mary Brown, began, in the
obscure light of the room, to scrutinize her form and features; and in
doing this, he went upon the presumption that this second Mary Brown
only carried the name of the first; but as he looked he began to detect
features which riveted his eyes; where the reagent was so sharp and
penetrating, the analysis was rapid--it was also hopeful--it was also
fearful. Yes, it was true that that woman was _his_ Mary Brown. The
light-brown ringlets were reduced to a white stratum of thin hair; the
blue eyes were grey, without light and without speculation; the roses on
the cheeks were replaced by a pallor, the forerunner of the colour of
death; the lithe and sprightly form was a thin spectral body, where the
sinews appeared as strong cords, and the skin seemed only to cover a
skeleton. Yet, withal, he saw in her that identical Mary Brown. That
wreck was dear to him; it was a relic of the idol he had worshipped
through life; it was the only remnant in the world which had any
interest for him; and he could on the instant have clasped her to his
breast, and covered her pale face with his tears. But how was he to act?
A sudden announcement might startle and distress her.
"There was once a Mary Brown," said he, "who was once a housemaid in Mr.
Peter Ramsay's inn in St. Mary's Wynd."
"And who can it be that can recollect that?" was the answer, as she
turned the sightless orbs on the speaker. "Ye maun be full o' years.
Yes, that was my happy time, even the only happy time I ever had in this
"And there was one William Halket there at that time also," he
Words which, as they fell upon the ear, seemed to be a stimulant so
powerful as to produce a jerk in the organ; the dulness of the eyes
seemed penetrated with something like light, and a tremor passed over
her entire frame.
"That name is no to be mentioned, sir," she said nervously, "except
aince and nae mair; he was my ruin; for he pledged his troth to me, and
promised to come back and marry me, but he never came."
"Nor wrote you?" said Halket.
"No, never," replied she; "I would hae gien the world for a scrape o'
the pen o' Will Halket; but it's a' past now, and I fancy he is dead and
gone to whaur there is neither plighted troth, nor marriage, nor giving
in marriage; and my time, too, will be short."
A light broke in upon the mind of Halket, carrying the suspicion that
Mr. Dreghorn had, for the sake of keeping him at Peach Grove, never
forwarded the letters, whereto many circumstances tended.
"And what did you do when you found Will had proved false?" inquired
Halket. "Why should that have been your ruin?"
"Because my puir heart was bound up in him," said she, "and I never
could look upon another man. Then what could a puir woman do? My mother
died, and I came here to work as she wrought--ay, fifty years ago, and
my reward has been the puir boon o' the parish bread; ay, and waur than
a' the rest, blindness."
"Mary!" said Halket, as he took her emaciated hand into his, scarcely
less emaciated, and divested of the genial warmth.
The words carried the old sound, and she started and shook.
"Mary," he continued, "Will Halket still lives. He was betrayed, as you
have been betrayed. He wrote three letters to you, all of which were
kept back by his master, for fear of losing one who he saw would be
useful to him; and, to complete the conspiracy, he reported you dead
upon the authority of Peter Ramsay. Whereupon Will betook himself to the
making of money; but he never forgot his Mary, whose name has been heard
as often as the song of the birds in the groves of Virginia."
"Ah, you are Will himself!" cried she. "I ken now the sound o' your
voice in the word 'Mary,' even as you used to whisper it in my ear in
the fields at St. Leonard's. Let me put my hand upon your head, and move
my fingers ower your face. Yes, yes. Oh, mercy, merciful God, how can my
poor worn heart bear a' this!"
"Mary, my dear Mary!" ejaculated the moved man, "come to my bosom and
let me press you to my heart; for this is the only blissful moment I
have enjoyed for sixty years."
Nor was Mary deaf to his entreaties, for she resigned herself as in a
swoon to an embrace, which an excess of emotion, working on the
shrivelled heart and the wasted form, probably prevented her from
"But, oh, Willie!" she cried, "a life's love lost; a lost life on both
"Not altogether," rejoined he, in the midst of their mutual sobs. "It
may be--nay, it is--that our sands are nearly run. Yea, a rude shake
would empty the glass, so weak and wasted are both of us; but still
there are a few grains to pass, and they shall be made golden. You are
the only living creature in all this world I have any care for. More
thousands of pounds than you ever dreamt of are mine, and will be yours.
We will be married even yet, not as the young marry, but as those marry
who may look to their knowing each other as husband and wife in heaven,
where there are no cruel, interested men to keep them asunder; and for
the short time we are here you shall ride in your carriage as a lady,
and be attended by servants; nor shall a rude breath of wind blow upon
you which it is in the power of man to save you from."
"Ower late, Willie, ower late," sighed the exhausted woman, as she still
lay in his arms. "But if all this should please my Will--I canna use
another name, though you are now a gentleman--I will do even as you
list, and that which has been by a cruel fate denied us here we may
share in heaven."
"And who shall witness this strange marriage?" said he. "There is no one
in Edinburgh now that I know or knows me. Has any one ever been kind to
"Few, few indeed," answered she. "I can count only three."
"I must know these wonderful exceptions," said he, as he made an attempt
at a grim smile; "for those who have done a service to Mary Brown have
done a double service to me. I will make every shilling they have given
you a hundred pounds. Tell me their names."
"There is John Gilmour, my landlord," continued she, "who, though he
needed a' his rents for a big family, passed me many a term, and forbye
brought me often, when I was ill and couldna work, many a bottle o'
wine; there is Mrs. Paterson o' the Watergate, too, who aince, when I
gaed to her in sair need, gave me a shilling out o' three that she
needed for her bairns; and Mrs. Galloway, o' Little Lochend, slipt in to
me a peck o' meal ae morning when I had naething for breakfast."
"And these shall be at our marriage, Mary," said he. "They shall be
dressed to make their eyes doubtful if they are themselves. John Gilmour
will wonder how these pounds of his rent he passed you from have grown
to hundreds; Mrs. Paterson's shilling will have grown as the widow's
mite never grew, even in heaven; and Mrs. Galloway's peck of meal will
be made like the widow's cruse of oil--it will never be finished while
she is on earth."
Whereupon Mary raised her head. The blank eyes were turned upon him, and
something like a smile played over the thin and wasted face. At the same
moment a fair-haired girl of twelve years came jumping into the room,
and only stopped when she saw a stranger.
"That is Helen Kemp," said Mary, who knew her movements. "I forgot
Helen; she lights my fire, and when I was able to gae out used to lead
me to the Park."
"And she shall be one of the favoured ones of the earth," said he, as he
took by the hand the girl, whom the few words from Mary had made sacred
to him, adding, "Helen, dear, you are to be kinder to Mary than you have
ever been;" and, slipping into the girl's hand a guinea, he whispered,
"You shall have as many of these as will be a bigger tocher to you than
you ever dreamed of, for what you have done for Mary Brown."
And thus progressed to a termination a scene, perhaps more extraordinary
than ever entered into the head of a writer of natural things and events
not beyond the sphere of the probable. Nor did what afterwards took
place fall short of the intentions of a man whose intense yearnings to
make up for what had been lost led him into the extravagance of a vain
fancy. He next day took a great house, and forthwith furnished it in
proportion to his wealth. He hired servants in accordance, and made all
the necessary arrangements for the marriage. Time, which had been so
cruel to him and his sacred Mary, was put under the obligation of
retribution. John Gilmour, Mrs. Paterson, Mrs. Galloway, and Helen Kemp
were those, and those alone, privileged to witness the ceremony. We
would not like to describe how they were decked out, nor shall we try to
describe the ceremony itself. But vain are the aspirations of man when
he tries to cope with the Fates! The changed fortune was too much for
the frail and wasted bride to bear. She swooned at the conclusion of the
ceremony, and was put into a silk-curtained bed. Even the first glimpse
of grandeur was too much for the spirit whose sigh was "vanity, all is
vanity," and, with the words on her lips, "A life's love lost," she
"Tibby Fowler o' the glen,
A' the lads are wooin' at her."--_Old Song_.
