Part 3 out of 4
in that Eastern gaiety which had charmed him, if he ever loved her, and
even for a time made his home like Fairydom! Who shall say there was no
movement in his stern features, no moisture in his eye, no trembling of
the lip, no tremor of the body, as he might have read the last effort of
nature in the expression of calm forgiveness or continued affection? Who
could read _him_?
At midnight, two days after, Kalee slept in Logie kirkyard. There is no
stone to point out the grave of the Indian princess, who lies--as
becomes, too, in our boasted land of liberty, entitled to her boast in
an equality at length, which even pride cannot deny--among the humble
artisans and cottars of Lochee. Did Fletcher Read, on that after day,
when Panmure blew the white iron trump, not expect to see Kalee rise up
and seek judgment on the house of Logie? The blood was hereditary, and
the heart that is fed by the blood, and which impels it.
If it had not been that Aminadab married the portly Janet, we might have
heard no more of the fortunes of this man. But how true Aminadab's
quotation, that God's vengeance never sleeps! Where, in all the scathed
corpses of heaven's lightning, was there ever one that told its tale
like that of Fletcher of Balinsloe, Lindertes, and Logie? He was
recalled to India again.
"Ay, Aminadab, he was forced to go by the Government; but maybe the
Government was only like a thing that is moved by the storm, and cuts in
twain, where its own silly power could do nothing. Before he went, he
married a beautiful little woman,[*] perhaps the most spirited in the
shire, white as Kalee was black, and come, too, of gentle blood. Why did
she marry this man? Had she not heard of the fate of Kalee? Had she not
seen the Cradle (still standing in the hollow of the hill)? No doubt;
but woman will go through worse storms than man's passion to get to the
goal of wealth and honour. Then there is a frenzy in woman, Aminadab.
She is like the boys, who seek danger for its own sake, and will skim on
skates the rim of the black pool that descends from the film of ice down
to the bubbling well of death below. Women have an ambition to tame wild
men; ay, even wild men have a charm for them, which the tame sons of
prudence and industry cannot inspire. So it was: they were married, and
he took her to India."
[note *: Afterwards, as I have heard, the wife of Milne of
Milneford. She lived till nearly a hundred.]
"'So the Lord did lead him; and there was no strange god with them.'"
"Ay, but there was a God _before_ him, lad."
"What mean you, Janet?"
"Do you not recollect of Brahma?"
"Do not mention that strange figure, Janet. My blood runs cold."
"Runs cold, lad, at what? Brahma was just one of the Nawab's great men,
whom he sent over here to watch the fate of his daughter. Why, man, he
lodged next door to you, with Mrs. Lyon at the Scouring Burn."
"The black man the boys used to run after?"
"The very same. He returned with Ady, and was at the court of the Nawab
and told all, ay, and more than we knew--that Fletcher would be obliged
to visit Bombay again ere long after. He had got this from some of the
authorities in England. For many a day did the prince weep for his
Kalee; for many a day did he watch for the murderer's arrival, ay, as a
tiger of his jungles watches in the night with fiery eyes for a beast
even more cruel than himself. He had even all the coast of Coromandel, I
think they call it, to give intelligence of the vessel. The very name of
the vessel was known; the very paint of its sides, and the flag it
bore--so well had he kept up his knowledge of what was going on in
"Wonderful!" cried Aminadab. "'And the fowler that did slay, falleth
into his own net.'"
"And a terrible net, with meshes of sharp steel to hold and cut."
"Ah!" cried Aminadab, as he rubbed his hands, and chuckled like a big
boy who sees the porridge boiling.
"You may well be anxious, lad; but you'll have more than you want."
"No, unless he is put into a fiery pit and burnt to a cinder, or into a
den of tigers, or a nest of hooded snakes, or--"
"Peace, lad; better than all. But surely we are forgetting that we are
Christians, that we have seen the new light of grace, Aminadab."
"Ay, true. Mercy pertaineth to the Lord. We belong to the furnace which
trieth gold; not to the refining-pot of the Old Church, which is for
"Ah, well! God's judgment was soon executed. The ship was recognised and
hailed long before she arrived at Bombay. A crowd of black devils
boarded her, seized Fletcher, and dragged him on shore. Not an instant
was lost. Trial was a laughter. They danced round in joy, making the
very Brahma hear their orgies. Four horses, ropes, victim between two
and two, whip, yell, and Fletcher is in four quarters.
"Nor did they end here. They had forgotten the white wife. She
too--justice demanded it. They did not ask why; but the sailors had
suspected what was going on; and when they saw the devils coming back,
they put Mrs. Fletcher into a big basket, and hoisted her to the
top-mast. The poor woman could see from that height the mangled remains
of her husband; but she was an extraordinary woman. She kept her place
composedly as she heard the yells of the demons. They could not find
her, and went away like wild animals deprived of their bloody prey. The
ship went on. Mrs. Fletcher returned safe to Scotland, where she was
known as the heroine who had gone through so much for the love of a
The story of Fletcher has died away in Angus; but at one time it was in
every mouth, and many a head was shaken as the Sunday loiterers from
Dundee and Lochee passed by the Cradle in their walks on Balgay Hill. I
have heard that it was demolished as a disgrace to Scotland somewhere
about 1810 or 1812. The hollow where the ruins stood is quite visible
yet, and the old circumambulating ghost, which, by-the-bye, has
unfortunately a white face, is not yet laid.
THE DEATH OF THE CHEVALIER DE LA BEAUTE.
It was near midnight, on the 12th of October 1516, when a horseman,
spurring his jaded steed, rode furiously down the path leading to the
strong tower of Wedderburn. He alighted at the gate, and knocked loudly
"What would ye?" inquired the warder from the turret.
"Conduct me to your chief," was the laconic reply of the breathless
"Is your message so urgent that ye must deliver it to-night?" continued
the warder, who feared to kindle the fiery temper of his master, by
disturbing him with a trifling errand.
"Urgent, babbler!" replied the other, impatiently; "to-day the best
blood of the Homes has been lapped by dogs upon the street; and I have
The warder aroused the domestics in the tower, and the stranger entered.
He was conducted into a long, gloomy apartment, dimly lighted by a
solitary lamp. Around him hung rude portraits of the chiefs of
Wedderburn, and on the walls were suspended their arms and the spoils of
their victories. The solitary apartment seemed like the tomb of war.
Every weapon around him had been rusted with the blood of Scotland's
enemies. It was a fitting theatre for the recital of a tale of death. He
had gazed around for a few minutes, when heavy footsteps were heard
treading along the dreary passages, and the next moment Sir David Home
entered, armed as for the field.
"Your errand, stranger?" said the young chief of Wedderburn, fixing a
searching glance upon him as he spoke.
The stranger bowed, and replied, "The Regent"------
"Ay!" interrupted Home, "the enemy of our house, the creature of our
hands, whom we lifted from exile to sovereignty, and who now with his
minions tracks our path like a bloodhound! What of this gracious Regent?
Are ye, too, one of his myrmidons, and seek ye to strike the lion in his
"Nay," answered the other; "but from childhood the faithful retainer of
your murdered kinsman."
"My murdered kinsman!" exclaimed Wedderburn, grasping the arm of the
other. "What! more blood! more! What mean ye, stranger?"
"That, to gratify the revenge of the Regent Albany," replied the other,
"my lord Home and your kinsman William have been betrayed and murdered.
Calumny has blasted their honour. Twelve hours ago I beheld their heads
tossed like footballs by the foot of the common executioner, and
afterwards fixed over the porch of the Nether Bow, for the execration
and indignities of the slaves of Albany. All day the blood of the Homes
has dropped upon the pavement, where the mechanic and the clown pass
over and tread on it."
"Hold!" cried Home, and the dreary hall echoed with his voice. "No
more!" he continued; and he paced hurriedly for a few minutes across the
apartment, casting a rapid glance upon the portraits of his ancestors.
"By heavens! they chide me," he exclaimed, "that my sword sleeps in the
scabbard, while the enemies of the house of Home triumph." He drew his
sword, and approaching the picture of his father, he pressed the weapon
to his lips, and continued, "By the soul of my ancestors, I swear upon
this blade, that the proud Albany and his creatures shall feel that one
Home still lives!" He dashed the weapon back into its sheath, and
approaching the stranger, drew him towards the lamp, and said, "Ye are
Trotter, who was my cousin's henchman, are ye not?"
"The same," replied the messenger.
"And ye come to rouse me to revenge?" added Sir David. "Ye shall have
it, man--revenge that shall make the Regent weep--revenge that the four
corners of the earth shall hear of, and history record. Ye come to
remind me that my father and my brother fell on the field of Flodden, in
defence of a foolish king, and that I, too, bled there--that there also
lie the bones of my kinsman, Cuthbert of Fastcastle, of my brother
Cockburn and his son, and the father and brother of my Alison. Ye come
to remind me of this; and that, as a reward for the shedding of our
blood, the head of the chief of our house has been fixed upon the gate
of Edinburgh as food for the carrion crow and the night owl! Go, get
thee refreshment, Trotter; then go to rest, and dream of other heads
exalted, as your late master's is, and I will be the interpreter of your
Trotter bowed and withdrew, and Lady Alison entered the apartment.
"Ye are agitated, husband," said the gentle lady, laying her hand upon
his; "hath the man brought evil tidings?"
"Can good tidings come to a Home," answered Sir David, "while the tyrant
Albany rides rough-shod over the nobility of Scotland, and, like a
viper, stings the bosom that nursed him? Away to thy chamber, Alison;
leave me, it is no tale for woman's ears."
"Nay, if you love me, tell me," she replied, laying her hand upon his
brow, "for since your return from the field of Flodden, I have not seen
you look thus."
"This is no time to talk of love, Aley," added he. "But come, leave me,
silly one, it concerns not thee; no evil hath overtaken the house of
Blackadder, but the Homes have become a mark for the arrows of
desolation, and their necks a footstool for tyrants. Away, Alison;
to-night I can think of but one word, and that is--vengeance!"
Lady Alison wept, and withdrew in silence; and Wedderburn paced the
floor of the gloomy hall, meditating in what manner he should most
effectually resent the death of his kinsman.
It was only a few weeks after the execution of the Earl of Home and his
brother, that the Regent Albany offered an additional insult to his
family by appointing Sir Anthony D'Arcy warden of the east marches, an
office which the Homes had held for ages. D'Arcy was a Frenchman, and
the favourite of the Regent; and, on account of the comeliness of his
person, obtained the appellation of the _Sieur de la Beaute_. The
indignation of Wedderburn had not slumbered, and the conferring the
honours and the power that had hitherto been held by his family upon a
foreigner, incensed him to almost madness. For a time, however, no
opportunity offered of causing his resentment to be felt; for D'Arcy was
as much admired for the discretion and justice of his government as for
the beauty of his person. To his care the Regent had committed young
Cockburn, the heir of Langton, who was the nephew of Wedderburn. This
the Homes felt as a new indignity, and, together with the Cockburns,
they forcibly ejected from Langton Castle the tutors whom D'Arcy had
placed over their kinsman. The tidings of this event were brought to the
Chevalier while he was holding a court at Kelso; and immediately
summoning together his French retainers and a body of yeomen, he
proceeded with a gay and a gallant company by way of Fogo to Langton.
His troop drew up in front of the castle, and their gay plumes and
burnished trappings glittered in the sun. The proud steed of the
Frenchman was covered with a panoply of gold and silver, and he himself
was decorated as for a bridal. He rode haughtily to the gate, and
demanded the inmates of the castle to surrender.
"Surrender! boasting Gaul!" replied William Cockburn, the uncle of the
young laird; "that is a word the men of Merse have yet to learn. But
yonder comes my brother Wedderburn; speak it to him."
D'Arcy turned round, and beheld Sir David Home and a party of horsemen
bearing down upon them at full speed. The Chevalier drew back, and
waiting their approach, placed himself at the head of his company.