All our readers have heard and sung of "Tibby Fowler o' the glen;" but
they may not all be aware that the glen referred to lies within about
four miles of Berwick. No one has seen and not admired the romantic
amphitheatre below Edrington Castle, through which the Whitadder coils
like a beautiful serpent glittering in the sun, and sports in fantastic
curves beneath the pasture-clad hills, the grey ruin, the mossy and
precipitous crag, and the pyramid of woods, whose branches, meeting from
either side, bend down and kiss the glittering river, till its waters
seem lost in their leafy bosom. Now, gentle reader, if you have looked
upon the scene we have described, we shall make plain to you the
situation of Tibby Fowler's cottage, by a homely map, which is generally
_at hand_. You have only to bend your arm, and suppose your shoulder to
represent Edrington Castle, your hand Clarabad, and near the elbow you
will have the spot where "ten cam' rowing owre the water;" a little
nearer to Clarabad is the "lang dyke side," and immediately at the foot
of it is the site of Tibby's cottage, which stood upon the Edrington
side of the river; and a little to the west of the cottage, you will
find a shadowy row of palm-trees, planted, as tradition testifieth, by
the hands of Tibby's father, old Ned Fowler, of whom many speak until
this day. The locality of the song was known to many; and if any should
be inclined to inquire how we became acquainted with the other
particulars of our story, we have only to reply, that that belongs to a
class of questions to which we do not return an answer. There is no
necessity for a writer of tales taking for his motto--_vitam impendere
vero_. Tibby's parents had the character of being "bien bodies;" and,
together with their own savings, and a legacy that had been left them by
a relative, they were enabled at their death to leave their daughter in
possession of five hundred pounds. This was esteemed a fortune in those
days, and would afford a very respectable foundation for the rearing of
one yet. Tibby, however, was left an orphan, as well as the sole
mistress of five hundred pounds, and the proprietor of a neat and
well-furnished cottage, with a piece of land adjoining, before she had
completed her nineteenth year; and when we add that she had hair like
the raven's wings when the sun glances upon them, cheeks where the lily
and the rose seemed to have lent their most delicate hues, and eyes like
twin dew-drops glistening beneath a summer moonbeam, with a waist and an
arm rounded like a model for a sculptor, it is not to be wondered at
that "a' the lads cam' wooin' at her." But she had a woman's heart as
well as woman's beauty and the portion of an heiress. She found her
cottage surrounded, and her path beset, by a herd of grovelling
pounds-shillings-and-pence hunters, whom her very soul loathed. The
sneaking wretches, who profaned the name of lovers, seemed to have
_money_ written on their very eyeballs, and the sighs they professed to
heave in her presence sounded to her like stifled groans of--_your
gold_--_your gold_! She did not hate them, but she despised their
meanness; and as they one by one gave up persecuting her with their
addresses, they consoled themselves with retorting upon her the words of
the adage, that "her _pride_ would have a fall!" But it was not from
pride that she rejected them, but because her heart was capable of love
--of love, pure, devoted, unchangeable, springing from being beloved,
and because her feelings were sensitive as the quivering aspen, which
trembles at the rustling of an insect's wing. Amongst her suitors there
might have been some who were disinterested; but the meanness and sordid
objects of many caused her to regard all with suspicion, and there was
none among the number to whose voice her bosom responded as the needle
turns to the magnet, and frequently from a cause as inexplicable. She
had resolved that the man to whom she gave her hand should wed her for
herself--and for herself only. Her parents had died in the same month;
and about a year after their death she sold the cottage and the piece of
ground, and took her journey towards Edinburgh, where the report of her
being a "great fortune," as her neighbours term her, might be unknown.
But Tibby, although a sensitive girl, was also, in many respects, a
prudent one. Frequently she had heard her mother, when she had to take
but a shilling from the legacy, quote the proverb, that it was
"Like a cow in a clout,
That soon wears out."
Proverbs we know are in bad taste, but we quote it, because by its
repetition the mother produced a deeper impression on her daughter's
mind than could have been effected by a volume of sentiment. Bearing
therefore in her memory the maxim of her frugal parent, Tibby deposited
her money in the only bank, we believe, that was at that period in the
Scottish capital, and hired herself as a child's maid in the family of a
gentleman who occupied a house in the neighbourhood of Restalrig. Here
the story of her fortune was unknown, and Tibby was distinguished only
for a kind heart and a lovely countenance. It was during the summer
months, and Leith Links became her daily resort; and there she was wont
to walk with a child in her arms and another leading by the hand, for
there she could wander by the side of the sounding sea; and her heart
still glowed for her father's cottage and its fairy glen, where she had
often heard the voice of its deep waters, and she felt the sensation
which we believe may have been experienced by many who have been born
within hearing of old Ocean's roar, that wherever they may be, they hear
the murmur of its billows as the voice of a youthful friend, and she
almost fancied, as she approached the sea, that she drew nearer the home
which sheltered her infancy. She had been but a few weeks in the family
we have alluded to, when, returning from her accustomed walk, her eyes
met those of a young man habited as a seaman. He appeared to be about
five-and-twenty, and his features were rather manly than handsome. There
was a dash of boldness and confidence in his countenance; but as the
eyes of the maiden met his, he turned aside as if abashed and passed on.
Tibby blushed at her foolishness, but she could not help it, she felt
interested in the stranger. There was an expression, a language, an
inquiry in his gaze, she had never witnessed before. She would have
turned round to cast a look after him, but she blushed deeper at the
thought, and modesty forbade it. She walked on for a few minutes,
upbraiding herself for entertaining the silly wish, when the child who
walked by her side fell a few yards behind. She turned round to call him
by his name--Tibby was certain that she had no motive but to call the
child, and though she did steal a sidelong glance towards the spot where
she had passed the stranger, it was a mere accident, it could not be
avoided--at least so the maiden wished to persuade her conscience
against her conviction; but that glance revealed to her the young
sailor, not pursuing the path on which she had met him, but following
her within the distance of a few yards, and until she reached her
master's door, she heard the sound of his footsteps behind her. She
experienced an emotion between being pleased and offended at his
conduct, though we suspect the former eventually predominated, for the
next day she was upon the Links as usual, and there also was the young
seaman, and again he followed her to within sight of her master's house.
How long this sort of dumb love-making, or the pleasures of diffidence
continued, we cannot tell. Certain it is that at length he spoke, wooed,
and conquered; and about a twelvemonth after their first meeting, Tibby
Fowler became the wife of William Gordon, the mate of a foreign trader.
On the second week after their marriage William was to sail upon a long,
long voyage, and might not be expected to return for more than twelve
months. This was a severe trial for poor Tibby, and she felt as if she
would not be able to stand up against it. As yet her husband knew
nothing of her dowry, and for this hour she had reserved its discovery.
A few days before their marriage she had lifted her money from the bank
and deposited it in her chest.
"No, Willie, my ain Willie," she cried, "ye maunna, ye winna leave me
already: I have neither faither, mother, brother, nor kindred; naebody
but you, Willie; only you in the wide world; and I am a stranger here,
and ye winna leave your Tibby. Say that ye winna, Willie." And she wrung
his hand, gazed in his face, and wept.
"I maun gang, dearest; I maun gang," said Willie, and pressed her to his
breast; "but the thocht o' my ain wifie will mak the months chase ane
anither like the moon driving shadows owre the sea. There's nae danger
in the voyage, hinny, no a grain o' danger; sae dinna greet; but come,
kiss me, Tibby, and when I come hame I'll mak ye leddy o' them a'."
"Oh no, no, Willie!" she replied; "I want to be nae leddy; I want
naething but my Willie. Only say that ye'll no gang, and here's
something here, something for ye to look at." And she hurried to her
chest, and took from it a large leathern pocket-book that had been her
father's, and which contained her treasure, now amounting to somewhat
more than six hundred pounds. In a moment she returned to her husband;
she threw her arms around his neck; she thrust the pocket-book into his
bosom. "There, Willie, there," she exclaimed; "that is yours--my faither
placed it in my hand wi' a blessing, and wi' the same blessing I
transfer it to you--but dinna, dinna leave me." Thus saying, she hurried
out of the room. We will not attempt to describe the astonishment, we
may say the joy, of the fond husband, on opening the pocket-book and
finding the unlooked-for dowry. However intensely a man may love a
woman, there is little chance that her putting an unexpected portion of
six hundred pounds into his hands will diminish his attachment; nor did
it diminish that of William Gordon. He relinquished his intention of
proceeding on the foreign voyage, and purchased a small coasting vessel,
of which he was both owner and commander. Five years of unclouded
prosperity passed over them, and Tibby had become the mother of three
fair children. William sold his small vessel and purchased a larger one,
and in fitting it up all the gains of his five successful years were
swallowed up. But trade was good. She was a beautiful brig, and he had
her called the _Tibby Fowler_. He now took a fond farewell of his wife
and little ones upon a foreign voyage which was not calculated to exceed
four months, and which held out high promise of advantage. But four,
eight, twelve months passed away, and there were no tidings of the
_Tibby Fowler_. Britain was then at war; there were enemies' ships and
pirates upon the sea, and there had been fierce storms and hurricanes
since her husband left; and Tibby thought of all these things and wept;
and her lisping children asked her when their father would return, for
he had promised presents to all, and she answered, to-morrow, and
to-morrow, and turned from them and wept again. She began to be in want,
and at first she received assistance from some of the friends of their
prosperity; but all hope of her husband's return was now abandoned; the
ship was not insured, and the mother and her family were reduced to
beggary. In order to support them, she sold one article of furniture
after another, until what remained was seized by the landlord in
security for his rent. It was then that Tibby and her children, with
scarce a blanket to cover them, were cast friendless upon the streets,
to die or to beg. To the last resource she could not yet stoop, and from
the remnants of former friendship she was furnished with a basket and a
few trifling wares, with which, with her children by her side, she set
out, with a broken and a sorrowful heart, wandering from village to
village. She had travelled in this manner for some months, when she drew
near her native glen, and the cottage that had been her father's, that
had been her own, stood before her. She had travelled all the day and
sold nothing. Her children were pulling by her tattered gown, weeping
and crying, "Bread, mother, give us bread!" and her own heart was sick
"Oh, wheesht, my darlings, wheesht!" she exclaimed, and she fell upon
her knees and threw her arms round the necks of all the three, "you will
get bread soon; the Almighty will not permit my bairns to perish; no,
no; ye shall have bread."
In despair she hurried to the cottage of her birth. The door was opened
by one who had been a rejected suitor. He gazed upon her intently for a
few seconds; and she was still young, being scarce more than
six-and-twenty, and in the midst of her wretchedness, yet lovely.
"Gude gracious, Tibby Fowler!" he exclaimed, "is that you? Poor
creature! are ye seeking charity? Weel, I think ye'll mind what I said
to you now, that your pride would have a fa'!"
While the heartless owner of the cottage yet spoke, a voice behind her
was heard exclaiming, "It is her! it is her! my ain Tibby and her
At the well-known voice, Tibby uttered a wild scream of joy, and fell
senseless on the earth; but the next moment her husband, William Gordon,
raised her to his breast. Three weeks before he had returned to Britain,
and traced her from village to village, till he found her in the midst
of their children, on the threshold of the place of her nativity. His
story we need not here tell. He had fallen into the hands of the enemy;
he had been retained for months on board of their vessel; and when a
storm had arisen, and hope was gone, he had saved her from being lost
and her crew from perishing. In reward for his services, his own vessel
had been restored to him, and he was returned to his country, after an
absence of eighteen months, richer than when he left, and laden with
honours. The rest is soon told. After Tibby and her husband had wept
upon each other's neck, and he had kissed his children, and again their
mother, with his youngest child on one arm, and his wife resting on the
other, he hastened from the spot that had been the scene of such
bitterness and transport. In a few years more, William Gordon having
obtained a competency, they re-purchased the cottage in the glen, where
Tibby Fowler lived to see her children's children, and died at a good
old age in the house in which she had been born--the remains of which,
we have only to add, for the edification of the curious, may be seen
until this day.
THE CRADLE OF LOGIE.
It is not very easy, when we consider the great desire manifested by
authors and editors to serve up piquant dishes of fiction on the broad
table of literature, to account for the fact that the undoubtedly true
story of the Cradle of Logie and the Indian Princess, as she is often
called, should never have appeared in print. It has apparently escaped
the sharpest eyes of our chroniclers. Sir Walter Scott did not appear to
have much fancy for Angus; but it would seem that the facts of this
strange occurrence in a civilised country, and not very far back, had
never reached him. Even the histories of Forfarshire are silent; and the
pictures of Scotland for tourists, which generally seize on any romantic
trait connected with a locality or an old ruin, have also overlooked
them. Yet the principal personage in the drama was one whose name was
for years in the mouths of the people, not only for peculiarities of
character, but retribution of fate; and this local fame has died away
only within a comparatively recent period. It was in my very early years
that I saw the Cradle, and heard, imperfectly, its tale from my mother;
but her account was comparatively meagre. I sought long for details; nor
was I by any means successful till I fell in with a man named Aminadab
Fairweather, a resident at the Scouring Burn, in Dundee, who was in the
habit of frequenting Logie House, and who, though very old, remembered
many of the circumstances.
The truth is, there were rich flesh-pots in Logie House--richer than
those which supplied the muscles of the Theban mummies, so enduring
through long ages, no doubt, from being so well fed; for Mr. Fletcher of
Lindertes,[*] who was proprietor of the mansion, was the greatest
epicurean and glossogaster that ever lived since Leontine
times. Then a woman called Jenny McPherson, who had in early
life, like "a good Scotch louse," who "aye travels south," found her way
from Lochaber to London, where she had got into George's kitchen, and
learned something better than to make sour kraut, was the individual who
administered to her master's epicureanism, if not gulosity. Nay, it was
said she had a hand in the tragedy of the Cradle; but, however that may
be, it is certain she was deep in the confidences of Fletcher. But then
Mrs. McPherson, as she chose to call herself--though the never a
McPherson was connected with her except by the ties of blood, which,
like those of all Celts, had their loose terminations dangling into
infinity at the beginning of the world's history--was given to
administering the contents of her savoury flesh-pots to others than the
family of Logie; yea, like a true Highlander, she delighted in having
henchmen--or haunchmen truly, in this instance--who gave her love in
return for her edible luxuries. It happened that our said Aminadab was
one of those favoured individuals; and it is lucky for this generation
that he was, for if he had not been, there would assuredly have been no
records of the Cradle and the black lady.
[note *: Mr. Fletcher had also the property of Balinsloe as well
as Logie. They've all passed into other hands.]
It was in a little parlour off the big kitchen that Janet received her
henchmen. And was there ever man so happy as our good Aminadab?--and
that for several human reasons, whereof the first was certainly the
Logie flesh-pots; the second, the stories about the romantic place
wherewith she contrived to garnish and spice these savoury mouthfuls;
and last, Janet herself, who was always under the feminine delusion that
she was the corporate representative of the first of these reasons, if,
indeed, the others were not mere _adjecta_, not to be taken into
account; whereas there were doubts if she was for herself ever counted
at all, except as the mere "old-pot" which contained the realities. And
their happiness would certainly have been complete if it had not
been--at least in the case of Aminadab--that it could be enjoyed only by
passing through that grim medium, a churchyard. But then, is not all
celestial bliss burdened by this condition; nay, is not even our earthly
bliss, which is a foretaste of heaven, only a flower raised upon the
rottenness of other flowers--a type of the soul as it issues from
corruption? Yes, Aminadab could not get to the holy of holies except by
passing through Logie kirkyard, a small and most romantic Golgotha, on
the left of the road leading to Lochee, whose inhabitants it contained,
and which was so limited and crowded, that one might prefigure it as one
of those holes or dungeons in Michael Angelo's pictures, belching forth
spirits in the shape of inverted tadpoles, the tail uppermost, and yet
representing ascending sparks. The wickets that surrounded Logie
House--lying as it does upon the south side of Balgay Hill, and flanked
on the east by a deep gully, wherethrough runs a small stream, which, so
far as I know, has no name--were locked at night. The terrors of this
place, at the late hours when these said henchmen behoved to seek their
savoury rewards, were the only drawback to Aminadab's supreme bliss.
And if the time of these symposial meetings had been somewhat later in
the century, how much more formidable would have been a passage through
this contracted valley of tumuli and bones! No churchyard, except those
of Judea, was ever invested with such terrors--not the mystical fears of
a divine fate seen in the descending cloud, with Justice gleaming with
fiery eyes on Sin, and holding those scales, the decision of which would
destine to eternal bliss or eternal woe, and that Justice personified in
Him "whose glory is a burning like the burning of a fire,"--no, but the
revolting fears produced by the profanity of that poor worm of very
common mud, which has been since the beginning of time acting the God.