"By the mass! Sir Warden," said Sir David, riding up to D'Arcy, "and ye
have brought a goodly company to visit my nephew. Come ye in peace, or
what may be your errand?"
"I wish peace," replied the Chevalier, "and come to enforce the
establishment of my rights; why do you interfere between me and my
"Does a Frenchman talk of his rights upon the lands of Home?" returned
Sir David; "or by whose authority is my nephew your ward?"
"By the authority of the Regent, rebel Scot!" retorted D'Arcy.
"By the authority of the Regent!" interrupted Wedderburn; "dare ye,
foreign minion, speak of the authority of the murderer of the Earl of
Home, while within the reach of the sword of his kinsman?"
"Ay! and in his teeth dare tell him," replied the Chevalier, "that the
Home now before me is not less a traitor than he who proved false to his
sovereign on the field of Flodden, who conspired against the Regent, and
whose head now adorns the port of Edinburgh."
"Wretch!" exclaimed the henchman Trotter, dashing forward, and raising
his sword, "said ye that my master proved false at Flodden?"
"Hold!" exclaimed Wedderburn, grasping his arm. "Gramercy, ye
uncivilised dog! for the sake of your master's head would ye lift your
hand against that face which ladies die to look upon? Pardon me, most
beautiful Chevalier! the salutation of my servant may be too rough for
your French palate, but you and your master treated my kinsman somewhat
more roughly. What say ye, Sir Warden? do ye depart in peace, or wish ye
that we should try the temper of our Border steel upon your French
"Depart ye in peace, vain boaster," replied D'Arcy, "lest a worse thing
"Then on, my merry men!" cried Wedderburn, "and to-day the head of the
Regent's favourite, the Chevalier of Beauty, for the head of the Earl of
"The house of Home and revenge!" shouted his followers, and rushed upon
the armed band of D'Arcy. At first the numbers were nearly equal, and
the contest was terrible. Each man fought hand to hand, and the ground
was contested inch by inch. The gilded ornaments of the French horses
were covered with blood, and their movements were encumbered by their
weight. The sword of Wedderburn had already smitten three of the
Chevalier's followers to the ground, and the two chiefs now contended in
single combat. D'Arcy fought with the fury of despair, but Home
continued to bear upon him as a tiger that has been robbed of its cubs.
Every moment the force of the Chevalier was thinned, and every instant
the number of his enemies increased, as the neighbouring peasantry
rallied round the standard of their chief. Finding the most faithful of
his followers stretched upon the earth, D'Arcy sought safety in flight.
Dashing his silver spurs into the sides of his noble steed, he turned
his back upon his desperate enemy, and rushed along in the direction of
Pouterleiny, and through Dunse, with the hope of gaining the road to
Dunbar, of which town he was governor. Fiercely Wedderburn followed at
his heels, with his naked sword uplifted, and ready to strike;
immediately behind him rode Trotter, the henchman of the late earl, and
another of Home's followers named Dickson. It was a fearful sight as
they rushed through Dunse, their horses striking fire from their heels
in the light of the very sunbeams, and the sword of the pursuer within a
few feet of the fugitive. Still the Chevalier rode furiously, urging on
the gallant animal that bore him, which seemed conscious that the life
of its rider depended upon its speed. His flaxen locks waived behind him
in the wind, and the voice of his pursuers ever and anon fell upon his
ear, like a dagger of death thrust into his bosom. The horse upon which
Wedderburn rode had been wounded in the conflict, and, as they drew near
Broomhouse, its speed slackened, and his followers, Trotter and Dickson,
took the lead in the pursuit. The Chevalier had reached a spot on the
right bank of the Whitadder, which is now in a field of the farm of
Swallowdean, when his noble steed, becoming entangled with its cumbrous
trappings, stumbled, and hurled its rider to the earth. The next moment
the swords of Trotter and Dickson were through the body of the
"Off with his head!" exclaimed Wedderburn, who at the same instant
reached the spot. The bloody mandate was readily obeyed; and Home,
taking the bleeding head in his hand, cut off the flaxen tresses, and
tied them as a trophy to his saddle-bow. The body of the _Chevalier de
la Beaute_ was rudely buried on the spot where he fell. A humble stone
marks out the scene of the tragedy, and the people in the neighbourhood
yet call it "_Bawty's Grave_." The head of the Chevalier was carried to
Dunse, where it was fixed upon a spear at the cross, and Wedderburn
exclaimed, "Thus be exalted the enemies of the house of Home!"
The bloody relic was then borne in triumph to Home Castle, and placed
upon the battlements. "There," said Sir David, "let the Regent climb
when he returns from France for the head of his favourite; it is thus
that Home of Wedderburn revenges the murder of his kindred."
THE STORY OF THE PELICAN.
Though not so much a tradition as a memory still fresh probably in the
minds of some of the good old Edinburgh folks, we here offer, chiefly
for the benefit of our young female readers who are fond of a story
wherein little heroines figure, as in Beranger's _Sylphide_, an account
of a very famous adventure of a certain little Jeannie Deans in our
city--the more like the elder Jeannie, inasmuch as they both were
concerned in a loving effort to save the life of a sister. Whereunto, as
a very necessary introduction, it behoves us to set forth that there
was, some sixty years ago, more or less, a certain Mr. William Maconie,
who was a merchant on the South Bridge of Edinburgh, but who, for the
sake of exercise and fresh air--a commodity this last he need not have
gone so far from the Calton Hill to seek--resided at Juniper Green, a
little village three or four miles from St. Giles's. Nor did this
distance incommode him much, seeing that he had the attraction to
quicken his steps homewards of a pretty young wife and two little twin
daughters, Mary and Annie, as like each other as two rosebuds partially
opened, and as like their mother, too, as the objects of our simile are
to themselves when full blown.
Peculiar in this respect of having twins at the outset, and sisters
too--a good beginning of a contract to perpetuate the species--Mr.
Maconie was destined to be even more so, inasmuch as there came no more
of these pleasant _deliciae domi_, at least up to the time of our curious
story--a circumstance the more to be regretted by the father, in
consequence of a strange fancy (never told to his wife) that possessed
him of wishing to insure the lives of his children as they came into the
world, or at least after they had got through the rather uninsurable
period of mere infant life. And in execution of this fancy--a very fair
and reasonable one, and not uncommon at that time, whatever it may be
now, when people are not so provident--he had got an insurance to the
extent of five hundred pounds effected in the Pelican Office--perhaps
the most famous at that time--on the lives of the said twins, Mary and
Annie, who were, no doubt, altogether unconscious of the importance they
were thus made to hold in the world.
Yet, unfortunately for the far-seeing and provident father, this scheme
threatened to fructify sooner than he wished, if indeed it could ever
have fructified to his satisfaction; for the grisly spectre of typhus
laid his relentless hand upon Mary when she--and of a consequence
Annie--was somewhere about eight years old. And surely, being as we are
very hopeful optimists in the cause of human nature, we need not say
that the father, as he and his wife watched the suffering invalid on
through the weary days and nights of the progress towards the crisis of
that dangerous ailment, never once thought of the Pelican, except as a
bird that feeds its young with the warm blood of its breast. But,
sorrowful as they were, their grief was nothing in comparison with the
distress of little Annie, who slipped about listening and making all
manner of anxious inquiries about her sick sister, whom she was
prohibited from seeing for fear of her being touched by the said
spectre; nor was her heart the less troubled with fears for her life,
that all things seemed so quiet and mysterious about the house--the
doctor coming and going, and the father and mother whispering to each
other, but never to her, and their faces so sad-like and mournful, in
place of being, as was their wont, so cheerful and happy.
And surely all this solicitude on the part of Annie Maconie need not
excite our wonder, when we consider that, from the time of their birth,
the twin sisters had never been separated, but that, from the moment
they had made their entrance on this world's stage, they had been always
each where the other was, and had run each where the other ran, wished
each what the other wished, and wept and laughed each when the other
wept or laughed. Nature indeed, before it came into her fickle head to
make two of them, had in all probability intended these little
sisters--"little cherries on one stalk"--to be but one; and they could
only be said not to be _one_, because of their bodies being two--a
circumstance of no great importance, for, in spite of the duality of
body, the spirit that animated them was a unity, and as we know from an
old philosopher called Plato, the spirit is really the human creature,
the flesh and bones constituting the body being nothing more than a mere
husk intended at the end to feed worms. And then the mother helped this
sameness by dressing them so like each other, as if she wanted to make a
_Comedy of Errors_ out of the two little female Dromios.
But in the middle of this mystery and solicitude, it happened that Annie
was to get some light; for, at breakfast one morning--not yet that of
the expected crisis--when her father and mother were talking earnestly
in an undertone to each other, all unaware that the child, as she was
moving about, was watching their words and looks, much as an older
victim of credulity may be supposed to hang on the cabbalistic movements
and incantations of a sibyl, the attentive little listener eagerly drank
in every word of the following conversation:--
"The doctor is so doubtful," said the anxious mother, with a tear in her
eye, "that I have scarcely any hope; and if she is taken away, the very
look of Annie, left alone 'bleating for her sister lamb,' will break my
"Yes," rejoined Mr. Maconie, "it would be hard to bear; but"--and it was
the first time since Mary's illness he had ever remembered the
insurance--"it was wise that I insured poor Mary's life in the Pelican."
"Insured her life in the Pelican!" echoed the wife in a higher tone.
"That was at least lucky; but, oh! I hope we will not need to have our
grief solaced by that comfort in affliction for many a day."
And this colloquy had scarcely been finished when the doctor entered,
having gone previously into the invalid's room, with a very mournful
expression upon his face; nor did his words make that expression any
more bearable, as he said--
"I am sorry to say I do not like Mary's appearance so well to-day. I
fear it is to be one of those cases where we cannot discover anything
like a crisis at all; indeed I have doubts about this old theory being
applicable to this kind of fever, where the virus goes on gradually
working to the end."
"The end!" echoed Mrs. Maconie; "then, doctor, I fear you see what that
"I would not like to say," added he; "but I fear you must make up your
mind for the worst."
Now, all this was overheard by Annie, who, we may here seize the
opportunity of saying, was, in addition to being a sensitive creature,
one of those precocious little philosophers thinly spread in the female
world, and made what they are often by delicate health, which reduces
them to a habit of thinking much before their time. Not that she wanted
the vivacity of her age, but that it was tempered by periods of serious
musing, when all kinds of what the Scotch call "auld farrant" (far yont)
thoughts come to be where they should not be, the consequence being a
weird-like kind of wisdom, very like that of the aged; so the effect on
a creature so constituted was just equal to the cause. Annie ran out of
the room with her face concealed in her hands, and got into a small
bedroom darkened by the window-blind, and there, in an obscurity and
solitude suited to her mind and feelings, she resigned herself to the
grief of the young heart. It was now clear to her that her dear Mary was
to be taken from her; had not the doctor said as much? And then she had
never seen death, of which she had read and heard and thought so much,
that she looked upon it as a thing altogether mysterious and terrible.
But had she not overheard her father say that he had insured poor dear
Mary's life with the Pelican? and had she not heard of the pelican--yea,
the pelican of the wilderness--as a creature of a most mythical kind,
though she knew not aught of its nature, whether bird or beast, or man
or woman, or angel? But whatever it might be, certain it was that her
father would never have got this wonderful creature to insure Mary's
life if it was not possessed of the power to bring about so great a
result. So she cogitated and mused and philosophized in her small way,
till she came to the conclusion that the pelican not only had the
destiny of Mary in its hands, but was under an obligation to save her
from that death which was so terrible to her. Nor had she done yet with
the all-important subject; for all at once it came into her head as a
faint memory, that one day, when her father was taking her along with
her mother through the city, he pointed to a gilded sign, with a large
bird represented thereon, tearing its breast with its long beak, and
letting out the blood to its young, who were holding their mouths open
to drink it in. "There," said he, "is the Pelican;" words she remembered
even to that hour, for they were imprinted upon her mind by the
formidable appearance of the wonderful-looking creature feeding its
young with the very blood of its bosom. But withal she had sense enough
to know--being, as we have said, a small philosopher--that a mere bird,
however endowed with the power of sustaining the lives of its offspring,
could not save that of her sister, and therefore it behoved to be only
the symbol of some power within the office over the door of which the
said sign was suspended. Nor in all this was Annie Maconie more
extravagant than are nineteen-twentieths of the thousand millions in the
world who still cling to occult causes.