Ay, the aurelia-born image of grace sees a difference when it looks from
the sun to the epigenetic thing which He raises out of corruption. There
was, in that small place of skulls, a rehearsal of the great day. We
hear little of these freaks now-a-days; but it was different then, when
men made themselves demons by drink. One night William Maule of Panmure,
then in his days of graceless frolic; Fletcher Read, the nephew of the
laird, and subsequently the laird himself, of Logie; Rob Thornton, the
merchant, Dudhope, and other kindred spirits, who used to sing in the
inn of Sandy Morren, the hotel-keeper, "Death begone, here's none but
souls," sallied drunk from the inn. The story goes that the night was
dark, and there stood at the door a hearse, which had that day conveyed
to the "howf," now about to be shut up because of its offence against
the nostrils of men who are not destined to need a grave, the wife of an
inconsolable husband and the mother of children; and thereupon came from
Maule's mouth--for wickedness will seek its playful function in a
pun--the proposition that the bacchanals should have a rehearsal in the
kirkyard of Logie. Well, it signified, of course, nothing that the Black
Princess had been buried there, so far away from the land of "the balmy
"Where the roses blow and the oranges grow,
And all is divine but man below."
Fletcher Read might have recollected this, but what though? Was not the
pun a good one--worthy of Hood? They all mounted the hearse, Panmure
being driver; nor could Sandy Morren give to these white-robed spirits,
who were so soon to rise in glory from the envious earth, more than a
sour-milk horn and half a dozen of snow-white table-cloths for the
theatrical property of the great players. So it has been since the time
when the shepherd who killed the son of Aebolus, for that he gave them
wine which they thought was poison, because they found their heads out
of order--wine still generates on folly the afflatus of madness. The
story goes on. The night was as dark as those places they were to
illumine with their white robes, alas! not of innocence. But the
darkness was not of the moon's absence in another hemisphere; only that
darkness which is cloud-born, and must cede in twinkling yet glorious
intervening moments to the moon, when she will salute the graves and the
marriage-guests; and the hearse, as it slowly wended its way up the road
to Lochee, every now and then pouring forth from its dark inside peals
of laughter. The travellers on the road look with wide eyes at the grim
apparition, and flee. They arrive at the rough five-bar stile; it is
thrown back, and the hearse is driven into the place of the dead. The
story goes on. There is silence everywhere, and appropriately there,
where the four brick corners of the smoke-coloured Cradle rise from the
hollow of Balgay Hill. They waited till the moon shone out again in her
calm, breathless repose; and then resounded from the clanging black
boards of the hearse a terrible din resembling thunder, and already each
man, with his table-cover rolled round him, was snug behind the solemn
head-stones, storied with domestic loves severed by the dark angel.
Now was the time for the trumpet-call, which behoved to be sounded by
the cycloborean lungs of the broad-chested Panmure. The story has no
reason to flag where the stake of the _grimelinage_ is the upraising of
white-robed spirits. The sour-milk horn is sounded as it never was
sounded before on the earth which had passed away; every spirit comes
forth from below the head-stones; and there rose a wail of misery which
nothing but wine could have produced.
"Mercy on our poor souls!"
"Justice," cried Maule. "Stand out there, Bob Thornton, and answer for
the sins done in the body." The story goes on, and it intercalates "fie,
fie, on man." Thornton stands forth shrieking for the said mercy.
"Was not you, sir, last night, of the time of the past world, in the inn
kept by Sandy Morren, in the town called Bonnie Dundee--bonnie in all
save its sin, and its magistracy gone a-begging, and its
hemp-spinners,[*] and the effect of Sandy Riddoch's reign--drinking and
[note *: There is some prevision here which I cannot explain.]
"Then down with you to the pit which has no bottom whatsomever."
And Thornton disappears in the hollow not far from where the brick
"Stand forth, Fletcher Read."
"Weren't you, sir, art and part in confining in yonder dungeon the poor
unfortunate black lady, whereby she was murdered by that villain of an
uncle of yours, Fletcher of Lindertes?"
"Down with you to the pit and the lake of brimstone."
And down he went into the same valley.
"Stand forth, Dudhope."
"Were not you, sir, seen, on the 21st of December of the late dynasty of
time, in the company of one of these denizens of Rougedom in the
Overgate, that disgrace of the last world, for which it has very
properly been burnt up like a scroll of Sandy Riddoch's peculations?"
"Then down to the pit."
And Dudhope--even he the representative of Graham of opprobrious
"You're all (cried Maule) like the Lady of Luss's kain eggs, every one
of which fell through the ring into the tub, and didn't count."
And so on with the rest, till there were no more to go down. Yet the
horn sounded again, for Maule was not so drunk that he did not remember
there were any more to come; but then, had he not been singing in Sandy
Morren's, "Death begone, here's none but souls?" The story goes on. The
horn having sounded, there stood forth a figure that did not belong to
this crowd of sinners. It was a woman dressed in dark clothes, with a
black bonnet, and an umbrella in her hand. How the great God can show
his power over the little god, man! The woman was no other than a Mrs.
Geddes of Lochee, who, having got a little too much at the Scouring
Burn, had, on her way home, slipped into the resting-place of her
husband, who had been buried only a week before, and having got drowsy,
had fallen asleep on the flat stone which covered him. In a half dreamy
state she had seen all this terrible mummery--no mummery to her; for she
thought it real: and as every one stood forward by name, she often said
to herself, "When will it be Johnnie's turn, poor man? for he was an
awfu' sinner; I fear the pit's owre guid for him." But Johnnie was not
called. And then she expected her own summons--fell agony of a moment of
the expectation of scorching flames to envelope her body, the flesh of
which, as she pinched herself, had feeling and sensibility. Then if
these great men, whose names she had often heard of, and who, as having
white robes, and riches, and honours, might have expected to get to
heaven, and yet didn't, what was to become of her, who had only dark
garments, and who had been drinking that night at the Scouring Burn?
There was no great wonder that Mrs. Geddes was distressed, yea
miserable; and when she heard the horn sounded and no one went
forward--Johnnie was of course afraid, and was concealing himself--she
stood up with her umbrella in her hand. And Maule, now getting terrified
through the haze of his drunkenness, cried out, "Who are you?"
"Mrs. Geddes, Johnnie Geddes's wife, o' the village o' Lochee, just twa
miles frae that sink o' sin, Bonnie Dundee. I hae been a great sinner. I
kept company wi' Sandy Simpson when Johnnie was living, and came here to
greet owre his grave."
"A woman!" cried Maule; "then to heaven as fast as your wings will carry
And this man, who braved God, shook with terror before a weak woman; and
so did all these brave bacchanals, who, on hearing the horn when no more
remained to be condemned, thought their false God had called them, and
had returned to witness the object of their new-born fear. Hurrying into
the hearse, the party were in a few minutes posting to Dundee in solemn
silence, where they arrived about two o'clock, not to resume their
orgies, but to separate each for his home, with the elements in him of a
sense of retribution, not forgotten for many a day. At the long run the
story finishes, and the chronicler, lifting up his hands to heaven,
cries, "Is there no end, Lord, is there no end to the profanity of man?
Lord, why stayeth the hand of vengeance?"
If guidman Aminadab had known these things--which he couldn't do,
because, like Sir James Colquhoun's last day (of the session), which he
wanted the judges to abolish, this last day (of the world) happened
after the said Aminadab was in the habit of seeking Mrs. M'Pherson's
parlour--he would have had greater deductions from his pleasure; for
Aminadab read his Bible, and belonged to the first Secession. And so it
was better he didn't, especially on that night when Mrs. M'Pherson had
been so extraordinarily condescending to her henchman as to set before
him a fine piece of pork, in recognition of his adherence to the
resolution of leaving the flesh-pots of Egypt--the old Church. It was a
dark night in January. There was a cheerful fire in the neat parlour,
and Janet was communicative, if not chatty, in good English, got in
George's kitchen at Kew.
"I would like all this better," said Aminadab, "if I had not that
churchyard to come through; and then there's that fearful-looking Cradle
in the hollow, with four lums like the stumpt posts of a child's
rocking-bed. What is it, Janet?--it's not a cow-house, nor a henhouse,
but a pure dungeon, fearful to free men, who might shudder to be
confined in it."
"What more?" said Janet. "Do you know anything more, Aminadab?"
"Yes; but I am eating Logie's pork, and don't like to say much."
"Never mind the pork, man; speak out. Do the folks down in the town say
anything, or shake their heads, or point their fingers?"
"Well, they say there's a human being confined in it," replied Aminadab.