And with those there came other equally strange thoughts; but beyond all
she could not for the very life of her comprehend that most inexcusable
apathy of her father, who, though he had heard with his own ears, from
good authority, that her beloved Mary was lying in the next bedroom
dying, never seemed to think of hurrying away to town--even to that very
Pelican who had so generously undertaken to insure Mary's life. It was
an apathy unbecoming a father; and the blood of her little heart warmed
with indignation at the very time that the said heart was down in sorrow
as far as its loose strings would enable it to go. But was there no
remedy? To be sure there was, and Annie knew, moreover, what it was; but
then it was to be got only by a sacrifice, and that sacrifice she also
knew, though it must of necessity be kept in the meantime as secret as
the wonderful doings in the death-chamber of the palace of a certain
Great thoughts these for so little a woman as Annie Maconie; and no
doubt the greatness and the weight of them were the cause why, for all
that day--every hour of which her father was allowing to pass--she was
more melancholy and thoughtful than she had ever been since Mary began
to be ill. But, somehow, there was a peculiar change which even her
mother could observe in her; for while she had been in the habit of
weeping for her sister, yea, and sobbing very piteously, she was all
this day apparently in a reverie. Nor even up to the time of her going
to bed was she less thoughtful and abstracted, even as if she had been
engaged in solving some problem great to her, however small it might
seem to grown-up infants. As for sleeping under the weight of so much
responsibility, it might seem to be out of the question; and so, verily,
it was; for her little body, acted on by the big thoughts, was moved
from one side to another all night, so that she never slept a wink,
still thinking and thinking, in her unutterable grief, of poor Mary, her
father's criminal passiveness, and that most occult remedy which so
completely engrossed her mind.
But certainly it was the light of morning for which sister Annie sighed;
and when it came glinting in at the small window, she was up and
beginning to dress, all the while listening lest the servant or any
other one in the house should know she was up at that hour. Having
completed her toilet, she slipped down stairs, and having got to the
lobby, she was provident enough to lay hold of an umbrella, for she
suspected the elements as being in league against her. Thus equipped,
she crept out by the back door, and having got thus free, she hurried
along, never looking behind her till she came to the main road to
Edinburgh, when she mounted the umbrella--one used by her father, and so
large that it was more like a main-sheet than a covering suitable to so
small a personage; so it behoved, that if she met any other "travellers
on purpose bent," the moving body must have appeared to be some small
tent on its way to a fair, carried by the proprietor thereof, of whom no
more could be seen but the two short toddling legs, and the hem of the
black riding-hood. But what cared Annie? She toiled along; the miles
were long in comparison of the short legs, but then there was a large
purpose in that little body, in the view of which miles were of small
account, however long a time it might take those steps to go over them.
Nor was it any drawback to all this energy, concentrated in so small a
bulk, that she had had no breakfast. Was the dying sister Mary able to
take any breakfast? and why should Annie eat when Mary, who did all she
did--and she always did everything that sister Mary did--could not? The
argument was enough for our little logician.
By the time she reached, by those short steps of hers, the great city,
it was half-past eleven, and she had before her still a great deal to
accomplish. She made out, after considerable wanderings, the street
signalized above all streets by that wonderful bird; but after she got
into it, the greater difficulty remained of finding the figure itself,
whereto there was this untoward obstacle, that it was still drizzling in
the thick Scotch way of concrete drops of mist, and the umbrella which
she held over her head was so large that no turning it aside would
enable her to see under the rim at such an angle as would permit her
scanning so elevated a position, and so there was nothing for it but to
draw it down. But even this was a task--heavy as the mainsheet was with
rain, and rattling in a considerable wind--almost beyond her strength;
and if it hadn't been that a kindly personage who saw the little maid's
difficulty gave her assistance, she might not have been able to
accomplish it. And now, with the heavy article in her hand, she peered
about for another half-hour, till at length her gladdened eye fell upon
the mystic symbol.
And no sooner had she made sure of the object than she found her way
into the office, asking the porter as well as a clerk where the pelican
was to be found,--questions that produced a smile; but smile here or
smile there, Annie was not to be beat; nor did she stop in her progress
until at last she was shown into a room where she saw, perched on a high
stool, with three (of course) long legs, a strange-looking personage
with a curled wig and a pair of green spectacles, who no doubt must be
the pelican himself. As she appeared in the room with the umbrella, not
much shorter or less in circumference than herself, the gentleman looked
curiously at her, wondering no doubt what the errand of so strange a
little customer could be.
"Well, my little lady," said he, "what may be your pleasure?"
"I want the pelican," said Annie.
The gentleman was still more astonished, even to the extent that he laid
down his pen and looked at her again.
"The pelican, dear?"
"Ay, just the pelican," answered she deliberately, and even a little
indignantly. "Are you the pelican?"
"Why, yes, dear; all that is for it below the figure," said he, smiling,
and wondering what the next question would be.
"I am so glad I have found you," said she; "because sister Mary is
"And who is sister Mary?"
"My sister, Mary Maconie, at Juniper Green."
Whereupon the gentleman began to remember that the name of William
Maconie was in his books as holder of a policy.
"And what more?"
"My father says the pelican insured Mary's life; and I want you to come
direct and do it, because I couldn't live if Mary were to die; and
there's no time to be lost."
"Oh! I see, dear. And who sent you?"
"Nobody," answered Annie. "My father wouldn't come to you; and I have
come from Juniper Green myself without telling my father or mother."
"Oh yes, dear! I understand you."
"But you must do it quick," continued she, "because the doctor says
she's in great danger; so you must come with me and save her
"I am sorry, my dear little lady," rejoined he, "that I cannot go with
you; but I will set about it immediately, and I have no doubt, being
able to go faster than you, that I will get there before you, so that
all will be right before you arrive."
"See that you do it, then," said she; "because I can't live if Mary
dies. Are you quite sure you will do it?"
"Perfectly sure, my little dear," added he. "Go away home, and all will
be right; the pelican will do his duty."
And Annie being thus satisfied, went away, dragging the main-sheet after
her, and having upon her face a look of contentment, if not absolute
happiness, in place of the sorrow which had occupied it during all the
time of her toilsome journey. The same road is to be retraced; and if
she had an object before which nerved her little limbs, she had now the
delightful consciousness of that object having been effected--a feeling
of inspiration which enabled her, hungry as she was, to overcome all the
toil of the return. Another two hours, with that heavy umbrella over
head as well as body, brought her at length home, where she found that
people had been sent out in various directions to find the missing
Annie. The mother was in tears, and the father in great anxiety; and no
sooner had she entered and laid down her burden, than she was clasped to
the bosom, first of one parent, and then of the other.
"But where is the pelican?" said the anxious little maid.
"The pelican, my darling!" cried the mother; "what do you mean?"
"Oh! I have been to him at his own office at Edinburgh to get him to
come and save Mary's life, and he said he would be here before me."
"And what in the world put it in your head to go there?" again asked the
"Because I heard my father say yesterday that the pelican had insured
dear sister Mary's life, and I went to tell him to come and do it
immediately; because if Mary were to die, I couldn't live, you know.
That's the reason, dear mother."
"Yes, yes," said the father, scarcely able to repress a smile which rose
in spite of his grief. "I see it all. You did a very right thing, my
love. The pelican has been here, and Mary is better."
"Oh! I am so glad," rejoined Annie; "for I wasn't sure whether he had
come or not; because, though I looked for him on the road, I couldn't
At the same moment the doctor came in, with a blithe face.
"Mary is safe now," said he. "There has been a crisis, after all. The
sweat has broken out upon her dry skin, and she will be well in a very
"And there's no thanks to you," said Annie, "because it was I who went
for the pelican."
Whereupon the doctor looked to the father, who, taking him aside,
narrated to him the story, at which the doctor was so pleased that he
laughed right out.
"You're the noblest little heroine I ever heard of," said he.
"But have you had anything to eat, dear, in this long journey?" said the
"No, I didn't want," was the answer; "all I wanted was to save Mary's
life, and I am glad I have done it."
And glad would we be if, by the laws of historical truth, our stranger
story could have ended here; but, alas! we are obliged to pain the good
reader's heart by saying that the demon who had left the troubled little
breast of Mary Maconie took possession of Annie's. The very next day she
lay extended on the bed, panting under the fell embrace of the
relentless foe. As Mary got better, Annie grew worse; and her case was
so far unlike Mary's, that there was more a tendency to a fevered state
of the brain. The little sufferer watched with curious eyes the anxious
faces of her parents, and seemed conscious that she was in a dangerous
condition. Nor did it fail to occur to her as a great mystery as well as
wonder, why they did not send for the wonderful being who had so
promptly saved the life of her sister. The thought haunted her, yet she
was afraid to mention it to her mother, because it implied a sense of
danger--a fear which one evening she overcame. Fixing her eyes, now
every moment waxing less clear, on the face of her mother--
"Oh mother, dear," she whispered, "why do you not send for the pelican?"
In other circumstances the mother would have smiled; but, alas, no smile
could be seen on that pale face. Whether the pelican was sent for we
know not, but certain it is, that he had no power to save poor Annie,
and she died within the week. But she did not die in vain, for the large
sum insured upon her life eventually came to Mary, whom she loved so
THE WIDOW'S AE SON.
We will not name the village where the actors in the following incidents
resided; and it is sufficient for our purpose to say that it lay in the
county of Berwick, and within the jurisdiction of the Presbytery of
Dunse. Eternity has gathered forty winters into its bosom since the
principal events took place. Janet Jeffrey was left a widow before her
only child had completed his tenth year. While her husband lay upon his
deathbed, he called her to his bedside, and, taking her hand within his,
he groaned, gazed on her face, and said, "Now, Janet, I'm gaun a lang
and a dark journey; but ye winna forget, Janet--ye winna forget--for ye
ken it has aye been uppermost in my thoughts and first in my desires, to
mak Thamas a minister; promise me that ae thing, Janet, that, if it be
HIS will, ye will see it performed, an' I will die in peace." In sorrow
the pledge was given, and in joy performed. Her life became wrapt up in
her son's life; and it was her morning and her evening prayer that she
might live to see her "dear Thamas a shining light in the kirk." Often
she declared that he was an "auld farrant bairn, and could ask a
blessing like ony minister." Our wishes and affections, however, often
blind our judgment. Nobody but the mother thought the son fitted for the
kirk, nor the kirk fitted for him. There was always something original,
almost poetical about him; but still Thomas was "no orator as Brutus
was." His mother had few means beyond the labour of her hands for their
support. She had kept him at the parish school until he was fifteen, and
he had learned all that his master knew; and in three years more, by
rising early and sitting late at her daily toils, and the savings of his
field labour and occasional teaching, she was enabled to make
preparation for sending him to Edinburgh. Never did her wheel spin so
blithely since her husband was taken from her side, as when she put the
first lint upon the rock for his college sarks. Proudly did she show to
her neighbours her double spinel yarn--observing, "It's nae finer than
he deserves, poor fallow, for he'll pay me back some day." The web was
bleached and the shirts made by her own hands; and the day of his
departure arrived. It was a day of joy mingled with anguish. He attended
the classes regularly and faithfully; and truly as St. Giles's marked
the hour, the long, lean figure of Thomas Jeffrey, in a suit of shabby
black, and half a dozen volumes under his arm, was seen issuing from his
garret in the West Bow, darting down the frail stair with the velocity
of a shadow, measuring the Lawnmarket and High Street with gigantic
strides, gliding like a ghost up the South Bridge, and sailing through
the Gothic archway of the College, till the punctual student was lost in
its inner chambers. Years rolled by, and at length the great, the awful
"Big with the fate of Thomas and his mother."