"And so they may, for sounds have been heard coming from the dark
hole--ay, and I have heard them myself--deep moans and weeping. I would
like to know if there's a secret."
"Hush, hush, Aminadab. There is a secret, and you're the only man I
would speak of it to."
And Mrs. McPherson rose solemnly and locked the door upon herself and
"You know, Aminadab, that my master came from Bombay some years ago, and
brought home with him a black wife. Dear, good soul--so kind, so timid,
so cheerful too; but, Heaven help me, what could I do?--for you know Mr.
Fletcher is a terrible man. He does not fear the face of clay; and the
scowl upon his face when he is in his moods is terrible. I am bound to
"But what of her?" said Aminadab. "It's no surely she who is in the
"Never you mind that, but eat your bacon, you fool for stopping me. When
I'm stopped, I seldom begin again for a day and night at least."
"Something like your master, Janet."
"No, Aminadab; I have _a heart_, lad."
"That I know, Janet," said Aminadab, with a lump of pork in his mouth;
"And the easier swallowed," said she
"I meant your heart, Mrs. McPherson.
"And I must swallow that too, as it seems to come up my throat and choke
me, even as the pork seems to do you. Take time, Aminadab. There's no
hurry, man. Ah well, then, we have it all among the servants how Mr.
Fletcher got my lady. He was a great man in Bombay--governor, I think,
or something near that--and my lady was the only daughter of the Nawab
or Nabob of some kingdom near Bombay--I forget the strange Indian name.
She was the very petted child of her father; and when Mr. Fletcher saw
her, she was running about the palace like a wild, playful creature--I
may say, our bonny little roes of the Highland hills, or maybe another
creature she used to speak about, I think they call it gazelle, with
such wonderful eyes for shining, that you cannot look into them no more
you could at the sun. For, oh, Aminadab! they have strange things in
these places, which are much nearer the sun than we are here in this old
country. But the mighty Nabob was unwilling to give her to the
white-faced lover, even though he was the governor of Bombay, forbye
having Balinsloe and Lindertes in Scotland too. Maybe he thought a
Scotsman could not like a black Indian princess, though she was with her
grand shawls about her, and her jewelled turban, and diamonds and
pearls, and all that; and maybe, Aminadab, he thought"--and here Janet
lowered her husky voice--"that it was just for these fine things he
wanted her, rich though he was himself. Yet, strange enough too, the
Nabob had promised the man who should marry his daughter the weight of
herself in fine Indian gold, weighed in a balance, as her tocher. Heard
ye ever the like of a tocher, man?"
"That would depend upon her size and weight, Janet, lass. Now, had you a
tocher like that, it would be a gey business, I think,--fourteen
potato-stones at the very least, I would say, eh?"--and he must get quit
of the mouthful before he could finish--"Eh, Janet?"
"And if you go on at that rate with my pork, you will not, by-and-by, be
much behind me. But, guid faith, Aminadab, I'm not ashamed, lad, of my
size. A poor, smoke-dried, shrivelled cook shames her guid savoury
dishes, intended to fatten mankind and make them jolly. But you are
right about the offer of the Nabob. The creature was small, and light,
and lithe, and could not weigh much. But then, think of the jewels!
These did not depend upon her weight, but upon their own light. Oh, what
diamonds, and rubies, and pearls as big as marbles! I have looked at
them till my eyes reeled with the light of them; and no wonder, when I
have heard them valued at a hundred thousand guineas--and to think of
all that being held in a little box! There is one necklace worth fifteen
"And yet a small neck, too, maybe?--'And thou shalt make a necklace to
fit her neck,' said the Lord. It would not be half the girth of yours,
"Ay, Aminadab; not a half, nor anything like it. But don't stop me
again, lad, or I'll stop the pork. (A pause.) Ah, well, I fear it was
the shining jewels, and not the black face, did the business on my
master's side. And, of course, he would be all smiles at the Nabob's
court; for, Aminadab, my lad, there never was on the face of God's earth
a man who could so soon change the horrid dark scowl into the very light
of sunshine as Mr. Fletcher. I have seen him, when in company with
Kincaldrum, and Dudhope, and Gleneagles, and the rest, laughing till his
face was as red as the sun, then, all of a sudden, when some of his
moods came over him, turn just like a fiend new come out of--oh, I'll
just say it out, Aminadab, though ye be of the Seceders--just hell,
"But, good mother Janet--"
"Mother your own mother, man, till you be a father, Aminadab. Have I not
told you to let me go on? There's no honour in a mother: that sow you
are eating was the mother six times of thirteen at each litter; and I
think that's about seventy-eight. Mother, forsooth! Ay, and yet you'll
see a beggar wretch, clad in tanterwallops--rags is owre guid a
word--coming to Logie door, and looking as if she had the right to
demand meal from me, merely because she has two at her feet and one in
her arms. Such honourable gaberlunzies get no meal from me. My master
was keen for the match; but the Nabob was shy of the white face. And
here's a curious thing--I got it from my lady herself. She said the
Nabob, her papa, as she called him--for, just like us here, they have
kindly words and real human feelings--made a bargain with my master,
that if he took her away out of India to where the big woman they call
the Company lives, he would be kind to her, and '_treat her as he would
do a child which is rocked in a cradle_.'"
"Better than Naomi's wish," said Aminadab; "'And the Lord grant ye find
rest in the house of thy husband.'"
"That bargain they made him sign with blood drawn just right over his
heart; and the Nabob signed, too, for the weight of gold and the jewels.
Then came the marriage. Such a day had not been witnessed in Bombay for
years, if ever, when a great son of the big woman was to be married to
the daughter of a Nawab. All the great men of Bombay, and the rich
Parsees, she called them, were at the king's court, and the little
princes round about for hundreds of miles, and all the ministers of
Indian state,--for you must know that the marriage was in the English
fashion, as the Nawab thought he could bind the bridegroom best in that
way. Then the grand feast, and such dancing, and deray, and firing of
cannons, and waving of flags, was never seen!"
"'And all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang
"Just so, guid auld Burgher lad," rejoined Mrs. M'Pherson.
"They had only been a few months married, when Mr. Fletcher's health
having failed him,--and surely his liver is rotten to this day, if not
his heart too,--he came home with his wife, and bought this bonnie
place. She brought with her a squalling half-and-half thing,--there he's
at the door this moment." By-and-by, "My little prince (she cried), go
to Aditi--Ady, we call her--that's the black ayah my lady brought home
"That will be another wife, I fancy," said Aminadab. "They have all two
or three wives in the East, haven't they? Guid faith, ane's mair than
eneugh here, if the Nawab's daughter's in her cradle."
"No, no, no, ye fool."
"'And I shall cut off the multitude of No,' Ezekiel thirtieth, fifteen."
"An ayah is a servant; and Ady's a good black soul as ever foolishly
washed her face when there's no occasion for the trouble. And yet these
black creatures are for ever washing themselves. They wash before
breakfast and after breakfast, before dinner and after dinner, before
supper and after supper, but the never a bit whiter they are that ever I
"Yea, they might save themselves a great deal of trouble," said
"But they won't," rejoined Janet. "We have been tortured with their
washings. Sometimes, when angry, I say to Ady, Can't you go down to the
"'And wash thyself in the brook Cherith, which is before Jordan.'"
"But she says it's Brahma that bids her--that's their biggest god; and
this Brahma is a trouble to us too. It seems he is everywhere; and Ady
seeks him on Balgay Hill and in the churchyard o' nights, when the
moon's out; thereafter coming in with those eyes of hers like flaming
coals, darting them on us, who don't believe in Brahma, as if we were
the real heathens, and not she and her mistress."
"'And thou shalt not erect a temple to Dagon, but cut him down to the
stumps,'" said Amimadab.
"Hush, hush, man. Our servants are all in terror. They say that Ady is
right, for that they have seen him in about the skirts of Balgay woods,
and down in the hollow of the ravine, moving about like a spirit of
darkness, with something white round his head, and a wide cloak wrapped
Aminadab had just taken up a large tankard of ale, wherewith he intended
to make a clean sweep of his hearty supper down his throat; but he
paused, laid down the tankard, turned pale, shook, and looked wistfully
into the face of his chieftainess. Nor did he speak a word, because some
idea had probably magnetized his tongue at the wrong end, and the other
would not move.