He was to preach his trial sermon; and where? In his own parish--in his
native village! It was summer, but his mother rose by daybreak. Her son,
however, was at his studies before her; and when she entered his bedroom
with a swimming heart and swimming eyes, Thomas was stalking across the
floor, swinging his arms, stamping his feet, and shouting his sermon to
the trembling curtains of a four-post bed, which she had purchased in
honour of him alone. "Oh, my bairn! my matchless bairn!" cried she,
"what a day o' joy is this for your poor mother! But oh, hinny, hae ye
it weel aff? I hope there's nae fears o' ye stickin' or using notes!"
"Dinna fret, mother--dinna fret," replied the young divine; "stickin'
and notes are out o' the question. I hae every word o' it as clink as
the A B C." The appointed hour arrived. She was first at the kirk. Her
heart felt too big for her bosom. She could not sit--she walked again to
the air--she trembled back--she gazed restless on the pulpit. The parish
minister gave out the psalm--the book shook while she held it. The
minister prayed, again gave out a psalm, and left the pulpit. The book
fell from Mrs. Jeffrey's hand. A tall figure paced along the passage. He
reached the pulpit stairs--took two steps at once. It was a bad omen;
but arose from the length of his limbs--not levity. He opened the
door--his knees smote upon one another. He sat down--he was paler than
death. He rose--his bones were paralytic. The Bible was opened--his
mouth opened at the same time, and remained open, but said nothing. His
large eyes stared wildly around. At length his teeth chattered, and the
text was announced, though half the congregation disputed it. "My
brethren!" said he once, and the whiteness of his countenance increased;
but he said no more. "My bre--thren!" responded he a second time; his
teeth chattered louder; his cheeks became clammy and death-like. "My
brethren!" stammered he a third time emphatically, and his knees fell
together. A deep groan echoed from his mother's pew. His wildness
increased. "My mother!" exclaimed the preacher. They were the last words
he ever uttered in a pulpit. The shaking and the agony began in his
heart, and his body caught the contagion. He covered his face with his
hands, fell back, and wept. His mother screamed aloud, and fell back
also; and thus perished her toils, her husband's prayer, her fond
anticipations, and the pulpit oratory of her son. A few neighbours
crowded round her to console her and render her assistance. They led her
to the door. She gazed upon them with a look of vacancy--thrice
sorrowfully waved her hand, in token that they should leave her; for
their words fell upon her heart like dew upon a furnace. Silently she
arose and left them, and reaching her cottage, threw herself upon her
bed in bitterness. She shed no tears; neither did she groan, but her
bosom heaved with burning agony. Sickness smote Thomas to his very
heart; yea, even unto blindness he was sick. His tongue was like heated
iron in his mouth, and his throat like a parched land. He was led from
the pulpit. But he escaped not the persecution of the unfeeling titter,
and the expressions of shallow pity. He would have rejoiced to have
dwelt in darkness for ever, but there was no escape from the eyes of his
tormentors. The congregation stood in groups in the kirkyard, "just," as
they said, "to hae anither look at the orator;" and he must pass through
the midst of them. With his very soul steeped in shame, and his cheeks
covered with confusion, he stepped from the kirk door. A humming noise
issued through the crowd, and every one turned their faces towards him.
His misery was greater than he could bear. "Yon was oratory for ye!"
said one. "Poor deevil!" added another, "I'm sorry for him; but it was
as guid as a play." "Was it tragedy or comedy?" inquired a third,
laughing as he spoke. The remarks fell upon his ear--he grated his teeth
in madness, but he could endure no more; and, covering his face with his
hands, he bounded off like a wounded deer to his mother's cottage. In
despair he entered the house, scarce knowing what he did. He beheld her
where she had fallen upon the bed, dead to all but misery. "Oh mother,
mother!" he cried, "dinna ye be angry--dinna ye add to the afflictions
of your son! Will ye no, mother?--will ye no?" A low groan was the only
answer. He hurried to and fro across the room, wringing his hands.
"Mother," he again exclaimed, "will ye no speak ae word? Oh, woman! ye
wadna be angry if ye kenned what an awfu' thing it is to see a thousan'
een below ye, and aboon ye, and round about ye, a' staring upon ye like
condemning judges, an' looking into your very soul--ye hae nae idea o'
it, mother; I tell ye, ye hae nae idea o't, or ye wadna be angry. The
very pulpit floor gaed down wi' me, the kirk wa's gaed round about, and
I thought the very crown o' my head wad pitch on the top o' the
precentor. The very een o' the multitude soomed round me like
fishes!--an' oh, woman! are ye dumb? will ye torment me mair? can ye no
speak, mother?" But he spoke to one who never spoke again. Her reason
departed, and her speech failed, but grief remained. She had lived upon
one hope, and that hope was destroyed. Her round ruddy cheeks and portly
form wasted away, and within a few weeks the neighbours, who performed
the last office of humanity, declared that a thinner corpse was never
wrapt in a winding sheet than Mrs. Jeffrey. Time soothed, but did not
heal the sorrows, the shame, and the disappointment of the son. He sank
into a village teacher, and often, in the midst of his little school, he
would quote his first, his only text--imagine the children to be his
congregation--attempt to proceed--gaze wildly round for a moment, and
sit down and weep. Through these aberrations his school dwindled into
nothingness, and poverty increased his delirium. Once, in the midst of
the remaining few, he gave forth the fatal text. "My brethren!" he
exclaimed, and smiting his hand upon his forehead, cried, "Speak,
mother!--speak now!" and fell with his face upon the floor. The children
rushed screaming from the school, and when the villagers entered, the
troubled spirit had fled for ever.
THE LAWYER'S TALES.
THE STORY OF MYSIE CRAIG.
In detailing the curious circumstances of the following story, I am
again only reporting a real law case to be found in the Court of Session
Records, the turning-point of which was as invisible to the judges as to
the parties themselves--that is, until the end came; a circumstance
again which made the case a kind of developed romance. But as an end
implies a beginning, and the one is certainly as necessary as the other,
we request you to accompany us--taking care of your feet--up the narrow
spiral staircase of a tenement called Corbet's Land, in the same old
town where so many wonderful things in the complicated drama--or dream,
if you are a Marphurius--of human life have occurred. Up which spiral
stair having got by the help of our hands, almost as indispensable as
that of the feet, we find ourselves in a little human dovecot of two
small rooms, occupied by two persons not unlike, in many respects, two
doves--Widow Craig and her daughter, called May, euphuized by the Scotch
into Mysie. The chief respects in which they might be likened, without
much stress, to the harmless creatures we have mentioned, were their
love for each other, together with their total inoffensiveness as
regarded the outside world; and we are delighted to say this, for we see
so many of the multitudinous sides of human nature dark and depraved,
that we are apt to think there is no bright side at all. Nor shall we
let slip the opportunity of saying, at the risk of being considered very
simple, that of all the gifts of felicity bestowed, as the Pagan Homer
tells, upon mankind by the gods, no one is so perfect and beautiful as
the love that exists between a good mother and a good daughter.
For so much we may be safe by having recourse to instinct, which is
deeper than any secondary causes we poor mortals can see. But beyond
this, there were special reasons tending to this same result of mutual
affection, which come more within the scope of our observation. In
explanation of which, we may say that the mother, having something in
her power during her husband's life, had foreseen the advantages of
using it in the instruction of her quick and intelligent daughter in an
art of far more importance then than now--that of artistic, needlework.
Nay, of so much importance was this beautiful art, and to such
perfection was it brought at a time when a lady's petticoat, embroidered
by the hand, with its profuse imitations of natural objects, flowers,
and birds, and strange devices, would often cost twenty pounds Scots,
that a sight of one of those operose achievements of genius would make
us blush for our time and the labours of our women. Nor was the
perfection in this ornamental industry a new thing, for the daughters of
the Pictish kings confined in the castle were adepts in it; neither was
it left altogether to paid sempstresses, for great ladies spent their
time in it, and emulation quickened both the genius and the diligence.
So we need hardly say it became to the mother a thing to be proud of,
that her daughter Mysie proved herself so apt a scholar that she became
an adept, and was soon known as one of the finest embroideresses in the
great city. So, too, as a consequence, it came to pass that great ladies
employed her; and often the narrow spiral staircase of Corbet's Land was
brushed on either side by the huge masses of quilted and emblazoned silk
that, enveloping the belles of the day, were with difficulty forced up
to and down from the small room of the industrious Mysie.
But we are now speaking of art, while we should have more to say (for it
concerns us more) of the character of the young woman who was destined
to figure in a stranger way than in making beautiful figures on silk.
Mysie was one of a class: few in number they are indeed, but on that
account more to be prized. Her taste and fine manipulations were but
counterparts of qualities of the heart--an organ to which the pale face,
with its delicate lines and the clear liquid eyes, was a suitable index.
The refinement which enabled her to make her imitation of beautiful
objects on the delicate material of her work was only another form of a
sensibility which pervaded her whole nature--that gift which is only
conceded to peculiar organizations, and is such a doubtful one, too, if
we go, as we cannot help doing, with the poet, when he sings that
"chords that vibrate sweetest pleasures," often also "thrill the deepest
notes of woe." Nay, we might say that the creatures themselves seem to
fear the gift, for they shrink from the touch of the rough world, and
retire within themselves as if to avoid it, while they are only courting
its effects in the play of an imagination much too ardent for the duties
of life; and, as a consequence, how they seek secretly the support of
stronger natures, clinging to them as do those strange plants called
parasites, which, with their tender arms and something so like fingers,
cling to the nearest stem of a stouter neighbour, and embracing it, even
though hollow and rotten, cover it, and choke it with a flood of
flowers. So true is it that woman, like the generous vine, lives by
being supported and held up; yet equally true that the strength she
gains is from the embrace she gives; and so it is also that goodness, as
our Scottish poet Home says, often wounds itself, and affection proves
the spring of sorrow.
All which might truly be applied to Mysie Craig; but as yet the stronger
stem to which she clung was her mother, and it was not likely, nor was
it in reality, that that affection would prove to her anything but the
spring of happiness, for it was ripened by love; and the earnings of the
nimble fingers, moving often into the still hours of the night, not only
kept the wolf from the door, but let in the lambs of domestic harmony
and peace. Would that these things had so continued! But there are other
wolves than those of poverty, and the "ae lamb o' the fauld" cannot be
always under the protection of the ewe; and it so happened on a certain
night, not particularized in the calendar, that our Mysie, having
finished one of these floral petticoats on which she had been engaged
for many weeks, went forth with her precious burden to deliver the same
to its impatient owner, no other than the then famous Anabella Gilroy,
who resided in Advocate's Close--of which fine lady, by the way, we may
say, that of all the gay creatures who paraded between "the twa Bows,"
no one displayed such ample folds of brocaded silk, nodded her pon-pons
more jauntily, or napped with a sharper crack her high-heeled shoes, all
to approve herself to "the bucks" of the time, with their square coats
brocaded with lace, their three-cornered hats on the top of their
bob-wigs, their knee-buckles and shoe-buckles. And certainly not the
least important of those, both in his own estimation and that of the
sprightly Anabella, was George Balgarnie, a young man who had only a
year before succeeded to the property of Balgruddery, somewhere in the
north, and of whom we might say that, in forming him, Nature had taken
so much pains with the building up of the body, that she had forgotten
the mind, so that he had no more spiritual matter in him than sufficed
to keep his blood hot, and enable his sensual organs to work out their
own selfish gratifications; or, to perpetrate a metaphor, he was all the
polished mahogany of a piano, without any more musical springs than
might respond to one keynote of selfishness. And surely Anabella had
approved herself to the fop to some purpose; for when our sempstress
with her bundle had got into the parlour of the fine lady, she
encountered no other than Balgarnie--a circumstance apparently of very
small importance; but we know that a moment of time is sometimes like a
small seed, which contains the nucleus of a great tree--perhaps a
poisonous one. And so it turned out that, while Anabella was gloating
over the beautiful work of the timid embroideress, Balgarnie was busy
admiring the artist, but not merely--perhaps not at all--as an artist,
only as an object over whom he wished to exercise power.
This circumstance was not unobserved by the little embroideress, but it
was only observed to be shrunk from in her own timid way; and probably
it would soon have passed from her mind, if it had not been followed up
by something more direct and dangerous. And it was; for no sooner had
Mysie got to the foot of the stairs than she encountered Balgarnie, who
had gone out before her; and now began one of those romances in daily
life of which the world is full, and of which the world is sick.
Balgarnie, in short, commenced that kind of suit which is nearly as old
as the serpent, and therefore not to be wondered at; neither are we to
wonder that Mysie listened to it, because we have heard so much about
"lovely woman stooping to folly," that we are content to put it to the
large account of natural miracles. And not very miraculous either, when
we remember that if the low-breathed accents of tenderness awaken the
germ of love, they awaken at the same time faith and trust. And such was
the beginning of the romance which was to go through the normal
stages,--the appointment to meet again, the meeting itself, the others
that followed, the extension of the moonlight walks, sometimes to the
Hunter's Bog between Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags, and sometimes to
the song-famed "Wells o' Weary,"--all which were just as sun and shower
to the germ of the plant. The love grew and grew, and the faith grew and
grew also which saw in him that which it felt in itself. Nay, if any of
those moonlight-loving elves that have left their foot-marks in the
fairy rings to be seen near St. Anthony's Well had whispered in Mysie's
ear, "Balgarnie will never make you his wife," she would have believed
the words as readily as if they had impugned the sincerity of her own
heart. In short, we have again the analogue of the parasitic plant. The
very fragility and timidity of Mysie were at once the cause and
consequence of her confidence. She would cling to him and cover him with
the blossoms of her affection; nay, if there were unsoundness in the
stem, these very blossoms would cover the rottenness.
This change in the life of the little sempstress could not fail to
produce some corresponding change at home. We read smoothly the play we
have acted ourselves; and so the mother read love in the daughter's
eyes, and heard it, too, in her long sighs; nor did she fail to read the
sign that the song which used to lighten her beautiful work was no
longer heard; for love to creatures so formed as Mysie Craig is too
serious an affair for poetical warbling. But she said nothing; for while
she had faith in the good sense and virtue of her daughter, she knew
also that there was forbearance due to one who was her support. Nor, as
yet, had she reason to fear, for Mysie still plied her needle, and the
roses and the lilies sprang up in all their varied colours out of the
ground of the silk or satin as quickly and as beautifully as they were
wont, though the lilies of her checks waxed paler as the days flitted.
And why the latter should have been, we must leave to the reader; for
ourselves only hazarding the supposition that, perhaps, she already
thought that Balgarnie should be setting about to make her his wife--an
issue which behoved to be the result of their intimacy sooner or later;
for that in her simple mind there should be any other issue, was just
about as impossible as that, in the event of the world lasting as long,
the next moon would not, at her proper time, again shine in that green
hollow, between the Lion's Head and Samson's Ribs, which had so often
been the scene of their happiness. Nay, we might say that though a doubt
on the subject had by any means got into her mind, it would not have
remained there longer than it took a shudder to scare the wild thing
Of course, all this was only a question of time; but certain it is, that
by-and-by the mother could see some connection between Mysie's being
more seldom out on those moonlight nights than formerly, and a greater
paleness in her thin face, as if the one had been the cause of the
other. But still she said nothing, for she daily expected that Mysie
would herself break the subject to her; and so she was left only to
increasing fears that her daughter's heart and affections had been
tampered with, and perhaps she had fears that went farther. Still, so
far as yet had gone, there was no remission in the labours of Mysie's
fingers, as if in the midst of all--whatever that all might be--she
recognised the paramount necessity of bringing in by those fingers the
required and usual amount of the means of their livelihood. Nay, somehow
or other, there was at that very time, when her cheek was at the palest,
and her sighs were at their longest, and her disinclination to speak was
at the strongest, an increase of work upon her; for was not there a
grand tunic to embroider for Miss Anabella, which was wanted on a given
day; and were there not other things for Miss Anabella's friend, Miss
Allardice, which were not to be delayed beyond that same day? And so she
stitched and stitched on and on, till sometimes the little lamp seemed
to go out for want of oil, while the true cause of her diminished light
was really the intrusion of the morning sun, against which it had no
chance. It might be, too, that her very anxiety to get these grand
dresses finished helped to keep out of her mind ideas which could have
done her small good, even if they had got in.
But at length the eventful hour came when the gentle sempstress withdrew
the shining needle, made clear by long use, from the last touch of the
last rose; and doubtless, if Mysie had not been under the cloud of
sorrow we have mentioned, she would have been happier at the termination
of so long a labour than she had ever been, for the finishing evening
had always been celebrated by a glass of strong Edinburgh ale--a drink
which, as both a liquor and a liqueur, was as famous then as it is at
this day. But of what avail was this work-termination to her now? Was it
not certain that she had not seen Balgarnie for two moons? and though
the impossibility of his not marrying her was just as impossible as
ever, why were these two moons left to shine in the green hollow and on
the rising hill without the privilege of throwing the shadows of Mysie
Craig and George Balgarnie on the grass, where the fairies had left the
traces of their dances? Questions these which she was unable to answer,
if it were not even that she was afraid to put them to herself. Then,
when was it that she felt herself unable to tie up her work in order to
take it home, and that her mother, seeing the reacting effect of the
prior sleepless nights in her languid frame, did this little duty for
her, even as while she was doing it she looked through her tears at her
changed daughter? But Mysie would do so much. While the mother should go
to Miss Allardice, Mysie would proceed to Miss Anabella; and so it was
arranged. They went forth together, parting at the Nether Bow; and
Mysie, in spite of a weakness which threatened to bring her with her
burden to the ground, struggled on to her destination. At the top of
Advocate's Close she saw a man hurry out and increase his step even as
her eye rested on him; and if it had not appeared to her to be among the
ultimate impossibilities of things, natural as well as unnatural, she
would have sworn that that man was George Balgarnie; but then, it just
so happened that Mysie came to the conclusion that such a circumstance
was among these ultimate impossibilities.
This resolution was an effort which cost her more than the conviction
would have done, though doubtless she did not feel this at the time, and
so with a kind of forced step she mounted the stair; but when she got
into the presence of Miss Gilroy, she could scarcely pronounce the
"I have brought you the dress, ma'am."
"And I am so delighted, Miss Craig, that I could almost take you into my
arms," said the lady; "but what ails ye, dear? You are as white as any
snow I ever saw, whereas you ought to have been as blithe as a
bridesmaid, for don't you know that you have brought me home one of my
marriage dresses? Come now, smile when I tell you that to-morrow is my
"Wedding-day," muttered Mysie, as she thought of the aforesaid utter
impossibility of herself not being soon married to George Balgarnie; an
impossibility not rendered less impossible by the resolution she had
formed not to believe that within five minutes he had flown away from
"Yes, Miss Craig, and surely you must have heard who the gentleman is;
for does not the town ring of it from the castle to the palace, from
Kirk-o'-Field to the Calton?"
"I have not been out," said Mysie.
"That accounts for it," continued the lady; "and I am delighted at the
reason, for wouldn't it have been terrible to think that my marriage
with George Balgarnie of Balgruddery was a thing of so small a note as
not to be known everywhere?"
If Mysie Craig had appeared shortly before to Miss Gilroy paler than any
snow her ladyship had ever seen, she must now have been as pale as some
other kind of snow that nobody ever saw. The dreadful words had indeed
produced the adequate effect, but not in the most common way, for we are
to keep in view that it is not the most shrinking and sensitive natures
that are always the readiest to faint; and there was, besides, the
aforesaid conviction of impossibility which, grasping the mind by a
certain force, deadened the ear to words implying the contrary. Mysie
stood fixed to the spot, as if she were trying to realize some certainty
she dared not think was possible, her lips apart, her eyes riveted on
the face of the lady--mute as that kind of picture which a certain
ancient calls a silent poem, and motionless as a figure of marble.
An attitude and appearance still more inexplicable to Anabella, perhaps
irritating as an unlucky omen, and therefore not possessing any claim
for sympathy--at least it got none.
"Are you the Mysie Craig," she cried, as she looked at the girl, "who
used to chat to me about the dresses you brought, and the flowers on
them? Ah, jealous and envious, is that it? But you forget, George
Balgarnie never could have made _you_ his wife--a working needlewoman;
he only fancied you as the plaything of an hour. He told me so himself
when I charged him with having been seen in your company. So, Mysie, you
may as well look cheerful. Your turn will come next with some one in
your own station."
There are words which stimulate and confirm; there are others that seem
to kill the nerve and take away the sense, nor can we ever tell the
effect till we see it produced; and so we could not have told
beforehand--nay, we would have looked for something quite opposite--that
Mysie, shrinking and irritable as she was by nature, was saved from a
faint (which had for some moments been threatening her) by the cruel
insult which thus had been added to her misfortune. She had even power
to have recourse to that strange device of some natures, that of
"affecting to be not affected;" and casting a glance at the fine lady,
she turned and went away without uttering a single word. But who knows
the pain of the conventional concealment of pain except those who have
experienced the agony of the trial? Even at the moment when she heard
that George Balgarnie was to be married, and that she came to know that
she had been for weeks sewing the marriage dress of his bride, she was
carrying under her heart the living burden which was the fruit of her
love for that man. Yet not the burden of shame and dishonour, as our
story will show, for she was justified by the law of her country--yea,
by certain words once written by an apostle to the Corinthians, all
which may as yet appear a great mystery; but as regards Mysie Craig's
agony, as she staggered down Miss Gilroy's stairs on her way home, there
could be no doubt or mystery whatever.
Nor, when she got home, was there any comfort there for the daughter who
had been so undutiful as to depart from her mother's precepts, and
conceal from her not only her unfortunate connection with a villain, but
the condition into which that connection had brought her. But she was at
least saved from the pain of a part of the confession, for her mother
had learned enough from Miss Allardice to satisfy her as to the cause of
her daughter's change from the happy creature she once was, singing in
the long nights, as she wrought unremittingly at her beautiful work, and
the poor, sighing, pale, heart-broken thing she had been for months. Nor
did she fail to see, with the quick eye of a mother, that as Mysie
immediately on entering the house laid herself quietly on the bed, and
sobbed in her great agony, she had learned the terrible truth from Miss
Gilroy that the robe she had embroidered was to deck the bride of her
destroyer. Moreover, her discretion enabled her to perceive that this
was not the time for explanation, for the hours of grief are sacred, and
the heart must be left to do its work by opening the issues of Nature's
assuagement, or ceasing to beat. So the night passed, without question
or answer; and the following day, that of the marriage, was one of
silence, even as if death had touched the tongue that used to be the
medium of cheerful words and tender sympathies--a strange contrast to
the joy, if not revelry, in Advocate's Close.
It was not till after several days had passed that Mysie was able, as
she still lay in bed, to whisper, amidst the recurring sobs, in the ear
of her mother, as the latter bent over her, the real circumstances of
her condition; and still, amidst the trembling words, came the
vindication that she considered herself to be as much the wife of George
Balgarnie as if they had been joined by "Holy Kirk;" a statement which
the mother could not understand, if it was not to her a mystery,
rendered even more mysterious by a reference which Mysie made to the law
of the country, as she had heard the same from her cousin, George
Davidson, a writer's clerk in the Lawnmarket. Much of which, as it came
in broken syllables from the lips of the disconsolate daughter, the
mother put to the account of the fond dreams of a mind put out of joint
by the worst form of misery incident to young women. But what availed
explanations, mysteries or no mysteries, where the fact was patent that
Mysie Craig lay there, the poor heartbroken victim of man's perfidy--her
powers of industry broken and useless--the fine weaving genius of her
fancy, whereby she wrought her embroidered devices to deck and adorn
beauty, only engaged now on portraying all the evils of her future life;
and above all, was she not soon to become a mother?