"Ady says, and so do the servants, that he has no shadow; and we should
think he shouldn't, because our ghosts hereaway have none that ever I
heard of. But that's a lie of their foolish religion; for I could swear
I one night saw his shadow flit like that of a sun-dial, when the sun's
in a hurry to get the curtains round his head, away past the east end of
the house, and disappear in a moment. But I'll tell you what, Aminadab,
he may, like our spirits, be a shadow himself. I could hardly speak for
fear, though five minutes before I had as good a tankard of that
Logie-brewed as you have before you; but I got my tongue through the ale
at the other end o't, and cried out with Zechariah, wherein I was
something like you, Aminadab, 'Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the
land of the north.'"
"That would stump his Dagonship," said Aminadab, with an effort to be
cheerful in spite of the foresaid idea, whatever it was. "Ay," he
continued, after drinking off the tankard, and getting courage and wit
at same time, "a line from the Bible is just like a rifle-shot in the
hinder-end of these false gods. They can't stand it nohow."
"And you've stumpt me," replied the cook, "with the chopping-knife of
your folly, so that I don't know where to find my legs again. It was a
year after he came to Logie before another half-and-half was born--a boy
too; and then there came a change over Mr. Fletcher's mind. There's
something strange about those English that live long in India. I've
noticed it when I was in London, in George's house; but it's all from
the liver," continued the cook. "First grilled upon the ribs, then
cooled with champagne, then healed up with curry, chiles, and ginger. No
wonder the devil gets into the kitchen, where a dish like that is
waiting him. Then they're so proud and selfish, and fond of themselves
and their worthless lives."
"'Skin for skin, yea, all that they have, will they give for their
lives.' So the devil said of him of Uz."
"But you see it's all in the liver," continued the cook. "Aditi came to
me one day, and said, 'De 'Gyptians in India tink body divided into
sixteen parts, with God to each part! he! he! Janette!' and the black
creature laughed. Then I say, the liver of an Englishman, after he comes
from India, is the devil's part; and so it was with Mr. Fletcher. He
began first to interfere with Kalee's religion. 'Oh, terrible, Janette!'
cried Ady, on another day; 'master cut off head of Kartekeya's peacock,
and smashed de tail of Garoora.' On another day, 'Right eye of elephant
head of Ganeso knocked into de skull.' Another day, this time in tears,
weeping awfully, 'Oh, Janette! tail of holy cow clean snapt over de
"All right," said Aminadab of the first Secession. "'And I will cause
their images to cease out of Noph.'"
"Ay, but I am 'wide,'" continued the cook.
"Three feet and a half across the bosom," said Aminadab, who was still
in his reverie, with the secret idea still exercising a power over him,
even after the tankard of ale.
"Wide in my mind and charities, ye fool, man," continued she, not
disinclined this time to laugh; for she was proud of being jolly in the
person. "I felt for poor Kalee. She wept incessantly at the loss of the
cow's tail, and asked me if I had seen it, nay, implored me like a
worshipper to try to recover it for her. I said, God forgive me, that I
had seen it in the dung-pit, and that George had carted it away. 'And
didn't know de value!' cried Ady. 'Worth de necklace of diamonds;' and
both she and Kalee broke out into such a yell as made the house ring.
Yet with all this, Kalee still loved the gloomy man. She would throw her
jewelled arms about his neck, and hang upon him, with her feet off the
ground, so little, light, and lithe. She was so like a sapling, you
could have bent her any way. And when the love was in her heart, and it
was never absent, she was really bonny. Our eyes hereaway are mere
cinders to these glowing churley bits of flaming sulphur; and then that
strange look of the shining face, just as if she yearned to enter into
his very soul,--ay, as the souls of these black creatures go up and form
a part of Brahma's spirit, that's all over the earth."
"All art," cried Aminadab, getting impatient of Janet's
eloquence--eloquence, I say; for Janet was a superior woman, and, though
a cook, a natural genius. "All art. 'And he made her to use
enchantments, and deal with familiar spirits and wizards,'"
"No, no, man, it was all real nature. But it wasna real nature made him
throw the poor black soul away, whose gold and jewels he had bartered
his white, I should say yellow, rotten-livered body for. Ay, if she had
been a man, I would have liked her better than him; for, as I hate the
skin of an old hen when the fat becomes rancid and golden, so do I hate
a yellow-faced man, with the devil sitting gnawing at his liver."
"The reason the devil's so bitter," said Aminadab.
"Ay, if you were to try a beef-steak off his rump or spare-rib, ye'll
find it more like the absynth I use in the kitchen than the flesh of a
capon or three-year old stot."
"Yea, I would be like unto him who was made to 'suck honey out of the
"The cruel man threw her away from him, just as if her tocher had been
the weight of herself in copper, instead of gold. And oh! it was so
easily done; for the creature was not only, as I have said, light, but
she had such a touchiness when her glancing eye saw that her love was
not returned by him she loved beyond all the earth, that you would have
thought she shrunk all up into a tiny child, couring in the corner of
the big drawing-room, so like a wounded bird."
"Yaw-aw-aw," yawned the Seceder, half asleep. "'And he gave up the ghost
in the room, while he sought his meat to relieve his soul.'"
"Asleep and dreaming," cried Mrs. M'Pherson, who had got into the very
spirit of description. "Away to the Scouring Burn, and never show your
face here again."
But Aminadab soon pacified the wide-souled and wide-bodied cook, who,
being of his own persuasion, really loved the man. Yes, she was a
Seceder from the old faith; and such a Seceder! No wonder there was a
blank among the congregation of mere bodies.
It was now well on to twelve, and Aminadab had that Cradle to pass, and
the kirkyard to get through; all, too, with that idea in his head to
which we have alluded, and which, we may as well tell, was no other than
a vivid recollection of having seen this Brahma on a prior night. He had
discharged the notion at the time as an illusion, though in general he
had little power over his supernatural fears, which were to him not
indeed supernatural, but very natural; so much so, as we have said, that
a mere inanimate and dead, very dead burying-place, had been more than
once the means of cutting him out of a savoury piece of pork, and a good
Logie-brewed tankard. It was the allusion made by Janet that recalled
the suspicion that he had seen "something." Ah, "something!" what a
pregnant vocable--so mysterious, so provocative of curiosity--an
"it!"--of all the words in our language, the most suggestive of a
difference from the real being of flesh and blood, carrying a name got
at the baptismal font, whereby it shall be known and pass current like a
counter. And is it not at best only a counter, yea, a counterfeit? We
are only to each other as signs of things which are not seen; and yet we
laugh when we hear the "it," as if it might not be the very thing of
which we are one of the signs! Is it not thus that we are all humbugged
in this world of ours? For we take the sign for the thing; yea, talk to
the sign, and love it, or hate it, or worship it--all the while being as
ignorant as mules, "ne pictum quidem vidit;" the very sign may be as far
from the reality, as in philosophy we see it every day. And thus, all
wandering and groping in the dark, the blind leading the blind, we
screech like owls at a spark of light from the real fountain beyond
And the owls were more busy than pleasant that night in the deep woods
of Balgay Hill. It was a sign that the moon was not kindly to their
heavy eyes. The scene, as Aminadab issued from the postern, might have
been felt as beautiful, from the very awe which it inspired. But
Aminadab was no lover of Nature, especially if he saw in her recesses
any hiding-places for such beings as Brahma, more mysterious to him from
knowing nothing at all about him, except that he was some Ashtoreth, or
Chemosh, or Milcom, in a new form, let loose from hell, to disturb the
pure souls of Seceders destined for heaven. The full moon fell on the
hollow in the hills, surmounted by the dark woods of Balgay right aface
of him, the house of Logie behind, and the declinations on either side,
in one of which lay the little Golgotha. There, in the midst of the
hollow, stood, grim and desolate, the dark brick-built Cradle, casting
its shadow to the south; the four-corner prominences shooting out like
horns, and so unlike the habitation of a human being, yea, unlike any
composition of brick and lime ever reared by the hand of a genius for
house-making. The shadow lay on the grass like those ghastly
sun-pictures so called, yet more like moon-born things; and then the
solemn silence, only relieved to be deepened by the occasional to-hoo!
was oppressive to him, as if a medium for some footsteps to startle him
into superstition. Yet he was drawn towards the horrid dungeon in spite
of his very self. Janet's story would come at last, he thought, to a
termination which would justify his own suspicions. And even there
before him was evidence in the same direction; for having thrown
himself, as if by an effort, into the shade of the dungeon, he could see
beyond its verge, and by, as it were, looking round the corner, the body
of the dark-faced Aditi. She had, no doubt, come stealthily from the
house, and was postured in an attitude far deeper in humiliation and
adjuration than we practise in our land. Her face was covered by her
hands; for, in truth, she could see nothing through these mere
light-permitting slips of a brick's width, wherewith this horrible hole
was supplied, as if by a relaxation of severity in its last stage of
perfect inhumanity. No, nothing could be seen, but something might be
heard; yea, the most piteous moans that ever burst from an oppressed
heart, and yet so soft, so uncomplaining, as if the sufferer found no
fault with aught in the world but herself. Then Aditi's sounds were
something like responses, rising as the internal sounds rose, and as
they died away--a jabbering wail of an Eastern tongue. Aminadab, blunt
though he was, and fonder of pork than poetry, and of scriptural
quotations--which he had always at his tongue's end for conclaves of
weavers--than impassioned sentiments, rising at the inspiring touch of
this strange world's endless and ever-occurring occasions, was
impressed. He looked over the dark abode, up at the moon, then at the
prostrate Ady, and thought of the distance between that prisoner and the
gay palace where she was brought up, with its paradise of flowers, and
aromas, and singing birds of gold and azure--far away, far away. And
then that blood-written oath--oh, so literally fulfilled and obeyed! But
the thought was evanescent from very fear. Nor was his nervousness
unjustified; for, even as he turned his head, he saw a figure wrapped up
in a dark cloak, and surmounted by a white coil of pure linen, as he
thought, emerging from the clump of thick trees that stood on the north
end of the burying-ground. The figure, having run as it were in fear so
far forward, no sooner saw the projecting head of Aminadab, than it
turned and retreated. At the same instant Ady rose, as if disturbed, and
ran to the house. Yet the moaning did not cease. It seemed interminable;
or, if to be terminated by the absence of Ady, the sufferer did not know
she was gone. And oh, these wails!--Aminadab fled and took them along
with him, nor did they ever leave him.
Even when he went to bed they were fresh upon his ear, claiming
precedence to the vision of his eye; though that, too, asserted its
authority as something miraculous--whether the Eastern mystery itself,
or some tutelary genius brought from heaven by the shriek of man's
cruelty. Nor could he rest for the thought that, humble as he was, he
was surely taken there that he might go to the powers of earth to ask
them to aid the powers of heaven. Why, that Cradle had been built within
the limits of civilisation. Even the mason was known: the bricks were
not Egyptian bricks, nor the mortar foreign, nor the wood a tree from
the heart of Africa; and yet, why was it there--nay, why was the use of
it not inquired into? If Jeshurun had waxed fat and kicked against the
Lord of heaven, was there no lord of earth that could tame this
yellow-livered worshipper of Baal, who yet was received among the chiefs
of Israel to drink the pure juice of the grape, and make a god of his
belly, and to sing obscene songs? Even in that house there was riot and
debauchery upon the spoils of that woman, encaged like a beast, and at
the world's end from her natural protectors.
Yea, our good soul Aminadab became bold. He was privileged, if not
called. But then that Brahma--that incarnation of a power confessed by
millions on millions of people possessed of souls, and therefore
something in God's reckonings! It was no illusion. Twice he had seen the
mysterious being. How did he come hither to the Ultima Thule, as it
were, of the known world? Why did he come just at a juncture when the
daughter of a king of his own favoured people was immured in a dungeon,
and calling for his help? Because he must have known that a spark of the
spirit that belonged to him, and would go back to him, was threatened to
be extinguished by power in a land owing no obedience to him. But didn't
that same moon shine on the children of Brahma as well as on the
children of Christ? and were there no powers in heaven but what we
confessed? How philosophical all this in a Scouring Burn weaver in
hysterics! Yet there are greater men than Aminadab who could not explain
such things. Ah, well; to the honour of poor Aminadab, it was for once
not pork he sought at Logie House. Next night at ten he was in the
parlour; but how did he get there, and Brahma in these very woods?
Aminadab very probably could not have told himself; yet there he was.
"Come again so soon, Aminadab?"
"Ay," replied he. "'Though a man may fall, he may be raised up again.' I
stumbled in front of my friend, but she will not kick me; yea, she will
lift me up."
"Be silent," she said. "You were seen last night near the Cradle, where
no one dare approach. None of the servants go there save me; and even
Ady, if she goes, it is by stealth. Ah, you know something now; but
there's one thing you don't know, and that is, that rich men can pay
watchers to discover those who search into their iniquities."
"Whatever I know," said Aminadab, "I am ignorant of this: why that
dungeon, containing a human being, can keep its place at the distance of
a mile from a town with 30,000 inhabitants."
"But they don't know it, lad. Be you quiet, and pick that leg of a
chicken; that is better than the knowledge that kills. There is not one
of the magistrates would dare to touch a hair on Mr. Fletcher's head,
no, for all that lies in the power of Brahma."
"But why do you keep the secret? 'The steps of a good woman are ordered
by the Lord;' but does He order you to step to the Cradle?"
"I do it for good," said she, "because I can soften griefs that are
unbearable; and cooks have something in their power. But if I were to
say a word to Fletcher, I would be turned away, and another might treat
the prisoner worse."
"But why would not the powers interfere?"
"Because bailies love a dinner and fine wines; and it is easier to wink
than think, and easier to think than get themselves out of trouble by
acting on their thoughts. Will that satisfy you? It is a strange
business; but the world's a strange place, and strange men and women
live therein. Meat and drink and honour are better than wisdom. Look to
your plate, Aminadab. Oh! I wish I knew less; but I saw what was coming
when I saw George Cameron begin to build what he said was to be like a
cradle. Did I not recollect what Kalee told me about the blood-bond? Did
we not all witness the growing gloom gathering day by day over his face?
Then separate beds. Then no more companionship, out or in. The gloom for
ever, and the tears of Kalee for ever and ever, and the terror and
anguish of poor soul Aditi! Ah! yes; but he never struck her, never
upbraided her; and at length she shrunk from him as if from a serpent.
And this he could not bear: it made his dun-yellow black, Aminadab!
Then, when the Cradle was finished, and a truckle and a table and a
chair were put in, he called me to him, and said, with a horrid smile on
his face, 'M'Pherson, you are a Highlander, and staunch to your master.
I am true to my word. Yes, I signed a bond, when I married Kalee, that I
would treat her as a father would a child whom he rocked in a cradle. I
have obeyed. Kalee goes into the Cradle to-night. You are to give her
child's food; but you cannot rock the Cradle. Let the winds which drive
in past Balgay woods do that if they can. My honour is pure. Swear to
"I could not say no, and look on that face. Kalee has been in that
dungeon, fed by me, and has never seen her children for a whole year."
"The vengeance of the Lord hangeth over the wicked by a burnt thread,"
"Yes, who was to know that her own protector, even the great spirit of
her land, was to come here to help her? He was seen last night again! He
wanders about and about--flits hither and thither. He needs no rest--no
food. He is independent of rain, and wind, and thunder, and storms."
"But he does not help her," said Aminadab.
"His time is coming. Kalee is dying."
"Ay, dying. Then Brahma will claim that which is a part of himself, and
then will be the time of his return to his chosen people."
"Horrible!" ejaculated Aminadab. The chicken stood untasted. "Does Mr.
Fletcher know this?"
"Why, to be sure, haven't I told him? But may not a child die in its own
cradle, and the father continue feasting with the lords and the lairds,
drinking and swearing, and debauching, when he knows that his honour is
discharged,--ay, and the blood-bond paid?"
"And the body, when she dies--"
"Will be in Logie burying-ground; ay, and strange people from the East,
a long way beyond where our sun rises, with black faces and bleeding
hearts, will come and bend over the little grave, and weep for the
daughter of their prince. Ah! Aminadab, grief makes a learned woman of
me, a poor servant; but I cannot save Kalee, none can save her now.
Consumption has set in; and bad air, and a rejected love, and a mother's
yearning will do the work. I was with her now with my cruse--all alone
with her; for no one dare approach. She knows she's dying. She asked for
"'Will you not let me see my boys?'
"I shook my head.
"'And will Fletcher not see me before I die, to receive my last kiss?'
"I shook my head.
"'And Aditi, who will return to my father's palace, is she to be kept
from me to the end?'
"I shook my head."
"And will no one watch?" said Aminadab.
"Yes, I will watch all night; but it will be unknown to Fletcher. No one
can speak to him now. He goes hither and thither. He has no rest yet;
the gloom is deeper than ever."