Meanwhile, and in the midst of all this misery, the laid-up earnings of
Mysie's industry wore away, where there was no work by those cunning
fingers, now thin and emaciated; and before the days passed, and the
critical day came whereon another burden would be imposed on the
household, there was need for the sympathy of neighbours in that form
which soon wears out--pecuniary help. That critical day at length came.
Mysie Craig gave birth to a boy, and their necessities from that hour
grew in quicker and greater proportion than the generosity of friends.
There behoved something to be done, and that without delay. So when
Mysie lay asleep, with the innocent evidence of her misfortune by her
side, Mrs. Craig put on her red plaid and went forth on a mother's duty,
and was soon in the presence of George Balgarnie and his young wife. She
was under an impulse which made light of delicate conventionalities, and
did not think it necessary to give the lady an opportunity of being
absent: nay, she rather would have her to be present; for was she, who
had been so far privy to the intercourse between her husband and Mysie,
to be exempt from the consequences which she, in a sense, might have
been said to have brought about?
"Ye have ruined Mysie Craig, sir!" cried at once the roused mother. "Ye
have ta'en awa her honour. Ye have ta'en awa her health. Ye have ta'en
awa her bread. Ay, and ye have reduced three human creatures to want, it
may be starvation; and I have come here in sair sorrow and necessity to
ask when and whaur is to be the remeid?"
"When and where you may find it, woman!" said the lady, as she cast a
side-glance to her husband, probably by way of appeal for the truth of
what she thought it right to say. "Mr. Balgarnie never injured your
daughter. Let him who did the deed yield the remeid!"
"And do you stand by this?" said Mrs. Craig.
But the husband had been already claimed as free from blame by his wife,
who kept her eye fixed upon him; and the obligation to conscience, said
by sceptics to be an offspring of society, is sometimes weaker than what
is due to a wife, in the estimation of whom a man may wish to stand in a
certain degree of elevation.
"You must seek another father to the child of your daughter," said he
lightly. And not content with the denial, he supplemented it by a laugh
as he added, "When birds go to the greenwood, they must take the chance
of meeting the goshawk."
"And that is your answer?" said she.
"It is; and you need never trouble either my wife or me more on this
subject," was the reply.
"Then may the vengeance o' the God of justice light on the heads o'
baith o' ye!" added Mrs. Craig, as she went hurriedly away.
Nor was her threat intended as an empty one, for she held on her way
direct to the Lawnmarket, where she found George Davidson, to whom she
related as much as she had been able to get out of Mysie, and also what
had passed at the interview with Balgarnie and his lady. After hearing
which, the young writer shook his head.
"You will get a trifle of aliment," said he; "perhaps half-a-crown a
week, but no more; and Mysie could have made that in a day by her
"And she will never work mair," said the mother, with a sigh.
"For a hundred years," rejoined he, more to himself than to her, and
probably in congratulation of himself for his perspicacity, "and since
ever there was a College of Justice, there never was a case where a man
pulled up on oath for a promise of marriage admitted the fact. It is a
good Scotch law, only we want a people to obey it. But what," he added
again, "if we were to try it, though it were only as a grim joke and a
revenge in so sad and terrible a case as that of poor Mysie Craig!"
Words which the mother understood no more than she did law Latin; and so
she was sent away as sorrowful as she had come, for Davidson did not
want to raise hopes which there was no chance of being fulfilled; but he
knew as a Scotchman that a man who trusts himself to a "strae rape" in
the hope of its breaking, may possibly hang himself; and so it happened
that the very next day a summons was served upon George Balgarnie, to
have it found and declared by the Lords of Session that he had promised
to marry Mysie Craig, whereupon a child had been born by her; or, in
fault of that, he was bound to sustain the said child. Thereupon,
without the ordinary law's delay, certain proceedings went on, in the
course of which Mysie herself was examined as the mother to afford what
the lawyers call a _semiplena probatio_, or half proof, to be
supplemented otherwise, and thereafter George Balgarnie stood before the
august fifteen. He denied stoutly all intercourse with Mysie, except an
occasional walk in the Hunter's Bog; and this he would have denied also,
but he knew that he had been seen, and that it would be sworn to by
others. And then came the last question, which Mr. Greerson, Mysie's
advocate, put in utter hopelessness. Nay, so futile did it seem to try
to catch a Scotchman by advising him to put his head in a noose on the
pretence of seeing how it fitted his neck, that he smiled even as the
words came out of his mouth--
"Did you ever promise to marry Mysie Craig?"
Was prudence, the chief of the four cardinal virtues, ever yet
consistent with vice? Balgarnie waxed clever--a dangerous trick in a
witness. He stroked his beard with a smile on his face, and answered--
"_Yes, once--when I was drunk_!"
Words which were immediately followed by the crack of a single word in
the dry mouth of one of the advocates--the word "NICKED."
And nicked he was; for the presiding judge, addressing the witness,
"The drunkenness may be good enough in its own way, sir; but it does not
take away the effect of your promise; nay, it is even an aggravation,
insomuch as having enjoyed the drink, you wanted to enjoy with impunity
what you could make of the promise also."
If Balgarnie had been a reader, he might have remembered Waller's
"That eagle's fate and mine are one,
Which on the shaft that made him die
Espied a feather of his own,
Wherewith he wont to soar so high."
So Mysie gained her plea, and the marriage with Anabella, for whom she
had embroidered the marriage gown, was dissolved. How matters progressed
afterwards for a time, we know not; but the Scotch know that there is
wisdom in making the best of a bad bargain, and in this case it was a
good one; for, as the Lady of Balgruddery, Mysie Craig did no dishonour
to George Balgarnie, who, moreover, found her a faithful wife, and a
good mother to the children that came of this strange marriage.
THE TWIN BROTHERS.
William Sim was the son of a feuar in the southern part of
Dumfriesshire, who, by dint of frugality, had hoarded together from
three to four hundred pounds. This sum he was resolved to employ in
setting up his son in business; and, in pursuance of this resolution, at
the age of fourteen William was bound as an apprentice to a wealthy old
grocer in Carlisle; and it was his fortune in a few months to ingratiate
himself into the favour and confidence of his master. The grocer had a
daughter, who, though not remarkable for the beauty of her face or the
elegance of her person, had nevertheless an agreeable countenance, and
ten thousand independent charms to render it more agreeable. She was
some eighteen months older than William; and when he first came to be an
apprentice with her father, and a boarder in his house, she looked upon
him as quite a boy, while she considered herself to be a full-grown
woman. He was, indeed, a mere boy--and a clownish-looking boy too. He
wore a black leathern cap, edged and corded with red, which his mother
called a _bendy_; a coarse grey jacket; a waistcoat of the same; and his
trousers were of a brownish-green cord, termed _thickset_. His shoes
were of the double-soled description, which ought more properly to be
called brogues; and into them, on the evening previous to his departure,
his father had driven tackets and sparables innumerable, until they
became like a plate of iron or a piece of warlike workmanship,
resembling the scaled cuirass of a mailed knight in the olden time;
"for," said he, "the callant will hae runnin' about on the causeway and
plainstanes o' Carlisle sufficient to drive a' the shoon in the world
aff his feet." When, therefore, William Sim made his debut behind the
counter of Mr. Carnaby, the rich grocer of Carlisle, and as he ran on a
message through the streets, with his bendy cap, grey jacket, thickset
trousers, and ironed shoes, striking fire behind him as he ran, and
making a noise like a troop of cavalry, the sprucer youngsters of the
city said he was "new caught." But William Sim had not been two years in
Carlisle when he began to show his shirt collar; his clattering brogues
gave place to silent pumps, his leathern bendy to a fashionable hat, and
his coarse grey jacket to a coat with tails. Moreover, he began to bow
and smile to the ladies when they entered the shop; he also became quite
a connoisseur in teas and confections; he recommended them to them, and
he bowed and smiled again as they left. Such was the work of less than
two years; and before three went round, there was not a smarter or a
better dressed youth in all Carlisle than William Sim. He became a
favourite subject of conversation amongst the young belles; and there
was not one of them who, if disengaged, would have said to him, "Get
thee behind me." Miss Carnaby heard the conversation of her young
companions, and she gradually became conscious that William was not a
boy; in fact, she began to wonder how she had ever thought so, for he,
as she said unto herself, was "certainly a very interesting _young
man_." Within other four years, and before the period of his
apprenticeship had expired, William began to repeat poetry--some said to
write it, but that was not the fact; he only twisted or altered a few
words now and then, to suit the occasion; and almost every line ended
with words of such soft sounds as bliss, kiss--love, dove--joy, cloy,
and others equally sweet, the delightful meanings of which are only to
be met with in the sentimental glossary. He now gave Miss Carnaby his
arm to church; and, on leaving it in the afternoons, they often walked
into the fields together. On such occasions,
"Talk of various kinds deceived the road;"
and even when they were silent, their silence had an eloquence of its
own. One day they had wandered farther than their wont, and they stood
on the little bridge where the two kingdoms meet, about half a mile
below Gretna. I know not what soft persuasion he employed, but she
accompanied him up the hill which leadeth through the village of
Springfield, and they went towards the far-famed Green together. In less
than an hour, Miss Carnaby that was, returned towards Carlisle as Mrs.
Sim, leaning affectionately on her husband's arm.
When the old grocer heard of what had taken place, he was exceedingly
wroth; and although, as has been said, William stood high in his favour,
he thus addressed him--
"Ay, ay, sir!--fine doings! This comes of your Sunday walking! And I
suppose you say that my daughter is yours--that she is your wife; and
_she_ may be _yours_--but I'll let you know, sir, my _money_ is _mine_;
and I'll cut you both off. You shan't have a sixpence. I'll rather build
a church, sir; I'll give it towards paying off the national debt, you
rascal. You would steal my daughter--eh!"
Thus spoke Mr. Carnaby in his wrath; but when the effervescence of his
indignation had subsided, he extended to both the hand of forgiveness,
and resigned his business in favour of his son-in-law.
Mr. William Sim, therefore, began the world under the most favourable
circumstances. He found a fortune prepared to his hands; he had only to
improve it. In a few years the old grocer died; and he bequeathed to
them the gains of half a century. For twenty years Mr. Sim continued in
business, and he had nearly doubled the fortune which he obtained with
his wife. Mrs. Sim was a kind-hearted woman; but by nature, or through
education, she had also a considerable portion of vanity, and she began
to think that it was the duty of her opulent husband to retire from
business, and assume the character of an independent gentleman; or
rather, I ought to say, of a country gentleman--a squire. She professed
to be the more anxious that he should do this on account of the health
of her daughter--the sole survivor of five children--and who was then
entering upon womanhood. Maria Sim (for such was their daughter's name)
was a delicate and accomplished girl of seventeen. The lovely hue that
dwelt upon her cheeks, like the blush of a rainbow, was an emblem of
beauty, not of health. At the solicitations of her mother, her father
gave up his business, and purchased a neat villa, and a few acres that
surrounded it, in the neighbourhood of Windermere. The house lay in the
bosom of poetry; and the winds that shouted like a triumphant army
through the mountain glens, or in gentle zephyrs sighed upon the lake,
and gambolled with the ripples, made music around it.
The change, the beauty, I had almost said the deliciousness of their
place of abode, had effected a wondrous improvement in the health of
Maria; yet her mother was not happy. She was not treated by her
neighbours with the obsequious reverence which she believed to be due to
persons possessed of twenty thousand pounds. The fashionable ladies in
the neighbourhood, also, called her "a mean person"--"a nobody"--"an
upstart of yesterday." In truth, there were not a few who so spoke,
because they envied the wealth of the Sims, and were resolved to humble
An opportunity for them to do so soon occurred. A subscription ball or
assembly, patronized by all the fashionables in the district, was to
take place at Keswick. Mrs. Sim, in some measure from a desire of
display, and also, as she said, to bring out Maria, put down her
husband's name, her own, and their daughter's, on the list. Many of the
personages above referred to, on seeing the names of the Sim family on
the subscription paper, turned upon their heel, and exclaimed--"Shocking!"
But the important evening arrived. Mrs. Sim had ordered a superb dress
from London expressly for the occasion. A duchess might have worn it at
a drawing-room. The dress of Maria was simplicity typified, and
consisted of a frock of the finest and the whitest muslin; while her
slender waist was girdled with a lavender ribbon, her raven hair
descended down her snowy neck in ringlets, and around her head she wore
a wreath of roses.
When Mr. Sim, with his wife and daughter, entered the room, there was a
stare of wonderment amongst the company. No one spoke to them, no one
bowed to them. The spirit of dumbness seemed to have smitten the
assembly. But a general whispering, like the hissing of a congregation
of adders, succeeded the silence. Then, at the head of the room, the
voices of women rose sharp, angry, and loud. Six or eight, who appeared
as the representatives of the company, were in earnest and excited
conversation with the stewards; and the words--"low people!"--"vulgar!"
--"not to be borne!"--"cheese! faugh!"--"impertinence!"--"must be humbled!"
--became audible throughout the room. One of the stewards, a Mr. Morris of
Morris House, approached Mr. Sim, and said--
"You, sir, are Mr. Sim, I believe, late grocer and cheesemonger in
"I suppose, sir," replied the other, "you know that without me telling
you; if you do not, you have some right to know me."
"Well, sir," continued the steward of the assembly, "I come to inform
you that you have made a mistake. This is not a _social dance_ amongst
_tradesmen_, but an _assembly_ of _ladies_ and _gentlemen_; therefore,
sir, your presence cannot be allowed here."
Poor Maria became blind, the hundred different head-dresses seemed to
float around her. She clung to her father's arm for support. Her mother
was in an agony of indignation.
"Sir," said Mr. Sim, "I don't know what you call _gentlemen_; but if it
be not _genteel_ to have sold teas and groceries, it is at least more
_honourable_ than to use them and never pay for them. You will remember,
sir, there is a considerable sum standing against you in my books; and
if the money be not paid to me tonight, you shall have less space to
dance in before morning."
"Insolent barbarian!" exclaimed Squire Morris, stamping his foot upon
Mrs. Sim screamed; Maria's head fell upon her father's shoulder. A dozen
gentlemen approached to the support of the steward; and one of them,
waving his hand and addressing Mr. Sim, said, "Away, sir!"
The retired merchant bowed and withdrew, not in confusion, but with a
smile of malignant triumph. He strove to soothe his wife--for his
daughter, when relieved from the presence of the disdainful eyes that
gazed on her, bore the insult that had been offered them meekly--and,
after remaining an hour in Keswick, they returned to their villa in the
same chaise in which they had arrived.
In the assembly room the dance began, and fairy forms glided through the
floor, lightly, silently, as a falling blossom embraceth the earth. Mr.
Morris was leading down a dance, when a noise was heard at the door.
Some person insisted on being admitted, and the door-keepers resisted
him. But the intruder carried with him a small staff, on the one end of
which was a brass crown, and on its side the letters G. R. It was a
talisman potent as the wand of a magician; the doorkeepers became
powerless before it. The intruder entered the room--he passed through
the mazes of the whirling dance--he approached Mr. Morris--he touched
him on the shoulder--he put a piece of paper in his hand--he whispered
in his ear--
"You are my prisoner!--come with me!"
His lady and his daughters were present, and they felt most bitterly the
indignity which a low tradesman had offered them. Confusion paralyzed
them; they stood still in the middle of the dance, and one of the young
ladies swooned away and fell upon the ground. The time, the place, the
manner of arrest, all bespoke malignant and premeditated insult.
Mr. Morris gnashed his teeth together, but, without speaking,
accompanied the officer that had arrested him in the room. He remained
in custody in an adjoining inn throughout the night; on the following
day, was released on bail; and, within a week, his solicitor paid the
debt, by augmenting the mortgage on Morris House estate.
It is hardly necessary to say--for such is human nature--that, after
this incident, the hatred between Mr. Sim and Squire Morris became
inveterate; and the wives of both, and the daughters of the latter,
partook in the relentless animosity. Two years passed, and every day the
mutual hatred and contempt in which they held each other increased. At
that period, a younger son of Squire Morris, who was a lieutenant in the
service of the East India Company, obtained leave to visit England and
his friends. It was early in June; the swallows chased each other in
sport, twittering as they flew over the blue bosom of Windermere; every
bush, every tree--yea, it seemed as if every branch sent forth the music
of singing birds, and the very air was redolent with melody, from the
bold songs of the thrush and the lark to the love-note of the
wood-pigeon; and even the earth rejoiced in the chirp of the
grasshopper, its tiny but pleasant musician. The fields and the leaves
were in the loveliness and freshness of youth, luxuriating in the
sunbeams, in the depth of their summer green; and the butterfly sported,
and the bee pursued its errand from flower to flower. The mighty
mountains circled the scene, and threw their dun shadow on the lake,
where, a hundred fathoms deep, they seemed a bronzed and inverted world.
At this time, Maria Sim was sailing upon the lake in a small boat that
her father had purchased for her, and which was guided by a boy.
A sudden, but not what could be called a strong, breeze came away. The
boy had little strength and less skill, and, from his awkwardness in
shifting the sail, he caused the boat to upset. Maria was immersed in
the lake. The boy clung to the boat, but terror deprived him of ability
to render her assistance. She struggled with the waters, and her
garments bore her partially up for a time. A boat, in which was a young
gentleman, had been sailing to and fro, and, at the time the accident
occurred, was within three hundred yards of her. On hearing her sudden
cry, and the continued screams of the boy, he drew in his sail, and,
taking the oars, at his utmost strength pulled to her assistance. Almost
at every third stroke he turned round his head to see the progress he
had made, or if he had yet reached her. Twice he beheld her disappear
beneath the water--a third time she rose to the surface--he was within a
few yards of her. He sprang from his boat. She was again sinking. He
dived after her, he raised her beneath his arm, and succeeded in placing
her in his boat. He also rescued the boy, and conveyed them both to
Maria, though for a time speechless, was speedily, through the exertions
of her deliverer, restored to consciousness. Even before she was capable
of thanking him or of speaking to him--yea, before her eyes had opened
to meet his--he had gazed with admiration on her beautiful features,
which were lovely, though the shadow of death was then over them, almost
its hand upon them. In truth, he had never gazed upon a fairer face, and
when she spoke, he had never listened to a sweeter or a gentler voice.
He had been beneath an Indian sun, where the impulses of the heart are
fervid as the clime, and where, when the sun is gazed upon, its
influence is acknowledged. But, had she been less beautiful than she
was, and her features less lovely to look upon, there was a strong
something in the very manner and accident of their being brought into
each other's society, which appealed more powerfully to the heart than
beauty could. It at least begot an interest in the fate of each other;
and an interest so called is never very widely separated from affection.
The individual who had saved Maria's life was Lieutenant Morris.
He conveyed her first to a peasant's cottage, and afterwards to her
father's villa. He knew nothing of the feeling of hatred that existed
between their families; and when Mr. Sim heard his name, though for a
moment it caused a glow to pass over his face, every other emotion was
speedily swallowed up in gratitude towards the deliverer of his child;
and when Maria was sufficiently recovered to thank him, though she knew
him to be the son of her father's enemy, it was with tears too deep for
words--tears that told what eloquence would have failed to express. Even
Mrs. Sim, for the time, forgot her hatred of the parents in her
obligations to the son.
When, however, the young lieutenant returned to Morris House, and made
mention of the adventure in which he had been engaged, and spoke at the
same time, in the ardour of youthful admiration, of the beauty and
gentleness of the fair being he had rescued from untimely death, the
cheeks of his sisters became pale, their eyeballs distended as if with
horror. The word "wretch!" escaped from his mother's lips, and she
seemed struggling with smothered rage. He turned towards his father for
an explanation of the change that had so suddenly come over the
behaviour of his mother and sisters.
"Son," said the squire, "I had rather thou hadst perished than that a
son of mine should have put forth his hand to assist a dog of the man
whose daughter thou hast saved!"
On being made acquainted with the cause of the detestation that existed
between the two families, Lieutenant Morris, in some degree, yielded to
the whisperings of wounded pride, and began to regret that he had
entered the house of a man who had offered an indignity to his father
that was not to be forgiven. But he thought also of the beauty of Maria,
of the sweetness of her smile, and of the tears of voiceless gratitude
which he had seen bedimming the lustre of her bright eyes.
He had promised to call again at her father's on the day after the
accident; and with an ardent kindliness, Mr. Sim had welcomed him to do
so. But he went forth, he wandered by the side of the lake, he
approached within sight of the house, there was a contention of strange
feelings in his breast, and he returned without paying his promised
visit. Nevertheless, thoughts of Maria haunted him, and her image
mingled with all his fancies. She became as a spirit in his memory that
he could not expel, and that he would not if he could.
Three weeks passed on--it was evening--the sun was sinking behind the
mountains, and Lieutenant Morris was wandering through a wooded vale,
towards Mr. Sim's mansion; for though he entered it not, he nightly drew
towards it, as if instinctively, wandering around it, and gazing on its
windows as he did so, marvelling as he gazed. He was absorbed in one of
those dreamy reveries in which men saunter, speak, and muse
unconsciously, when, in following the windings of a footpath which led
through a thicket, he suddenly found himself in the presence of a young
lady, who was walking slowly across the wood with a book in her hand.
Their eyes met--they startled--the book dropped by her side--it was
I must not, however, dwell longer on this part of the subject; for the
story of the twin brothers is yet to begin. Let it be sufficient to say
that William, or, as I have hitherto called him, Lieutenant Morris, and
Maria whom he saved, became attached to each other. Their dispositions
were similar; they seemed formed for each other. Affection took deep
root in their hearts; and to root up that affection in the breast of
either, was to destroy the heart itself. He made known his attachment
towards Maria to his father; and galled pride and hatred to those who
had injured him being stronger in the breast of the old squire than the
small still voice of affection, he spurned his son from him, and ordered
him to leave his house for ever.
The parents of Maria, notwithstanding their first feelings of gratitude
towards the saviour of their daughter, were equally averse to a union
between them; but with Maria the impulse of the heart and the lover's
passionate prayer prevailed over her parents' frowns. They were wed,
they became all to each other, and were disowned by those who gave them
When Lieutenant Morris left India, he obtained permission to remain in
England for three years; and it was about twelve months after his
arrival that the marriage between him and Maria took place. He had still
two years to spend in his native land, and he hired a secluded and neat
cottage on the banks of the Annan for that period, for the residence of
himself and his young and beautiful wife.
Twelve months after their marriage, Maria became the mother of
twins--the twin brothers of our tale. But three months had not passed,
nor had her infants raised their first smile towards their mother's
face, when the sterile hand of death touched the bosom that supplied
them with life. The young husband wept by the bed of death, with the
hand of her he loved in his.