"Horrible mystery!" again ejaculated Aminadab. "But 'the wicked shall
perish; they shall consume into smoke, they shall consume away.'"
Occasions make heroes of very ordinary men; and Aminadab felt that he
could be one of these worthies that night. He soon left after these
words of Janet; but he was now more upon his guard against watchers.
Perhaps Janet had mentioned them to induce him to avoid too minute an
examination where there was danger of another kind; and this rather
encouraged him. The only fault of his heroism was the strange feelings
which arose in his mind when he thought of the Indian spirit. Somehow
this vision could not be got rid of, or analyzed by the small philosophy
he had. As for Fletcher, he viewed him merely as a human monster,--no
uncommon phenomenon at a time when, although there might not be any
greater evil than now, men were more reckless of consequences, more dead
to shame, less under the control of public opinion, probably not less
under the fear of God. He cleared the wicket. It was again a bright
moonlight night. He passed again the Cradle, and was bold enough to
listen again. Alas! the wail was weaker, the bright lamp of these eyes
was fast losing its oil. So he thought; for he could hear only now and
then a very inaudible sob, and occasionally a very weak wail, shrill and
yet low. He could not stay, for Janet would be coming stealthily with
her cruse,--yes, her cruse; for, so far as he could see by the narrow
slips, all was darkness around the dying stranger, in a proud land of
liberty and humanity--the proudest seen on the face of the earth, or
perhaps ever will be seen; yet by-and-by to have more reason to be
proud--by-and-by, when Kalee would be asleep in the bosom of Brahma, her
body only the monument of the shams of that proud land of liberty and
humanity, and the true religion of God's covenant from the beginning.
Retreating quickly, he proceeded over the green hollow, and got into the
skirt of Balgay wood. There he stood patiently, still fearful, but with
the new-born zeal of curiosity and sympathy. By-and-by he saw Janet come
out with her cruse, and walk as lightly as her huge body would permit.
She looked round and round, as if in great fear of Fletcher, probably of
the Indian spirit; for it was clear she had a conviction of the truth of
the real presence of Brahma. All is still; no Fletcher seen, nor watch.
But in about half an hour the dark Aditi came trotting out, clothed in
pure white, looking also fearfully about her; but it was more clear that
she expected some one. Stranger still, she made for the very spot where
Aminadab was watching. He studied her direction to the breadth of a
line, and stepped aside. There was plenty of foliage and some thick
bushes. He threw himself down on the ground, and heard the sighing of
Ady as if almost close to him. By-and-by she was joined by the
mystery--yes, that being who had so long been the terror of Logie House
to all but the master, who knew nothing of him. He was there; but
Aminadab could not see more of him than his head, which was, as usual,
enveloped in the same white cloth. He heard their conversation, of which
not a word could he understand. But oh, that natural language of the
heart, which is the same in all lands, and will be the same in
heaven--those quick utterances, deep sighs, shakings of the frame as if
the beings were convulsed! It seemed to be the last meeting; it was so
eloquent of heart loves, so mysterious in religious aspirations. But
here occurred a strange incident. Even at the distance where they were,
a loud, shrill scream was heard, as if the last of expiring human
nature. How it shook these two, till the very leaves rustled, and the
night-hawks and owls screamed their terrible discord! All was still
again. The male ran, as if moved by the frenzy of a dervish, forward
towards the Cradle; then, as he saw the door half open, retreated.
Aminadab could make nothing of the figure, beyond the conviction that it
was the same he had seen by fitful glimpses before. It was altogether
indescribable, unlike anything he had ever seen or read of. On his
return, Ady met him and caught him in her arms, as if to lead him back
to the wood. Yet he was fitful, anxious, and flighty, as if he knew not
where to go, or what to do. Again the rapid whisperings, so sharp and
intense as sometimes to appear like hissing of strange foreign
creatures. It seemed as if his soul was on fire, and urged him he knew
not whither. At that instant the door of the Cradle opened altogether,
and Janet came out with the light. Ady darted forward like a moonbeam in
the midst of another moonbeam, and seen by its superior whiteness. An
instant served for some communication between her and Janet. Then a
shrill scream from Ady, a running hither and thither on the part of the
male figure, and at length, darting into the wood, he disappeared.
Aminadab now saw Janet go into the house. Was all over? Aminadab could
not tell. Ady still hung round the Cradle. She even circled it like a
hovering ghost. At length she neared the door. The key had been left,
and she entered.
Now was Aminadab's time. He rushed forward, opened the door, and entered
the dungeon. A terrible sight met his eyes--sight! yes; even in the
comparative darkness, there was enough in the small glimmer of moonlight
entering by one of the holes to carry objects to eyes that would have
pierced the deepest gloom. There is said to be no darkness in the world
sufficient to conceal objects entirely; but here there was, in addition
to the attenuated beam, the white dress of Ady, and the bed where Kalee
lay. Janet had described it, and the table and the chair: what more than
the bare walls was there to describe? Nothing. On that bed, covered by a
thin white cloth, lay this Indian princess dead, with Ady hanging over
her, and pulling at her, and offering to her blank eyes, once like
diamonds, a small figure of an Indian god. Then the groans and
suppressed shrieks of the faithful soul, as she still pulled and shook
the corpse, as if she could get from it one last look directed to the
wooden figure. Too late! Kalee had died, not only away from her people,
but away from the gods of her people. All of a sudden the ayah ceased
her endeavours, and directed her eagle eye, suffused with tears, up to
the roof. Quick words followed the look. Aminadab could not understand
them, but the motions and aspirations convinced him that she cried,
"There, there, Brahma; there she goes, to be of thy eternal and infinite
soul, from which she came, and to which she flies."
Then, suddenly, she rushed out of the dungeon. Aminadab looked after
her. She did not go to Logie House, but in the direction of the wood,
whither the indescribable figure had gone. Aminadab heard no more,
scarcely saw more, if it was not the corpse lying before him. He was
afraid of Janet, more of Fletcher, who might now at length come to pass
his eyes over the body in the Cradle, where he was to cherish her as a
father cherisheth his child; yet he would look, and look again. How
shrivelled that face of darkness, yet how calm and loving-like; as if,
even in the midst of the agony of the last hour, it smiled love to her
By-and-by a light again approached. It was Janet with a white sheet.
"You here! Good heavens! Away, away! Fletcher is to look at her; yes, he
is to look at her in the cradle he promised her. Away! no more."
"I saw Brahma," said Aminadab; "yes, true Brahma, Brahma!"
"Fool, fool! Man, I only told you it was Brahma to keep you from the
Cradle for your own safety."
"Then who was the strange being?"
"I dare not tell you that; but I fear Ady's away with him, without hat,
or cloak, or box, or supper."
"Nor that, lad. But I fear you will hear more of this Scotch tragedy
some day. Get you gone; there is Fletcher."
And Fletcher did see her. Some time after the departure of Aminadab he
crossed the green. It seemed that night he had refrained from company,
not through penitence, or any motive that man could divine in the nature
of the man. Strangely-formed beings do things which do not seem to
belong to their natures or to human nature, and it is this that makes
them strange. Before he entered this, not, alas! Domdaniel, he called
Janet to the door. He wanted to be alone. She gave him the cruse; and
with the old gloom upon his face, perhaps he wanted to test his courage.
It could not be that he wanted to look once more on the face of the
mother of his children; nor that he felt now that there had been one in
the world who really did love him, as few women have ever loved. Then
man measures woman's love by his own; but when was man's heart stirred
by nature's strongest passion like that of devoted woman? while now the
world did not contain one heart that was moved to him by anything
stronger than dithyrambic delirium. Who knows? But there was Fletcher
looking on the corpse of his wife, and waving over her face the light of
the small cruse he held in his hand! Was he moved, as he saw the still,
death-bound features, that once could not contain the expression which
the leaping heart, with that burning fire in it of that land of the sun,
tried in vain to force into it; the eye, too, that flashed and leapt as
never is seen in our country of humid fogs, stifling the inborn heat and
blearing the vision; and those arms that entwined him so as the vine
holds the olive in its grasp, as if it would give the juice which fires
and inebriates, for the oil that calms, and fattens, and sustains? All
over that lithe body which enabled her, when he saw her first in the
land of her fathers, to bound and flee as if she had wings, and these
beautiful as the monaul's, ay, and enabled her, too, to play round him