"William!" said the gentle Maria--and they were her dying words, for she
spoke not again--"my eyes will not behold another sun! I must leave you,
love! Oh my husband! I must leave our poor, our helpless infants! It is
hard to die thus! But when I am gone, dearest--when my babes have no
mother--oh, go to _my mother_, and tell her--tell her, William--that it
was the dying request of her Maria, that she would be as a mother to
them. Farewell, love!--farewell! If"--
Emotion and the strugglings of death overpowered her--her speech
failed--her eyes became fixed--her soul passed away, and the husband sat
in stupefaction and in agony, holding the hand of his dead wife to his
breast. He became conscious that she stirred not--that she breathed
not--oh! that she was not! and the wail of the distracted widower rang
suddenly and wildly through the cottage, startling his infants from
their slumber, and, as some who stood round the bed said, causing even
the features of the dead to move, as though the departed spirit had
lingered, casting a farewell glance upon the body, and passed over it
again, as the voice it had loved to hear rose loud in agony.
The father of Maria came and attended her body to its last, long
resting-place. But he did no more; and he left the churchyard without
acknowledging that he perceived his grief-stricken son-in-law.
In a few months it was necessary for Lieutenant Morris to return to
India, and he could not take his motherless and tender infants thither.
He wrote to the parents of his departed Maria; he told them of her last
request, breathed by her last words; he implored them, as they had once
loved her, during his absence to protect his children.
But the hatred between Mr. Sim and Squire Morris had in no degree
abated. The former would have listened to his daughter's prayer, and
taken her twins and the nurse into his house; but his wife was less
susceptible to the influence of natural feeling, and even, while at
intervals she wept for poor Maria, she said--
"Take both of them, indeed! No, no! I loved our poor, thoughtless,
disobedient Maria, Mr. Sim, as well as you did, but I will not submit to
the Morrises. They have nothing to give the children; we have. But they
have the same, they have a greater right to provide for them than we
have. They shall take one of them, or none of them come into this
house." And again she broke into lamentations over the memory of Maria,
and, in the midst of her mourning, exclaimed--"But the child that we
take shall never be called Morris."
Mr. Sim wrote an answer to his son-in-law, as cold and formal as if it
had been a note added to an invoice; colder indeed, for it had no
equivalent to the poor, hackneyed phrase in all such, of "_esteemed
favours_." In it he stated that he would "bring up" one of the children,
provided that Squire Morris would undertake the charge of the other. The
unhappy father clasped his hands together on perusing the letter, and
"Must my poor babes be parted?--shall they be brought up to hate each
other? Oh Maria! would that I had died with you, and our children also!"
To take them to India with him, where a war was threatened, was
impossible, and his heart revolted from the thought of leaving them in
this country with strangers. At times he was seen, with an infant son on
each arm, sitting over the stone upon the grave of their mother which he
had reared to her memory, kissing their cheeks and weeping over them,
while they smiled in his face unconsciously, and offered to him, in
those smiles, affection's first innocent tribute. On such occasions
their nurse stood gazing on the scene, wondering at her master's grief.
Morris, of Morris House, reluctantly consented to take one of his
grandchildren under his care; but at the same time he refused to see his
son previous to his departure.
The widowed father wept over his twin sons, and invoking a blessing on
them, saw their little arms sundered, and each conveyed to the houses of
those who had undertaken to be their protectors, while he again
proceeded towards India. The names of the twin sons were George and
Charles: the former was committed to the care of Mr. Morris, the other
to Mr. Sim. Yet it seemed as if these innocent pledges of a family
union, instead of destroying, strengthened the deep-rooted animosity
that existed between them. Not a month passed that they did not, in some
way, manifest their hatred of and their persecution towards each other.
The squire exhibited a proof of his vindictiveness, in not permitting
the child of his son to remain beneath his roof. He had a small property
in Devonshire, which was rented by an individual who, with his wife, had
been servants under his father. To them George Morris, one of the infant
sons of poor Maria, before he was yet twelve months old, was sent, with
an injunction that he should be brought up as their own son, that he
should be taught to consider himself as such, and bear their name.
The boy Charles, whose lot it was to be placed under the protection of
his mother's parents, was more fortunate. The love they had borne
towards their Maria they now lavished upon him. They called him by their
own name--they spoke of him as their heir, as their _sole_ heir, and
they inquired not after his brother. That brother became included in the
hatred which Mrs. Sim, at least, bore to his father's family. As he grew
up, his father's name was not mentioned in his presence. He was taught
to call his grandfather--father, and his grandmother--mother; and
withal, his mother so called instilled into his earliest thoughts an
abhorrence of the inmates of Morris House. At times his grandfather
whispered to her on such occasions, "Do not do the like of that, dear;
we know not how it may end." But she regarded not his admonitions, and
she strove that her grandchild should hold the very name of Morris in
The peasants to whose keeping George was confided, occupied, as has been
stated, a small farm under his grandfather, which lay on the banks of
the Dart, a few miles from Totnes. Their name was Prescot: they were
cold-hearted and ignorant people; they had no children of their own, nor
affection for those of others; neither had they received instructions to
show any to him whom they were to adopt as a son; and if they had been
arraigned for not doing so, they were of a character to have said with
Shylock--"It is not in the bond." When he grew up, there was then no
school in that part of Devonshire to which they could have sent him, had
they been inclined; but they were not inclined; though, if they had had
the power to educate him, they could have referred again to their bond,
and said that no injunction to educate him was mentioned there. His
first ideas were a consciousness of cruelty and oppression. At seven
years of age he was sent to herd a few sheep upon Dartmoor; before he
was nine, he was placed as a parish apprentice to the owner of a tin
mine, and buried from the light of heaven.
Often and anxiously Lieutenant Morris wrote from India, inquiring after
his sons. He sent presents--love-gifts to each; but his letters were
unheeded, his presents disregarded. His children grew up in ignorance of
his existence, or of the existence of each other.
It was about eighteen years after the death of Maria, and what is called
an annual _Revel_ was held at Ashburton. Prizes were to be awarded to
the best wrestlers, and hundreds were assembled from all parts of
Devonshire to witness the sports of the day. Two companies of soldiers
were stationed in the town at the time, and the officers, at the
suggestion of a young ensign called Charles Sim, agreed to subscribe a
purse of ten guineas towards the encouragement of the games. The young
ensign was from Cumberland, where the science of wrestling is still a
passion; and he, as the reader will have anticipated from the name he
bore, was none other than one of the twin brothers. The games were
skilfully and keenly contested; and a stripling from the neighbourhood
of Totnes, amidst the shouts of the multitude, was declared the victor.
The last he had overcome was a gigantic soldier, a native of Cumberland.
When the young ensign beheld his champion overcome, his blood rose for
the honour of his native county, and he regretted that he had not
sustained it in his own person.
The purse subscribed by the officers was still to be wrestled for, and
the stripling victor re-entered the ring to compete for it. On his
design being perceived, others who wished to have contended for it drew
back, and he stood in the ring alone, no one daring to come forward to
compete with him. The umpire of the games was proclaiming that, if no
one stood against him, the purse would be awarded to him who had already
been pronounced the victor of the day, when Ensign Sim, who, with his
brother officers, had witnessed the sports from the windows of an
adjacent inn, said--
"Well, the lad shall have the purse, though I don't expect he will win
it; for, if no one else will, I shall give him a throw to redeem the
credit of old Cumberland."
"Bravo, Sim!" cried his brother officers, and they accompanied him
towards the ring.
The people again shouted when they perceived that there was to be
another game, and the more so when they discovered that the stranger
competitor was a gentleman. The ensign, having cast off his regimentals,
and equipped himself in the strait canvas jacket worn by wrestlers,
entered the ring. But now arose a new subject of wonderment, which in a
moment was perceived by the whole multitude; and the loud huzzas that
had welcomed his approach were hushed in a confused murmur of
"Zwinge!" exclaimed a hundred voices, as they approached each other;
"they be loik one anoother as two beans!"
"Whoy, which be which?" inquired others.
The likeness between the two wrestlers was indeed remarkable; their age,
their stature, the colour of their hair, their features, were alike.
Spectators could not trace a difference between the one and the other.
The ensign had a small and peculiar mark below his chin; he perceived
that his antagonist had the same. They approached each other, extending
their arms for the contest. They stood still, they gazed upon each
other; as they gazed they started; their arms dropped by their sides;
they stood anxiously scrutinizing the countenance of each other, in
which each saw himself as in a glass. Astonishment deprived them of
strength; they forgot the purpose for which they met; they stretched
forth their hands, they grasped them together, and stood eagerly looking
into each other's eyes.
"Friend," said the ensign, "this is indeed singular; our extraordinary
resemblance to each other fills me with amazement. What is your name?
from whence do you come?"
"Whoy, master," rejoined the other, "thou art so woundy like myself,
that had I met thee anywhere but in the middle o' these folk, I should
have been afeared that I was agoing to die, and had zeen mysel'. My name
is George Prescot, at your sarvice. I coom from three miles down the
river there; and what may they call thee?"
"My name," replied the soldier, "is Charles Sim. I am an orphan; my
parents I never saw. And tell me--for this strange resemblance between
us almost overpowers me--do yours live?"
"Whoy," was the reply, "old Tom Prescot and his woif be alive; and they
zay as how they be my vather and moother, and I zuppose they be; but
zoom cast up to them that they bean't."
No wrestling match took place between them; but hand in hand they walked
round the ring together, while the spectators gazed upon them in silent
The ensign presented the youth, who might have been styled his
fac-simile, with the purse subscribed by his brother officers and
himself; and in so doing he offered to double its contents. But the
youth, with a spirit above his condition, peremptorily refused the
offer, and said--
"No, master--thank you the zame--I will take nothing but what I have
Charles was anxious to visit "old Tom Prescot and his wife," of whom the
stranger had spoken; but the company to which he belonged was to march
forward to Plymouth on the following day, and there to embark. His
brother officers also dissuaded him from the thought.
"Why, Sim," said they, "the likeness between you and the conqueror of
the ring was certainly a very pretty coincidence, and your meeting each
other quite a drama. But, my good fellow," added they, laughing, "take
the advice of older heads than your own--don't examine too closely into
your father's faults."
Three years passed, and Charles, now promoted to the rank of a
lieutenant, accompanied the Duke of York in his more memorable than
brilliant campaign in Holland. A soldier was accused of having been
found sleeping on guard; he was tried, found guilty, and condemned to be
shot. A corporal's guard was accompanying the doomed soldier from the
place where sentence had been pronounced against him to the
prison-house, from whence he was to be brought forth for execution on
the following day. Lieutenant Sim passed near them. A voice exclaimed--
"Master! master!--save me! save me!"
It was the voice of the condemned soldier. The lieutenant turned round,
and in the captive who called to him for assistance he recognised the
Devonshire wrestler--the strange portrait of himself. And even now, if
it were possible, the resemblance between them was more striking than
before; for, in the stranger, the awkwardness of the peasant had given
place to the smartness of the soldier. Charles had felt an interest in
him from the first moment he beheld him; he had wished to meet him
again, and had resolved to seek for him should he return to England; and
now the interest that he had before felt for him was increased tenfold.
The offence and the fate of the doomed one were soon told. The
lieutenant pledged himself that he would leave no effort untried to save
him; and he redeemed his pledge. He discovered, he obtained proof that
the condemned prisoner, George Prescot, had been employed on severe and
dangerous duties, against which it was impossible for nature longer to
stand up, but in all of which he had conducted himself as a good, a
brave, and a faithful soldier; and, more, that it could not be proved
that he was actually found asleep at his post, but that he was stupified
through excess of fatigue.
He hastened to lay the evidence he had obtained respecting the conduct
and innocence of the prisoner before his Royal Highness, who, whatever
were his faults, was at least the soldier's friend. The Duke glanced
over the documents which the lieutenant laid before him; he listened to
the evidence of the comrades of the prisoner. He took a pen; he wrote a
few lines; he placed them in the hands of Lieutenant Sim. They contained
the free pardon of Private Prescot. Charles rushed with the pardon in
his hand to the prisoner; he exclaimed--
"Take this--you are pardoned--you are free!"
The soldier would have embraced his knees to thank him; but the
"No! kneel not to me--consider me as a brother. I have merely saved the
life of an innocent and deserving man. But the strange resemblance
between us seems to me more than a strange coincidence. You have doubts